As the board game hobby has been exploding over the last few years, one trend that seems to have really taken hold is dice games. Original fare, like Alien Frontiers, Dice Masters and King of Tokyo have been huge hits. While many popular games have been given simplified dice versions. Roll Through the Ages, Pandemic: The Cure and BANG: The Dice Game were all met with pretty high praise over the last few years.
Roll for the Galaxy is one of the latest attempts to take a successful game (Race for the Galaxy) and tweak the rules to allow for that adrenalin rush you get when shaking up a handful of dice and seeing what you roll. And there are a lot of dice to roll in this game. They’re tiny, but colourful and solid. Each player gets their own cup and it sure makes a satisfying sound when it’s full. RFTG had been in development for several years before finally being released late last year. It was designed by Race for the Galaxy‘s Thomas Lehmann and Wei-Hwa Huang.
Just like in Race, players will develop their intergalactic empire by settling or conquering planets, shipping goods and developing their race with scientific and political advancements. The game is played through several rounds with action selections and resolutions. If you’re familiar with Race, picking up the rules will be pretty easy. It ends after the round a player builds their twelfth tile to their tableau or when the victory points run out (twelve per player at the start).
Once the dice are rolled each round they get organized under the phase strip by their results. Then players secretly select a phase to activate for that round by covering the icon on the phase strip. The more dice they have of that face, the better they’ll be able to execute that action.
There are five possible phases in a round. Only the phases that are selected will occur. Exploring allows players to search for new planets or developments that they can work on or cash in those actions for credits (the currency in Roll). Spending dice on Developing or Settling allows you to pay for the cost of adding Developments or Planets to your tableau. The Produce action creates goods on coloured planets and the Consume action allows you to sell or ship the goods.
You can also once per round spend a die to Dictate. This allows you to change the face of another die to any face you choose. It can be a bit costly, especially if you’re low on dice, but when you really need an action face sometimes that’s the move to make.
When dice are used they retire to your Citizenry, but can be bought back into your cup for one credit each at the end of the round. Unused dice go straight back to your cup.
As you build your tableaus with developments and planets you get more opportunities to gain dice, earn credits and generate points.
Now this should all sound pretty familiar to fans of Race. Roll does feel pretty similar to the game play of its predecessor. The real question I had is whether it was different enough to warrant owning both.
Roll does do some things a bit differently. One major change is that the Produce action now comes before the Shipping, so players can do both more effectively in one round. Your roll results and action decisions are all made behind an individual screen, so you have to have a little faith in the people you’re playing with. That being said it’s usually not too hard to come up with an action if you need it.
I like the way the different dice in the game are weighted differently. For instance the Military dice are more likely to result in the Develop or Settle icons, while the Consumption die gives you a 50% chance at rolling the Ship action. As you might expect, the yellow Alien die is really powerful. It has three wild faces, which can really help when choosing what phases to trigger.
I quite enjoyed Roll FTG. It shares the same feeling of developing an empire in a short amount of time, but changed enough to make it a new challenge. There may be people, who will complain that it doesn’t change enough from Race. It would be a valid complaint, but that will just come down to personal taste. There will still be a learning curve for people new to the system, but I think it’s a more approachable game than Race and really should have an audience.
If you’re a fan of the original or are interested in trying something new I definitely think it’s worth a shot. I’m looking forward to adding it to my collection.