- David McMillanUnited States
I first “met” Keith Matejka when he was running a Kickstarter campaign to fund his first game “Bullfrogs” a little over a year ago. So, when I heard that he was searching for playtesters for his next game, I instantly put my name into the hat and, fortunately, he agreed to send me a prototype. The game is called “Roll Player” and it’s difficult to pigeonhole exactly which categorization the game would fit into. At its heart, it’s a game about generating a role-playing character by rolling a bunch of dice, but it’s so much more than that. It’s got elements of set collection, worker placement, resource management, and some mechanics I don’t have any descriptive names for. Each player has a number of goals that they will be working towards and these goals, if met, will reward them with a variable number of victory points (called ‘reputation stars’ in the game). At the end, the person with the most points will win the game.
Now, before I delve too much further into this review, I’d like to take a moment to thank Keith for allowing me to playtest his prototype. Without his generosity, this review would not have been possible. His kindness, however, has not had any effect on my opinion of the game overall. You can rest assured that if this game is terrible, I will tell you so. if you like what you read in this review, then I recommend you check out the Kickstarter that is going on for the game right now. You can find the campaign right here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1152516291/roll-player-...
As you read this, please bear in mind that the copy of the game that I am basing this review upon is a prototype. As such, much of the artwork is incomplete and the rules and even the components themselves might change as a result of the Kickstarter campaign. That being said…
As Roll Player sits there on the table, the image of a menacing warrior stares at me from the box top. Clad in red and silver armor, his stance practically dares me to make my move. Standing just behind and to either side of him are a friendly looking cleric, walking staff in hand and a sinister looking thief who is clutching a bag of valuables, dagger drawn to protect his ill gotten goods. It’s a box cover that imbues everything we’ve come to know and love about role playing games… action, adventure, adventure, thrilling rewards.
Opening the box, we discover a whole plethora of dice in various colors - green, blue, red, purple, black, white, and gold and a dice bag to contain them. Also in the box are several player cubes in multiple colors - two per class color. There are also some gold tokens included that act as currency in the game as well as four Charisma tokens. Then there are several decks of cards roughly divided into several types - player aids, Class cards, Backstory cards, Alignment cards, Market cards, and Initiative cards. The player aids contain a useful turn summary on one side and a scoring track on the reverse that doesn’t come into play until the end of the game. As far as the other cards go…
Class cards are double-sided and contain different classes on each side (i.e. - sorcerer, warrior, cleric, etc.) Each of the classes are related to each other in some way and it’s up to the player to choose which class they would prefer to play as. Along the left side of the card are the Attribute goals for that particular class along with the Reputation point values if the goals are achieved by game’s end. There are six different attributes - strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma. Next to each of these attributes is a number, a range of numbers, of a number followed by a plus sign. To the right of these values are one to four gold Reputation stars that will determine how much Reputation is earned if the goals are achieved. To the right of this area is the card’s title along with a description of a special ability that is granted to the player provided this is the Class that they choose to play. Each class has its own special, unique ability. Directly beneath this is a place for a player to place one of their player cubes.
The Backstory cards provide an interesting backstory for your developing character. The left side of the card also displays each of the six different attributes, but instead of displaying target numerical values, each one of these has three squares to the right of it and one of these squares has a particular color that coincides with the colors of the various dice. Beneath the text describing the character’s backstory are three Reputation stars with numerical ranges shown beneath each one. If two to three of the colors shown are in the exact locations shown on the grid at the game’s end, then they earn you an extra Reputation point. If four to five of them are correct, you’ll earn three extra points. If all six are correct, you will earn six.
The Alignment cards contain a title and a three by three grid. On some of these grid spaces are golden Reputation stars that are printed with point values and also several grey Reputation stars printed with negative point values. If a player ends the game on one of these stars then they will earn the amount of points printed on the star. The player’s second player cube will begin the game in the center of this card.
The Market cards contain the names of various items. Each of these items will provide the player that purchases them with some sort of benefit whether it be something that can be used throughout the course of the game or additional Reputation points at the game’s end. At the top right of each card is the card’s cost. At the bottom of the card is an area of text that describes just what the card does. Beneath this text box is the card’s type: armor, weapon, trait, or skill. The item’s type will determine just when and how the item may be used and we’ll get to that later.
The Initiative cards are pretty unremarkable. There will always be one more Initiative card in play than there are players. At the top of the card is the card’s number (a value between one and five). In the middle of these cards is a square where a die will be placed. These cards determine the turn order for the upcoming turn.
Finally, there is the rule book. This rule book is laid out very well and provides plenty of examples and clearly written explanations all throughout. There’s even a handy FAQ section at the end of the book. As I played the game I didn’t find any situations that weren’t clearly covered in the rules. As far as these things go, this is one of the better rule books that I have seen.
At the beginning of the game the players will roll a die to determine who gets first pick of the different Races. Then the other players will select from the leftovers. Each player then receives some gold to start the game with. Then they will draw dice from the bag and take the Class card that matches whichever color was drawn and choose a side to play with. Next, the players are dealt a Backstory card and an Alignment card and those are placed onto their character sheets in their proper locations. One player cube is placed into the middle spot of the Alignment card and one is placed onto the Backstory card.
Then the shared play area is set up. The Market deck should be separated into single dot and double dot piles (the dots appear just beneath the cost on these cards). Then, the proper number of Initiative cards are placed into the center of the table (in numerical order) along with an equal number of face up Market cards drawn from the top of the Market deck. Any Initiative card that is not the number one will then have a gold token placed on top of it unless the card is in the last position.
The next step will only make sense as you read further into this review. For now, just take it as given. After all of the previous steps have been completed, each player will then take turns reaching into the bag in player order, and blindly extracting a certain amount of dice. These dice are then placed onto the character sheet in the leftmost position of whichever attributes the player chooses. No Attribute actions are performed at this time. If any of the Attributes has all 3 spaces covered, the players doing so will receive one gold apiece. If any players place gold dice onto their character sheets, then they will receive two gold per yellow die placed at this time. Then the game begins with whoever the starting player is.
Since I’ve touched on Attribute actions already and since they’re arguably the most important part of the game, they seem like the best place to start. Typically I would begin with a brief turn order summary, but I’m changing it up this time because I really feel it’s necessary.
Each Attribute has an actions associated with it that, when used, will directly affect the layout of the character sheet. Here’s a list of the actions:
Strength - any die placed in this Attribute will allow the player to change the face of a single die on their character sheet to the face on the opposite side of the die
Dexterity - any die placed in this Attribute will allow the player to swap the placement of any two dice on their character sheet without changing the dice’s values
Constitution - any die placed in this Attribute will allow the player to increase or decrease the value of a single die anywhere on the character sheet by 1
Intelligence - any die placed in this Attribute will allow the player to choose any die on their character sheet and re-roll it
Wisdom - any die placed in this Attribute will allow the player to move the player cube on their Alignment card up, down, left, or right by one space
Charisma - any die placed in this Attribute will allow the player to take one of the Charisma tokens into their possession. This token can later be used to decrease the cost of an item by one gold
Each round of the game will be played out in the same fashion. First, the starting player will draw a number of dice from the bag randomly equal to the number of players plus one and then roll them. These dice are then arranged in numerical order and placed in order onto each of the Initiative cards. Then, beginning with the starting player, each player takes turns selecting one of the dice and taking both the die and the Initiative cards into their control. Each player then places the chosen die into one of their Attribute rows and then performs the associated Attribute action if they so wish. Once this is complete, it’s time to go shopping.
In turn order, a player may choose to purchase any one of the cards that are available OR they can discard one card from the lineup and take 2 gold instead. The type of the card purchased will determine where the card is placed along the edge of the character sheet and also when and how often the card can be used. The Initiative cards are then placed back into the center of the table, the remaining dice that were not selected are placed back into the bag, the cards remaining in the market are discarded, and any unused Charisma tokens are also discarded. Gold is placed onto the proper Initiative cards, each player may refresh any one of their exhausted Skill cards (more on these momentarily), and the bag of dice is passed to the next player in line who becomes the starting player for the next round.
SKILL CARDS, WEAPON CARDS, ARMOR CARDS and TRAIT CARDS
Skill cards allow the player to perform special actions by “exhausting” the card (turning the card sideways), moving their Alignment cube in the direction specified on the Skill card, and then doing whatever the card says. These cards can be used as soon as they are purchased or they can be saved for a later time. If the player is unable to move their Alignment cube in the correct direction, then the Skill card cannot be used.
Weapon cards also provide the player with benefits. Each weapon has a number of hand-shaped silhouettes on it. At no time may a player have more than two hands worth of Weapon cards unless they have some ability that tells them otherwise.
Armor cards do not provide any noticeable benefit during the course of the game. However, at the end of the game, they are worth a variable amount of Reputation points depending on how many of a certain set that you have collected… and you’re not limited to collecting just one set. You can try to collect them all if that’s what you want to do.
Trait cards will provide additional bonus Reputation points at the game’s end providing that the certain conditions that are laid out on the card are met. Since these cards provide some sort of ongoing effect, it is never necessary to exhaust these cards.
END GAME and WINNING
The game ends at the end of the round in which the last player has filled their last Attribute spot on their character sheet. At that time the Reputation points gained from the Trait cards, Class cards, Backstory cards, Alignment cards, and Armor cards are tallied. Each die on a player’s character sheet that matches the player’s class color is worth an additional Reputation point each. Once each player has counted up their points, the point totals are compared and whoever has the most points is the victor!
The world of role-playing games has changed considerably in the twenty or so years that I have been playing them off and on, but one thing has always remained consistent throughout that time period - rolling characters and having to pore through fifty different books is BORING. Well, Roll Player takes that process and turns it into something fun that I wouldn’t mind doing time and time again. I just wish there were an actual game system that used this as their character generation mechanic because it would instantly become my favorite game system ever. Roll Player is just that good!
One would think that a game that was primarily comprised of nothing but a dice rolling mechanic might lack any form of strategy, but Roll Player would prove them wrong. At every turn the player will find themselves faced with agonizing decisions. The more dice that get placed onto the character sheet, the tougher moving or changing any previous placements become, so thoughtful dice placement is critical if you want to have any hope of winning. This becomes even more pronounced when you add in the Class cards and Backstory cards. These cards are worth a ton of Reputation points at the end of the game and a player will ignore them at their own peril.
Additionally, the introduction of Attribute abilities provides a clever method for the players to negate lousy dice rolls. These abilities create a plethora of options that must be weighed carefully to ensure that each die that is placed is being placed as effectively as possible. There were a few occasions where I found myself deep in thought, hand poised above the character sheet with a die in hand, second guessing myself every time that I thought I’d figured out the best place to put it. Did I want to go for the Backstory bonus or would the die be put to better use trying to reach one of my Attribute goals? Or should I fill up an Attribute row to get some gold, but forever denying myself further use of that Attribute’s action? How badly did I need that action to be available later should the dice come up less than favorably for me? It was this constant decision making and strategizing that kept this game exciting and entertaining.
Each time this game hits the table, it’s a hit. Everyone has a great time and almost every time, someone will make a comment that they wish there were more… that they wish they could take the character they’ve spent the last thirty minutes to an hour constructing on some kind of follow up adventure. I kind of wish this, too. Maybe in a future expansion or a Kickstarter stretch goal something like this might be possible. For now, though, I am thrilled by what I’ve seen and experienced and I cannot wait to get my hands on my own personal copy when this Kickstarter is finished!
- [+] Dice rolls