HexRoller is a roll-and-write game in which each round players draft two of the dice rolled, then fill in spaces on a hexagonal grid, attempting to both complete regions and create lines of identical numbers in order to maximize their score. Who can use their bonuses at the right time to zoom into the lead?
Designer: Rustan Håkansson
Artist: Christian Fiore
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
Price: $16.85 Amazon.com
Hex Roller is a roll-and-write game about strategically arranging sequences of numbers on a hex grid. It is a spatial puzzle with a “point-salad” type scoring system. Different objectives and bonus abilities give it a good deal of depth—it is one of those games that continues to get better with repeated plays.
Coming off of the success of Reykholt, I was excited to see the next offering from Frosted Games and Renegade Game Studios. Hex Roller follows the current trend of roll-and-write games, with minimalistic components, easy portability, and rapid-fire gameplay.
Hex Roller comes with a pad of game sheets and eight dice, numbered 3-8.
At the beginning of each round, a player rolls all the dice and sorts them into groups of the same number.
Then, each player chooses two groups of dice to use. Everyone does this independently, meaning multiple players can use the same set(s) of dice. Whatever dice a player chooses, he writes that number on his paper once for each die showing it; that is, if there are four dice showing a particular result, the player writes that number four times.
When a player writes numbers, the first one must be adjacent to a matching number (notice that the sheets have some pre-printed ones) and the rest must build off of that number in a line. For example:
If a player chose to use the 6’s and 8’s from the dice pool above, he would write each number twice, building off of an existing 6 and 8. Whatever numbers a player uses, he records them in the boxes in the lower-left section of his sheet.
Each player has three bonus abilities, which can be used at any time. They allow players to:
- Write an extra number, as if there was an additional die of that result
Put a 2 in any open space (basically, a placeholder number to help fill an area)
Record three groups of dice, instead of the normal two
After the 7th round, players total up their scores:
- Each unused bonus ability is worth 2 points
- If filled, each colored section around the edge scores points equal to its most common number
- The central section score the same way, but for double the points
- If a pair of printed numbers are connected, they are worth that many points (e.g. 7 points if the 7’s are connected)
- [This one is a bit weird] If a line of chosen numbers on the lower-left section of the sheet contains a straight, starting from 3 (does not have to be in order), the player earns points equal to the straight’s highest number
As an example of that last one:
A player used these numbers during the game—8 and 6 in the first round, 5 and 3 in the second round, etc. During final scoring, he looks to see if either row contains a straight, starting from 3 (not necessarily in order). The top row has 3, 4, and 5, and the bottom row has 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Thus, he earns 12 points (5 + 7).
Once all players have totaled up their scores, the person with the highest score wins.
When I first read the rules for Hex Roller, I was not sure if I would enjoy it. It sounded like a fairly generic idea with a really wonky scoring system. As we played our first round of it, my opponent and I struggled to make any sense of the strategy.
But then, as we were tallying up our scores at the end, something clicked for us. We looked at each other and said, “We need to play that again.” With that first game under our belts, we realized just how much there was to consider, and how we could strategize differently next time.
Hex Roller provides lots of different tactical options, but its tight board forces players to prioritize their goals. Simply put, it is impossible to do everything, so players have to figure out how to do the most they can. The meat of the game comes from strategically positioning numbers to work toward multiple goals. Perhaps a player is trying to connect the 8s—can she weave her line of 8s through the central area to fill it up and score mega-points? Or maybe she is trying to earn points from straights—is it worth using a 3 she doesn’t necessarily want to ensure she scores for the straight? Questions like these may not be immediately apparent to new players, but they reveal themselves over time. This makes Hex Roller highly replayable.
This game feels like a perfect mix of long- and short-term strategy. Players have to weigh their immediate options (“Which dice are the best to use right now?”) against their overall goals (“But will those dice help me maximize my final score?”). The bonuses are tremendously important, often providing a critical bump that can make all the difference.
I really enjoyed Hex Roller. While I think the roll-and-write trend will cool down over time, this one feels like it has long-term staying power. Highly recommended.
A review copy was provided by Renegade Game Studios.
+ Highly replayable, with emergent strategy
+ Tight design of game sheets forces players to prioritize their goals
+ Highly portable
+ Two different sheet layouts
- Numbers on dice started to fade after only a few plays