I think I started out holding a lukewarm position on roll-and-writes when they first appeared. The earliest game I remembered was of course Knizia’s decathalon. Next up was a game called Mosaix, which I have a home brewed copy. Mosaix was quite hard to come by back then, when roll-and-writes weren’t as popular and the game never made it out of Europe. I went through a spell where I printed and laminated several other roll-and-writes, mainly from classic designers such as Sid Sackson’s Choice and Wurfel Bingo. Eventually however, things sort of died down until Qwixx from Steffen Benndorf appeared in both the gamer’s and commercial markets. I believe Qwixx revitalized the roll-and-write industry because since its release, the market has been flooded.
I have the Deluxe version of Qwixx which can play up to 8, but I don’t think I have played with more than 6. The game is probably now considered as the granddaddy of the genre even though there were other roll-and-writes that came before it. I believe Rolling Japan also appeared right around Qwixx came out and was also greeted with much enthusiasm. In any case, like a lot of roll-and-writes, Qwixx uses a set of colored- dice, 6 to be exact: Red, Green, Blue, Yellow and a 2 white dice. The active player rolls the dice, yells out the sum total of the white dice and then every player decides if they want to cross off a corresponding box with that number on their score sheet. In addition, the active player also gets to optionally pair one white die with a colored die. The sum total of the white+color die can also be used to cross off another box, but this time, only one that matches the color of the die. If the active player can cross off at least one box, then all is safe. If the combination of die rolls cannot be used to cross off any box, then the active player gets to check off a penalty box. That’s it. The active player then rotates around the table until the end game is triggered.
So what exactly are players marking on their scoresheets? Well, in each score sheet are horizontal rows of numbers that go from either 1 to 12 or 12 to 1. There are 4 rows in total, one for each color of the dice. Two of the colors are arranged in ascending order and the remaining two are descending. Boxes that are checked off must go from left to right. So, if you skip a number which later appears on a dice roll, you are out of luck. At the end of the game, you score points for each row based on how many boxes you have checked off. Scoring is not linear, but in a triangular sequence. So your scores rises steeply with the more boxes you check off for each row. The game is clever in that it throws a few curve balls to prevent you focusing too much on a single row. First, if you cross off at least 5 numbers for each row, you can effective “lock” that row down permanently if a “12′ or a “2”, which happens to the be last number in each row depending on whether that row is ascending or descending, is rolled. Locking a row is optional, but you must have at least 5 crossed-off boxes before you can lock it down. Since each row is identified with a particular color that matches a die, a locked row allows you to remove that die from the dice pool, effectively preventing others from crossing off more boxes in that row. This generates a certain amount of tension and prevents people from focusing on only one row and neglecting the rest. If you don’t score points before a row is locked, then you are largely out of luck for scoring that row. The game ends when at least 2 rows are locked out of if someone has checked off 4 penalty boxes (each box being worth -5 points). Scores from all four rows are tallied minus the penalty boxes and the winner is the one with the most points.
I should mention the Qwixx player boards come dual-sided. The Qwixx Mixx is actually more fun since the colors for each rows are jumbled up so they are no longer monochromatic. Now, depending on the die roll, the check boxes are scattered in different rows. I think I now exclusively play the Qwixx Mixx board (see images below).
I think the roll-and-write genre is now firmly behind me. I used to enjoy it a lot more, but these days, many of the games in this genre feels too much like a solo affair to me. Yes, your die rolls can impact other players and I also know many roll-and-writes are more sophisticated and complex. Still, I made two more acquisitions after Qwixx: Dice Stars and Ganz Schon Clever. I liked both enough, but the issue is that they don’t generate a whole lot of excitement…or laughs for that matter. Wolfgang Warsch’s Ganz Schon Clever in particular has been highly lauded as one of the top games in this crowded field, but yet, I can’t bring myself to feel excited about it. Not quite sure why, but I do believe I am not the target audience for this mechanism.
Coming back to Qwixx though, if I were to sell all my roll-and-writes, this would survive the cull. This and probably Mosaix. I think part of the appeal of Qwixx is not trying to be more than it can be. The simplicity of it appeals to me from the party gamer perspective. I do not want a party game to be that brain burning and Qwixx Deluxe for 8 players fits the bill. You can pull it out and it is does not feel like a brainless exercise unlike some other party games (cards against humanity, I am looking at you). There are only so many party games I can play and I think Qwixx fits that bill.
Final words: Average