Roll for the Galaxy – THE DICE!!!
111 dice! There you go, there’s the best thing about Roll for the Galaxy, it comes with one-hundred and eleven dice!
Roll for the Galaxy is a remake of the classic Rio Grande Space Empire building card game Race for the Galaxy, but now with dice. I loved Race for the Galaxy and I love dice, so without a doubt my favourite thing about Roll for the Galaxy is that it comes with so so many dice and I am very pleased to say that I also loved Roll for the Galaxy just as much, if not a little bit more, than its predecessor.
From the same designer as Race for the Galaxy, Tom Lehmann, and with new designer Wei-Hwa Huang, your goal in Roll for the Galaxy is exactly the same as in Race for the Galaxy. Assemble the most victory points from a combination of developing your galactic tableau, producing and then your consuming goods.
If you just want to know how Roll for the Galaxy compares to Race for the Galaxy then you can skip to the Comparison, for those of you who have never played Race for the Galaxy, please read on.
Tons of Dice – What are we Rolling for???
So in Roll for the Galaxy, each player is competing to construct the greatest galactic empire. This is measured by who obtains the most victory points from a combination of their galactic tableau (this is where their constructed developments and settled worlds go) and victory point chips obtained from trading goods produced on their worlds. The dice provided are your workers and are able to perform a variety of tasks towards your goal of galactic domination; exploring to find new worlds / developments, constructing your developments / worlds, producing goods on your worlds, and shipping goods from your world to trade for money to buy back used workers (dice) or consume for victory points. What task a worker performs is determined by rolling them and seeing what face they roll, that face corresponds to the phase in which they will work; explore, develop, settle, produce and ship, and thus what task they will perform.
As I’m sure you can tell the theme is falling a little flat. The world and development tiles have some lovely artwork on them and they do give off a nice space empire feel and personally I wish there were more shorter games with this kind of theme, instead of incredibly long space opera games akin to Eclipse or Twilight Imperium. I guess its difficult to have a game feel like a Space Opera without being as long as one.
Roll for the Galaxy certainly doesn’t feel like a space opera, the theme isn’t very strong, your constrained to building your own empire. You can’t really affect other players, the nature of the game means your empire is unlikely to end up self consistent with similar worlds and developments and for you to also win. Your dice are meant to be your workers, but they don’t feel like workers, they feel like dice! Especially since the dice that end up rolled as workers in the production phase, also end up as the goods produced on worlds, which doesn’t make much thematic sense. Critically, as well in terms of theme, no player is any different to each other! There are different kinds of alien worlds in the game, but any player can settle them, no player is a special race or different from each other, there are no specific alien races, and no over-riding story to anything. When you play the game, its more like solving a puzzle to get the biggest number by using whatever you roll. The space worlds could easily be medieval territories and the space developments could be medieval developments and it wouldn’t affect the gameplay.
Also don’t expect lots of player interaction in this game either, there isn’t much. You can irritate other players by building a tile they want or not choosing a phase they want, in fact one of the major ways to get ahead is by correctly predicting what phases will and will not be selected by the various players and assigning your workers appropriately, There is nothing direct like destroying something your opponents have already constructed. The game is more about focusing on constructing your own empire, faster and better than your opponents.
Not the Most Flavourful Galaxy…But a Clever & Strategic One!!!
Despite its thematic failings I would like to stress at this point, that Roll for the Galaxy is still a great game. Its strength is definitely in its mechanisms and how fun it is to solve the puzzle that the game is, just don’t go into it expecting a thematic galactic masterpiece, because that isn’t what it is.
As mentioned earlier, my first impression was ‘wow, dice!’ After that, the rest of the components really sprang out to me, as well thought out and well made. The tiles that now represent developments and settlements are of a lovely quality. The bag they are put in during the game, has plenty of space for them and the new player screens behind which each player rolls their dice, is chock full of information. The information presented on these screens and in the rulebook is done in a helpful way, which is an advantage of Roll for the Galaxy basically being a remake, the designers knew exactly what information was important.
There’s two pieces of information which I really appreciated. First was a section in the rulebook titled ‘For Race for the Galaxy Players’, describing the major differences rules-wise from Race for the Galaxy, which is helpful if you have pre-existing notions from having already played Race for the Galaxy. The second was a dice face distribution in both the rulebook and on each player screen, which is hugely important knowledge when you’re playing and trying to determine what dice best fits your emerging strategy, or what dice to aim for if you’re struggling at performing a particular phase.
In terms of strategical game-play, Roll for the Galaxy has quite a bit. This may sound strange when a major play aspect is rolling dice, an inherently random process, but the different types of dice are better at performing different phases. So you can aim for particular dice, if you want to increase the probability of rolling a particular phase. There is also a lot of developments in the game that allow you to reassign dice in different ways to different phases. Even without any developments, each player always has one basic reassign power.
There is a lot of randomness in the game. What starting homeworld and faction you are given is random, and they give you very different starting dice compared to other setups. The starting development and world tiles to be constructed is random, and if you want to add a particular type of dice to your pool, then you’ll need to settle a corresponding world. Which involves drawing tiles from the bag to find the right world, again a random process, made worse by the fact that discarded potential constructions by other players go back into the bag. Making it harder for you to draw what you want.
If you want to try and mitigate the randomness a little and give players an opportunity to aim for particular strategies, or the ability to avoid being stuck with a strategy they dislike. I recommend dealing two factions and homeworld tiles to each player at the beginning of the game, if there are enough and letting them pick one of the two.
Galactic Empire Building – Rolling by the Seat of my Pants!!!
Personally I quite enjoy the challenge of making the best of what you are given. I have been described in the past, as a ‘seat of the pants’ gamer. In that I struggle with long term strategical game plans, but I’m very good at making the best of what I’ve been given. Making short term plans and figuring out how to maximize points in the last few turns. So figuring out how best to reassign my dice and maximize their usefulness afresh each turn, was very enjoyable for me. Despite the frustration of when I still roll badly and that several reassignment powers, still didn’t let me do what I wanted.
A quirk of the scoring which rewards assigning the dice correctly, is that if your ship is a good (represented by a die) from a world with a shipping die that matches the colour of the goods die and/or world, you get bonus victory points. This is a great little sub-game that rewards planning out your dice correctly and gives you the ability to earn lots of points, without diversifying into lots of colours.
One of the most interesting things about Roll for the Galaxy’s rules is that not every phase will occur every turn. Each turn every player selects one phase secretly, by allocating one of their dice to it. Then assigns the rest of their dice to the phase they rolled and reveals their choice to the other players simultaneously. Any worker dice assigned to an unselected phase cannot work and have therefore been wasted that turn.
This creates a wonderful counter play, where you really want one particular phase to occur, but you have several dice in a different phase and you’re relying on another opponent to select that other phase, so those dice can actually work. If they don’t, they might not roll the same phase again next turn. If you can accurately predict what your opponents value and what phases they are going to select, you can get dice to perform in a particular phase, without having to invest your own resources into making that phase happen. Alternatively if you can predict what phase your opponents really want you to pick, then you can pick something completely different and deny them the ability to succeed, which is tremendously satisfying.
Racing or Rolling…How does Roll for the Galaxy compare to Race for the Galaxy???
If you think of Race for the Galaxy as the straight path, then Roll for the Galaxy is the detour. In Race for the Galaxy everything is the cards, what you build is represented by cards and the resources you use to build them are the cards you don’t want. This means it’s much better for you generally to focus on a strategy, gene worlds/developments or mining worlds/developments etc. and use the worlds and developments you don’t want to pay for the ones you do.
Conversely in Roll for the Galaxy your resources for construction are the dice you roll, and non-constructed worlds and developments go back into the bag at the end of each turn, meaning it is much harder to find worlds and developments for a specific strategy. Since all the tiles are double-sided with one side being a world and one being a development and that there are no hidden hands of worlds and developments anymore. All the tiles are unique, you also know exactly when a tile needed for a particular strategy has been claimed by someone else.
As a result, it is much harder in this game to pursue a specific strategy and generally more advantageous to make the best out of what you can find instead. This is also reflected in that the 6 cost developments in Roll for the Galaxy are much more general and wide reaching, than in Race for the Galaxy. Most of them will of course reward you more for a specific type of play, but will give you some points almost no matter what you’ve been doing .
There’s no more direct military conquest in Roll for the Galaxy and no military worlds. Instead there are military dice, with developments and worlds allowing you to sacrifice one dice and replace them with more red military dice. The feel of the rapid military expansion from Race for the Galaxy is kept strong in Roll for the Galaxy. Yet with the military dice being excellent at development and capable of exploring, but awful at producing and consuming, which heavily weighs them to rapid expansion and ending the game quickly from a full tableau.
The consumption phase happens after produce now, not before, which is a wonderful change and makes the order of the turn much more intuitive. Allowing for dice to be used in one entire produce consume cycle in one turn, if you roll correctly, an excellent change from Race for the Galaxy.
The consumption of goods for points is also changed. Allowing 1-3 points for each good consumed, with more being earned if the right dice are used. Rewarding you for being able to correctly assign your dice each turn to maximise points, instead of aiming for specific worlds and developments.
All of this, combined with the inability to know exactly what resources you have to work with each turn, until you roll them. Means that while still a very analytical and strategic game Roll for the Galaxy is more tactical, compared to Race for the Galaxy being more strategic. Roll for the Galaxy is about making the best out of each turn and being flexible on what direction you’ll take your tableau to work with the randomness of the dice.
Roll for the Galaxy is much easier to teach and significantly less biased towards people who have already played it before. Experience will make you more likely to win at Roll for the Galaxy, but not to the same extent as Race for the Galaxy.
It looks a lot prettier too, with significantly higher production quality, greater component quality and variety, and a better presentation of information. Also it has 111 dice, which as mentioned earlier is really, really cool!
Should you Roll the Dice…And get this game???
Roll for the Galaxy is a game about playing the numbers and figuring out how to make the best use out of what you’ve got or can find. As a game it knows this, and it makes no attempt to pretend to be something its not. Its very clear and straightforward in giving you all the information you need to play the game, the best way and as a regular gamer who enjoys mathy games I appreciate Roll for the Galaxy’s and the designers honesty.
I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys solving puzzles and to those who like euro games. Its a quicker version of those bigger mathematical games, with an injection of randomness from the dice to keep things fresh. It is not a big player interaction kill-fest or a thematic gem. It is enjoyable to roll so many dice, turn after turn and rewarding, when you construct a brilliant efficient empire with your workers. I enjoyed Roll for the Galaxy and if you enjoyed Race for the Galaxy, or are looking for a bridge from shorter games into longer more analytic games, definitely check it out.
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I’m Dan and I spend my life gaming. When I’m not writing about games or recording the Order of the Dan Podcast I’m either working with games, demonstrating games to people, competing in Magic the Gathering Tournaments or just playing board / card / video and role play games with friends. Originally hailing from Teesside I now live in Leeds but often find myself about the country attending tournaments and conventions and gaming at them so if you see me around please do come and say hi.