A Review of Roll Player Adventures: Part I. Unboxing, Solo Play, and First Impressions

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Roll Player Adventures is a cooperative adventure game that was on Kickstarter back in July 2020 and promised delivery in June 2021. I have just received my Kickstarter copy about two weeks ago (mid November). These days, 6 months late is no big deal (especially given how awful shipping has become), so I was just happy to get it. This didn’t make my Top 10 Anticipated Cooperative Games of 2021, but it probably should have! I was really excited to get this to the table and play!

This is a big box full of stuff! Notice the Coke can for scale (and the expansion, which we won’t discuss here further)!

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The back of the box shows all the components you have! This is FULL of stuff!

Let’s take a look!

Unboxing

Oh boy, this a big box full of lot of cool stuff!  Or at least below the white thing?

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Upon opening the box, I was just taken aback by how cool this stuff was: look at the dual-layer boards! Looks at the adventure books!  Look at the cool color pads!

There are so many adventure books in this game!

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These adventure books (which are the storybooks, the campaign) look like old TSR Dungeons and Dragons modules!

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The pads are nice and colorful: we’ll be using those for our adventurer boards!  (They insert INTO the adventurer boards!!!)

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These adventurer boards are dual-layered and fantastic looking!

Next is a dice bag (this is a dice-placement game, and there will be a LOT of dice!).  It’s really nice quality.  You can also see the Tome of Encounters next!  A spiral bound book ..

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Inside, you get a sense that this is storybook game, like Tainted Grail.

Next is the Skill Checks book (when you need to make a particular skill check in the game, you will open this book up):

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The Tokens are nice and readable and pretty thick cardboard.

This is a campaign game: see above for the campaign log.

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… and we’re still going!  Below ALL THAT, are Game Trayz!

This game is stored very well in the Game Trayz. 

There are SO many cards and dice!  All the cards are linen-finished!  All the cards and components are easy to read!  The maps are linen-finished!

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Overall, the components of this game are fantastic!

Roll Player

So, Roll Player Adventures is a cooperative game in the Roll Player universe, where Roll Player is a competitive game about building a character up (and its attributes) for an adventure.  You do not need to know how Roll Player works to play this game, and indeed, I have never even played the original Roll Player before.  That doesn’t stop you from playing the game in any way whatsoever.

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If have played Roll Player and want to import a player from that game, page 6 (see above) the rulebook shows you how to do that.  You don’t need it and it didn’t hold me back from playing Roll Player Adventures.

Rulebook

The rulebook is pretty long.  It’s 24 pages:

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The rulebook is decent.  It does a lot of things right: it starts off with some flavor text and an immediate discussion of what the game is:

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It then immediately heads into a list of components with pictures of said components:

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it even has a breakdown of all the major components next (I really liked this):

It then proceeds to “campaign set-up”, which is a little confusing at first.

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Page 6 we’ve already seen (it shows how to import Roll Player characters into the adventure).

Finally, page 7 we see a picture of set-up.

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So far, this rulebook is pretty good.  The pictures are nice and well-labelled and the font is a decent size so it was easy to read.  There’s two decisions I question in the rulebook a little.

The first is that Skill Checks and Combat are almost identical: assign dice to locations until you have dice everywhere needed.   The rulebook spends two pages on skill checks, which is very thorough and appreciated: pages 12 and 13.

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Then, the rulebook spends another two pages on combat (pages 14 and 15).  That’s very daunting, especially after you realize combat and skill checks are virtually identical!!  My first thought was that I had to learn something very new and different for combat.  I don’t know, I guess it’s good to have the combat well well-spelled out, but I would have appreciated something like “Combat is very similar to Skill Checks except for the following things…”   I would have jumped sooner into the game and had a better understanding sooner?  (Most people learn by relating to things they understand: don’t present combat as something entirely new!!! Present in terms of something you already taught us!)

The other thing that made me grumpy was the lack of discussion on “what the cards do”.  There are a TON of symbols and icons on the cards and in this game, and the ONLY place they are discussed on pages 20 and 21 of the rulebook!

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These two pages are by far THE MOST IMPORTANT PARTS OF THE GAME!  You can’t mitigate dice without your cards and you can’t understand the icons without these two pages!  I wanted more discussion of these  The write-ups are just BARELY enough to understand what all the icons are.  Granted, the pictures are good enough and they make sense after a while, but wow: these are the most important part of the rules!!! Could we please have a little more elaboration?? 

Having said all that, the rulebook did its job and taught the game.  I just think it wasted too much space on combat and not enough on the Icons Glossary.  An Icon Summary card would have gone a long way towards making this easier to understand.

The rulebook was decent.  I learned the game from it.

How To Play

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Roll Player Adventures, at its core, is a dice-rolling and dice-placement game. Each player has special abilities to mitigate dice rolls.  Dice are used to defeat monsters and perform skill checks using the same mechanism: dice are rolled and placed (dice-placement) on monsters boxes and skill boxes.  Players can help each other in many ways (unless you are playing solo). 

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Consider the skill check above: in order to “interpret” (Level I check) something in the game, I need to roll certain numbers on the dice and place certain colors.  For the above skill check, I have already rolled the proper number and color for two of the places, but I still to roll a blue 4 to finish the skill check.  I have a white 4 and blue 6: if I have some ability where I can change a white to blue, I can finish.  Or maybe adjust the 6 down by 2.  Or maybe just re-roll and hope I roll correctly.

Most characters start the game with 5 cards that allow them to manipulate the dice.  For example, the skill Diplomacy above allow you to flip a blue or red die to the pip on the other side.  

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Roll Player Adventures is all about taking each player assuming the mantle of a character and taking that character through an adventure (with other players unless you play solo).  In my game, I played Rune Makutu, a grumpy minotaur (see above).  This character is “prebuilt” and has all the skills and characteristics predefined (all listed on the reverse of the picture).

If you flip Rune Makutu’s card (above), you’ll see he has a preset attributes which I have filled in the in the middle of the card.  Each character will have to fill in a set of attributes and place them in their (really nice) dual-layered board:

Each backside also tells you what Armor, Weapons, Skills, Traits, etc you start with. See below.

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Each player will get about 5 or 6 cards (Armor, Skills, etc) which allow him to manipulate dice. For example (see above), Rune Makutu can Haggle (change any 2 to a 4 or 6) or be Cruel (change any black die to any other color). Using that ability will force the card to the discard or spent column.  (Discarded cards are regained after the check, spent cards are only gained after resting).

If the dice are rolled for skill checks, how do you acquire the dice?  By spending some of your attributes!  For example, for every blue die you need (for example), you can spend 1 INT attribute: you place the little clear cubes from your attributes (in the middle above) to the FATIQUE box (right).  You’ll notice my character is already fatigued, having 5 cubes in there (and no strength).  If you don’t have any attributes in the needed die, you can always spend 3 cubes to get any color die.

By resting, you can heal fatigue and get some of our attributes back (as well as spent cards).

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These characters are run through an adventure, spending attributes to buy dice, rolling dice for combat and skill checks, and using special cards to mitigate those dice rolls.  

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This is a campaign game play over 12 storybooks and maps!

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As player advance through the story, they are making choices from their storybook (or the “Tome of Enounters”) to advance the story, kind of like “Choose Your Own Adventure” games.

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This is a fairly sprawling game, taking up tons of space for the map, storybook, cards, characters, dice, dice bag, and all sorts of tokens.

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At the end of a session, there’s even some deck-building as the characters can buy some new cards with the gold they have acquired, as well as new attributes to power up their character.

Storybook Campaign Game

So, we need to make this clear it hasn’t been: this is also a storybook game!  Players will be reading out of storybooks (one for each campaign) as well as overall “Tome of Encounters”.  Like Tainted Grail (see our Part I and Part II here) or any of our Top 10 Cooperative Storybook/Storytelling Games, Roll Player Adventures has a very cool ongoing story with storybooks and maps!  This is a storybook campaign game like Tainted Grail.

Solo Play

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First of all, congratulations to Roll Player Adventures for following Saunders’ Law and having a solo mode!  Not only does it have a solo mode, but it requires no exceptional rules!  You simply grab a character and play it!

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Balance among 1 to 4 players is achieved via a simple mechanism: every time you need to buy a die for a skill check or combat, you must spend 1 attribute (clear cubes, see above) for each player!  In other words, a solo player must spend 1 BLUE attribute cube to pay for a single BLUE die, 2 players would have to (collectively) spend 2 BLUE attribute cubes to pay for a single BLUE die, etc. In a multi-player game, the players can decide who spends what: one player can pay for the die completely, or players can share the cost piecemeal.  

Other than that, the solo game plays normally.

First Impressions

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Here’s the thing: the solo mode works great for teaching the game.  I was able to go through the first adventure one night and then teach my friends the game very quickly the next night. 

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The storybook for adventure 1 was well-written and easy.  The story was interesting and had some engaging ideas.  However, the game itself was NOT fun.  

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During my solo play of the first adventure storybook, I got to do maybe 4 or 5 rolls of my dice (combats or skill checks).  I was a slave to the dice almost everytime!  I tried to use my special abilities to mitigate the dice, to no avail.  I lost 4 out of 5 of my dice combats/skill checks!  I would buy the dice I needed,  roll the dice, realize I couldn’t mitigate the roll,  and then fail.  I’d read the “fail” text out of the storybook almost every time.  It wasn’t fun to fail almost every time.

I felt like the game was playing me!  This is supposed to be a dice-placement game with dice mitigation powers, right?  When you fail almost all of your dice checks in the intro game, something is wrong! Granted, the storybook did a good job keeping the story going even if you failed, but it just wasn’t fun to fail all the time.  Seriously, it was debilitating.  I realize the nature of dice games is that you can roll bad. Sure, I get it, but I felt like the game needed just “one more” dice mitigation mechanic.  Maybe I chose the wrong character, maybe I rolled poorly, maybe I misused my powers, maybe luck was against me.  But it wasn’t fun.

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I still think the game could work for multiplayer: why?  Because a solo player has “only” 5-6 dice mitigation cards (armor, skills, etc): there’s not enough to choose from for mitigation unless you get very lucky in what you need to do in the adventure.  BUT, with 4 players and 4 characters, that’s 6*4=24 cards to choose from for dice mitigation!  Much more chance for the right cards to mitigate your dice!   So, I will be playing this game with my game group over the next few weeks to see how I feel about it then.  I am hopeful it will work much better multiplayer.

Conclusion

Roll Player Adventures is a fantastic production with amazing components. The game looks great on the table, and there is quite a bit of storybook campaign content here. Unfortunately, the solo play doesn’t work for me. The solo mode is fine for learning the game, but I really have no desire to go back and play this as a solo game ever again. It looks like the more people that play, the more options you have. But, in solo play, I felt I was at the whim of the dice!! I rolled poorly in my solo adventures and simply didn’t have enough ways to mitigate my dice. It was quite debilitating actually: I felt as if I had no agency! It felt as if the game were playing me. The adventures also have some decisions, but they (at least in the beginning) feel a bit arbitrary. This is fine for a simple “Choose Your Own Adventure” style-game, but this game is a lot more than that! The lack of agency for the solo player coupled with the arbitrary decisions of the adventure made this absolutely no fun for solo play.

Having said that, I am hopeful that the group play with go a lot better! (Spoiler Alert: it’s going MUCH better in multiplayer mode!!) There are lot more options for dice mitigation with multiple players, so that will hopefully turn this around. I am really looking forward to getting this played with my group. I will be giving a further report, but if you are looking at this as a solo game, I’d pass. Look for Part II when we talk about cooperative group play!

EDIT: After further play, we enjoyed this game immensely as a group! It made the Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021! So, ya, it got better in group play!

3 thoughts on “A Review of Roll Player Adventures: Part I. Unboxing, Solo Play, and First Impressions

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