Thank you for checking review #93 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.
**Note: A review copy of the game was sent in exchange for an honest review.
An overview of Roll Player
Roll Player is a board game designed by Keith Matejka that is published by Thunderworks Games. The box states it plays 1-4 players in 60-90 minutes.
Mighty heroes don’t just appear out of thin air — you must create them! Race, class, alignment, skills, traits, and equipment are all elements of the perfect hero, who is ready to take on all opposition in the quest for glory and riches.
In Roll Player, you will compete to create the greatest fantasy adventurer who has ever lived, preparing your character to embark on an epic quest. Roll and draft dice to build up your character’s attributes. Purchase weapons and armor to outfit your hero. Train to gain skills and discover your hero’s traits to prepare them for their journey. Earn Reputation Stars by constructing the perfect character. The player with the greatest Reputation wins the game and will surely triumph over whatever nefarious plot lies ahead!
The “AI” system in this is really simple and intuitive, and it makes sense on how it functions. Sure, I wish it was a competitive player option to try and defeat but at least it takes the market and makes your drafting decision on the dice matter: do you take the lowest value rolled to make certain you can purchase the card you need from the market? Do you take the best die to round out a needed attribute score and risk losing the market card you’d benefit from the most? Maybe you go for the middle one, getting some money and accepting the 50% chance that the market remains in-tact. The answer, surprisingly, is different from round to round.
This game is surprisingly fast to get to the table. Setup takes a matter of minutes, the only long part comes from taking out a few cards from each half of the Market deck – assuming you do not consider the rolling and placement of your six starting dice as part of setup (I wouldn’t, since you are making game-critical decisions at that point). This is a game that comes in a big box but can get to the table with ease due to the quick setup and teardown time.
Every game is going to play out a little differently, because you’ll have a different race, class, alignment, and backstory card combination. So you will have different goals in terms of stat scores, dice placement, and more depending on what you are given to start the game. I appreciate the shifting focus, so that a prevalent “always go after X” strategy does not really occur. Plus with the removal of 14 cards from the Market each game, you can never bank on those to pan out, either.
There are a lot more ways to mitigate dice rolls, or use poor ones to your advantage, than you might anticipate from a game with so much rolling of dice. That was quite the pleasant surprise, with there being a ton of manipulation through placement in each stat line, along with a bunch of market cards that can help to either use more manipulation or potentially reward you for having a stat or two in a lower threshold.
Gameplay is highly addictive. I received a wave of games for the Spring of Solitaire series, and since the first play I always pause long to consider pulling this one out – again – when I am looking at games to play. Coupled with intuitive rules, a moderate table presence, and a quick setup/teardown, this is a game that is bound to get repeat plays both solo and with others.
This game suffers from the opposite of what I feared to find in a game like Call to Adventure. I imagined this was a game with mediocre mechanics (because I’m inherently biased that way toward dice games, if I’m honest) and a theme that sounded cool in practice but required a lot of open imagination from the player to be great. And while you could argue about the theme being replaceable, all of the elements in here certainly make you feel like you are crafting a D&D Character – except I never rolled those great of stats across the board. And the mechanics are, surprisingly, what makes this game stand out.
While there are ample ways to manipulate dice in the game, it still boils down to being a dice game and having several other elements of chance that can impact your score: the set collections in the market, since you cannot be guaranteed all of them will come out, and what color dice are pulled each round. Need a blue die in the final three rounds to finish your backstory? Tough luck unless a blue die is pulled from the bag – of which you have 9 “chances” it will be blue and not one of the other five colors. The point difference between all 6 on the backstory and only 4-5 can be huge – and it is often those final ones that are the hardest to nail down.
The solo game is a beat-your-high-score style of solo game. I usually loathe those and avoid repeat plays, but this one has a strong enough set of mechanics and fun to make me want to revisit it. Yet that will eventually wear thin, making the game destined to be one I pull out from time to time but never really a staple in the rotation. I hear the expansion cranks up the solo experience and adds a win/loss, among other aspects, and so there is no doubt I will be picking that up in the near future to enhance the Roll Player experience.
I want a little more variety in here. More market cards – although 7 of each half are removed at the start of the game in a solo play. Backstory cards that might dictate 2-3 of the colors in some attributes and none in others. Attribute goals that have some middling and/or low stats rather than all 14 or higher goals. Alignment cards that let you trigger an attribute ability at the end of the game instead of scoring points. Wanting more stuff isn’t necessarily a bad thing – by wanting more it is clear I enjoy the game, but I fear it will get stale with just the base game after a dozen plays or less.
There are a lot of things about Roll Player that, on paper, should turn me off from the game. I am not a fan of dice rolling – although there is drafting from the rolled dice here. I am definitely not a fan of “beat your high score” solitaire modes. I played the “close kin” game, Sagrada, once as a multiplayer game and it didn’t impress me and, therefore, I sort of ignored all of the buzz around Roll Player. I figured it wouldn’t be my kind of game.
I could not have been more wrong. While this is still not a perfect solo game for me, it was one of my early favorites among the review copies secured for the Spring of Solitaire. Not only that, but it sounds like the expansion adds everything I would want to see in the solo game to crank it up into an experience more in-line with what I would typically enjoy.
This game offers a lot of fun and interesting decisions. Yes, there are times when the dice can place you into situations that are not ideal, but there are so many ways to adjust and mitigate and adapt to those situations to where it never feels like a factor. Sure, you might get into a spot where you need a specific color and/or number rolled in the final turn or two – but careful preplanning can help make it so you aren’t painted into that corner or, at the very least, where only a point or two hangs in the balance.
With so much variety in setup between the player board, class, and alignment it helps every game feel fresh. I wish the market had more variety of cards – although you do take out 7 cards from each half as part of setup. I understand it is balanced to make it possible to collect full sets of armor, but I’d rather have the strong variety making you try to capitalize on what comes out rather than hold out for a specific card or combo. That remains my biggest nitpick with the game, beyond the desire to have something more than a high score system (which the expansion corrects!)
Roll Player is near perfect for what it sets out to be. This game is super quick to set up and tear down, and I can clock in a full game – from box to table to box again – in about 30-40 minutes. That is an outstanding gameplay time for a game that delivers a meaty enough experience to not feel like a filler game. This is also one that I have high hopes that my wife will enjoy, making it the rare dice game we both like to get to the table on occasion. If so, it will be in good company alongside The Castles of Burgundy in that category on our shelf. The fact that I hope, and expect, it to reach the same “status” as that Feld masterpiece should tell you a lot about how I feel about Roll Player, and it will only get better with expansions.