Horrible Guild launched Railroad Ink Challenge on the PC last year and has recently released two DLCs for the game. These bring the Forest and the Desert dice, respectively from the Lush Green and Shining Yellow editions of the board game – upon which the video game is based on. This review not only covers those new DLCs but the game as a whole, now including them. Trees will pop up along roads, Oasis will be needed for Cacti not to wilt in a drought. However, is this a game for your Steam wishlist? Let’s find out!
In the standard mode, much like the board game, Railroad Ink Challenge gives gamers 7 rounds to score as many points as they can. Each round 4 dice are rolled and the player gets to place them onto their board, in a way that continues roads and rails. Over the course of the game players are aiming to link up the various entrances around the edge of the board to form big networks, fill the middle 9 spaces of the board, construct long winding roads and railways and more.
The challenge side of the experience comes from a number of symbols on the board and objective cards. Building a route of either road or rail over the symbol spaces can trigger a bonus ability, such as being able to re-use a dice that round. The objectives are randomly selected at the start of the game, though in the My Challenge mode you can select which. Objectives range from creating a circular route to diagonal forests, often making players choose between optimal route building and that game’s objectives.
The two DLCs add expansion dice into the mix. The Forest DLC allows players to roll 2 green forest dice alongside the standard dice each round. These dice do not need to be added to the board unlike the normal dice, but open up the opportunity for players to score bonus points! At the end of 6 rounds, rather than the normal 7, the game ends. At this point players score based on their biggest two forest areas, regardless of the routes through them.
Deserts work in a similar way, as in it introduces 2 new expansion dice which shorten the game length to 6 rounds and don’t have to be utilized. These dice feature Cacti, Suns and Oasis. Players will gain points for Cacti at the end of the game. However, if a sun is rolled any Cacti not adjacent to an Oasis are destroyed. There’s even a bonus roll at the very end of the game to see if a sun appears.
Loading into the game the player can choose how they play Railroad Ink. Going down the standard route allows them to pick between the original Railroad Ink and Railroad Ink Challenge modes. With the two DLCs two more options present themselves, playing with either expansion. There is however one final mode that will keep players coming back for more, Daily Challenge.
Akin to the challenges players can make and send to friends in My Challenge, Daily Challenge is a unique challenge posed to all players that day. Featuring leaderboards and such, the daily challenges have special rules, map changes and even dice changes. Dice that never existed in Railroad Ink can feature in the Daily Challenge keeping it fresh – giving a reason to keep booting the game up time and time again.
With the release of Forest and Desert it does make the decision not to include the Blue or Red expansion dice from the original board games that bit stranger. Then, there’s the fact that Forest is only half of the expansions included in Lush Green, with Trails nowhere to be seen. And, the same is the case with Canyons – the second expansion with Deserts in Shining Yellow. For the price of £2.89 for each DLC this doesn’t make this an unreasonable price, though it does make the game feel like it is missing content.
A feature which is sadly missing is a proper multiplayer experience. Cross-platform leaderboards are included. As are asynchronous multiplayer challenges. This just isn’t as fun as playing with other players in the moment, working through the puzzle at the same time. This isn’t so you can see their board, but groan and cheer together as the dice you want get rolled or not.
Railroad Ink Challenge in real life is a game that has a strong visual look, at least until players start to doodle their roads and rails. On the PC that awkwardness of doodles is gone, replaced with clean artwork. This makes it easy to visualize the connections you still need to make, and what dice faces to pray for. At the end of a game it then fills the map with additional details, somewhat depending on which board you’ve used. It’s a small touch but just makes that final look at your efforts more rewarding.
Railroad Ink Challenge is a solid experience, which lacks some features which could take it to the next level. Booting up players can try to beat their own highscores, or play the ever changing daily challenges. Lakes, Lava and more are missing but the release of the Forest and Desert DLC has helped instill some extra variety into the experience. A proper multiplayer experience would have been nice, yet the chance to just hop on, roll some dice and make networks is a pleasant experience in its own right.
(Editor’s Note: Railroad Ink Challenge was provided to us for the review, it is available for £5.99 on Steam.)