Changed my mind – Roll for the Galaxy

Similar to the “My Next Purchase” series, I’d like to similarly detail some of the games that I’ve been particularly interested in but have ended up removing from my Wishlist for one reason or another. I don’t know if this will be of interest to anyone, but at the very least I think it’s important to think critically about why we want games and what to do about Board Game Acquisition Syndrome.

What is Roll for the Galaxy?

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Image originally by BGG user W Eric Martin – https://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/1473629/roll-galaxy

Roll for the Galaxy is a dice-based tableau building game for 2-5 players that plays in roughly 45 minutes (according to the box, closer to an hour in my experience but we’ve been teaching new players each time which undoubtedly factors in). It is designed by Wei-Hwa Huang and Thomas Lehmann (the designer of Race for the Galaxy) and released by Rio Grande Games in late 2014.

Each turn, players roll their available dice in secret and arrange them in order to take one particular action and follow other actions that other players may elect to take. Once each player has determined what they wish to do, the actions are simultaneously revealed and then each player executes them in the order of the different activated phases, either to gain money, collect new tiles from the bag, build previously-collected tiles, produce goods on different Planets or ship those goods for money.

I was initially interested in Roll for the Galaxy as I am a fan of its predecessor, Race for the Galaxy, mostly because it seemed to be a more streamlined version of an otherwise – in my opinion – complicated game. I have played dozens of games of Race against the Keldon AI and although I overall enjoy it, I feel that even after 50 games, I still don’t understand all of the iconography and struggle to comprehend much of the nuance of the strategy the game has. This is on me, I make no allusions otherwise, however as much as I may like the game, I don’t know anyone else who plays it, has an interest in it or would even necessarily enjoy its particular kind of gameplay and strategy, making the smoother gameplay of Roll much more appealing.

Why not Roll for the Galaxy?

I am removing from my wishlist as a friend has purchased it and we’ve played it several times now, which has caused me to identify some key issues as to why I do not want this game in my collection. Overall, the game is quite enjoyable and most certainly fits the bill as being a more streamlined and clear version of Race for the Galaxy, however after repeated plays I’ve determined that for me, the game falls flat in one key aspect – fun.

The downside that I noticed playing several games back-to-back at Tabletop Day yesterday was that it seems very snowball-y both for the winners and people struggling. If you don’t have money to add more dice back into your cup, you have to throw away turns Exploring with a single die to get a few more dice, then have to either spend that money right away or spend another turn trying to get even more back. This may be due to our overall inexperience in playing the game, however for the time it takes to play the game, hitting a part of the game where you’re suffering from cash-flow problems just doesn’t feel good. I admit that I find this holds true in Race for the Galaxy as well, however since the games are over so much quicker, it never really sinks in, whereas in Roll, you could be sitting there for 30 or more minutes just struggling to try and get yourself back into the game, which isn’t something I enjoyed after experiencing it repeatedly.

I am sure that if we were to play a dozen more times, we’d overall get better at the game and probably cut the game time down, but truth be told I’m not invested enough in the game to necessarily want to do that. At the end of the day, even with the multitude of ways to mitigate unfavourable dice rolls, you are still relying on dice to be able to remain competitive in the game, which isn’t for everyone and overall just isn’t for me.

Header image by BGG user The Innocent – https://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/2403226/roll-galaxy

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