Roll through the Galaxy (digital)
- iOS, Android and Steam
- Designer Wei-Hwa Huang, Thomas Lehmann
- Implemented by: Temple Gates ames
- Times played 50+ using beta pre released product.
I first played Race for the Galaxy many years ago when a friend had a demo copy. It was an immediate success with me and I was desperate to obtain a retail copy when it became available. I loved the simultaneous decisions and how the actions play out as you build your tableau of cards.
Like many people who played Race for the Galaxy as a card game, I moved onto the app. The benefits were immediate: the iconography that can be off putting was suddenly easy to see; you could use your mouse or finger to find out what icons and cards meant while the AI opponents provided a sufficient balance of challenge and interest because you could set the AI’s level for each of the four opponents. Games were speedy to play and you can test different plans by choosing which actions you want to experiment with and combine card strategies. You could also play online against other human players. My own experience is that this is great with your friends but can be frustrating with players who don’t play as fast as you would like. Nonetheless it’s a great feature.
But what caused this to be such a success was the presentation. Great efforts had been made to make the game easy to get into. When you play there is a text line of what you are required to do and the viable cards to be played are highlighted which makes the game so much easier to play. A great game received a superb implementation.
Not surprisingly Temple Gates games have produced the successor – Roll through the Galaxy. Before I comment on the implementation, I’ll cover some thoughts on the game.
In my opinion the game is more difficult to learn than Race. Partly this is the range of dice options, action choices and tiles that combine in multiple ways. Compare this to Race, which has cards and action choices and I think that there is an extra layer of thinking in Roll. At least that’s how it feels to me.
This also was the feeling for my friends so much so that it was relegated to games to be played occasionally, which only enhanced the learning curve when we resumed play. Then, and this is a personal view, the shaking of the dice in the plastic shaker caused an absolute racket. This might have an appeal to some people but it destroyed my thoughts as we shook the dice for longer (surely) than necessary. Despite these issues, it’s an extremely interesting game. I replayed it recently on Board Game Arena and rediscovered the pleasure of the choices and the relative speed of play. It didn’t have all the presentation aspects of the Temple Gates implementation but it did remind me of the interesting choices in the game.
Then the Temple Gates product appeared on Steam, iOS (and Android but I’ve not played on this system). Lovers of Race would immediately feel at home. The ease of play, highlighted choices and clarity of graphics were all present. The layout of the screen was intuitive so even if you were playing with multiple AI players you could quickly see what they were intending to do and plan accordingly. In fact this was far easier than the physical form as all the information was a few mouse or finger taps away.
During its evolution I have seen the game make minor improvements. They had to be minor as the game in beta form was already extremely good.
Perhaps the best aspect of the game is that it is easy to learn how to play. Just like Race there are prompts to help you know what you need to do. The choices are yours and you quickly pick up the concepts of how to play. And after a few more games your analysis and speed of play also improve. So much so that I have played this version more any other recent board game app as it is so easy to pick up.
A final plus for me is that there is no noise of rattling dice! And if the game follows the same path as Race for the Galaxy then expansions will be added which I would love to see as the game in its original form is excellent and more would be even better. It’s a tremendous implementation.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Tery N.: This is a good implementation of the game. I know how to play, but I did the tutorial just to be sure I understood how the mechanics would work, since I sometimes find online/electronic applications of games hard to figure out, even if I know the game. The tutorial was great and took me through it step by step without being too slow or basic. I followed it up with two games against the AI and was very happy with it. The graphics are great, and it’s easy to see what you have and what options are available, and you can hover to see what choices you have or what will happen if you take an action. I have played the online version on BGA, and while that one works just fine, this was a much better representation of the game. Like Alan, I don’t miss all those dice cups rattling away, either; that may be the one thing I prefer over in-person gaming in general. . . .
Mark Jackson: I’m a big fan of Tom Lehmann’s game designs in general… and specifically the Race for the Galaxy family. Roll is probably my least favorite of those games – and I still put it in my top 50 games! The app on iOS is an excellent implementation – and since I primarily play app games solo as a way to relax, the fact that it has an excellent AI is a real gift. I am concerned that someone without a background in playing the physical game might have difficulty with learning the game… but the tutorial is very good and the layout (once you get used to how they structured the UI) works well.
I am, unlike some of my OG compatriots, not bothered by the dice shaking noise. (Man, I miss getting together with friends to game.)
Dan Blum:This is a decent enough implementation of the game, but I found it somewhat annoying. It gives you an “Auto” button for many moves which will automatically assign dice; this is fine for cases where you might actually want to make a different choice, but it also uses it for assignments where you have no choice rather than just doing them. This slows down solo play somewhat and probably would slow down online play even more. It’s also difficult to see the details of everyone else’s empires; it’s possible but each empire has to be looked at separately.
The Hard AI is good and it’s certainly worth getting if you like the game and want to play solo. (I personally wouldn’t buy it, but I don’t do a lot of solo gaming.) For online play I would recommend BoardgameArena. Admittedly I haven’t tried this version online, but one reason for that is that no one else I know with a beta copy of the app seemed interested in doing so, which should tell you something.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Alan H
- I like it. Tery N, Mark Jackson, Dan Blum (solo)
- Neutral. Dan Blum (online)
- Not for me…
I forgot to add my thoughts to the review (maybe playing RftG too much?) so will do so here. I’ve played the beta version dozens of times on each platform (iOS,Android,PC) and still go back to it for a quick fix.
I love the boardgame, it’s up in my top 10. I actually enjoy the rolling dice – at least I’ll put up with the noise in order to enjoy the rolling of the dice. I think it’s easier to play than Race, as the dice tend to limit one’s options more than the cards in one’s hand in Race. Thus, I find it easier to teach to beginner gamers (with a few admissions of the importance of not running out of money.)
My digital preferences are to use digital games to play solo against the computer AI, and this fits the bill perfectly. I can get in a quick game in five to ten minutes regardless of player count. The computer Hard AI is pretty solid. I am able to win more than my share of games at lower player counts but lose more than my share when playing against 3 or 4 AI opponents – I believe I need to get better at predicting the choices of my computer opponents in those games. This does arise somewhat to the limiting nature of the medium – you have to specifically click on an AI player to see what they’re up to and I’m not always willing to bother to do that.
Dan doesn’t like the Auto button and while I can see you could add yet another layer of “auto” action, I find the button to be sufficient to my needs – it automatically does almost every non-choice with the click of a button. Any more help with automation and I think results would go by too quickly for me to keep up (ie. having it jump through multiple phases at once rather than letting me click for each phase in which I have an action.)
My largest regret might simply be that I’ve been able to over-play the game. I have come to believe there are some development/planets that seem to be innately better than others and if a player is able to obtain them at the right time they can be extremely difficult to beat. Even the starting planets & developments seem to have stronger or weaker options. For example, the yellow die for cash start seems much more powerful than any of the novelty/shipping strategies (I rarely win when pursuing a shipping for VP strategy.) T his does introduce a bit of randomness to the game that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise (with fewer plays) in that essentially not every game is winnable. Yes, the point values of the starting tiles do level things out somewhat but I find many games are won by much greater than just a few points. (Like 5 to 7 points or so…)
How to improve the game? Some of the great digital games include missions or story modes that force a player to explore different strategies, and that would be welcome here. With so many plays under my belt it would be nice to see some more game options. I know I will be waiting for any expansions that arise as I feel I’ve “seen everything” by this point.
Well, off to go play another 5 minute game!…
I’m also finding the “Auto” button a little annoying, and a bit surprising when you have to send all your workers to construct anyway. It would be much better if it auto-assigned the dice, and then just had a “done” button. That way you pause to see what happened, and could still move dice around if you have a choice. Otherwise a very nice implementation!
The game is called “Roll through the Galaxy” in the title and several times in the article. It’s “Roll for the Galaxy”.