Railroad Ink is a great roll-and-write that already has 2 uniquely themed expansions in each of its game boxes.
In addition to those expansions, there are 7 expansion packs that can be used in Railroad Ink or Railroad Ink Challenge.
Read our Railroad Ink Expansion Pack review to learn more about each.
- Railroad Ink Expansion Packs Overview
- Railroad Ink: Arcade Expansion Pack
- Railroad Ink: Eldritch Expansion Pack
- Railroad Ink: Electricity Expansion Pack
- Railroad Ink: Engineer Expansion Pack
- Railroad Ink: Futuristic Expansion Pack
- Railroad Ink: Sky Expansion Pack
- Railroad Ink: Underground Expansion Pack
- Ranking All Expansions
- Final Thoughts
Railroad Ink Expansion Packs Overview
Each Railroad Ink expansion pack has its own theme, 4 dice, and between 1 and 4 expansions.
In this review, I’ll explain what’s in each pack and my thoughts overall. At the end, I’ll rank all the Railroad Ink expansions — including those in the 4 games and expansion packs.
If you are unfamiliar with Railroad Ink’s base game, read our review to learn about its gameplay.
Railroad Ink: Arcade Expansion Pack
This expansion pack includes 4 retro-themed arcade game expansions: Galactic Invaders, Pluck-Man, Rainbow, and Tetromino.
The Galactic Invaders expansion increases player interaction in Railroad Ink; players can draw aliens on their neighbor’s board throughout the game.
During a round, aliens activate and destroy everything in their space if the Attack face is rolled on the expansion die. Luckily, the Nuke face lets you erase aliens on your board when rolled.
Any remaining aliens on your board at the end of the game lose you 1 point.
With the Pluck-Man expansion, you draw the result of its die — Pluck-Man, ghost, or fruit — next to an unused Exit.
You score additional points for each of your Networks that connect to at least 1 Pluck-Man Exit. Moreover, if there is at least 1 fruit, you score points for the ghosts in that Network.
However, Networks without Fruit lose points for ghosts instead.
In Rainbow, players draw rainbows and clovers on their boards, and send rain clouds to their neighbors.
Rainbows are like a bridge; Networks connected to a space with a rainbow are also considered connected. Each rainbow also scores 2 points for each clover orthogonally adjacent to it.
Rain clouds don’t score or lose you points, but they will occupy the precious adjacent spots next to rainbows.
This expansion introduces tetromino shapes to Railroad Ink.
During a round, you can enhance empty spaces on your player board by outlining them in the pattern shown on the expansion die. Your goal is to draw something (Routes, etc.) in the enhanced spaces.
You score 1 point for each occupied enhanced space and lose 1 point for each empty one.
Railroad Ink: Arcade Expansion Pack Review
The expansions in Arcade are more of a novelty than anything: the nostalgic element is there and they’re fun to play for the first time.
One time is all you need, though, to get everything out of them since there isn’t much depth to these 4 expansions.
Railroad Ink: Eldritch Expansion Pack
There are 4 expansions in Eldritch: Investigation, Portal, Ritual, and Tentacle.
With the Investigation expansion, you’ll be moving your investigator around your Networks to discover clues that will help you solve the case — and score you points.
Your investigator begins the game next to an Exit of your choice.
Each round, you’ll have the option of drawing what’s on the Investigation die: a Route with a clue.
At the end of the round, you may use movement points equal to the number of footprints on the die to move your investigator along your Network — to adjacent highway spaces or the closest station.
Circle any clues in spaces where your investigator enters during their travels; you score 1 point for each clue your investigator collected plus 4 points if they collected them all.
This expansion helps you expand your Network with the help of portals that appear at the end of Routes.
There are 3 different portals — A, B, and C. Routes connected to a portal with the same letter are also considered connected.
You don’t score additional points with this expansion, but the portals will help you reach more Exits and extend your longest highway and/or railway.
The Ritual expansion adds a new type of Network that players are trying to create: the Madness Network, comprised of rituals and portals.
Every round, you must draw what is shown on the Ritual die — usually a Route with a ritual (a swirly spiral). Optionally, you may draw a portal on the end of any Route connected to an outer edge that isn’t an Exit.
At the end of the game, you score your Madness Networks (any Networks with portals and/or rituals) according to the base game’s Network scoring. (For instance, a Madness Network with 3 portals and 3 rituals scores 20 points.)
However, any Exits connected to a Madness Network are ignored during final scoring.
With the Tentacle expansion, you want to drive the townsfolk a little mad by having your Routes pass by or over tentacles.
Each round, after adding your Routes, you can draw what’s on the Tentacle expansion die. It always shows a tentacle and a number; this number is how long the tentacle you draw must be.
You’ll score 2 points for each tentacle you drew — regardless of its length — and 1 point for each space with a tentacle and a Route.
Railroad Ink: Eldritch Expansion Pack Review
I enjoyed playing the 4 expansions in the Eldritch pack. My favorite, Investigation, falls just above the halfway mark of my top Railroad Ink expansions.
My biggest complaint about the Eldritch expansions is how busy they make your board.
Apart from the Portal expansion, your board gets filled with information quite quickly — and it’s difficult to discern what’s whatat a glance.
While I liked my plays of the Eldritch expansions, nothing in their theme or gameplay compels me to play them over and over again.
Railroad Ink: Electricity Expansion Pack
The Electricity pack includes 2 expansions: Power Grid and Street Lamp.
In this expansion, you’ll be trying to charge power lines in Route spaces to connect as many Exits as possible to your power grid.
At the beginning of the game, you draw an accumulator on the central space of your player board.
At the end of a round, you may use the Power Grid dice to charge your already-drawn Routes by traveling in the direction shown on the dice.
When you start in an already-charged space next to the accumulator and travel over it, you fill in one of its empty circles. This can be done a maximum of 3 times in a game.
At the end of the game, you score points equal to the number of charges on the accumulator multiplied by the number of Exits connected to it via your charged Route spaces.
The 2 Street Lamp expansion dice depict streetlights alongside highway Routes.
Whenever you use a Special Route, you must choose a row or column; every street lamp in that row or column is “turned on” (add an asterisk next to it).
At the end of the game, you score 1 point for every illuminated street lamp.
Railroad Ink: Electricity Expansion Pack Review
The 2 expansions in the Electricity pack are fine; they work well with the basic Railroad Ink gameplay, but they didn’t wow me.
I expected to like the Street Lamp expansion the most, but the gameplay felt underwhelming.
Besides not being able to ever create the huge highway Networks beaming with street lamps I had hoped for, the end-game points felt insignificant for the brain power I put in.
The Power Grid expansion was a surprise. While it is one of those expansions that makes your board spaces much busier, I liked planning out my electrical route and how best I could use the dice each round to charge my accumulator to its max.
It added a nice layer of strategy without being overwrought.
Railroad Ink: Engineer Expansion Pack
The 4 Engineer expansions — Construction, Renovation, Separation, and Special — can be played on their own or combined with other expansions.
The Construction expansion offers players flexibility and grace.
Each round, you may destroy, move, or freely place a Route depending on the die result rolled.
The Renovation expansion allows players to modify a space with an existing Route if it matches the Renovation die’s criteria.
Each face has a dotted line and solid Route; if the space you would like to renovate matches the die’s dotted line configuration, you may draw the solid Route configuration.
The Separation expansion is for players who want to make their route-building logistical chaos.
Instead of being added to the dice pool, the Separation die replaces a white Route die.
This becomes quite challenging since the Routes on the Separation die force your Networks to be separated, not connected.
Similar to the Separation expansion, the Special die replaces a Route die.
Special is unique in that each of its expansion die Routes depict 1 of the 6 Special Routes.
During the game, you may use the Special die results each round and still have the option of using your 3 Special Routes as per the base game rules.
Railroad Ink: Engineer Expansion Pack Review
The Engineer expansion pack is my favorite pack overall; 2 of its expansions (Special and Separation) are in my top 10.
What I like most about them is that each expansion is easy to learn and implement because they simply put a little spin on the base game.
This means that you can continue to focus on the game’s original goals (Route- and Network-building) without being distracted or bogged down by the complexity and added rules many other expansions introduce.
Railroad Ink: Futuristic Expansion Pack
The 3 expansions in the Futuristic pack are all about innovation and efficiency.
In the Alien Farmer expansions, sheep farmers have enlisted the help of aliens to produce wool.
Each round, you’ll draw a Route with sheep or an alien. At the end of the game, you score 2 points for each sheep farm in the same row and/or column as an alien.
City Builder introduces money and buildings into Railroad Ink; this expansion uses 2 dice — the Income die and the Building die.
After you draw your routes for the round, calculate the coins you earn according to the criteria on the Income die.
You may then spend coins to construct as many of the buildings on the Building die that you can afford.
A “building” is always between 1 and 3 towers — and each space can hold a maximum of 3 towers.
At the end of the game, you score 1 point for each Tower you’ve built. Moreover, Routes connected to a space with a building don’t count as errors.
This expansion makes for very efficient travel; using the results on the Super Connection die, you can connect highways and railways through triangular “superstations.”
These superstations help extend your longest highway and railway Networks.
Railroad Ink: Futuristic Expansion Pack Review
Futuristic is another one of my favorite expansion packs overall, and, like Engineer, 2 of its 3expansions are in my top 10 (Alien Farmer and Super Connection).
I like Alien Farmer because it gives me another element to think about when drawing Routes, yet it doesn’t distract from the game’s goals.
Super Connection is fun because you feel a great sense of accomplishment at the end of the game with all your long Routes.
I wanted to like City Builder more than I did. It felt clunky trying to keep track of coins, and the payoff/satisfaction of building and scoring towers wasn’t worth the Income phase upkeep.
Railroad Ink: Sky Expansion Pack
The dice in the Sky pack are used for 2 different expansions: 2 dice for Airline and 2 for Weather.
The Airline expansion adds a third type of Route to your game: the airway. Much like highways and railways, you’ll try to create the longest airway Network and connect them to your regular Routes using airports.
At the end of the game, you score 2 points for each space in your longest airway. Moreover, you lose 2 points for each open airway Route (think of them as errors) and 4 points for each unconnected airport.
The Weather expansion introduces 3 types of weather that must be applied to your Routes: cloud, storm, and snow.
In each round, you’ll add the type of weather shown on the expansion dice to 2 different spaces in which you drew Routes that round.
Your goal is to group similar types of weather while ensuring they are not adjacent to the other 2 types.
You score 1 point for each space in your largest (orthogonally adjacent) cloud grouping. You’ll score similarly for your largest storm and snow groups as well.
However, the groups don’t count for scoring if two groupings of different weather types are orthogonally and/or diagonally adjacent.
Railroad Ink: Sky Expansion Pack Review
I had a fun time with the Sky expansion pack.
My favorite of the expansions is by far Airline. I tend to enjoy expansions that give you another type of Route to build — even if it does come at the cost of having a packed board by the end of the game.
Airline’s decisions also feel more meaningful and impactful than they do when you’re playing Weather.
I didn’t dislike the Weather expansion; I just found that the game almost played itself. Since you must write the 2 weather results each round, your options are extremely limited.
I also didn’t feel the trade-off in points for a large weather grouping was worth messing up the points I would score for Routes.
Railroad Ink: Underground Expansion Pack
Underground is the only pack that has just 1 expansion.
In Railroad Ink: Underground, you effectively manage two boards and create Routes and Networks on both.
One board, your Surface board, is used in the usual way: for highways and railways. Your second board forms your underground network of water pipes and subways.
Each round, players alternate between adding Routes to their Surface board and their Underground board and rolling that board’s corresponding set of 4 dice (the usual Route dice for Surface rounds and the expansion dice for Underground ones).
The rules for the Surface rounds remain the same as the base game rules. The rules for the Underground are similar, but there is one main difference — and that’s how your 2 boards interact.
You’ll gain additional points at the end of the game for the Hubs you create. These are when a space on your Surface board has a station and the matching space on the Underground has a subway station.
Moreover, you’ll lose points for breaking pipes — that is, when you draw a Surface station above an already-drawn water pipe space.
Besides that, the final scoring is virtually the same for the Surface and Underground boards.
Railroad Ink: Underground Expansion Pack Review
Initially, there is a lot to take in with the Underground expansion because you’re essentially playing 2 games of Railroad Ink simultaneously, alternating from one board to another.
Then, add in the layer (pun intended) of the boards interacting with each other, and it can be tough to wrap your head around it all and not lose your focus — or your game plan.
The Underground expansion is not for Railroad Ink beginners.
All that said, I really enjoyed my time playing it — much more than I had anticipated. It takes a few rounds, but it’s surprisingly fun once you grasp the game’s flow.
I also loved how the boards interacted with each other!
Ranking All Expansions
All the expansions — in the base games and expansion packs — ranked from my least to most favorite.
- Rainbow (Arcade)
- Portal (Eldritch)
- Street Lamps (Electricity)
- Meteor (Blazing Red)
- Canyon (Shining Yellow)
- Galactic Invaders (Arcade)
- Ritual (Eldritch)
- Desert (Shining Yellow)
- Renovation (Engineer)
- Tentacle (Eldritch)
- Tetromino (Arcade)
- Weather (Sky)
- Construction (Engineer)
- City Builder (Futuristic)
- Trail (Lush Green)
- Pluck-Man (Arcade)
- Investigation (Eldritch)
- Power Grid (Electricity)
- Super Connection (Futuristic)
- Airline (Sky)
- River (Deep Blue)
- Underground (Underground)
- Separation (Engineer)
- Lava (Blazing Red)
- Lake (Deep Blue)
- Alien Farmer (Futuristic)
- Forest (Lush Green)
- Special (Engineer)
While I prefer some expansion packs more than others, there are no bad ones. Each pack and its related expansions add theme and interesting mechanisms to Railroad Ink, bringing new life to the game.