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Rio Grande Games: Roll for the Galaxy – Review

January 13, 2016

Preview-1_442

Publisher Rio Grande Games
Genre Strategy / Dice
Number of Players 2 to 5
Play Time 45 min
Initial Review Date 1/13/16
Last Updated 1/13/16
FAQ
Official Rules English

Roll for the galaxy is a variation of the game Race for the Galaxy. It has a similar feel and many aspects of the game are the same. So much so that even in the instructions it is pointed out how the game is different from Race for the Galaxy.

As with Race for the Galaxy the goal is to build a space empire and be more “successful” (iow have more points at the end) than any other player. However, they found a way to make the learning curve a little less steep without sacrificing much in the way of depth.

Setup

Each player receives a dice cup, a credit marker (meeple), a play mat, a screen, a phase strip, a faction tile, a homeworld tile and a set of starting dice.

The starting dice you start with and where they start (dice cup or play mat) is augmented by your faction tile and your homeworld.

due to the large number of components, in some ways setup takes longer than race for the galaxy (which is just a deck of cards). However, since the components don’t need to be separated and sorted as they do in Race for the Galaxy each player can setup their own pieces making the initial setup go quicker. Additionally, setup on replay takes almost no time as it mostly just consists of returning dice, game tiles and victory points to their respective locations.

Simplification of concepts

One of the biggest changes that has been made is that Money has been separated from the cards. In Race you actually used cards in your hand as payment for other cards in your hand. In Roll this payment is a tracked resource that is independent of your assembly line. This makes things easier to understand for new players but it’s done in such a way that the overall decision making process stays similar.

This is because each tile (other than the ones you start with) is double sided. One side always has a planet and the other side always has a development. Once you pick one side and build it the other side is lost forever. So, in this way you are forced to “discard” something in order to play what you want. Thankfully, the two sides tend to be quite different from one another so it’s rare to want both sides, unless you are still trying to choose a direction or you’re using a hybrid strategy.

The dice mechanic also helps simplify decision making early on. This is because you can only choose a phase if you have rolled that phase on one of your dice. This means that unless you are rolling a large number of dice, only a few phases are even options for you. However, the dice you get as the game progresses are specialized at different tasks. In this way you can increase the chances you will get the phase your strategy needs.

These simplifications help new players come to grips with the game without actually “dumbing down” your options.

Adding Dice, Removes Randomness

I know this seems counter intuitive but this is one of those cases where the dice mechanic actually allows for more planning options. When you roll something that isn’t the phase you want to pick that turn you have the opportunity to “leech” off of other players who do pick that phase. Additionally, there are a lot of powers that allow you to manipulate your dice. This means that it’s rare to get a “bad roll”, instead you are simply presented with more options. What’s more, any dice you don’t “use” on a given round simply go back into your dice cup free of charge (normally replenishing dice costs money).

This is different from Race where a strategy can be torpedoed when you can’t seem to draw the cards you need.

I have what is known as “bad dice karma” and this has never been a problem playing this game.

Conclusion

If you liked Race for the Galaxy or its earlier incarnations (San Juan and Puerto Rico). You will enjoy this game. It plays a little different without feeling too different. I don’t know if it fully replaces any of them though.

If you haven’t played any of those games however, I would recommend this one over the others as it’s quicker to pick up and learn. If you like games of chance however, you might want to consider something else. Since this game is very high in terms of strategy and low in terms of chance despite the fact that it uses dice.


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