In 2015, Keith Matejka published his first game, Bull Frogs. An abstract-strategy area-control game about placing frogs onto Lilly pads. Fast forward six years, and he has quit his previous day job in the video game industry and has his own board game business built around one of the biggest games on the market Roll Player, and is about to finish production on his biggest game yet, Roll Player Adventures.
I was very keen to find out more from the man himself. Roll Player is one of my favourite games and Monsters & Minions is one of the best expansions to any game ever! So, this was quite exciting for me!
On A Roll!
Roll Player is one of the most successful games of the modern board game era, selling bucket loads of copies and currently ranked within the BGG top 200. I was only recently introduced to the game during lockdown so have not played above a two-player yet, so I was keen to get the perspective of someone who had enjoyed the game in higher player counts.
Kay from Kay Plays Games, has a fantastic Instagram account that I really enjoy, and Kay happens to be someone who has played Roll Player in higher numbers many times! So, I reached out to seek her expert opinion.
“Roll Player scales well to any player count. Through a simple increase in the number of dice and market cards available each round, the game accommodates four players without any changes to the difficulty. The downside to playing with four is the increase in downtime, which can drag on if any player is prone to the dreaded analysis paralysis. As this is essentially a multiplayer-solitaire game with little direct player interaction, there isn’t much to keep you occupied on other players’ turns beyond planning your next move. To counteract this, if all players agree, I like to carry out the “place dice” phase simultaneously (i.e. each player selects a dice in turn order as per the rulebook, but then all players place their dice, take attribute actions, and gain gold at the same time). This speeds up the game significantly but does require a level of trust that everyone is playing correctly. With new players, you may want to play by the rules for a while, perhaps switching to simultaneous play halfway through the game.”
OK, let’s talk about Thunderworks most successful game in more detail. Roll Player is a beautifully simple game. You are creating a character. Utilising the core mechanics of Dungeons and Dragons to forge your characters traits, weapons, and characteristics. Anyone familiar with the RPG world will instantly recognise many of the mechanics and terminology. But let me clear. You absolutely don’t need to have an understanding of D&D or RPG’s to play and enjoy this game.
At its core, Roll Player is instantly appealing to many for so many reasons. The massive bag of dice! The brilliantly designed player mats with perfectly punched out holes for said dice to nestle neatly in. The variety of gameplay with the multiple boards, backstory, and alignment cards. There is so much to like! And this is probably in part, why it has sold so many copies.
Roll Player also appeals to me as someone who has recently got into the world of Dungeons & Dragons. WBG reviewer and all round good guy, Tom from Bury Board Games has taught me how to play, and we have been playing our own little adventure during lockdown. I am also now running a game for my family which is hilarious fun! It has been a wonderful experience and opened my eyes to the huge world I was previously missing. This made me enjoy the Roll Player game even more. But I must stress again, this is not necessary to play the game.
Roll Player works by rolling dice and placing them in a communal area. Players then in turn, chose which one they want to take and add to their player mat. Both number and colour are relevant to your potential scoring options. Later powers can enable you to move or change the die face, but most of the time, what you place, you keep for the game. You are looking to achieve certain number, colour and pattern-based targets in a seemingly abstract manner, but of course all dripping with the immersive theme of D&D and the overall arching idea of character creation.
Each turn, you simply make one choice. Which dice to take and where to place it, but the options this presents often feel infinite. Not in a way that hurts or is frustrating. But in the way that makes games like this so fun to play. You are thinking about the row it is going in and the potential accumulative total this can now reach. Each row represents one personality characteristic and you will have a target to aim for. How strong is your character? How intellegant can they become? Your Backstory will also offer more juicy end game points if you can place the right colour dice in the right places on each row. And your traits and skills you acquire along the way will also offer rewards based upon certain row scores and dice placement.