Full disclosure: A review copy of Roll for the Galaxy: Rivalry was provided by Rio Grande Games.
And here’s why I dusted off the previous expansion for Roll for the Galaxy. Rivalry, an all-new fairly-big-box expansion from Rio Grande Games that adds a lot of new content. I’m always excited to check out Roll for the Galaxy content (it was one of my favorite games when I first got into board gaming), so let’s dig into it a bit more and see what’s going on?
In Rivalry, you’ve discovered something you didn’t even imagine possible: new orbs with intense upgrades. Now you can leverage this new technology to help expand your galactic empire even more quickly, provided you find the right people to explore it. Additionally, you’ve been invited to more and more summits on galaxy-wide trade, where people will look for new jobs, new opportunities, and new lands. Finally, Pioneers have made their way to your empire, and with them even more opportunities (even if they’re mostly novelties upon close inspection). How will these new changes affect your vision for the galaxy?
Setup remains somewhat similar to Ambition, but is split based on Orb Game or Deal Game (or both!). Regardless, you’ll have new tiles:
New Home Worlds:
New Faction Tiles:
Shuffle those in with the rest of their stuff. Then, check out the new Pioneer Dice:
Rad. To compensate for all the new changes, everyone is getting new Player Screens:
Even larger! Along with new Phase Strips:
And a new Phase Tile, making for six total Phases:
You’ll only use those in the new Games. So let’s talk about those:
Orb Game Setup
For this one, you’ll want to use the yellow Orb Dice:
You’ll also want to add the customizeable faces:
The picture above should show you which faces start where. They should all be yellow, though. Give each player a guide to what the faces do:
And you should be all ready to go! The only other change is put 15 VP per player in the Supply, rather than 12.
Deal Game Setup
For this one, you’re going to want to get out the Deal Mat:
Put it in the center of the table along with the Deal Dice:
The black one is the Prestige Die. It’s a bit more special. You’ll also want to break out the priority track and player tokens:
Also set out the possible Deal Results, like the Treasury extension strips:
Also the Generic Worlds and Developments!
There are some extra tokens if you run out, as well.
Once you’ve done that you’re ready to go! Give every player an Exchange Asset Guide, as well:
You can do both! Just do everything from both sections:
Alright, so, here’s how the games change. The basic game pretty much doesn’t, though there are a few alterations if you’re playing Deal or Orb:
- New $ Phase. The $ Phase helpfully covers those dice with the $ from Ambition; instead of being used and then returning to the cup they’re now dual-phase workers for whatever their other phase was and the $ phase. Treat them as such following normal rules.
- Reassign Upgrade. Every player gets an additional new ability: now, once per round, you may reassign any one die to the $ Phase.
- Two-player rules change. Rather than rolling a Home Die, roll a Leader Die to determine the bonus Phase(s). If the Wild side is rolled, no additional Phase is activated. Otherwise, both Phases are. So that’s fun.
- Talent Counters. They work the same as Ambition. They count as a wild die face if you want to use them, and 1VP if you don’t use them by the end of the game.
Let’s dig into each mode.
During the Orb Game, in addition to the normal Roll for the Galaxy experience, you now roll the Orb die at the beginning of each round in front of your screen. This can give you a variety of effects, with some even allowing you to automatically upgrade your Orb.
To help balance the game length, there are now 15VPs per player in the Supply and a player needs 15 tiles in their tableau to end the game.
The sixth phase is now known as the Research Phase, and dice assigned to this phase become Researchers. Researchers give you upgrade points that you can use on your Orb Die.
As you play through the game, you’ll upgrade your Orb Die; should you run out of faces, they’ve added a Clone Face that you can place to clone another face’s effect, which is nice.
Once the game ends, you gain bonus VP: for each second-level face, gain 1VP; for each top-level face, gain 2VP.
The Deal Game is pretty neat, honestly. In this, players can propose bounded trades that mature in value and ultimately expire. However, the trades only close if you can find someone to meet you halfway.
Every round, before you assign dice to phases, roll the unused Deal Dice and place them in the center of the board.
Workers assigned to this phase are Dealers. When you use one, you may join a deal or create a new deal. You may also refuse to participate in the deal, which just has you return the dealer to your Citizenry and gain 1 money.
Join a deal by putting your dealers on either the left or right side of a deal. If you have deal dice showing X and Y, and you join on the left, you return X to the supply to gain Y, generally speaking, and vice-versa if you join on the right. If one of the dice is the Prestige Die, this changes: if you’re gaining from the Prestige Die, you must spend one money; if you’re spending the value on the Prestige Die, you gain one money. So that’s fun. Note that you do this every time you assign a Dealer to the left or right sides; you do not need another die on the other side to make this work.
If you’re creating a deal, you must follow player order. Move your token on the priority track to the back of the track and slide all the tokens up to fill the space. Now, create a deal by selecting two of the Deal Dice and placing them on one set of the empty column spaces. You may then participate in either side of the deal. If no sets of spaces are open, you cannot create a deal; you must join an existing deal or refuse to deal.
Note that if you go down to 0 money after using a die in this phase, you immediately go back up to 1 money, just like during the Manage Empire step.
After the deals have taken place, you may close any completed deals. A deal is considered complete if there are equal numbers of dice on both sides of the deal. When a deal is closed, dealers are returned to the Citizenry and players gain rewards on their side of the column for every dealer on that side of the column. If the deal is not closed, they advance one space towards the center after the Manage Empire Step. If the deal dice are already on the third space, they are returned to the center and players gain one Talent Counter for each die they had on either side of the deal. The dealers are then, unlike after a successful close, returned to the cups of their respective players; the deal was not closed successfully. This doesn’t mean you have to exchange assets back, though.
Once the game ends, return dealers on unexpired deals to your cup, for tie-breaker reasons, if you do that sort of thing.
The only real change here is that dice assigned to the $ phase can be Dealers or Researchers; your call. There are some ordering things that need to be noted:
- The Deal Dice should be rolled before the Orb Dice.
- Researchers returned to the Citizenry can be used as assets for a deal.
- Research and Deals can be completed in either order, one worker die at a time. A single die cannot be used for both.
Player Count Differences
Lots! One thing you’ll notice is that the Home Die from the two-player game has been upgraded to a Leader Die if you’re playing with any of the expansion content games, so you’ll see the Deal and Research Phases activate a fair bit. Note that you probably won’t see that happen in a three-player game, at least not initially; players, as far as I can tell, are somewhat reluctant to forego strategies that they already know well, so unless someone can prove to them that aggressively pushing the $ Phase will work in their favor, they won’t really use it that much. At higher player counts, you may see people start trying to use the $ Phase to benefit themselves, relying on other players to force phases that they specifically need. That’s to be expected, but it means right around 3P is where you’re going to see that $ used the least, in my opinion, until every player gets a fair bit of experience with it (which doesn’t happen a lot with the expansions I tend to play with). I’d say start at higher or lower player counts until you’re comfortable with the new additions, and then bring it back around to three players if that’s your preferred number. That’s been what we’ve been noticing with my play groups, at least. It’s not bad at three; you’re just much less likely to see the full spectrum of expansion content until all three players really intuitively understand how to play the game, which can be a while.
- Watch your player count. Similar to the base game, you’re going to want to spend some time figuring out what processes you can manipulate to your advantage. At higher player counts, you may be able to do some developing and settling without needing to force those phases yourself; instead, you can focus on producing and shipping (especially if you get lucky and other players force ship when you produce or vice-versa). This may still work at two players due to the extra random phase selections, too, so keep an eye out for that. If you can piggyback on other players forcing phases you need, you can force phases that only you benefit from, which is generally good.
- Settling is back in. Pioneer Dice are all about the Settle action; it’s on 4 / 6 faces! If you’re acquiring lots of those, it might be worth considering expanding your empire.
- Don’t be afraid to make deals. It’s like Catan; you want to make deals that other players are interested in participating in because any deal has to at least somewhat benefit you. If you’re not making deals and someone else is, you’re probably missing out on something. Plus, you can get Talent Counters, extra dice on worlds, and etc basically for free! That might activate additional downstream effects based on the worlds you have in your empire, which might be even better. It’s all worth keeping in mind.
- The Orb Game is useful, provided you invest early in your dice. You’re rolling that die every phase. If you just let it sit and don’t upgrade it, the best you’ll get are some reassign powers. If you work on getting the “gain two money” sides on your dice, for instance, you can very quickly convert dice back into your general pool, which can speed up your process. Just make sure you’re not overinvesting, too; you only have six faces on your die, right?
- As always, let your Faction and Home be your guide. There are some really cool new Factions; try them out! I had one that gave me money every Explore Phase for every Developer and Settler I had in my construction zone. That was a lot of fun, because it aggressively incentivized me going after high-value worlds! Another let me bum-rush the game because it gave me one money every time I completed a world, so I spent a lot of time completing a lot of small-value worlds. They both boost the Settle Rush game that’s not really as viable at higher player counts, and I appreciate it. But you need to be familiar with what your Faction Tile is recommending as a potential strategic avenue so that you can incorporate that into your strategy.
- Sometimes it’s best to complete your own deal. If you do, you get twice the benefits (of the deal closing), which is awesome, especially if the deal is almost fully mature. Worth considering!
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- It’s a lot of content. There’s new dice, new tiles, new starting tiles, new home worlds, and two new phases! That’s … a lot. It might be a bit too much, honestly, but it’s definitely a lot.
- The tiles look pretty great. I mean, I’ve actually always been a fan of the art but it looks nice and spacey.
- New dice are always exciting. I especially like the color, but also more Settle-focused dice are always welcome; at higher player counts that means you may potentially see the Settle strategy become more common relative to the Produce / Ship strategy. I’m always interested by the expansion of available strategic options in a game.
- Customizeable dice are always exciting. I personally like them a lot! Plus, with the included tools, they’re a lot easier to pop out than, say, Dice Forge. Just remember to set them up before your first game, otherwise you’re going to be doing that for a little while.
- I appreciate the new color-coded Player Screens. It’s nice to know which player is which, especially since that matters a bit for the Priority Board in the Deal Game. It’s not a huge thing, but it’s a nice touch.
- I’m a big fan of the new Faction Tiles. They add so many cool new strategies! I’ve been asking players if it’s okay for Review Testing Reasons if I just exclusively use new Faction Tiles and new Home Worlds when we play; they’ve been fine with it, so it’s been a lot of fun.
- There’s no real reason for the Deal Dice to be customizeable. I guess they’re more impressive if they’re larger, but you never change them, you have to set them up, and the faces can pop out? That’s a tiny bit annoying. One of mine also came with the wrong face, so I had to draw a new face onto it, which was a strange exercise in my poor art skills.
- You will have some games, especially when you first get it, that only see one or two deals created. People are unlikely to leverage things they don’t understand, as I mentioned previously, so you’ll probably not see too many deals springing up until players get comfortable with the many facets of the Rivalry expansion. That’s fineish, but you’d prefer to have an expansion engage players with the content from the start, so that you can tell if you like it or not out the gate, you know? Otherwise it may take you a while to figure out.
- This is really an expansion for enthusiasts. Nothing says you might be making a very complicated expansion better than a full-sized rulesheet aid for every player. The problem this creates is that it requires me to play this many times; first, I have to play enough that players understand the base game + Ambition, and only then can I introduce the Rivalry content, which slows down the review timetable. If I show it to a player who’s never tried Roll for the Galaxy, they will likely say (since at least one already did) that there are too many rules to learn relative to the payoff. That said, there’s a lot of stuff in this expansion that I like, so I think it’s eventually worth it; my problem is that I’d rather have an expansion like Ambition that fluidly integrates with the base game. I think that can be chalked up to a difference in expansion philosophy, though.
- Props to you if you can get everything to fit in the base game box. They added a lot of new stuff. I managed to do it once, but I’ll never get it again.
- An additional phase, especially with two separate outcomes, is a lot. It’s just a lot for new players to learn, but I imagine if the game is starting to feel a bit stale to you, this will definitely spice that up.
Overall: 8 / 10
So here’s the thing. I like Rivalry a lot, and I’m probably going to start using it from now on. The reason it’s not surging up my list of expansions really comes down to its weight for new players. It’s kind of heavier Roll for the Galaxy; it can extend the game, it adds extra phases, the phases are a lot to learn, and even then the game can be (and until this point was) pretty effectively played without them. Some of the disappointment you get with new players is that the phases feel a bit inessential. That said, that’s a problem that gets solved after multiple plays, as players figure out how to leverage those new phases to create new strategies and they figure out what to do with the new tiles and the new dice and the new interactions. The problem is, a lot of expansions have to start strong out of the gate, whereas I think this one needs a bit more time to heat up before you start seeing its true nature. Whether or not you’ll wait that long is up to you, but I’ll say I certainly enjoyed Roll for the Galaxy: Rivalry, and I’d definitely recommend it if you’re a big Roll for the Galaxy fan!