Roll Player Board Game Review: Character Building Teaser or Fulfilling Experience?
By: BJ Brown
Thunderworks Games has created an exceptional and enjoyable system within their Roll Player dice building game, which is leading up to something truly remarkable! There has been a recent resurgence in tabletop role playing games and the time has come for accessible systems to attract new and younger players into the fold.
As a passionate fan of tabletop RPGs, I am very familiar with the character creation process, which is often more thrilling than the adventures themselves. The idea of creating and becoming a fantastical character of your own imagination is an exercise in creativity and boundless potential. This process is one that writers consistently undertake, whether they are composing a novel, a screenplay, a game, or a tabletop adventure.
To observe this process transformed into a "game" within Thunderworks' framework was intriguing and logical, particularly when taking into account their present and future product offerings.
Roll Player is a card and dice game designed to create tabletop RPG-style characters. The rules provide a fun and organized way to select a character's race and class and then strive to construct an iconic hero using that framework. The process involves adjusting the hero's traits, armor, weapons, and alignment, as well as "building" their attributes with dice rolls.
Interestingly, contrary to what most RPG veterans might anticipate, the Roll Player game structure actually penalizes you for having the maximum value in every attribute category. Instead, the game provides you with a set of guidelines to aim for, which are detailed on various parts of your character's sheet. The reason for this is not explained, aside from the fact that the endgame scoring determines the winner. Since victory is determined by who designs the most "ideal" character (i.e., the one with the highest "reputation"), the concept of "winning" in Roll Player is somewhat unclear. The reputation scoring system, as well as the game as a whole, suggest that this "game" may be a prelude to something much grander.
How to Play
Roll Player has a fair amount of rules, but the gameplay itself is quite straightforward. In fact, the setup is arguably more detailed than the actual gameplay.
To begin, each player chooses a character sheet, which represents a different race, such as humans, dwarves, and elves. The character sheet is the main playing field, with various fields and areas for each aspect of the game. The holes in the middle of the sheet hold the dice allocated to the attributes, while the left, right, and bottom sides have borders for Skill, Trait, Armor, and Equipment cards. Fields on the sheet are reserved for other cards, like Alignment, Class, and Backstory.
The most critical area of the sheet is the Attribute section, where the player allocates three dice to represent their character's scores for attributes like STRength, DEXterity, CONstitution, INTelligence, WISdom, and CHArisma. Underneath each attribute is a modifier that the race applies to the corresponding value, which is used during the final stage of the game.
Next, each player selects a class card, each of which has two different classes, one on each side. The class determines the "goals" for each attribute, a "power" that affects gameplay, and a "color" that determines which dice provide additional reputation points.
After selecting a class, players choose a backstory card, which fleshes out the character's narrative and contains an attribute grid specifying the die colors and positions required to gain higher reputation at the game's end.
Lastly, players choose an alignment card, which has a grid that determines the reward given to the player when the game ends based on the final alignment and how it aligns with the card's title.
Once the players' character sheets are set up, the rest of the game board is assembled. Market cards are sorted into piles and shuffled, while Initiative cards are laid out in numerical order, depending on the number of players. Gold tokens are placed on each Initiative card, and Market cards are drawn equal to the number of Initiative cards and placed face up near the Initiative cards.
With all the dice placed into the dice bag, each player then selects the required number of starting dice, which is equal to the total number of players plus four. For example, a two-player game requires each player to select six dice. These dice are then rolled and placed on the character sheet in the leftmost empty space in the chosen Attribute Row.
Gameplay consists of four simple phases: Roll Phase, Dice Phase, Market Phase, and Clean up Phase.
In the Roll Phase, the starting player selects the number of dice needed to place one rolled die on each of the Initiative cards. After rolling, they place the dice from lowest to highest on the Initiative Cards.
In the Dice Phase, players select one die, take any gold on that card, place the die on their character sheet in one of the attribute rolls, and then perform an optional "Attribute Action" associated with that Attribute Row. Attribute actions can change die values, move dice to other rows, change player alignment, and affect the value of Market card purchases.
In the Market Phase, players can buy a card from the Market cards that are face up on the board. These cards further flesh out characters, change attributes, affect alignment, or purely provide reputation points during the endgame if their requirements are met.
Finally, the Clean up Phase discards leftover dice and Market cards and resets everything for the upcoming Roll Phase for a new starting player.
These phases repeat until all players fill up all the blank fields for every Attribute row on their character sheet. Once this is done, the game ends, and the character's total reputation is calculated, taking into account all the Market cards in play and following the rules for Alignment, Backstory and Class card scoring as well.
The winner is whomever has the highest reputation score.
Tips And Strategies
The strategy for this game is fairly simple. The player should always be mindful of the values and dice colors that offer higher reputation bonuses during endgame scoring. During every Dice Phase, the player selects a die, places it on their character sheet, and may perform an Attribute action. Each move made should bring the player closer to earning more reputation with each die placement.
Although the typical tabletop RPG player may want to have 18's for every attribute, it's important to remember that the game actually penalizes you for that. The Class cards indicate which attribute values to aim for.
Market Cards can also be extremely beneficial in helping the player earn higher scores. So, following the instructions on those cards is also useful.
The mechanics of selecting and allocating dice to attributes in Roll Player may be straightforward, but the process lacks enjoyment. The objective of earning reputation seems arbitrary and unfulfilling, leaving players without a competitive edge.
Essentially, the game serves as a preliminary step for a tournament-style D&D session. Creating and developing a character builds a connection between the player and the character, fueling the desire to take action. However, Roll Player only establishes the character, leaving players at a cliffhanger and prompting them to purchase more Roll Player products to continue the journey.
Score - 6/10
Roll Player scores 6 out of 10. This game is focused on building characters, but many players may feel unsatisfied with the gameplay experience as it seems incomplete. It is apparent that Roll Player is designed to serve as a preview for the Roll Player Adventures and expansion products, where the created characters can be further utilized.