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A dice game roll of elegance? A Roll Player review

Roll player from Thunderworks game is a drafting game in which you are building a character for your roleplaying adventures. Over the course of the game you'll create attributes for your character, buy equipment, armour and give your character traits for the adventure ahead. But wait, actually what if I told you Roll player is a dice manipulation game? Because that's fundamentally what Roll player is a dice drafting dice manipulation game that honesty, I can't get enough of!

Roll Player feels like Sagrada with a twist, and it's that dice manipulation, items, actions and traits (end of game scoring) that are all tied together into this incredibly well rounded package that just offer so many more small choices that it feels a bit more meaningful. Although it's not without its fault.

Each game of Roll player starts the same way, choosing a character board, a class and a backstory and an alignment card, and taking a handful of gold. There's some variability here, with class cards being double sided and I really like dealing multiple backstory and alignment cards to give the places a bit more scope in who they are creating, and equally I'd love to be able to give players a choice of characters, which at 1-3 players you can definitely take 2 pick one, but at 4 there isn't enough in the box to do that.

You'll then place some initial dice onto your character sheet, with the number of dice being dependent on the number of players before the game begins! There's 7 different coloured dice here, and across some games I didn't see many/any of some colours. Each round works the same way, Roll dice, place them on initiative cards (adding gold coins if needed), taking and placing dice, before resolving the market in initiative order and then cleanup. Your class will determine which dice you'll need to aim to collect to gain extra points through achieving attribute goals, alignment cards are a mechanism by which you can move the alignment marker throughout the game to end the game with potentially an extra points or two, and the backstory card gives you a dice placement objective.

The two main phases dice placement and market are where you'll find the crux of the game, which the space you've taken the dice from determining your turn for the market. Before placing your dice and potentially activating the relevant ability. For example you may be able to flip a dice, swap the placement of two dice, reroll a dice, increase or decrease the value of a dice by one, adjust the alignment marker or take a temporary discount for the market. However, you'll need to plan carefully as you'll be seeking to achieve certain scores for your attributes and the abilites are tied to certain rows for example strength allows you to flip a dice, therefore you may want to wait to later in the game to flip any 1s or 2s you've been forced to take, rather than early on.

After the dice placement phase, the market phase begins and players will have the opportunity to buy equipment, armour, traits and skill cards. Although you can always choose to discard a card too for some gold. Armour cards offer a set collection type aspect, with you aiming to collect as many pieces of a certain set of armour for end game points. Equipment generally gives ongoing abilities, whilst skills are once a round like abilities. And traits move your alignment market, but offer end of game scoring opportunities.

Which is followed by a cleanup phase, where players can refresh a skill, and the game is prepared for the next round. Once players boards are full, that's the end of the game. Meaning that as the game progresses you'll find yourself with less placement choices for the dice, and your options of dice manipulation potentially limited too, although skill cards might give you some additional way to change the dice placed.

Roll player is essentially Chracter Sheet the board game, but there is some limitations to the race, class, backstory etc in that they are not endless amount or a huge amount of options especially for races, but there's enough here to keep you coming back, because of the number of choices Roll player offers you. It's not just pick a dice, it's considering whether to take a lower value to go earlier in the market phase, it's considering if a certain colour dice has more value over another for example is a gold dice that's slightly later in the line up better than a lowered valued blue dice? You also have to take into account your backstory and which dice you need for certain slots alongside which powers do you want to activate this turn. Now I'd argue your amount of choices begin to diminish as the game progresses as slots on your board fill up, but there's no real escaping that when the game end is filling up a character sheet.

Roll Player has even made solo outings and its been one that I've very much enjoyed at 1 and 2 players. I've played a handful of games at 4 player and it feels like Castles of Burgundy in that I'd probably never play with 4 unless I really really had to. 1 or 2 player feels like the sweet spot of 30-40 minutes and there's generally enough time for us to get another game of something else in afterwards. And that's not to say Roll Player isn't without its fault, the armour sets, feel very much luck of the draw and at higher player counts it's fairly easy for players to want the same armour sets, although it's only an additional point for the matching class, you're not going to go for the one that doesn't align, unless there is no other option. In our four player games we found players competing for armour sets, whilst at two and one player you have pretty much free reign. Although in a solo game, you do risk having armour snatched away from you by the automa.

As you know, I rate games on a

- Buy or play

- Wait for sale or play if you like game XYZ

- Avoid

This is an easy "Buy or Play" recommendation, and feels like Sagrada with more. And that for me is a sweet spot of gaming, there's enough decision space here for me to want to come back again and again. However, theres an important caveat here, my partner found the theme largely off putting/unengaging as someone who isn't massively into fantasy would much rather play Sagrada. Nevertheless, I have really been enjoying my plays of Roll Player, but as it's seemingly a solo affair, I have switched to the app that does most of the admin (although minimal). And my group largely found Roll Player to be "alright", so I had purchased the expansion Monsters and Minions but after hitting flat with two seperate groups, I don't see it hitting the table often enough to warrant the expansion. But the app is currently seeing daily plays and I only hope the expansion one day makes it there!

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Roll Player to review by the publisher. I was not paid for this review and purchased the Roll Player app myself.

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