Dale Yu: Review of My City Roll & Build

My City Roll & Build

  • Designer: Reiner Knizia
  • Publisher: Kosmos
  • Playesr: 1-6
  • Age: 10+
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by Thames & Kosmos
  • Amazon affiliate link: https://amzn.to/41oeX1C

Says the box: “My City: Roll & Build is a dice game in which over four chapters, each with three episodes, you create a unique city. The roll of the dice shows everyone which building to draw on their game pad, and from episode to episode, you have to face new challenges. First the land is developed and later gold is found. This brings bandits into your city who must be surrounded and taken into custody.  You can play through the campaign or pick your favorite individual episodes or chapters to play over and over again.“

The contents of the box is a huge 144 sheet brick of sheets, which can be separated into the four different chapters, and three special plastic dice.  While you can play any episode; the rules recommend playing them in order at first.  Choose an episode to play and give everyone a sheet for that episode.  If necessary, refer to the rulebook to see if there are any special rules for the chosen scenario.

The game is played in a number of rounds and continues until all players have chosen to stop participating.  All three dice are rolled.   There are two blue dice which mostly have white squares on them; these are used to tell you what shape of building you are doing that turn, and the white die tells you whether the building is solid, striped or crossed out.  The two blue dice will be oriented so that you form a small grey circle in between the dice.  You are allowed to draw in a mirrored or rotated version of the shape made.  If a blank or compass symbol comes up, then you only use the other die. (The rules for the dice change as you move through the episodes).

As the dice determine their orientation, the players really don’t get to make any choices – the result is figured out and then all players draw that shape on their sheet.  There are, of course, a few rules about drawing buildings…

The first building you build must border the river, and then all future buildings must be adjacent to an existing building.  All buildings must completely fit on the sheet and cannot be built on mountains or forests.  Additionally, buildings cannot straddle the river, they must be on one side or the other.  It is beneficial to build over rocks, though you will be penalized for building on trees.  You cannot draw a building on top of a previously drawn building.

If the roll does not agree with you, you can choose to pass.  You have up to six opportunities to pass, though you will take a point bonus based on the number of times that you pass.  If you decide that you do not want to build any more buildings at all, you can pass and not mark off a penalty as you are done with the sheet.  

Continue to roll and draw buildings until all the players in the game have chosen to stop.  Now, it’s time to score the round. This is pretty easy to do as the scoring rubric for each episode is printed right on the sheet itself!  In the first episode, you subtract points for passing, gain points for each tree that is covered, and the lose points for each empty space and each rock left uncovered.  The player with the most points wins.

If you are playing a full chapter, keep your sheet and move onto the next episode in the chapter (there are 3 episodes in each of four chapters).  Sum your scores from all three episodes to determine a chapter winner.  Alternatively, if you were playing solo, compare your chapter score against the table on page 12 in the rules to rate your performance.

My thoughts on the game

My City was one of my favorite games that I played during the pandemic, and I have wonderful memories of playing it online with my core group (I had the physical copy of the game, and I mailed pieces and stickers out to the three other players after we finished each chapter).  I had such a good time with it that I later bought a second copy to play through the experience again.  As I was a pretty big fan of the original game, I was definitely looking forward to trying out this smaller roll-and-write version.

I have just finished my first trip though the four different chapters of the game – some in multiplayer format and some by myself – and I must say that this game is definitely reminiscent of the original game.  I will admit that the game doesn’t really change at all whether played with others or not – as there is no player interaction.  All players use the same die roll each turn – so I suppose this would also be a great choice to play remotely (if people are still doing that!).  The dice even roll and orient themselves (with the clever dot system) – so it’s not even like the active player gets to affect the die roll…

Unlike the original game, there is not much a legacy aspect to the game.  There is still a story arc told through the progressive chapters, with new rules and complexities being added in stepwise as you move through the different sheets – but there aren’t permanent changes like changing die faces, etc.  Each time you play Chapter 5, you will start out with the exact same blank Chapter 5 sheet.  In the final chapter, you do carry over some bandits from sheet to sheet – but that’s about it.  Otherwise, you start over with each new sheet.

The sheets are well done for the most part, and I like the way that the scoring is easily seen at the bottom of each sheet.  The game wants you to shade buildings in three different types, and while I don’t shade in my solids completely, I use three easily distinguishable patterns to quickly draw in the buildings.  I will note that I have learned to draw in my buildings in sizes smaller than the grid on the sheet so that I can easily see where the different buildings are.  In my first game, I tried to use the exact outlines of the grid, and it was a disaster trying to distinguish the buildings from each other – especially when they shared the same type of shading!

I do like the way that the rules allow you to simply skip a bad roll (well, at the cost of a small penalty) – as it adds a bit of risk/reward to the game as well as increasing your flexibility to a large degree. One consequence of this, however, is that there isn’t quite as much tension in the game because there is rarely a situation where your entire plan will flop based on a single roll.  Sure, you might end up taking a penalty for skipping a roll, but as the largest stepwise penalty is only 3 points, I am often willing to risk it on another roll hoping for a better result.

As I mentioned earlier, each chapter builds upon the rules of earlier chapters, and each step within a chapter also adds something in at each step.  I will warn new players that the first chapter is maybe a bit too basic for my tastes, and if you try it and find it dull, I’d strongly recommend that you persevere and play through the next chapter when the game gets a bit more interesting. 

On the whole, I have found that the game is fairly easy, as I can usually make the shapes mostly go where I want.  My scores have been pretty good, and I ranked in the highest column for the solo scores at the end of my game.  My favorite chapter is Chapter 3 as the achievements in those three sheets bring the most tension to the game, and I find those sheets the most interesting.

The game is quite portable, in a small Kosmos box which fits nicely in my glove compartment.  There are 32 sheets for each chapter (well 16 double sided sheets), and I have already laminated four of each chapter to even further lessen the size of the game – well, of course I had to add in some of my favorite dry-erase markers…  To be honest, I much preferred the arc and legacy nature of the original game, but this one has its place;  first, it’s smaller and portable and secondly, each game takes maybe 10 minutes (thus 30 for a chapter), and it’s a nice fit for when you only have a small amount of space and/or time for a game.

My City: Roll & Build is a nice successor to the original, and one that I will continue to play over the summer when I’m in the mood for something light.  In fact, it’s in my carry-on baggage (well four laminated sheets and the 3 dice) for my upcoming vacation as I suspect I’ll play through the campaign once or twice in lieu of laggy seatback movies.

Amazon affiliate link: https://amzn.to/41oeX1C

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. 
  • Neutral. Dale Y, John P
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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2 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of My City Roll & Build

  1. Louisa Berry says:

    “You have up to six opportunities to pass, though you will take a point bonus based on the number of times that you pass. ”

    Shouldn’t that be point penalties?

  2. Rodney Somerstein says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed my play of this one at the Gathering of Friends this year. Three of us played through this in just a couple of days. Last year, we had played My City and enjoyed it quite a bit. The Roll & Build version has the benefit of being shorter. It wasn’t as innovative as the first one, but it is the best adaptation of another game to the roll & write format that I can think of.

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