‘Rolling America’: A Fast, Maddening Dice Game

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Rolling America cover

Rolling America is a cute little game in a small package that will drive you crazy in 15 minutes.

At a glance: Rolling America is for 1 or more players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 15 minutes to play. It retails for $10.99 and is available directly from Gamewright, on Amazon, or at your local game store. It was designed by Hisashi Hayashi (it’s a variation of Rolling Japan) and is published by Gamewright.

Rolling America
Rolling America components. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Components:

  • 100 maps
  • 7 dice
  • 1 dice bag

You’ll need to provide your own writing instruments–each player needs one.

There’s a little notepad of maps, 50 double-sided sheets. It shows the United States in an abstracted form, with various regions of the country in different colors. There’s a row across the top to track what round it is, and then some checkboxes at the bottom for special abilities.

The dice bag is a small cotton drawstring bag with the game’s logo on it, and the dice are standard-sized six-sided dice with beveled corners and stars for pips. The dice are all different colors, matching the regions of the map, plus a clear wild die.

The whole thing fits in a small box with a magnetic flap.

Rolling America map
Just getting started. Oh, this should be a piece of cake, right? Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

How to Play

You can get a PDF of the rules here.

The goal is to fill in your map with numbers rolled on the dice, following certain restrictions. The player with the fewest Xs wins.

Players take turns passing the dice bag and rolling dice, but everyone uses the results of each roll regardless of whose turn it is. On your turn, pull two dice from the bag at random and roll them. Then announce the numbers and colors of the dice.

Rolling America
Hmm, where should we put these numbers this time? Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

You must write those numbers in the corresponding regions on your map. The number on the wild die may be written in any region. However, neighboring states cannot have numbers that differ by more than 1 (e.g., you can’t put a 3 next to a 5). You must write a number in a state if possible. Otherwise, you must mark an X in a region of that color. If the matching color is already filled in with numbers and Xs, you ignore it.

You have a few abilities that can be used during the game. Each ability can be used 3 times, and you check them off as they’re used.

  • Color change: change the die to any color of your choice.
  • Guard: Circle the number in a state–you may now ignore this number for neighboring states as if it were empty.
  • Dupe: Duplicate a number, and write it in two different states of the die’s color. For the wild die, dupe can be used to write the same number in two different colors.
Rolling America
Wait, why did I put that 4 there? And what will I do with those 1s? ARGH! Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

When 6 dice have been rolled, put them all back into the bag and mark the end of a round. The game ends after 8 rounds.

Once the game ends, everyone marks Xs in any empty spaces left on their maps. Then pass maps to the left, and everyone checks to make sure there aren’t any errors, like neighboring states with numbers too far apart. Mark an X for each mistake found.

Finally, count up all the Xs on the map and write it in the score box on the map. The player with the fewest Xs wins. In case of a tie, the player who used the fewest abilities wins.

Rolling America
My winning score of 9 Xs. The rules say they’ve yet to get a score below 5. *An eagle-eyed reader caught two errors: Alabama/Florida and Wisconsin/Iowa. So my final score is 11 Xs. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The Verdict

Rolling America reminds me a little bit of another fill-in-numbers game, 20 Express. Both have that sort of feeling of strategic Bingo–the numbers that come up are determined by random chance, but since everyone is using the same numbers you all have the same luck. It’s what you do with those numbers that determines who wins or loses.

But then you take that “oh, no, I’m in trouble” feeling you get while playing 20 Express and multiply it by, well, 2.5. This time around you’re filling in 50 spaces instead of 20, and you’ll quickly start seeing places that are impossible to fill. For instance, on my map above I put a 5 in New York and a 1 in New Hampshire … meaning I had a couple of places in New England that were basically unusable, and I knew it well before the end of the game.

Alaska and Hawaii are gimmes–you can put any number you want there, because they aren’t bordering anything. On the other hand, they’re orange, so you can only use them for an orange or wild die. Since the round ends after 6 of the 7 dice are drawn, there’s always one die that isn’t used by the end. Which one will it be? Will you be left with a bunch of blank spaces in Green–or should you use that wild die for Yellow?

I like the abilities–they’re basically ways that you can cheat a little bit when things aren’t working out. When to use the ability is a tough decision, but it’s important to remember that any states that aren’t filled in when time runs out will get Xs and count against you. On the one hand, filling in a color early means you get to ignore that die from now on without worrying about having to place an inconvenient number. On the other hand, it means that everyone else gets an opportunity to write a number and you don’t, meaning you’ve just chalked up an X somewhere down the line.

Even though it’s a cute little game, though, it can feel incredibly stressful. From the groans and sighs you’d hear every time the dice were rolled, you might think we were playing something with enormous consequences, not just filling in numbers on a tiny map of the USA.

Compared to 20 Express, there are more decisions to make in Rolling America because it’s not just a linear track and you have to decide when to use your abilities. So 20 Express is even easier to teach but Rolling America has a bit more depth to it.

Overall, I think Rolling America is a nice, portable game that would be great for a quick play while you’re on the go, or an opener for game night. That is, if I can convince my kids to play again–they may need a break to recover from the stress.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this game.

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