Full disclosure: A review copy of Roll in One was provided by Randy O’Connor.
It’s always the most productive nights where I’m really on when I suddenly get super tired and need to stop writing and sleep. Cruel cycle, probably. I got very little writing done, today, since sometimes you just don’t feel like writing, but around 11PM, I really just got into the zone and wrote a full review and some change. Unfortunately, we’re trending towards 1AM and I have work in the morning, so this is likely the last bit of the review I’ll be writing. It’s not done, but by the time you read this, it will be! The magic of editing. Either way, we’ve got a game that was crowdfunded a bit ago: Roll in One! I have a small, known weakness for golf-themed games, so I couldn’t say no. Let’s see how it plays!
In Roll in One, Lucky Links Municipal Golf Course is open for business and you’re ready to tee off! Play each hole with care and get your entire golf group involved to chip, drive, and putt your way to golf superstardom! Be careful; you’ve picked up some tricks as you’ve learned how to golf, but your friends have, as well. No telling what they can do in a real game. And the course isn’t exactly friendly, either; it’s got hazards in weird places, turns and curves you couldn’t account for, and who placed that green? Impossible to say. Will you be able to nab the lowest score? Or will you end up with a dreaded bogey?
Easy to start. Give each player a golf ball token:
Then, deal them a Golfer:
Also give them three Caddy Cards:
They can look at them before starting the first hole. Set the dice aside, for now:
You can also place the penalty cubes nearby. You don’t really want them, anyways.
Take out the tile pieces, and give them to the first player:
They should build a hole! Make sure to add the green somewhere. Try to only use 2 – 4 boards, but if you really want to make a long hole, I guess nobody can stop you. Once they’ve built one, you’re ready to start!
It’s golf! The game! Or, a dice game that’s a reasonable approximation of golf. So let’s get into it. A game of Roll in One is played over as many holes as there are players. At the end of a hole, each player gets an additional Caddy Card and the next player in clockwise order from the start player builds a new hole and you go again. As with standard golf, lowest score across all holes wins!
To start a turn, pick a die. Each one has different values, sometimes dots or triangles, and occasionally, some curves. Once you choose a die, point your ball in a direction and get to it. You cannot (with one Golfer exception) change the die you’re choosing to roll once you start rolling; it’s your club! Now, roll the die. You keep rolling until you stop or go out of bounds. If you roll a number, it must be higher than the previous number, otherwise you stop rolling and stop on the space you’re on. If you roll a triangle, you advance one space (unless you’re on a tree space; then you stop). Rolling dots lets you move that many dots forward, then stop. Curves let you change the direction of your ball! There’s a lot to do.
If you go off the edge of the board or land in the water, you get a penalty token! Otherwise, your turn ends and the next player gets to go. If you land on another player’s ball, you push it one space forward in the direction you were headed, or stack your ball tokens if you would push them out of bounds. This can land an opponent in the water (or, as we found out annoyingly, in the hole), so have fun with that. At any point on your turn, you can use a Caddy Card! If you want to play a nastier game, you can get every player to agree and then you can use Caddy Cards on anyone’s turn, but it will make the game mean. You’ve been warned.
Once a player lands on the green space, they’ve made it in! Finish the round so that all players get an equal number of turns, and then players score! The player who made it in the hole gets a 0, and each player scores 1 point for each player closer to the green than them (including players who made it into the hole). Then, add 1 point to your score for each penalty you got. That’s your hole score!
At the end of the holes, the player with the lowest score wins!
Player Count Differences
The big difference is one of our favorite common culprits: more players makes the game take longer! Yes, indeed, we’re back to the places that you’ve come to fear the most. This isn’t particularly surprising: each player builds a hole, and all players play it. So with three players, you have nine total player + course combos; with five players, you have twenty-five. It almost triples. There are ways to account for this (with higher player counts, have each player build smaller courses, for instance), but it does kind of push the playtime up to the point where I’m more commonly looking towards, say, two players. Here, it’s a duel, I don’t have to worry too much about understanding a bunch of player powers, and it’s almost always my turn. What’s not to like? I wouldn’t say that the game is made worse with more players, but the increase in playtime with player count is usually enough for me to keep games to the lower end of the player count spectrum.
- The rules booklet gives you a pretty good estimate of how many spaces a die will let you hit. Use that to your advantage. When we talk about dice rolling, we talk about expected value a bunch! It’s essentially the probability of any particular roll times the roll’s value. Add those probabilities together and you get what roll you can expect from rolling the dice! It’s sort of how the expected value of a six-sided die is 3.5. You’ll never roll one, but that’s sort of the average value you can get from a roll. Here, the rules booklet tells you a loosely similar idea. Rather than giving you the expected value, it applies your expected roll and gives you an expected distance for that die. Don’t take a putter if you want to go the distance, and don’t drive the ball when you’re right next to the green! Get a good sense of how far you need to hit the ball and choose
- There are a lot of Caddy Cards. Use them to your advantage. You can do all sorts of things! Curve the ball, stop it, keep going, reroll, you name it. Try and hold on to certain cards to optimize for certain behaviors, or keep a hold of a Lucky Bounce so that you can avoid plunging directly into the water or out of bounds.
- Similarly, lean into your Golfer ability. It’s the only major distinguishing factor between you and other players, so, make sure that you’re taking advantage of it at least once per hole. If not, then you’re going to end up playing at a minor disadvantage.
- Sometimes the most direct route isn’t the fastest one; watch out for hazards on the course. If you go in a straight line, you may risk running into sand traps, water hazards, or getting stuck in the trees. Chart a path that works with your abilities and Caddy Cards so that you can get to the hole quickest. Also, be somewhat discerning about which club you choose. While the biggest club can get you the farthest, it also is most likely to get you stuck in the trees.
- Choose your club based on where you’re starting. Super recommend against picking the d20 when you’re in the trees; you’re likely to just get stuck again. If you’re starting close to the green, pick the putter. Also, keep in mind that you don’t want to pick a club that can leave a lot of things to chance. If you’re looking to curve, get one of the clubs with curve options. It’s straightforward, but the right club is going to take you places.
- Sometimes you’re just gonna need to crush the ball some distance, and that’s where a d20 won’t let you down. It will hit very far, but be careful! The ball might go farther than you want. If you’re on a straightaway (and especially one with no trees), then the d20 can get you there with its abundance of triangles. I have had a bad experience (rolled the 10 on the d20 in a sand trap, which got me nowhere), but that’s a pretty rare occurrence.
- You get to go first on the course you build, so make sure it plays to your strengths and not to your opponents’. You know your Golfer ability, so, make sure the hole makes use of it! Good at curves? Make a very windy hole. Able to follow players who hit over your head? Make a straight shot to the green. You get to twist the circumstances to your advantage when you build a hole, so make sure the hole you build is right for you.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Very cute concept. I’m a mini-golf man, at heart, so any game that takes the golf experience that I find a little dry and packages it into a smaller experience is right up my alley. Granted, I would love if it had more of a dexterity component, but then it would just be Mars Open, and I’m glad every game isn’t just the same game that already exists.
- I really like the variety of dice available. More fun dice types! It’s nice to have to think about different varieties of dice types and how they work, relative to the shot that you want to take. There’s a lot going on with each one! Plus, it’s really fun to roll things that aren’t necessarily d6s. Six-sided dice are fun and all, but they’re … very common. So it’s nice to shake things up a bit!
- Building the course is a lot of fun, and I appreciate that there are variations on each side of the tile.
- It’s very fun to Mars Open Tabletop Golf-commentary other players’ turns, or even just narrate them so that everyone has a good sense of what the progression is like. I like a bit of soft golf commentary during games. I think it’s always welcome. I’m not sure if anyone else agrees, but a few other people tried their hand at it during the game, so I’m going to lean positive. Either way, it’s useful to list the numbers as they’re rolled to keep track for everyone, and it’s fun to make it kind of an exciting thing as players roll.
- The art is very pleasant. It’s a nice, clean look, and the animals are jovial and brightly-colored. It looks about how you’d expect, and I think that’s solid.
- I think that the way that the game represents a golf shot’s variable distance is a little brilliant, to be honest. It’s kind of the crux of the game, and it works so well! You’ve got a decent sense of how far your shot is going to go (unless you’re starting in a sand trap or you’re starting in some trees), and I think the tension of not really knowing if you’re going to overshoot or undershoot or forcibly curve if you’re using certain dice is really fun and interesting. I particularly like that only certain shots can curve, for instance, or that even the putter can choke on you and overshoot the hole by a bit.
- Lots of fun variants, here, too. There are a lot of different ways to play in the rulebook! It kind of has that Kickstarter game-thing where there’s just … a bunch. I covered the main game in my review, but there are a lot more to piece through in the rules!
- I think that the game accurately captures the frustration of a truly bad shot, which I’m impressed and vexed by. This is mostly positive, but still frustrating, so it goes into the Mehs. My favorite terrible shot is when you’re going, going, going, going, out of bounds. It’s absolutely crushing to watch the ball just drift off into the night with nothing you can do about it. Hilarious to watch, but also, that’s dice for you, so if you don’t like relying on dice, well, this may not be your game.
- Some suggested courses could have been cool. I’m actually a bit surprised by this one? The rulebook has some possible courses built for examples, but I figure it’s nice to have some options for players who are either less creative or just not feeling it. Plus, particularly excellent courses can get fun names or enshrined in the rulebook. Maybe a spot on the website? It’s all worth considering.
- I usually side-eye any game that has an extremely wide time range for how long it takes to play. Here, it’s justified, but still belies a larger problem: the game balloons in length with additional players, since each player gets to construct a hole and then everyone plays it. I think it just makes the game harder to pin down in terms of player expectations. When folks I play with are looking for a game, they’re generally wondering within a tight bound how long the game will take. This might be a lighter game (15 – 20m), a longish game (~60m) or a very long game (90m+). Those aren’t the only bounds, but those are some general areas. Games that tend to straddle several of those boundaries are difficult to find good spots for, since folks aren’t necessarily sure how long the game will take to play with their group. To counter this, some games list times like 30m / player (Arnak, for instance, does this), which makes it much easier to come up with a bound based on the group you have. I’d have liked to see something like that, here, since more players just makes the game take longer in the main playstyle. It’s not worse, just longer.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised by Roll in One! I’m a sucker for a little golfing game, to be sure, given my well-known love of mini golf, but this is even minier! I thought that what was going to get me was being able to build complex holes, and, granted, it’s extremely fun, but I’m actually pretty impressed with the game mechanically, as well? I think it’s a very smart design for a quick-and-simple golf game. You roll the die, and you keep rolling until you roll a number that’s the same as or lower than your highest rolled number this turn. It encodes all the variables that can go into a golf swing (even random hooks or slices) as a bit of dice play, and that’s extremely clever. I really like it. My one complaint is that I think the engaging part of the game adds a lot of unbounded time to the playtime, because with five players, and every player building a course, the game can take a while. I’m actually a bit surprised that some suggested hole designs didn’t come with the game, just to give players some imagination room. Granted, there are some examples of play, so one could just use those as hole designs, but having a list of recommended holes would give players some place to start. Even featuring some cool ones on the website, maybe? I know Mars Open did it, and it was definitely a good move, there. That said, I think Roll in One plays well to its strengths, in that it’s fun, bright, colorful, and engaging, and I’ll admit; I’m a bit taken with the game. I’ll probably keep it around. If you’re looking for a quick-and-simple golfing game or you just like rolling a variety of dice, I’d recommend Roll in One! I quite enjoyed 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!