Tag Archives: Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition

3rd August 2021 (Online)

Last time, we had decided to have a “test visit” to The Jockey, with the hope that we’d be back this week.  Sadly, since then, the pub has been closed, so we were online for another week.  Lime, Pine, Black and Purple were the first to join the meeting, quickly followed by Burgundy, then everyone else eventually joined the chatter.  We had hoped to mark The Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo and our return to The Jockey by playing Ticket to Ride with the Japanese map.  However, circumstances meant that this was the third unsuccessful attempt to play that game.  So instead, this week, the “Feature Game” was the Ishikawa map for MetroX.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

MetroX is a simple little “Roll and Write” type game that seems easy at first, but is difficult to play well.  The game is driven by a deck of number cards, where the simple ones dictate how many sections can be marked on a route:  Players fill the boxes along the lines with “zeros”, with the number on the card dictating the number of boxes filled.  In general, if the line comes to an end, or some of the boxes had already been filled (because they were part of another line for example), then any excess are lost.  So the game is all about efficiency, as there is a limit to the number of cards that can be used on each line (as shown by the indicator boxes at the start of each one).

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

There are a small number of special cards as well, which break the rules.  For example, there are number cards with a circle, which allow players to skip any filled spaces and and help avoid wastage.  There are also special “star” cards, which allow players to fill a box with a number equal to the number of tracks passing through the space—this number contributes to the player’s final score.  There is also a “free” card which allows players to fill in a single space anywhere on the map.  Cards are turned until all the indicator boxes on the map have been filled or until the six is drawn, in which case, the deck is shuffled and drawing (both of cards and routes) continues.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Points come from the “star” bonuses, but also from line completion bonuses.  These are scored similar to the rows and columns in Noch Mal! or the bonuses in Welcome To…, where the first player to complete a line scores a higher amount than those who complete it later in the game.  This is off-set with a negative score for the number of unfilled boxes at the end of the game.  This time we were playing with the Ishikawa promo map, which is remarkably simple, however, the fact there are very few indicator boxes not only makes it a very short game but also leaves very little room for manoeuvre.  With only eleven rounds (plus any free cards) we were all worried that if we didn’t get a six we might struggle to complete lines.  That concern turned out to be baseless, however, with every line being completed by someone during the game.

MetroX: Ishikawa Promo Map
– Image by boardGOATS

Green’s mind was clearly elsewhere as he missed a number and spent a couple of minutes trying to work out what he’d done and then asked for clarifications on the negative scoring.  For reasons that weren’t entirely clear, everyone struggled to calculate their scores, with a long delay before scores came in, and with a large number of corrections.  Ivory led the scores with nineteen points.  After a brief spell in second behind Pink and Purple, a couple of recounts later it was confirmed as a four-way tie between Ivory, Pink, Burgundy and Purple all with nineteen.  So, following the example of the high jumpers, Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi, they agreed to share the Gold Medal.

– Video from youtube.com

The Japanese are very fond of their railways, so as the Ishikawa map was so quick to play, we decided to follow it with another train game, the new Railroad Ink Challenge, which we first played a month ago.  This is another relatively simple “Roll and Write” game, where players have to draw the road/rail depicted when four dice are rolled.  All four must be drawn and they must connect to an “entrance” or something already drawn on the player’s map.  There are also special cross-roads which can be used a maximum of once per round and only three can be used in the whole game.  Each game lasts for just seven rounds, so again efficiency is vital.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The Challenge edition adds extra features on the maps which in effect give players bonuses when they fill those spaces, and also adds a set of three “goal” cards that give players more points when they complete them.  These work in the same way as the line bonuses in MetroX, except that there are three sets of points available:  one for the first player(s) to complete them, one for the second set of players to complete them and one for everyone else.  Last time, we played the Shining Yellow edition, but this time, although we used the yellow boards, we used challenge cards from the Lush Green edition, randomly drawing cards A, B and E.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Lush Green Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Goal A gave points for players filling five of the nine central spaces; B gave players points for completing three of the “village” spaces and E gave points for completing all nine of the central area.  Ivory’s printer refused to play ball, so he gave up and took an early night.  We were all sorry to see him go of course, but it did give everyone else a chance to win.  The first round included one of the especially awkward back-to-back curves, but it turned out to be the only one, though.  This time there were a lot of T-junctions and fly-overs, with very few straight segments and simple corners. As a result, people started using their “specials” quite early rather than saving them to the end.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

As is often the case, there were a lot of reports of huge numbers of “hanging ends” meaning that players were variously taking chances and keeping options open, but hoping upon hope for helpful dice rolls.  As the game progressed, people started claiming the Goals, with B going first.  Some players had decided to use different colours for road, rail and stations, which ultimately seemed to slow them down as they not only had to choose what to do but also make sure they used the right colour.  That just gave more thinking time to everyone else though, so nobody really minded.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Without expansions, the game only takes seven rounds, so it wasn’t long before people were starting to worry that they were running out of time.  Burgundy said he could really have done with one more round and there were several others who felt the same, but the rules are the rules, so Burgundy posted his score, setting an initial target of fifty-one.  When Green gave his score of seventy-seven, however, he was so far ahead of Burgundy that photographic evidence was requested by everyone else.  While his score was being verified as correct, Blue and and Pink were confirmed as the winners of silver and bronze respectively.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Lush Green & Shining Yellow Editions
– Image by boardGOATS

Time was marching on, so we moved onto Board Game Arena for something light and easy, and sensing that this might be the last chance online, we opted for our go-to game, 6 Nimmt!, with the Professional Variant.  In this simple game, players simultaneously choose a card and, once revealed, starting with the lowest card, they are added to one of the four rows—the one ending in the highest number that is lower than the number on the card.  The player who adds the sixth card to any row, instead takes the five cards and the number of bulls heads on the cards make part of their score.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Face-to-face, these are summed and the lowest scores wins, however, on Board Game Arena, everyone starts with sixty-six points and the scores are subtracted from their running total.  Thus, the game ends when someone falls below zero and the winner has the most points at the end of the game.  In the Professional Variant, players can add cards to the either end of the row, with cards going at the start of a row if they are lower, than the first card in the row and the difference is smaller than it would be if they were to go elsewhere.  This really adds a new dimension to the game, but there is serious mathematical upkeep giving us reservations about playing it with real cards, face-to-face.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

This time, Blue picked up first and enthusiastically started the race for the bottom.  It looked like she was a certainty to end the game very quickly until she had competition from Burgundy.  Everyone else had picked up some cards and Burgundy was the last person to maintain his starting total of sixty-six nimmts, when he suddenly shipped a landslide of points going from the lead to vying for last with Blue in just a handful of turns.  Both Blue and Burgundy managed to steady the ship, albeit briefly, before Blue grabbed enough points to end the game.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Everyone else was actually quite close, and once again we had a tie for the Gold Medal, this time between Purple and Pine (who always does well in this game); both finishing with thirty-eight, just two ahead of Black.  From there, Green wished everyone else a good night leaving just six.  With lower numbers the options abound, but everyone was in the mood for something that didn’t require too much thought, and someone suggested giving L.L.A.M.A. (aka L.A.M.A) a go.  Although it was still in beta testing and we’d not played it online before, we felt there was “no cause for alarm-a”, as we’d played it before (albeit a long time ago) and found it to be a very easy game

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

Nominated for the Spiel des Jahres two years ago, L.A.M.A. has a reputation of being a bit of an “UNO killer”, that is to say, it is a similar game to UNO, but perceived to be better.  L.A.M.A. is an abbreviation for “Lege alle Minuspunkte ab”, which roughly translates as “get rid of your negative points”, and indeed this is what players do, in a similar way to UNO. Players start with a hand of cards and, on their turn can, add a single card face up to the pile in the middle as long as it has the same face value, or the same plus one.  The cards are numbered one to six, with the Llama card simultaneously being above six and below one providing a bridge between the high and low numbers.

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

Alternatively, players can pick up a card or pass.  When players pass, their score is the total of the face values of their cards, but if they have multiple cards of the same face value, they only count once.  So if a player has five cards with a value of two, they would score two points, however, just one card with a higher face value would score more and Llama cards score ten points.  The round ends when either everyone passes, or when someone gets rid of all their cards and everyone takes chips equal to their scores.  Players who succeed in checking out get the bonus of being able to return one chip, which is important because the game ends when someone reaches forty points and the winner is the player with the fewest points.

L.A.M.A. on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Burgundy spent a lot of time moaning about being given poor options by Purple who was sitting on his right. Based on the effect this had, he might have had a point as he was rapidly picking up chips and was the one to make it to forty and trigger the end of the game.  Further, Purple was doing really well, finishing with just nine, twenty-five fewer than anyone else except Black, who just pipped her to victory with only six.  With everyone keen to play another game, but nobody enthusiastic about making a decision on what to play, and medals only awarded once for each “event”, a second round meant the Gold was still up for grabs.

L.A.M.A. on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

This time, Blue joined the moaning when Pine did the same to her as Purple had done to Burgundy, changing the number when she didn’t want and not changing it when she did.  Burgundy did better this time finishing in joint second with Black with twenty-eight points.  The winner of the second round finishing with just a single chip was Purple.  This made her the L.A.M.A. champion taking the final Gold medal of the evening.

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  As with the Olympics, everyone who takes part in playing games is a winner.

6th July 2021 (Online)

After the usual pre-game chatter (this time focussed largely on the village of Standlake—north of The River, Tut!), we settled down to play the “Feature Game“.  This was the new Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition.  We have played Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition several times, both with and without the mini expansions and have really enjoyed it.  This new version steps it up a little with several new “Challenges” to add to the base game.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The basic idea is very simple:  four dice are rolled and players have to draw all four pieces of track on their player board.  These must either extend a previous section of road or track, or start at one of the red entrance “arrows”.  Three times during the game, players can, additionally, draw one of six special intersections with only one per turn.  Players score points for the longest sections of road and track, connecting red entrance “arrows” and for filling the central nine squares, losing points for any unconnected, “hanging ends”.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The “Challenge” editions of Railroad Ink add special spaces which represent villages, factories and Universities (though we referred to them as “Houses”, “Spectre Octopi” and “Fingers  Pointing Up”).  These give extra point scoring opportunities and a chance to get an extra “special” section.  It also includes goal cards which give players even more chances to score more points.  These work a bit like the scoring in Noch Mal!, where the first players to complete a “Challenge” score maximum points and others who achieve it later score less.  These provide a lot of variety to the game, especially when combined with the additional mini expansions that each game comes with.

Railroad Ink: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The first thing we noticed was that the dice we had didn’t seem to make sense—there weren’t enough simple straight and simple bend sections.  It quickly became apparent that we had the wrong dice in the box.  Fortunately, we also had the Lush Green Edition, so we stole the dice from that and carried on.  It quickly became apparent that somehow this was much more difficult than the original Blue Edition that we had played so many times.  It wasn’t clear whether this was just an unfortunate series of dice rolls, or whether it was a function of the fact players were trying to do more things which forced them to compromise more, or even the new back-to-back corners.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Either way, it was clear that people had a lot of “hanging ends” and were desperately hoping for “good rolls” (perhaps cheese and pickle rather than egg and cress…).  Most people managed to make something out of their spaghetti-like network though, and before long it was time to compare scores.  Ivory was in charge of the Tusk-lets, so in his absence it was left to Pine to set the target score.  When Pine reported his fifty-three, everyone knew it was a good score from Burgundy’s response of “Bugger.”

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Black matched Pine, and Pink thought he’d pipped them by one point with his fifty-four, but Blue had the beating of all of them finishing with fifty-seven points.  The score survived Pink’s recount, in what had actually been quite a close game.  It had been a reasonably quick game, so we moved on to play Take it Easy!, a tile-laying game we played back in February, but had really enjoyed.  Each hexagonal tile has three pipes crossing it, in three different colours.  Tiles are drawn from a stack one at a time, and each player adds them to their personal player board.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

The tile placement rules are simple:  the tiles can be placed anywhere on the board but must be placed the right way up which fixes the directions of the nine different coloured pipes.  Players score points for any pipes that contain only the one colour, and that score is the number of tiles in the pipe multiplied by the number on the pipe. Thus, the highest scores are achieved by locating the high value pipes so they go through the middle.  Although there are a maximum of fifteen pipes, it is almost impossible to complete all successfully, especially as there are some tiles that are not used.  So, there is an element of chance as well as hedging bets.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

It quickly became clear to Blue that she wasn’t going to be in the running this time, and others felt the same, knowing they had not done as well as they felt they should have done.  Pink, however, once again thought he’d got it in the bag with his score of one hundred and forty-five, ten more than the hitherto next score, by Black.  That was until Green reported a massive score of one-hundred and seventy-three.  Everyone else, some thirty points behind struggled to believe it, but he’d simply made better use of the tiles as everyone else had been waiting for yellow (nine point) tiles to come out.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, we decided to move onto Board Game Arena.  There were lots of options, but Green was keen to share a game he had recently discovered called Hugo: Das Schlossgespenst (aka Escape from the Hidden Castle).  This is a light, family roll-and-move type game, where players take on the role of guests at a party, trying to escape from “Hugo the ghost”.  Hugo starts in the cellar, but quickly moves up to the gallery, chasing any guests that have not been able to escape into one of the side rooms.

Hugo: Das Schlossgespenst
– Image by BGG contributor duchamp

The catch is that even when apparently safe in a room, if another guest guest rolls exactly the right number the resident can be evicted, inevitably right into Hugo’s path.  When Hugo catches someone, they go into the basement and, the deeper they go, the more “Fright Points” that player gets.  The aim of the game is to finish with the fewest “Fright Points” after Hugo has been round the gallery seven times is the winner.

Hugo: Das Schlossgespenst
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Although the game seems like it is just a simple roll-and-move game, there is a little bit more to it than that.  Players are in charge of more than one guest, so they have to choose which one to move on each turn.  This decision will depend on where their pieces are with respect to Hugo, but also which rooms are closest, which rooms are empty and whether they can get one of their guests into one of the two “safe rooms” that give players negative “Fright Points”.  In practice, this isn’t much of a decision because after a couple of rounds, Hugo is moving so quickly, escape is the only thing on the players’ minds.

Hugo: Das Schlossgespenst
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Although the game didn’t take the five minutes advertised, it didn’t take too long.  There was much humour when one of Blue’s guests stuck its head up Pine’s frock, and likewise, when one of Pine’s stuck its head up Burgundy’s frock.  It was very clear to everyone that Green’s prior experience was the explanation for why he very nearly won—it is a game that is all skill of course.  In the event, however, Pine pipped him to the line by just one “Fright Point”.  And with that strangeness over, and this possibly being the last online game session, it seemed fitting to end with the reigning Golden GOAT winner, 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Over the last year or so, we’ve played 6 Nimmt! more than anything else, way more, simply because it is fast, fun, and skirts the fine line between tactical masterpiece and unpredictable luck-fest.  Players simultaneously choose cards that are placed at the end of one of four rows. The player who places the sixth card in a row, instead picks up the other five and their card becomes the first card in the row.  In the Board Game Arena version of the game, players start with sixty-six “Nimmts”, losing some each time they pick up.  The winner is the player with the most “Nimmts” or points when one player’s tally falls below zero.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Playing with the “Professional Variant”, cards can be added to both ends of the rows, simultaneously adding control and chaos in equal measure.  This time, Burgundy was the first to pick up cards, but Green was the first to begin the race to the bottom in earnest.  His personal roller-coaster ride hit maximum speed when he picked up a remarkable eighteen “Nimmts” on one turn.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

For most of the game, everyone was very, very close, except for Green, but then everything went wrong for everyone and the scores plummeted.  Green inevitably triggered the end of the game though, but the final scores were surprisingly close aside from him.  Despite picking up fifteen points on his final card, Burgundy finished with six “Nimmts” more than Pine and Blue who tied for second place.  And with that, it was time for bed.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Watch out, watch out, there’s a Hugo about!