4th July 2021
It's a Sunday evening and I'm logged into Board Game Arena. the next game of the night is Railroad Ink. Do you spend a lot of time coming and going? Because that's what you'll be doing in Railroad Ink.
Caveat: we've only ever played Railroad Ink digitally online. Additionally, we've only played the basic version of Railroad Ink Blue without the rives and lakes dice.
What's in a game?
Since we only played railroad Ink digitally, there's not much that can be said about the quality of the components.
Neither does the game have any significant artwork to speak of, the boards look bright and cheery, but that's about it.
How's it play?
Railroad Ink is played simultaneously by all players over 7 rounds.
Once all 7 rounds have been completed, the game goes to scoring.
Railway: Each player scores their single longest unbroken railway line, gaining 1 point per connected square.
Road: Each player scores their single longest unbroken road, also at 1 point per connected square.
Centre: Each of the 9 central squares on the grid scores the player an additional point for a railway or road that runs through it.
Exits: Each player scores their single biggest network of connected exits, it scores differently to railways and roads and there's a chart to calculate this. Generally each exit in the network scores 4 points, except if you manage to connect the 12th and final exit, which scores 5 instead!
Dead end: Each player loses a point for each route that is a dead-end, i.e. does not connect to anything or does not connect to the edge of the grid (does not necessarily need to be one of the 12 exits though.).
Final amounts are tallied, highest score wins!
Railroad Ink is a game that hits that sweet-spot between rules-simplicity and depth-of-choice that has good potential crossover appeal to non-gamers.
From the relatively short length of this blog, you can see that it's an easy game to learn, consisting mostly of; well, drawing what you see!
However, it also gives players lots of choices, all of which will have impact right from the start of the game. The game's grid has 49 spaces and the maximum that can be filled in (In a basic game!) is 31, enough room to manoeuvre and also enough room to commit error.
Players must try to maximise networks and connections and also minimise their potential losses. This involves equally trying to anticipate what they need and also adapting to rolls that don't give them that.
It's a game of shifting optimisation.
Railroad Ink has a lot of randomness and for gamers who like strategizing, this can be an anathema, but in Railroad Ink, the randomness is partially mitigated because it more or less affects everyone equally, i.e., everyone uses the same dice results.
Obviously one player may be luckier than another if the rolls go their way, but it never feels like the dice are treating you worse for you than any other player. Ultimately, despite the dice rolls, it feels like player decisions are still of paramount, finding a way to use a route die that initially seemed bad can be satisfying and it's this blend of randomness and decision-making is what I like about Railroad Ink.
17th March 2020
Tuesday has rolled around again and we're at 'The Sovereigns' with the Woking Gaming Club.
The club members agreed that due to the threat of the Covid-19 virus, this would be the last get-together for the club until we were no longer required to socially-distance ourselves.
The first game of the evening was 'Cartographers'.
Do you fancy getting out and about, doing a bit of exploring? Perhaps finding a forest or two, or even a river? Then this game may be for you.
That's right, in these days of self isolation and being stuck at home; we played a game about going outside!
Cartographers is a style of game I've yet to play called 'roll and write'.
What's in a game?
The only bugbear with the game is the pad of blank maps, which you tear out and give to each player. Even though 100 sheets enough for a lot of games, the idea of it makes me wince!
If you do run out of sheets however, you can download and print extras from the website.
Dave, the game's owner had the wisdom and foresight to also purchase a couple of sets of coloured fine line markers to use with the game (More about that below.).
How's it play?
First there's setup.
Play begins by turning over an exploration card.
Scoring occurs at the end of every season and is broken down as follows (As well as end of round actions.):
Once the score for the winter season has been calculated, the score for all 4 seasons is tallied. Highest score wins.
Cartographers is a fun and interesting game.
Interesting because of how the scoring works, it gives players short term and long term goals. Not only are there 4 scoring objectives, each objective is scored twice and they are scored asymmetrically.
Objective 'A' is scored in rounds 1 & 4. So working towards it in rounds 1 & 4 will earn a player points. Objective 'A' scores no points in rounds 2 & 3, however working towards objective 'A' in rounds 2 & 3 can pay dividends when it's scored again in round 4. This may mean neglecting other scoring opportunities though.
Objective 'B' on the other hand, scores in rounds 1 & 2, after that it's worthless. So to make the most of this scoring opportunity, players will have to concentrate on it for the first half of the game.
All of this makes players think about short, long and mid term goals and how to maximise scoring opportunities.
Additionally, players cannot predict what terrain/shapes will appear if at all or the order they appear. Nor can they predict when ambush cards will appear. Players also need to be flexible and be able to change their plans.
This culminates in giving players lots of factors to consider and decisions to make - which is good.
Another interesting thing about Cartographer is the number of players it supports. It's essentially only limited by the drawing implements/time required. You could use the entire pad and play with 100 people at once if you had the time/space/pencils!
There is theoretically no downtime as everyone draws their shapes at the same time. I say theoretically, because they'll always be that player that takes too and wants to draw in too much detail! 'Do you really need to draw the chimneys on the houses in your village. What! Now you're doing the smoke too!'. You know what I mean.
The addition of the coloured markers - whilst an extra expense added quite a lot to the experience. I imagine using the pencils a little duller. It's a shame they couldn't include coloured pencils or something along those lines. Obviously costs need to be kept down though.
Even so, I found it a good game and would play it again.
I play, I paint.