Yes, I’m taking a break from my previously-uninterrupted Carcassonne streak.
Base price: $60 (yikes), but usually on sale for ~$45.
2 – 5 players
Play time: 45 minutes
Setup / Explanation time: 30 minutes
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
That extra bit of information should probably be the cause of some alarm. This game is a tiny bit complex to explain to new players, and you honestly need two people to explain it quickly, otherwise it’s pretty difficult. However, once you get rolling (pun intended), it’s quite fun. Roll for the Galaxy, like its awkwardly-similar-in-appearance sibling Race for the Galaxy, is a game focused on building a galactic empire (no, not that Galactic Empire [WARNING: STAR WARS PREQUELS], though honestly you probably could, as I’m pretty sure one of the tiles is a direct reference to that); however, as BANG! The Dice Game is to BANG!, it chooses the route of “let’s roll a ton of dice” rather than “let’s play a bunch of cards”.
And 111 custom dice don’t mess around. Let’s cover that in Setup, but bear with me, this is going to be a bit complicated.
So, first thing you’ll notice is that there are a LOT of dice. Just a lot. Do yourself a favor and split them up into different colors and separate them out. This will become really useful later. This is probably the most helpful ordering:
Home dice. These white dice are fairly standard. Give each player 5, to start.
Military dice. These aggressive dice focus on settlement and development.
Novelty dice. These dice focus on production and shipping.
Rare element dice. These dice focus on development, with a small bit of production and shipping as well.
Genes dice. These genetic dice are focused on settlement, but have a good chance to be wild.
Consumption dice. These dice are all about shipping, but have a small chance of helping with development.
Alien technology dice. These unpredictable dice won’t force you to explore, but you have a pretty good chance that they’ll be usable for whatever you want.
Set those other dice slightly away from the center of the playing area. Why, you ask? Because that’s where the phase tiles go:
Set them X side up, but in numerical order. Also, as you can see in the bottom right of that image, set the VP (victory point) chips near the phase tiles. You’ll need 12 per player, so in the 3-player game I’ll use as an example we’ll have 36 laid out. Note that the VP chips are different values:
1, 5, and 10, respectively (count the number of lines on each token). These chips can be earned through various tasks. Only use the 1s and 5s during the game, but keep the 10s aside in case they’re needed (in case you run out of 1s and 5s). Put the unused 1s and 5s back in the bag and/or the box..
Now that you’ve done that, you’re going to want to give the players a few more things.
Give all players a mat (and a credit marker [that’s the space person]). Put the credit marker on the $1, since thankfully they still use USD in space, since that probably means United Space Dollars. Yes. There are three other spaces on the mat. The leftmost square is the Citizenry, while the middle and rightmost squares form the construction zone, specifically the development and settlement areas, respectively. This will be on the test.
Give all players a dice cup, preferably in the same color as their credit marker to avoid confusion. Or don’t. It’s your game.
Give all players a screen. You’ll roll your dice behind the screen, so other players don’t see what you roll. It also contains all the information you need to know about the game. If it seems daunting and terrifying, it’s a bit scary but I’m going to explain it all in Gameplay, so don’t worry too much. Helpfully, it does have some information about the various dice faces you’ll see during the game:
You should probably keep this in mind when you’re figuring out which dice you want to use later in the game. Anyways, moving on.
Give all players a phase strip. This one nestles pretty nicely in front of the screen, and is used to help organize your “workers” (the dice you roll on your turn). I’ll get to that later.
Now, you’ll be giving players tiles. If the tiles have text and images on both sides, set them aside for a bit, and take the two nine-tile piles. One should have blocks of two, the other should just be single tiles. Shuffle them up.
Give all players a faction tile. There should be nine potential options; shuffle them up and then each player randomly draws one. You can ignore the text on them for right now; put them somewhere in your play area. You can also almost always ignore the tiny number in the blue box in the top-left corner, but I’ll mention it again during Gameplay.
Give all players a home world tile. Similar to the faction tile, this is the home world for your new empire. Again, ignore the text for right now and add it to your play area. Along with your faction tile, these two form your starting tableau.
Now, take the other tiles (the ones you previously set aside) and put them in the included tile bag that I definitely didn’t re-use for my Carcassonne game and review. Glad we cleared that up. Each player draws two randomly out of that and will add them to their mat’s construction zone, like so:
Note a few things:
- The tiles are double-sided. Each side has a development side (the diamond) and a world side (the circle).
- The number in the top-left corner is the cost of that tile (and their endgame point value!). They range from 1-6 for worlds and 1-6+ for developments. More on that later.
- You must add one development and one world to your construction zone at the start of the game. The choice is yours!
- If this is your first game, try to use the cheaper settlement and development. It makes the game a bit easier to handle in your first few turns. Note that this is a guideline, not a hard rule.
Try not to stress about the tiles! There are a lot of tiles:
I mean, a LOT of tiles:
But actually, there are like 55 tiles and that’s a ridiculous amount:
Anyways. Now, give everyone their dice. Remember how you gave everyone five Home (white) dice? If you didn’t, do that now. If you already did, hooray! Everyone puts three of those in their dice cup, and then two in their Citizenry, which we talked about earlier (see? Told you there’d be a test.). Now, check your faction and home world tiles to see what dice you have been assigned. Note that you do not take dice from the development or world tiles in your construction area. You don’t do anything with them until they’re “completed”, which we will discuss later. The only other thing is that some worlds might tell you to add a die as a good, which means you will place the die like so:
Alright, take a deep breath; you did it! Setup’s complete! Your play area should look something like this, unless you prefer lighter-color furniture (which, given the light walls, wouldn’t be a great look for this room):
Now let’s move on to Gameplay.
So, each turn happens in 5 parts:
- Roll Workers
- Assign Workers
- Reveal Workers
- Do Phases
- Manage Empire
For the sake of avoiding needless complexity, let’s explain each in sequence.
Maybe we don’t need a deep explanation for this one. Anyways, roll your workers behind the provided screen (that way the other players can’t see what you rolled; this is important). Once you have completed this, start assigning your workers.
This one is a bit more complicated. In here, you have three options, each of which deserves a bit of explanation.
Assign dice to phase
So, you’ve rolled some dice:
But what does it all mean? Well, as a brief interlude, there are six possible dice faces, each producing a worker that can be assigned to a specific phase:
From left to right:
- Explore (the eye) lets you look for new tiles or gain Galactic Credits during the Explore Phase.
- Develop (the diamond) lets you build technologies during the Develop Phase that grant play-modifying powers.
- Settle (the circle) lets you settle worlds during the Settle Phase for more population (dice) and potential places to hold goods that are produced.
- Produce (the … cylinder?) lets you produce goods on worlds in the Produce Phase that can later be shipped during the Ship Phase.
- Ship (the ship) lets you either trade goods for Galactic Credits or consume goods for Victory Points during the Ship Phase.
- Wild (the star / asterisk) can be used as any other type of die.
So, simply put, you should put the dice in the phases that they match with. That’s an easy first step. Place the dice below (but not on) the phase strip, which should also be behind the screen, like so:
Ignore the Home die on the Settle Phase symbol for five seconds; I’ll explain.
select one phase
So, you’ve got a bunch of dice below each phase, like the above picture. However, and this is the key to Roll for the Galaxy: not every phase occurs each round. How does that happen? Well, each player selects one phase to occur and places any die of their choice on that phase icon. It doesn’t even have to match that phase, but it still counts as a worker for that phase when it occurs. This is a pretty great way to get an extra settler or developer, or really any phase if your dice didn’t quite come up the way you wanted.See how one of the ships is on the develop phase icon? That means it’ll count as a developer when the Develop Phase happens. That’s pretty sweet. Now, you might be asking yourself what the other ship is doing, and why I have a Produce die under develop. That’s a great question and I’ll answer it shortly.
may use reassign powers
So, let’s say you needed four developers but only rolled two developers, two ships, a settler, and a produce. This is a bummer, but you can still get three if you use a ship to force the Develop Phase. You’re one short! However, some tiles include a Reassign power that allows you to reassign dice to other phases, once per turn. This is an excellent way to hedge the normally-problematic luck element that comes with most dice games. And, even more fortuitously, every player starts with one Reassign power: Dictate! This power allows you to set aside one die (in the above example, the white (Home) ship, and then place another die in any other phase (which is how I moved the Produce die to Develop). While it’s incredibly useful, you can only use it once per turn, which is a bit sad if your roll really sucks.
Once you’ve finished doing all the worker assignment, it’s time to:
So, at this point, everyone sets aside their screens and you can see what they rolled and how they organized it. It’s very exciting. You do this simultaneously, so yes, you do have to wait for every player to finish.
Now, check what phases each player selected, and flip the phase tiles in the center, like so:
In this particular round, the Explore, Develop, and Settle Phases are occuring, but the Produce and Ship Phases are not.
Note for two-player games. Roll one extra home die, and flip that phase tile over also. This occasionally adds in a third phase to games, depending on which phases players selected.
Before the phases occur, take any dice assigned to phases that aren’t occurring (or that were spent for the Dictate Reassign ability) and put them back in your cup. Better luck next time.
Now for the exciting part. Note that turns happen simultaneously, unless it’s specifically necessary that it doesn’t. This almost never happens except in cases like running out of tiles, but if you need to go in a player order you should start with the player with the lowest-numbered faction tile. Yup! Those numbers were important. However, while the turns happen simultaneously, the phases happen in sequential order. This is important, as you can occasionally get lucky and produce a good in the Produce Phase that you immediately ship in the Ship Phase or other such synergies.
So, let’s talk about each phase, then.
So, if you’ve set workers to work the Explore Phase and it occurs, you have two options, Scout, or Stock. Note that you must perform either Scout or Stock for every worker assigned to the Explore Phase, but you do each action one at a time (you don’t have to decide all at once!).
- Scout. First, abandon X tiles from anywhere in your construction zone (your unfinished Developments and Settlements). Note that X can be (and often is) zero. Place abandoned tiles under the Explore Phase tile in the center, hidden from other players. Now, draw X+1 tiles, and place them on the bottom of either stack in your construction zone. Send the worker used for this Scout action to your Citizenry. Also, please note:
- If you have developers or settlers on those tiles, they stay on top of the stack even if you remove a tile or the entire stack is depleted.
- If you have more developers or settlers on a tile than is needed, that tile is only constructed during the Develop or Settle phase, respectively.
- If you run out of tiles in the bag, check the rulebook. It doesn’t happen often enough that it’s worth explaining here.
- After the Explore Phase is over, return all tiles under the Explore Phase tile to the bag. A lot of people (myself included) forget to do this.
- Stock. Add $2 in Galactic Credits to your total. Send the worker used for this Stock action to your Citizenry. Note that you can’t have more than $10, you hoarder.
See? Not too bad. Let’s do Develop next.
For this one, just move all the workers you have assigned to the Develop Phase to the top development in your construction zone. Each developer pays for 1 of the cost of the development (treat a 6+ development as a 6-cost development). If you complete a development, move all developers on it to your Citizenry and add the development to your tableau (the place where your other world / development tiles are).
Developments usually offer sweet powers, like extra Reassign abilities or abilities that give you money or let you act as though you have extra dice in certain phases. Additionally, some developments cost “6+”, meaning that they cost 6, but are worth potentially more than 6 points at the end of the game (your score is costs of worlds in your tableau + VP chips).
For instance, the Galactic Federation development gives you one third of your total base development cost (don’t count bonuses from other 6+ developments) back as extra VP. That’s pretty awesome. It also has a pretty sweet ability, but that’s just an added bonus.
If you have more developers than you need for a development, you complete the development, add the developers used to your Citizenry, and then add developers to the next tile in the stack. If there are no more tiles in the stack, return the unusable developers to your cup.
Exactly like the Develop Phase, move all workers assigned to the Settle Phase onto the top world in your construction zone.
Usually, worlds will give you extra population (and points in the endgame), but as dice in your cup, dice in your citizenry, or dice as goods on the world. Some occasionally give you money for completing them (like how the Lost Alien Battle Fleet further up gives you $3 and an Alien Technology [yellow] die into your cup, when built), which is also nice, but again note that you can’t have more than $10.
Again, like the Develop Phase, if you have more settlers than you need for a settlement, you complete the settlement, add the settlers used to your Citizenry, and then add settlers to the next tile in the stack. If there are no more tiles in the stack, return the unusable settlers to your cup.
Still with me? Let’s go on to the Produce Phase.
This one is very simple, but a bit logistically confusing. This one lets you add workers you’ve assigned to this phase to worlds (tiles with a non-gray circle in the top-left corner). Note that each world can only hold one good, unless otherwise stated. (One development lets your worlds have two goods, which is preposterous.)
You may be asking, “does it matter if the colors match?” and the answer is yes. But that requires an understanding of the Ship Phase, so let’s talk about that.
So, you’ve almost made it through the phases. Great work! Last is the Ship Phase. The Ship Phase only works if you already have a good on at least one world, like so:
How are you supposed to ship things if you don’t produce anything? Basically, here’s how it works:
Send a pair of 1 Ship and 1 Good to your Citizenry to:
- Trade. If you do this, the colors of the dice do not matter. All that matters is what color the world is (check the circle in the top-left corner).
- If the world is Cyan, gain $3.
- If the world is Brown, gain $4.
- If the world is Green, gain $5.
- If the world is Yellow, gain $6.
- If the world is Gray, ugh. You goofed! You’re not supposed to put goods on gray worlds. I suppose you gain nothing. Bummer.
- Consume. This one is fun. The colors of the dice do matter. Follow these steps exactly:
- Gain 1 Victory Point. You always do this when you Consume.
- If the good die matches the color of the world (or is purple), gain 1 extra VP.
- If the ship die matches the color of the world (or is purple), gain 1 extra VP.
As you might have guessed, purple Consumption dice are always considered matching for purposes of the Consume action. They’re kind of handy. You can gain up to 3 total VP during Consume, unless otherwise stated.
So, that’s all the phases. Now on to the next step!
You already did all the difficult stuff. Now for the easy stuff!
- Recruit. While you have dice remaining in your Citizenry:
- Spend $1.
- Add a die back to your cup.
- Do this until you run out of money ($0) or run out of dice in your Citizenry.
- After you finish recruiting, if you are at $0, go back to $1.
- Recall. You can, for free, remove any dice from developments or settlements in your construction zone or from worlds where they are currently producing a good and add them back to your cup, for free. Occasionally a good move.
- Reset. Flip all the phase tiles back to the X side. Don’t worry, you’re going to forget a few times. Everyone does, and that’s okay.
- Check game end. If any player has 12 tiles in their tableau (including the starting 3 faction / home world tiles) or the pile of VP chips is empty (or you’ve started using the 10 VP chips), then the game is now over!
Like I said, once you’ve hit the endgame condition, after that round the game is over. Add up the costs for all the tiles in your tableau (including your start tiles), the bonuses from your 6+ developments (if you have any), and the VP chips you’ve earned. Most wins!
Let’s talk strategy.
The thing about this game is that there are tons of different pathways to success. I’ll try to give a balanced view, or at least as balanced as I can. RESULTS MAY VARY.
- If you’re not using your faction ability, you’re doing it wrong. Yes, it’s a bit annoying to have your strategy somewhat dictated by your starting loadout, but most people I’ve played with that won made at least some use of their faction’s power. Whether it’s extra money during certain phases or reduced costs for some tiles or changing up the rules of certain phases, using your faction tile’s development’s ability is usually necessary to success.
- Shipping is strong. Depending on how many players you have.If you’re doing a good job shipping, you can occasionally get 6+ VP every other round, if not faster. That rapidly depletes the VP pile and is more cost-efficient than developing or settling, sometimes. The only problem is that you have to set up your shipping with Produce Phases, and if you’re not doing a good job of that / you don’t have another player forcing one of those two phases / your dice luck is poor, you may be left out.
- That doesn’t mean that development and settlement isn’t good. In fact, a perfectly legitimate strategy is just a bum rush of trying to get 12 tiles before everyone else figures out their strategy by just taking cheap tiles all the time and building them. However, expensive developments and settlements tend to have great abilities to compensate, so it’s not always a bad thing to save up.
- Any approach is workable, provided you have the right dice. If you’re looking to settle and develop, you really should have more Military (red) dice than Novelty (cyan) or Consumption (purple) dice. If not, you’re going to waste a lot of time reassigning and ultimately hurt yourself in the long-term. This is also a good lesson to keep in mind when you’re picking tiles, as you don’t want to keep gaining dice that you aren’t going to use. Again, keep an eye on that table on your screen that shows which dice have which faces.
- Check out other players’ tableaus to try and guess what their next move could be. Often, it pays to speculate on what phases other players are going to select and betting your workers appropriately. If you see that Player 3 has five developers on a 6+ development and no settlements or goods, it’s highly likely that they’re going to select the Develop or Explore Phases, which means you can assign your workers to that phase and potentially get some use out of them without having to select that phase yourself.
- Getting extra reassign powers is crucial when you get a bunch of dice. If you’re rolling more than 10 dice a turn (happens sometimes!), it’s really nice to be able to move them around to where you need them if your dice luck is bad.
- Alien Technology dice are probably the best. 50% chance of getting a wild every time is pretty excellent. If you have more than two or three you’re going to have a great time.
- Abandoning tiles is not a bad idea. If you’ve got tiles you don’t want (or if you want to slide workers around), dropping those tiles to draw X+1 tiles (especially if you can do that multiple times in a turn) is actually pretty awesome. Great way to find a solid tile you need, especially if you’re looking for certain abilities or dice colors.
- Don’t forget that each worker is processed in order, one at a time. You don’t have to decide whether your explorers are going to be Stocks or Scouts immediately. You can Scout a tile, Scout another tile with another explorer, and then if you find the tile you need you can Stock with the last two rather than having to declare all four as Stock in the beginning.
- The cost of a tile is somewhat correlated with how good it is, unless it’s a faction or home world tile. Then it’s the opposite. I imagine it’s to compensate for less-good faction abilities by giving you an early game lead, but some of the good faction abilities are fantastic. Other than that, regular tile costs usually suggest that the world is pretty great to have, like the 6+ developments.
- 6+ Cost Developments are good, provided they work with your strategy. If you have a 6+ Development that gives you 2VP for every 3 military dice (red) you have, but you have zero, that’s not really a good purchase. Just make sure you’re paying attention to the bonuses on the developments. Speaking of pricey tiles,
- Going for expensive tiles early isn’t always the best move. You end up tying up most of your dice and then once you get it, you haven’t made enough money to buy them back so you’re stymied for a few rounds. It’s usually a bit more helpful to get a few more dice first so you have options. Actually, on that note,
- Try to avoid having too many dice in your Citizenry and not enough in your cup. There are few things more frustrating than having 12 dice in your Citizenry and not enough money to recruit more than 1 per turn. Not only do you have to get dice slowly, you usually end up selecting Explore Phase so you can Stock, meaning that other people can predict what phase you’re going to pick, which isn’t good.
Your mileage may vary on these tips, but it’s a dice game, so… your strategy is always going to be somewhat dictated by luck, moreso if you have no reassign abilities other than Dictate.
pros, mehs, cons
- Rolling 10+ dice is amazing. It’s just the best, even in the dice cups. It’s satisfying, even though the dice are tiny.
- It’s hard to get totally behind in this game. I feel like most players have a couple down rounds where they aren’t getting the rolls or they need more money and are trying to get their dice back in their cup, so even if you have a rocky start I feel like it’s possible to come back and win. That’s a good thing for a game to have.
- Luck mitigation techniques are very nice. The ability to discard X and draw X+1 tiles is a great way to handle random drawing (rather than just “draw one tile”), and the reassign abilities can turn even the worst rolls into passable or good ones. I think that’s a big strength for a game, especially one that relies so heavily on dice rolling.
- Phase selection mechanic is very fun, albeit occasionally frustrating. It can be very dissatisfying if you have 5 settlers and 4 developers and pick the Settle Phase, only to find out that every other player also picked Settle and so your 4 developers go back to the cup. But that’s part of the game! It’s a nice risk/reward setup to try and gamble on what your opponents are going to select.
- Art is nice. It’s a generic-ish sci-fi theme, but the art is well-done.
- Once you’ve learned the game, it’s very accessible. A lot of people have said that it makes a lot of sense once they understand it; it just has a pretty steep learning curve. I think that all the text everywhere is intimidating to new players.
- Short, manageable playing time … again, once you’ve learned it. They say it’s a 45 minute game, but it does take a pretty long time to explain the first time around. There’s a lot going on that people need to process.
- Provided tile bag is a nice touch. I’m looking at you, Carcassonne Big Box 5. Though it would be nice if the bag were slightly larger.
- Has just enough tile-laying to be satisfying. I know it’s not complex path mechanics or building cities, roads, and cloisters or fighting through a haunted house, but there is still a tile-laying mechanic and I’m clearly a sucker for those.
- Multiple gameplay paths to success. You can focus on any combination of Develop, Settle, or Ship and still win, and there are a ton of worlds and developments that facilitate any of those strategies. This gives the game a ton of replay value, in my opinion, and lets you consistently vary your approach if you want to try something new every game. You’re a bit constrained by your faction tiles, but you can very easily say “Hey, I played with this one already; anyone mind if I draw a new one?” and most people are fine with it.
- Game is a huge pain to set up / put away. 111 custom dice, 55 game tiles, 18 faction / home world tiles, just getting everything into and out of the box is a 5-10 minute endeavor, and I haven’t even started to explain it yet.
- Some potential for cheating? I have heard some critiques of this game that since you can’t see other players’ dice, you can’t tell if they’re cheating. If you suspect that your friends are cheating, you may not … want to game with them as much.
- Standard dice game frustrations can apply. There are good luck mitigation mechanics, but you might still just have terrible rolls. That won’t punish you as much as it does in, say, BANG! The Dice Game or Betrayal at House on the Hill, but it could potentially frustrate players.
- Manufacturing errors make the tiles extremely difficult to punch out. I would recommend getting an X-acto knife to prevent damage to the tiles, to be perfectly honest. I don’t know if it was just the copies I saw or if it’s a widespread issue, but it’s really unfortunate.
- Game is also a huge pain to explain to new players. I’d put it around 7-Wonders-level in terms of general frustration, but unlike 7 Wonders, when we play with new people they still seem to enjoy it. It’s not either game’s fault; they’re just difficult games to pick up. This is probably not a game I’d want to teach people regularly.
overall: 9 / 10
This is a pretty great game. Right now it’s a pretty popular choice among my group because we all know the game, “get” the game, and are still trying different styles and objectives (focus on shipping! Only build developments! Try to only get yellow dice!) and just seeing what works for us. The nice thing is that we’re excited enough about it that when Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition comes out in November we’re going to jump on buying it pretty much immediately.
If you’re into dice games and willing to put up with a slightly steep learning curve, this is a great game to add to your collection. Also, weirdly, I don’t think I owned a game with a space theme (no, I’m not really counting Lost Legacy: The Starship), so that was a nice thematic addition to my collection. That being said, if you’re looking for a slightly lighter space game, I’d highly recommend checking out Tiny Epic Galaxies.