To roll, or not to roll? And is it worth writing?

Some things just have a way of taking off. While you might be right, it doesn’t mean I’m talking about rockets or planes. I’m talking about the latest trend in the gaming industry. One many know simply as ‘roll and write’ has really seen a rise in popularity. I didn’t know it was possible to make so many games from pads of paper and dice. I wouldn’t be surprised if this Gen Con we were graced by the presence of Scythe: The Dice Game or Terra-Writing Mars. While I’m not necessarily opposed to either of those, I am curious what your thoughts are regarding the genre. 

Let’s go ahead and breakdown the roll and writes. What makes a game a “roll and write?” Simple, it’s essential that there be some sort of writing utensil involved. This could a pencil used on a pad of paper or a marker for a dry erase board. My personal preference is dry-erase boards with markers because I get worried about running out of paper sheets. But the good news is that when you’re down to the last few sheets you can always laminate them and toss in a couple cheap markers. Regardless, no writing mean a no go. There are a number of games that use similar concepts without the need for writing. One such example is Karuba, a simultaneous tile placement game.  

What makes these games so popular? That’s a good question. I think it has to do with the fact that each player is faced with the same puzzle. And when it all comes down to it, the player that solved it best WILL end up winner. There is no luck, no advantage. This level of competition makes this type of game addictive. Not to mention that despite simple rules, the puzzle in most roll and writes will continue to remain challenging for as long as you could ask for. When it comes to a quick, competitive, and rewarding gaming experience, few things compare to a good roll and write.

What game is right for you? Well that depends. In my opinion there are two different kinds of roll and writes, mechanical and…. thematical. Lets take a look at what exactly I mean. Some roll and writes feature nothing more than colored dice and an excel-like table of numbers. These are what I would call mechanical. You don’t necessarily pull one of these titles out as an escape from reality. On the other hand, the thematic side of the genre will see you doing something a little more exciting when compared to just crossing off boxes of numbers. Granted these thematic ties are usually weak at best, but you gotta give the designers credit, for the extra effort and thought. 

Let’s go ahead and have a look at some of my favorite roll and writes:

Dopplet So Clever (Twice As Clever)-

 

There is no questioning whether or not any effort was put into the theming of this one. But what the game lacks in theme it makes up for in addictive puzzle. Twice As Clever offers the additional twist of dice drafting that will directly benefit or hinder your opponents efforts. But in the end the real kicker is the amount of cool combo bonus you can score. Each game will leave you wanting more. This is definitely one the more complex titles though, so don’t expect grandma to get involved next game.

 

Welcome To…-

 

This one sits comfortably on the opposite end of the theme scale from Double so Clever. Players get to me real estate moguls developing the best possible neighborhood complete with parks, pools, and groups of sequentially numbered homes. Welcome To is actually a “flip and fill” rather than a “roll and write”. This means there are no dice. Instead, cards are used to randomize what it is players will be writing. This may also be a little complicated for the casual crowd.

 

Railroad Ink-

 

Here’s another game that attempts to add theme to a themeless genre. What I love about this game is the dice actually depict segments of road and railway that you get to draw (that’s right, draw, not write) onto a erasable player board. While the scoring may need a little explaining the gameplay is pretty straight forward. And if you, like me are worried about deployability, worry no further. There are two versions of the game and each comes with two separate expansions, custom dice and all. 

 

Qwixx-

 

This is by far the simplest game on the list. The deluxe version is actually a nice little package, one that I’ve had a lot of success with when introducing games to non-gamers. It’s very simple, with players pressing their luck to try and cross off as many boxes as possible. You may grow tired of it quickly, but its a cheap and accessible entry into the world of roll and writes. 

There are so many other great roll and write games out there. Many I have tried and many that I haven’t tried, not to mention the new ones that are getting released basically as you read this. And the great thing is Game Grid can help you preorder these with their added discount of 20%.

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