Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday, 22 February 2020

Overthinking by the Yellow Meeple:- Top 10 Roll and Write Games


We play a lot of roll and write games and I've wanted to make this Top 10 list for a long time. My hesitation has been that it feels like a new roll and write game gets released every week, so when have you played enough to make a top ten list and is it OK to make a top ten list when there's two roll and write games sitting on your shelf of shame? (I'm looking at you, Fleet Dice and T-Rex's Holiday!)

Whilst I don't think that a roll and write will ever be my favourite game of all time, or perhaps even break into my Top 10, I get a lot of enjoyment from them. They're quick, easy to teach and it's fun to see all of the variety that can be found in this smaller design space. The other big plus for me has been the ability to play them remotely. I've played Brikks over Skype with a friend in Japan and I've played Kokoro over Skype with work colleagues in Canada. A care parcel with some sheets for Welcome To is also on its way to Canada as we speak. The fact that everyone is working with a common source of randomness - be that dice, or revealed cards, is what unlocks the ability to play remotely, but it also means that you all have equal chances - something which can be extremely satisfying.

My final positive note on roll and writes is that I can fit about 30 or 40 into a single draw in my Kallax shelves, so I can own almost as many as I like. Even then, I do cull them from time to time, keeping only the best, including every game on this Top 10!


     1. Welcome To was my best game of 2018 and it's still being played a lot. I originally bought it when it was only available from France and I'm so glad I did. Welcome To takes the simple concept from games like Qwinto - of having to fill out rows in ascending numerical order, but it add a theme and special powers that make it so much more fun for me. Having the goals to work towards with building different sizes of neighbourhoods, trying to specialise in the different scoring objectives and working with exactly the same possibilities as everyone else around the table is just so satisfying. As you may start to notice, flip and fills get just as much love and roll and writes from me - the non-random nature of the deck of cards really works and means that you can compare your scores from game to game. Welcome To is just the best of them.


     2. Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama is a reimplementation of Avenue from Aporta Games. I never played the original but I was initially attracted to Kokoro because it takes its theme and artwork from the card game Kodama. I'm glad I was attracted in, because Kokoro is now one of my favourite route building games. A deck of cards is used to generate different types of line - vertical, horizontal and then each variant of a 90 degree turn. When a card is flipped you draw that line segment somewhere on your gridded, dry erase player board, and so does everyone else around the table. Each round you're trying to connect a route back to the active sanctuary, but every round you need to do better, connecting more symbols back to the sanctuary than in the previous round. The need to do better each round is a stroke of genius that really makes the game stand out to me. With enough boards, any number of players can play with the same deck and the game still takes the same amount of time to play.


     3. MetroX is another flip and fill - oops! It looks my top three 'roll' and writes don't even have dice! Metro X represents the network of subway line across either Tokyo or Osaka. Each of the lines is made up of O's which you fill in as the game progresses. Numbered cards are drawn from the deck and represent how many O's you can fill out. However, you're really limited because you can only add to each line two or three times and whenever lines cross you have to stop, and any excess will be wasted. I could teach MetroX to anyone, but it just really grabs me as an optimisation puzzle that plays with push your luck, as well as being really calculating. I was super happy to get hold of MetroX via my friends in Tokyo, and the fact that it's now getting a release from Gamewright Games is almost bittersweet. I'm glad more people will get to play it, but I did like feeling like I had a special game in m collection.


     4. Harvest Dice was probably one of the first roll and writes we tried, but it's one that still holds up even after playing so many more. In Harvest Dice, you're planting a vegetable garden using the results of dice that you draft from a pool each round. The dice colour denotes the vegetable and the number denotes where it can be planted - the only catch is that carrots must be planted next to carrots, lettuce next to lettuce and tomatoes next to tomatoes. By feeding dice to the pig, you can gain some dice manipulation which is really key to making the game fun and not a luck fest. It's a simple game of trying to complete rows and to boost the scoring possibility for vegetables you have lots of compared to those you don't, but it works really well and is still a game that I really enjoy.


     5. The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game is a fantastic reimplementation of The Castles of Burgundy from designer Stefan Feld. It's such a good distillation, that I'm not sure we've played the board game since getting the dice game (although I still really love both!). The player sheet looks just like the board from the board game and you get one each. The pool of dice is rolled each turn and all players get a chance to pair together a colour and a number from the rolled dice. The different colours represent the different kinds of terrain and each colour has specific numbers that can be placed in there and sometimes additional placement rules and scoring rules. Much like the board game, there's a race to finish all the areas of one colour first to get a points bonus, as well as the rush to complete areas in earlier rounds because that's when most points are available. If you love The Castles of Burgundy, but need something faster or something to  play solo then the dice game really scratches a similar itch.


     6. Lanterns Dice: Lights in Sky is one of the latest additions to our collection of roll and write games, so it's done a good job to stand out at all! In Lanterns Dice, one player rolls four dice each turn into a tray. The tray lays the dice out in a 2x2 grid and then the active player orientates the tray in order to allocate a dice to each player. You use the coloured dice to cross off triangles on your board which can activate bonuses. Gaining coins allows you to take special actions and other bonuses allow you to colour in bonus segments. When you've fully coloured certain tetromino shapes, you can cover them with a cardboard firework tile, which is worth points. The player interaction is certainly higher than in most roll and write because of the dice draft and also competition for the better fireworks tiles. I like how actions can combo together to give you some bigger turns amongst other standard turns and creating those combos is key to doing more in the game an then scoring more points as a result.


     7. Let's Make a Bus Route is another game I asked a friend to find for me in Tokyo. More and more I'm excited by finding unusual games, rather than the ones that anyone can buy online, so I was very happy to add this one to our collection. Let's Make a Bus Route is another flip and fill that's all about route building. What's unusual is that the deck of cards generates for everyone simultaneously, but your player board is unique and gives you the key to show what each card means to you personally. A purple card for me might be a length two straight line, whilst for you it might mean turn left. With you routes you aim to collect tourists and drop them off at sites, or students and drop them at university, amongst a number of other objectives. You also want to make sure you avoid traffic, where you need to draw alongside someone else's route. Let's Make a Bus Route stands out because it's so charming and because you're all writing on the same central board. Using the  central board, is definitely something I'd like to see in more roll and write games.


     8. Railroad Ink is yet another route building game for this list, and it won't be the last. Route building has always been a favourite mechanic of mine, even outside of roll and writes and it seems to really work well for this genre. Much like two previous games on this list, we're still taking about public transport in Railroad Ink - with train routes and roads. In Railroad Ink, the dice faces show different permutations of roads and railways - from straight roads, to a 3 way interchange between roads and railways. Each player uses the same four dice each round to draw the rolled dice onto their grid. You're trying to connect up as many entrances to the grid as possible by matching road and rail routes, as well as meeting a number of other scoring objectives.  You can do really well or really badly in this game depending how well you plan and if the right dice get rolled towards the end, but it's easy to grasp and fun to draw, which is always a bonus. We have only played the Blue edition and don't really have a desire to try the Red version since it's supposed to more aggressive - I particularly like using the lake expansion in the Blue edition.

     9. Ganz Schon Clever is the only game on this list that we don't own, and that's because we really didn't get as much enjoyment from our physical copy as I do out of the app. The app takes care of the only fiddly bit, which for me is remembering how to draft the dice, and then make the most of the best bit, which is creating a cascade of combos. I've never got to the lofty heights of a 300 score, but that app is super addictive and Ganz Schon Clever is one of the better, simple dice, paper and a pen types of games out there.


     10. On Tour is one of the latest additions to our collection. It stands out from the crowd because it's in a box that's far too large for a roll and write game, and far too large for the contents if you only have the four player boards that come when you buy the game. However, it currently holds onto a place in the top 10 because it does do something different to most other roll and writes. You're trying to create a route for your band to cross the USA. By adding numbers to the cities, you need to create a route of numbers that are always ascending. The roll of two 10-sided dice, as well as the random flip of a card deck combine to give you a small number of options on each turn and everyone has the same options. I like that On Tour really channels route building, as well as the more typical, numbers-based roll and write ideas and it makes for a really fun puzzle every time. Even better though, On Tour now has an app and I am addicted!


Are you bored of the roll and write craze or are you still enjoying the number of games in the genre? What's your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.

1 comment:

  1. 100% not board, would love to see more. I think so little of the design space has been explored where roll & writes are concerned.

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