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Roll and move

Been really nostalgic for the feel of roll and move lately!

Here are some ways it can be used.

As a tally of rolls

Moving one marker along a track like Snakes and Ladders is basically a way to keep track of the sum of those moves. As a race game, that’s not fun, becomes just luck. But if that is combined with stuff you do outside of the track, like being far ahead (or far behind) or having passed/not passed certain thresholds, that might be interesting. Pondering about an idea where the movement track is central and looks like the main part of the game (to get the classic nostalgic roll-and-move feel) but there’s actually other things going on on the side (on cards or on smaller player boards) which is where the skill is actually hiding. Just green hat brainstorming but something like “winner has the most sets when anyone reaches the end” or “winner has the most sets when last person reaches the end”.

There’s also variants in this category where there there is a random race but you don’t have your permanently own central markers, instead you bet on them or auction for them etc.

When you need games with thresholds over time to turn off or on things, this can be a mechanic to consider.

I mean, in some sense a D&D combat is a roll-and-move! Your damage rolls (which you only get to roll of you also roll a hit) lets you “move along the monster’s HP track” in some sense and it’s a race against it reaching the end of yours.

Think of all the things you can do with this mechanic ♥ Fun, fun, fun!

I wanna disguise an actual good game in a nostalgic-feeling roll-and-move core.

A race, but messing with the dice and/or rolls

As an aside, Nautilion kinda plays in this design space. In Nautilion, you can change die rolls, assign die rolls, change tiles around, and what you land on is as important as as far you go. I love Nautilion and play it often but it doesn’t feel like a roll-and-move, it feels like you’re fighting the roll-and-move nature all the time. It’s like “roll and move is the enemy, how can you fight that enemy with rerolls, tile swaps, dice sets, crew members etc”. Fun, but not really what I’m looking for here. I’m looking for more of an unabashed “you roll a dice—no post-roll fiddling or mitigation—and you move it along a track—no post-roll swapping of that track landscape”.

Post-roll mitigation is not what I’m trying to do here.

As a random-distributor

Both Monopoly and Nautilion does this: Monopoly would work just as well if instead of rolling along a path, you’d flip the top card from a deck. (And you’d lose the weird “some props show up more often since jail resets the position” probability issues.) There’s no end to the track, there’s no race or tally, it is only a way to give you a random property. But it also feels like you’re strolling through a city! That’s fantastic! Monopoly is nog a good game (among other things, it takes too much time to play out the end once the most-likely-but-not-certain winner has been determined) but not because of this; this is an interesting mechanic.

Everyone loves flip-and-writes; replace the flipping with squares from a track (individual markers make it more nostalgic than a shared one). One can imagine something like Pandemic (move along a list of cities replaces the flip the infect card) or Acquire. Ra, the momuments/culture etc tiles pulled from a bag. No Thanks, the cards your bidding for.

You know how many of these flip games seed a tile, like how in Castle Ravenloft the boss tile is seeded part of the way down, or in Mosaic the empire scoring is in the bottom half, or in Star Wars Rebellion the Death Star Plans is in the middle five cards etc? Waaay easier to do that on a roll-and-move.

As a rondel / action selector

Everyone loved the rondel from games like Imperial or the worker road in Caylus or the action cards in Civilization A New Dawn or Ark Nova or the tasks in Mottainai. Roll and move can be a limited action selector just like in those games (by “limited action selection”, I mean unlike Race for the Galaxy where you can Develop every turn—although you can put unlimited options along limited, like “instead of rolling, you can Take Tiles”).

Key to making this work is to have several spots you can go to. Parallel tracks you can switch between, or a grid (hex, square, tri, voronoi, or other) that you move on is one way to make it work. Selection between several pawns like in Backgammon or Ludi or Can’t Stop is another way to do it.

The one game I can think of that does this well is super obscure: [Joakim von Ankas fantastiska affärer][JvAfa]. You roll-and-move on a grid of action options and there are plenty of duplicates. Since it’s a grid of squares in this game, often the parity is more important than the threshold. i.e. I wanna go to the newspaper action so I’ll need a 2, a 4, or a 6.

One game that does this poorly and sucks is the original Clue. I wanna go to such-and-such room so I have to slooowly make my way over there.

Putting it all together

Combining these two ideas (action-selection and tally), you can imagine an Ark Nova–like game where there’s a central board decorated with cute animals you move along. There are three tracks to switch between so for every roll you have three options. Among the spaces (there are many of each so you can e.g. Build many times) are equivalents of Build, Animals, Sponsors, Get animals/sponsors/conservations, Conserve, University, Donate, Partner Zoo etc. The distance on the track is also your income (like how Appeal works in the original) so building small animals lets you skip ahead a little bit and building big animals lets you skip ahead a lot. And it’s a race—first past the post wins.

“All those ideas sound like it’ll make those games worse”

“For example, a flip and write is good because you don’t know what tile is gonna come, but in a roll and move you can see what’s upcoming. And Ark Nova is already too lucky and you wanna add more luck? No, please.”

That’s right! Because those games are polished and developed with their existing mechanics (I guess the only one with straight isomorphism is the D&D HP example). I’m not saying change those games—I’m just trying to jostle loose some ideas so we can design good roll-and-moves!


I also posted this to BGG.

[JvAfa]: “Joakim von Ankas fantastiska affärer Board Game BoardGameGeek”