Updated: Oct 24, 2020
Designed by Dávid Turczi and Nick Shaw, Rome & Roll is described as a 'heavy roll & write' whereby 1 to 4 players act as leaders competing to bring back Rome to its former glory following Nero's great fire of 64 AD.
Straight off it's important to emphasise that the word 'heavy' isn't being used lightly. The majority of roll & write games are light games just a step or two up from Yahtzee. Rome & Roll has a lot more complexity and scope for much deeper strategic play. In Rome & Roll, you not only need to keep focus on your own player board but you have to pay attention to multiple locations on the main shared board too. It doesn’t take long to hit you that this is actually a perfectly chiselled euro game with roll & write elements!
Gameplay consists of two phases. You start by rolling a set of custom six-sided dice to create a roman bath of choices from which everyone will take it in turns to draft. The dice will then dictate what resources you take and the possible actions available to you in the second phase of your turn. Your first key choice in this game is over which die is the optimal one for you to take and which you can comfortably leave for your opponents.
Dice drafted, you then play your die to gain the resources and perform one of the actions that it gives you. The list of actions and what they mean is displayed clearly on your player board. The actions allow you to Build a new building within Rome, Raise Legions to acquire more legionnaires from anyone’s built Army building, use your Legions to conquer local regions, build roads to connect where you have invaded and Tax or Trade to get more income or resources. One thing that makes any action satisfying is that whatever you choose to do should grant you victory points. The conundrum then becomes what are the right dice at the right time that will lead you down the road to glory faster. You also have to make the most judicious use of your limited number of Senators which can allow you to take an extra die or take an action not shown on your chosen die...
Each player in Rome & Roll has their own unique player board, cunningly designed to ensure a balanced asymmetry. Your unique board will provide you with a small bonus weighted towards following a particular path or strategy. For example, the Legatus not only starts with some legions but can recruit them much faster than anyone else. The asymmetric player boards help to make each player feel special in their own way but still allow them to benefit from taking other actions which may deviate from the path where they are most advantaged: unlike some other euro games, you never feel that Rome & Roll is forcing you to play in a particular way. It's worth noting that only a small handful of possible buildings and other variable powers are selected to be used for each game, which makes for great replayability.
What makes Rome & Roll stand out over other roll & writes, as well as many euro games, is the player interactivity. Of course, you have the usual early bird mechanism you’d expect from any euro game of whoever can get their army out the walls first gets to conquer more, or the early rising builder gets to build the best shrine on the perfect hill. Conversely, what you will find in Rome & Roll is any action you do will affect another player in a positive way. Building near each other could trigger benefits for either player but, more importantly, it will get you a Senator to help mitigate your dice choices. Raising legions provides income to the owners of the buildings. Trading lets everyone trigger their buildings. Conquering allows someone to expand and build roads. All in all, everything feels satisfying, which is exactly what is needed to help break up the heavy analysis during the start of each round. Rome & Roll is nothing like any of the other roll & writes that have appeared so far and shouldn’t be seen like it either. This isn't a short filler. It's a fully fledged euro game. The publishers, PSC could just as easily have produced this as a big box board game with a bunch of plastic or wooden building pieces and tokens but that would have greatly increased the cost and probably decreased the variety in the game. Rome & Roll stacks a huge pillar of content with a relatively small number of components and executes the gameplay in an elegant way. We applaud the decision to use dry-erase boards rather than exhaustible paper pads. The supplied felt tip pens will of course run dry in due course but they are easily and cheaply replaced.
We very much enjoyed this unique package but must warn that the dice drafting can cause heavy analysis paralysis so this game may not be suitable for less experienced gamers. However, lovers of euro games and those who like to plan a few turns ahead will get a huge kick out of Rome & Roll. You'll definitely want to back it when it launches on Kickstarter next week. We'll add a link to the KS campaign when that goes live.
(Review by Nicholas Dunlop)