In 2020, Horrible Guild approached Kickstarter to initially release 7 expansion packs for their epic role, writing the title Railroad Ink Challenge. Each pack works with all four base games and includes 4 expansion dice. Unlike the expansions in the base games, which are always 2 sets of 2 dice, some are single dice expansions and one set even uses all 4 dice to form a single large expansion. Let’s take a quick look at all of these expansions and find out what order you should play them in!
Railroad Ink Challenge: Underground Dice Expansion Pack
All four dice in the Underground pack are used to play the Underground expansion, but it can also be played as a new base game of sorts. By default, in the Underground expansion, players play on two boards, with 14 rounds whizzing back and forth above and below ground. It involves laying subways and water pipes underneath the normal tracks, which score in a similar way but try to align stations on the two boards.
A great twist is that players can play Underground alone using just the 4 expansion dice instead of the typical white dice. With none of the dice faces seeing the subways and water pipes interacting, the board is slowly broken into network pieces. The advance planning for this is quite different from the original dice, and the normal specials are gone too, being replaced with the ability to duplicate a dice face. While it doesn’t offer multiple expansions, it still offers several unique ways to play.
Railroad Ink Challenge: Sky Dice Expansion Pack
Rising Clouds is one of the Sky Pack expansions that introduces weather clouds. These must be used alongside the standard track dice and see how clouds, storms and a touch of snow are scattered across the map. These points are scored in patches, as if the trees from the Lush Green expansion were added to routes, scoring the largest of each weather zone – as long as they aren’t adjacent. One of the simpler expansions, this is a great first step into the sea of extra cubes.
Sky also introduces Skylines, which are a third type of route for players to manage. In contrast to the Lush Green Trails expansion, these still follow many basic rules. Despite the addition of airports, this is a much less mind-boggling experience than trails as the general connecting routes still apply. As such, it can be seen as a strong contender for a next-step expansion that doesn’t deviate from the base game’s formula but adds variety.
Railroad Ink Challenge: Cthulhu Dice Expansion Pack
From the ritual cube that adds madness networks into the mix, to portals, the Cthulhu expansion pack takes Railroad Ink in an Arkham direction. From complicated to explain to slightly intuitive, four separate expansions are included. Tentacles resemble rivers from the Deep Blue base game, swirling across the playfield, passing under or winding around routes. During the investigation, a figure wanders along the side of the road trying to gather clues. Clues appear throughout the 6 rounds as players use the expansion cube, with bonus points for collecting clues and even more for collecting them all!
The simplest and most obvious choice for the most useful point cube is the Portals expansion. As the name suggests, A, B and C portals connect otherwise entirely separate routes, allowing even the longest roads and rails to be counted across portals. This is a great expansion, even for new players to try, although it may not be enough to justify buying this 4-dice set.
Railroad Ink Challenge: Future Dice Expansion Pack
Great connections! What is a superconnector, you may be wondering. This is a brand new futuristic track type that doubles as a road and rail. Creating routes with it is a breeze and makes for a more relaxed networking experience with less chance of players not being able to connect things. Brand new players can easily use this cube as if it were anything, making connections easier than normal.
The bulk of the Futuristic pack is the City Builder expansion, which uses two dice. Unlike most other expansions, these only trigger at the end of the round. First, players with the Income Die see coins for what they have done this turn or before, such as: B. linked outputs. Tracked on the network bar, players can then spend coins to build towers. These towers take up entire squares, making them great for scoring in the middle 9 squares of the player board. Almost more importantly, they score points and any route endings that lead into tower spaces are not counted as errors. This means the game can be a bit more forgiving on the error front, although overall players have more to think about.
Railroad Ink Challenge: Electricity Cube Expansion Pack
Electricity’s first expansion gives everyone the excuse to quote Anchorman and repeatedly say, “I love lamps.” Two street lamp dice are rolled and used optionally. Unlike other expansions, players will not find a mix of roads and rails, Streetlights only provide roads, with a streetlight of course. Whenever a special is used, it will turn on all streetlights in its row and column for a simple, street-heavy experience. This is by far one of the simplest expansions and hardly takes the experience beyond that of the base game, so could potentially be used with new players.
In the other half of the expansion, two power grid dice are rolled in addition to the route dice. With an accumulator in the center of each player board, the power dice effectively add pylons along routes based on the directions rolled. Taking these pylon paths from the accumulator back to the exits will charge them up for bonus points. It’s not the most difficult, thoughtful expansion. Still, like the airlines extension of the Sky package, it’s a new type of route that needs to be managed effectively.
Railroad Ink Challenge: Arcade Dice Expansion Pack
This is a slightly odd mix of 4 expansions. The Rainbow expansion sees players handing their boards to their opponents when rain clouds gather, adding a level of player interaction not previously seen in Railroad Ink. One of two expansions featuring a UFO, the Galactic Invaders, is included in this pack. Aliens are again added to the opponent’s boards – with then scored negative points at the end of the game. Not everyone will be able to handle this new level of interaction. However, since it is based on the roll of the dice, a rain cloud, for example, may not appear in the 6 rounds.
The game is always about planning ahead, but the Tetromino (Tetris) cube doubles on it. While players don’t have to use it, they will want to because it grants one bonus point per square when used correctly. Before using the normal route dice in a round, the player can use the Tetromino die to upgrade empty squares of a specific pattern. These upgraded spaces earn bonus points if they’re full at the end of the game, or lose them if they’re empty – so there’s more to plan and even more chances for your luck. Since it’s an arcade game arcade, the final expansion adds… Pac-Man under the brand-friendly moniker. Pluck-Man will want to be added to networks that have fruits and ghosts on their exits, which isn’t always a guarantee. These last two give the arcade pack its name and pay homage to the games they represent.
Railroad Ink Challenge: Engineer Dice Expansion Pack
For players who wish to double the difference, the special die allows this. This expansion can be used with any other and replaces one of the standard white route cubes. It must be used like any route die and cannot be spent on effects such as rescuing cactus from the Shining Yellow base game. At the end of a game with the special dice, a total of 10 special dice may have been used, so lots of connectivity but lots of ways to avoid mistakes.
The other brilliant cube in the set is the renovation cube. This allows players to occasionally add squares that they previously drew on. It’s very satisfying to almost break the rules in this way and extend your routes from, or even below, where you previously drew. While it’s on the easier end of the expansion spectrum, it’s not great for first-time players as it would distract their imagination from connecting things for future games where renovations aren’t possible.
All of these expansion packs bring their own twist to the experience. Packaged in small boxes, the dice match those in the base game boxes perfectly, with rule sheets even providing examples of scoring or showing the restrictions a new feature must obey. These expansions will require players to draw many new symbols on their player boards, but none are quite as difficult to doodle as cactus or paths from the Railroad Ink Challenge base games.
From Weather Storms to Pac-Man, these expansions add to the experience in weird and wonderful ways. Some have overlapping or similar vibrations; Rainbows sound like they’re supposed to work like the clouds from Sky Pack, but they don’t, while Airlines are like a less insane version of Lush Green’s Trails. Others are completely different, with Undergrounds or City Builder changing the feel of the game far more than the originally released expansions included with the base games. While the Cthulhu and Arcade packs are more whimsical, the standout packs for us were the Engineer, Sky, and Future packs. They don’t disrupt the gameplay while introducing new, unique twists. Only true fans need to own them all, and by picking up just one or two boxes, players can choose what grabs them the most and massively expand the variety of their base game.
(Editor’s Note: The Railroad Ink Challenge Expansion Packs were provided to us by Asmodee for review. The base games and expansions are currently available at local board game stores! Find your local store here.)