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Roll Camera!

Updated: Oct 24, 2020

We've featured movie-themed games in the past on Board's Eye View; for example, Movie Empire and the quiz game Blockbuster. The movie industry is a rich theme for board gaming so it's no surprise to see it revisited in Keen Bean Studio's Roll Camera!

In this game, designer Malachi Ray Rempen has brought together all the key elements of film making to create a fully cooperative game where players are working together to shoot scenes while balancing the demands of time and money: run out of either of these and your project is cancelled and you collectively lose. And even if you complete the requisite five scenes within budget and on schedule, you'll also need to ensure that the 'quality' is either sufficiently high or (like one of the movies of Ed Wood) 'so bad it's good'...

Roll Camera! is played using custom six-sided dice. Each face represents one member of the film crew: actor, cameraman, production design, lights, sound and visual effects - with the latter functioning as a 'wild' that can be substituted for any of the others. Each turn, you'll roll six dice (fewer if you or another player have 'locked' dice on a previous turn) and allocate the crew to various roles on the main board or on your own individual player board.

A 'script' is formed by combining the words on two script cards. These also define what scenes you need to film in order to advance on the quality track. We've usually stuck to the original script but players can take actions during the game to alter the script, and therefore the scoring requirements. You'll choose scenes to film, each of which specifies the crew needed and how they are deployed on set. And of course you'll need to build the set, which will also demand crew and cash... Roll Camera! is a puzzle game because you need to collectively find the most efficient use of resources (crew dice, money and time) to stand any chance of completing five scenes within the budget and on schedule. You'll almost certainly need, for example, to find ways of reusing your set for several scenes because you'll run out of time and money if you have to build it anew for all five scenes.

If this were all there were to it, Roll Camera! would be an entertaining game. It would still be quite challenging but it might not keep you coming back for more. There is more to the game, however... Movies are frequently beset with production problems and the movies in Roll Camera! are no exception. At the start of every turn (that's every turn of every player!), you'll turn over a 'Problem' card. That will throw a spanner into the works: typically, for example, imposing extra demands to film a scene or blocking an aspect of the production process (preventing players from allocating dice at that location). All the while a Problem card is active, it's effect will be in force. You can 'resolve' (discard) a Problem card but that costs some of your dice and it becomes increasingly difficult the longer the Problem is in place: when it first appears, you can resolve a Problem by allocating any two crew dice but if it's still there when the next Problem card is flipped, it moves along to the next level of difficulty where it requires two identical crew dice, rising ultimately to three identical dice. There are never more than three Problems in force, so in our plays of Roll Camera! we found that one key to collective success was working out which Problems we could live with and work around: once we had three Problems in place then we were immune from any more coming into play. Some actions bring an extra Problem card on as part of the 'cost' of that action. If all three Problem slots have already been taken up, then the action can be taken without any negative consequence. Some of our team thought that overgenerous.

Players (1–6: Roll Camera! plays just as well as a solo game) each take one of the roles in the production: Producer, Director, Editor, Cinematographer, Production Designer, Star. Each role has its own unique abilities, so part of the puzzle-solving in Roll Camera! is finding the best synergies between the abilities you have in play. Players all start with 'Idea' cards that can give the production a boost, but these are not shared until they are pitched at a production meeting. And, as you'll have guessed, calling a production meeting requires the expenditure of one of your crew dice... The Idea cards and the pitch mechanic reinforce the theme but they also help to limit the common co-op game risk of 'alpha player syndrome' where one bossy player tells all the others what they should do on their turn. If I'm the active player you can't tell me what Ideas cards you hold but you can just suggest that if I call a production meeting then you might be able to pitch an idea that can help...

The Kickstarter for Roll Camera! was already underway before this preview prototype reached us at Board's Eye View, so we've had to pull out the stops to get it played while the KS is still running and you have a chance to back it. This hasn't proved overly onerous because we've loved every play of Roll Camera! and we can't get enough of this game. We've especially enjoyed the plays where we throw ourselves into our assigned roles and adopt the optional 'player privileges' where, for example, the Director shouts 'Action!' whenever you shoot a scene or where the Star can require applause from the other players. This is a game that you won't want to miss so click here to check out the Kickstarter.

(Review by Selwyn Ward)

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