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Smallfilms & Peter Firmin present a board game by Tony Boydell based on Oliver Postgate's IVOR the ENGINE. The game features the artwork of Ivor's original artist, Peter Firmin.

The game is published by Esdevium Games and Surprised Stare Games and includes an offer to get a free copy of Ivor's first story (SSAE required). And it contains SHEEP !!!

3-5 Players aged 8+  Games take between 10-15 minutes per player



The name IVOR the Engine conjures up memories of the good old days for many of us, young and not so young. This game rekindles those memories and reminds (the majority of) us that we struggled then and still struggle with the wonderfully constructed names of the Welsh Towns and Villages. We are also reminded of the happy friends that Ivor made on his adventures and the amazing adventures he and his buddies had. We are also reminded of the green Welsh valleys and beautiful countryside as we, the players, help Ivor and chums set about rounding up the lost sheep. The cards, the board, almost (see below) everything about the game, is beautifully constructed, so much so that you are easily suckered into believing that this is a nice, easy going, game where nothing can go wrong and everything is rosy. All you have to do is run your train around collecting sheep and completing the available tasks from the stories of Ivor and his friends.

IVOR the Engine is mostly about how you play the Job cards you are dealt and those you choose to pick up. Each card (except Events) has two parts but only one part can be used. The first part is the task you can do and the rewards for completing it. Once you have been successful you keep the card. The second part is the text at the bottom of the Job card and this is an immediate action that you can take and then the card is discarded. The winner of the game is the player who collects the most sheep once the required number of sheep (depending on number of players) has been reached by at least one player. Should this then be a tie, the collected Job cards (from completed tasks) break the tie. There are four tiles, 2 Idris (Dragon) and 2 Runaway Sheep that come into play and have special effects through the Job and Event cards. 

The basic idea of play is to collect all of the Sheep from the areas, gaining the area's marker when you grab the last sheep; then you move to another area. You do not have to stay in the area if you don't want to, but by leaving it if you leave sheep in it you are making it easier for an opponent to go there and collect the sheep and the Bonus. You are required to collect a Sheep from the area you are in at the start of your turn (if possible), then you can Move your Train and play cards or play cards and move your Train. Trains move between Towns and Villages by using single line tracks or between Llangubbin (top left of map) and Tewyn (bottom right) using the only main line but for the cost of 2 coal (total, not per area crossed).The text on a card allows you to do many things, such as take extra moves, draw cards, gain coal, gain gold and collect Sheep from another area - and that's when the penny dropped! "Take 1 sheep from any Village and put it into your sheep pen" that's how one of the cards reads. Take the last sheep from a Village where there is another player's Train and you collect the Bonus for that Village as well as ensuring the other player cannot collect a sheep from there at the start of their turn. There are other ways to screw with your opponents as well, but I will leave you to discover them for yourselves otherwise you'll miss out on the fun. 


The Event cards and Job cards are shuffled and four are placed face-up to form a display from which the players must take a card each turn. The Job cards have either Pink or Beige headings; Pink for Towns and Beige for Villages. The Event cards have Green headings. When an Event card is drawn to replace a card in the display the effect of the Event occurs immediately, then the Event card is placed on the display. I have noted that there is gold and coal in the game. The coal allows trains to move an extra space and the gold allows the players to buy extra coal. Gold also allows players to take (Event cards cost 1 gold - Job cards are taken for free) an Event card from the display. The text at the bottom of the Event card isn't an action that can be taken during the game it is an effect that occurs when the game ends, So although one player may be the first to collect the required number of sheep they are not necessarily going to be the actual winner - this is the player with the most sheep at game end.

The components are mostly good but in my opinion a few corners have been unnecessarily cut. For example, IVOR is the name of the game, and the names of people and places are all from Ivor's adventures. But Ivor the Engine appears in play as just a Counter for the Start player, though that wouldn't be too bad if the counter was a 3D model. I understand that to mould an actual model of Ivor would have been too expensive but I am equally sure that a wooden Green Train could have been found and a sticker made available to put on it. Speaking of trains, the player pieces are small cardboard counters where small wooden trains would have looked nicer. There are SHEEP in the game but for some reason the single wooden sheep are sheep-shaped but instead of using a larger wooden sheep for the "5" Flock, a square white wooden tile is used. None of these cuts make a difference to the gameplay but they do distract from the aesthetics which is a shame, especially as the pieces that could have been used are readily inexpensively available from numerous sources. 


IVOR the Engine can be the good old English style boardgame that it first appears and as such families who like to play games such as Careers, Cluedo, Game of Life etc will happily enjoy it. However, there is more than just a touch of the european board game flavour to it and that's what will help to make it popular amongst regular board-gamers. IVOR the Engine the boardgame is a good, fun challenge and is quite unique, but don't be fooled by its quaintness, it has the heart and roar of a dragon.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2021