Roll for the Galaxy is a dice-based follow-up to the card-heavy Race for the Galaxy. Similar principles apply, but they’re two different games that complement each other nicely. Here’s how to play:
Hi! It’s Ryan from Nights Around a Table, and this is Roll for the Galaxy, a dice version of the tableau-building, roll-taking game Race for the Galaxy. Now, Roll for the Galaxy isn’t an expansion to Race – it’s a standalone game that you can play on its own, and you don’t need to know anything about Race for the Galaxy to learn or enjoy it, but if you do know Race for the Galaxy, you’ll notice a few similarities between it and Roll – from the phases, to the iconography, to the manual that looks like a repair guide for a 1982 Laserdisc player. If you’d like to compare the two games or get a good primer on Race, check out my How to Play Race for the Galaxy video by clicking the link in the description below. As for Roll for the Galaxy, let me show you how to play!
You and your friends are competing to build out the biggest, baddest space empire. You’ll roll a cup full of dice and assign those dice as workers to different phases that let you settle new worlds, build new developments, produce and ship goods for points and profit, and draft new and more powerful dice to pull off better and better turns. Two different conditions can trigger the end of the game: when someone takes the last Victory Point chip on the table, or when someone builds the twelfth tile square in their empire. From there, you count up the points to see who’s won.
You begin the game with a few random squares in your empire that net you some small perks depending on what you draw. This is the construction area of your player board, where you put any new tiles you acquire. You have to roll the right dice to build these tiles out to your space tableau and reap the benefits.
It’s important to start by understanding the game’s symbols. There are two types of tiles that you can build: developments, which are represented by a diamond, and worlds, which are represented by a circle. Each tile in the communal black space bag is double sided, with a development on one side, and a world on the other. Worlds help you get new dice, while developments help you break the rules and gain certain advantages. Both are important to your strategy. You have a plastic cup filled with dice, some of which come standard, and some that might have come as perks from your starting tiles. This horribly-named area with a stick figure flipping you off in semaphore is called the “Citizenry”: dice usually wind up there after you’ve used them.
Out in the middle of the table are five tiles representing the five phases that can happen in a round of play. They’re flipped to their “X” side to indicate that they haven’t been chosen by anyone.
Once you roll them, your dice allow you to pick one of the phases to activate, and your dice also let you do the phase’s thing for each die you roll with that phase symbol on it. Take is as written for a moment that you’re going to be rolling your dice and assigning them to the five different phases; we’ll talk about the specific mechanics of dice-rolling a little later on, but for now, let’s talk about the five phases and what they allow you to do.
The first phase is Explore. When you assign your dice workers to this phase, you choose to either take money, or take one or more new tiles from the communal space bag. If you choose the money, you slide your little … jetpack astronaut thing… two notches up the scale at the bottom of your player board. Why they didn’t make this in the shape of a dollar sign is beyond me. As we’ll see later, money helps you get more dice back into your cup in the next round.
If you decide instead to take tiles, you start by looking at the tiles here in your construction area and deciding whether or not to abandon any of them. You don’t have to get rid of any – it’s optional – but if you do want to ditch some, you stack them under the Explore phase tile, away from the prying eyes of your opponents. Then you get to draw one new tile from the space bag, plus as many new tiles as you just got rid of. So you always get to drwa one new tile at an absolute minimum.
Take all the tiles you’re entitled to. Decide whether you want to use what’s on the diamond development side or the circular world side. When you put the new tiles in your construction area, you have to put them at the bottom of the stacks of tiles that are already there – not on top.
In the Explore phase, the game term for taking money is “stocking”, while the term for taking one or more tiles is “scouting”. When the phase is over, any tiles that got abandoned under the Explore tile get returned to the space bag.
The Develop and Settle phases work identically. In each case, you put your developer or settler dice on top of the develop or settle stacks in your construction area one by one. If, in doing this, the number of dice workers equals the cost of the tile, you retire those dice to the Citizenry, build the tile out to your tableau, and take any benefit it gives you. If you have even more dice to put on the pile, you can actually dig down through your stack and build more than one tile during one of these phases. If you dig all the way down and you still have dice on the empty construction space, you can return those unused dice to your cup. That’s the general rule in the Roll for the Galaxy: if you roll dice and you don’t get any benefit, you put them back in your cup so you can roll them again next round, free of charge.
The produce phase lets you put your producer dice on the different worlds you’ve settled, where they represent a tangible good that that planet can produce. Grey worlds can’t produce anything, but the coloured worlds all can – one good per planet, at a maximum. As before, if you have any extra producer dice that you can’t put anywhere, they go straight back into your cup, because they didn’t provide you any benefit this round.
Finally, the ship phase lets you run shipper dice to your planets to pick up your goods and convert them into money or points. Let’s look at the Trade action, which gets you money, first.
If your shipper die grabs a good from a blue planet, you can sell that good for 3 credits. You get 4 credits for goods from brown worlds, and then 5 or 6 buckazoids for goods from green or yellow worlds. When you’re trading, the colour of the dice doesn’t enter into it; a brown good on a blue world is considered a blue good for trading purposes.
Colour does matter if you use your shippers to Consume your goods for points. You always get 1 Victory Point at a minimum for shipping off one of your planets’ goods. If the good’s die matches the planet’s colour, you get a bonus victory point. And if the shipper die matches the planet’s colour too, you get another bonus point. So you get a minimum of 1 victory point for shipping a good. You get a bonus victory point if either the ship die or the good die match the planet’s colour, and a maximum of 3 victory points if the ship die and the good die match the planet’s colour.
Alright! That’s how the five phases work. Now let’s loop back and see how you actually roll for the galaxy.
Off the top of the round, all players roll their dice simultaneously behind their privacy screens. The first thing you do is match all the symbols on your dice to the symbols on this strip, in columns. These dice represent the number of things you get to do during a particular phase, if that phase happens this round. So you get to pick one phase that you want to have happen this round. So let’s say that the Explore phase is extremely important to you – it’s do or die – and it has to happen this round, or you are completely hosed. You take any one of your dice – even if the symbol doesn’t match – and put it on the Explore phase. Now the Explore phase is guaranteed to happen. But what about the other four phases where you might have workers lined up to do stuff? Well, that depends on the phases that your opponents decided to activate.
Once everyone has finished placing their dice, everyone lifts their screens and announces which phase they’ve decided to activate. You flip over the tiles for those phases, to keep it straight which phases are happening. More than one player may choose the same phase. Then you go through the phases in order, one by one, and everyone uses any worker dice they have lined up under those phases on their phase strips. Actions that players take on the different phases can happen simultaneously, because beyond picking a round, nothing that you do really affects what the other players are doing. It’s more important that you keep an eye on what they want to do so that you can effectively predict which phase they’re going to choose, because if everybody chooses Explore, none of the dice that you have lined up on any of the other phases get to do anything this round – they have to go back in your cup until the next round.
It’s a little confusing, but keep in mind that when you use any die to pick a phase, that die sort of becomes an honorary worker for that phase. So if you use an explore die to activate the ship phase, that die becomes an honorary shipper, and you can use it to trade or consume a good on one of your worlds.
If you really need a die in a certain phase but you don’t roll what you want, you can use a reassign power. Everyone starts the game with a single reassign power called “Dictate”. If you need to Dictate before you lift your privacy screen because you didn’t roll what you wanted, you take any one of your rolled dice and put it to the side over here, and then take any other die and place it wherever you need it, where it becomes an honorary worker for that phase. You can only do this after choosing a phase for this round. You can’t use a reassigned die to choose a phase, or to choose more than one phase – you get one phase pick, max, before optionally using Dictate. Different space tiles that you build out to your tableau may unlock new and more powerful reassign powers for you. You can only use Dictate, and any other reassign powers, once each per round.
Dice that do nothing for you, including Dictated dice, go back in your cup for next round. The ones that do benefit you eventually wind up here, in your citizenry. After all of the selected phases have been resolved, you prepare for the next round.
At the end of every round, you have to spend all of your money paying your citizens to get back in that cup, because it’s scary and disorienting and they don’t wanna go in there. Each die in your Citizenry costs one credit, and you have to buy back as many as you can afford. If you have more dice than money, you can choose which ones go back in the cup, but you still have to drain your cash to zero. If you have more money than dice, every die goes back in the cup, and you’re left with some money for the next round. If you finish the round at zero dollars after buying back all your dice, you always move your marker back up to 1 credit.
If you decide that you really need your settlers, developers, or goods back, you can now Recall them and put them into your cup so you can roll them next round, but it may be a bit of a waste.
Flip all the phase tiles back to their “x” sides, and check for end game: make sure there are still victory points on the table, and that nobody has built a 12th tile. Then it’s wash, rinse, and repeat until someone does nab that last point or build their 12th tile. In that event, you finish out the round, and end the game.
If someone picks up that final point and triggers game end but people are still shipping goods, use a reserve pile of 10 point chips to make sure they get their due.
To tally up the points, count your physical VP chips. Add up the numbers for the worlds and the developments you’ve built that are inside the diamonds and circles on each tile. Unconstructed tiles don’t count for nothin’. These 6-point tiles are meta scoring tiles… you get 6 points, plus additional points according to the text on the tile. Any fractional points get rounded up. The player with the most VPs wins, and money and dice in the cups break ties. Still tied? Then it’s a tie! You’re both my favourite galactic empire.
If you’ve ever played a deck-building game, you’ll recognize some of the principles involved here. You start the game with lousy dice, and you use those dice to buy worlds that get you better dice. Your player screen shows a grid of the different faces each type of die contains, if you want to calculate your odds of rolling certain things. Some tiles let you discard dice. Why would you want to do that? Isn’t more dice better? Well, not necessarily, in a deck or dice building game. You usually want to get rid of your garbage dice so you have a better shot at cycling through and rolling the stronger dice that you collect. And of course, the main strategy in Roll for the Galaxy is to keep an eye on what your opponents are doing, so that you can predict which phases they’re going to choose, because there’s no sense in you wasting a die on a phase that you already know is going to happen. There’s zero player interaction in Roll for the Galaxy, but it’s the sensitive, empathetic player who will excel.
Here are a few stray rules worth mentioning:
You have to employ all of your workers; it’s not optional. If you have 3 dice lined up under Explore, you’re exploring 3 times, whether that’s stocking or scouting. You can’t decide you don’t want to explore any more, and chuck these dice back in your cup. If a worker can’t be assigned, like if it’s a good and you have no worlds to put it on, or it’s a shipper and you have nothing to ship, then that die goes back in your cup. But if you can use it, you gotta use it.
Sometimes certain tiles will net you extra developers or workers on your stacks so that you can afford to build your tiles. Those tiles can’t actually be constructed to your tableau until the Develop or Settle phases are called, so cool your jets.
You have to select a phase with one of your dice before using any of your reassign powers, including Dictate.
Some dice faces have Kurt Vonnegut’s butthole on them. These are wild symbols, and the dice can be assigned to any phase. But once the player screens are lifted, those wild dice are locked to wherever you assigned them.
Purple dice count as any colour for the purposes of shipping and consuming goods.
All players perform their actions simultaneously, which keeps the game humming at a good clip. But if you get into a situation where timing matters, go clockwise around the table starting with the player with the lowest-numbered home tile.
The rulebook has two pages of fussy rule clarifications, along with troubleshooting tips if your Three Men and a Little Lady laserdisc gets stuck in the machine.
To set up the game, each player picks a colour and takes a plastic cup, a privacy screen, a phase strip, and a player board. Everyone takes a credit marker that looks almost, but not entirely, unlike money, and places it on 1 credit. Deal everyone a random double faction tile and a special home world tile, which they put out in front of them to start their tableaux. Then everyone draws two tiles from the……… space bag, and places one on the development construction space, and one on the settle construction space. If it’s your first game, the manual recommends choosing the least expensive sides of these tiles to go face up, but if you know the game pretty well, you don’t have to. Everyone gets 3 white dice in their cup and 2 on their Citizenry. Then take a look at the one-time perks your starting tiles offer you; you may get more dice in your cup, or extra dice in your Citizenry, bonus cash to start you off, or maybe even a good to place on one of your worlds. Put player count times 12 VP chips on the table and keep 10 more in reserve. All other available dice go in the middle of the table next to the phase tiles, which start X-side-up.
And now you’re ready to play Roll for the Galaxy. Tom Selleck’s moustache makes me cry every time!
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i passed over Roll for the Galaxy very often, worrying it would be redundant, or steal away my joy from Race for the Galaxy. It didn’t; both games co-exist in my collection. Some times i feel like playing one, and sometimes i’m in the mood for the other.
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