Review – Rolling Heights
Meeples... Roll out!
|Designer||John D. Clair|
|Publisher||Alderac Entertainment Group|
Rolling Heights is a city-building game from AEG with some light area control and push-your-luck elements. Players assume the roles of general contractors in the 1920’s and will roll their meeples, then receive building materials based on what meeple is in what position. Meeples standing on both feet are “Working Hard” and give the best rewards or most materials, while meeples on their side are “Working Steady” and give lesser or half the rewards of their hardworking compatriots. So, do you have what it takes to build the best neighborhoods and buildings? Roll on for the Review!
After placing their initial building sites, players will take turns rolling their meeples and trying to earn materials to build with. The luck-pressing happens when someone rolls at least half of their meeples into a working (Hard or Steady) position. Then, they can stop and reap the rewards of their employees, or they can press their luck and roll the remaining meeples that were still laying flat. If any of them end up working, they get those benefits too. However, if they’re all still laying down (exhausted) then the workers go on strike, and you bust. You must select half, rounding down, of your current working meeples to go back into your box as exhausted. You also gain 1 wild token to make up for this.
After the rolling is the main part of the player’s phase, where they can activate meeples, buy and place 1 new building plan, trade commodities, and construct or complete buildings. Any meeples rewarded from finishing buildings go straight into your box and can’t be used until your next turn. Also, if the player has any of the Pink City Planner meeples, and they land on their Working Hard position, the player gets to take a building tile ignoring the cost to buy or place it. This meeple’s action does NOT count as the player’s 1 buying opportunity.
Thanks to the 6 rectangular tiles that make up the city, and the randomness of the building tiles, each game will be a different experience. Players will have to adapt and plan based on what’s available, and depending on the different endgame scoring goals (ads) and personal goals (Targets) in their hands. Certain meeples like the aforementioned City Planner are almost always helpful, but just because you have a free building each turn doesn’t guarantee success if you don’t have the building materials to finish them. Unlike other city-builders, Rolling Heights makes players employ a “use it or lose it” ideology in that none of your spending power or building materials will carry over outside of the wild tokens. This makes for a lot less to hang on to mentally between rounds, but players will still want to pay attention, especially as the resources to build start to dwindle.
The end of the game is triggered when someone uses up the last available Glass, Steel, Concrete, or Wood. Luckily, this doesn’t mean these materials are shut off from everyone else – the game comes with 25 orange cubes in the same shape to substitute in the last couple rounds should someone need them. I say couple rounds because when someone triggers the endgame, everyone gets to finish both the current round plus one more full round. This helpfully makes it easier to get your affairs in order since you have more time to grab that last resource you need to finish your architectural masterpieces.
One of the only downsides with Rolling Heights is the Tokyo Highway effect, or basically, it’s easy to knock over everything near the end of the game. Buildings that are less than 5 cubes tall are fairly steady, but some of the Level 2 building plans have 7-9 cube tall sections, which even when they’re flanked by smaller ones can be wobbly. The cubes sit nicely on one another, but don’t snap into place like Lego or Math cubes, so take that into account before inviting any clumsy or Anne Wheaton-esque players.
Earthquake-proofness aside, Rolling Heights is a lot of fun. It combines the city planning of Neom, the rolling and physical building of Blueprints, and getting to watch the city grow upward and outward like in High Rise, all in a tidy package that can be played in under an hour. If you grew up playing a lot of SimCity, or just wanted to play a tabletop game as a contractor or city planner, then Rolling Heights would be an easy suggestion for you to check out.
Reviewer’s copy was purchased via Kickstarter with personal funds.
The Bottom Line
If you like building a city from the ground up, you should check out Rolling Heights.