We were gifted Rolling Realms for review by Stonemaier Games. In this roll and write game you try to score the highest by playing minigames over the course of 3, 9-turn rounds. The game is fantastic and each minigame alludes to a previously released Stonemaier Game which we have affectionately called “The Stonemaierverse.” Each minigame you play alludes to a small element in previous games and each game has its own set of rules to follow. Some games work together incredibly well to score you points while others will make it tough to score points as easily. Luckily, everyone you are playing with will play the same minigames so at the very least you know what struggles they are going through.
Setup is easy, everyone grabs their resource card, score card, a marker, eraser and their realm cards. Each set of cards is color coordinated so finding a set is very easy and simple. All of the cards are slick and shiny, making them very easy to draw/write/scribble on while you are playing. Someone will draw 3 cards from the realm cards and everyone else will grab the same cards. In this way, everyone will play with the same scoring conditions while giving the game variety on each playthrough.
Gameplay is both simple and complex. Gameplay really comes down to two steps, which is roll the dice and then activate the dice. The dice are rolled once per turn and whatever is rolled is what you have to work with. Everyone is dealt the same roll making the game very well balanced as it becomes a matter of how you use the rolls that determines if you win or lose. Once rolled, you will write the numbers that are rolled on your score card, this serves as a reminder of how many turns are left in the round and also as a way to check yourself if any errors should arise. These die can then each be used once per turn on two realms. This means that you can only activate two realms per turn as you only have two dice. There are certain things you can do to manipulate these dice but we will discuss that in a bit.
The complexity results in how each realm uses the dice differently. There are a total of 11 realms to play with, of which 9 will be used for a game. This mean that you will never use all 11 cards in a single game, and since these are drawn at random at the beginning of a round, each game will play differently and the likelihood of you drawing the exact same cards per round and game is very unlikely. Each realm will have its own set of rules that need to be followed to get points. You can activate a die in a realm to gain its benefits. These benefits will vary based on the realm. There are three resources that can be earned and they are earned through varying methods and realms. The resources are pumpkins, hearts, and coins. When earned these resources are circled on your resource card to show that you have earned them. When used, you draw a line through or “x” off the resources that were used.
Pumpkins can be used for altering a die. 2 pumpkins can be used to alter a die that was rolled by +/- 1. This can be used if you would rather have a higher or lower number on a roll. 3 pumpkins can be used to alter a die by +/- 1, or 0, AND you can reuse the die in the same realm. This means that pumpkins can help you score higher points if you needed higher or lower numbers OR if you wanted to use a second die on the SAME realm. Provided that you have enough pumpkins, you can reuse these abilities as often as you like per turn.
Hearts can be used for gaining additional dice. 2 hearts can be used if a pair is rolled and will allow you to “create” a third die of the same value. This means that if you rolled a 5 and a 5, paying 2 hearts creates a third 5 die that can be used. 3 hearts will allow you to “create” a third die of a value that was rolled regardless if it was a pair. This means that if a 1 and a 5 were rolled, paying 3 hearts will “create” a third die of either a 1 or 5. It is important to note that while you can create a third die, you cannot activate this third die on a realm that was already activated. You can, however, pay 3 pumpkins to play this third die on the same realm if need be. Using hearts comes in handy in that you can activate all realms and not be limited to by how many physical dice you have.
Coins can be used for gaining additional dice as well, though the rules for coins are slightly different. 2 coins can be used to create a “copy” of a set that is rolled that equals 7. So if a 3 and 4 are rolled for example, you can create a copy of either the 3 or 4. If you rolled a 1 and 6, then you can create a copy of the 1 or 6. X coins can be used to create a die of value X. This means that you can gain a die that will match the value of what you pay. 1 for a 1, 2 for a 2 and so on. This comes in handy if you ever need a specific value die and there’s none in sight. The same rule follows that you cannot use the third dice in the same realm unless you pay pumpkins.
All of these resources can be used at the same time and provided that you have enough resources of each type, you can use all three types of resources on the same turn. Any resources that are unused by the end of the round will count as 0.1 stars and will NOT be carried over. So try to spend as best you can to maximize your points.
Each realm has its own subset of rules and while we will not get into the rules in detail, we wanted to point out some of the scoring rules and compare them to the game that they are based off of. Between Two Castles requires you to fill squares with numbers that must be lower than those below. The kicker of Between Two Castles is that it will limit your maximum stars earned to your LOWEST realm. So just like in the game Between Two Castles, you cannot pay attention to just a single “castle” without losing points yourself. Pendulum will have you select resources before they are claimed using the hourglasses. When hourglasses are activated, anything that was selected is paid off. This was a great nod to the game Pendulum where you must watch the timers and watch where your meeple are to claim resources and score. All of the realms pay homage to the games and are not just used as a gimmick. The game plays wonderfully and we found ourselves playing the game multiple times in a single sitting. It is easy, quick, strategic and provided you have enough cards/boards you can play this game with as many people as you want. The game was created for Zoom playing so it is very easy to play via Zoom as well.
Language Barrier Playability: Moderate. If someone can translate the realm rules before the round begins and everyone can remember those rules, this game is easy. Otherwise it may pose a little bit of a bother to translate constantly.
Replayability: Fantastic. This game is easily replayable and you will rarely play with the same cards per round or game. This is a game you will want to play at least a few times in a row.
Artwork: Simple and charming. Each card is incredibly simple but pulls from the original Stonemaier titles and each card is nostalgic in its design.
Quality: As with any Stonemaier game, the quality is excellent. Many roll and write games are cheaply made or crumpled together but Rolling Realms does a great job of making everything look and feel like good quality.
Strategy: Moderate to heavy. The entire game is played with the exact same die rolled for each person. So this becomes a strategy game from the very beginning. Everyone will use their resources and realms differently and each person will battle for points using the same starting point. While the game relies on dice, this is not a game based on luck which we always appreciate in a game. Luck is not a strategy.
Instruction Manual: Great. The game does a good job of explaining the rules in a neat package. We did have some trouble understanding the rules for certain realms (talking to you Scythe) but eventually we were able to get a better understanding. (Thank you Jamey for having a playthrough of the game).
Organization: Excellent. Any Stonemaier game is going to be well organized. We will say that this game is not as neat and tidy as other Stonemaier games but it is not detrimental in any way.