Theme and What is it?

All aboard the Ink express! Railroad Ink is a two-game set. The set consists of the Blazing Red Edition and the Deep Blue Edition. Each edition has its own characteristics, but I will get into that later. You can purchase either edition by itself and play it on its own. 

Gameplay Mechanics

Railroad Ink is a railroad puzzle game in which players draw on their own boards to build connections, in order to score as many points as possible. There is a set of four dice that have various types of roads, rails, transfer stations and overpasses. The dice are rolled at the start of each round.  The type of road, rails, etc. that are shown on the dice, will be what players draw on their boards that round. The goal is to create connections to the exits located around the board. The basic game play is the same for both editions. The difference between the two comes into play when you add the expansion dice. The Blazing Red Edition has meteor and lava dice that change player’s boards. The Deep Blue Edition uses rivers and lakes to change the board and add new route options. The game is played over seven rounds. Points are scored for the number of connections made to exits, player’s longest railroads and roadways, and the number of center spaces used on the board. Points are deducted for unfinished roads and railways. Highest point total wins. Railway Ink is a 1-6 player game, but you can actually play as many players as you have player boards.

Initial Impressions

I saw the announcement for Railroad Ink but I did not know anything about it when I opened the box. I was very surprised once I saw that it involved dry erase markers. The name made much more sense after I saw that.  A quick perusal of the rulebook and my group was off on a grand railroad adventure. The rounds are played with all players taking their turns at once. This made the first part of the round totally silent as everyone focused on drawing. Then the people who finished quickly started teasing the slow drawing players. That was a fun dynamic. Even though the game lasts seven rounds that are similar to each other, the game did not drag. Each round moves fast and towards the later rounds space is limited which makes players really study their board for the best placement of each item shown on the dice. 

Game Build Quality

I felt like the player boards could have been made out of a thicker cardboard. I see why they made it as thick as they did. That way they could fit six boards in the little box. But I would trade thicker boards for a larger box. I always have a little issue with any dry erase marker type of games. The boards start to look dirty and it seems like you start to just push ink around instead of erasing it. I try to keep it clean, but I am never happy with it after a few plays. That is just a personal OCD thing. Everything else about Railroad Ink is top notch. In fact, others may not have the issues I have. It’s just a personal preference. 

Artistic Direction

I love the themes of the two different editions. Although you don’t need to own both games to enjoy one by itself, you should add both to your collection, just because they look great together and will be a nice highlight on your shelf. The outside of the boxes have the best graphical elements of the game. Inside the box, you will find minimal artwork. That is because you are doing the art yourself as the game progresses.

Fun Factor

There are some highlights to Railroad Ink. I enjoyed that everyone draws at the same time and there is very little downtime. It is great to see what everyone does with their boards at the end of round seven. The expansion dice add some great new things that make the game more challenging. You will want to play a few rounds without the expansion dice and then add them in once you have everything figured out. There is not a lot happening during the game, other than everyone concentrating and drawing on their board. The rules are very straight forward. Sometimes, I really just enjoy picking up a game and playing it, without having to have my nose in the rulebook. 

Age Range & Weight

Age recommendation for Railroad Ink is 8+. For starters, younger players need to have some drawing skills, although very minor. The other thing to consider is their spacial recognition. The picture that is on the dice can be rotated to fit anywhere on the board. Young players need to have the capacity to visualize it fitting in other directions other than the way it is showing on the dice. If they aren’t able to do that, they will have a rough time making any connections on their board. As long as players can draw and rotate images in their heads, they should not have a problem with Railroad Ink. Most likely, they will really enjoy it. Kids love doodling. Adults love doodling. Now they can all do some competitive doodling. 

Conclusions

Railroad Ink is a fun, fast paced, easy to learn filler game. It is light enough to attract casual gamers, yet has just enough depth to keep avid gamers involved. While the player boards were not as nice as I would have liked, the game should have no problems holding up. Most gamers take exceptional care of their games, so this shouldn’t be a determent to anyone. Although you don’t need both editions to play the game, I would recommend getting both because the expansions change the game enough to make it worth your investment. Plus, if you play without any expansion dice, you can play up to 12 players with all the boards. The whistle for the Ink Express is blowing. It’s time to hop on the train. Don’t miss the thrilling ride that is Railroad Ink.

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