I have had to look up whether there’s actually a genuine condition into wanting things which are out of the ordinary. Pro-tip: Never do this yourself. The internet is a very scary place and I don’t even register on the same scale of weird as some other people do.
The reason for me doing so, is looking through my game collection the other day I realised how many truly unique games I own. OK, I have a few different deck builders and engine making Euro Games and things like that, but the themes are all pretty out there when compared to each other.
When I saw Roll Player, it made my cool game senses tingle for this exact reason; I have never seen anything else like it. Unless I am mistaken, I think Roll Player made it to my shortlist of Essen Games but was out-priced at the last minute by the fantastic Not Alone, however, this left me twisting in the wind trying to find a copy. Since Essen, it has been in print once, sold out in an obscenely quick time, has since been reprinted and had the same thing happen (I got one this time though which I now have the pleasure of reviewing for you).
So what exactly was it that tickled my fancy about Roll Player? Well, it’s a character building game with dice. Not only that though, in a very tongue in cheek way it rumbles all of the normal RPG tropes and still manages to make a really good game out of it.
At the beginning of the game everyone will choose a race in player order. Each race has it’s strong and weak points except for the human who is just straight down the middle “normal”. Some will have a Charisma bonus but a deficit in strength, or a bonus in strength but a general lack of dexterity. Each race’s player board is also double sided and has a male and a female side in case of opposite sex gamers, which I thought was a nice touch.
Each player then needs a class to start with. Sadly, Roll Player is not like Munchkin where you all start off as humans with no class (although this could probably explain a lot about my gaming group) and you have to choose one. This is done by blindly choosing dice from the bag and then taking the class corresponding to the colour you have picked. Once you have a bit of class between you, the first player will hand out a backstory card and an alignment card to each player, which gives you an aim for the game.
The continually random setup was one of the main things which drew me to Roll Player in the first place. There are 12 different classes to (sort of) choose from; all of which you expect to find in any generic role playing game, including the normal tropes of Warriors and Wizards and Clerics but there are also 16 backstory cards and 16 alignment cards, and that is where the fun begins. The first time I played Roll Player, I ended up as a Rift Walker Cleric with a free spirited attitude. I called him Jeffington. I have also played as a Persecuted Dwarf that also turned out to be eccentric. I called him Chris…
What does all this mean?
The aim of the game is to score more reputation stars than your fellow Roll Player’s. You can score reputation stars through buying them in the market in either a set collection type way of collecting armor or weapons or by collaring yourself a card which can net you bonus stars at the end. However, this is not the main way of collecting reputations stars.
Firstly, everyone rolls themselves 6 dice to start off their attributes and these can be placed wherever you like, so long as you’re filling up the spaces from the left; just like any good RPG. Then, each round, the first player will choose some dice at random and these are placed on initiative cards to determine who goes first. Depending on the player count some of the cards may have gold on them to sweeten the deal, but most will not. These dice, once chosen are placed on to your player board in an effort to strengthen the stats of your chosen character. They can be placed on strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom or charisma. Once these dice are placed you can then take advantage of the bonus of your placement which can aid you in your quest for reputation.
When you choose your class at the beginning of the game it will give you something to aim for. You will get a set amount of reputation if your combined dice on a certain statistic is above a set threshold, such as gaining 3 reputation stars if your combined strength totals above 16 at the end. However, this is where your back story and alignment cards come in to effect.
During the game you need to move your token around your alignment card as you take actions or buy certain things and where you finish decided how much reputation you earn at the end of the game. Also, your back story card will show a diagram of where dice can be on your player board, and if you can get some of your dice in the right placed then you get even more reputation stars at the end.
Honestly, trying to explain it, it sounds a little convoluted. However it’s really simple. Pick and place dice, and strategically hope that you’re going to do better than your fellow gamers. If you’d like to check the rules out though, you can find them here.
Becoming a Roll Player
Roll player is one of the few games that I have had recently that I have been able to jump into without too much research or anything like that. It’s REALLY simple to pick up and play. Whilst I’m not too great with rule books I was up and rolling in no time. Also, the run time of Roll Player runs on the shorter side with a 2 player game taking about an hour and a 4 player game taking 75-90 minutes.
Now, I have to admit that I have never been a real life role player. It’s something on my list of things to try because I think I could spend a lot of time messing around and making the best of it, but I’m not there yet. So that’s another thing which drew me towards roll player. It’s all the fun of creating a character without all of the follow through. It’s light hearded, bone chucking nonsense.
They see me rollin’, they hatin’?
Roll player is a game which has caused some division with me. A lot of my fellow gamers have been quite keen to try it out; likely for the same reasons that I have (because it’s unusual and it looks pretty cool) and the people outside of my gaming group that have played it have enjoyed it.
But, I can’t decide how I feel about it.
Roll Player would usually tick all of the right boxes for me. It’s not too long and drawn out, it’s simple to pick up, it’s simple to teach and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. However, I have had a personal epiphany of sorts recently. Whilst I love playing board games, my competitive streak has waned a little in recent times. Gaming has become less about winning as it has hanging out with friends and making the best of spending time together. It’s the catalyst to good times. I think this is what my problem with Roll Player is; it’s far more of a multiplayer solitaire game than it is a true multiplayer game.
Because you spend a lot of time thinking about what you’re doing and making sure that you’re collecting enough pips to get your extra reputation stars, or placing your dice in the right places to get your bonuses, it’s concentration intensive. And you tend to find all of the players are the same. Because of this, there’s no interaction between players. I know it’s not for everyone, but at least in some games like Colony there is interaction where you can mess with each other. In Roll Player there’s none of it and that can make for a quiet and cerebral experience.
Despite my misgivings about Roll Player, it is quite a good game. It is well refined and fun to play; but just not terribly social. There is a literal tonne of replay value since it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to get the same class, back story and alignment cards in more than one in several games, and you’re always at the whim of cuboids of doom which will also mean you have to think on your feet.
I think this could well be one of the few games that I will find myself digging out to play solo. There aren’t many which pull it off very well but I think Roll Player could be one of them. I also do have very cerebral gaming friends and I’m certain that this game would tick the right boxes for them too.
I think also that Roll Player has opened the door to some other really interesting games. Since it’s it’s inception, there have been games which are full on dice RPG’s like Too Many Bones and even more recently Diceborn Heroes, both of which look really awesome.
Roll Player is the game for you if you like moderately quick and think-y kind of games. It is full of strategy which you will have to gain on a wing and a prayer at the start of every game. But just make sure that it’s not something that you drag out if there’s a bunch of you around a table looking for a laugh. You’ll likely end up feeling pretty brain-burned by the end of it instead of highly functioning socialites.
Despite the fact that Roll Player is the kind of game it is, I can’t be mean about it as it’s a good game still, it has just come along at the wrong time for me.
I’ll give it a cuboid throwing, neurotic barbarian orc building 7 out of 10. 8 if you have the right mind set and audience for it.
I am just a regular guy that fell into board gaming. That's why I am no longer allowed in my local Toys R Us. I'm a huge fan of deckbuilding games and games with unusual themes or mechanics. OK, maybe I'm not that regular after all.