Part of an ongoing "What Is" series where we define different subcategories of games to make it easier to talk about them.
Roll and Writes are generally games where you roll a die and write something down on a pad of paper. However, sometimes instead of rolling, you draw cards. And sometimes, instead of writing on a pad, you move a marker on a wooden board. But, generally the game includes a set of dice and a custom pad for you to score yourself.
The most classic Roll and Write is Yahtzee. Yahtzee has been around since the 1950s, but it's based on many variants of older dice games that go even further back. Writing down your score isn't unique to Roll and Writes, but the feeling of "filling in" areas of the play sheet with your results is what makes them special.
In 2018, it seems we are standing on the precipice of a new golden age of Roll and Write games. We see them frequently appear on Kickstarter, and they made many top games lists in 2017. Dice Tower recently ran a whole episode of their podcast about them.
The evolution beyond Yahtzee likely began with the popularity of Qwixx, a game released in 2012 that was nominated for the prestigious Spiel De Jahres in 2013. While many gamers scoffed at Qwixx, it went on to be a huge seller with many, many editions following it. Including Qwixx Deluxe which replaced the pads with white boards and dry erase markers.
The potential in Qwixx spawned a new genre, and now we have dozens of great Roll-and-Writes filling the genre: Avenue (reimplemented as Kokoro), Quinto, Steamrollers, X the Dice Game (Castles of Burgundy, Catan, and many more), etc.
The genre beyond Yahtzee is fairly new (newer even than Deck Building games), and is constantly evolving. But here are some characteristics we're talking about when describing a game as a "Roll and Write":
- Random: Something in the game is fueling random results. Generally this is a set of dice, but it can be cards (as is the case in Kokoro.)
- Score Tracking: You use something to track the game's progress (so that you can draw more of whatever the random thing.) Traditionally this is a score pad. But, this has evolved to include wooden tracking boards, cardboard trackers, and white boards.
- Quick: The game is quick-playing (very few Roll and Writes go beyond 30 minutes of play.)
- Simple: The game is easy-to-learn. This is one of the most important features of a Roll and Write. This is not Rising Sun or Blood Rage. You should have a pretty solid grasp on how to play the game after about 5-10 minutes of learning.
- Small: The game is generally portable and can be carried in a small box. (No big boards here!)
We're sure roll and writes will evolve and expand quickly as the genre gets more and more iterations and gains popularity. They fill a niche of games that you can quickly introduce to new players without having to worry about boring hardcore hobby gamers.