Genre: Dry-Erase Roll-and-Write
Player Count: 1-6 (but infinite if combining copies)
Play Count as of Review: 10
For full disclosure, I was provided this copy of Rolling Realms from Stonemaier Games for this review. The provided copy has not impacted my views below.
- Rolling Realms is a lightweight roll-and-write game that spans three rounds where each round consists of nine turns. All turns are simultaneous as the pair of dice that are rolled are used by the entire group playing; not just the player who rolled them. Each round, players are working on scoring three unique mini-game cards that are based off other Stonemaier productions (more on that in a moment). After nine turns, the round is over and players will tally their points before three new mini-game cards will be drawn. All players will be using the same mini-game cards as one another each round. After the third round is tallied, all points are added up and an overall winner is decided.
- As with other games in the genre, Rolling Realms will feel like a solitaire experience as there is no interaction with other players in any of the mini-games. Each mini-game is dependent on the player and the players actions alone. The bright side of this is that it can make games relatively quick as you do not care what the other players are doing so you are solely focused on the three mini-games in front of you. After our first full game, we were able to fly through some two-player games in ten to fifteen minutes and I honestly don’t see how adding more players would make this much longer (if any longer).
- For fans of Stonemaier’s other productions, they will appreciate the thematic scoring elements of the cards based off of their other games. Tapestry, for example, provides players with Tetris-like shapes that need to be placed around a fixed map. Viticulture includes using grapes that have been added to a card to unlock certain values of wine (which turns into stars/victory points).
- These mini-games or ‘realms’ consist of 11 different Stonemaier productions so there is a some variability as players can randomly assign three realms each round or they can mix and match to find their favorite combinations. Some realms feel slightly more complex than others but they also feel thematic as My Little Scythe is easier to utilize than Scythe.
- Like other Stonemaier productions, the components are top notch and the game features dry-erase cloths to help keep everything clean and tidy. The cards have a glossy finish that allows easy writing and erasing from the fine tipped dry erase markers. There are enough components for six players out of the box but there is no reason that this game could not fit an infinite amount of players. Very similar to Welcome to…, players would just need to be able to see the rolled dice (or hear the number called out loud) since everything they need to play is right in front of them. The two dice are also larger than your normal d6 and they provide a satisfying clack as the bounce off the table surface.
- The usage of symbols and iconography is well done and easy to distinguish on all the cards but the art is lacking in my opinion. Particularly on the Society (Red Rising) and Between Two Cities cards, they are just boxes and do not have any of the thematic art that the Viticulture or Pendulum cards (for example) have. Besides that, the rulebook is well written and provides a deeper dive into all of the realms as well as examples on how the resources work. While the rules are relatively simple, having the examples to fall back on is incredibly helpful for providing real examples to those that are being taught the game.
- Speaking of resources, that is a large aspect of what players are doing each turn. While trying to gather stars, players will gain a collection of pumpkins, hearts and coins that can be used to do things such as changing a die roll +/-1, gaining another die of the same value if pairs are rolled or gaining a die of any value dependent on the amount of resources spent that turn. This provides players with a lot of wiggle room to mitigate the randomness that comes with dice rolling. I personally like three things that Realms does regarding the resources: one, it takes more than just one resource to unlock the benefit so there is added incentive to target a particular resource across multiple realms (if that resources benefit is something you want to utilize); two, there are different benefits for using more of the same resource (because so many times in games you end up with a ton of sheep that just ends up being worthless. Here, that excess of pumpkins can be used and provide a better benefit than what is normally provided so you are not punished for getting more of the same; and three, all resources are wiped at the end of the round. You do get .1 point (yes, .1) for each remaining resource but they do not carry over and it helps force people to use what they have collected. I know I am bad about getting something and only waiting to use it when it is most needed (which a lot of times is never) and this forces my hand.
- Rolling Realms does not do anything to reinvent the roll and write genre. There are elements in each mini-game that have been seen in other games, such as storing resources that have alternative uses (Harvest Dice), using polyominos to create shapes (Welcome to Dino World) or having numbers appear in a greater than/less than fashion (Qwixx) but what it does do is provide the flavor from so many other games in one package. The added bonus is that with the eleven realm cards, if there is a mini-game that you just do not enjoy, discard it! You still have another to choose from and I would like to think that this game could see additional cards in the future with the amount of expansions that Stonemaier has produced (as well as new games coming down the line). This is just wishful thinking though and not some inside scoop.
- Like other Stonemaier games, Rolling Realms offers a robust solo experience that rivals anything else they have done in my opinion. There is a mini-golf map and course log, where each hole acts as a one-round game with special rules that override existing game rules. Each hole can also be played at an easy, normal or hard difficulty that will help or hinder players and provide the right challenge depending on your comfort level. I am not the biggest solo player (I just play BGA or apps if I am by myself) but I was really impressed with the design and unique take on each ‘hole’. I am a sucker for challenges and like that this mode breathes new life into each realm.
- The variety is what brings us back to Rolling Realms. There is enough complexity to fill the void of a larger and longer game while also being simple and quick enough that it is easy to play one game and move onto something else if it is not fitting the mood at the table. This is easily in my top ten of roll-and-write style games, but definitely closer to the middle of the pack than to one as it trails behind Harvest Dice, Cartographers, Railroad Ink, Qwixx, Quinto and On Tour in my opinion. The game is also lightweight and can be packed for travel fairly easily due to it just being some cards, dice and dry erase markers. I enjoyed Rolling Realms and will continue to play thanks to the puzzle-like nature of the mini-games and how they interact with one another. It won’t always be the first roll-and-write off our shelf but I don’t think it is a flavor of the month either.