- Designer: Rustan Hakansson
- Publisher: Renegade Game Studios / Frosted Games
- Players: 1-8
- Ages: 8+
- Time: 15 minutes
- Times played: 5, with review copy provided by Renegade Games
Hex Roller is one of the newer entries into the very crowded roll-and-write (RAW) genre. This little game has 8 special d6 (numbered from 3-8) that come in 4 different colors; though this is somewhat un-necessary as the color of the die never comes into play, and a pad full of scoresheets to write upon. No writing implements are provided, so the next time you come across a box of golf pencils, grab you eight of them to stash away in this box.
The useable area of the score sheet is a snowflake-shaped affair with a central orange blob that then has a differently-colored seven hex arm off each side. On certain spaces on the grid, you will find numbers preprinted, a pair of 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s, 7s, and 8s. To the left of the page, there is an area to tabulate your score, and in the bottom left , there is a small grid for you to record numbers. Of note, there are two different layouts (one on the front, one on the back) – the group should decide which side to play. Everyone needs to play on the same side in each game. The Front side uses 8 dice and takes 7 rounds. The back side uses 7 dice and plays in 6 rounds.
On a turn, a player takes the dice and rolls them, sorting them by the number rolled. Then, all players simultaneously choose a number that was rolled (each player can choose their own number), and writes down their chosen number onto their sheet the same number of times as they see them on the table. The numbers you write down must be in a chain. The first number you write this turn must be adjacent to a hex which contains the same number (either preprinted on the sheet or written down on a previous turn), and then each successive number this turn must be adjacent to the hex that you wrote the previous number in. Once all players have completed their writing, all players now choose a second number (must be different from the first number) and do the same process. Finally, write the two numbers down in the grid in the bottom left; the first number is written in the top row and the second number in the bottom row.
During the turn players also have the option of using one of their three bonus actions. You can only use one bonus per round, and each bonus can only be used once. The icons for these three actions are found in the top row of the scoring chart on the left of the sheet. With the +1, you can write down an extra number in an additional hex. With the “2”, you can write a “2” down in any empty hex. Finally with the three cubes, you can choose a third number in a given round (and write down the numbers on your sheet in the usual manner) – this third number is NOT entered into the chart in the lower left.
The game continues until the chart in the lower left is filled in. Then, the sheets are scored.
· Score 2 pts for each bonus action not used
· For each outer area which is completely filled in with numbers, score points equal to the number seen most often in that colored area
· For the center area, if it is completely filled in, score points equal to DOUBLE to number seen most often in the central area
· Score connection points equal to the pre-printed numbers on the sheet if you have a contiguous path of the same number which includes both of the pre-printed ones
· Score the two rows of the bottom left chart – in each row, look at the numbers in the row (order they were written does not matter), and score points equal to the highest number you can count to starting from 3 using numbers from the row and not missing a number in sequence. (i.e. score 5 points for 7-8-3-3-5-4-8)
The player with the most points wins. A tiebreaker is not mentioned in the rules.
My thoughts on the game
Hex Roller offers a nice amount of decision making for a ten to fifteen minute game. You will need to rely upon luck to give you the right number in the right quantities at the right time to do well. You will also need good planning to make sure that you give yourself the opportunity to use those numbers when they do come up. There are a number of different ways to score points, and as of yet, I don’t think that it’s a solvable puzzle – mostly because you just can’t predict the way the dice are going to roll.
There is a fair bit of skill in figuring out when to use your bonus actions – trying to figure out the right time to use them is hard. Be sure to remember that you can only use one bonus action per round; so you want to make sure that you have an opportunity to use all three of them (if you want to use them). The +2 bonus is decent for not using the bonus, but I have found that in most cases, I get more than a 2VP benefit from them.
At first I thought it was funny that the dice are just standard d6 with a +2 to all values, but once you play a few games, you can see how the range of 3-8 is a nice sweet spot for scoring. Clearly, the 8VP you get for an area dominated by 8s is good, but the 3 or 4 VP is close enough to make it worth still striving for. Additionally, you’ll likely want to play a few low numbers to give yourself straight scoring opportunities on the chart. This still doesn’t explain why the dice are four different colors, but hey, maybe there is an expansion already in the works that relies upon different colors, and the game was created with this forward compatibility in mind.
I have found that I enjoy this particular RAW as it gives me enough different choices on how to play, and thus far, it does not appear solved. I could be wrong, as I still have a fairly limited experience with the game, and I intend to keep playing to see if I can improve on my score. As I generally don’t play games on my phone, while there is an app which I could blast through plenty of games, my experience with this game will be limited to the analog version, and I will continue to bring it to the table.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Brandon K: Hex Roller may be the one roll-and-write 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 its 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 its inspirations.
Dan Blum: Nothing groundbreaking here but it’s still a pretty good roll-and-write and I actually prefer it to all the games Brandon mentions, if for no other reason than that it’s significantly shorter. (The Clever games can really drag with four players.) The main problem with the game is the sequence scoring for the boxes in the lower left; it’s hard to explain clearly and in fact I think Dale’s explanation is not quite correct: you need to be able to make a sequence starting at 3 using adjacent numbers, but they do not have to be in order (7886354 scores 6 but 7868354 scores 5). It would also be nice if the rulebook mentioned that the two sides of the sheet have slightly different scoring – on the six-round side the unused bonuses are worth only 1 point but the sequences are worth double.
Doug Garrett: Shelley and I have had a really good time with this one. You really do need to study the ‘board’ a bit before you get started initially since choices that you make block other possibilities (as others have mentioned). I love the fact that there are TWO versions of the game on each side of the sheets. That, coupled with the fact that it plays 1-8 out of the box makes this a solid addition to the genre. We reviewed it on Episode 673 of the Garrett’s Games podcast.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Doug G.
- I like it. Dale Y, James Nathan, Craig V., Dan Blum
- Not for me.