Roll Player, designed by Keith Matejka and published by Thunderworks Games, puts players in the role of character creators at the start of a fantasy campaign. It’s all about rolling, drafting, placing, moving, and manipulating dice to create the strongest fantasy character. Roll Player plays 1-4 in about 60-90 minutes.
The game is played in phases, starting with players drafting and placing dice on their Character Sheet. After the placement phase, each player has a chance to purchase Armor, Trait, and Skill cards to improve their character via future-use skills or end-game points. Those points are scored from Attributes, Class, Alignment, Backstory, Armor, and Traits.
Generally, players who choose a higher die during the draft will choose later during the market phase, leading to interesting decisions. I also enjoyed how the market deck it split into two groups (cheaper, less powerful cards on top, then more powerful cards on the bottom) and shuffled separately to reduce the frequency of too-expensive items showing up in the early game. Solo mode includes clever mechanisms to replicate how a human opponent would draft dice and purchase market cards.
Roll Player is not accessible for some color-vision-deficient gamers (including me), and many will need to seek assistance from other players or make minor modifications (more on that later).
Many of Roll Player’s components, including the Character Sheet, Class Cards, and Alignment Cards, are colorblind-friendly and easy to read. Font size is solid, and except for the single color icon on the Class Card, no colors on these items are used for gameplay.
The Not Too Bad
The Market Cards are generally accessible, too, with clear descriptions and double-coding for any color-related items. One nitpick is the use of colored text when referring to colors (similar to Stonemaier Games’ Red Rising) that are sometimes low-contrast on the black background and harder to read than they could be.
Most of these work for me, but a small drop-shadow or white outline would’ve made them even easier for colorblind players to read.
I knew going into Roll Player that a game using seven different dice colors would probably cause me problems. I was correct.
Surprisingly, the green/red combination was not my biggest issue, since the specific pantones used were “classic Crayola” colors. The addition of black, white, and gold was awesome, and using black pips on the gold dice allowed me to easily discern them from others.
The blue and purple dice look nearly identical to me, which was immediately frustrating on my very first dice roll. In my attempt at a solo game with the off-the-shelf version, I needed to pull out an extra blue or purple die from the bag, and them compare it to the rolled die.
I had even more trouble with the Class Cards and Backstory Cards that use six of these colors…kind of. In an attempt to stylize the colors as gemstones, they are not exact matches to the dice (even black and white were closer to grey, introducing new problems). This made it difficult for me to make the necessary matches for scoring. In one game I had confused purple gems and white gems on these cards, resulting in a lower-than-expected score.
On a positive note, each Backstory Card uses each color exactly once, allowing colorblind players to use the process of elimination to distinguish some of the trickiest colors from each other.
I asked Keith Matejka about the design process for Roll Player and discussions that occurred regarding visual accessibility. He shared the process his team went through in 2015.
“When originally working on the game, I tested the dice with a handful of people I worked with who were colorblind and they seemed to think they were okay. Obviously, there are lots of types of color blindness and they manifest if different ways in each person.”
He continued by sharing his continued learning on the topic and how Thunderworks Games increasingly keeps accessibility in mind.
“In the last 7 years since I designed that game, I’ve become more knowledgeable about colorblind issues and try to make adjustments to make sure games are accessible to more players.”
I found this true with Thunderworks’ follow-up release, Cartographers, a roll-and-write game set in the Roll Player universe. I own the base game, several mini-expansions, and the Cartographers: Heroes expansion. Each is 100% colorblind-friendly.
I enjoyed Roll Player a lot in my initial plays, even with the colorblind accessibility issues, so I wanted to make it easier for me to enjoy. I started by identifying my main issues – the blue/purple and green/red combinations on the dice, Tracking Tokens, and Backstory Cards.
I take a minimalist approach to accessibility modifications, providing the extra information I need to play while maintaining as much of the original artist’s intent as possible. In this case, some basic dots and dashes were enough to provide the support I needed.
Dice and Tracking Tokens
For the dice and tokens I added markings to the purple and green components so I could more easily distinguish them from the blue and red items.
Last year I modified Century: Spice Road, and for that game I decided to only mark some of the cubes’ sides since they are always together in a bowl. For Roll Player, I wanted to be sure the top-showing die face always had the extra marking, so I added dots to all purple faces and a dash to the green ones.
After these mark-ups, I threw the dice in my dice tray with some blues and reds to see how they looked. It helped me a ton, and it’s likely that most regular-color-vision players will barely notice the extra markings. And since I only made two changes that are easy to memorize, I can continue calling them by their colors (i.e., I don’t need to say “dotted” or “dashed” dice), which helps support immersion.
I took a similar approach with the Backstory Cards, using the same coding (purple dot; green dash) to identify those gemstones from their blue and red counterparts.
The end result were Backstory Cards with new-and-improved, colorblind-friendly (tailored to my individual needs) icons!
Roll Player has a lot of dice and Backstory Cards, so it took some time to mark up each one. But I only needed to make the change once, and now I have a personalized copy I can play by myself or with others for as long as I want.
I enjoyed Roll Player and recommend anyone who likes dice rolling, dice manipulation, and classic fantasy role playing games to give it a try. If you have a color vision deficiency you may have some issues with the colors here, but I believe it’s a game worth your time to modify and make your own.