Sometimes I’m able to dust off a game I haven’t played in a while under the right circumstances. In this case, it was a Hokkaido–Honshu sort-of-situation. I just got Roll for the Galaxy: Rivalry in for a review, but, awkwardly, I hadn’t quite gotten around to Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition reviewed, yet. So, here it is! Better late than never, I guess? Is that a thing?
In Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition, you return to building a galactic empire as improved faster-than-light travel is opening up entire worlds (literally) for you to explore. However, now you must content with more than just your aliens, consumers, and military factions (among others); there are leaders and entrepreneurs coming to your empire to try and make a name for themselves. If that weren’t enough, new objectives with great rewards are emerging for enterprising explorers. Will you be able to bring order to the galaxy? Or will your ambitions fall short?
So, you’re going to have to upgrade your player boards with some new stickers. They’ll end up looking like this:
The stickers are translucent, yup. There are also new dice:
The black dice are Leader dice, and the orange are Entrepreneur dice. There are additional dice of the other colors, as well, but you already know what those look like probably. There are some new tiles:
Add those to the bag. Add the new faction tiles to play:
Also add the new home world tiles:
Set up the game as normal, but instead of putting two Home dice in your Citizenry and three in your cup, place two Home dice in your Citizenry, two Home dice in your cup, and one Leader die in your cup. I’ll explain the difference in a bit.
If you want to use Objective Tiles, shuffle them up and flip six face-up:
And if you’re using Objective Tiles, you should use Talent Counters:
Once you’ve done all that, you’re ready to go!
Surprisingly, not a lot of new stuff here. It’s easiest to just list the changes rather than walk through the entirety of gameplay. So let’s do that!
New Dice Colors
There are two new dice colors! Black dice are Leader dice, and orange dice are Entrepreneur dice. They change a few things:
- Consume Action: Leader dice match the world’s color, as the good or the shipper, so they work the same way as Consumption dice. Entrepreneur dice never match the world’s color; they’re orange!
- Diverse Workforce / Galactic Exchange: Leader dice are treated as Home dice (white) for these tiles. Entrepreneur dice are treated as … orange for these tiles (meaning they score +1 VP at the game’s end for Galactic Exchange).
Some dice have the $ next to a phase! Since there’s no $ phase (heh), it can be a bit confusing what these mean. What they mean is that generally when you use a die you return the die to the Citizenry after completion. For these, as long as you use the die for the pictured phase (no Reassigning / using it as a Phase Strip die for something else), you may return it to your cup instead of the Citizenry. It effectively pays for itself! That’s always fun.
Note that this means that Developers / Settlers only return when the tile is completed, and Producers only return when the good is Shipped.
Two Phase Faces
Now that you’ve seen the $, you might notice that some of the other dice faces have two different phases on them. Don’t worry; that’s a feature. When you assign dice with two phases on a face, if one face doesn’t occur, it immediately shifts to the other phase. If both occurred, it stays on the assigned face. If neither phase occurred, the die returns to the cup.
Some tiles ask you to remove dice from the game. You may remove them from anywhere (including your Citizenry), and you probably should remove a Home Die, if you can. Up to you, if you have other dice.
Hitting 0 Credits
Generally, some tiles now have effects that will allow you to spend money; if you hit 0 doing that, you can reset to 1, as you would during the Manage Empire phase. It’s possible to do this multiple times; you’ll just keep going back to 1 (just not for Deficit Spending).
So, another thing you’ll notice is objectives. You’ll start with 6, as I mentioned previously, but if you’ve met the criteria printed on the tile, you can flip it over and take Talent Counters equal to the printed value. Note that once an Objective is achieved, it should be flipped over; it’s done.
Talent Counters can be used as generic wild dice face during the Assign step. When they’re used, they’re removed from the game. You don’t have to use them; they’re worth 1 point at the end of the game. Like Leader dice, they match all worlds when used. You … can’t use them to Reassign other dice, though; why would you? Like all dice, you may recall them; just return them to your supply.
End of Game
No changes! As with the base game, the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
Not a ton! The only major thing is, like the base game, you’ll want to roll one Home Die every round in a two-player game to potentially force another phase. This doesn’t really change from the base game, except Psi-Crystal Forecasters. That’s a tile from the expansion that allows you to change your Phase Selection die after you see other players’ picks. It’s … aggressive at two players. At higher players it doesn’t matter as much, honestly.
The other thing is two-phase dice faces. They tend to be a bit more useful at higher player counts since they tend to activate a bit more, on average (just based on expectation). At lower player counts, it’s totally possible that neither phase occurs (since 3 / 5 phases, max). Generally speaking, though, it’s not as big of a potential deal as Psi-Crystal Forecasters.
Overall, I don’t have a strong preference for player counts in this. I still think that higher player counts tend to force Producing and Shipping as a viable points-scoring strategy instead of Developing and Settling, but I don’t think that’s a hard rule (more just a function of more phases occurring, on average).
- Complete Objectives. Not only complete them, but use the Talent Counters you get from them to complete more Objectives. Even if you don’t particularly want them, it’s usually worth it to keep them from your opponents, since Talent Counters are very useful.
- If you’re playing with only two players, sift through the tile bag as much as possible to try and get Psi-Crystal Forecasters. If you can get it, you can shift your Phase Selection die to any phase, which is a fun way to really irritate your opponent. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing this much if you value your opponent as a friend, though. Or don’t like the idea of getting punched in the mouth. Your call.
- Some of the base game combos are really good, still. My favorite is always a Development that gives you a yellow and white Explorer every Explore Phase and a Faction Tile that gives you +$4 if you Stock with a yellow Explorer (instead of +$2). It’s a ludicrous combo, and it’s still alive and kicking in the expansion (albeit less likely because there are more faction tiles available).
- Only remove dice from your Citizenry. I mean, this happens at the beginning of the game, but if you have the option to remove dice, just … don’t remove them from the cup. That doesn’t make any sense.
- Leaders are good Consumers. Since they always match, you should use them for Consume actions when Shipping. You can still Trade with them, but their real value is that additional flexibility around Consuming, in my opinion. Naturally, I more often end up using them for other things, but, you gotta make the best of the dice you have.
- Entrepreneurs should only Trade, if you’re Shipping with them. They don’t match anything, so you’re better off with other dice, if you can. Plus, their flexibility usually means that they end up as Producers if you have nothing else to do with them, which is fine.
- Remember: dice with a $ only return to your cup if you use them for their pictured phase. People often forget this, so it ends up that those dice end up back in the Citizenry quiet often. They’re extremely useful for this reason, though, since they skip right back into your cup; make sure you’re using them on their pictured phases, if you can.
- I still find Develop and Settle more useful at lower player counts. At higher player counts, you have the ability to ride other players’ coattails more with regards to Production and Shipping (since those phases become a bit more common due to random chance and just weird coincidental metagames)
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The new dice are a lot of fun. They add some new concepts (that get expanded on in Rivalry, the follow-up), which I appreciate. Plus, black dice work the same as Consumption dice for Consume actions, which is even better. Generally speaking, I’m a big fan of these.
- The Leader die is a great addition for starting up in the game. The extra faces and the Wild die face are a really useful way to help players get started and not get stuck with all their dice spent to their Citizenry. Since everyone gets one, as well, they’re not particularly overpowered.
- The two phase faces are also an interesting addition. I like that they give you a lot of flexibility; they’re just flexible dice, though, as far as the Entrepreneur dice go. They don’t match any world colors, so they’re bad Consumers; they’re much better Traders.
- Low overhead. You can integrate this into the base game without much trouble; I’ve taught people RFTG + Ambition and they’ve gotten it pretty quickly. That, in my opinion, makes for a great expansion; like Inns & Cathedrals, you can integrate it with the base game pretty seamlessly without forcing too many new rules or disrupting gameplay.
- Some poor cuts on the game pieces, honestly. Thankfully, that was 2015, so it should be resolved by now, but I definitely had to send this or the base game back on Amazon to get a new one. You can still see how the text is pretty close to the edge on some of the tiles, though, which isn’t great. It seems like this wasn’t replicated in Rivalry, so, I assume it was just a first printing issue.
- Might have been worth reprinting some of the base game tiles that got affected by the new dice. I understand that drives up the price a bit, but, I occasionally get confused by the one that relies on dice colors because I forget that orange counts (even though it’s not included) and black does not count (and it’s not included). Very mild confusion, so, meh.
- Psi-Crystal Forecasters can be really annoying if you get it early in a two-player game. One particular game I remember involved me using PSF to consistently shift away from Ship or Produce, depending on what my opponent was doing (she was relying on me to Ship when she Produced or vice-versa). She didn’t really appreciate this behavior. I mean, it was the best thing for me to do, but, not terribly fun. At higher player counts this isn’t as big of a deal, but it may have been worth nerfing a bit at two players or something (even something like “you may set the Phase Die to be any face when rolled” might alleviate this somewhat, since it doesn’t let you straight block whatever phase you were planning on doing). Your mileage may vary on this one.
- The Objectives tend to be rich-get-richer and add a racing element I don’t love. I find that no matter what the Objectives tend to be, I just … do them as quickly as possible and then I use the Talent Counters I get to just try to do as many Objectives as possible. Once you get one, especially a valuable one, it’s very easy to get more. Mechanically, they’re just not for me; I’d rather build a strategy based on what tiles I get than build one to try and get through the Objectives quickly. That’s a personal preference though.
Overall: 8.75 / 10
Overall, I think Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition is pretty awesome. I think the only reason I don’t list it as “essential” is that I don’t particularly care for Objectives; I think they direct the flow of the game a bit too much for my taste unless they all happen to focus on different areas of influence. Plus, essential is an aggressively high bar for expansions; I think the only two expansions I’d call essential are Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals and Pandemic: On the Brink. That all said, this is pretty close to that line. It’s a smart expansion because it’s streamlined and focused; it wants to add a few dice and a few tiles without shaking too many things up. It means you can bring it to a game night and teach it to folks without getting too wrapped up in the minutiae of what’s happening. If it’s too large of an expansion, you’re going to struggle to teach it, especially to new players, which will make it kind of a nonstarter, for me. This definitely isn’t that. If anything, it’s a pretty solid model for how to make a tight and focused expansion that improves your base game. I’m solidly a fan of Roll for the Galaxy (though I’ve cooled off on my love of it after however many years), and if you are as well, I think you’ll really like Ambition, the first expansion!