Welcome to my Top 10 roll and write games. These do exactly what they say on the tin: roll some dice, then write down the result. They were popularised in the 1960s with the massive success of Yahtzee. But like the rest of the hobby, kind of stuck in gear for the next 40 years.
The mid 2000s saw the mechanism reintroduced to hobby gamers with the likes of Catan Dice, Roll Through the Ages and Dice Bingo. But they were really put back on the map in 2013 when Qwixx received a Spiel de Jahres nomination. And there has been a steady (and pretty overwhelming) stream of them released ever since.
Most commonly, roll and write games tend to slot into the ‘filler’ category. The games tend to be fast, cater for a higher than normal variability of player numbers, and have simple rules. Plus they’re usually quick to set up and come in small boxes. Making them perfect to pop in your bag if there might be a gaming opportunity almost anywhere.
What the flip?
I’m also including ‘flip and writes’ here. They basically use the same core idea as a roll and write, but uses cards instead of dice. This can be used to decrease/control the randomness. But also to increase the amount of options available for the designer. The first was probably Traxx (2015), and right now they’re still quite thin on the ground. But it’s a great concept and there have already been a few big hits – especially Welcome To. So expect lot more to hit the shelves in the next few years.
For links to digital versions of some of these games, scroll to the bottom of the page. The only ones I couldn’t find were Traxx and Dizzle – so let me know if you know of versions and I can add links. Thanks!
Note: Both Welcome to and Cartographers list themselves having a player count of 1-100. This is technically true, as they come with 100 sheets in the box (which you could laminate for replayability). But that’s true of many of these games – so I’ve left the gimmick out.
Top 10 Roll and write games
(1-4 players, 15-30 mins, 2015)
Players draw a path on their board, a 60-ish space hex grid. Each board is the same except the start point. They are made up of six different colours, with nine spaces also containing a number. In each of 15 rounds a card is flipped containing 4-5 colours. Players draw a line through as many of the colours as they can. But all lines must extend from one end their initial one. Numbers you pass through score points. But all uncovered spaces lose a point. And that’s it. Simple, but surprisingly replayable. And you can teach it to anyone.
9. Roll Through the Ages
(1-4 players, 30-60 mins, 2008)
This is at the heavier end of the roll-and-write spectrum. As well as the standard score sheet and dice you get nice wooden peg boards for each player. You use this to track various resources used to build developments and cities, create monuments, and feed cities. While largely just a resource conversion game, its variety comes in the developments. There are 13 in total, letting players diverge in their strategies. But the dice mean it is very much a tactical game too. Despite the name, it share nothing but theme with Through the Ages. Players take it in turns to roll dice, making the game a lot longer than many here.
(2-5 players, 15-30 mins, 2012)
Qwixx is perhaps even simpler than Traxx. Each player has a sheet with numbers 2-12 in yellow and red, and 12-2 in blue and green. You mark off as many numbers as possible – but can only mark them left to right. One player rolls 6 dice (1 of each colour plus 2 whit dice), and each player marks off the sum of the two white on any line they choose. But the player who roles can add one white die to any of the coloured dice, marking off the total in that colour instead. Mark as many numbers in each row to score points. A fun, light, filler game.
(1-5 players, 30-45 mins, 2015)
Steamrollers sees players drawing lines on their sheets to connect cities, after which they can deliver goods (cubes) along those lines. The twist is that a central board has the actual cubes on. So you’re competing to deliver those cubes before your opponents. Some special abilities that can move between players add extra interaction, making this a game where you really have to keep an eye on your fellow players.
6. Utopia Engine
(solo, 30-60 mins, 2010)
While many of these games can be played alone, this is one specifically for solo game fans. And better still it is a free ‘print and play’ game, available here. It has a similar feel to games such as Roll Through the Ages and Nemo’s War, where dice are used to mark off sections of your sheet relating to special abilities or objectives. So if that sounds like its up your street, you really have no reason not to check it out!
Top 10 Roll and write games: The Top 5
5. Reina Knizia’s Decathlon
(1-4 players, 45 mins, 2003)
Decathlon is another free download (available here). But that’s not why it’s so high on my list. Where many modern roll-and-writes take the games in new directions, this keeps that old Yahtzee style ‘push your luck’ vibe and applies it to a bunch of simple dice games. But they do manage to give the feel of the various events of an athletics decathlon. Check out my full review of Decathlon here.
(1-6 players, 30-45 mins, 2019)
As you may have guessed, this flip-and-write sees each player creating a map on their sheet. Cards reveal polyomino-style shapes you can add to your sheet, as you try to match your map to various scoring cards. But a nice twist sees bandits popping up, where you swap sheets so your opponents can make your life more difficult. There’s nothing ground-breaking here, but it’s somehow a very satisfying experience.
(1-4 players, 30 mins, 2019)
Dizzle ticks so many boxes (no pun intended). You mark off spaces on your sheet to score points. It’s simple, has interaction and push-your-luck, plus you’re invested in every moment. And it has four different sheets in the box to add replayability – with four more available as an expansion. The interaction comes from a shared pool of dice. After the initial roll, you take one each clockwise. But if you don’t like them, you can reroll – at the risk of losing one you’ve already placed. For more details, check out my full Dizzle review.
2. Welcome To
(1-6 players, 30-45 mins, 2018)
Another flip-and-write, this time planning out a new town’s houses in 1950s America. The art is a real selling point, but the game is smart too. The cards are numbered, and players try to give each house a street number from left to right on their boards. But each number is paired with a random ability, making the decisions on which number to take much more difficult. Add in shared scoring objectives and you have a great game. Check out my full Welcome To review here. It also has various expansions available, adding little extra rules.
1. That’s Pretty Clever
(1-4 players, 30 mins, 2018)
This is seen a gamer’s roll and write, as it has a little more going on. But unlike games such as Roll Through the Ages, it still keeps the standard abstract feel of the genre. Five of the dice colours match sections of your sheet, but each of those areas scores differently. So often need different numbers at different times to be useful. But areas also interact with each other, triggering opportunities elsewhere. It really is pretty clever. Check out my reviews of both That’s Pretty Clever and its more complex sequel Twice as Clever.
Play some of my Top 10 Roll and write games online
Check out some of these games for free, online, at the websites listed below:
- Board Game Arena: Welcome To
- Tabletopia: Cartographers
- Yucata: Roll Through the Ages, Steamrollers
Qwixx and That’s Pretty Clever (as ‘Ganz Schon Clever’) have official apps on both the Apple Store and Google Play. That’s Pretty Clever is also available on Steam.
I hope you enjoyed my Top 10 roll and write games. If you think I missed anything crucial, please do let me know on social media or in the comments below. I’m always looking for new games to try! And if you enjoy this type of post, click here for loads more of my board game top 10s.