Buzzworthiness: Rolling America

A quick review of a quick game today:

image by BGG user nunovix
image by BGG user nunovix

Rolling America is a game by Hisashi Hayashi, originally published as Rolling Japan in 2014.  Gamewright picked the game up for the US market, and developed it into Rolling America.  The game is for 1+ players, and takes around 15 minutes.  It’s a light dice rolling game where you are trying to get the lowest score possible by filling a map of the US with numbers.

The game comes in a box with a magnetic lid, and contains seven dice, a cloth bag, and a score pad.  Each player gets a score sheet, and the seven dice are placed in the bag.  On your turn, you draw two dice out of the bag and roll them.  There are six colored regions on the map:

image from boardgamemeeplelady.com
image from boardgamemeeplelady.com

One die corresponds to each region, and there’s also a translucent wild die.  When you roll the two dice, you will enter each number into its corresponding region (the wild die can go anywhere).  The basic placement rule is that you can only place numbers adjacent to each other within a region if they are equal or within one of each other.  So if you roll a 2, it can be placed next to a 1, 2 or 3, or it can be placed on its own (the orange region features Alaska and Hawaii, which are not adjacent to anything, so anything can go there).

As you can probably guess, with 7-9 spaces in each region, they will quickly fill up and you won’t be able to place a number.  If you can’t place a number anywhere, you have to put an X somewhere in its region (if you can’t place the Wild die, nothing happens).  If a region is already full, nothing happens.  There are three cheats you can use rather than place an X:

  • Guard – Place a number anywhere within the region, then circle it.  It is exempt from the usual placement rules.
  • Color Change – Use a die in a region of a different color.
  • Dupe – Duplicate a die and place it twice in a region.

Each cheat can only be used three times per game, and you’ll mark those off on your sheet.

So, on a turn, you draw two dice, roll them, then everyone places the numbers.  You then pass the dice bag and the next player draws two more.  When there’s only one die left in the bag (there are only seven total), the round is over and all dice are added back into the bag.  When you have completed eight rounds, the game is over.  Any blank states are filled with Xs, and the player with the fewest Xs is the winner (ties are broken by the player who has used the fewest cheats).

image from www.notey.com
image from http://www.notey.com

COMPONENTS: The dice in this game are custom d6s, but custom in the sense that the pips are stars instead of dots.  They’re nice enough.  The scoresheets are all double-sided, meaning that they can be reused.  The layout of the sheets is pretty easy to follow.  Beyond that, there’s no other components in the game.  I wish there were some golf pencils or something so you don’t have to look for a pen every time you play.  Oh, the box is nice – it has a magnetic flap to close the lid.

THEME: Rolling America doesn’t really have a theme beyond the cubist map of the US.  There are 50 spaces, so I guess you could incorporate some vague geography lessons into it.

MECHANICS: There’s not a whole lot going on here – roll two dice, write down the numbers.  Guard, Color Change, and Dupe are all included in the game as a way to manipulate the dice, but you only have three uses of each, so you need to use them sparingly.  The placement rules keep things challenging as you can’t just place anywhere.  Overall, a simple game to learn from a mechanical standpoint.

STRATEGY LEVEL: The strategy in this game comes in deciding where to place your numbers and when to use your cheats.  However, what you can do usually depends on what is rolled.  In my last game, we got a lot of orange 2s and 4s, but never got an orange 3 to fill in that gap.  We could have color changed another 3, but it’s impossible to know that you won’t get what you need later.  So there’s a definitely push-your-luck element here.

ACCESSIBILITY: The game is very easy to learn.  Placement rules may take a minute to get your head around, but this is a game that could be used with any age (the publisher says 8 and up) and any type of gamer.

SCALABILITY: Rolling America is for 1+ players.  This means that, given enough score sheets, any number of people can play this game.  And that means that this game fits quite neatly into the multiplayer solitaire category.  Everyone is completing their own puzzle at the same time, and you’re just trying to have the best score.

REPLAYABILITY: I can see this game having limited replay value.  Certainly, there are a finite number of scoresheets, so that will limit you.  But I can also see the game getting stale and redundant after a while.  It’s good for an occasional challenge, and it’s cheap, so it should be easy to get your money’s worth out of it.

INTERACTION: There is no interaction in the game.  Players take turns rolling the dice, but there is no way to affect anyone else’s game.  You do pass the sheets to the left at the end to see if your neighbor made any errors, but that’s it.  Any interaction during this game is solely external.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING: I’m kind of lukewarm on this game, as you may have gathered.  Generally, if I really like or dislike a game, I can easily look at what the other side is saying.  But let’s look at comments from both sides of the BGG rating spectrum this time.  User Goatcabin (who rated the game a 9) says:

A super fun solitairish puzzle game. Reminds me of the fun of solving a Sudoku puzzle, except Rolling America will definitely proceed toward its conclusion.

On the other hand, pfctsqr (who rated the game a 4) says:

An…ok…dice filler. It rightfully gets compared to Qwixx and Qwinto as it tries to fit in the same niche as those games. It is a very light and portable dice game. However, it is much more solitaire than the other mentioned games; the rules go so far as to mention swapping score sheets after the game so players can check for mistakes. So in other words, the rules admit no one was paying an iota of attention to anyone else during the game. The same person could actually roll the dice every time and it would not matter. I also think the game is more frustrating than fun and becomes quite monotonous after a while. Mistakes do not really become apparent until midway through, so the first several turns feel like you are just slapping down random numbers hoping it just works out.

This is pretty close to how I feel about the game.  One thing I do want to point out that both comments mention that it’s very much a solitaire game, although that seems to be more of a draw for one than than the other.  So take that as you will.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? It depends on what you’re looking for.  As an occasional solo challenge, I think that it works.  As a way to work in some geography lessons, I think this game also has some things going for it, especially if you try to figure out what state each box represents.  As a multiplayer filler game, there are many out there that are much better and that I would rather play.  I’d play this again, but it’s not one I want to play a lot.

Thanks for reading!

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