Kickstarter Roundup – Summer 2020

My blog has been stalling throughout the summer but my gaming kept on going. Kickstarter proved to continue strongly with a qualitative line-up of titles. I have received very few Kickstarter games since the beginning of the year but from September onwards I think I will absolutely love waiting for the mailman =D

Backed

Tantrum House: not much to explain here. Of course I cannot resist some promos and extra content for my favourite games. I can mention the ones for Cartographers, for instance, which I had to get and had been chasing for a while + some extra content for Set a Watch or Genotype. Was hoping to find more during the pledge manager but in the end, I did not increase my initial pledge.

Daimyo: La Boîte de Jeu is a publisher very dear to me since I tried It’s a Wonderful World. This new title looks beautiful and present an intriguing and original atmosphere. I like that this seems to be a very crunchy experience using mechanics such as dice management. My wife being prone to analysis paralysis, we will see how it plays out though 😉

Intrepid: this one was a real surprise for me because it came out of the blue. I had heard a little bit about it but it was not on my radar. In all honesty, it’s thanks to the website What’s Eric Playing that I was sold (https://whatsericplaying.com/2020/06/22/intrepid/). I love the dice mechanics in this one which is not using pure luck but forcing you to use the connections between the modules and players to advance in the game. Seems a rather innovative experience and very much looking forward to it!

Spirits of the Forest: Let’s be honest this one was mainly FOMO and a beautifully-led campaign that got me to pledge. Of course a lavish multiplayer card-drafting games is alway something I will look at but this one was supported on my side without reading much about it. Congrats (again) Thundergryph Games and let’s see what I’ll get!

Petrichor: this is such a wonderful and gorgeous game! Just the cover could be a piece of art to be honest! I had my eyes on this one for a long time but held back as I thought to have the full experience I would have to jump straight away on all expansions. … And that’s exactly what I did but I did not feel bad about it when you see the big box with all extra content, game organiser, etc. this was such a good deal! Cannot wait to have it home and get it on the table!

Terraforming Mars: not sure I have to explain much about this one. Well I will definitely have to write a review about Terraforming Mars and the experience it is. I absolutely love this card, the drafting, the engine building and the increasing tension when you play. I wanted to invest in some of the expansions so why not go all in and then … of course I need the big box otherwise it will take up too much space! (hum … was I convincing enough?)

Railroad Ink: here again a very efficient and enticing campaign. With more challenges and stretch goals one could imagine, Horrible Guild managed to create a whole community. Railroad Ink proved to be a quick and enjoying game I could bring around and play with anyone so adding more content and mechanics can only make it better right? 😉

Endangered Species: this one is a what an expansion dubbed as more of the same thing. And that’s exactly what I was looking for. Rather risky when I still have not received the base game (should be here in a few weeks) but I read enough about it and watched so many videos that I can pretty safely say that it will hit the table several times with my wife. The overall theme already got her excited and I think the middleweight complexity is right where we sit most of the time when we play together.

To keep an eye on in September

✔️ – definite back — 🔍 – intrigued but don’t know enough — ❓- on the fence

🔍 Streets: Villagers looked interesting enough but had read some pretty negative reviews too so never tried it. This ones seems more appealing to me but I have to check how meaty mechanics will prove to be

✔️ Mercado de Lisboa: a Lacerda meaty filler game. No need to say more, I’m in! Interesting combo mechanics in a much lighter format whilst still being strategic enough. And of course the access to the pledge manager to bag some of his games on top of it 😉

✔️ Way of the Samurai – Blood and Bushido : the expansion to one of my best solo experiences of 2020. An intricate hand management game where you have to careful plan every move to defeat your opponents. A ton of deployability in a tiny box. Not sure the expansion is needed right now but for 9€ you can count me in

❓In Too Deep: I was so excited about this one until they pulled the plug at the beginning of the first campaign. Will now be a lot more wary and wait to see how it unfolds. Greedy publisher in terms of reaching their SG or needed to rework the campaign to have the expected appeal? We will see!

🔍 Cascadia: I heard Rahdo talk about this one in his August recap (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JrxBTck3JY) and have to say that the look of the game appealed to me and the fact that he compared it to Calico in terms of gameplay and depth intrigued me a lot!

🔍 7th Citadel: a beast of a game and so much hype around it! I have never played 7th Continent because even though I am really tempted, I don’t think I will invest enough time to ever do it justice. Hope this one will be a more accessible experience and something I can sink my teeth into!

✔️ Set a Watch – Swords of the Coin: really enjoyed this one during the summer on my terrace with some good Gin but my main complain was that there was not enough variety in the monsters and that it felt rather samey after a while. Expecting some more content from this one and perhaps some more balancing in terms of mechanics and powers. Let’s see what they have in stock for us

🔍 Dinosaur World: really curious about this one because I heard so much praise for Dinosaur Island that I have to keep an eye on that one. I never came to purchase the first game because I just find it extremely ugly and unappealing. Maybe it’s stupid of me but the arts, the board and pretty much everything about Dinosaur Island just does not do it for me. Excited to find out more about this on and the roll and write they will announce (Demeter you won’t be on your own for long!)

Kickstarter Roundup May 2020

As promised, here is my new article rounding up last month on Kickstarter. I will cover what I backed, what I nearly backed and then look forward to next month with games for which I am still undecided and for upcoming projects. As you can see, May was a great month with some very different games to back. And let’s say that June is not going to be better for my bank account…

Backed

❤️ Ratcatcher

This roundup had to feature a purely solo game. I love these experiences and this time of confinement has been increasing my interest in these kinds of games. I had been following the project Ratcatcher for a few weeks before it launched and was intrigued and rather charmed by its storyline, artworks and atmosphere. When the game was launched on Kickstarter, I watched a few videos of gameplay and was convinced. A simple set of rules serving a complex web of choices and the need for an adapted strategy for each play is exactly what I like with such solid experiences. The fact that it is beautiful and quite compact is also an added bonus.

That’s my Throne

A nifty little project that only cost me one euro. A single coin for something described as “taking the mechanics of Euro games (…) basically like a euro but with a low budget, quick to print and easy to understand.” Well okay … I’m willing to take the risk! The board is reminiscing of Castles of Burgundy and promises at least a few interesting and enjoyable games. I appreciated the constant communication and updates from the designer who also shared another game for free to all backers. Looking forward to trying both these experiences out.

❤️ Canvas

If you have been on Kickstarter this month, you cannot have missed Canvas. This humble project which secured more than $700k. This project combines hand management and set collection. However, what really sets it apart is its gorgeous art style and material. So beautiful that I did not feel like going Deluxe was needed (in fact thought it would get in the way of the gameplay more than anything). Really looking forward to this one and think it will please both gamers and non-gamers alike.

❤️❤️ Hel

Mythic Games certainly went full steam on this campaign (even though the flow of information was not completely to my liking). Hel made me as excited as Return to Dark Tower. But the beautiful thing about this game is that I love its atmosphere even more and oh boy, it looks fun. I have watched three gameplay videos so far and appreciated all of them. Another aspect I am excited about is how streamlined and clear the rules appear. Making it quite easy to grasp and therefore more likely to hit the table with friends less experienced with heavy games.

On the fence

Nemesis Lockdown

Awaken Realms is back with the Nemesis franchise and of course it’s a massive success so far with over $3 million raised at the time of the article and well over 2 weeks left. Quite on the fence about this one because I decided to pass on the base game as it would not hit the table often enough because it relies mainly on high player counts who will engage actively with the storyline and seems fun when exhibiting the betrayal mechanics it has. Definitely seems interesting but I don’t have the gaming group that would be fit for this. Therefore, going to do my homework to see how the expansion plays and if it might be worth it.

Some projects saved but not backed

Final Girl

This one got me intrigued because I pondered for a long time on whether I should get Hostage Negotiator. However, I checked out the page and some videos about gameplay and did not feel excited enough to back it. Pretty similar to the other one or at least I did not spot the differences that would make me pledge and invest more into different scenarios.

Dawnshade

I did not really know what to expect but the overall similarities with Too Many Bones got me curious. This was until they revealed some more elements of gameplay which included mini-games involving dexterity or luck. And for that hefty price tag and very expensive shipping, there was no chance I would go forward with it.

Intriguing/Exciting June projects

Salt & Bones (live, ending 24th June) – duelling game using Card Drafting mechanisms with a dynamic board evolving throughout the turns.

Merchants of the Dark Road (2nd June) – a fair bit yet to discover about this game. Relies on dice placement to activate many different locations, abilities, etc. It looks like there is a LOT going on in terms of mechanics. I am excited about all the possibilities but also quite scared they want to pack too much in one game. Let’s see how balanced this will be!

Mini Rogue (9th June) – based on a nine-card game released via BGG. Set in a dungeon, this solo experience uses dice rolls to push you to make difficult decisions and to rely on some “push your luck” mechanisms. Let’s see the difference between the PNP and this Kickstarter version.

Shelfie Stacker (12th June) – curious about this odd project transcribing the daily struggle for game collectors to find space on the shelves and arrange them as best as possible. Focusing on bag building, dice and hand management.

Monumental (15th June) – Funforge is releasing an extra expansion for Monumental. Personally, this is the occasion to perhaps get the base game and some additional content as I heard/watched/read a lot of good things about this one.

Roll Player Adventures (23rd June) – set in the world of Roll Player, this project is much more ambitious and based on adventures and quests giving a feeling of some legacy games perhaps? Curious to learn more during the campaign

In Too Deep (23rd June) – mysterious project in a technological future where you are fighting cybernetically enhanced criminals. This hand management game has not revealed many of its secrets but its storyline and modular board have definitely wetted my appetite.

Syndicate (late June?) – not super clear whether this game will be for me. I watched a preview of some rounds and I like the dice rolling aspect to lay tiles on the board and also use resources and cards to mitigate luck and increase your influence. Some nice interactions but needs to be on spot in order to work.

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What have you been backing on Kickstarter? What are the projects you have your eyes on or are looking forward to? Don’t hesitate to reach out by message, email or comment!

Kickstarter Roundup

Hi everyone, as you can see from my previous articles I refer back a lot to Kickstarter and also try to keep up with what is available on the platform. I am not going to lie, I check it several times per day and also spend quite some time going over Youtube channels about board games. All this gives me a pretty accurate view on what is available and what could be bad for my wallet ! However, I do know this can be quite overwhelming given the number of projects going live every month so I thought of writing up every month a quick round-up of Kickstarter games every month.

Every month, I will mention which games I back or am backing, which games I am still undecided about, what are the upcoming projects I am looking forward to and also some special mentions (good or bad). For my first article, I wanted to go over the last month and give my top 5 Kickstarter games I backed and am still expecting.

Number 5 – Genotype: A Mendelian Genetics Game

Genotype is right down my alley. I love when games manage to blend complex mechanics with a fresh theme. This game just does that with an incredible art style and layout. This was a breath of fresh air in early 2020 which was announcing quite a qualitative beginning of the year for the platform.

This game has several elements I found interesting and which made me back it:

  • Love Genius Games but always thought their works felt a bit dry and whilst I admire the passion and concept of learning while gaming, the former should not be at the expense of the latter. Not saying it is for the other games but they appeared that way and I therefore know they would not hit the table often enough.
  • Illustrations and art, this is why I pledged the deluxe version and every time I check out the Kickstarter page I get even more excited about it. Clean, fresh and precise. There is something about the natural theme and artistic direction which just draws me in
  • Drafting and choices. This game seems to be a lot about tough decisions. I love when a game asks you to choose amongst different paths. The worker placement aspect of Genotype seems complex enough without being overwhelming, and entertaining as you add the dice drafting element to it.

This “only” comes at number five as I am curious to see how balanced the game is at all player counts and also with the solo mode. Quite confident about that aspect though

Due to be delivered in October 2020
Links: BGG, Kickstarter & Late Pledge

Number 4 – Return to Dark Tower

Complete change of scenery for this one but OMG this looks fun! Did not know anything about the original game and therefore was not really expecting much from the campaign. I am not a big fan of electronics in a board game because they are usually some gimmicky add-ons that you find in children’s games (the only fun game with this as a kid was Omega Virus).

Here are why I gave this one a chance:

  • Fun and storyline. It is actually by watching a Dice Tower video (here) that I really got excited about the overall project. Seeing how smooth the game was, how fun it looked and how it got players talking whilst creating a real sense of cohesion just ticked all my boxes and lifted a lot of initial doubts I had
  • Component quality. Of course the tower looks cool and yes I understand how it’s integrated nicely into the gameplay but what really blew me away is how neat and clean the components look. I do feel the miniatures are just a tad overproduced and would clutter the board so I did not go for the add-on; but just check out the player boards and tokens! Definitely makes you want to play and as a bonus also streamlines the overall gameplay with clear instructions
  • Art Direction – I do not think there is much to explain here, I just find the characters and monsters beautiful. Such a neat atmosphere to create this eerie but not too standard look.

One uncertainty is how often it will hit the table and in case I cannot convince people to play, how sturdy the solo mode is. But I think the table presence of Return to Dark Tower will help get some friends to play with me.

Due to be delivered in February 2021
Links: BGG, Kickstarter & Late Pledge

Number 3 – Micro City

This game really impressed me by the tightness of its concept and its deceptive simplicity. I did not know anything about it before the campaign and had never played the original PNP version. 

What is getting me excited:

  • Depth in gameplay – many elements that I love: resource management, some dice rolling/drafting and worker placement. All this looks rather nicely balanced and is quite impressive given the size of the game
  • Solo mode and modular board and game difficulties therefore ensuring replayability
  • Compact format and efficient art – nothing particularly novel but everything has been carefully crafted and just works as a whole

Micro City is rather high in my top 5 and has been growing on me especially given the last few months and the fact that I found out about PNP games such as Orchard or Sprawlopolis. These have really impressed me and I feel like this one is taking it a step further.

Due to be delivered in June 2020
Links: BGG & Kickstarter

Number 2 – Pax Pamir (Second Edition)

I was so pumped to read the publisher was running a second printing on Kickstarter. I had been chasing this one online for quite a while but prices were just skyrocketing. I had watched hours of videos going through the gameplay (which is needed given the complexity) and also admired so many times the wonderful game and storyline described by Pax Pamir.

This game is in a league of its own and deserves even more attention. Here is why I am hooked:

  • The game itself: components, layout and art style, this is craftsmanship for a board game but also careful thinking as to how to represent geopolitical rivalries within this medium. Pax Pamir is clean, polished and breathtaking 
  • The topic and reflection behind the game is what I love about the hobby: sky is the limit, and boardgaming can also be used to introduce very complex topics or issues.
  • Mechanics are so intricately intertwined that it makes every move count. More than just a game, this will offer you an experience and feel rewarding (when you succeed of course)
  • I also like when a game challenges me and offers a nice learning curve. I am just not sure how steep this will be and how many of my friends will actually have the patience to go through this. I am certainly pumped about it but might need to find new people to play this one and also to study the game well to make teaching it as smooth as possible

Due to be delivered in October 2020
Links: BGG, Kickstarter & Late Pledge

Number 1 – Viscounts of the West Kingdom

I am so pumped about this one, I cannot believe it! Also explained by the fact that I backed it all and therefore am waiting for 3 games with all additional content! Which also means that I have to wait until the end of the year to play any of them. Well I have played Architects and Paladins already but do not own them.

If this needs any explanation at all, here is the why I cannot wait!

  • Trilogy aspect of the game and how they feel similar whilst building up on different game mechanics and also increase in complexity. This means a ton of game nights with different players who can be eased in one or the other depending on their tastes and experience.
  • Meatier experiences than the previous North Sea trilogy (which to be fair, only the Raiders really excited me as the other games were mainly introducing mechanics but felt a bit dry)
  • The overall artwork on both the cards and the player boards. I love the quirkiness of it all and how it does not feel like something we have seen over and over again. The balance between a cartoony art style and a more mature composition is spot on and whilst it may not be to everyone’s tastes it is spot on what I love both in games and in comics.
  • Viscounts is based on deckbuilding and resource + hand management whilst throwing in some other mechanics and plenty of choices making it a real brain-burner but also ensuring plenty of paths to victory and a massive amount of replaybality
  • Tons of content and KS exclusive: yeah … mainly my FOMO speaking here

Due to be delivered in December 2020
Links: BGG & Kickstarter

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Honourable mention: Cloudspire

So why creating this specific entry? It’s not that I am not excited enough about this project but this is quite an odd one. I basically started researching about Chip Theory Games in early January when I started reading about Cloudspire and an upcoming campaign. Was totally pumped about it but also quite overwhelmed with all the content available (for Cloudspire and their other games). I watched hours of videos on Cloudspire and was then convinced that I would back it instantly.

The project launched in April and I was soon brought back to reality with the hefty price tags. I still decided to pledge enough for the base game. However, when I received the pledge manager, their different options looked very appealing. After much research into solo modes and various reviews and feedback, I finally decided to cancel my pledge all in all and to order from the Chip Theory Games website their game Too Many Bones

Hope you liked this article and don’t hesitate to share what are the projects you are most looking forward to receiving in the next few months?

Set a Watch

Title: Set a Watch
Player count: 1 to 4
Play time: 45 min. to 1h

Set a Watch is a game that was released in 2019 following a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2018 (back when I was not completely addicted yet … which explains why I had never heard of it until a few months back). This game is designed by Mike Gnade and Todd Walsh. Rings a bell? Probably should for Mike Gnade at least who worked on games such as AlderQuest, Maximum Apocalypse or the upcoming and very hyped Lawyer Up which was recently on Kickstarter (late pledge available here).

Coverage of Set a Watch spiked in the last few weeks given the increasing attention devoted to solo players during the confinement. And yes I am very happy as I do enjoy a good solo game … and of course my bank account is also looking forward to the end of this lockdown! Another good news for fellow players is that there will be an expansion coming next year on Kickstarter and I received confirmation from the designer that there will also be an upgrade pack if you missed the previous Kickstarter.

What is Set a Watch?

This is a dice rolling game set up in a fantasy world. There is not much of a backstory but you can imagine that the kingdom is in danger and you are coming to the rescue. The plan is to set up a camp and to travel across the kingdom with your team of warriors. Each of them have their own abilities and your campfire will be central to your endeavour as this will drive some of your action as well as your ability to tackle the enemies lurking in darkness.

Everything I will explain here is based on a solo mode but can apply to higher player counts. When you have more players, you will spread your heroes amongst your teammates but overall play is not affected. Now that you know this, let’s open the box and empty it of these cards and dice. Yes, as you can see in the main picture, the box will also serve as a board and container for some of you cards.

First of all, you select randomly four adventurers and lay out their four cards in front of you. Then select (again at random) three abilities that you will spread out. From all of them, you have to select one randomly and exhaust it. As these represent also your characters’ health, this means that every single adventurer will start the game with only 2 health points. (apparently a common mistake amongst new players so keep it in mind). You can then distribute their dice (d6 or d8, depending on your adventurers).

Then set up your creature deck (separate your unhallowed monsters in another deck for now) by selected randomly 30 creatures and then including 1 to 4 summon cards depending on what level of difficulty you want to play on. Divide your creature deck into as many summon cards before including them and shuffle separately before forming one deck in total. This means your summon cards with not be altogether as you include several small stacks of cards with each summon card. (FYI, a summon card is powerful as it exhaust one ability of the adventurer on camp and is then placed in the graveyard and replaced by an Unhallowed Card – ie. very powerful monster).

Prepare your journey: take the location cards and remove all final locations (one in the base game) and respite locations (with a tent figure). Then draw 8 randomly and put them face down on the location slot in the box + add a final location at the bottom. This will represent your journey across the kingdom. Place all other locations cards in the “unused location” slot, these will be used when triggering some bonuses allowing you to select locations.

Unhallowed deck: shuffle the unhallowed and draw one to place face down in the horde deck (within the box), then deal 7 in a face-up deck next to the board and discard all remaining. The Horde deck represents your final battle and will build up (or not) during your game. Your should therefore have so far one card in the horde and an unhallowed deck with the top card revealed for you to see. Last thing, set up the firewood value at 7 to start the game (you can also roll the d8 to select the value and make it harder).

I will not go too much down the rules and various turns as there are plenty of videos online and the rulebooks is also available on the BGG page (set up is not the clearest but turns breakdown is great and there is also a section breaking down a typical game which is very helpful) –> here. What I would rather do is to explain the main mechanisms so that you can see if this game is for you or not based on that.

Turn order:
Reveal location (no decrease in firewood value during 1st round)
Roll dice for all adventurers and decide which one will camp. This adventurer now select the various camp actions he will take (special rules apply)
Apply any effect from the location if necessary before revealing monsters
Draw as many creatures as indicated on the location and place in a line going towards the campfire. Only reveal face up the closest cards to the fire and respect the number of creatures you can show depending on your fire value (1, 2 or 3): the brighter the fire, the more you can see
Combat: you will now select attacks (bearing in mind your range) and abilities from your party to decimate the groupe of daemons coming your way – keep in mind the creatures’ abilities in general and when they are first in line. Do this until you have no dice left to take any actions
Damage: if you cannot kill all creatures, you then take damage for all remaining daemons in line

You will repeat this for each location in the deck and also bearing in mind that each adventurer can only go twice to camp for the whole game. When you reach the final location, no one goes to camp. You then deal creatures as always depending on the value on the location and then add the horde deck, making it extra challenging to tackle (luckily you have one extra adventurer compared to all your previous turns). If you get through this and still have some firewood and at least one adventurer standing, you win. Otherwise, well … daemons will be feasting on your remains.

How does it play?

What a great adventure is Set a Watch. Immersive in the story it tells and with some great heroes and monsters. I have played several games both solo and 2 players and really enjoyed them both. Actually love the solo part as it feels even more like a puzzle. Analysing how to use all your powers and dice in order to take down your foes and being wise enough in order not too be caught off guard by monsters hiding in the darkness really got to me.

There is a great variety in the cards available to you, the fact that you have several heroes and that you can either select them or pick them at random (as suggested by the rulebook). Games will never be exactly the same and your brain will be left burning to adapt to some of these challenges. Easy to set up and take away this compact world is a great game to take with you and once mastered, rules are very straight forward. Special thumbs up for the components and the portability of the game. Just a small disappointment with the dice with some colours I don’t particularly like and the overall quality which I feel could be better given you use them all the time.

Not much to complain about but I would mention two things that for me make this game not so perfect.
– variety can seem great at first but this will probably wear out rather quickly if you play several games in a row as you will mainly come across the same enemies (luckily, the unhallowed deck will keep a few nice surprises for you). Therefore a game I cannot go back to too often if I want to keep that energy and passion I have when I play it
– the game is not as balanced as I would have liked – some heroes and abilities are clearly stronger than others and I felt that some combinations will leave you to struggle a lot more during the game. Whilst I do not really mind this amongst enemies so that it keeps the game fresh every time, I felt that unbalanced cards in your hands are just taking away some of the initial thrills you can feel when battling through the waves of enemies

However, I know my experiences will get even better as soon as I can get my hands on the expansion et the Kickstarter upgrade pack when available through the campaign! All in all, if you are looking for a great hand/board management game with dice rolling set in a fantasy world and which can still be challenging while not being too complex to learn then you should give Set a Watch a try!

Verdict: 8/10

Railroad Ink (Blue Edition)

Title: Railroad Ink
Player count: 1 to 6 (per box)
Play Time: +/- 30 minutes

A very hyped genre is definitely roll and write. In the last couple of years they have been pretty much everywhere. Whilst it’s a very crowded type of games, some of them still manage to surprise me either with their form/genre or with their mechanics. And we are pretty hooked on them with my wife, so get ready as you will read about some of them on this blog. But is Railroad Ink part of these good surprises? Let’s find out.

What is Railroad Ink ?

This is a pocket-sized game which was release in 2018 in 2 editions: blue and red. No changes at all in terms of the base game but these offer different expansions (two in each box). In each of them you will find 6 boards, 6 dry erase markers, 4 dice for the base game and 2 set of 2 dice which would each be used to play one of the expansions available in each box.

Railroad Ink plays over 7 identical rounds where you will roll the four dice and then draw the various tracks/roads on your map. Bearing in mind of course that roads and tracks must be drawn starting from the exits (red crosses) and always be in some way connected to one (e.g. cannot drew one in the middle of the map. Just remember that you must draw all four dice whether convenient or not. Just to help you out, you also get joker tiles (cf. top of the map, six white squares). You can draw one per round but are limited to 3 over the whole game.

Okay right, simple enough but how to you earn points in this game? At the end, you will go over specific elements to count them (symbolised again on the top part of the map):
– How many exits each of your network counts – careful that stations (black squares do not interrupt tracks and roads) – for each network look on the tab to see how many points they are worth: e.g., network of 2 is 4 points; 6 is 20; etc.
– Longest road and track: imagine you are driving on these, what is the longest path (1 point per square)
– 1 point per filled square pithing the orange line at the centre of the map (max. 9)
– Lose one point for each track or road not connected or at the edge of the map without an exit
– Star symbol is used fo extensions, which we will cover right away!

A (for once) non messy and rather great result – 53 points without any expansion

After playing dozens of games and without ever looking at the expansions, this blog was the perfect excuse to try them out too. As explained before, you find two expansions in each edition of the game. For instance, the “Deep Blue” version we own contains the “Rivers” and “Lakes” expansions, which are basically an additional couple of dice for each of them. Without a lot of expectations, we tried them out with my wife this afternoon. Before detailing these a bit more, I just want to add that for each expansion, the game now plays in 6 rounds and you can choose each time whether or not to use any extra die when you roll al the dice (six in total now, i.e. 4 base game and 2 for expansion).

Lakes: these can be drawn anywhere if they do not contain any stations, otherwise have to be linked to a track itself linked to an exit. They will connect to tracks and roads if these are themselves linked to a station on the same lake. On top of this, at the end of the game you will score 1 point for each square contained in your smallest lake.

Rivers: same overall rules for placement but this time, any unfinished river will count as a -1 at the end of the game. Rivers cannot be crossed by roads or tracks, only bridges can (represented on the extra set of dice). At the end of the game, count all the minuses and in terms of points, selected one river and count 1 point per square it contains + a bonus of 3 points if the river is connected on both sides to the edge of the map (these cannot be exits, i.e. red arrows).

Games with both expansions: rivers (left) and lakes (right) – still trying to be as clear as possible

How does it play?

Railroad Ink is a fun roll and write which is easy to teach and has a nice small table presence. I found the art rather appealing and the games flow nicely, which is a feat in itself as filling up 30 minutes can be tough for small table games. I appreciate the push your luck element of the game whilst going down one route (/track) and hoping some dice will come out on the next round. The addition of the joker tiles which can be used in a limited fashion per game makes it even more strategic. This has become one of our casual games at home with my wife when we are sipping a cup of tea or when having lunch on our terrace. Easy to set up, not many rules and great fun altogether.

Small improvements could be to have an idea of how many times each face depicted on the map appears on the set of dice as they are not distributed evenly but I never really bothered counting them. Apart from that, I heard (and read from) a lot of people that the theme was not present enough and that it felt quite bland but this is is not the case for us and we like building up our networks in our small city.

As far as the expansions are concerned, they are a welcome addition and do tweak the game quite a bit without overhauling it completely. This means you can add them up easily without having to remember many rules and as they are included in the base game anyway, let’s say that I did not expect too much from them. One small annoyance is that they can slow down the overall game (especially if you try to make nice drawings like my wife). I found the lake expansion to be rather forgettable and lazy as it did not to bring anything special to the base game. Whilst we really enjoyed the river one which is basically adding one kind of route and intertwines nicely with the rest of the constructions.

Verdict: 7.5/10 (6.5 with the Lakes expansion; and 8/10 with the Rivers expansion)

Psssst! If you are interested, there will be a Kickstarter launching on May 12th with two new versions of Railroad Ink as well as a solo board. More info can be found here (link). Definitely looking great and on my agenda to back!

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