Grand Trunk Games’ next title will be 1889: History of Shikoku Railways!

Joshua Starr
Nov 25 · 3 min read

Back when I was starting Grand Trunk Games, I thought to myself it would be incredibly cool to print a game like 1889. While the game has a smaller presence at the table, it unpacks to be a pretty big gaming experience. Not only that, it’s considered to be one of the best games to use to learn the 18xx system. It was just an idea, but I figured what’s the harm in asking to see what the licensing status of the game was.

So I found a way to contact Yasutaka Ikeda, had my brother-in-law translate my letter to Japanese, and messaged him.

It was on a messaging platform that displays when the recipient views your message so I could see that Ikeda-san saw my message… but no response. After about a month went by I figure maybe Ikeda-san saw the message but wasn’t ready to respond. So I sent a gentle nudge. He saw my nudge, no response.

This continued on for about 8 months. I would reach out every 4-ish weeks, he would see the message, and that would be it. Around month 5 I mentally gave up on 1889 even though I still kept sending messages. Eventually though, I had plans to visit Japan since my wife and I found some cheap tickets for the cherry blossom season. This time, when I messaged Ikeda-san I was asking to meet up in person. It would be just awful if I went all the way to Japan and I was literally in the same city as him and we didn’t take the opportunity to meet.

I messaged him with this request several times in the weeks leading up to my flight. And two days before I left to Japan, (I swear this is true) Ikeda-san messaged me for the first time while I was playing 1889.

Picture I sent to Ikeda-san when he first messaged me back

Ikeda-san basically said he was open to meeting but wanted to warn me that the game was already licensed to Deep Thought Games. He also warned me his English wasn’t great (which isn’t true) so I told him I could find an interpreter. Luckily for me, a good friend who is both fluent in English and business Japanese happened to be traveling in the same area during our trip.

We went out to yakiniku and had a really fun time. Ikeda-san is a really warm and loving guy who does all kinds of game design and even works on escape rooms. He was apprehensive to reply to me all those months because he thought the game was still licensed by Deep Thought Games. What’s funny though, is I spoke to DTG months before to ask if there was any issue with me contacting Ikeda-san about 1889, to which DTG said no. So it was actually a big misunderstanding where Ikeda-san thought DTG had rights to 1889 and DTG thought Ikeda-san had rights to 1889!

After meeting, we went on to correspond and confirmed that Ikeda-san had the rights to 1889 and therefore he could license the game. He said that he was interested in licensing the game to me because he could tell I cared about the 18xx community, but also because I was the only person who reached out to him in Japanese ;)

Ikeda-san and I are excited to bring you 1889 in its best form. But first… let’s get 1861/1867 shipped!

Left-to-right: Shohei (interpretor), Me, Ikeda-san. Bellies full of meat and beer.

Grand Trunk Games

I’m Josh Starr. I am continually learning about the 18xx genre. Anything I write about here is more of a reflection of my own learning than any prescription for strategy or the “right” way to think about or play games in the genre.

Joshua Starr

Written by

Grand Trunk Games

I’m Josh Starr. I am continually learning about the 18xx genre. Anything I write about here is more of a reflection of my own learning than any prescription for strategy or the “right” way to think about or play games in the genre.

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