Thinking about Roll — Supposedly Minor differences
Roll for the Galaxy reminds me of a cover song. It’s like Johnny Cash singing Hurt. OK, not that good (what is?) so we’ll say, Johnny Cash covering Rusty Cage. You recognize the melody, but the tempo is different and the instruments are totally different. But you recognize it anyway.
So I approached the first few games of Roll with the default mentality. And sometimes it worked and sometimes it failed horribly. I couldn’t put my finger on the problem (I’m not sure I’ve got it, but that’s what this is for). Minor differences have huge implications.
First, decoupling of economy and choice. In Race, it’s simple. If you get lots of cards, you’ll have lots of cards to choose from, and you’ll have the economy to build them. Herel you may have a lot of dice and few (or no) tiles to build, or plenty of tiles but just a few dice. Race is (to quote … Alexfrog?) a game of inconvenient plenty. You want to build everything in your hand, but some of it has to be spent. But in Roll you have multiple dimensions of scarcity. You want more dice. Or you have dice, but want more credits to move them from citizenry back to the cup. And you want tiles to develop & settle.
Second, roll has degrees. In Race, you either developed or you didn’t (assuming someone called develop). You settled or not. You consume as much as possible. Each phase was all or nothing, but if a phase is called, each player was all or nothing. Binary. Sure, you might have a better world or development, but it was on/off.
Consider that staple of an early RftG ‘aha’ moment — the naked trade. (Everyone remembers their first time, right?) You call trade. people look at you funny since you have no goods. But, lo and behold, someone else settled and you’ve stolen a march. Anyone calling settle has given you the opportunity to settle as much as you can afford. But if someone calls settle in roll, you need to have the dice available to settle. Sure, they don’t get a privilege, but their call of settle gives you absolutely no tempo. If you need three dice to settle your next world, you need three dice. At best, if I told you that someone else was calling settle, it may let you call a different phase to make sure it happened as well, but if you need the world, that’s three dice either way.
In Roll, would you really ship and pray for the settle? Maybe, if you were desperate and you could get the dice to work that way (you rolled all settles, perhaps). But now by doing that you risk given tempo to the consumers (who maybe called produce and placed a ship or two just in case, or couldn’t reassign and figured they’d trade it if possible, toss it back into the cup otherwise). Because one die in shipping is a big deal (3-6 credits) but 1 die in a settle probably doesn’t get you a planet.
If it does, should anyone else be calling settle unless they are staring at a bunch of “O”s?
Your privilege bonus is using dice. Having a two dice phase and seeing others leeching with 2+ dice is a bad result. (The power of lots of dice in the cup is that you probably gain more for a phase than whoever called it. As the player with less dice, I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t be trying to reduce the number of phases).
There’s weird economy ebb and flow, thoughts about the different dice, but I don’t think I’ve internalized these two implications. They are throwing me off.
Admin Note — I’m grouping Roll posts under Race. Shrug.