Type: Roll & Write

Time to play: 20 minutes (Teaching: 5 minutes)

Best played with: 4 Player (1 – 6 Players)

Back to roll and writes – these tactile and fascinating little puzzles that have you seeking for a simple path based solution to a small number of choices over a small number of rounds. Can you find a solution to maximise your points or will you find yourself scratching your head as one player beats you by 20%?!

Railroad Ink then is one of the recent releases in this market and one that redefines the genre. It’s a mile away from the game most people know – Yatzhee. Yet it’s a simple game built on the same principals. Roll some dice, write down the outcomes somewhere on your scorepad and by the end, the combined scorepad will result in a set of points.

Railroad Ink though is a much more visual game, a game where you draw on either rails or roads onto a small map. You score for your longest route of each type, for the connections of networks (at the edge of the map) and for travelling through the squares in the middle of the map.

To take advantage then of all these scoring opportunities you must build a single sprawling network with long routes that wend and wind through the centre of the map. All of that with four dice each turn for seven turns. If that were it you would only fill 24 squares of the possible 49 on the map. The only additions to this are three specials that you can add during the course of the game (one per round). These specials are complex large connections that will grant you opportunities to connect the previously built grids.

These 27 choices though are extremely interesting. You will have to build out from the networks at the edge of the map, slowly progressing and taking risks, until you find an opportunity to join as much as you can together – preferably in the centre of the map and preferably with as few mistakes (open ended segments) as possible.

You hope for certain outcomes and yet the dice find a mean spirited way of playing tricks on you. The dice give you roads when you want rails, corners when you want straights and t junctions when you are trying to close off connections. This is a really tricky format to work through – should you take risks and leave paths that may close, or should you close of a network to be sure that it scores? If you can’t join the networks, is it better to have two unequal ones?

I love these choices, and this game is fast becoming a favourite. It’s a game which really challenges the risks that you take and the way you can predict your network to role out. Can you find a way to make this all pull together?

Also, it doesn’t matter whether you play this solo or with multiple players. I understand why some say that’s a disadvantage but I love it. A simple, fast game. In a multiplayer you will find it very interesting to see the choices others made and the final networks they built. In solo, you will simply frustrate yourself into taking risks to optimise your score.

If you do eventually get bored of these choices, then the expansion that comes in the box will boost this further. Allowing you to add more flavour to your map and cover 33 spaces (perhaps more) on the space.

After all that, what else is there to say. Oh yes – the production quality. Small box, reasonable price, exceptional quality. There are lots of reasons to try a roll and write game after 2018, but if there’s one that I think sums it up – it’s this!

Last notes,

  • If you like fast pace, travel games – this is the one to search out
  • If you feel worker placement is multiplayer solitaire, then this is certainly a 1000x more so
  • If you win, try again and perhaps put in the expansion dice