Being a game designer is tough. I’ve only kinda sorta done it myself, but for those who take on the task more seriously, it must be such a challenge to come up with something that everyone will enjoy. Even more distressing is the idea of taking the idea of a game and presenting it as a company in such a way that people will want to buy it.
It’s probably especially challenging when your game isn’t overly complicated and doesn’t really need many components. You’ve got to find a way to give the player a solid enough product that they feel like they got their money’s worth. But you’re also making sure you don’t overproduce and leave gamers unwilling to pay a high cost for such a simple game.
As I played Roll to the Top: Journeys, I started thinking about this issue. At its core, the gameplay of the title could easily be presented for super cheap as a print and play. However, the people over at Allplay wanted a much more robust experience than that. They’ve updated a previous version of the game with gorgeous artwork and beautifully prepared components. But even though it’s pretty, is there enough game in there to justify the price tag?
Travel the World… with Dice!
Roll to the Top is a roll and write in its most basic form. There’s a set of dice with differing numbers of faces. Every player also gets a diagram that resembles a world landmark, like the Pyramids or the Eiffel Tower, made up of lots of little squares (or square-ish shapes).
On a turn, one player rolls some of the dice, and then all of the players can write the values from the dice into their diagram (or sums of any number of the dice). The one catch is that a number must be greater than or equal to the numbers directly below it.
In addition to the numbers, another die that’s covered in a variety of symbols is rolled. That result might impact which dice are going to be rolled for the next round. Players continue to add numbers as best as they can, and the first player to finish their grid wins
Traveling is a Breeze
Like I said, it’s quite basic. This game will work for almost anyone over the age of about 7, no matter how much gaming they’ve done. It’s also easy to start – those three paragraphs of rules that I wrote give you pretty much everything, with some very small details based around certain maps.
It’s also very well made. The artwork throughout the game is gorgeous, starting with the box art. Each of the 3 map sets (six double-sided laminated with a different landmark on each side) are stuffed neatly into envelopes. There’s even an additional postcard that describes a journey that someone takes to the various attractions. And as I said, the sheets are laminated, and markers are included, so you’ll be able to play the game over and over.
Is This All There Is to See?
But as nice as it all is, it’s still, at its heart, an incredibly basic game that doesn’t evolve that much. There’s nothing particularly different about one map compared to another, other than the shape of the grid. Yes, this requires a little bit of a different strategy, but it’s nothing substantial. It would have been great if they had added special rules for some of the grids so that you are motivated to try to complete them.
As a result, it’s unlikely that this is the kind of game that you’ll sit around and play all night. You might play both sides of a card, then move on. And once you move on, when will you come back? Like I said, there’s nothing really motivating you to try the other maps.
Oh, a little detail that really bothers me. You know those postcards? They each have little stories on them discussing travel to more closely follow the theme. These… are awful. They make no sense. Maybe they’ve been poorly translated? I don’t know, but I wish that the publishers had just saved the money and gotten rid of those postcards.
Speaking of money…
Travel Can Be Expensive
Currently, this game comes with a $44 price tag. That’s tough, because you’re simultaneously getting quite a bit, and not a lot. The components are great, and the company has obviously put quite a lot of work into making a pretty package. But the game itself is just so simple, it doesn’t feel right to be in such a deluxe package. It would be like paying $44 for a fancy copy of Uno or Yahtzee. Sure, those games are fun, but I don’t think I would ever overpay to get those games.
This is the type of game which I usually would wait to pick up at a significantly discounted price in a BGG auction, or maybe at a gaming flea market at a convention somewhere. I would then play it a few times, taking it to a gaming meetup or two, then playing it with family at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It would then go to the shelf, sit for a while, and eventually I would sell it. If that was my experience, I think that I would be happy.
I Want to Go Back
Unfortunately, I paid full price for this game, and I think that, overall, I’m disappointed. It just doesn’t make sense at its current price point. You can get Wingspan for $2 more, and it’s just as pretty and is a much more robust game. You can get Qwixx or Rolling America, which are both $10, and have just as much fun as you will with this game.
I like this game for what it is. I really do. But I think I only $15ish like it, which is awfully unfortunate, given that the game costs three times that much.
You can pick up a copy of Roll to the Top: Journeys at your local game store on through Amazon today.
- Simple, easy to learn and teach
- Beautiful components with great table presence
- Not sure if the price point matches the gameplay