Roll and write as a game mechanism isn’t new—Yahtzee was was first published in 1956. Yet, its explosion in the past few years has led to a whole new category of games. While the earliest took similar forms of different colored dice and boxes to check, we’ve seen new games stretch what can be done when you push the basic idea to its limits.
You’ll see that many of the top games on this list are really brand new games. While I’m hesitant in general to throw games that haven’t yet shown staying power over time on a top 10 list, I think it’s clear that designers are really starting to hit a stride with roll and writes. Maybe time will prove me wrong, but we can revisit that some other time. For today anyway, here are the top 10 roll and writes.
MetroX never had much a wide release in North America, but has been floating around in limited copies. The Hisashi Hayashi designed roll and write cleverly uses intersecting metro lines which require players to time their activation of each line to try to reach the end of as many as possible. The game comes with two different maps giving it some additional replay value.
9. Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age (review)
Roll Through the Ages incorporates resource management into the roll and write genre. Each player has a pegboard that is used to track the number of each resources they have at any given time. These resources are spent on unlocking technologies and building wonders as players compete to have the most successful civilization.
8. That’s Pretty Clever/Twice as Clever
One of the recent hits in the roll and write family has been That’s Pretty Clever and it’s brand new sequel, Twice as Clever. Both are themeless dice chucking where each colored die scores in a unique way at the end of the game. The trick is that as you progress through each scoring area, you’ll trigger bonuses in other areas allowing for some fun combos. Both games are available as solo-play only mobile apps and get a lot of play in that format.
7. Harvest Dice (review)
Harvest Dice never seemed to have fully received all of the praise it is due. Players will draft dice from a common pool to plant in their gardens, but must keep like-veggies together and keep the pigs fed on top of that! Most of the points in the game come from majorities of adjacent items in your garden, making Harvest Dice one of the more interactive roll-and-writes with a great family friendly look and feel. (Also winner of the BGQ Award for Best Family Game of 2017.)
Not every roll-and-write has to be a themeless bore of colored dice. Steamrollers uses an Age of Steam-like ruleset and a couple of custom dice to create what feels much like a simplified train delivery game. The dice determine which types of track you can build as players will connect cities together to deliver goods and score points. It doesn’t pack the full complexity or strategy of it’s old, bigger siblings but it’s a great example of the depth that can exist even with just some dice and a piece of paper.
If roll and write games are the current hotness, polyominos are a close second place. And plenty of games are trying to join the two together. For my money, none do it nearly as successfully as Brikks. Rather can trying to use these Tetris-like pieces as part of a quilt or garden… Brikks just wants you to play Tetris. You’ll score points for clearing multiple lines with a single piece and unlock powers by dropping the right colors at the right time. It is, quite simply, Tetris the board game and it couldn’t be more fun.
4. Welcome To…
Trying to design your own suburban subdivision has never been more popular. Welcome To… took the board game hobby by storm last year. Each turn a card is revealed from three separate decks, making three different pairs of number and action combinations. Players will choose one of those pairs, writing the number on a house in their neighborhood and taking the associated actions. It’s a race to complete the end game blueprint cards while still scoring points in a variety of other ways. Welcome To… does a great job of providing players with multiple avenues to victory and a great theme that attracts gamers of all types.
3. Fleet: The Dice Game
Fleet: The Dice Game is a brand new game that is just recently been making its way to Kickstarter backers. That said, it immediately jumped up to near the top of the list. It uses a dice drafting element, similar to Harvest Dice, giving the game some semblance of player interaction. There are tons of different options to score points and you’ll unlock bonuses that can create combos in a way that feels similar to That’s Pretty Clever. While taking the best parts of other games on this list certainly makes for a good start, it also feels different enough as you’ll never be able to score everything and have to make some tough decisions on how you want to approach each game.
2. On Tour
I warned you — the top section of this list contains a bit of the newest hotness. On Tour is a brand new roll and write that has players scheduling the route for their band. It is dead simple to explain and the theme, while pasted on, makes sense and the game does it’s best to evoke it throughout. Route-building is one of my favorite mechanisms in games and On Tour is a wonderful example of integrating that into the roll and write genre. The way various states branch out from each other gives you lots of options in how aggressively or passively you want to try to stretch the limits of your band’s trip. It’s also one of the best produced roll and writes out there.
1. Qwinto (review)
It can’t all be new hotness though. Qwinto has stood the test of time as my favorite roll and write and remains there today. While the newcomers may dethrone it at some point, there is something about the simplicity of having three dice and a tiny sheet of paper that is appealing to me. And with such minimal components and 2 minutes of rules somehow emerges some of the hardest decisions of any game on this list. Players attempt to fill in three rows of numbers but most do so in a way that ascends from left to right and doesn’t repeat any numbers in a column. That’s it. While I love the theme, depth, and variety that we are seeing come out of the success of the roll and write mechanic, Qwinto is by far the best example of what really caused these types of games to take off.