What is this game about?
Railroad Ink is a roll and write game about building a network of roads and railroads. During each of seven turns, you'll roll a set of dice with various configurations of roads, railroad tracks, and stations, and you'll draw all of the ones you roll. A few times during the game, you'll also be able to add one of a set of helpful "extra" stops and intersections to your board. At the end of the game, you'll score points based on several different variables—how many exits on the board you connected to each other, your longest road and railroad, and how many central spaces you built in. You'll also lose points for every dead end left on your player board at the end.
In addition to these base scoring conditions, Railroad Ink allows you to add some variety. In the Blazing Red edition of the game, there are Lava and Meteor expansions that both complicate your in-game life and give you additional chances to score. Lava creates a mess that you'll need to try to contain, while Meteors leave craters in your grid that mess up your route plans... but also might allow you to gain points by mining them. There is also a blue edition of the game with river and lake expansions. The sets can be combined to accommodate more players, in addition to adding a little flavor through the expansions.
How does it play solo?
Railroad Ink has no player interaction, and is all about getting the highest score you can. That makes it very suitable for solitaire play as long as you don't mind a beat-your-own-score setup.
I adored my first few plays of Railroad Ink. The initial rush of trying to find the best way to draw the die faces was exhilarating, and trying to make everything work together seemed frustrating in all the right ways.
While I still think it is a fine roll and write game, I also feel that Railroad Ink lacks staying power. Even with the expansions, the game feels repetitive after multiple plays, as you stare at endless configurations of roads and railroads. While attempting to solve the puzzle of designing the most effective transportation system can be interesting, I don't find it particularly exciting in the long run. Railroad Ink doesn't provide the positive feedback loop of other roll and writes that I feel more passionate about playing (e.g. Fleet Dice). Nor does it give you as many opportunities to plan ahead and set in-game goals (e.g. Welcome To... and Cartographers). I also think seven rounds might be a bit too long—by the end of the game, I've had a good enough time and I want to know how I did. But I'm also very ready to move on instead of reset and play again.
There are people who adore this game, and I think it probably comes down to a matter of taste. But for me, Railroad Ink is a decent roll and write that I'll willingly play on game night... but not one that I'll ask to play myself. I like it just fine, but I like other roll and writes a lot better.
Do I recommend it?
If you're a roll and write enthusiast, then go ahead and give Railroad Ink a try. It's fine. But I'd try it before buying it.
Overall Rating: 3 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.
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