It was nearly 8 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday, I was sat in a hotel lounge in Eastbourne attending a conference. That week I had bought a card game from EBay, a card game that promised lots and I was VERY excited. That game was ‘Race for the Galaxy’. I sat some mates down in that hotel lounge and I explained the rules (badly) and off we went… settling planets and developing tech. An hour or so later I realised something with a sinking heart, this was not a great game, and worst of all, my friends weren’t enjoying it either. Disaster.
But fast forward to 2015 and I hear through the grapevine that a new version is being released. Roll for the Galaxy is a 5 player game with the same theme as Race for the galaxy but this time with added dice rolling, and (spoiler time) lots of FUN included in the box, which is a bonus.
Before we get to the actual game, let me first address two important (well important to me) aspects of a new board game. 1) this game looks awesome on a table; just check out those colours and components…. wow! 2) Yes the unboxing experience is ace too (did I mention all those dice?!)
Now back to the serious stuff, how does this Rio Grande game play? A game of RFTG finishes when either a predetermined number of victory points are claimed from a shared pool, or somebody has 12 tiles in their tableau in front of them. When this happens everyone adds up their points and the winner is proclaimed the grand master of galaxy dice rolling.
Each player starts with a homeworld and a pre-built technology tiles in their tableau (meaning that each player is one sixth on the way to ending the game) These homeworlds and techs might add dice to your cup or give you a special power for the rest of the game. Each player also starts with some white dice in the cup and in their ‘citizenry’.
Now the meat of the game. Each player rolls the dice in their cup behind a player screen and then matches the faces of the dice up to the 5 symbols on the action strip. Then each player MUST take one of these dice and choose one of the five actions and place it on the corresponding black box. This means that the action chosen will DEFINITELY happen this round, and therefore any workers ON that space and also underneath it will be available workers during that action phase. Here’s the catch… Its also available to the other players if they have assigned workers to that phase too!
This is for me where the beauty of the game lies. Every time I have played it the other players are looking at your tableau trying to figure out which action you will choose, so that they can then choose another one and get additional actions. Its quite a special moment when everything is revealed and you have been able to figure out what everyone is doing which means that you will get lots and lots of actions that round. It’s a great mechanic that involves everyone at the table.
When the available actions are determined each player takes turns spending dice either:
- EXPLORING new worlds (taking new tiles from the bag for future settling/developing) or taking some money
- DEVELOPING. Each dice can be used towards developing a technology tile which grants powers and/or money
- SETTLING. Each dice can be used to settle new world tiles which grant the player new dice to be rolled!
- PRODUCE. Each world in your tableau (with the exception of grey coloured worlds) can hold one dice which represents a resource which can be sold or traded.
- SHIPPING. Here is where victory points can be won. Each ‘shipping die’ you have can fly to one of your worlds where there is a resource, and then either trade it for victory points at a max of three, or sell it for money.
After everyone has spent dice, everyone has the opportunity to buy back dice from their citizenry into their cup to be rolled all over again!
I may not have explained it very well, and it does sound daunting at first. However, I have played this game with total newbies and after the first couple of rounds something clicks and they get it fairly quickly. The game is superb. For me it has a perfect balance of player interaction vs playing your own game. Those moments of trying to figure out what your opponent will pick so that you can maximise your workers is brilliant and makes for great hilarity/friendly frustration when you didn’t guess correctly!
Its also a fairly quick game. I have played a four player game of this in under 45 minutes and I can see that it would easily become 30 minutes when everyone knows what they are doing.
Pros: Looks awesome on the table. Rolling dice! Light but rewarding strategy. Great ‘guess what your opponent is going to do’ mechanic. Lots of replayability.
Cons: Can be difficult to explain and is daunting to learn with all of those symbols! Have experienced a ‘runaway winner’ problem where it is clear someone will win early on.
Verdict: Great game. Love the mechanics, the artwork, the dice and the speed. Also my wife loves it which definitely helps!