Rolled West (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designer: Daniel Newman
  • Artists: Adam P. McIver & Ariel Seoane
  • Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Time: 20-30 Minutes
  • Times Played: 2

“If you can’t say something nice, just don’t say anything at all”

                                                                                     -Probably my mother

Before we get too far, I love Gold West. It’s a favorite of mine, and recently survived “The Culling”. I love the thematic setting, I love the game play, and I love the look of it. I also love roll and writes. In fact, roll and writes have probably occupied the largest chunk of my gametime over the last year, just based on number of plays. So when I found out that TMG was publishing a roll and write based on Gold West, I was really excited and couldn’t wait to give it a play. What could go wrong?

Rolled West consists of four dry erase boards, four dry erase markers, four dice and a dry erase score sheet. It’s played over six rounds. Within each round each player is going to get a turn to roll the four dice, and based on what they roll — and the resources that they have banked for later use — are going to do an action or two. The first thing the active player does is select one of the rolled dice and set it aside. This die can neither be used this round as a resource, nor can it be banked. What the die does is it distinguishes which claim track the active player can place settlements or camps in.

The claim tracks are on the bottom of the player boards. There are four of them coinciding with the four available resources – wood, copper, silver, and gold. Each claim track has varying points as you progress on them, plus at the end of the game there is majority scoring. A camp is marked with a triangle and costs the active player one wood, a settlement is marked with a triangle and a circle on the next spot and costs two wood.

Right above the claim tracks on the player boards are the contracts. On a player’s turn, they can complete a contract if they have the necessary metals to do so. To note this they simply spend the resources, either via rolled dice or banked resources, circle the point value on the contract and inform the other players to mark that contract out as unavailable on their boards. A contract can only be fulfilled by one player, so there is a race to get these completed.

There are two more action spaces on the player boards. One is the shipping track. On the active player’s turn they may spend metals to advance their shipping on the chosen metal track, one metal per spot. There are point markers along the way that gain the players points at the end of the game, plus there are a couple of spots per shipping track where if you get there first, you gain the larger point value, relegating the rest of the table to the lesser point value.

Lastly there is the boomtown. This is where you build the town, laying claim to bonuses at the end of the game. The boomtown is in a three-by-three grid, with a single metal notated on the edge of each row and column. On a turn, the active player may use a combination of two metals to claim a building. These buildings give bonuses at the end of the game for various actions you have carried out throughout the game, e.g. one point per completed contract, or two points per completed shipping track.

I’ve mentioned banking resources a couple of times, so what does that mean? On your turn, you may choose not to use one of your rolled resources, and notate it on your player board. You may then use that resource later in the game at a time of your choosing. You may also bank one resource from one of your neighbors in between your turn. Note, you can never bank the die that is chosen as the claims die. Contracts do require more resources than you can roll and use in a turn, so banking of resources for these contracts is necessary. 

After six rounds, the game ends and players will tally their points based on positions on the various shipping tracks, majorities on the claims tracks, contracts completed, and the boomtown buildings. The player with the most points wins the game.

Sounds easy enough, and it is. Rolled West is pretty easy to get to the table and get played, although the rule book seems to be a bit overly verbose. So much so that during the first play I thought that surely I was missing something, but apparently, I wasn’t. Roll dice, set one aside and do a couple actions, move on. Rolled West moves at a good roll and write pace.

I’m afraid though that besides that, there isn’t much I can say about the game to make it sound exciting, or even good. Some of this may be the way I am becoming disenchanted with the whole roll and write, or flip and fill, genre of games. The more designers try to do in the space, the more it seems to me that they miss. Rolled West doesn’t try to do too much, so to speak, it just tries to make it all look a bit different than what the others before it have done. But in reality, you are doing the same thing, just with a lightly polished veneer over the top to make you think it’s different.

Aesthetically wise, it definitely makes you think of Gold West, but that’s the extent of it for me. I know the designer has said that he wanted to distill Gold West into a roll and write, but I don’t know that he did, if I were playing this without the TMG look, I’d just think this was another attempt to cash in on a genre that sells at the moment. I don’t feel as though I am playing Gold West in a quicker, more accessible way.

The resource track in Gold West is one of my favorite things about the game. It requires planning to be able to have the proper resources available to you at the right time. Rolled West has nothing that feels even remotely that well thought out. Nothing in it that makes you feel particularly clever. 

The way that you bank resources is a bit confusing, and has led me to believe that the first player is kind of at a disadvantage due to the fact that they get to bank one fewer resource than everyone else. The way the book reads, and the player board notates, you basically can bank a resource in between each turn, but there are no turns prior for the first player, so on your turn you can bank a resource, and then one after, but not before, like everyone else at the table has the option to do. Maybe this is to make up for going first, I don’t know, but when the second player could in theory complete contract on their turn because they rolled lucky and banked the right metal, it’s a bit annoying. Maybe that’s a misunderstanding on my part, but in a rulebook that’s overly verbose, I don’t think I missed it and I don’t think that the rule book editor, if they used one, would have missed it.

This is two misses in a row for me from a company that over the long haul, I have learned to trust quite a bit. Tasty Minstrel Games usually brings quality to the table. They have even done pretty well in the filler department previously with wonderful games like OkeyDokey and Flip City (Which wasn’t a hit for my group, but I can see why it appeals to others). but between Rolled West & Big Dig, plus we can probably add Ghosts of the Moor to that mix, I’m beginning to think that maybe TMG should just stick to bigger box games.

My mother told me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say that I should probably just not say anything at all, but where’s the fun in that? Rolled West is mechanically fine, it works and it’s easy to play and even somewhat easy to teach players new to the genre, but ultimately it’s boring and doesn’t bring anything new to the table. This, for me, is the worst thing that a roll and write can do, be stagnate and like everything that came before it. Maybe we’ve hit peak roll and write, maybe we’ve seen all the innovation in the genre that we’re going to see. I hope not, but the recent offerings I have played have not led me to believe otherwise, Rolled West included.

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