RogerBW's Blog

Thirsty Meeples September 2023 19 October 2023

Back to the boardgame café.

Tonight's sole game was Rolling Heights, a city-building game with a gimmick: each turn, you toss your stock of meeples, and treat them differently depending on how they fall.

In other words, they're dice – though without obvious probabilities. My impression was that "lying down" happened about half the time, then of the remainder perhaps 3/5 on side and 2/5 upright – but upright might happen less often when you're throwing a lot of meeples. Also, the meeples are only distinguished by colour – so no good for anyone with colour vision deficits. Ditto the tiles, which require specific coloured cubes to be added to them. My proposed fix would be to add stickers or paint with distinctive symbols, though of course that would increase the production cost.

That wasn't a problem for us since we don't have colour vision oddities—though we're all getting older, and tiny text on the tiles was not our friend when a tile had to be read from half-way across the table. What did slow things down significantly was a problem I first met in Alien Frontiers from 2014, that most later games have managed not to repeat: you roll the dice at the start of your turn, and only then can you start to think about how to use them, which slows things down massively if you have a slow player. In Alien Frontiers that's unavoidable, because the things you can do with your dice depend largely on which spots the other players have left open in the shared dice placement areas. But here it would be very easy to house-rule away: once you're confident you know how the game works, you roll your meeples—including standard rerolls—at the end of your turn, at the same time that the next player is starting their turn. Then you have all the other players' turns during which to get that rolling done, and to think about what you'll do when it's your turn again. There are interactions between players – you're all building on a shared map and can score off each others' completed tiles – but at least on the basis of our first-play experience you're unlikely to have to throw away your entire turn plan based on what someone else has done.

So while some of the designer's intention to build a better Suburbia is obvious—there's still a tile market with gradually decreasing costs, and many lots have value based on their neighbouring lots, though it's only scored at the time they're built—alas Rolling Heights also suffers from Suburbia's tendency to drag if any player is anything but prompt in their turn-taking.

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