Rollors: Veteran-Invented, Outdoor Fun for Everyone!

Rollors combines popular tailgate- and picnic-games into a portable, lightweight safe activity. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Rollors combines popular tailgate- and picnic-games into a portable, lightweight, and safe activity for ages 4 and up. It took a lot of effort for my sons to not throw the discs, such as what you see in this picture. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

What do you get when you combine horseshoes, cornhole and bocce ball? You get a fun portable activity that’s awesome for all ages: Rollors!

I was contacted by Matt Butler with an offer to share this game with fellow geeky families as a fun summer activity. I had a great interview with Matt Butler and I not only learned about the product, but also learned that he’s a fellow Air Force officer. In fact, he’s still on active duty. I gained some insight to how he was able to juggle his very-busy Air Force mission with putting his invention through the patent and manufacture process.

First I’ll talk about the game itself, then share my interview with Major Butler.

What Comes in the Package

Rollors comes with a nylon carrying case. Great to toss in the back of the minivan for a trip to the beach or tailgate. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Rollors comes with a nylon carrying case. Great to toss in the back of the minivan for a trip to the beach or tailgate. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

  • Soft-sided nylon carrying case. I recommend keeping the cardboard frame inside the packaging.
  • Two pyramid-shaped goals
  • Three red “rollors”: wooden discs with score numerals painted on each side
  • Three blue “rollors”
  • Five-foot long measuring cord
  • Instruction sheet

How to Play

For the detailed instructions, I can point you to the Rollors website. But I can summarize it here:

  • Place the two pyramid-shaped goals approximately 25′ apart on level terrain. I used the 5′ cord and loosely measured it out five times.
  • Each player uses one color and both players stand at one goal with all the rollors.
  • Roll the rollor discs in a bowling-style manner towards the opposing goal.
  • After all the discs are rolled, take score.
  • Use the 5′ measuring cord (the cord has a peg at one end that’s to be placed at the top of the goal) to assess which discs are within a 5′ radius of the goal.
  • Whichever color is closest to the goal is the only player who receives points in each round.
  • Count the points painted on the top of the winning player’s discs within the 5′ radius; if the disc is leaning against the goal itself, count double points, if the disc comes to a rest on its edge, count both sides’ points.
  • Repeat the rounds until a player reaches 21 points, with a two-or-more-point lead.
My oldest son looks just like a bowler with how he throws his disc. Even though the disc looks airborne in this picture, he was truly trying to roll it. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
My oldest son looks just like a bowler with how he throws his disc. Even though the disc is airborne in this picture, he was truly trying to roll it. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Our Impressions

My family and I played the game several times in our backyard. They enjoyed it quite a bit, although it was quite easy for them to simply throw the discs, even though the detailed instructions clearly state (probably for safety purposes) to not throw the discs.

My sons are 8 and 10 years old and have played cornhole, ladderball and horseshoes routinely. So for them, this wasn’t difficult at all. The game is recommended for ages 4 and up, although the materials seem well-made and lightweight enough for any ages to attempt to play the game. I think the limitation is whether a toddler or young preschooler would understand the rules.

The game is designed to be played on any level surface. We tried it in our backyard, which is nice and level, as well as at the beach. Playing at the beach is possible, but definitely more tricky. You need to strike a perfect balance between playing on the soft dry sand, or risk having your goals and discs wash away by being too close to the water.

Unlike cornhole, ladderball, or horseshoes, a Rollors set is very lightweight and requires very little setup. No large boards to tote around, no stakes to hammer in, and no PVC “ladders” to assemble. Simply place the goals and play!

Rollors retails for $39.99 and is available at recreation retailers such as REI, Gander Mountain, Camping World and Target. It’s also available at online retailers such as Amazon.

Matt Butler, Aviator and Inventor

Matt Butler is an Air Force Major currently stationed at Langley Air Force Base in southeastern Virginia. He is very open about how he balances his professional life with his passion for inventing and bringing his ideas to life. One evening last April while I was on Reserve duty at Offutt AFB in Nebraska, he and I had a conversation about it.

Butler came up with the idea for game while he was flying missions over Iraq and Afghanistan on the Joint Stars, an Air Force command and control platform that is known for long flights while monitoring a battlespace. It was on these long flights that he was able to really think through how to bring his game idea to life. He also has other patents in force, but he made it clear to me that Rollors is his most passionate invention.

He was stationed at Hurlburt Field, Florida (where my husband works as of this writing) when he started looking into a manufacturing process. During the height of the recession around 2008, he had several former Air Force colleagues who were looking for work. Many of them had craftsman skills and he was able to solicit one of them to make a prototype. The prototype was wildly popular and he began to receive requests from people who wanted to purchase the sets.

For the first year, each Rollors set was handmade by craftsmen on the Florida Panhandle. Butler ensured fair and reasonable compensation for the veterans who were helping to craft the sets, and he was happy to break even.

During that first year, Matt was trying to manage the sale of the product on top of his deployments, and there began to be a need for a more formal manufacturing process. By mid-2010, he sought a manufacturer that could provide consistency. For a royalty and peace of mind, Matt has relied on Maranda Enterprises of Wisconsin since 2010 to manufacture Rollors. The craftsmen who were working on the first Rollors sets were able to take advantage of the improving Florida Gulf Coast economy and Rollors is now readily available nationwide.

An Inspiration for Veterans

Today, Matt Butler is highly sought out as an example to the veterans’ community for starting small businesses and seeing invention ideas through to reality. He has been interviewed and featured through such organizations as Military Officer’s Association of America and local publications on the Florida Panhandle that reach out to large military populations.

He receives scores of inquiries from fellow veterans who are wondering about how the patent process works and how to start a small business. Butler makes a point to respond personally to every inquiry, although that can get pretty squirrely when he’s on a deployment.

His current project is putting all of his advice in one place through the domain militaryinventor.com. At the moment it’s a work in progress, with the site pointing to a recent interview for the Military Times in which he answers the basic questions about the process.

Congratulations to Major Butler and his ability to turn ideas into reality! You are an inspiration for veterans!

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Patricia Vollmer is the proud mother of two emerging geek sons, ages 12 & 14. She serves part time as a meteorologist with the Air Force Reserve and is currently assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Patricia blogs about her family's nomadic military life at Ground Control to Major Mom. Home is always where the Air Force sends her family, which for now is in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hobbies include running, despite no one chasing her, sharing her love for Disney and Star Wars, and exploring the world with her boys. Ask her why the sky is blue at your own risk.