As the new writer at Boardgame Quest, I want to be flexible and open to review any and all games, even if they don’t excite me. So when asked if I wanted to review the Roll and Write or the Trick-Taking game, I responded that I didn’t care. But the truth was, I don’t care for either genre (Hadrian’s Wall excluded), so my real answer was neither. I was sent the Roll and Write and boy was I pleasantly surprised.
Dice Kingdoms of Valeria is a roll and write in which you play as an Earl attempting to improve your castle and Duchy by recruiting citizens, building roads and buildings, and clearing the land of Monsters. It really hits the sweet spot of Multiplayer Solitaire with each player even having something to do during the active player’s turn, instead of sitting and waiting for your turn. The turns are fast and the rules are easy to learn. My 8 year old son was playing without assistance 10 minutes into gameplay. Game time says 30-45 minutes, but on first plays and at 4 player count it took over an hour.
The gameplay is simple, each turn consists of three phases.
- The Roll Phase: The active player rolls all 6 dice (2 Black, 1 Blue, 1 Red, 1 Yellow, and 1 Green).
- Harvest Phase: All players, not just the active player, use each individual number rolled on the two black dice and the sum of the two black dice to activate citizens from one of the four guilds (Holy, Worker, Shadow, and Soldier)
- Action Phase: The active player now chooses which die to use:
• Red Die as a Slay Action to attack a monster lair.
• Yellow Die as a Recruit Action which allows you to activate more citizens in future Harvest Phase.
• Green Die as a Build Action to build roads to claim new domains and the domain’s bonus.
• Blue die is optionally used to add its full value to the selected die above
Then the next player becomes the active player. As you fill in the “Pips” during both the Harvest Phase and the Action Phase, some pips reward you with gold coins, knights to man the wall of your castle, free build spaces, free recruitment actions, free slay rewards, or victory points.
With every six gold coins earned, players select a statue from the six card draft line in the middle of the table. Statues give you instant rewards or end-game scoring bonuses.
The game ends when one player completes three guild tracks. Scores are the cumulative of statue bonus points, star victory points marked, domains claimed, and VP earned from completed monster lairs.
So here are my general complaints about roll and writes:
- The theme is drawn on a tear away diner menu and you ignore it while rolling dice that symbolize something that you don’t recall and you just write down the numbers you rolled on your menu… err “board.”
- Everyone looks at their own board and there is no interaction between players.
- Whoever rolls the best wins, but you probably need an accounting firm to audit everyone’s rolls.
- After the game, if you are asked about the game experience most people can’t recall what the game was actually about.
Here’s the thing, complaints 1 and 4 are still valid for Dice Kingdoms of Valeria, but 2 and 3 are not, which I think is why I can begrudgingly say… I like a roll and write, there, I said it. I liked it, a lot. The game is actually kind of great. The fact that everyone has something to do during the active player’s turn is a great design. It eliminates both problems 2 & 3 above (although auditing may still be necessary). If everyone else rolls well for me, I can win even if I roll like I do at Craps in Vegas. Additionally, the collection of the statue cards gives you an opportunity to score points at the end or prevent an opponent from being able to select their ideal statue through a little hate drafting. Sidenote: If you ever see me at a Craps table with dice in my hand run like the cops are busting your high school kegger.
The game is very well balanced, making each dice color a worthy choice as the active player, plus the design of the blue dice as an additive is another great mechanic which gives you a variety of options. Selecting the best combination strategy is the key to winning. Using the Build Action to claim domains gives you +/- to your die rolls, allows you to flip dice, or gives you free recruit action that enhance future Roll and Harvest Phases. The Slay Action gains you more gold, which helps you earn statues, and the highest total of victory points. The Recruit Action grants you more citizens to activate during the Harvest Phase, this action is very valuable early in the game. Selecting the correct statue bonuses can be the game changer as they grant up to 16 points.
Winter Expansion:The best part about this expansion is that it gives you more sheets to play of this very fun game without breaking the bank at Kinkos. (I know it is called Fed-ex Office, but it’s still the Sears Tower to me, too). The expansion makes a few changes to the base game as the map/paths are different and it requires that you build roads to the monsters lairs in order to open their gates and attack the monsters within. There are also fewer Knights on the wall which gives you fewer opportunities for free slay actions. This works with the theme that it’s cold on the wall and fewer knights want to be outside and with the new game design because you receive fewer free slay actions before you open the monster’s lairs, so they are not wasted. Otherwise, it plays the same as the base game.
Much like I don’t like roll and writes, I don’t really care for Solo board gaming. If I am alone, I would rather play video games, online poker, or watch movies/TV. That being said this Solo mode holds its own and brings most of the elements that are fun about the main game. It adds event cards if you roll doubles. These are always bad for you as the player and the randomness of their appearance enhances the excitement/disappointment of their arrival.
In Solo mode, you have two Harvest Phases the second occurs after the Action Phase as you re-roll the two black dice. The game ends after 20 rounds and your score determines how well you played. I highly recommend coming up with a strategy to remember which phase you are in as I frequently was performing a Harvest Phase and could not remember if it was phase one or two. You are instructed to cross out a tree for each turn, so I started making half of an X after the first roll and completing the X after the second roll. If you like this game and you like solo modes, you will like this solo mode. I’ll be playing Marvel Snap or FIFA while you play this.
As I said above, I really liked this game. It plays fast and there is never significant down time. Even if you have a friend with analysis paralysis it shouldn’t delay the game too badly as there are only three choices of what to do as the active player. Player count has little to no effect on game time and higher counts can actually speed the game up, as it increases the likelihood that one of the players activated more of their citizens using the recruit actions early in the game. In the four games we have played each family member has won one game because they either built more something, killed more something, recruited more citizens to do… something. See the theme isn’t the highlight, it’s the fun had rolling 2 Black, 1 Blue, 1 Green, 1 Red, and 1 Yellow dice as you win this game that I am reviewing.
Final Score: 4 Stars – 4.0 is its score compared to all board games, it is a 5.0 for a roll and write. It’s a fun, easy to learn, well-balanced game that rewards all strategy choices equally.
• Everyone has something to do on the active player’s turn.
• It’s equally fun at 2 players-4 players.
• It is a very well balanced game that rewards all different strategies.
• It is easy to learn how to play and fun for at least ages 8+
• The “board” is well drawn and easy to read/understand
• It’s a roll and write
• While the theme is a fun theme, the gameplay lets you forget about the theme and just think “I am using the yellow die to get a VP”, not “Recruiting more Holy Guild Citizens.”
• In most games you will never get to the duplicate night statues, so if the statue you want was drafted early you have no shot to get it later.