Review – Roll Player

"It's moving! It's a dice! IT'S A DICE!" - Dr. Frankenstein playing Roll Player

RP box

 

Designer Keith Matejka

Artist JJ Ariosa, Vincent Dutrait, Luis Francisco

Publisher Thunderworks Games

Category Dice, Character-Building

Length 45-90min

Release Date 2016

Player Count 1-4

Have you ever wanted to create your own fantasy character? Tired of leaving it all up to lucky rolls in D&D? Enter the award-winning Roll Player, a strategic dice-placement game of character creation. The only downside? You’ll have to beat out other character-creators if you want yours to be truly special! 

Review

In Roll Player, each player is tasked with creating a specific type of character with certain attributes, skills, and traits. Players can deviate, and deviation will occasionally score points through purchasable trait cards, but often, the more players stick with creating their pre-generated character, the better things will go. 

Each player will choose a character board with a 6×3 grid where you can place dice to modify your 6 attributes. Each player will also receive the following: attributes card (which shows what your attribute total should be for points), backstory card (which shows what color of dice you should place where for points), and alignment card (which shows where you should be on the morale spectrum for points). Of course, players could choose what they want, but I found the randomness made for some interesting characters: lunatic paladin orc, for instance. 

The play area is populated by the initiative numbers (number of players +1) and cards from the market deck below each initiative number. The play sequence begins with the starting player rolling the dice and assigning them in ascending order to the initiative numbers. So if it’s a 2-player game and the starting player rolls a 3, 6, and a 2, then the 2 would be on the 1 initiative card, the 3 on the 2, and the 6 on the 3. Players will take the die from the initiative card and place it in their character sheet. Each attribute has a special action the players can choose to take when they place a die in that attribute row such as reroll a dice, increase or decrease a die’s value by 1, or -1 cost from a market card. 

The initiative cards players chose determines what order the players purchase market deck cards in. Market deck cards come in 4 categories: skills, which give characters special skills they can use throughout the game; traits, which give characters more ways to score points; weapons, which often help in obtaining gold; and armor sets, which are exclusively used for scoring points. Play continues thusly until all players have filled their character sheets up with dice!

Despite the luck-based nature of dice, there’s plenty of strategic opportunities to sink your teeth into via what initiative cards, dice, and market deck cards you choose to take. Choosing the 1st initiative card is great because you’ll have first choice at the market deck, but you’ll also be getting the lowest-numbered dice. Choosing from the middle of the initiative row is great because you’ll gain a free gold coin, but you may end up buying last. Many of the attribute actions allow you to manipulate dice already on your character sheet, so even if you’re forced to take a dice you don’t like, there’s a chance you can redeem it later. Even if you don’t like any of the dice you take, designer Keith Matejka included many alternative-point trait cards. Say you only have a 1, 2, and another 1 in your wisdom attribute. You could choose to be a dummy, or you could choose to be a purposeful dummy by buying the Foolish market deck card that gives you 2 points for your stupidity. 

The components are excellent. All 73 dice are tactile, the bag holds them well, the 6 character/race boards with punchouts for the dice work smartly, the art on the cards is solid fantasy art that won’t turn off people who aren’t fantasy fans (and just about everyone is fully clothed, which is always a plus!).  The box also has a solid thickness to it, and the theme! The theme is so good. I felt like I was lovingly, aggressively, and sometimes clumsily creating a character. There’s a short blurb on each character’s backstory card for flavor text, but all of the character creation is nitty-gritty mechanics and number crunching, which I really enjoyed. Just don’t expect a storytelling game (though you could easily make it one). 

While I can think of a few things that could be added to Roll Player, I don’t think I’d want to add any of them, at least for the first time teaching someone. There are plenty of expansions that add different gameplay mechanics like pets and baddies, but Roll Player is such a solid, complete game that it doesn’t need any of those. There could be more strategy, but there’s plenty of number-crunching to satisfy newer and veteran tabletop players. Sometimes in dice games like this, someone can win based off crazy lucky rolls, which I’m sure could still happen in Roll Player, but for every game I played, the winner just made smarter decisions. It’s a lot of fun to figure out the puzzle of champion character-crafting. 

Here’s why I like Roll Player: it’s a well-themed, mechanically sound fantasy game that I can set up and teach to anyone in under 5 minutes. Perhaps the length can be intimidating to newer players, but it’s one of the chillest 45-90min games I’ve played. Most of the player interaction happens in the market deck, as expected, and while there’s certainly opportunities for spite-buying cards so other players don’t get them, that’s more of a thing in 2-player games. In short: Roll Player is an excellent midweight game with a great theme that could be an enjoyable next step for newer gamers. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys fantasy or is intrigued by character-creation. 

Thunderworks Games kindly provided a review copy. 

The Bottom Line

Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys fantasy or is intrigued by character-creation. 

 

8.5

spencer
Author: Spencer Patterson

I'm a teacher, writer, and board game reviewer. I especially love board games that pull me in like a good book. My wife is my favorite gaming partner.