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Subject: Roll for the Galaxy: Building an Empire, one dice at a time rss

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Ken Savage
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I've heard a lot of hype about this game in my gaming group, yet strangely managed to never play it or even see it played. So many people I know declared how great they found this game, yet it never seemed to get brought along to gaming meetups. With such vocal backing, it was inevitable that we'd pick it up at some point - which is just what we did a while back.

To start with, the look and components. I have to say, I do like the box art. It's well done and functional, but not flashy. The box is sturdy and holds all components comfortably, with room for expansions (something I really like in a game!). The game tiles are all thick and sturdy, and a good play size, with nice art on both sides. Given how the dice are used ingame, their size is small but appropriate. The quality of the dice is quite good, with all sides identifiable as to their action. The secrecy/information screen feels a little more flimsy, compared to other components, and isn't really a great size/shape if really trying to hide your dice from others. Of course, a simple solution to this is to play with friends who won't cheat - so I don't think this is a major issue.

As a colour blind gamer, I do take issue with the colours of the dice/cards. So many of the different dice just look the same to me, that it really takes away from being able to play the game seamlessly. I am aware that the game was specifically tested with a R/G colour blind tester - and the designers implemented all of his suggestions! Unfortunately, the print run didn't come back like the prototypes. So it's hard to hold the colour issue against them. Since my girlfriend has promised to mark all the dice/cards for me - I can't give negative marks here

Moving onto the gameplay, and I admit that there is a bit to understand in the rules for the game. However, once these are understood, then a game round can move quite quickly. Each dice action is pretty easy to work with once you know what each one does. The game does get a bit more complex when you have multiple developments, and you have to keep track of abilities yourself (or watch other players, if you don't trust them....). But, all in all, a game round is pretty simple and moves quickly.

I read a lot of complaints about the dice in the gameplay. Being a dice based game, dice will go for and against you over the course of a game. That's the nature of rolling a six sided dice. The gameplay is completely based about getting your dice to do actions. Whichever player gets the most dice consistently active each turn, they will win. "Lucky" rolls can't be depended on, ever. But we do have the ability to manipulate our dice!
We start with two ways to manipulate your rolled dice (choosing your action, and the dictator ability), but can obtain more by building developments. When you have dice manipulation effects in games, getting more is generally the only choice. If you do it, then you gain consistency in your turns - so you can actually choose a strategy to pursue. If you don't - then you're just playing with random dice luck. Either it'll go well and you'll feel great - or it'll go bad and you'll curse the game for just being bad luck. Given that this game is completely about action economy - the more of your dice that are being used for actions, each turn, the better. Getting dice manipulation abilities in other games normally just comes with a cost, given how strong they make the rest of your game. Here, the developments that give you dice manipulation effects ALSO give you points! Um, hell yeah! Now the race is to get these effects early, so all my subsequent turns are more consistent. This means now we have an extra luck element ingame - do you get lucky and draw the cards early that give you dice manipulation or do you not? Add to that, the starting planet/abilities - some are just much stronger than others. Another "getting lucky" draw at the start of the game to add.

The theme of the game does start to get lost a bit in the gameplay. At no point do I really feel that I'm building a Space Empire. I take a planet, I get a new dice - then mostly ignore that planet (though that's partly to do with the colour blind, mixing up the colours). I get a new development, I try to remember to use my new ability. Of course, we do put the card down and our space on the table expands - but I never really got the feeling of actually building out an Empire. I guess I might just be nitpicking here.

All of these luck elements are fine, though. I don't mind dice, dominant strategies, startup luck, game theme. The next gameplay part is the bit that turns me off most about the game. The game is essentially just a single player game. Another review described it best as "Multiplayer Solitaire". For the first few turns, I took an interest in what my opponent did. How she built up, what dice she was getting, what her new abilities were. After a while, I realised that it didn't matter what she did. She couldn't affect my "Empire" at all. There is no direct interactions between players. The only way that another player affects you is in the action they choose to perform. I appreciate that you can say that there is a strategy here. If you can predict what your opponent will do, then you'll possibily get to do extra actions from dice that wouldn't have did anything that turn. My solution, in each game we've played, is to focus on getting dice manipulation effects. That way, I could properly ignore having to predict what she'd do and still have most of my dice in play each turn. This lack of player interaction is just ridiculous in a 2-5 player game.

Game turns can be pretty quick, but this is not a "fast" game. So, the lack of player interaction feeds into an issue with the lack of any catchup mechanic. If someone falls behind with bad luck early, they're really just playing with no way to ever catch the leader. If there was some kind of player interaction, then the bottom players could collectively gang up to slow down the leader - and give themselves a chance to catchup. But no, the leader is playing his own single player map - so some players will be out of the game, but still forced to play to the end. While our games so far have not seen a runaway leader, I can easily see it happen in 4/5 player games.


My feelings, as you might guess, are a little torn. So, if I ask myself:
"Is there a game here?" - Yes, there is. There is fun in building up of your "Empire" and it all looks nice with decent quality components.
"Will I play it again?" - Again, yes. I think I know too many people who seem to really like it to avoid it.
"Is this a game that I'd ever suggest playing?" - I'd have to say, no. If I'm playing a game with other people, I want to play "with" or "against" them. But here, I'm really doing neither until counting up the scores at the end. There are too many better games on our shelves for me to ever suggest taking this one down.

Going by the BGG rating system, for me it slots in easily as: "4 - Not so good - but could play again."
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mortego
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Glad you were able to be honest about your feelings on this game (rating it a 4), obviously many others have a different POV.

Very Good review!
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James J
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I enjoyed reading your review. I've never played Roll myself but have many, many Race plays under my belt (both the physical version and the app). Have you ever played race? Because it seems your main complaint would be the same about Race, but I have to say that you'd be completely wrong there. The entire strategy in race is building an engine that leeches off whatever actions your opponent(s) call, and being flexible enough to react to times when they call for a phase you didn't expect.

That said, I don't really like the look of Roll as it does seem that a lot of people say it is more solitaire than Race, and that does turn me off. I'd just be interested to know if you feel the same way about Race.

It did, however, take me a lot of plays to really learn the subtleties and nuances of playing Race (and still I'm by no means an expert) and I wonder if it's the same with Roll. But given that Roll is even more luck-based, I doubt it has as deep a strategy as Race.
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Rick Teverbaugh
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My only comment is that not paying attention to your foe is a good way to lose in this game as it is in Dominion, for instance. Since either player has it within their power to end the game, just knowing how quickly the opponent is going to reach that ending is vital as is knowing how many victory points they have. My guess is you are caught between needing to play more games but not wanting to because of some misconceptions that cause you not to want to play more games.
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Scott Russell
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My favorite (semi) quote about playing Race (and it applies to Roll) to people that play it as multiplayer solitare was, "If you keep your head down focused on building your tableau, then eventually, one of your opponents will tap you on the shoulder to let you know by how many points you've lost."

It does take a few games to be able to appreciate how important your opponent's actions are to your game and a lot of games today don't get those three to five plays before they are written off, unfortunately. (I am guilty of this tendency as well.)

The playtesting to make sure that the start world combinations are balanced was pretty extensive also. The different combinations do require different play styles to use them well.

All that being said, I am sorry that you didn't enjoy the game, but isn't it great that there are so many games out there that everyone can find some that they do enjoy!
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rickert wrote:
My only comment is that not paying attention to your foe is a good way to lose in this game as it is in Dominion, for instance. Since either player has it within their power to end the game, just knowing how quickly the opponent is going to reach that ending is vital as is knowing how many victory points they have. My guess is you are caught between needing to play more games but not wanting to because of some misconceptions that cause you not to want to play more games.
I was going to cover just that. If nothing else, and game conditions.

To add, there are some tiles that give you benefits based on conditions of having more __ than other players, so seeing that one for example player has like, a gazillion devs probably won't be too encouraging for one such tile that makes such a check.
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Ken Savage
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Jjdelanoche wrote:
Have you ever played race? Because it seems your main complaint would be the same about Race, but I have to say that you'd be completely wrong there. The entire strategy in race is building an engine that leeches off whatever actions your opponent(s) call, and being flexible enough to react to times when they call for a phase you didn't expect.


I don't think I have played Race. I appreciate that makes me kind of unique among other reviewers, and even players, of Roll. Other people's complaints about the game are normally compared to how it was done better/different in Race. But I can't do that, I just evaluated the game for what it was and how I experienced it.

I read a lot of other reviews on Roll - they've all got me thinking that maybe I should be trying out Race now....

I will concede that there is an advantage to being able to predict what your oppponent will choose, but I think that only really applies early in the game - when your dice rolls are mostly random and you will have dice naturally assigned to all actions. As the game goes on, predicting seems to matter less if you can manipulate your own dice.

qzhdad wrote:
My favorite (semi) quote about playing Race (and it applies to Roll) to people that play it as multiplayer solitare was, "If you keep your head down focused on building your tableau, then eventually, one of your opponents will tap you on the shoulder to let you know by how many points you've lost."

It does take a few games to be able to appreciate how important your opponent's actions are to your game and a lot of games today don't get those three to five plays before they are written off, unfortunately. (I am guilty of this tendency as well.)

The playtesting to make sure that the start world combinations are balanced was pretty extensive also. The different combinations do require different play styles to use them well.


Great post.

I do believe that a very experienced player would beat me, that there's an underlying strategy that I don't understand. And from what I've read about Race, I believe that you're probably correct - that watching, and predicting, your opponent's actions is the key to the game. But with Roll, and the random dice rolls, I think it matters less what the opponent does. Because of the randomness, if they don't have dice manipulation then you can read their intention perfectly - only to see them not choose their best action, since they rolled so many dice in another and it makes more sense not to waste them. So, focus number one really has to be getting your own dice under better control and planning your own game.

Quote:
All that being said, I am sorry that you didn't enjoy the game, but isn't it great that there are so many games out there that everyone can find some that they do enjoy!


I didn't "not enjoy" the game, parts of it were fun. It just lacks enough that I wouldn't suggest to play it again.
It plays quickly enough that I'd sit in on a game, when it's the choice of game for someone who loves it.

But it certainly is great that there's such variety out there!
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Greg Darcy
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Rodge wrote:
I read a lot of other reviews on Roll - they've all got me thinking that maybe I should be trying out Race now....


Be aware that all the reports say that Race is much worse for the colour blind than Roll. That is why I have Roll but not Race.

But I also agree with the commentators that say that if you are playing Roll as multiplayer solitaire, you are playing it wrong. There are many different strategies in Roll Many, but not all of them are viable. And some inherently powerful strategies can be brought low by other seemingly weak strategies.

You need to be guided by your (and your opponent's) initial draw to plan your strategy for THIS game. Then modify it as needed. It took me about four games to work this out. I am still trying to master it.

Give it a few more plays before you put it back on the shelf forever.
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Scott Russell
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To chime in on color blind issue. The brown and green are the same color to me (and red is close) and the blue and purple dice are very close.

In Roll, the cargo face on the die is different for brown and green which really helps, but I do wish the colors were "more different."

In Race, the name of the world makes it pretty easy to memorize the green ones and the rest of the green ones are brown.
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In Race, you can use a Sharpie to mark the cards. One set does that for just such a person, and it's worked out just fine.
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Scott Russell
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ackmondual wrote:
In Race, you can use a Sharpie to mark the cards. One set does that for just such a person, and it's worked out just fine.


Many of my games have a black Sharpie on the green pieces, but I never got around to doing it for Race, the memorization of the few green ones that weren't obvious from their name was easy enough.

If I played Roll more (I always choose Race when "voting"), I'd probably mark the dice.
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Kester J
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Rodge wrote:
I do believe that a very experienced player would beat me, that there's an underlying strategy that I don't understand. And from what I've read about Race, I believe that you're probably correct - that watching, and predicting, your opponent's actions is the key to the game. But with Roll, and the random dice rolls, I think it matters less what the opponent does. Because of the randomness, if they don't have dice manipulation then you can read their intention perfectly - only to see them not choose their best action, since they rolled so many dice in another and it makes more sense not to waste them. So, focus number one really has to be getting your own dice under better control and planning your own game.


I think this is pretty fair. There's definitely more noise in opponents' phase selections in Roll compared to Race for the reason you mention (although note that opponents' selections become more predictable later in the game if they get their dice under control too).

From your description it sounds like you've maybe played this mostly (or entirely?) 2-player, and the game isn't at its best there. It also exacerbates the impact of unexpected role choices, with only one other person to try to predict. If you get a chance to play a 4- or 5-player game, I think you'll find some of that noise in opponents' phase selections is smoothed out.
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Adam Blanchard
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Jjdelanoche wrote:
That said, I don't really like the look of Roll as it does seem that a lot of people say it is more solitaire than Race, and that does turn me off. I'd just be interested to know if you feel the same way about Race.

It did, however, take me a lot of plays to really learn the subtleties and nuances of playing Race (and still I'm by no means an expert) and I wonder if it's the same with Roll. But given that Roll is even more luck-based, I doubt it has as deep a strategy as Race.


Coming from someone who has owned Roll well before owning Race, but really likes both for different reasons, I would say that it might be even more important to leech in Roll.

2 things. In Roll there is a bit more public information, as you can see the planets & developments that your opponent is working on before they complete them. You can also see how close they are to completing them, or if they don't have any worlds/devs being worked on at all (meaning they will likely explore). I would say because of this leeching strategies are actually less subtle than in Race. Also, the re-assign abilities in Roll largely exist for the purpose of leeching. I firmly believe that leeching may actually be more relevant & ingrained in Roll than in Race.

You really sound like you're just assuming a lot of things. I feel like you're doing yourself a disservice by not trying it out, but you seem like you've got your mind made up that it sucks in comparison and is an inferior game rather than just a different game. That's too bad.
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