A lot of roll & write games from the past few years have been translations of their “parent” game into a smaller, quicker format – not unlike the “dice game”/”card game” phase we’ve had going on, too. I’m always up for seeing what folks do by transforming the first game, distilling its essence yet keeping a similar vibe. It can’t be an easy thing to do (and it’s certainly up to the gamer’s taste as to if they prefer one version to another), but I do enjoy seeing the conversion of existing games – particularly ones that are a little more complex – into small box games.
Early this year I tried and loved Gold West (designed by J. Alex Kevern) for the first time – and luckily not too much later a reprint was released, to my joy! It’s a terrific game of managing resources, investing in certain tracks for points, and building out encampments on a map. I wasn’t quite sure how it would translate to Rolled West, the roll & write game – would there be the map element, how would the resources work, and the like. I was excited to try it and see – yet, I fell into that trap of comparing it to the full game. I’ve done this plenty of times – with Pandemic: The Cure, Castles of Burgundy dice and card games, Lanterns Dice – it’s hard to avoid. Does the game stand on its own? I can’t fully tell you that, but let’s look at it!
Rolled West is played over 6 rounds, with each player getting a turn. Each active player’s turn involves rolling 4 resource dice – one of these will be selected and set aside as the “terrain” die for placement of a camp/settlement in that terrain’s claims area, should the player wish. At game end, players will score 1st and 2nd place for the most camps and settlements in each of the 4 terrain claims. As well as the claims area, players can use their resources to ship metal (a track for points), fulfil contracts (spending metals for points), or purchase an office in Boomtown by spending metals (giving the chance for the player to score end-game bonuses).
There’s no direct player interaction throughout the game, but I do appreciate that on each turn when you’re not the active player you can “bank” one of the rolled resources the active player hasn’t set aside as their terrain die. The active player can also bank a resource die that wasn’t used during their turn, to help with a more powerful turn later in the game. This is, essentially, the mitigation of luck in the game. With no reroll or dice manipulation options in the game, you can get a little stuck with some bad luck.
On the flip side of that, there’s generally always something that can be done with the combination of resources rolled and the ones banked – it may not have been what you’d hoped for, but most things will lead to points. I’m usually pretty bad at keeping an eye on what other folks are doing during games in general, and especially roll & writes — I think if you’re going to make the most out of Rolled West, it’s best to keep an eye on what opponents are doing in order to beat them to the better shipping points or hold a majority over a type of terrain.
I appreciate that Tasty Minstrel Games kept the same sorts of graphics and iconography in this as they’re really nicely done and easy to grasp. The sepia-toned old-West feel of the game with the splashes of resource colours works well. And I have to mention the production values are really nice – lovely shimmery D12 resource dice and really lovely little dry-erase boards to play on instead of your run-of-the-mill paper pads in most roll & writes. They’ve done a great job at physically packing a lot into a little box, as well as distilling the original game down to this size, comparably.
Rolled West is a roll & write game for 2 – 4 players, taking approximately 20 minutes to play. Designed by Daniel Newman, with art by Adam P. McIver & Ariel Seoane, it’s published by Tasty Minstrel Games. We thank the TMG crew for providing a review copy of the game.