Roll Write Daifugo

Chikasuzu

Artist: Uncredited

Publisher: Ponkatsu Farm

Now, that’s what I call simplistic art. Nice! I love that the Japanese designs are no frills (Photo credits: James Nathan@BGG)

These days, I am an avid fan of the Opinionated Gamers and their columns. These folks are mainly more mainstream Euro gamers and fit my taste pretty well. Led by Dale Yu, most of the games they write are Essen releases or from major publishing houses. I occasionally see a review from Kickstarter or from an Indie publisher. I respect their writings and reviews and often look forward to the games they recommend, knowing that our tastes align.

Enter Roll Write Daifugo which was recently reviewed by Dr. Yu. To come clean, roll and write is probably way at the bottom of the list of mechanisms I enjoy. In fact, I have come to realize that pure roll and writes are just not for me. I usually avoid them and avoid buying them. For me, roll and writes always boils down to: roll dice, pick a selection of dice and then jot the information down someplace so it fulfills some criteria, pattern or scoring grid. That said, I own a few roll and write and they are mainly “party games” or fillers. For that reason, I enjoy Quixx, Ganz Schon Clever and Dice Stars. That’s it.

My interest for Roll Write Daifugo was piqued when it was described as a mash up of dice chucking for the first part and then trick-taking for the second part. What a unique combo! Like some other simpler roll and writes, all that was required was a pencil and pad. I knew I had to make my own copy since I am not even sure the game is widely available.

I whipped up a respectable version using Adobe Illustrator and decided to take it a spin with two players. Lo and behold, I think we (I) actually enjoyed it. Yes. I enjoyed a roll and write trick-taking game for two! How you say? Well…..

In Roll and Write Daifugo, players take turns (or not) rolling three d6 and then fill in the individual numbers on a diamond-shaped scoring grid that consists of slots that are grouped in threes’ by color. So, you select one group of 3 spaces of one color and fill in the numbers. On the grid, each column has an arrow and when your column is eventually filled in with numbers, you add up the sum total and input the score in a space below. You then do that for all columns as they are completed. Of course, since this is a diamond shaped grid, the columns in the middle are longer and have more slots. So, you need to add up six slots to get one sum total. Those that are on the tips of the diamond consists of only 1 slot. There are 3 opportunities for you to meddle with dice by using the +/- 1 symbol to add or subtract 1 from your dice roll. Easy peasy. The image below is my home made Daifugo grid and a picture is certainly worth a thousand words in this case.

Once all the slots are filled and the numbers are tallied, these individual numbers become your hand of cards for the second part of the game, which is the trick-taking part. There are a total of 12 numbers and you transpose all your numbers in ascending order on a separate section. Here, it gets interesting. In Daifugo, you are allowed to only play numbers of the same type. So, singles, doubles, triples, quadruples, etc. You get the idea. You can of course break up a larger set and play them separately. But like any trick-taking game, the highest card (or hand) takes the trick and then leads the following trick. In this way, the game is played out and won by the first person to empty their entire hand of numbers. We generally crossed out the numbers we have played.

The game is intriguing only because the first half of roll and write, isn’t quite like any roll and writes I have played. Here, you are trying to best arrange the slots to get the hand of numbers you need for trick taking. High cards are good, but I dare say five 1s’ may be better than a single 20. I don’t really know, actually. That the point, the game begs to be replayed and I haven’t delve deep enough to know if that statement above is always true. You certainly don’t want your entire hands to just be singles, which can happen if you don’t plan properly. It may be rare, but entirely possible I guess. I need more plays to consolidate my thoughts on how best to get the numbers. Since you are busy with your own stuff, you rarely get time to look around the table, so looking at your neighbors to cheat may not be that easy. Plus, there is some math, so you will be engaged. Sure, I think that is probably the only downside. You need to calculate and sum up the total as you go along. If you think about all the possibilities and sit and stare at your grid, it may feel a bit like work. I think some folks may get turned off.

The trick-taking part may sound simplistic, but it actually works in this case for Roll Write Daifugo. By not making it complicated, you play the game without any special cards or rules that bog down the trick taking. The entire game takes maybe 15 minutes and like I said, the game oddly enough, works ok with two, which never happens for trick-taking without some heavy-duty tinkering (ala Haggis). Because there is some decision-making in crafting your hand during the roll and write portion for trick-taking, it makes the trick taking part more meaningful than just randomly dealing out a hand of cards. I think that is why it works with two. You control your own fate so to speak.

So, for those who don’t enjoy Roll and Writes, this may not sway your mind necessarily. I enjoyed the game enough, but I wouldn’t say it is game of the year. I think among all the roll and writes I have played, this one feels more like a puzzle and is more engaging without making it a dragged out and long-drawn affair. Thumbs up for me.

Initial impressions: Good.

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