Jamey Stegmaier had the idea for Rolling Realms during the Coronavirus lockdown period, when most of us were struggling for communication and playing board games physically with friends was a hopeless notion. The idea behind it was having a game that could be played by many players simultaneously, each one from his/her home, that could be fun, simple and short in duration. After presenting the game in Facebook Live and playing it with thousands of people, Jamey saw his game getting many positive reviews and more and more people started to ask for a physical version. One year later the game found its place officially in the board game market.
Rolling Realms is an infinitely scaling roll-and-write game for 1 to 6 players, although it could be played by even more, by purchasing more copies. All players play simultaneously so, independently of the number of players, it lasts about 30 minutes.
Each player receives 11 realm cards, one score card and one resource card plus a dry-erase marker and an eraser pad. The game consists of 3 rounds with 9 turns each. In each round, 3 realm cards are chosen randomly and players try to score as many stars they can on these realms. Each turn, a player rolls 2 dice and all players use the dice results on their realm cards to generate resources and stars. Each dice may be used once, each in a different realm. That means that you can activate only two of your three realms each turn, right? Not exactly, because you have resources to use in order to manipulate your dice, i.e. change the result or even produce an extra imaginative dice to use on your third realm. The resources of the game are coins, pumpkins and hearts. Coins and hearts can be used to produce extra dice whereas pumpkins are used to change the dice results and also to enable a dice to be used twice on the same realm.
Each realm card introduces a mini-game, which players must complete in the most efficient way to earn as many stars they can. The names of the realms correspond to Stonemaier game titles and the mini games on them, are related in a way to the corresponding game. For example in the Viticulture realm, there are grapes and wine orders you must fulfil in order to gain stars.
This is a game you can easily play through a videoconference as only one player needs to roll a dice. So it is the perfect game to play during a lockdown (although I hope there will be no more of this) or just to connect with game friends that are far away.
Rolling Realms is a game you can also play solo, as most Stonemeier games. In the solo mode, the player takes the role of a golf player playing through a mini-golf course of 18 holes. There are 3 levels of difficulty to play and you must try to hit each hole with the minimum attempts. There is a “par” number for each hole, for comparison reasons. Each hole is played as a 1-round game with three special rules, overriding some of the normal rules. These overrides are about what realms to use, in-game rule changes and requirements for hitting the hole (specific number of stars to score).
Let’s see how the game scores in our usual scoring categories:
Stonemaier games always pays great attention to detail and uses some of the most high-quality components in all of its games. Although Rolling Realms is a simple game with few components, the publisher has ensured that these are top-notch. The dice are big and pretty heavy with an “earthy” design. The realm cards are made of thick glossy plastic.
It’s a great idea to be able to write and erase on the realm cards instead of using simple paper pads to fill out. The pads would someday be used out and you would have to print more which would be a daunting task for most people. With the “write & erase” cards this problem is forever solved. Someday the dry-erase markers will be exhausted but this is a minor detail in my opinion.
The box of the game has ample space to fit all components, plus future expansions. However it is rather big for its contents, making it harder to carry with, when travelling. In fact it is designed to fit exactly the size of the rulebooks. If rulebooks were designed in another smaller format, it could be much smaller.
One minor detail that bothered me a little is that some times the dry-erase markers don’t write so well, thus having to make many attempts to make them write properly.
Another complaint I have is that the course log for solo play, could be produced with a glossy surface like the other cards, so you could write / erase on it. Instead it’s from plain paper and you can use it only 3 times. After that, you must download a new course log from the Stonemeier website. I understand that it may be a matter of cost but it would really make the game feel more complete. 9/10
At first, not knowing much about the game, I thought that it would be an overly simple (and maybe a little silly too) game to pass time through online play but when I read the rules and saw the mini games I was very enthousiastic about it. Playing this game is seer fun and though it is simple, it’s not boring at all. The flow of the game is not straightforward and there are choices all along the way. You must choose which dice to use on which realm, if you should adjust the results, how exactly to use the dice results on each realm and what resources to get.
The mini games are very different from each other and fun to try to solve. One thing I really appreciated is that the different combinations of realms, produce different dynamics and require a slightly different way of play. And because you play a combination of 3 different realms on each round, there are hundreds of different combinations of cards that may occur thus ensuring that each game will be different than the previous.
The fact that all players can play simultaneously, thus minimizing waiting time, and enabling the game to be played by an infinite number of players (provided that there is copy for every 6 persons) is also a big plus for the game.
Moreover, I liked the relation with the other Stonemaier games as I am a fun of the company and own most of them. As new Stonemeier games are produced every year it would be fun if new Realm cards were printed as an expansion every one or two years, in order to include the new games of the company as new realm cards.
I have also tried the solo version of the game which is well-thought and executed and presents a real challenge. The idea of playing the game as a minigolf course is very fun and adds a little theme to the game. As there are 18 holes to hit (that correspond to 18 rounds) and for most of them, you will be having more than one attempts, it will take a couple of hours to finish the course. This fact, in combination with the three difficulty levels, will keep you busy for many hours, plus it will train you for future games with friends.
This is a game for players 14+ as stated on the box and rulebook but I have been playing it with my 6-year old son and not only is he able to play but he also have been enjoying it very much. In fact it’s one of the games we intend to carry with us on our summer vacation. It seems that we don’t even have to carry the game box (which is rather big for its contents) but just a small zip folder with the components for 2 players. And the most cool thing is that we can easily play it at the beach too. 8/10
This is a game you can learn to play within minutes. The basic rules are super simple and the rules for each realm are written on the card. When I opened the box and read the rules for the first time I found myself already playing within about 3 minutes. 10/10
Rolling Realms is an abstract game with no (!) theme added. The idea for it was developed as a, fun to play, game through VideoConference and till its final development, no further thought was spend about adding a theme. But does a game always have to have a theme? I’ve seen many filler games, struggling with a theme that no one remembers, just for the sake of it. Because this is an abstract game I’ll give it a score of 10 in this category, so that the final review score is not affected by the lack of theme. 10/10
As I mentioned before, the mini games you play on the realm cards are very fun and completely different from one another. Moreover, there are different dynamics and a slightly different optimal way to play for each combination of three. Taking into account the numerous different combinations of the 3 realm cards that are used in each round (in reality 165 combinations), you can see that this game can’t be repetitive in any way, a fact that guarantees its replayability. Rolling Realms is a game with simple rules that has a target group of practically everyone, young and old, gamers and non gamers. I really couldn’t recommend it more, especially for elder people that need games stimulating for the mind but also fun. And don’t forget the fact that it has very few and small components so that it can be carried anywhere. Taking all that into account I think that Rolling Realms will never leave my game library and will be played more frequently than other more famous games. 10/10
Player interaction is a factor I always value in a game. Rolling realms is a game with zero player interaction. Each player focuses on his/her own puzzle and can in no way intervene in other players’ realms. However, this, for a strange reason, doesn’t in any way take anything away from this game being fun. 4/10
Rolling Realms has been a small surprise for me. It is an abstract game combining the simplest of rules with robust gameplay and fun. It can be played with literally any number of players including solo and it is targeted to all age groups, gamers and non-gamers. Its small duration ensures that it can find often its way to game tables as a filler and its small size will make it your faithful travel companion. A small gem, essential for your game library!
Recommended for: Everyone!
According to our scoring system for board games, scoring categories have different weights. Components have 13% weight, Gameplay 35%, Learning curve 6%, Theme 5%, Replayability 26%, Player Interaction 15%. According to this system and the above scoring in each category, overall weighted scoring of the game is: