Take a look inside this new Roll'n'Write game from Stonemaier Games!
Hey there everyone! Bubba here! (Although, once again, Katie is going to join me for reviewing the solo-player mode!)
So this might come as a surprise to y'all, but up until now I had never played a single game of the Roll'n'Write genre. I've been intrigued by them for a long time especially since it seems like there's a new Roll'n'Write released every week. That's Pretty Clever, Cartographers, Railroad Ink, Welcome To... There are just so many options! Which one do you guys think I should play next?
While I'd never actually played one, I knew the basic concept of a Roll'n'Write; you roll the dice and based on what they come up as, you mark a player-board. Seems easy-peasy. The reason I'd picked this one in particular was pretty simple, I'd been eyeing it for a couple weeks and I didn't bring any games for Board Game Night. We started off just my friend Adam and I and he taught me how to play Exceed, a card-fighting game. My friend Erik tried to teach me that one years before, but with a bunch of rules I had trouble with and a violent trouncing, I set it down. I thought I would set it down indefinitely. However, Adam took a lot of time to help me understand the rules and I really did find the game enjoyable on a second play. It didn't hurt that I got to play as a character from one of my favorite game series, Red Dragon Inn. As soon as my wife BJ got out of work, Adam and I sat down to play with them. So what did we think of it?
The overall game itself is pretty simple, as listed above, you roll dice and mark the results on your score card. But then there are the Realm Cards. Each player is provided with 11 different Realm Cards total, each representing a different Stonemaier game; Pendulum, Wingspan, Tapestry, etc. The game in played in 3 rounds with 3 different randomly chosen Realm Cards per round. This means you don't play with every card every game. I think that between the random choice of Realms and the fact that you don't use each one in every game you're going to get a good bit of re-playability out of this one.
After the Realms are revealed for the round you have a player roll 2 dice and everyone notes the results. You then get to distribute those 2 numbers throughout your Realms, but you can't put both on the same Realm. Some actions give you stars, while others give you resources that you can use to manipulate a die roll or gain additional dice. There's no real point to hanging on to resources because while they DO count toward your end of round scoring, they're only worth 0.1 points each. When the dice have been rolled 9 times you assess each realm and score points equal to your number of stars plus the bonus points for your resources. You clear the Realms you played with and put them aside. Three new Realms are drawn and round 2 begins.
Once you finish the third round, you add up all your round scores and determine a winner! Pretty simple!
One of the first things that went through my mind when I opened the box for this was "WOW!" I LOVE most of these components. The dice are SO chunky and make a great "CLACK!" when they land. The rulebook feels like it's made out of plastic instead of paper and feels so durable and nice. The markers look pretty standard though, and I was surprised that it came with little "eraser pads" instead of marker-tip erasers. Those little pads are the only part of the entire package that felt kind of cheap. We all looked at the components and admired them before starting to read the rules. The rules seemed super self-explanatory for the basics, but we got a little confused by our first round of Realm Cards. Specifically it was the "Charterstone" Realm that took a minute, but once we understood what was going on we launched straight in. As always, playing games with Adam and BJ was a gas.
One of the rules that came in super handy a couple times was that if you can't place a die, you can claim a resource of your choosing instead. It's certainly not the way you're supposed to get resources, but it feels way better than just straight up losing a die. There are so many options with what to do with only 2 dice rolls that I was super impressed. It was the resources that really did it for me. You can use pumpkins to adjust die rolls, while both coins and hearts give you extra dice. You can get some really good chained combos just from resources alone. One of the coolest things you can do with resources is through pumpkins. If you use enough pumpkins, not only can you modify a die roll, you can use it in a realm that you've already activated that round! It was a great balance for me of both trying to figure out the best move to make with what comes up on the dice while also making sure I had resources to modify them to fit my "plan," a term here I use very loosely.
I'd not really cared for the little felt "eraser pads" that you needed to use every round to clear your Score Card and I felt justified when I accidentally erased my round scores while cleaning the board for the next round. Fortunately, I remembered them. That would have otherwise been devastating.
I did really well in the first round by putting all my eggs in one basket on Charterstone and waiting to get lucky. It was a pretty big gamble, but worth it. I'm pretty sure it actually won me the game. The second round, I focused pretty low on the Between Two Cities realm because that only really gives you resources. I'd pulled ahead of BJ and Adam pretty far but they started catching up in round 2. By round three Adam had nearly caught me, but I stayed ahead /just/ enough to win.
There were a few times where after taking my moves I looked up to see that Adam had made the exact same move. I think that means it MUST have been the optimal choice because he's really on top of it, but there were so many other options that would have forked the rest of our decisions down a different path. We'd often differ though which is one of the things that I liked most about this game, in fact, Adam said it was one of the things he liked best. Specifically that we wound up with such different choices made even though we all had the same rolls and the same Realms. I couldn't help but agree.
This definitely ticks a lot of boxes for me. It's clever, it's inexpensive, it's got re-playability, it's got nice components... It has everyone taking their turn at the same time, which means I don't get bored. It has a nice, small box that still makes a good shelf presence.
Interesting enough to keep me entertained and invested without being so long that I get distracted.
This game is so well put together. I can't get over how much I like most of the components. I've literally been rolling one of the dice from this game while writing this. The idea of playing though smaller versions of games using rules that taste like a bite of the originals is so appealing to me. Clever, quick, engaging, and fun... I think this one's going to hit the table quite a bit.
I'm not sure if this is a problem with all Roll'n'Write games or just this one, but the clean-up seems a little bit sloppy. I really don't like the little wipes as they inspire you to fully clear a surface instead of just an area on it. I know it's a small thing to get hung up on, but I really feel it can affect game-play if you're super focused on what you're doing. I also feel that the score card could have been a little bigger. I know they wanted it to be the same size as the other cards, but they basically give you the same amount of space to write a single digit as they give you to write 3 digits. It makes it pretty easy to mess up.
Now that we've gone over my thoughts, let's see what Katie has to say about the solo player version!
"Like Rolling Realms, but don't have your friends around? No problem! Like a lot of roll-and-write games, Rolling Realms can be played solo! Or, if you're like me, solo with assistance from a "helpful" cat...
There are two ways to play this game. The first way mirrors the rules of a multi-player game. A player wins by beating their previous high score.
The second way to solo this game is to play through a campaign of 18 separate plays. The game refers to this as a mini-golf course of 18 holes. Each hole has their own card, which lists the three realms to use. Every hole also has a victory condition, rule changes, and a par value. The game provides a course log to track your progress.
I really enjoy this game solo. This is one of my go-to solo games lately. Each hole only takes about 15 minutes, so its a great game to play at the end of the day. The unique rules and victory conditions for each hole provide ongoing challenge and variety each and every game.
If you're a fan of a quick, yet challenging, solo game, I recommend giving Rolling Realms a roll!"
As always, thank you Katie!
I might not have liked the little eraser pads, but that's a super easy fix if you go to the dollar store and get better markers. I'll definitely be doing that before I play this game again. If it weren't for the eraser pads and the design of the score cards, I'd have no other choice, but to give this game a full 10/10. I highly, highly recommend this game and think it's one of the best values you can find on a shelf!
Catch you on the flip, Zip!