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Subject: ROLL vs. RACE: THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG IN THE GALAXY? rss

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Eric Guttag
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Not surprisingly, it was evitable that Roll for the Galaxy would be compared to its predecessor, Race for the Galaxy. It’s also not surprising that some prefer Roll and some prefer Race, like the dichotomy between fans of Twilight Imperium and Eclipse that rages in the sci-fi gaming world.

Admittedly, and like many others, I initially found the iconography for Race daunting. So I first owned and played Roll, now several dozen times, both as a player and as GM. I finally decided to take the plunge and learn Race. Having played Roll first, I found learning the iconography of Race much less daunting. (It also helps that I’ve now downloaded and played the Keldon AI many times now in 3-4 player and TGS configurations.) I also got myself a copy of the base Race game, plus the TGS expansion.

So which do I prefer? My short answer is neither as I like both for different, as well as similar reasons. Certainly playing Roll first helped me get over that iconography

The Similarities

There are many similarities between Roll and Race:

1. Both rely upon an action/role/phase selection mechanism which I favor. (I also own and play Eminent Domain for the same reason.)

2. Both resolve each selected action/role/phase in order and simultaneously so “downtime” is minimal for players.

3. Both games split the Explore and Ship/Consume phase into selecting two different actions

4. Both employ multiple use mechanisms for dice/cards which I too enjoy. (As similar reason why I like Eminent Domain).

5. Both games end by either one player having a tableau of 12 tiles/cards or by exhausting the Victory Point (VP) chip pool.

6. The size of the VP chip pool is determined by how many players they are. (A huge difference from Eminent Domain).

7. Both games use Developments for adding bonus powers and special abilities.

8. Both games have Novelty (blue), Rare (brown), Gene (green), and Alien (yellow) worlds, as well as non-production worlds (gray).

9. Both games have starting worlds.

The Differences

Contrary to what some may believe, Roll and Race are not the same game:

1. Each game uses a different order for the Produce and Ship/Consume phase. In Roll, it’s Produce then Ship, and in Race it’s Consume then Produce. That leads to a very different approach in each game for how to best develop the Produce-Ship/Consume “engine.”

2. How actions can/may be split which are performed in Explore and Ship/Consume phases operate very differently between the two games. In Race, you must choose in the Explore phase between the either the 1 + 1 or the 5+ action cards. By contrast, in Roll, you can split dice allocated in the Explore phase between Scout (taking more tiles) and Stock (adding 2 Credits) actions. Similarly, in Race, you generally must select the Trade action to Consume for additional cards. By contrast, in Roll, you can again split dice allocated to the Ship phase between Trade (for Credit) and Consume (for Victory Point chips).

3. The dice and card components operate very differently in both games. In Race, cards are the only medium used for all purposes: to operate as developments or worlds when cards are placed in the player’s tableau; to pay for placing those cards in the player’s tableau; or as goods produced on settled worlds. By contrast, in Roll, developments and worlds are represented instead by tiles with each tile (other than the starting tiles) having a development on one side and a world on the other. Dice are allocated during the phase selection to place those tiles, as well as to represent goods produced on worlds. And completely unlike Race, Credits are accumulated in Roll to buy back die in the player’s Citizenry so that they may be rolled and allocated during phase selection.

4. The costs for placing and scoring of developments and worlds are quite different. In Roll, the cost of the development or world is equal to its VP value. By contrast, in Race, the cost for placing a development/world can be different from VP value. Indeed, how 6+ developments in Roll and 6? Developments in Race are scored is completely different.

5. In Race, cards representing Military (red) and Non-Military (black) worlds are placed by two different mechanisms: Military worlds are placed based upon the military strength represented on the cards in the player’s tableau, while Non-Military worlds are placed by discarding the required number of cards. By contrast, Roll does not have Military worlds, but instead abstracts Military world placement through the use of red-colored dice.

6. In Roll, purple dice represent all world colors and the asterisk (“*”) indicates that the dice may be allocated to any phase. Also, Roll has dictate and reassign actions for allocating dice to different phases from those rolled. By contrast, there are no similar mechanisms in Race.

7. In Race, powers may appear on cards for both worlds and developments. By contrast, in Roll, such powers are usually restricted to development tiles.

8. In Race, there are both “windfall” and production worlds. By contrast, Roll world tiles are not identified as either, but abstract the effect by having placed world tiles (and some development tiles) come with dice on the world (as produced goods), in the player’s cup, or in the player’s Citizenry.

9. In Roll, there is a “recall” mechanism during the final “manage empire” step where dice on Settled world tiles, or on development/world tiles to be placed, may be recalled into the player’s cup. By contrast, there is no similar “recall” mechanism in Race.

Playing Roll and Race: Similar But Not Duplicative Gaming Experiences

So does Roll and Race offer the same gaming experience? In my opinion, the answer is equally yes and no. As I’ve pointed out above, each offers many similar game mechanics. Yet each game has equally as many unique mechanics, as well as components. In short, Roll and Race may offer similar but definitely not duplicative gaming experiences. Owning both games, as I do, is not a duplication in my game library. And if you want to learn Race, but find the iconography a barrier, try Roll first.
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More differences that stood out to me:

--the Faction tiles in Roll.
They may appear to be "glorified homeworlds", but the world + dev being forced paired together does shake things up in interesting ways (not to mention offer more combinations to start off your tableau)

--You're always going to draw a dev or a world when you draw tiles in Roll.
No guarantee of that in Race

--you build do 2 or more devs/worlds per those respective phases called
TGS had Improved Logistics, BoW had Rebel Sneak Attack, and AA had Imperium Convoy, but those only let you do a 2nd world, and you had to get and build them first.

--trade values are +1 across the board
Necessary to offset the differences in the way Roll works, but still..


obvious ones like
---cards vs. tiles
---icons vs. pure text
---Roll is loud and noisy
---Roll costs much more
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Eric Guttag
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Hey ackmondual,

Thanks for pointing out the additional differences. I figured there were more there, but I decided I had done enough for this review. Roll and Race are definitely not the same game in many ways.
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John Burt
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For me, the biggest difference between Race and Roll is that whereas my primary gaming partner (my wife) hates Race with a passion and refuses to play it, she likes Roll and will happily play it. She hates Race because the iconography and card complexity are just too intimidating. Roll, on the other hand, is much more accessible, and the text on the tiles makes a huge difference. Also Roll lets you throw a fistful of cool dice into your cup, shake them loudly and slam them down on the table, which is just pure fun.
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Todd Kauk
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Race for the Galaxy
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Kevin Goodman
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For someone who has San Juan, do you think roll would offer the more distinctive experience?
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Jack
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I like Roll, but I LOVE Race. If I could only play one, there really is no choice. I'd say that Roll is a bit more accessible for newer gamers, but Race is where it's at.
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Eric G wrote:
Hey ackmondual,

Thanks for pointing out the additional differences. I figured there were more there, but I decided I had done enough for this review. Roll and Race are definitely not the same game in many ways.
This was also an "undecided precursor" for myself, as if I were to do a review on Roll, I would've covered the differences between this and Race as part of it

ibkevg wrote:
For someone who has San Juan, do you think roll would offer the more distinctive experience?

as a cult of the new person, I'd do Roll. In a neutral light, I'd still go with Roll. To me, there's really no reason to do SJ when you have Roll. Only nice things about SJ is it's cheaper than Roll even when you add exp to SJ anyway (it's been a while, but last I checked, the prices for Alea Treasure Chest where SJ 1st edition expansions are at are still OK); easier to teach to newbies, and some may like the theme and gameplay of that better.
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Ryan Keane
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ackmondual wrote:
Eric G wrote:
Hey ackmondual,

Thanks for pointing out the additional differences. I figured there were more there, but I decided I had done enough for this review. Roll and Race are definitely not the same game in many ways.
This was also an "undecided precursor" for myself, as if I were to do a review on Roll, I would've covered the differences between this and Race as part of it ;)

ibkevg wrote:
For someone who has San Juan, do you think roll would offer the more distinctive experience?

as a cult of the new person, I'd do Roll. In a neutral light, I'd still go with Roll. To me, there's really no reason to do SJ when you have Roll. Only nice things about SJ is it's cheaper than Roll even when you add exp to SJ anyway (it's been a while, but last I checked, the prices for Alea Treasure Chest where SJ 1st edition expansions are at are still OK); easier to teach to newbies, and some may like the theme and gameplay of that better.



I feel Roll and Race are different enough that you could be happy owning both, if you like both. I didn't like Race enough to want to keep it after getting Roll. I still have SJ, and it feels very different from Roll, but I can understand the argument that Roll is similar enough and better, to replace it. SJ is easier to travel with, can play faster than Roll, and I think it plays better with 2 players than Roll, so that keeps it in my collection, but I given the time and more players, I would always prefer to play Puerto Rico over SJ. So in summary, I think you could be justified in owning any mixture of SJ, PR, Roll, and Race, just depending on what you most like - none are so similar that they replace the other.
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Ryan Keane wrote:
ackmondual wrote:
Eric G wrote:
Hey ackmondual,

Thanks for pointing out the additional differences. I figured there were more there, but I decided I had done enough for this review. Roll and Race are definitely not the same game in many ways.
This was also an "undecided precursor" for myself, as if I were to do a review on Roll, I would've covered the differences between this and Race as part of it

ibkevg wrote:
For someone who has San Juan, do you think roll would offer the more distinctive experience?

as a cult of the new person, I'd do Roll. In a neutral light, I'd still go with Roll. To me, there's really no reason to do SJ when you have Roll. Only nice things about SJ is it's cheaper than Roll even when you add exp to SJ anyway (it's been a while, but last I checked, the prices for Alea Treasure Chest where SJ 1st edition expansions are at are still OK); easier to teach to newbies, and some may like the theme and gameplay of that better.



I feel Roll and Race are different enough that you could be happy owning both, if you like both. I didn't like Race enough to want to keep it after getting Roll. I still have SJ, and it feels very different from Roll, but I can understand the argument that Roll is similar enough and better, to replace it. SJ is easier to travel with, can play faster than Roll, and I think it plays better with 2 players than Roll, so that keeps it in my collection, but I given the time and more players, I would always prefer to play Puerto Rico over SJ. So in summary, I think you could be justified in owning any mixture of SJ, PR, Roll, and Race, just depending on what you most like - none are so similar that they replace the other.


For me, I limit choices because some of them are in the context of limited funds. FWIW, PR is common enough that you should be able to just mooch off someone else's copy. The tough thing about Ra, Ro, and SJ are to me, those games really shine when you have expansions (less so with Roll), which is much harder to come by.

I will play PR if it's the Anniv. / collectors edition, as the components there are really nice. However, that was the only thing keeping PR alive for me. I won't play the regular version unless I'm "forced" into it.
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James Hamilton
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I have both with all the expansions. I have not played Race since I got Roll.
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Serge Levert
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Two more differences:
* You can undetectably cheat in Roll. Let's not beat a dead horse though.
* Race is portable, Roll is not.

Eric G wrote:
3. The dice and card components operate very differently in both games. In Race, cards are the only medium used for all purposes: to operate as developments or worlds when cards are placed in the player’s tableau; to pay for placing those cards in the player’s tableau; or as goods produced on settled worlds. By contrast, in Roll, developments and worlds are represented instead by tiles with each tile (other than the starting tiles) having a development on one side and a world on the other. Dice are allocated during the phase selection to place those tiles, as well as to represent goods produced on worlds. And completely unlike Race, Credits are accumulated in Roll to buy back die in the player’s Citizenry so that they may be rolled and allocated during phase selection.

This is the reason i much prefer Race to Roll. Tons of crunchy decision-making is lost here.

Eric G wrote:
7. In Race, powers may appear on cards for both worlds and developments. By contrast, in Roll, such powers are usually restricted to development tiles.

This is a significant loss/simplification as well.

At the end of the day, each game hits a different demographic. Race is for hardcore strategy gamers, while Roll suits the cult of the new.

You can tell by the number of repeat plays each gets. Roll is 22 months old and i haven't played it in 18 months, yet i still have the second most plays recorded on BGG.


Very late edit: i forgot that you can make Roll almost as portable as Race with a little finagling. My base game Roll fits in a Race expansion box.
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Eric Guttag
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Hey Serge,

Your comment about the "crunchy decision-making' choices in Race resonates with me. Having to let go of card(s) you want to hang onto to pay to play a card you really need in your tableau can be excruciating, but is what I like about games like Race.
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