Adaptations of board games have sprung up almost like weeds in the video game landscape. Like weeds, some are certainly prettier and more palatable than others, and some may even earn extra time in your yard if you like them enough. Also like weeds, they’re more enjoyable to interact with alongside a friend or two. Okay, the metaphor’s sufficiently stretched, but rest assured that Roll Player is one of the prettiest dandelions among adaptations with a wonderful, untapped premise: character creation, the game.
Players begin by choosing a character class and race. Once decided, the game grants them a random backstory, which is a short, relatively well-written bio to provide some context, I suppose. Aside from that, players essentially roll dice to fill a stat sheet, earn some coins, and buy traits, skills, equipment, and weapons to outfit their level one character.
Board games aren’t typically known for their story, but I still fell in love with the theme of Roll Player: why not have a game all about character creation? Since dice, cards, and board games have a beautiful symbiotic relationship, I dove in, feeling right at home. The game’s rules are simple; players roll dice equal to one plus the number of players, ranking the dice from smallest to highest to serve as a community pool, then select a die in player order. While picking a smaller die isn’t great for the character’s stats, this ensures a starting position for the next round of play, and order of purchase this round at the shop. After everyone selects a die, they shop in player order, then end their turns by refreshing one used skill. The next round ensues, and on and on we go until all six rows of stats have three dice each.
As for niceties at the shop, equipment gives certain class types bonus points—points are the goal condition for victory—and reward players further for purchasing more of the same equipment type. Weapons grant passive bonuses, like earning extra money whenever someone buys something. Skills exhaust when used and allow the player to cheat in some way, like manipulating their accrued die, while traits grant bonus points at the end of the game for meeting certain conditions, like having eight or fewer stats in dexterity or charisma or having one of each colored die on one’s stat sheet.
As far as the stat building is concerned, depending on a player’s class, players may get more points for meeting a lofty stat goal in strength, while earning less points for an easier condition in endurance. Players must earn a total stat score in that attribute either within a band of two or exactly on the nose. So, a two-point stat may require players to place their charisma between a 15 or 16. In addition to adding to a stat’s value when you place a die in a row of three empty spaces, each attribute allows some sort of die manipulation, such as swapping two already placed dice on your stat sheet or flipping a die over to its reverse side. In this way, taking a one or two early on doesn’t mean dooming yourself to a failed attribute condition, since a die’s power can change the score. Knowing this can improve your play and help you strategize, while also trying to predict what your opponent is doing.
If you’re concerned about the multiplayer experience, fear not: Roll Player has a single-player mode baked in with a dummy player. Solo players compete against themselves to earn a high score, with the game granting titles for certain scores. True hero—a score of 38 or higher—came pretty quickly to me, but I enjoyed the game enough to keep trying out other race and class combinations.
Roll Player’s music is calm and inoffensive, fitting the medieval-fantasy aesthetic well. In terms of art, it closely aligns with the music, as players will be enjoying shades of brown, parchment, and respectable character art. Of course, the game controls fine given that it’s a turn-based board game and everything clicks as it should. A real deal breaker with some board game adaptations is how easy the user interface is to work with, and the designers here nailed it, with only a slight quibble with reviewing what other players have done when they took their turn; a simple highlighting or light/dark motif would have done wonders here.
The core of Roll Player is beautiful in its accessibility, but like any well-designed game, the nuance and player interaction make it a cozy experience to chew on. Rest assured, this is not a complex or deep game by any stretch of the imagination, but if you have twenty or so minutes to burn while socializing with friends, this fits the mold exceptionally well. Unfortunately, this being an online game of little repute, finding a game can be a bit of a challenge, but that’s where apps like Discord come in handy (there’s even an official Roll Player Discord server). The game’s online features allow for active games and play-by-mail sorts of ventures, though I wish there was a notification system baked in so that I know when someone has taken their turn; otherwise, I’m just opening the app to guess when it’s my turn. If you have a friend to play with, local multiplayer is always an option. I can see myself returning to Roll Player for years to come when the urge to roll some dice strikes.