One of the necessities of buying new games is having to learn those games and then, eventually, teaching someone else how to play them. Something which I generally feel completely uncomfortable with. It’s a sort of catch-22: I don’t feel capable of teaching a game until I’ve played it, oh, a couple of dozen times, but how am I going to get all those plays in unless I teach someone how to play it with me? It’s lead to a lot of games that I own but still haven’t played. But tonight I finally got one to the table, mostly because I told people I was bringing it and they most inconveniently said, “Hey, cool, we’ll give it a try.” Inconsiderate bastards.
Roll for the Galaxy — Dice versions of existing games seem to be all the rage right now. I’m not really sure why; I guess people are more familiar with rolling dice and so take to these a little more easily. I can say that, having played this game’s predecessor Race for the Galaxy, Roll for the Galaxy does seem a little simpler; Race is a deckbuilder with game symbols that can be a little impenetrable the first couple of times you play it. Roll has its fair share of dizzying symbology, and, paired with my fumbling, hurried explanation of things minus the game summaries I thought I’d printed for it, had us a little in the dark at the beginning of our first game. Thoughts of ever playing this game again seemed hopeless.
What happens here is that you roll different colored dice with different symbols on them, each representing a certain phase of the game. You then have to place these dice on a card, first to indicate which phases will actually take place this turn, then which dice will be used to act during those phases. Some of the confusion comes from the fact that you can use a dice that doesn’t match a phase to activate that phase, but not to activate its action. For instance, a rocket ship symbol stands for the Ship action, which I need on a die if I actually want to ship something. But I can set a die showing an eye or a circle on the actual Ship phase space to make that phase happen. Even there I’m probably not explaining it perfectly. But as you use the dice, they leave your pool, meaning you have fewer dice to roll next turn and therefore a smaller range of things you can do (although you can buy dice back at the end of the turn if you have the credits). You can build developments and colonize worlds, both of which give you victory points and abilities that can help you score more points, get more dice, or use your dice in more flexible ways. It really is an elegant mechanic once you get past the absolute Neanderthal trying to tell you how it all works.
But I guess I didn’t do too bad a job of explaining it, because they gameplay picked up considerably as time went on and things clicked for everyone. They even wanted to play it a second time, which was like night and day from the first go-round, since we’d already made every mistake imaginable. So despite wedging my foot firmly in my mouth, the game was a winner. Now I just have to hit the books and learn some more of my games so I can finally get them off the shelves. Or hope someone else buys them so I can watch them try to teach them.