Game at a Glance
- Stonemaier Games
- Designer: Jamey Stegmaier
- Artist: Miles Bensky, Marius Petrescu
- Time: 30
- Players: 1-6
- Ages: 14+
- Mechanics: Dice Rolling, Simultaneous Action Selection
- Availability: Retail
A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher; however, my opinions are my own
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Early in the coronavirus pandemic, many people worldwide were isolated from friends and loved ones. Simple pleasures such as gathering with a group of friends for a game night were difficult, if not impossible. In response to this challenging time, the founder of Stonemaier Games created a game that would be infinitely scalable and easily playable in a video conference setting. He decided to offer his work as a free print-and-play game to bring some joy and connection during those lonely days. This is how Rolling Realms came to be, and now it exists in a physically published form.
Rolling Realms is a roll-and-write game utilizing two dice and several dry-erase mini-game realm cards. It takes place in the Stonemaier Universe – each realm card represents a game in the catalog.
In Rolling Realms players compete to earn the most stars in a series of mixed-and-matched mini-games. Players take turns rolling dice and using the values to earn resources and stars on three randomly-chosen realm cards. The game ends after three rounds, and the player who has collected the most stars is the winner.
With eleven realm cards per player and dice rolling, there is variability, game-to-game. Players must make tactical decisions depending on the realm combinations and dice rolls and cannot hone in on a one-size-fits-all strategy.
This is a dice-based game so luck is certainly a component. Fortunately, all players utilize the same dice rolls and realm cards, so luck will not give a player an edge over another – this makes the luck element palatable.
The resources introduce meaningful choices round to round. Pumpkins allow die adjustments, while hearts and coins grant an extra die value. These can be used to create some fun combos. A strong pursuit of resources can pay off. But pushing your luck too far could backfire, and at some point players may need to abandon their plans to focus on gathering stars. These decisions provide a bit of heft to an otherwise lightweight game.
Rolling Realms is easy to learn. The rulebook is very well done: intuitive and short. Teaching the game to new players is easy, and setup is quick. I can get this game on the table and teach it to new players in less than five minutes.
Contrasted with some of Stonemaier’s well-known titles, Rolling Realms is pretty light. Its relatively short play time compliments the weight nicely. This game works well for players who are short on time or want to fit in a few quick rounds rather than commit to a longer game.
The base game comes with 11 realm cards per player, each having a unique mini-game. Three realm cards are randomly selected each round and give Rolling Realms a bit of modularity. There are many ways to mix and match the realm cards, creating new combinations and puzzles with every game.
The theme of Rolling Realms is self-referential – each realm card refers to a title in the Stonemaier Games catalog. And each realm card has a unique mini-game that attempts to capture the essence of some component of that game. For example, the Viticulture realm card allows players to mix and match grapes to create wine, and Scythe has a top row/bottom row action.
I do believe its “meta” theme limits the audience pool quite a bit. I have no plans to introduce this game to my more casual gamer friends who are barely familiar with Wingspan. That’s not to say familiarity with these games is necessary to play – it’s absolutely not. But part of the game’s charm is the small nods to the source material. That charm is lost when the player isn’t familiar with the source. Fortunately, Stonemaier Games has a very enthusiastic fan base. I think this game is a sweet love letter to that crowd.
Stonemaier Games are known for their above-average component quality, and Rolling Realms is no exception. The game started as a free print-and-play and now is a polished gem. I especially appreciate the laminated realm cards because dry-erase is usually my preference for a simple roll-and-write game. I had one minor gripe with game components: I was not a fan of the oversized dice. That’s just a personal preference – it doesn’t affect the gameplay.
There’s not much artwork to speak of, but those with good eyesight should be able to make out hints of box cover art in the background of the realm cards. The graphic design is well-done. The symbols are clean, cohesive, and easy to understand.
Because players use the same realm cards and dice rolls for every step of the game, the game is balanced. The winner will be whoever is able to utilize the dice results and their resources most efficiently. All of my games of Rolling Realms have been extremely close – I am usually within a star or two of my husband.
There is virtually no player interaction in this game and when played with multiple players fits the definition of “multiplayer solitaire.” I am not much into solo gaming but would consider giving the solo mode on Rolling Realms a shot because it seems well thought-out (plus the mini-golf theme is attractive to me).
I am having fun with Rolling Realms, but not due to exciting table moments. Again, this game is not very interactive so the fun comes from the efficiency puzzle it provides. There can be tense moments, especially when you’ve decided to push your luck on one of the mini-games and it’s coming down to the final roll or two. That tension can be exciting, but in a more personal way than one that is shareable with your table mates.
It’s not that often a game comes around with such a wholesome backstory. Rolling Realms is a tribute to Stonemaier, sure, but it was designed with love for the gaming community in mind. And I find that to be admirable and worthy of praise.
There’s a lot to like here. I appreciate the premium components and the ability to mix up the realm cards to create different challenges. The game provides a personal puzzle that I find to be fun. I find this to be a perfectly adequate roll-and-write game, but the lack of player interaction dulls the shine for me somewhat. To be fair, the game was initially designed for a video conferencing setting, and interaction is not easy to pull off in that format.
Despite enjoying the game, I don’t foresee it hitting my table with friends often. It occupies a strange space where it is 1) too light to appeal to my friends who are familiar with Stonemaier’s games, and 2) too “meta” to appeal to my more casual gaming friends. Oddly, I find myself drawn to the solo mode – this is very unusual because I never play games solo. Rolling Realms has virtually no setup, and I find the personal challenge it offers appealing so I do have plans to hit the “minigolf” course at some point.
Rolling Realms might not be a good fit for players who prefer a lot of interaction and aren’t interested in the theme, but if you are in the market for a light roll-and-write and are a fan of Stonemaier Games it is worth checking out.