The Best Roll and Write Board Games (2024)
14 mins read

The Best Roll and Write Board Games (2024)


The Roll and Write genre has exploded in recent years. This accessible style of games is derived from the classic board game Yahtzee. Players roll dice or flip cards, and then use the revealed numbers or symbols to mark up a private sheet. It’s a simple concept, but it’s a genre that’s ripe for exploration, and more surprisingly, sophisticated gameplay.

This type of game is highly appealing as it’s straightforward and immediately rewarding. You are afforded creativity in personalizing your own sheet or board, but the accompanying rules structure is typically straightforward. With this winning combination, Roll and Writes find a great deal of success across a wide range of players as the barriers to entry are relatively miniscule. The following group represents the best this genre has to offer.

TL;DR: Best Roll and Write Games

Twilight Inscription

Twilight Inscription

The most unique title on this list, Twilight Inscription combines the huge excess of board game giant Twilight Imperium with the Roll & Write format. This sprawling experience seeks to emulate the 4X genre of video games, where players establish their space empires through exploration, exploitation, expansion, and extermination. It accomplishes this in roughly 90 minutes, which is brief in comparison to its forefather’s epic playtime of several hours.

Each aspect is represented with a separate sheet. Each of these sheets forms an entire sub-section of the game, one that can be explored and mastered over many plays. The challenge here is in focus, as each turn you must choose one sheet to perform actions upon. This creates a significant series of tradeoffs and opens up the game to many different approaches. The resulting experience is relatively large in scope, and in this way Twilight Inscription feels more akin to a full-fledged strategic board game than the typical breezy Roll and Write.

Lost Cities: Roll & Write

Lost Cities: Roll & Write

Another adaptation of an existing game, this one translates the enticing card play of Lost Cities to the Roll and Write genre. Here, players are attempting to explore the jungle by heading down separate colored paths. There is a core strategic aspect where you must optimize your expedition and carefully decide which dice to select from a larger pool.

One of the more delightful qualities is the bridge bonus. The first player to make it to the seventh space on a particular color receives a boost of 20 points. This establishes a race element to the game which works hand in hand with the pulp adventure setting to provide some character and personality to play. This is a lighter experience, one that’s easily internalized, but it’s a satisfying endeavor that is absolutely worth the brief time commitment.

Super Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up

Super Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up

Most roll and write games don’t do much in the way of conjuring up a theme, but Super Skill Pinball replicates a pinball table with nothing more than a pen and some dice. You choose one of four supplied tables to play, enter at the top, and then drop down by choosing to hit various bumpers and targets depending on your roll. It’s the same deal when it drops to the flippers but the kicker is that you can’t re-use a box twice, so your ball will eventually run out of targets and drop. It’s up to you to use the specific combo and special play rules of your table to maximize your score, making for a puzzle that’s fascinating and thrilling in equal measure. There are a number of sets available including a Star Trekthemed one, but Ramp It Up is the pick of the bunch and even includes a cooperative table.

Welcome To

Welcome To... Your Perfect Home

Welcome To isn’t strictly a roll and write game: it belongs to a closely related genre called flip and write, which replaces the dice with cards. This gives you a lot more options to work with. Here, they’re pressed into the service of town planning as you choose pairs of house numbers and building effect cards to create three suburban streets. It’s a tricky ask as you have to get houses in number order while balancing your score across various bonuses such as pools, parks and racing to be the first to meet city plans that require specific layouts. It’s super satisfying when you pull it off and there’s a surprising amount of strategy, but gamers who want even more could choose its more complex sci-fi cousin Welcome To The Moon.

My City: Roll & Build

My City: Roll & Build

Based on the popular board game My City from famed designer Reiner Knizia (see on Amazon), this dice game employs a similar structure of campaign play that is wholly rewarding. Play takes place across multiple episodes, with each 30 minute session adding a small amount of new rules and wrinkles to play. This layered approach allows for a gradual increase of complexity without being overwhelming, and it succeeds admirably in this method.

Thankfully, the game is also quite flexible and allows you to play each of these episodes as a one-off session if you desire. It works well in this format, particularly once you’ve completed the campaign and are somewhat familiar with what each chapter has to offer. Either way, this is an entertaining little gem that will stand up to many plays.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition

Railroad Ink

Rather than filling in a score sheet, Railroad Ink asks you to draw a transport network on a grid, based on tracks and junctions thrown up by its custom dice. You’re rewarded by linking as many exits as possible to the same network which rapidly becomes a tricky task as you balance the need to minimise dead ends with the desire to leave things open in the hope of linking them later. Combining risk versus reward gameplay with spatial thinking makes this roll and write quite unusual, but there are various editions to add to the variety. Deep Blue, which allows you to add rivers and lakes to your map along with potential ferry routes, is the pick of the bunch but you can go for volcanos with Blazing Red, forests in Lush Green or deserts in Shining Yellow.

Next Station: London

Next Station: London

Another train-based game but this time a flip and write, Next Station: London offers the novel twist of making pencil colors a key part of the game. Each color ties into a starting station on the player’s map, which is where you begin to draw your network based on the station symbol of the drawn card. You can extend in either direction and even branch your line as you try to cross as many districts as possible, taking in tourist sites, joining other lines and crossing the river on the way. But beware as you can’t cross lines except as stations, meaning that a sprawling, high-scoring first turn may box in your expansion for later lines. Then all the players swap pencils and start anew. It’s a simple concept that reveals surprising nuance over repeat plays, giving it an edge of additive puzzling while resulting in fun multicoloured maps.

Dinosaur Island: Rawr N Write

Dinosaur Island: Rawr ‘n Write

Part of the appeal of roll and write games is their speed and simplicity, but Rawr N Write was the first of a new breed in the genre that uses the concept as a springboard to more complexity and depth. The dice roll gives players a choice of resources such as money and DNA that they need to build their own Jurassic World style dinosaur theme park. You’ll need to sketch out your park with both attractions and concessions stands on a mini-grid, while also bringing in staff, special buildings and taking care of security. Then, at the end of each of the three turns, you run an actual tour route through your facility to score points while hoping no-one gets eaten. With so many different aspects to juggle, planning your park is a rich, brain-burning challenge while running the tour brings the numbers to life with a thematic kick. Read our Dinosaur Island: Rawr ‘n Write review for more details.

Cartographers

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale

Games in this genre often play well with large groups because there’s a central roll or flip and everyone tries to make the best use of the results. That means a lack of player interaction, which Cartographers came along to challenge. This is a flip and write where the idea is to use the cards to map out the terrain of a fantasy kingdom, trying to fulfil some variable scoring challenges. The fun twist is that every so often there’s a monster card, at which point you pass your map to your neighbour and they have to figure out the most annoying place to draw the negative monster icons in your kingdom. Not only does this make Cartographers feel much more personal, but the maps you’re left with at the end have an engaging sense of world-building about them, conjuring up some theme. The sequel, Cartographers: Heroes, added more dynamic monsters and new hero cards to ride in and save your kingdom from their depredations.

Long Shot: The Dice Game

Long Shot: The Dice Game

Horse racing game Long Shot was fine, but this derivation into a roll and write has proved a smash hit with players. Unusually for the genre, there’s an actual board for the track around which the horses race, based on a dice roll, but some horses are more likely to move than others. Your job is to watch the unfolding race and bet sensibly on the odds as proceedings come to a head. However, you can also use your cash to buy horses to access a special power and a hefty bonus if it wins, as well as take various options to fiddle the odds in favour of your chosen steeds. Since everyone is free to bet on any horse, this creates a fascinating web of dependencies between players as the race progresses, since horses you’ve backed may pay out better for your opponents. With interaction, excitement and a hefty dose of theme, Long Shot: The Dice Game satisfies in areas other roll and writes cannot.

Vengeance: Roll and Fight

Vengeance: Roll at Fight

Most games in this genre fit a certain, relatively staid, pattern of having a random seed to offer all the players a choice, which they mark on their sheet. In trying to recreate the hectic pace of a martial arts movie, Vengeance: Roll and Fight turns these expectations upside down. This is a frantic real-time game where players generate actions for their turn by trying to grab dice and roll combos faster than the other players. Once the pool of dice is empty you can use your actions to draw a route through a warehouse full of goons, moving, fighting and looting your way to a showdown with the boss. With variable characters, each with a unique roster of abilities and items, plus lots of maps to work through, the fast play time and variety mean you can keep rolling and fighting over and over into the small hours.

Three Sisters

Three Sisters

It’s common for roll and write games to reward players who achieve particular combination of rolls or scores, but Three Sisters takes this concept to the extreme. Your score sheet here is a garden in which you grow a variety of crops and flowers and purchase various tools based on the results of dice rolls making a rondel of actions available. However, when you complete certain actions the reward is often a bonus action which you can then, in turn, use to gain another bonus action and so on. Indeed, the action chaining gets so intense that the score sheet has a special space to record and rub out your bonuses as you accrue and use them during a turn. Making full use of these chains requires more strategic planning than most games in this genre offer, making this a tactical treat. See our Three Sisters board game review for more info.

Fleet: The Dice Game

Fleet: The Dice Game

This is another combo-tastic game which tries to snare players more with a plethora of interconnected options. As the owner of a fishing fleet, you’ll need to decide whether to use the dice to buy licences for the depicted type of seafood or to launch a boat to catch it. The further you go down each tree, the bigger the rewards. Boats will later return to the harbor where you can sell your catch and construct buildings that offer additional benefits over the 10 rounds of play. It’s all about using the dice as random seeds and working out the best set of interconnected benefits you can glean from each tree of potential options. Fast, fun and with a thematic set of mock mother of peal dice, Fleet: The Dice Game is a lot less dangerous and a lot less smelly than real high-seas fishing.

For more ideas, be sure to check out our list of the best board games of all time.

Matt Thrower is a contributing freelance board game and video game writer for IGN. (Board, video, all sorts of games!)



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