Review – Roll Player

(Edit: 5/19/22) – I’ve also reviewed both the Monsters & Minions expansion and the Fiends & Familiars expansion

Growing up, while I played a few wargames with my brother, I was also an avid player of Dungeons & Dragons. I played with a few of my school chums (Editor: Look at you, trying to sound English), even sometimes during class!

One of my favourite parts of playing the game (or really any role-playing game, as I played a few back then) was rolling up my character. There was just something about rolling the dice, recording each stat (Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution and Charisma). At the time, you rolled up your character and then decided what class you wanted to be. (I’m not sure if that’s the way it’s done now, but I doubt it).

What makes me think of those bygone days of adventuring?

Roll Player, the 2016 dice-placement game designed by Keith Matejka with art by JJ Ariosa and Luis Francisco. It was published by Thunderworks Games.

Yes, this is the game where you basically roll up a fantasy RPG character, and then get points for doing it well.

Or maybe not well! That can get you points too.

What do I mean?

Let’s take a look.

(Wow, it’s been ages since I’ve done a review and I still say that!)

In Roll Player, you are rolling up an RPG character one die at a time. None of this “roll three dice and total them up!” crap.

No, it’s one die at a time.

But the good thing is that you can modify your dice in some ways.

There are 70 dice (10 of each colour) in the game, along with 13 gold dice.

That was what I looked like after 12 hours of gaming at the Marathon

You start by choosing a race. You can be Human (no modifiers) or a number of different races that will give you a bonus to one trait and a subtraction from another one.

Orcs, for example, get +2 strength but they get -2 Intelligence (I think they should form an organization about that).

Roll Player - Rogue card
Rogues require Dexterity of 18 to score points (of course). They also give you a special ability for Skill cards. I’d love to see an Orc Rogue (actually, I think I did!)

Next you choose your class. This can be done by actually choosing your class, or you can pull a die from the bag. Whatever colour die you pull is the type of class you are. If you pull a gold die, you would re-draw since there isn’t a gold class.

The class cards are double-sided so you can choose which one best fits your race. Each one also has a special ability that will help you throughout the game.

Roll Player Alignment card - Scoundrel
Scoundrels like to be Evil, no matter what variety

You then get dealt an alignment card. As you play the game, your alignment will be shifting. Your goal is to get your alignment onto a positive point space and not one of the negative ones.

Roll Player - Savant background card
I’m not sure what the placement of each colour has to do with your background, but it sure is interesting!

Finally, you get a backstory card. This will give you bonus points for where you place certain colours of dice on your player board.

Each player takes six dice out of the bag and rolls them, assigning them to the traits on their character sheet. You can put multiple dice in the same row, but all dice must be placed on the left-most column available. If you place a second die in a row, then it will go to the second space.

The game will last 12 rounds and each round players will place one die on their sheet.

Roll Player - Initiative Cards
Choose the middle die and you get gold!

There will be initiative cards out on the table, one more than the number of players (so our 2-player games have 3 cards). A gold coin is placed on all middle numbers (so only the second in a 2-player game).

Then the start player for the round draws a number of dice equal to the number of cards, rolls them, and places them from lowest to highest on the initiative cards. If there are any ties, the start player chooses which order to place them in.

Beginning with the start player, each player takes a die and card and then places the die on their player board, keeping in mind the “must be placed in the farthest-left available column” in the attribute you want to place it.

Round 1, the blue “4” is placed in the second column of the Constitution attribute.

When a player places a die, they will then get to do the “Attribute Action” for that attribute, which is on the right side of the board next to each attribute’s name. This is not mandatory if everything on your character sheet is perfect the way it is.

For Constitution, placing a die there will let you adjust any die on your board (including the one you just placed) either up or down one pip (you can’t roll over from a 1 to a 6 or vice versa, though).

Dexterity will allow you to switch two dice; Strength will let you flip one die. Wisdom will have you move your alignment marker to one adjacent space. Intelligence lets you re-roll any die and keep whichever value you want more. Finally, Charisma will give you a “Charisma token” which you can use in place of one gold piece when buying from the Market.

Placing a die in the final column of the attribute will also give you 1 gold.

Placing a gold die on your sheet will also get you 2 gold.

Roll Player - Market Row
The glare off that longsword is almost blinding!

Once each player has done this, players can buy a card from the Market with any gold and/or Charisma tokens they have. The cost of a card is in the top right corner.

When you buy a Trait, your alignment marker will move in the indicated direction if possible. Traits will give you points or benefits at the end of the game.

There are also Weapons, Equipment, and Skills available.

Roll Player - Skill Cards
Skills can be quite powerful.

Skills can be used any time during your turn, but it requires you to move your alignment token in the indicated direction. If you can’t, then you can’t use the Skill.

You can also discard a card from the market to gain 2 gold.

The game continues like this, with the Market row being wiped and replaced each round and the start player moving around the table.

Soon, you will have a complete character!

That’s quite the Druid!

That’s when you score. You score your attributes and whether they met your class goals. you score your Alignment, then your Back Story. You also get one point for each die of your class’s colour on your sheet. Finally, you get points for Equipment and Traits.

Whoever has the most points is the winner!

Is Roll Player a brave and noble Knight? Or is it a bumbling Wizard who keeps fireballing himself? (Hello, Falzy!)

There is a bit more to the game than that description, but I didn’t want to go into great gory detail (Editor – Only minor gory detail).

When I first played it in October 2018, I enjoyed the game. It wasn’t something that I was dying to have but it was fun. I heard that the expansions made it even better.

When COVID hit and I was looking for games to buy to play with my wife, for some reason this game just jumped out at me (with a sword!).

After a couple of plays, I just fell in love with it.

Let’s talk about the components first before I talk about the gameplay.

The game comes with tons of dice! How can you not like tons of dice?

Are you a heathen?

The dice are great quality, the game comes with a drawstring bag for them. My only qualm about them is that they never seem to roll the numbers I want.

They really should fix that.

Anyway, there are tons of cards, the player boards are very good quality too and I love that the player aid that tells you how a turn works flips over to be your scorecard as well.

As for the gameplay, I like so much about this game.

Roll Player - Traits
Foolish, Courageous, and Greedy? What an enigma you are!

The market cards give you some good choices and abilities that can sometimes make the decision of what to buy very difficult.

Traits can be a cool way to get points, as well as perhaps compensating for not being able to meet all of your attribute goals.

Getting a bunch of 1s and 2s? If you become Foolish, put them in your Intelligence and get 2 points instead of the 1 point you’re losing by not making the goal!

This is all situational, of course. You don’t want to do that with a 4-star attribute.

I do like that getting traits moves your alignment marker, but not being able to move your alignment marker doesn’t prevent you from buying the trait.

Roll Player - Acrobatics
I guess this card is saying that using acrobatics makes you a better person?

Instead, that comes with Skills. You can buy the Skills with no problem, but if you can’t “pay” the alignment cost to use the Skill, then you can’t.

If you are already as Good as you can be, then you can’t use your Acrobatics skill.

While most of the skills make thematic sense, that’s not actually one of them.

I have found in our plays that we don’t really use the Skills as much as we probably should, mainly due to the Alignment movement. We get to the point where we can’t use the Skill because the Alignment is moved as far as it can go.

Of course, the trick is to get complimentary Skills so it keeps moving back and forth. Even though you can only refresh one Skill per turn.

Roll Player - Initiative 1 card

I also really enjoy the decision required when choosing a die, especially as first player that round.

Do you take the low die, thinking you can change it later, just because you want to go first this round? There’s a juicy card in the Market that you might want?

Or do you take the high die, knowing you will go last but you really want to put that 6 on the Strength attribute that you need an 18 for?

Or do you take the middle one because, hey, I found a gold piece?

Roll Player - Dark Elf

The game does come with multiple race character sheets, with all but the Humans having a +2 in one attribute and a -2 in another one. Something else to keep in mind when you are placing dice. How many times have I placed a die to perfectly match the required attribute score and then at the end of the game remembered that this attribute has +2 and thus doesn’t score?

Enough to tear my hair out a bit (I am now bald).

The scoring in the game is really interesting.

You get the points for your attribute scores (hey, let’s make a Weak Warrior! No points for you!) but then also your Alignment, whether the colours of your dice meet your Backstory as well as getting one point for each die you have that’s the same colour as your character (so black dice for Rogues and Thieves, for example).

I really enjoy this, but I am not very good at it.

My wife loves the game because it’s almost like a puzzle. Where do I place this die to do me the most good? Can I manipulate it to actually meet my needs eventually? Can I use my Class ability to help with that?

I’m not as good as her at that (she’s won 8 of our 10 games) but it’s still a crunchy puzzle that I really enjoy.

Roll Player - Armor Cards
The Market can also provide you a bit of set collection points.

Are there any flaws in the game?

I guess the only major flaw that I can think of in Roll Player is that you spend the entire game rolling up this character and then BOOM it’s over. The expansions do help with this which is very nice, but the base game may leave some people feeling incomplete.

Also, it’s a dice game so of course there’s plenty of randomness. You have to learn to deal with some of that and you can manipulate dice values and switch dice around and such to mitigate some of that.

However, one thing you can’t do anything about is the colour of the dice. This becomes more of an issue the fewer players you have, and I have only played Roll Player as a 2-player game, so maybe I wouldn’t notice it as much with more.

Sometimes you need a colour to fulfill your Backstory card or because it would be an extra point for you because it’s your Class colour.

Yet round after round, that colour is just not drawn from the bag.

There’s nothing you can do to adjust for that. A few Skills may let you draw a new die or something like that, but overall, you’re basically screwed if that happens.

Finally, and this is really minor, there is no First Player token to remind players who is the first player that round. The wife and I had a lot of trouble remembering who was first in the last round as we got busy with all of the stuff on our turns.

I can only imagine that it would be worse with more players.

The first expansion included a First Player token, so obviously we were not the only ones with problems.

Roll Player - Weapon & Armor
+1 to Gold Dice! Wow, hope you got rich while choosing dice.

Overall, though, I would highly recommend Roll Player. It plays quickly, in just about an hour, which considering the setup time involved unfortunately makes it a tricky fit for a lunchtime game.

Still, it is a quick game, easy to teach and while not a brain-burner like some of the truly complex games out there, it does offer you a bunch of meaty decisions in how you want to use your dice.

And I’m not talking about throwing them at your opponent because you forgot the -2 on your Charisma attribute.

That’s what we call a “meanie decision.”

This review was written after 6 plays of the base game only (11 plays overall counting expansions)

5 Comments on “Review – Roll Player

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