Roll Player Review (with Monsters and Minions expansion)
RPG players are no strange with character creations, it has been an integral part of the gaming experience. But for those who are not, character creation is an early phase of role playing game where the players create their characters from scratch based on several attributes and features that will determine their characters stats when playing the game. At a glance it starts out as a necessity before performing the game but in reality and closer look it has deep and special meaning for the players. It offers certain values to the process that players really enjoy doing it before their long gaming journey. Now Keith Matejka (the game designer, if it’s not that obvious) tries to materialize that feeling into something more solid in his game Roll Player. I found the title is kinda catchy and a clever use pun. Role was changed to Roll which also relates to the use of dice in the game.
In Roll Players, players will create their characters as good as they can in order to achieve its objectives and other things that will generate points at the end of the game. It certainly provides interesting take on many elements that seemed as obstinately necessities within the game. The game starts with the preparation of one’s identifications from racial choices, classes, alignments back stories and even gender (male or female, for such thing matters to some people). You can find the regular choices that usually found on fantasy role playing games. Okay, I skipped that part, the game was focusing on fantasy genre role playing game. So you can find races such as Human, Elf, Orc and Halfling in the base game. But there are more irregular choices with the expansion such as Wrathborn (demon), Construct, Dark Elf, Dragonkin and etc. Classes also have the same approach where Wizard, Barbarian, Thief and Bard fall into regular choices and can found more irregular choices from the expansion as well. While race provides certain modifier into one or more attributes, Class provides the attribute goals that players need to achieve and also special ability that its character can do, along with it’s color affiliation (dice color) that will make sense later in the game.
Basically in this game players try to fill their character attribute slots with dice (colorful dice) which will be tallied into total for each attribute row and check if it meets the objective or not. There are 18 slots in the game, where based on number of players there will be starting dice to allocate before starting the game. So number of rounds are fixed based on how many dice are needed to fill the empty slots. Each round, players will draft dice from the bag based on number of players plus one. The first player will draw them from the bag in random and roll the dice. Then sort them out in ascending order on the initiative cards. Starting from the first player in clockwise order, each player choose one die along with its initiative card. The die then must be allocated immediately to one of the attributes from left to right direction and may take the corresponding action related to its attribute. After players have done so, based on the initiative order, players take a Market action, whether they buy one card or decide to discard one to get 2 coins. Players may buy one card from the display row by paying the cost listed on the card and add it to the space around their board depends on its type (Skill, Armor, Weapon or Traits). At the end of their turn, they can refresh one Skill card of their choice. Pass the first player marker to the player on the left of the first player and begins a new round until all slots are filled.
Aside from getting the goals done, there also a pattern for dice allocation where the dice color matters from the back story card. Allocating dice of certain color in certain position will get glory points at the end of the game based on how many dice are matched. In addition, each die of the class color will give that player one additional point at the end of the game. Some Trait and Weapon cards can give players more points from set collection. The true heart of the game on this game is the puzzle element that the dice manipulation presents. In short, players need to get dice, fill them in their attribute slots and make those dice contribute on the attribute goals by manipulate them with actions. Set off from the dice rolling / drafting element, players will usually not getting what they want throughout the game, mostly the pip value, then the dice color and cards they want because of certain things like turn and initiative order. So there are actions provided by attributes to manipulate the dice on attribute slots. With Strength attribute players can flip one die value to its opposite side. This action is very useful to turn big into small pip and vice versa. So getting a small value die is not a bad idea as long as you include it in your plan to flip it if you need big number. But of course it’s possible that what you really need is smaller number. Another action is to swap or exchange the position of 2 dice from the player’s board. This gives players flexibilities in allocating dice and also in order to match the dice color to back story card. Players sometime need certain colors in certain time, this timing restriction can be solved with this action. There are also actions that let players to add or reduce the pip value by one, let players to re-roll one die of their choice, let players to shift their alignment one space and gives a discount token to be spent in the market. Once all the slots are filled with dice, the game ends and players tally up their points based on what I already described above, attribute goals, class color dice, alignment card, backstory, traits and armors. Player with the highest points wins the game.
First of all before I continue this review, one small note; that my review is based on the Kickstarter copy of the game along with the Monster and Minions expansion, so with that in mind, there will be component differences from the retail version.
I had an eye for this game since the first time they put it on BGG. It was open for Pre-Order directly from the publisher site (Thunderworks Games) but I was hesitate to go on since the shipping cost and pre-ordering straight from publisher isn’t really something I am used to (aside from What’s Your Games?). So I skipped that chance and then the game was hard to find, out of print everywhere. Until they decide to launch its expansion (Monsters and Minions) on the Kickstarter and I immediately jumped into the wagon. I also got metal coins and Frogkin promo board from the add-ons offered from the pledge manager. It was arrived a bit late than what I had expected since the base game (retail) was available way before my Kickstarter copy arrived. But I did not disappointed since the game was not much of a hype in my country at that time (also maybe up to now) compared with Sagrada (why Sagrada? Well, just read on…)
When I received the game, it was two boxes, one base and one expansion. Same dimension except the depth. The expansion box depth is halved from the base box. I like how the boxes look, it has black background with strong and vibrant character illustrations. Briefly you can feel the dark yet exclusive box. The base game I got is pretty heavy (of course it’s heavy, the box is fully packed with lots of components and they’re all from card boards and dice). The boards are thick and the card’s quality is very good (though it’s not linen finished). Love the dice, very solid and chunky (thankfully they did not use smaller size dice) though with pointy corners, it’s kinda hard to roll them (as oppose to rounded corner dice) but it’s just a very minor gripe. The tokens are good, and I did add metal coins, which provide two denominations unlike the card board coins. The card illustrations are amazing, full of vibrant colors which work well with black background or dark tone of the game. It was one of those moment where I just satisfied on how the illustrations really set the mood for the game.
The Monsters and Minions expansion does give significant amount of components to the base game, with as many as race boards as the base, additional set of color dice, boost dice (mist opaque dice) and combat dice, huge first player wooden marker, XP cubes and more cards (oversized Monster card and new minion cards aside from variation of the existing class, alignment and backstory cards) with additional adventure deck for each monster that gives additional layer of objectives during the game.
So the expansion gives the game another mile walk and a sense of purpose into the base game. As you already know that the game is about creating characters in Role Playing Game, the expansion gives the creation, a purpose to it. The expansion as it title suggests, introduces Monsters and Minions into the game, where players will have to battle the chosen monster (out of many) with their characters at the end of the game. But that’s not just it, the boss monster existence gives players additional goals to get more advantageous position, fighting the monster which players can acquire when fighting Minions. Thematically speaking, by knowing the location, obstacle and attack of the monster, players can gain the upper hand with minor objectives that can give them benefit when fighting the monster (since the monster have special ability that will affecting on how it fights against the players). There are also Minions, it’s like the progress into culminating end against the monster, players will fight Minions before the Monster during the game. Unlike the monster, Minions are fought by choice, players will have to choose this as an action during their turn. So instead going to the market, they can go fight Minions. Fighting Minions are kinda bit unique, they will roll combat dice based on different things based on the Minions, it could be a certain color dice in their board, a number of cards with specific type they own and so on. Of course the combat is resolved in high roll result, so it depends heavily on luck. They can spend XP cubes to re-roll or add more dice though. Personally, I quite like the expansion, sure it makes the game last longer but it’s fun and I think it’s worth it. With the expansion your character creation process seems to have a purpose. But one can argue that this expansion can give players certain distractions to the base game of character creation, since you need to sacrifice market action (acquire more cards) in order to fight Minions.
My Thought of The Game
If you think that this is a dice rolling game, you got it wrong. It is not a dice rolling game, dice are rolled no doubt but that’s just for round setup purpose. Players do not really roll dice, they just assign one player to roll all the dice for all players to choose. So this is more likely a dice drafting game, since players choose which dice they want during their turn. And presenting the character creation element and the actions that come with the attributes on the characters, players will modify / adjust their dice, so it’s dice manipulation. I like the game, it has a simple set of rules, though most of you might think it’s quite complex and I do agree. The possibility and manipulation will force you to think the complexity is quite moderate if you compare it with the rules of play. The demands that players need to fulfill in order to get the best score will leave players scratch their heads, it’s not an easy task to get them done the way it is supposed to. Players might be forced to do hard decision making in order to get one or more objectives cleared up by sacrificing other objectives. Of course there’s a luck factor to be involved (if it comes to dice). The dice drawing is surely add luck to which dice color are available each round and the roll will determine if it’s good enough for players or not, depends on their turn order. The random card draws will also affecting the combo synergies in overall, but less in luck aspect and more like adapting with the situation. The game could be really competitive and most of the time players will be in a situation with a few points difference from each other. Playing with the expansion could distract you from getting points from Market cards, but in the same time, you can maximize points from beating boss Monster in the end by piling up your combat dice. From my several plays, the Monster is not really posing a threat to players, I never see players fail to beat the monster. And once you have played with the expansion, you will never want to play it only the base game (at least that’s what I felt).