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.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Wednesday 15 December 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Wok and Roll

Game: Wok and Roll

Publisher: Origame

Designer:  Daryl Chow

Year: 2020

Wok and Roll is a roll and write game from publisher Origame, from Singapore, publishing games by designer Daryl Chow. The roll and write craze, which seemed like it would be a flash in the pan, is still alive and kicking and Wok and Roll brings with it a delightful theme, that I've not yet seen in roll and writes. Each player is creating a menu for their own Asian restaurant, picking ingredients from the roll of the dice.

Amy has always been a source of groan-worthy puns, but the opportunity to name your restaurant at the beginning of each game of Wok and Roll, really took this trait to new depths. I would be happy to play this game for the sole purpose of seeing what Amy could come up with next. Why naming a restaurant is so much more fun than naming a town in Welcome To, I'm not sure, but the photos in this review will give you a little insight into the mind of my wife.

At the start of a game of Wok and Roll each player will be handed a dry-erase restaurant board on either the regular or advanced side. If you are playing on the advanced side you'll also be given a house special recipe token. After everyone has named their restaurant the game will begin. Each turn the active player will roll all six dice, they then have two chances to reroll as many dice as they desire. Once all rerolls are done players can use the dice to cross off recipes in their restaurant. The active player can use all six dice, while the other players can use only the four white dice. 
Most of the recipes on a player's board reward points, with bonus points for completing an whole section. These recipes are a combination of rice, noodles, meat, fish and vegetables, five of the six faces of the dice. The last face is menus, by using a pair of menus a player can unlock the ability to treat menus as one of the other five die faces for the rest of the game. Should you use three menus at once you can unlock an end game scoring bonus. 

Should you be struggling to make recipes you can always take ingredients from your fridge. The fridge starts with one of each ingredient which you can cross off at any time to top up the dice available. Certain recipes will reward bonus ingredients into your fridge when acquired. The advanced side of the board changes up how menus and the fridge are used, making scoring and advancing more complex. Eventually a player will have finished three complete sections of their recipe board. At this point the game immediately ends and players add up their scores. 

Amy's Final Thoughts

Over time you notice trends in your gaming tastes, perhaps you might like deckbuilders, or heavy euros about farming. For us, we seem to like roll and writes with dry erase boards. A strange niche perhaps, but Wok and Roll joins Tokyo Metro and Lets Make a Bus Route in the dry erase 'genre'. Another surefire hit is a game that we can play on the sofa, with sturdy boards and a built in dice tray in the box Wok and Roll manages to tick this box too. 
The mechanics of Wok and Roll are fairly basic roll and write fodder, roll the dice, get some rerolls then everybody uses them. The two red dice that are reserved for the active player are a nice touch, but hardly a new addition to board games. Wok and Roll is good, for sure, but it's far from unique. The theme works nicely and I had a stupidly large amount of fun making wok puns in my restaurant names. The game play gets tied nicely with the theme, with bonus points given for becoming renowned for cooking certain styles of food, but once again none of this is new mechanically. 

But then how much does new matter? Sure we might have seen this all before, but it's been given a polish and a good theme, a punny name and a built in dice tray. It's also got some of the best dry erase pens in board games. Wok and Roll is a polished product. Both sides of the board are fun to play, with the advanced side adding some particularly hard choices on how to progress as a restaurant as you have to invest in unlocking recipes. Overall it's certainly worth picking up and playing Wok and Roll. If you already have a humongous collection of roll and writes you might not find anything new to surprise you, but if you only have one or two, then Wok and Roll is a great exemplar of the genre.

Fi’s Final Thoughts
Wok and Roll is a slight spin on one of the main types of roll and write games we often see. One players rolls the dice, but you get better opportunities when you roll the dice, compared to when others roll the dice. Here, instead of the active player getting first pick, it's two specific dice that are only available to the active player, so you can really try to roll specific combinations of faces to try and ensure you get a great result, perhaps completing one very tough recipe, or two recipes in a single turn, while you give your opponent a bad selection - maybe just a single recipe book and a combination of ingredients that don't make a recipe. While it's conceptually possible to manipulate things in this way, it's often quite hard to pull off, especially with dice luck added to the mix.

As seasoned gamers, it's usual for us to play the standard mode once and swiftly move onto the advanced mode. The standard mode has end game scoring objectives, and you have to invest in the objectives that you wish to score at the end of the game. To me, this feels quite advanced. It's a area of the game that I neglected in my first game and regretted, and it's certainly a tricky choice to decide whether to invest in more objectives or work harder to score other objectives more highly. In the advanced mode, there's no end game objectives, which seems like a shame, whereas the 'advanced elements are set up more like hurdles you need to overcome during the game instead.

So long as you're not super competitive and keen to make every turn have a huge disparity in quality between your results and your opponents' then there's plenty of light fun to be had. The theme of making a menu, lends itself really well to a roll and write, making you feel like you're ordering food the old fashioned way from a takeaway. It's the type of game that you can play to relax and it's sure to make you smile.
You Might Like...
  • Wok and Roll brings a charming theme to life.
  • There's lots of paths you can take to boost your points and optimise your timing for the end game.
  • With abundant re-rolls, there's plenty of opportunity to mitigate bad luck and make the best of your rolls.
You Might Not Like...
  • While we jump to the advanced mode in most games, here, standard is best for us.
  • It can be hard to make choices that influence other players.

The Verdict
7.5/10 Wok and Roll brings to the table a lovely theme and charming production that lend themselves really well to the roll and write genre. It's a quick game, with lots of interesting choices as you try and optimise your rolls to be the best for you and the worst they can be for others at the table. It might not satisfy the most competitive of gamers, but it's light and fun, and can even be played on the sofa!

Wok and Roll was a review copy kindly provided to us by Origame.


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