Tag Archives: Roads & Boats

7th February 2017

It was a very quiet night, with work and family commitments and illness decimating our numbers.  In fact, for a long time it looked like there might only be two of us, but we were saved that indignity when Ivory turned up, quickly followed by Green.  After we had cheered Burgundy through his Hawaiian, we settled down to the “Feature Game”, Roll for the Galaxy.  This is a re-implementation of an older card game, Race for the Galaxy, with the addition of dice.  One of the common complaints about Race for the Galaxy is the complexity of the iconography, which was used to limit the amount of text on the cards.  This has been significantly reduced in Roll for the Galaxy (and largely replaced with text), but in its place there is a complex dice economy.

Race for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

In summary, players roll the dice in their cup in secret, behind their screen.  They then distribute the dice according to their symbols, matching them up to each of the five phases, Explore, Develop, Settle, Produce and Ship.  Players then, still in secret, re-position one of their dice to use it to choose one action they would like to activate.  Players can also put a die to one side for a turn to “Dictate” the symbol on another die, i.e. reassign it to a different phase.  Once everyone has positioned all their dice, the player screens are removed and players simultaneously carry out the phases that have been chosen in order.  In general, each die is used to carry out an action once, so if a player has multiple dice assigned to the same phase, the action may be carried out several times.  Any dice that are not used (or were used for the Dictate action) are returned to the players’ cups whereas dice that are used must be placed in the player’s “Citizenry”.  Dice in the Citizenry must be transferred back into the player’s dice cup before they can be used again, and this costs $1 per die.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The next natural question is, how do players get money?  Money comes from Trading goods:  during the Ship phase.  Goods are placed on Production Worlds during the Produce phase and can either be Traded for money (where the value depends on the type of World that produced them) or Consumed for victory points (where bonuses are received if the dice colours match that of the Worlds that produced them) during the Ship phase.  There are three types of World on double sided square tiles:  one side is a Development World and the reverse is either a Coloured Production or a Grey Non-Production World.  Worlds are all “built” by spending dice during either the Development phase or Settle phase (for Production and Non-Production Worlds) and the cost is returned in Victory Points at the end of the game.  Players draw World tiles from a bag during the Explore phase.  They choose which side they are going to try to build and therefore which stack to place them in, either the Develop or the Settle pile.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

In general, Development Worlds give special powers and or extra points at the end of the game.  In contrast, Production and Non-production worlds give more dice and, in the case of the coloured Production Worlds can also provide Victory Points and/or money.  The clever part is controlling these piles and manipulating the worlds built in order to steer a particular strategy.  The game ends when either one player builds more than twelve Worlds, or the Victory Point chip pile is exhausted, in this way, it is a race and controlling the game length is one important aspect of play.  Inevitably in a dice game, the most important part of the game, is managing and working with luck.  The different dice colours have different distributions of the phase symbols, for example, while red (Military) dice have two Develop and two Settle symbols, blue (Novelty) dice have two Produce and two Ship symbols.  Thus, the game could be compared with a game like Orléans, where players build the contents of their bag in an effort to control luck, rather than the symbols on the dice in their cup.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by BGG contributor haslo

It is a game that takes a bit of getting used to and everyone struggled a bit.  Unusually though, it was Burgundy who struggled the most which made a change for the rest of us.  It was all made worse by the inevitable rules confusions though.  Before we started, Green had questioned whether it was compulsory to place one die to choose the phase or whether it was optional.  Only Blue had played before and then only with two players which made it a quite different game, and on that occasion, they had played that it was optional.  It was not glaringly obvious from the rules, though eventually we came to the conclusion that it should not be optional, so we proceeded with the game along those lines.  As the game progressed, it became apparent that this led to a logical inconsistency.  The rules specifically stated that if a player had no dice in their cup after recruiting (i.e.at the end of the round) they must recall any dice left on worlds as goods or in the process of Developing or Settling.  The problem with this was that if a player was then forced to use this die to choose a round, without dice to actually carryout the action they would be forced to spend any assets, but with no way of turning them into anything useful.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

For this reason, we returned to playing that choosing an action was optional, which allowed players to take a chance that others would choose the action they wanted.  About half way through the game, Green, who had been fiddling with his phone looking up specifics of a World he’d built, had an “Aha!” moment when he found something on the rules forum.  The thread explained that the die that use to select a phase acts as a worker of that type during the chosen phase.  This is in “Frequently Overlooked Rules”, but somehow the use of the the term “worker” didn’t make it clear.  If the die used to select the action could also carry out that action though, not only did it prevent “single die jeopardy”, but it also meant that players were effectively guaranteed one completely unconstrained move (because the symbol on the die used to choose the action does not have to match the phase).  Even better, a player with three dice, could use the “Dictate” option to give them any two (potentially different) actions.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Although this clarified everything, it had the potential to make such a huge change to the game we decided to carry on playing as we had been.  We could all see how this made much more sense though and would also speed the game up.  By this time it was very clear who was going to win in any case though.  Green had started with the Genetics Lab which turned out to be extremely powerful as it gave him an extra $2 every time there was a Produce phase.  After checking the rules forum (again) it became clear that this was regardless of whether he initiated it, so long as he left his green die on a production world he had an income which effectively meant that he didn’t really need to worry about money.  Eventually, he put us out of our misery by building his twelfth World bringing the game to an end.  Totting up the scores gave a surprising result. Green was inevitably miles in front with forty-four points, but everyone else was caught in a three-way tie on twenty-two points.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

It was clear that playing correctly would have a huge impact on game play and, although Green and Ivory had to leave everyone was keen to give it another go in a few weeks time.  Blue had the chance sooner, however.  On Sunday afternoon we had the third of our “Monster Games” sessions, and after a game of Roads & Boats, Blue, Pink, Black and Purple gave it another go.  Black and Purple were completely new to it, and Purple struggled a bit with the dice economy while Black was not sure how to control the worlds available to him.  It was clear to Blue and Pink though that playing by the rules as written, unsurprisingly, made the game work much better.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

With Green and Ivory gone, Burgundy was keen to play something a little shorter and lighter and Blue fancied having another go at beating Burgundy at Splendor.  We play this game a lot and beating Burgundy at this game has become something of a Group Challenge, but somehow he always just gets the rub of the green.  This is a game of chip-collecting and card development where players collect chips to buy gem cards which can then be used in lieu of chips.  More expensive cards are also worth points and the game end is triggered when one player reaches fifteen points and the round is completed to give everyone the same number of turns.  Points are also awarded for “Nobles” which go to the first player to get a specific combination of gem cards and the player with the most points at the end is the winner.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

This time, the Nobles were opal, diamond & ruby; opal, ruby & emerald; sapphire, emerald & diamond.  At the start of the game rubies were scarce, but sapphires and emeralds in particular were scarcer.  This was not too much of a problem initially as opals and diamonds were needed for the Nobles, but it gradually became more of an issue as the game went on.  Blue and Burgundy were pretty much neck-a-neck for the first half of the game with both players picking up nobles on the same turn.  It was very tight though and the pressure from Burgundy forced Blue to reserve cards giving helpful Gold (which is wild), but is a very inefficient approach.  In the end, the game was painfully close.  Burgundy finished his turn and began re-counting his points.  It was only as Blue claimed seven points (one card and a Noble) to give her a total of sixteen points that he commented that actually he already had fifteen.  Since Blue started, that meant she wasn’t able to claim her final turn.  Normal service resumed then!

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Learning Outcome:  Playing by the correct rules can improve a game no end…