One of my favourite types of game is roll and write. I love the great bang-for-your-buck you get with these games. These games generally have smaller footprints and are more portable than their big-box counterparts. They are also significantly cheaper. I love the fact that you roll the dice and Lady Luck decides what you have to work with for that round. The skill of the game is what you are able to do with the dice presented to you. The rolling of the dice also helps to bring the replayability up too. Railroad Ink Challenge - Lush Green Edition is one of these games.
How Does It Work?
This deceptively thinky roll and write is based on connecting exits. Using rails and roads you can connect up to 12 exits together. You also get points for your longest road, your longest rail, and the number of the central 9 squares that you have drawn in. The challenge editions of Railroad Ink (Shining Yellow and Lush Green) also have a few additional icons on the board. The cottages score at the end. If you draw a station into a cottage space, you can cross off the next available left scoring space on the cottage track. The first is worth 2 points, the second 4, and if you get all four it is worth 8 points. This doesn’t sound like a huge amount of points, but believe me, any points will be important in this game!
Let’s Get Ready To Build Some Road And Rail Networks
Sounds super catchy, doesn't it? But rest assured, this game is awesome. Set up is super straightforward. Each player needs a board and a pen. Draw three objective cards and lay these out between players. If using an expansion then one of these will be for the expansion and the other two basic cards from the base game. You want to have somewhere to roll the dice. I like to use a dice tray. I recommend the small hexagonal Zatu tray, but you can also remove everything from the box and use that. That is it, let’s get going!
There are no turns! Everyone plays simultaneously. I guess you can take turns throwing the dice and praying to Lady Luck, but that is it. Each round you are all presented with the same four dice to draw onto your individual board. I have never ended with a board that looks remotely like anyone else’s. Note, that is not because I really suck at this game. I think it is more because the possibilities really are endless with how you can put this together.
How To Play
Each round you have four white dice that you roll and you use the result to draw into four squares on your board. You must connect anything you draw either to one of the twelve exits around the edge of the board or to something you have already drawn. There will be three objective cards available in each game. If you are the first person to achieve that objective, you will get 4 points for it. The second person gets 2 points, and each other person gets a single point. So the race is on to get the objective achieved first. The trouble is achieving these goals may mess up your long game, so you need to be smart with it.
The game is played over seven rounds, so you will have 28 die rolls to work with. Up to once per round, and up to three times during the game, you are able to cross off and draw one of the special intersections from the top. These have more to them than the standard die faces and allow you to grease your way out of a sticky connection situation. Green warehouse icons are dotted over the board, and once you have drawn in three of these squares you unlock a fourth of these “special” connections. This can be drawn in a round when you have drawn one already, but you cannot duplicate one already drawn. There are factory squares that allow you to duplicate a die face for that round and draw it somewhere else. So it is possible to draw up to three additional connections.
First Round Strats
In the first round, it can feel a little overwhelming as to where to place your first few dice rolls. You must place your rolls next to either each other or connected to an exit. The factories let you double up a roll. So if you have thrown something useful like a station connection then perhaps this round you try and double up on that roll. I tend to go for the top left corner exits if possible, although I think that might be due to me being right-handed rather than for any particular benefit.
Some games I find are “learning” games to start, and I sort of fumbled around a bit in my first couple of games trying out different strategies. Trying to close off all the exits seems like a good idea because then you get subtracted fewer points. But connecting exits is the major way to score points, so don’t close off too many exits and stop yourself connecting and bagging the big points.
My major piece of advice is to always write the round number into the box as well as your connection. Doing this makes it a whole load easier to check you have put all the dice in.
Game End And Scoring
Railroad Ink Challenge - Lush Green Edition ends after 7 rounds in the base game or after 6 rounds if using any of the expansions. At the end, you get points in eight different categories. Your scoreboard is on the folded up part of your board. The trickiest part of scoring for me is for the number of exits you successfully connected together. These are the exits connected together with either rail or road lines, but they aren’t connected if there is a bridge, only a station junction. Which caught me out a few times early on. You get one point per square of your longest road and the same for the longest rail section too. Every square you have filled in the central nine will also get you a point too. These are harder to fill as they distract you from the exit connecting route building, but nine points is nothing to be sniffed at. You will also get points for the cottages that you managed to draw stations into. As well as points for how quickly you managed to achieve the objective cards.
And once you have secured all those glorious points, it is time to count your open exits. All of those unfinished routes will cost you. Minus one point for each open end. Which in most games will cost you easily 10-15 points. I will warn you, this negative point counting might hurt. However, if you are anything like me, this will simply light a fire of determination and you will wipe that board clean and be ready to run at it again!