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Railroad ink

[Railroad ink]

Hjalmar Hach, Lorenzo Silva

Horrible Guild / Heidelbär Games

No. of Players:



G@mebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

A roll and write game is a game in which you roll dice and write down the results. You either write the results on a paper that you can trash after the game, or you draw the results on a board with a non-permanent felt tip. The Railroad ink series from HORRIBLE GUILD belongs to the latter category. As most roll and write game, each player gets a personal board and concentrates on getting the best results from the dice as possible. There is no direct interaction with other players, so the number of players is only limited by the number of player boards you have. Four of this boards are included with any copy of Railroad ink, but you can us multiple copies or – even better – you can combine different editions of the series.

As the title suggests, Railroad ink makes railroads a subject of the game. But not only railroads, streets are also of interest. In the core game you only have these two infrastructure elements to fill your map. The map is a 7x7 grid of small quadrats, approx. 1x1 cm2 each. As a result, the personal map is about 10x10 cm2, a very compact player board. Another half of the player board is separated and serves as a screen and a player help likewise. Four dice and a felt tip for each player is all you need to start a core game. You see, Railroad ink is a very compact game you can play wherever you like, be it a game table, a train or a tent.

[Railroad ink]

Click on image to enlarge!

The game ends after the 7th round. Each round all four dice are rolled. Players have to draw the results on their map simultaneously, beginning from one of the exits on the edge of the map or a pre-existing route. Each die must be drawn on one field and you can find straight routes, curves, crossroads and junctions on the dice. Of course, a railroad may only be connected with another railroad or a junction (a railroad station) and a street only with other streets (or a junction).

In the end you score for connecting the exits of your map. The more exits you connected with the same network of routes, the more victory points you will get. But there are also some bonus points for the longest, unbroken line of streets, the longest railroad and for filling the 9 central spaces of your map.

This is already enough for many, many interesting games. And I really mean it. Railroad ink is very simple, but enormously effective. Three times in a game you can also use special routes that are not on the dice, and it is very important to use them at the right moment. So simple it may seem, the game is not easily won. You always must optimize your network of roads to get the optimum of victory points. Still the game is pretty fast, it’s no heavy brainer. You just draw those four dice to your map…

[Railroad ink]

Click on image to enlarge!

But once familiar with the game, you might want more. And that’s when the special dice come into play. Each version of comes with two unique expansions in form of two extra dice each. The blue edition introduces rivers and lakes, the red version meteors and lava and the green edition forest and trails. There are some other editions out there, but all editions have one in common: the expansions differ a lot and spice up things enormously.

One last word has to be spoken about the supplement “Challenge” in the title of the newest editions. One the one hand these editions introduce further game elements like special buildings and goal cards in the green edition. On the other hand, you find a draft mode in the rules to create your own personal dice set (for that each player will need a personal box of the game.

Railroad ink is a great roll and write game. Easy, fast and everywhere to play. I personally am already quite content with the core game without the expansions, but of course these expansions spice up the game once again. I have now 16 player boards, that would be a nice try for the next party (when the Covid pandemic allows such a large number of people again). Building up an infrastructure network was never easier than with these small, compact boardgames. Well done, Hjalmar and Lorenzo!

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Copyright © 2021 Ralf Togler & Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany