When I mention roll-and-write, what comes to mind? How about a medium-weight, resource management eurostyle game designed by Dávid Turczi and Nick Shaw? Not what you expected?
Well, this isn’t your grandparents’ style of roll and write my friends. Rome and Roll’s complexity rating on BGG is more or less equivalent to Terraforming Mars. Can a game that is played out with dry erase markers really be that complicated? And if so… is that a good thing?
In Rome and Roll you and your fellow gamers will be reconstructing Rome after it was destroyed by fire in 64 AD. You’ll be adding buildings by drawing them on a shared map on Rome and collecting resources and other items which are tracked on a personal player board.
This reconstruction of Rome begins, like all good construction projects, with a drafting of dice. Each round all players will select two dice in a snake-draft format. Each die face can include multiple symbols generally relating to one of the consumable goods in the game or a particular action you can take after the draft. Once every player has chosen their two dice the game proceeds to the action phase.
During the action phase, you’ll always spend a die and then perform an action. Some actions require that you spend a die with a specific symbol while other actions can be taken regardless of what die you choose to spend. One of the most useful actions you can take is constructing a building in Rome. Each game will have eight different buildings that have a cost, a polyomino-type shape, and a special ability. If you spend a die with a hammer or architect symbol and have the required resources, you can add one of these to the shared map. You’ll draw in the appropriate shape using your colored dry erase marker and label the building so everyone knows what you’ve constructed.
Building can be a good source of new abilities to help you throughout the game take advantage of some of the other actions. These include things like:
- Raise Legions: Activate military buildings to gain more soldiers.
- Conquer: Control new settlements around Rome to earn resources and glory points
- Expand: Add roads to conquered settlements (by spending stone) and increase your legacy
- Tax: Choose a region and all your settlements that are connected to Rome generate resources.
- Trade: Turn resources into coins (which are also points!)
That’s quite a lot to do in a roll and write! And it doesn’t cover the fact that each player has a unique board with asymmetric powers. Or the God’s Favor cards that can give you a special power when you build a religious building.
When the game ends, you’ll score points based on your progress on the coin track, glory track, and legacy track. You’ll also have points based on the number of buildings you’ve built. The player who has the most overall points wins the game.
I generally enjoy the roll-and-write genre and medium-heavy eurogames. So this is a match made in heaven… right?
The fact that Rome and Roll really stretches what is possible with roll-and-write is a testament to the design. But it really begs the question of if this is really ever close to the same genre. Gigantic player boards. A similarly-sized central map for all players to write on. Eight building cards that need to be displayed for everyone to see. There is certainly not a small footprint here. If your love for R&Ws comes from portability and playing them on a small table at a local brewery… well, this isn’t that.
Not to say there aren’t advantages. Rome and Roll is quite easy to setup and put away. There aren’t a lot of little bits that need to be sorted. No tiny pieces of stone, wood, and fish you must sort into piles. Instead, you just have a lot of boxes on your board to write in a W for every wood you collect and cross it off when you spend it. If you have sloppy penmanship (like I do) you’ll have to be very careful to keep things neat, so you don’t lose track of what you have versus what you’ve spent.
So, forget the “roll and write” marketing for a minute… is this a good resource conversion euro? Well, it’s not a bad one. There are a whole ton of different player powers which makes each play interesting. Not to mention you can mix up the available buildings each game. Plenty of methods to score points. While building some amount of buildings seems vital to getting some sort of long-term advantages, you can turn that into points by trading resources, conquering settlements, building roads, or any combination thereof.
The biggest letdown is that because everything is pretty wide open the dice draft portion is often not as tense as you might expect. If you need to perform an action but don’t have the right die, you can spend a senator (which you get for building next to other players’ buildings) to take any action even if it would normally require a specific die. And if you don’t have any senators? The trade, tax, and conquer actions can be performed regardless of the die that you use. There is always something to do and which die you have really doesn’t feel like it matters as much as you might feel like it should.
The shared board does add some interesting player interaction to the game. Building next to others will trigger production for them but give you a Senator. Some buildings score based on their position to other buildings in the city. In that respect, Rome and Roll really shines at higher player counts where players can’t just build all alone in their own area of Rome.
Maybe there just isn’t value in the roll and write label anymore. This certainly belongs more in the conversation of other medium-weight civilization-building games rather than comparing to Qwinto and Divvy Dice. The fact that it limits its components to dry erase boards, markers, and some cards has both its pros and cons. Setup and cleanup are a breeze. But you’ll have to write neatly and be careful not to smudge off someone’s shrine when constructing your market.
I wish there was more tension in the dice drafting portion of the game. More than just a few times I didn’t care much at all about which dice I ended up with. But I enjoyed the action selection and resource management. There are about as many roads to victory as there are roads to Rome and a ton of variety in the stack of unique player boards that come in the box.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A good medium weight euro with a great mix of player powers and a shared map of Rome to build out.
• Lots of methods for turning your two actions each round into points.
• Tons of variety in the box with buildings and player powers.
• Dry erase components allow for very easy setup and teardown.
• Dice draft lacks meaningful choices at times.
• Really best with 3-4 players so you can force more interaction on the map.