#111 – Roll Player

Box

Base price: $50.
1 – 4 players.
Play time: 60 – 90 minutes.
BGG Link
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?) or Check it out on Kickstarter! (Currently Kickstarting the expansion + reprint)

I suppose I’m trying to still be more timely with my Kickstarter reviews, what with Saloon Tycoon‘s expansion still being on Kickstarter and previewing other games like ElemenZ or Ursa Miner. So, here we are, another expansion on Kickstarter and I’m getting in a review of the base game. Why not?

Anyways, Roll Player is all about that brief period before you go on your D&D-related quest, where you have to build up your character to make sure they can survive (or comically perish on) the adventure ahead of them. Will you be a mighty Dragonkin Paladin? Or a foolish Human Bard? Only one way to find out.

Contents

Setup

So the first thing you should notice is a lot of dice:

Dice

I tweak Setup slightly for a variety of reasons, but this is my preferred method. Have every player randomly draw a die of a different color (if two people draw the same color, they can either roll for it or one player can willingly put theirs back, whatever). Once everyone’s done that, roll to determine who is the Start Player (rolling again to break ties).

Now, starting with the Start Player (as you might assume), each player chooses one of the Character Sheets, and picks the male or female side. Note that each Character Sheet (except for Humans) has a +2 in one of the six stats and a -2 in another. Just worth mentioning. Next, give each player 5 Gold:

Coins

Give the third player an extra Gold and the fourth player two extra Gold, if they’re in the game. Now for the exciting stuff. Remember how you drew a die in a certain color? That’s your Class, so take the Class card in that color and pick a side:

Class Cards

Also, randomly take a Backstory card and an Alignment card and place all three cards in the requisite spots on your Character Sheet:

Alignment + Class + Backstory Cards

You’ll have two tokens in your class color. Put one in the center of your Alignment card (everyone starts True Neutral, just like real life) and put the other on your Class card to remind you.

Now, set up the Market:

Market Cards

Split the market into single-dot and double-dot cards and shuffle each pile. Then:

  • 2 players: Discard 7 cards from each pile.
  • 3 players: Discard 3 cards from each pile.

Put the single-dot pile on top of the double-dot pile, and reveal cards from the Market Deck:

  • 2 players: Reveal 3 cards.
  • 3 players: Reveal 4 cards.
  • 4 players: Reveal 5 cards.

Place Initiative cards, as well:

Initiative Cards

  • 2 players: Place 3 cards.
  • 3 players: Place 4 cards.
  • 4 players: Place 5 cards.

Add a Gold to each card that isn’t first or last, as an incentive.

Once you’ve done that, randomly take your starting dice from the bag:

  • 2 players: Take 6 dice.
  • 3 players: Take 7 dice.
  • 4 players: Take 8 dice.

You should be all ready to start!

Setup

Gameplay

Gameplay is going to be divided into three sections: Pre-Game, Game, End-of-Game. I’ll tackle each in turn.

Pre-Game

So you still have a bit of setup to do, but it involves playing the game so I moved it here. Each player should roll their starting dice and add them to their Character Sheet, following these rules / guidelines:

  • Always place dice in the left-most available spot in a row.
  • If you drew a gold die, gain 2 Gold per die(If you’re the Thief, gain 4 gold instead.)
  • If you fill an entire row with dice, gain 1 Gold.
  • You will earn points at the end of the game if the dice on your Character Sheet match your Backstory.
  • You will earn points at the end of the game if your “score” (the sum of the dice in a row and any bonuses) matches your Class card.
  • Normally, you have certain abilities for placing dice in certain rows. Those do not trigger right now. They will later in the game.

Once you’ve done that, the Start Player will begin the game by drawing dice equal to the number of Initiative cards in the center of the play area.

Game

So, the game is broken up into rounds based around four phases: Roll, Choose / Place Dice, Market, Cleanup. Again, covering each in turn.

Roll

This one’s fairly straightforward. The Start Player rolls the dice and places them on the Initiative cards, following these rules:

  • The dice must be placed from lowest to highest. The lowest-value die goes on the 1, and the highest-value die goes on the 5.
  • Any ties are broken by the Start Player. If you roll five 5s, for instance, you can choose which die goes on which card. If you roll 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, you don’t get to choose.

Choose / Place Dice

Starting with the Start Player, each player in turn order chooses an Initiative card and adds the die on that card to their Character Sheet, along with any Gold on the Initiative card, following these rules / guidelines which might seem familiar:

  • Always place dice in the left-most available spot in a row.
  • If you drew a gold die, gain 2 Gold per die(If you’re the Thief, gain 4 gold instead.)
  • If you finish a row, gain 1 Gold.
  • You will earn points at the end of the game for each die on your Character Sheet that matches your Class color. This may influence which dice you choose.
  • You will earn points at the end of the game if the dice on your Character Sheet match your Backstory. That’s purely dice color and placement, not value.
  • You will earn points at the end of the game if your “score” (the sum of the dice in a row and any bonuses) matches your Class card. Keep an eye on this.
  • You may use the ability corresponding to the row you just placed the die in. Those abilities are as follows:
    • Strength (STR): Flip any die on your Character Sheet to its opposite side. 1 becomes 6, 2 becomes 5, 3 becomes 4, and vice-versa.
    • Dexterity (DEX): Swap any two dice on your Character Sheet. Useful for fixing Backstory issues.
    • Constitution (CON): Add or subtract 1 from the value of any die on your Character Sheet.
    • Intelligence (INT): Reroll one die on your Character Sheet. You may either keep the new value or the old value.
    • Wisdom (WIS): Move one space up, down, left, or right on your Alignment card.
    • Charisma (CHA): You may take a Charisma Token. This will give you a one-coin discount on your next purchase from the Market this turn.

Note that you can only trigger one Attribute Action during the Dice Phase, so swapping dice with DEX will not give let you take additional actions, for instance.

Once you’ve all done that, move on to the Market Phase.

Market

Now, in Initiative order (rather than turn order), each player visits the Market. Here, you can buy Skills, Armor, Weapons, and … Traits? that will change your character and hopefully earn you end-game points (or make it easier to do so). You can either:

  • Buy a card, paying the number in the top-right corner to the bank and adding the card to the corresponding area of your Character Sheet, or
  • Discard a card, gaining 2 Gold (or 4, if you’re the {WIZARD?}.)

There are four different kinds of cards, as mentioned, so I’ll talk briefly about what each one does.

  • Armor is for protecting yourself, and it’s most impressive if you match. Each set has some number (3 / 4 / 5) of pieces, and you can wear more than one set of Armor for reasons known only to you. You will get a bonus if you’re wearing Armor that matches your class, though. The more Armor from a set you wear, the more that set is worth.
  • Skills are abilities you can use during the game to change the way you do things. When you use a Skill (not gain), you move your Alignment in the direction indicated by the Skill, and turn the card on its side to indicate that it’s been spent. You can use a Skill at any time, unless otherwise stated, and you will be able to refresh one Skill at the end of the round. Also, note that since you’re changing your Alignment, if you cannot move your Alignment cube in the specified direction, you cannot use the Skill. Messed that one up hard in my first game.
  • Traits are things that modify who you are at your core, which is why you can buy them at a store, just like real life. These may give you end-of-game points (and usually do), so they’re helpful to have. That said, they shift your alignment when you buy them, so be careful. If you cannot move your Alignment cube in the specified direction, you can still buy the Trait. Nothing happens when you do.
  • Weapons are cards with a variety of interesting effects, but they are somewhat limited by the fact that most of you have two hands. (I’m still waiting for the Octopode promo with 8 hands for weapons.) The Barbarian gets around this by being able to use 4 hands’ worth of weapons, but they’re a berserker so I wouldn’t mess with them. Some weapons are one-handed, others are two-handed, and you can discard them at any time (especially if you need to buy a new weapon that you can’t currently hold).

As players buy cards from the Market, return their Initiative cards to the center.

Cleanup

Now, the cleanup phase starts. All players:

  • Discard any leftover Charisma tokens. Should have used them earlier.
  • Refresh one Skill, but only one.

And reset the play area:

  • Return the unused dice to the dice bag.
  • Discard any remaining cards from the Market. Yup, the entire Market refreshes each round.
  • Draw new Market cards.
  • Put 1 Gold on the Initiative card or cards that should have one (unless they already have one, in which case, you don’t).
  • Pass the dice bag to the left — that player is now this round’s Start Player.

Play continues until every player has a completely full Character Sheet, in which case you begin the End of Game.

End of Game

Alright, you’ve created your character, but was that enough? Time to tally scores.

  1. Attribute Goals: How well did you do in making the right character for your class? Let’s find out. You’ll gain points (stars) for each goal you fulfilled:
    • If the goal is an exact number, you must hit that number exactly, as you might guess. Don’t forget your Character Sheet’s intrinsic bonuses / penalties!
    • If the goal is a range of numbers, you must be within that range, inclusive. So if it’s 16 – 17, you need to be 16 or 17.
    • If the goal is 14+ or something with a +, you just need to have that value or greater. You can be 15 or 18 for 14+.
  2. Class Color Dice: For each die on your Character Sheet that matches your Class Color, gain 1 point.
  3. Alignment Card: Gain the stars underneath your tracker cube on your Alignment card. Note that these could be negative, so try to only get positive points.
  4. Backstory Card: For each die that’s in the correct color and position on your Character Sheet, earn Reputation Stars:
    • If 0 or 1 of your dice match, earn 0 points.
    • If 2 or 3 of your dice match, earn 1 point.
    • If 4 or 5 of your dice match, earn 3 points.
    • If all 6 of your dice match, earn 6 points.
  5. Armor Cards: Score your armor set(s). If you’re the matching class for that armor set, gain 1 additional point.
  6. Trait Cards: Gain points for your Trait cards.

Player with the most points wins! If there’s a tie, uh:

  1. Winner is the player with the most Gold,
  2. Winner is the player with the fewest dice in their Class color
  3. All tied players win.

Player Count Differences

There aren’t really a ton of major player differences, here. With more players, some extra rounds are dropped (as you start with more dice on your Character Sheet), so it’s not a huge slowdown with more players. There are some nuanced slowdowns in the choosing Initiative part of the game, but really only because there are a wider variety of choices. This also means that there might be more variance in the dice. I would say that I generally lean towards a two- or three-player game, as a result.

The one interesting variation between player counts is the size of the Market Deck. I would rely a bit less on getting the Armor you need in two- or three-player games, as it might have been preemptively discarded before the game starts.

Strategy

Lots of fun options, here.

  • Leverage your class. If you’re a Barbarian, you better be making use of those extra weapons. Rogue? Gain Skills and use them often. Your class gives you a pretty significant advantage, so you should go for it.
  • In the same vein, be smart about your Character Sheet. Trying to get an 18 in your -2 stat is probably going to be difficult (given how dice work), but you might be able to swing it with certain cards. That said, if you could try to get a 14+ in it instead, that might be a bit easier.
  • Go deep. This game generally rewards you for going heavily into one thing, so if you’re trying to min-out your Character (all 1s, for instance), you’re going to want Reckless, Clumsy, Foolish, and other skills that reward you for having low stats.
  • It’s not always a bad idea to hate-draft, a bit. I use hate-drafting to mean using your turn to take a card you know someone else wants, as popularized by the entire game of 7 Wonders: Duel. This might be that last piece of armor that you discard to gain money, or it might be buying an entire set of armor out from under someone. Sometimes you just need to do it.
  • Try to avoid running out of money. You generally want like, 3 – 5 money at any given time so that you can buy Skills or Traits or whatever, and if you run out you’re going to spend time trying to get money back that you could spend buying nice stuff. That said, if you do run out of money, it might not be a bad time to hate-draft some stuff from the Market.
  • Your Backstory is one of the easier ways to get points. It’s just about the dice color, so … don’t mess it up. Even if you do, use Dex to swap things around or something. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot too much on your Attribute Goals, though.
  • Keep an eye on what other people need. If you know what other people need, you might be able to push them later in the Initiative order by breaking ties is an unfavorable way for them.
  • 1s aren’t all bad. You can either use them for a dump stat or flip them to 6s via the Strength Attribute Action, so, don’t be afraid to take them.
  • Check for Skill synergies. Skills that move your alignment around and cancel out other Skill Alignment changes are generally helpful, as it allows you finer-grain control over your Alignment. Remember, though, that you can only refresh one Skill per round.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Love the theme. It’s D&D Character Creation: The Game! What’s not to like? The name is fantastic, as well.
  • Wide variety of options. I like that there are so many races to pick and combinations of alignment, backstory, and class. And that’s before you even start the game!
  • It’s really satisfying when your character feels cohesive. If you’re a Lawful Good Sentinel Chosen One Paladin it feels kind of neat, as opposed to a Neutral Evil one or something.
  • Decisions feel like they matter. There are a lot of fine-tuned adjustments that you can make to do better or worse in the game, and some games are extremely close. I like that I am not really sure who will win until the points are calculated.
  • Fair bit of luck mitigation / choice, for a dice game. I generally complain if there’s too much luck in games, but this has enough luck mitigation that I’m pretty satisfied, a la games like Roll for the Galaxy.
  • The components feel nice. The dice have a nice weight, the cardboard is plenty thick, the whole thing is a solid construction, including the box.
  • Super simple to teach, especially given its length / weight. I was kind of astonished by this, but it is not a difficult game to pick up, from my experience. That’s super helpful.

Mehs

  • The Market vaguely confuses me, thematically. I’m mostly just nitpicking, but it’s a bit odd in-theme that you can buy Traits from the Market and that you are essentially choosing Initiative to go to the Store, but hey whatever. It takes me out of the theme a tiny bit, but it’s not really a big deal.

Cons

  • Can get some tough starting combinations. It’s possible to get a Class / Race mismatch (your -2 stat is the stat you need for both of your classes, for instance). That can be a bit frustrating to start off with, but I think it’s ultimately something you can fix in the game.
  • Can feel a bit long. It’s not that bad, or that I would remove anything; it can just feel a bit long, to me. I’d love to have more to do, but I think that’s what the expansion is for.

Overall: 8 / 10

In Progress

Overall, Roll Player is a great game! I love the theme and I think it’s generally well-implemented in the gameplay. It’s a game I have a lot of fun playing, and I think it’s generally successful in what it tries to do. I am especially a fan of how easy it is to teach, the variety of characters I can create over the course of games, and the feeling of strategy-over-luck. In a lot of ways, I would love to see a slightly faster, lighter version of Roll Player, but I’m pretty sure that’s just Sagrada. That said, if you’re ever looking for a great game about character creation, I’d highly recommend you check out Roll Player! It’s a great way to get a group moving towards longer games, a fun way to create a D&D character, or just a nice way to spend some time chucking some dice.

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