[ This post originally appeared as an article in Game Nite Magazine # 15 ]
Roll Player is a dice drafting and manipulation game for 1-4 players from Thunderworks Games. Designed by Keith Matejka, players create RPG characters with the usual tropes of stats: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. Class, Skills, Alignment, Traits and Equipment cards can also add complexity during play as well as scoring opportunities.
To start, choose a player board; this establishes your race i.e. Dwarf, Human, Orc, Elf, et cetera. Next, randomly assign yourself a doubled-sided class card. This establishes what profession your character will be: a rogue, monk, wizard, cleric, druid, and so on. Each class has different stat requirements that score reputation stars (victory points) based on the total pip value of dice in that stat’s row. Additionally, the card lists a special ability that can have an ongoing or a once per round effect. A random alignment card is placed on your home board with a cube that tracks whether you are good or evil; lawful or chaotic. This is not only a way to score more points but also used to enable certain special skills that you may acquire. A backstory card is also randomly chosen. This card sets up your pre-game history with some flavor text to give you some insight into your character and displays how additional points can be scored.
To start the game, take 6 random dice form the bag and roll them. Then place them on your board in whatever stat rows you’d like as long as you place dice all the way to the left. In other words you can’t put dice in random places like the middle of the far right side of a row. You’ll also start with 5 gold. Initiative cards numbered 1 through 3 are each placed above three Market cards. Then, three random dice from the bag are rolled and placed from least to greatest (ties are arranged by player choice) one on each of three initiative cards – the number two card also has one gold on it.
At the beginning of each round you will take a die. If you select the first card, the AI will not take any cards in the Market. If you take the second die, you will get a gold but the AI will roll 1d6. A 1, 2, or 3 will trash (destroy) its associated card (a 4-6 does nothing). If you take the third die, a 1/2 will destroy the first card, 3/4 the second and a 5/6 will destroy the last card.
Once you have placed your die on your player board you have the option of discarding a Market card, if you are not interested in buying one, which gains you 2 gold. Otherwise, you purchase one of the remaining cards by paying its gold cost. Skill cards, which can be used at anytime during the game, can only be activated if you can move your alignment cube as indicated by the arrow on the card. If you can’t move it, you can’t use it. If the arrow is next to its cost then, if possible, you must move your alignment cube as indicated when purchased. Weapons and armor cards may also be available to strengthen your character but only one Market card may be purchased each round.
The other two dice are put back into the bag, the left most card is discarded and any other remaining are destroyed and therefore removed from the game. You replenish the Market, roll and add three more dice to the initiative cards with no more than one gold on the 2nd card, and continue with the next round. Each time you place a die in a particular row you activate that stats’ special ability as indicated. Abilities may allow you to re-roll a die, switch dice around, flip one to its opposite side, or shift your alignment cube. Once a row is complete, you will also gain a gold and when your player board is completely filled with all 18 dice, the game ends and you calculate your final score.
This game in a word is fantastic! It’s a great puzzly, solo experience as you decide which die you should take to get your stats where they need to be. The obvious choices are high valued dice, however there are trait cards that allow you to have a low valued stat and still gain points. Skill cards, although affect your alignment, gain you valuable ways to adjust your dice. Although Roll Player can seem a bit random, there are some interesting decisions to be made as to when you should bail out of trying to hit 17+ on your strength and utilize a trait card to get 8 or less, for example. Armor cards allow for a set collection element. There are limitations on how many weapons you can carry. (After all, you only have two hands.) Dice colors that match your class gain you additional points and gold dice give you one gold each time you place them.
The game has its critics wishing there was more than just creating a character or that it’s too random, but then again it is a dice game. At game’s end you have an RPG character with a backstory, completed stats, special skills and equipment ready to go on an adventure. But that’s it – no more. Enter the next Kickstarter! A campaign is in the works by the publisher that will add a module to the game where your completed character will battle a beast or monster! I, for one, cannot wait for this added gameplay.
There are lots of opportunities to score, and Roll Player has just enough in game crunchiness that makes the game a little “thinky” but also allows it to be played really fast. I don’t think you will play one game and put it away. Many games can be played in one session as you try different boards, classes, backstories and alignments – the possibilities are endless.