BENGALURU : If you’re going to play a role-playing game or RPG, you’ve got to create your character first. In RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons, you would have to choose a name, race, backstory and other details, before rolling the dice to determine what your stats are. What if I told you that a mad genius decided to make a game based on this character creation step; and, somehow, it’s a ton of fun? Well, that mad genius is Keith Matejka and the game is called Roll Player.
Has everybody recovered from that title yet? Okay, good. Roll Player is a dice-drafting game with a strong puzzle element, much like the excellent Sagrada which we wrote about back in March. It adds layers of depth and complexity, however, as well as an excellent helping of thematic flavour. You’re still rolling dice and then drafting from the dice pool and assigning them to different spots in a grid — but here, that grid is your character and it represents your attributes such as strength, dexterity and all the other RPG staples.
That’s the first layer of the puzzle, because each character class wants to have certain stats. Fighters need a high strength value, as you might imagine, while Rangers prefer Dexterity, and Wizards are more the Intelligence types. It’s not that easy though, because sometimes you just need to exceed a certain value but at others, you’ll need to hit an exact number. That’s where the second layer comes in, because these attributes aren’t just names slapped onto rows to give them some thematic integration.
If you put a die in the Strength row, for example, you get to flip a die to its opposite face; changing a 1 to a 6, potentially, which could be useful. Dexterity lets you swap any two dice on your board, which makes perfect sense as well. Everything works, every effect and special power is grounded in the theme (of course being more Charismatic will get you a discount at the store!) and that’s what makes the puzzle even more compelling.
So you’re trying to match your stats to your character’s class. Apart from that, you’re also trying to put the right coloured dice into certain spots on your board to match your backstory, trying to ensure that your alignment scores you points at the end of the game (or at least doesn’t lose you any), and trying to draft dice that match your character’s class colour for some bonus endgame points. And, while you’re trying to keep all those balls in the air, you’re also worrying about the Market.
Every round, players will get the chance to buy cards from the Market. Cards come in a few different flavours — weapons usually give you special powers, armour gives you points if you can collect more of the set, traits give you endgame objectives to work towards, and skills give you all sorts of game-breaking special abilities but can mess with your alignment (did you think that skulduggery was likely to make you more Lawful?). Just one more plate to keep spinning.
It sounds like a lot, but Roll Player is actually not too complicated — the benefit of having everything work thematically is that you usually don’t have to strain your mind unduly to figure out how something functions. It’s certainly a more complex game than Sagrada, but it also offers more depth; and that’s a good trade-off to make. It embraces the absurd wholeheartedly — in my first game, I was a free-spirited Orc Wizard who was also knowledgeable, intimidating and a lost soul — and it’s one of the most fun games I’ve played this year.