Railroad Ink review
Roll, write and ride. From the name down, Railroad Ink makes no attempt to hide what it is: a simple take on a familiar gaming staple that’s small, cheap and simply enjoyable for the few minutes it asks of your attention.
Players share the same four sections of track and highway dictated by the dice each round, but can arrange and rotate them as they see fit to draw points-collecting routes between exits across their personal grid, eliminating any lopsided advantage of individual luck.
A limited personal supply of single-use crossroads and stations – turning rails to roads, or vice-versa – presents further chance to go your own way, at the risk of uncompleted paths dragging down your score at the end. It’s all about the routes – the snappy, simplistic mechanics avoiding any complication of actually sending trains along the tracks or the worry of where they specifically start or end.
Two different flavours of Railroad Ink’s brightly illustrated box season the basic gameplay with optional expansions. The Blazing Red edition, dispensing crater-making debris or flowing lava, offers up the challenge of working around the destruction, while the simpler of the pair, the Deep Blue box, rewards with the additional route-making of meandering rivers or forming a lake – dedicating squares to the water features is up to each player. (The identical drywipe boards and shared dice mean multiple boxes of either hue can be combined to play with bigger groups, the simultaneous gameplay keeping the play time trim.)
There’s plenty of enjoyment to be had in the unaltered basics, but all four of the expansions make for a pleasant and unfussy way to keep things interesting from game to game.
Railroad Ink isn’t an achievement of innovation – even the slight variation of its expansions don’t take the well-travelled gameplay to anywhere new or unexpected. But its clean, quality presentation in a travel-sized package and the pick-up appeal of its two-minute rules and comfortable sub-lunch-length play make for a short and sweet experience. It may stick to the track, but there’s more than enough momentum to make the ride worth it.
Designer: Lorenzo Silva, Hjalmar Hach
Artist: Marta Tranquilli
Time: 20-30 minutes
Price: £15 (each)
This review originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.