I have a lot of games. A lot of games that are on my shelves, or on my table being played, that I have told myself that I want to review at some point, but for one reason or another, this doesn’t always happen. My goal here on The Opinionated Gamers is that I want to get at least one review out per week, but I would like to write about more games. So I’m taking a page out of Patrick Brennan’s playbook, and I’m going to start writing about games in threes, in snapshot form. This should be a good way for readers to get to know me and my gaming tastes a bit better, and also another way for me to talk about games that I maybe don’t really want to dedicate two thousand words to. Welcome to Three Games.
Qwantum is from designers Stefan Kloß, Anna Oppolzer & Reinhard Staupe, and it’s probably the easiest of the three I am going to write about. It’s a simple premise, seven six-sided dice, one of which that is plain white, and six that have the four colors in the game. You have a score sheet that consists of four rows, one of each color — Blue, Purple, Red or Yellow. On a player’s turn they roll all of the dice, group them by color and then may re-roll any number of dice that they choose. The active player then chooses one set of dice by color and adds their total to the white die and writes it in the corresponding row on the scoresheet, in the furthest available space on the left. The trick here is that the next number you write in that row has to be greater than the number previous, until you reach the bold line and then they have to be lesser than. The player who is not active may choose one of the remaining sets of dice and pair it with the white die and write that on their score sheet, but they don’t have to. When you finish a column, meaning you have written a number in the Purple, the Red, the Blue and the Yellow row, you gain points equal to the second lowest number in that column. You do not have to work column to column, you could in theory, finish any row before even starting on another. You just have to fill the column from left to right, space by space. If ever you cannot write a number as the active player, you gain a penalty and note that on the right side of your score pad. If anyone finishes all four rows, the game ends, or if anyone gets their fifth penalty, the game ends as well. The players will add up their point from columns and subtract the penalty points and the highest score wins.
Dead simple in play, this is more along the lines of Qwixx and Qwinto in terms of complexity. This is the most interactive of the three discussed here due to the fact that what the active player takes, the non-active player(s), do not have access to. It also pays to be aware of what your opponents need so that you can adjust and use your re-rolls accordingly, no need giving away bigger points or helping your opponents when you don’t have to. It’s funny to see that our scores, while they have gotten better on average as we played, have tanked on the low end, we have started taking too many chances, too early in rows and never finishing columns. You have to balance when to go big, or when to possibly take that penalty for not marking a spot. Qwantum is definitely an interesting entry into the roll and write category.
Rating: C+ (4 plays)
Knapp Daneben! is from designer Andreas Kuhnekath and features five, six-sided dice in five different colors. At the start of the game each player will choose one of those colors as their color. On a turn the active player will roll all five dice and then all players will choose which dice to use. The die of your color is always combined with another color to give you the number that you will be writing on your scoresheet. So using the box to the left, if you are yellow, you could write eleven in a green circle, or a ten in the red circle. If you want to write in a yellow circle and that is your chosen color for the game, simply combine it with any other die. The object of the game is to write in the circles and be as “close to the mark” as possible. You want your numbers to be within one of each other, higher or lower. If you succeed, you place an ‘x’ in between the two numbers. Number of x’s in rows and columns will determine your score for those rows and columns. There is also another track on your scoresheet that will allow more scoring as well, if you write a two or a twelve on your scoresheet using the dice, you can mark off two on this score track. If you write a three, four, ten or eleven, you can mark off one. Whatever number is to the right of your final ‘x’ is what you will score. Add that to your rows and columns score and the highest total was “closest to the mark”!
Of the three that we’re touching on here, I kind of think that Knapp Daneben! may be the most clever of the bunch. You can try to play it out conservatively and put middle of the road numbers in nearly every spot, but that’s not going to score you many points on the secondary scoreboard. It’s also interesting to me in just how large your decision space is at the very beginning of the game, and how small it really is towards the end of the game. This is another easy one to explain to just about anyone who may want to try it, and in theory, you could play this with as many people as you have sheets for, everyone just needs a way to view the dice as they are rolled.
Rating: B- (5 plays)
Hex Roller is from designer Rustan Håkansson and features a scoresheet with two different maps, one on the front and one on the back. One game runs seven rounds, the other side runs six rounds. Hex Roller features 8 dice and double sided score sheets. These scoresheets have a map on them, a map of hexes and pre-printed numbers on them. Someone rolls all eight dice and then sorts them into matching sets of numbers, so all your fives are together for example. Every player will choose one set of these dice and write the corresponding number in hexes equal to the amount of dice that show that number. If there are three, threes, you will write three in three hexes. The first number you write has to touch a hex with that number already, either written or pre-printed on the sheet. The subsequent numbers you write must touch the hex that you previously wrote in. Second, players will choose a different number that is rolled and write it down the same way as before. Then those two numbers that you chose that round will be written in the boxes on the bottom left of the player sheet, one on top, one on bottom. Once per round there are some bonuses that you can use to help you in the game.Do this the required number of times and the game ends and scoring can begin. Scoring is the biggest part of Hex Roller. For each bonus action not used, you gain two points. The outer areas of your map are separated into six colors. Look at each color and if you filled that section, you will score as many points equal to the most common number in that area. Same for the middle area except that you will double the most common number for your score. Any equal pre-printed numbers that you connected with an solid line of the same number, will score you points equal to that number. Lastly, in those two rows in the bottom left, you will score points equal to the highest number you can count in that row starting from three and without missing a number. Most points, of course, wins.
While all three of these roll and writes have been fairly easy to explain, Hex Roller may be the one that has given folks the most difficulty to understand just from an overview, but once you get playing, folks will have that proverbial light go off and they are off to the races. This is definitely a lot like Ganz Schön Clever, or it’s successor Doppelt, in that you cannot do everything, and the sooner you see that, the easier the game will be for you. I’ve definitely played Hex Roller and had those moments where I get excited about a dice roll, only to see that I have essentially blocked myself from connecting numbers, or not been able to complete a section of the map due to my poor planning, or just plain bad luck. In that way, it has a bit of Noch Mal in it as well. Hex Roller seems to have been made as an homage to as many fantastic roll and writes as possible, and for now, it works. We’ll just see if it has the longevity of some of it’s inspirations.
Rating: B (3 plays)
All three of these roll and writes offer just a little something different from the others, but all three ultimately do have that feeling of multiplayer solitaire, which is probably the biggest issue I have with roll and writes. There isn’t a whole lot I can do, in most of them, to thwart you in any way other than sometimes take something that would help you. Most of the time, Roll and Writes have you rely on your wits to make choices that will score more points than the choices your opponents make. They mostly turn into efficiency games with some luck of the dice. That being said, I am really seeing the draw to these styles of games, and maybe that’s partially because of the lack of interaction and worrying about what your opponents are going to do to you. Maybe I get enough of that in other games. They are quick to teach, quick to play and easy for most to understand fairly quickly. So much so, I now own six out of the top ten Roll and Writes on Board Game Geek, plus I owned two others that have since moved on to greener pastures. I am anxious to see where this genre of games heads in the future, and I hope that there may be a little more meaningful interaction amongst players involved. (edit: Cartographers from Thunderworks Games seems to add a bit of this we’ll see how it works in August)
Just missing the cutoff for this Three Games were three other roll and write games that have landed on our doorstep and on our table, Sunflower Valley, On Tour and Dizzle. The roll and writes just continue to pour in, so maybe we’ll do another Three Games with roll and writes very soon.
Thoughts from The Opinionated Gamers
Simon W – I’ve played Qwantum and Hex Roller and enjoy both with a slight pref for Hex Roller, which is somehow slightly more interesting for my family I’ve noticed. Qwantum has the advantage that it’s more portable!
Chris Wray – I’ve played all three, and Hex Roller is my favorite. It is extremely fast-paced — there are just the 7 rounds, and everybody takes their turn at the same time — and the rules are simply enough. Knapp Daneben! was fun a few times, but it suffers from feeling kind of same-y after a few plays. The same goes for Qwantum: it is fun a few times, but nothing I’ll want to play over and over again.