Until news of the app version for Roll for the Galaxy came out, I hadn’t actually played it in quite a while.
I do remember really liking the game, though. As I said in my Top 100 BGG games post, it’s a game that somehow I won a lot and I wasn’t quite sure how.
In fact, not a lot is going to be different in this review than it was in that post, but I do want to do a full review of the app now that I’ve been playing it a while.
So let’s do it!
How do you play Roll for the Galaxy? The dice game designed by Tom Lehmann and Wei-Hwa Huang and published by Rio Grande Games?
Let’s copy and paste from that Top 100.
Each player will get a set number and type of dice depending on their starting world development that they choose at the beginning of the game. These dice will then be rolled and secretly used to activate actions.
You get points based on the points on the tiles that you build, whether they are developments or worlds that you colonize (just like the card game) but you have to assign dice to these tiles on your player sheet. Each tile takes the number of dice equal to the point value to put them into your tableau. If you don’t build it in one shot, those dice are trapped until you do.
When you assign your dice, you have to choose one action to activate (Explore, Develop, Settle, Produce and Ship). You can use any die to activate an action, but all subsequent dice assigned to that action have to actually have that action’s symbol (there are ways around that, of course).
If somebody else chose an action that you have dice for, you get to use those dice as well, but if nobody did, they go back into your cup.
At the end of the turn, you have to buy back the dice in your citizenry (as opposed to your cup), depending on how much money you have. You may not be able to afford all of the dice.
The game ends when either somebody has 12 tiles in their tableau (remember you start with 3) or when all of the victory point chits are gone.
So that’s the game and I love it to pieces.
How about the app?
Let’s see what the app has so far.
The user interface for the game is excellent, with it being clear most of the time exactly what you need to do. When you roll the dice, the sections where you can use them open up and you can drag your dice to where you want to assign them.
Everything you might need is clearly shown, or only a click/tap away.
It also does a decent job of letting you know when you’ve done something wrong.
You can re-assign one die to a different “job” but you have to spend a die to do it. If you have multiple dice in the wrong place, the game won’t let you continue and the dice in question glow. This tells you that you have to move some of them to their proper area.
At the top of the screen the app always tells you what it’s waiting for you to do. If one of your tiles allows you to do something (like re-assign other dice), the dice you use for that ability glow as well as the tile itself.
There do seem to be at least one or two bugs still to be squashed. Either that, or the app isn’t quite as clear about things as I just said.
The Improved Reconnaissance starting development is supposed to let you place new tiles that you choose when Exploring on top of your queue rather than on the bottom, but I can’t figure out how to get it to do that.
(If somebody who knows can tell me, that would be great!)
The AI is pretty good. Keldon Jones has long been known for his Race for the Galaxy AI, both for the web-based version and Temple Gates app for it.
I’ve only played a few games against the AI. I didn’t really have any trouble beating the Easy ones, but my last game against two Medium AIs wasn’t quite as successful.
For me, the most important thing about apps is the online multiplayer, and they have to be asynchronous.
As with the other Temple Gates games I’ve played, the asynchronous multiplayer is very good.
You can start a game and open it to anybody who wants to join or you can invite your friends. It’s really easy.
It’s also a bit confusing how I have three different Temple Gates games and all three of them seem to have different ways of doing things. Race for the Galaxy requires you to link your other devices together if you want to play on multiple ones, but I don’t recall Roll for the Galaxy asking me to do that.
However, once you’re online and ready to go, it couldn’t be easier.
You can set games for certain lengths to allow slow play or fast play. You start at 3 days but can go for a month or even Unlimited! That’s not recommended for anything except for games with your friends, but it’s nice that Temple Gates put that option in there. I don’t think it’s in the previous apps, but again I could be mistaken.
Sometimes life gets in the way, you know?
One change from the beta that I really like, from an ascetic point of view, is the change in the colour scheme.
It used to be grey, but now it’s blue and it just looks so much better.
Is there anything wrong with the app?
Only a couple of minor things that I have found so far.
First, you still can’t see which opponent is which unless you click on their Empire.
It’s a minor annoyance, but when you’re in a 5-player game, it would be nice to know who to trash talk!
That being said, it is a cool way to see what they’ve built so far and what their special powers are from their tiles.
Everything else you can see easily at the top of the screen. You can see their money, the top tiles in their build queue, the types of tiles they have (Brown planet, development, yellow planet, etc). You can also see their citizenry and what dice they have in it.
The other small issue is unique to asynchronous games, and it’s that sometimes (depending on one of your opponents’ powers, I assume), you receive a notification that it’s time to take your turn. You log in and you have to choose what dice to buy back from your citizenry.
Once you’ve done that, the game stops because it’s waiting for your opponents to do something.
I don’t see any reason why you can’t just go ahead and roll and choose where to assign your dice. Maybe there’s something that I’m missing, but when I play the AI and I see activity after I choose my dice, I don’t see anything that would affect where I’m placing them.
However, if those two things are the only annoyances I can find in the app, you know it’s a good app!
If you like Roll for the Galaxy, or even if you don’t but you really want a cool action selection dice game, you can’t go wrong buying the app version of this game.
Of course, if the main thrill you get from dice games is the rattle of the cup and tossing dice around the table (but behind your screen), then the app won’t do it for you.
But it’s still a blast and comes highly recommended from me.
Many thanks to Temple Gate Games for providing me with a Steam code for this game to review. I did buy it on iOS as well, though.