Roll Player – TABLETOP GAME REVIEW
The dice building game Roll Player from Thunderworks Games is a throwback to the nostalgia of character creation in tabletop RPGs. In the many days of pouring through handbooks and supplements for RPGs, the act of creating a character was oftentimes more fun than the actual game sessions themselves. Roll Player stands on this love and provides the structure for a fast paced competition for groups and solo play!
First things first. Roll Player is a lot of fun. This game takes the dice building genre and weaves it into RPGs in a way that is creative and easy to understand. With that said the game still has enough nuance and depth to have high replayability. As a result, Thunderworks Games has a framework that looks to be a brilliant doorway for young and old first time RPG players to get into the TTRPG genre.
The setup and rules for Roll Player are somewhat easy to step into. Built for an audience of ages 10 and up, Roll Player has a ruleset for both solo play and multiplayer (up to 4 players). The playscape is focused around the character sheets (or boards) that are basically fantasy races. Each race has different attribute bonuses and each of the six attributes can hold 3 dice. With spaces on the board to hold cards for class, backstory, and alignment, the character sheet is center of all of the action. With a playtime of just around an hour or so, the game is structured around 4 phases that repeat until all attributes are filled up with dice. Once they are, the game winner is determined by who accumulates the most ‘reputation stars’ as dictated by instructions on the character sheet and the various class, backstory, and alignment cards.
That summary oversimplifies the gameplay but is the short and sweet of it. Fleshing out the gameplay are cards that add armor, weapons, skills, and traits. Each of these cards have a chance to affect the attributes or the final reputation of the character as well.
1st Playthrough Impressions
I decided to do my 1st playthrough with my 8 year old daughter. She was excited to see what the game was about and had never experienced RPGs in any shape form or fashion. As I explained to her what the game was about, she seemed interested to create her own ‘hero’!
I let her choose her own race and character class resulting in her choosing to create an Orc Warrior. I chose a human Monk and we were both on our way!
As I read through the rules and explained what each portion of the character board was, she quickly caught onto the concept. Going thru the phases and what we were expected to do, I was surprised that she began to learn strategies to prevent me from getting market cards that I wanted. She also payed pretty close attention to her backstory card as she began placing dice on her character board. As he game progressed, she did begin to loose sight of what her warrior’s attribute scores needed to be as we progressed though. I managed to get 3 of my top attributes needed to get reputation stars as she ended up missing all of hers. Instead, she got 3 out of 4 of an armor set that she needed for her class and had a number of dice that were specific to her character class that gave her a higher score as well.
In the end, I beat her with a noob score of 17 while she had about 8. According to the Roll Player Rulebook’s score chart, that puts us both in the ‘NPC’ score range which is the lowest possible range. For perspective, the title of ‘True Hero’ has a score range of above 38!
All in all, the playthrough took about an hour or so to play. Once we were done, she did express interest in wanting to use her character to do ‘something’ like fight monsters.
Lucky for her, Thunderworks Games was way ahead of her!
Honestly, the appeal of this game was sparked when I recently saw a Kickstarter for their upcoming expansion called Roll Player Adventures. Filled with instructions to import your Roll Player characters (or use pre-generated ones), this ‘expansion’ looks to have interesting, engaging, and structured ways to play adventures with reduced stress on the whole Dungeon Master preparation concept. Knowing that Roll Player is a simplified dice building game, I can see the adventures being played out in a similar (again this word) ‘simplified’ manner. If you haven’t guessed, my crusade to provide an easy gateway into tabletop RPGs is the primary reason for my interest here.
Get them in. Get them hooked. Get them on the ground running towards more!
After seeing and backing the ‘Adventures’ module, I then saw that Roll Player also has quite a few other expansion and additions.
In probably the most significant and fulfilling expansion I’ve seen in a while, Monsters and Minions adds quite a bit to the core Roll Player Experience. The concept is, onceagain, simple. The process of building your characters is expanded upon by allowing players the opportunity to fight and defeat minions. Once their character is created, they all have the opportunity to battle one of a number of different monsters (or a final boss concept if you will). This opportunity then further alters each of the player’s final scores to determine who ‘wins’.
Tossed in with this additional action, the expansion provides more character race boards as well as cards for each of the different categories of the game (weapons, traits, classes, alignments, etc.). It even adds a new category of cards called ‘scrolls’ which alter the gameplay even more! Replayability here goes through the roof!
Built to alter the gameplay in a similar way as the Monsters and Minions Expansion, Friends and Familiars extends and complicates the gameplay by having players ‘build’ an assistant or sidekick called a ‘familiar’. Chosen at the beginning of the game, this added character has 3 dice locations to build its card that also help the characters’ final reputation as well as their ability to overcome monsters and minions.
Roll Player looks to be a great board game for people to introduce RPGs to those fearful of meaty and wordy rulebooks. As a tabletop RPG fan of over 30 years who has dabbled in creating his own system, I’ve always been a fan of the dice building genre. Thunderworks Games has founded a great system here that looks to be a fun yet sturdy baseline for everything they look to expand their Roll Player universe into.
Personally, I find that this kind of a game (while easy to play) isn’t much of a gateway for those not interested in RPGs however. For example, my wife had no interest in playing the game as she never has and never intends to be a part of my RPG sessions. She did, however, watch me and my daughter chop it up for a while.
With a ruleset that allows for fun solo play (which is a huge bonus in my book) as well as not needing too much in the way of tablespace, Thunderworks Games has a winner in Roll Play that justifies its modest price of $59.95.