Top 20 Roll & Writes

Opinions on each Roll & Write in my collection, from worst to best

Roll & Write is one of my favourite board games genres, and I keep accumulating them. Since finding out about this peculiar way to play, I’ve been hunting for this keyword when browsing new releases & considering my future purchases.

Lucky me, Roll & Write had a surge in popularity these past years, as I explained in my last piece, so there are lots of them. Which ones are worth your attention, which ones just surfing on the trend?

To keep things concise, I’ll refrain from explaining the rules for each; some people on Youtube are much better at this exercise than me, check them out. Instead, you’ll find a short-form analysis of the strengths & weaknesses based on my design experience and my tastes as a player.

The neat map design of “Seven Bridges”

Before diving into the rankings, I should mention all the Roll & Writes absent from the list.

First, here are some that I don’t own yet and intend to purchase in the future: Metro X, Imperial Settlers Roll & Write, Railroad Ink, Super-Skill Pinball, Cophenhagen Roll & Write, Seven Bridges.

Second, at the time of writing, a few much-anticipated games aren’t out yet: Cartographers Heroes, Welcome To the Moon, Hadrian’s Wall, Three Sisters.

And finally, I chose not to include Rome & Roll. It is indeed a game that features dices & dry eraser boards (you literally “roll” and “write”). However, I consider it a hybrid whose gameplay is closer to a traditional eurogame when it comes to strategy, game duration & player interactions.

Designed by Henri Kermarrec — BGG Link

Penny Papers finishes last in my rankings because it seriously felt like a draft idea pushed to shelves before iteration. The objective of the game is to align numbers, which is convoluted and difficult to apprehend. Succeeding at your plans is almost guaranteed due to the lack of constraints, (the random malus are easily cancelled too). The whole process to complete a Penny Papers game manages to be simultaneously head-scratching & flat.

Designed by Danny Devine — BGG Link

Harvest Dice isn’t terrible; it’s just another game that felt basic. The mechanics have no flaws, but they’re also so simple that nothing was particularly exciting about them either. In addition, the strategic aspect is slim: each game unfolds the same way, with final scores in the same ballpark, which doesn’t make me feel empowered about my decisions. However, the theme is well done; I can understand its appeal for kids or casual players.

Designed by Uwe Rosenberg — BGG Link

This adaptation of the tile-placement game Patchwork is faithful, sure, but maybe too faithful. The placement mechanic worked in a game where players picked a tile on their turn but doesn’t translate well when everyone is drawing the same. All the exciting dilemmas are gone, and the scoring system is too shallow to be stimulating. In what feels like an admission of failure, the sheet is actually scored three times during a game: it’s an attempt to reward the better players, but still, we always end up with identical scores.

Designed by Eilif Svensson, Kristian Amundsen Østby — BGG Link

Avenue is a short game, with fewer turns & fewer mechanics, but it’s not shallow. The small sheet implies a tight possibility space: one placement mistake can have significant consequences you might regret for the rest of the game. I don’t enjoy Avenue much because of the variable-duration phases, preventing you from taking informed risks. The scoring rule is very punitive indeed, and while I’m never against a good old “all or nothing”, I prefer them when lucky draws aren’t the sole factor.

Designed by Bruno Cathala, Ludovic Maublanc — BGG Link

Kingdomino Duel is the only Roll & Write in this list that plays exclusively with two players, with a system to unlock bonuses before the opponent. The game suffers from the same problem as Patchwork Doodle: most of the fun of Kingdomino was lost by translating its mechanics to dices & paper. Creating your own dominos by selecting two dies instead of picking tiles kills the exciting feeling of beating the constraints. The overall experience isn’t unpleasant but too shallow to be memorable.

Designed by Benoit Turpin — BGG Link

Welcome To introduced me to Roll & Writes, so I had to try its sequel New Las Vegas. I was disappointed. The game unfolds roughly the same as its predecessor, but the scoring rules are much more complicated. Most actions need several steps before paying off, thus making your choices less readable. Having to watch for many intertwined layers can make for compelling games; however, it gets stressful when it’s too much, and in this game, it often feels like each game ends on mostly unfinished business.

Designed by Bruno Cathala, Corentin Lebrat — BGG Link

Trek 12 features some legacy elements (new rules & components to unlock should you accomplish certain feats), which triggered my curiosity. The clever dice drafting mechanic alleviates the feeling of chaotic randomness. The design is elegant, the product is well done (although the theme could be anything else), and indeed, there are strategic choices to gain an edge on the other players. But still, Trek 12’s challenge to write consecutive or equal numbers isn’t appealing enough to entertain me and make me come back.

Designed by Steffen Benndorf — BGG Link

Qwixx is the most straightforward game on this list, it’s entirely based on luck, and I should hate it, yet I love it. It doesn’t promise anything else than a quick dice game, and it delivers flawlessly. Nothing in this game is unique; the few choices available are relatively common for the genre. In ten minutes, Qwixx distils the essence of Roll & Writes, taking you through all the emotions that I love in this genre: hope, despair, surprise, regret, joy.

Designed by Eilif Svensson, Kristian Amundsen Østby — BGG Link

I have mixed feelings about Trails of Tucana. On the one hand, I was disappointed by its theme, which feels like an afterthought coat of paint on a game that doesn’t try to be immersive (why does it use letters instead of proper names for the villages you have to connect?). But, on the other hand, the gameplay hooked me. You can chase many objectives right from the start, and you’ll quickly realise that you’ll need to cleverly optimise your network to score more points in the limited number of turns.

Designed by Inka Brand, Markus Brand — BGG Link

Encore is a recent acquisition that got me instantly addicted. The rules are simple to apprehend, and the game flows seamlessly with a perfect balance between too few & too many options. You start with safe choices that open many possibilities, and as the end of the game approaches, you realise you can’t finish everything you started and need to make bolder choices. I especially like Encore in solo, the challenge is just as stimulating, and it shortens the game duration, ideal for playing again and again.

Designed by Jordy Adan — BGG Link

Cartographers is another game where you assemble shapes to score the most points (think Tetris). The theme of drawing a map matches perfectly with the genre, undoubtedly contributing to its vast popularity. However, I’m not convinced by the objectives system, which gives four different scoring rules for each game: they’re too abstract & luck-dependant, in my opinion. So while I love the core mechanics, the ‘puzzle’ doesn’t feel exciting enough to get me to try again and again to beat my high score.

Designed by Matthieu Verdier — BGG Link

Demeter is the first combo-heavy game to appear on this list. It has many scoring methods: in theory, you could specialise in maximising a bunch, but you’re more encouraged to trigger cool chain reactions. The actions of Demeter are numerous and cleverly intertwined, giving you lots of micro-objectives and rewarding you with extra actions should you complete them. It’s one of the most satisfying types of gameplay to me, and since it has many viable strategies, I’m never bored to try it again.

Designed by Matthieu Verdier — BGG Link

This direct sequel to Demeter was recently released. It’s a refined version of its predecessor, simultaneously adding to the formula and presenting its mechanics better on the sheet. The gameplay is more constraining; you must be careful to unlock enough paths to not be too restricted in your actions. It also comes with loads of viable strategies, more interesting choices with the new damage system and even more satisfying bonuses. If you never played either, you might skip to this one directly.

Designed by Inka Brand, Markus Brand — BGG Link

Rajas of the Ganges is an adaptation of a fully-fleshed strategy game with a rather unique ‘16th century India’ theme. I have no idea how the original plays, only that the paper one is great. It’s yet again a dice drafting mechanic, but with its four varied areas on the sheet and lots of combo bonuses, the experience feels deep & varied. Your goal is to amass enough fame & wealth before your opponents, allowing you to specialise on either or balance both. This victory condition & the neat balancing makes for thrilling races towards the end of the game, but unfortunately, it comes at the expense of a solo variant.

Designed by Ben Pinchback, Matt Riddle — BGG Link

Fleet: The Dice Game is another conversion of a ‘cards & meeples’ game into a Roll & Write format, and one of the few whose user score on the reference website BoardGameGeek is higher than the original! It’s one of the heaviest games on this list, it can get mentally taxing at times given the number of actions & effects you need to track the two sheets. However, Fleet is also one of the most enjoyable games in solo: it allows so many strategies and I didn’t even try the additional modules yet.

Designed by Leandro Pires — BGG Link

Paper Dungeon is the counter-argument to those who view Roll & Write as a cash-grab fad rather than a promising new genre that only started to scratch the surface of creativity. It takes the classic fantasy RPG formula and turns it into a brilliant paper version. Players begin with a straightforward ‘main quest’ (beating three bosses inside a dungeon), and they have a lot of autonomy on what to do to prepare (amassing treasures, collecting potions, levelling up their heroes, etc.) Nothing groundbreaking in the rules but it combines many systems such as collective missions or individual starting powers, which makes the game feel rich, generous but never overwhelming.

Designed by Wolfgang Warsch — BGG Link

The games in the ‘Clever’ series all have a simple and effective rule: you select coloured dice and tick checkboxes/write numbers according to the specific rules of this area. The lack of theme could make it quickly dull, yet its mechanics are so expertly crafted, it’s one of the most head-scratching Roll & Write out there. These games perfectly embody the saying “to choose is to renounce”, as each choice you have to make never fit all your goals at once. The scoring ranks are brutally honests, giving you snarky comments for achieving what you thought was a decent performance and let’s be honest, the huge room for improvement is what keeps you coming back.

Designed by Sébastien Dujardin, Xavier Georges, Alain Orban — BGG Link

Troyes Dice may initially feel more difficult with its unique selection mechanic based on its location on the central wheel. However, once you grasp how it plays out and notice how the system gives you more predictability than usual, it’s one of the most strategic Roll & Writes. The scoring system is crystal clear, each choice is readable and thus you’re never stopped in the flow. Troyes Dice really has everything I like, from risky moves that can backfire to a neatly designed sheet that’s satisfying to fill.

Designed by Benoit Turpin — BGG Link

The ‘Las Vegas’ sequel might be ranked relatively low in this list, but what a blast the original Welcome To is! Of course, as my first Roll & Write and the game that made me fall in love with the genre, my opinion might be skewed. Still, even when the novelty wore out, it remained one of my favourite games ever, that I frequently introduce to new friends and continue to enjoy.

Welcome To starts as a clever puzzle where you have to chain numbers. This goal is easy enough to achieve by the end of the game yet remains a stimulating challenge that gives interesting constraints to each turn. To score higher, you need to select cards for their bonus, not only for their convenient number; this is where the game shines, in my opinion. Its few mechanics are elegantly intertwined to create a profound experience. Each player can have a different strategy and get completely hooked from start to finish. Brilliant.

Do you agree with this list?

What are your favourite Roll & Writes?

One last thing before you leave: I have learned so much from playing Roll & Writes that I decided to create one. You know the inspirations now, so you can read the article below to learn about my new concept & the design process to turn it into a fully-fledged experience:

If you found this article interesting, please follow me to help me grow. At the time of writing, I had 88 followers.

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Jean-Baptiste Oger

Jean-Baptiste Oger

Game Director. I write mainly about the design of video & board games. Aspiring to better understand the world around & human psychology.