#649 – Roar and Write! [Preview]

Box

Base price: $19.
1+ players.
Play time: 15 – 20 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Check it out on Kickstarter! (Will update link when Kickstarter is live.)
Logged plays: 4 

Full disclosure: A preview copy of Roar and Write was provided by Galactic Raptor Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game. The dice are from Roll Player, though; they worked better with the photography I wanted to do.

It’s gonna be a Kickstarter-heavy slide for a little while. I had Intrepid last week, Roar and Write this week, and even more for the next few weeks. Who knows where we’ll end up? I was excited to check this one out, though; I loved Animal Kingdoms, and any game that purports to be in the same general vicinity is definitely one that I want to check out. Let’s launch into it and see what Roar and Write has to offer.

In Roar and Write, you are once again try to make a name for yourself in these various animal kingdoms. By making offerings to the Animal Council, you hope to cement a position of favor for yourself and ultimately claim one or more kingdoms as your own. But be careful! Your opponents have their own plans and agendas, so hopefully your strategy (and your luck) play out. Will you be able to become the next monarch of these lands?

Contents

Setup

Very little, which is how I like it. Give each player a score sheet:

Player Sheets

And assign them a Personal Agenda:

Personal Agenda

Set aside the dice:

Dice

And then lay out one of each of the Council Member Animal types, depending on your Desired Difficulty:

Animals

  • Easy: Red Panda, Okapi, Tiger, Frog, Wolf
  • Medium: Red Panda, Okapi, Lizard, Frog, Wolf
  • Hard: Red Panda, Tiger, Lizard, Frog, Wolf

Once you’ve done that, you should be ready to start!

Setup

Gameplay

Gameplay 0

A game of Roar and Write is played over five rounds. In each round, you will provide offerings to the Animal Council and place advisers in the various kingdoms in the hopes of earning a place for yourself among their ranks. How do you accomplish that? Let’s find out.

Gameplay 1

Each round has three turns, taken at the same time by all players. The dice are rolled to start a turn, and then players may assign any or all of the dice to empty spaces in the round’s Council Offerings row. To assign a value, write it in one of the empty boxes. Each turn, you may also assign an unused die value to one of the Kingdoms on your player sheet, following the rules for that Kingdom. If you would like to assign more dice to Kingdoms, you may, but you must write an X in an empty Council Offerings space per extra die used to do so. Note that this means if your Council Offerings are full, you cannot add more than the one unused die you’re normally allowed to add each turn.

Over the course of the round, you may fill up your Council Offerings (on either Turn 1, Turn 2, or Turn 3). When you do, circle the corresponding Early Appeasement Bonus (4 / 2 / 0) and you’ll stop filling your Council Offerings for the rest of the round. You’re still entitled to place one unused die in a Kingdom each turn (and since you can’t use any more for Council Offerings, they’re … all unused, now). After three turns, the round ends.

Gameplay 2

Now, move on to Appeasement. Choose one of the five Animals on the Council and score their bonus. Do the scoring work on your player sheet, and move on to the next round!

Gameplay 4

After five rounds, the game ends. Calculate your score (don’t forget your Personal Agenda!) and gain bonus points for each different Council Member you appeased during the game. If you completed Kingdoms, score their bonuses as well, and the player with the most points wins!

Player Count Differences

None, effectively. The game has no real player interaction, so as long as you have sufficient Personal Agendas for the players, you can scale this effectively infinitely (which I assume is part of the design). I do appreciate that this game doesn’t use the “race to some condition” scoring that a lot of the highly-scalable roll-and-write-style games use, though. I find that large games are unwieldy, but, if someone else is coordinating it I think I would have no problem playing this at any player count.

Strategy

  • For most cards, you’re going to want to roll a lot of the same number. Many cards reward multiple of the same number, be it “numbers that add to 6” (6s are great), odd Triples (several of the same number are great), five of a kind (sorta self-explanatory), or others. There’s not much to the strategy idea of “you should roll multiple of the same value”, but you should be aware that that is often going to be what you want and try to set yourself up for success.
  • Keep in mind that it may be worth foregoing the end-of-game bonus for using different animals if you can get enough points from other means. Certain cards give you 18 points if you completely fill their condition, which, 18 * 5 + ~19 or so from Kingdoms and other stuff is still 109, which is better than I’ve ever scored. It may be worth doing that for a few rounds in lieu of getting too invested in taking a diverse set of Animal Councilmembers that would give you fewer overall points? It mostly checks out.
  • Don’t completely ignore your Personal Agenda, but similarly, you may find it more prudent to spend your dice elsewhere. I’ve found that the Uniques rely a bit on getting the right number set up against what the Animals are looking for. If they align, you can get more points. If they don’t align, well, then you have to decide which option is more valuable to you. Often, it’s not the Personal Agenda, but that’s definitely something you gotta evaluate.
  • There are definitely some cards that will let you try and score more points on Kingdoms, if you get the right dice. Specifically the cards that only require four of a kind or five of a kind, those will give you potential extra spots for adding dice to Kingdoms. Just make sure you actually have the right dice to correspond to what you need to the various Kingdoms.
  • You do want to try to keep your options open for certain Kingdoms. It’s often hard if you’re trying to take a ton of 1s or 6s to start the increasing or decreasing sequences. Try to make sure that you’re not spreading yourself too thin, though; you get at least 15 total placements for Kingdoms, but not many more than that, so, don’t place in all Kingdoms. You’re not going to get to score all of them.
  • It’s rare to fill out your Council Offerings on your first turn, but if you think it’s worth the extra four points to do so, it’s not entirely unheard of. You can occasionally get an extremely fortuitous roll on the first roll of the round, but, frankly, if that happens everyone’s going to take it, so it really does nothing for you strategically?
  • Don’t forget, though: even if you fill out your Council Offerings on the first or second turn, you do still get the one die allotment for a Kingdom on each dice roll. This is something that folks miss during games and it can lead to a big chunk of points lost if you don’t land your Kingdoms right.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Gameplay 3

Pros

  • Still love the art. It’s mostly kept from Animal Kingdoms, but, it continues to look great. I would like to see some new art in the same style, but, I think that’s mostly because I think it’s really good?
  • The player boards are extremely nice, as well. And this is a preview copy! I think they could stand to be bigger, but beyond that, it’s a well-laid-out player board. I think you’re going to see some confusion around “Round Prestige” and the two totals on the right side, but that’s mostly because I think in folks’ first games they’re not going to get much in the way of Early Appeasement.
  • I like the variable setups, as well. I’m always a fan of having variable setups in games just to make the individual games feel more dynamic. I’d say (and I’m going to note later) that I’m not sure these are all that variable, but, they’ve got some high points for sure.
  • Personal agendas do an okay job of disincentivizing players writing the same thing every time. I think it’s possible to somewhat / partially ignore them, but they are a quick and simple way to attempt that level of differentiation.
  • Plays quickly. Pretty short; it’s only 15 dice rolls. You can get through that in about 20 minutes or so.
  • Not too tough to learn. You’re essentially just pressing your luck to try and match patterns recommended by the Animal Cards you drew at the start of the game. The patterns themselves aren’t that tricky, either, so it shouldn’t be as challenging as more complex roll-and-write entries.
  • Can be played remotely pretty easily. You just need players who can see the cards and see the dice and you’re basically good to go. You can even roll the dice online, if you want.
  • I can see some of the structural links between this and Animal Kingdoms, but I’d love to see more. It feels somewhat similar, but I think that link could be strengthened with the right additional connections. More varied animals might go a long way towards that.
  • The Missions are a nice additional challenge. They’re pretty tough! Not sure how to really crack Mission 5, but, should be a fun challenge for folks that enjoy solo challenges.

Mehs

  • People are going to mess up the “one die per round may be placed in a Kingdom” rule pretty often. I’ve messed it up, talked to friends that have messed it up, and hopefully the rulebook is gonna be a bit more clear about it. Fairly common error, just because people assume that once they’ve filled their Council Offerings they can put all the dice they don’t use in Kingdoms, which isn’t quite right.
  • It would be nice to see variable Kingdoms. I think this would really help sell the links between this and Animal Kingdoms. Currently, it has some similarities, but having a wider variety of Kingdoms would really improve that link and make it feel more cohesive, in my opinion.
  • If you’re looking for player interaction, this game has little to none. That’s not that big of a deal for me, but I figured I’d note it for folks who care about that sort of thing. You have no way to influence another players’ dice outcomes.

Cons

  • A lot of the cards (and Personal Agendas) incentivize just getting a bunch of one number, which works for the press-your-luck element but makes the game feel like you really just want six of any number. This is kind of the problem with a lot of potential combinations of Animals; if you get one that looks for 4s, one that looks for 6s, one that wants triples of even numbers, one that rewards groups of the same number and one that wants five of a kind, well, you want to roll a lot of 4s and 6s. Even more so if your Personal Agenda matches (or doesn’t match) those cards — it means you’re getting a few free points if the dice rolls swing your way. It makes the games feel a bit less interesting when that happens, as now players are all banking on the same dice rolls (generally) coming up and it’s essentially just a staring contest to see who blinks first and takes a lower-scoring Council card. I think this is a problem that could be solved by a wider variety of Animal Cards, especially ones that are more similar to the original Animal Kingdoms (+1 / -1, Increasing / Decreasing, stuff like that). It seems like a lot of the reason that wasn’t done was due to the problem of, like, how do you order the dice if you want to do something like +1 / -1, but I’d love to see more variety so that I’m not always just hoping for six of one number.

Overall: 7.75 / 10

In Progress

Overall, I think Roar and Write is pretty fun! My major concern, at this point, is the number of scenarios in which just rolling Lots Of The Same Number is the way to go. It doesn’t happen every game, but given that there are lots of points for going that route, it’s often pretty good if you can swing it, but it requires some pretty lucky dice rolls to make it work. I think if there were more variety to those scenarios rather than just being “Roll to Make X” or “Roll X”, I might be inclined to bump this score up a fair bit. It would be interesting to see what possibilities emerge! What it does have going for it is great art, a fantastic looking player board (though I hope the final one is a bit larger), and a quick and simple gameplay pipeline that plays well both in-person and remotely. Helpfully, it’s easy to learn solo and then teach because there’s no difference between the solo game and the multiplayer game. If you’re looking for a fun companion game to Animal Kingdoms that scales really well, or you just want more of its great art in your life, I’d recommend Roar and Write! I had a bunch of fun with it.


If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!

One thought on “#649 – Roar and Write! [Preview]

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