Rolling Realms - a filler that turned out to be the main event
Updated: Dec 17, 2021
Game: Rolling Realms
Designer: Jamey Stegmaier, Automa Factory
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Player count: 1-6
Set-up time: ± 1 minute
Play length: ± 10 minutes
Win condition: win/loss on the minigolf course, beat your own score possible
AI/automa: no (Let this sink in. The Automa Factory did not make you an automa.)
how the solo game works
Either play a beat your own score with the exact same rules as multiplayer, or try your hand at the solitaire minigolf course provided by Morten Pedersen and his team from Automa Factory, in which case you'll play a game consisting of 1 round instead of 3 (but number of turns may vary). The minigolf course is an 18 hole campaign where you'll have to meet certain conditions to win. It comes with a course log that will have pars listed for each hole. For example: the 9th hole, Mirrors, is listed as 3 par. It should take me 3 games to win this particular hole. Hypothetically, if it takes me two games to win, I did good. In real life however, it took me 4 games to still not win, so I had to note 5 par in my log and move on to hole 10, Boxing Day. If you get through the whole course within 36 par, you did good. Onto the difficult setting.
Two of them, one for general rules and one for the minigolf course. An added bonus: rules per realm are printed on the realm itself, and minigolf rounds are also on a deck of 10 cards. So if you leave the box behind this game is almost Orchard-like in portability.
missing in solo
This is a game without player interaction, so it's perfect for solo play. The only thing missing is a longer game: for the minigolf course you'll play games consisting of one round, where in multi-player you'll go three rounds before calculating your score
The Automa Factory decided not to make an automa. Or rather: they did make one, the Youtoma, and then they killed it off. A fantastic example of kill your darlings, because I feared for too much upkeep in a short and simple game.
Also positive: Morten Pedersen, Karel Titeca and Lieve Teugels (the team from the Automa Factory) killed Youtoma off, but then revived the bot so you can try Youtoma, described as "your evil incompetent twin" for which you make all of the decisions. As bad as you possibly can.
But back to the game that's actually in the box. The solitaire minigolf course consists of 18 holes, and while I was a bit bummed that multiplayer games lasted 3 times a solo game, that feeling evaporated with my first loss. I had to try again. Because this is no beat your own score, you'll have the drive to finish a hole. Or two. Or maybe three holes in one go. Making this seemingly short roll and write the main event of the evening, instead of the suspected filler.
A huge positive for me is you can practically play this game right out of the box. The rules for each realm ar on the realm itself, the rules for each minigolf hole are on cards as well, so there's no endlessly flipping through the rules. This makes the game nice and compact for travel as well.
Artwork is great, with the whole course illustrated on the back of the course log, and with some nice easter eggs from the makers for you to discover.
I don't have much to whine about this game, other than: it could have fitted in half the box. It might not matter to some, and there's an argument to be made for space to house the promo packs that are bound to pop up (the first one, Terra Mystica, has already been published), but it needs at least 12 more promo realms to justify a box this big. You could fill it up with the fan made realms from Boardgamegeek though.
It might not be for everyone but after you've played through the minigolf course (and before you feel like tackling it again) there is an incredible amount of fan-made material to be found on Boardgamegeek, and the incredible amount is growing every day. Are you in need of a small Stonemaier break? Try the Lost Ruins of Arnak-realm, where you'll be spending resources and dice to move up the research track. Or go for Power Grid, where you'll be powering up cities to gain stars only at the end of your 9 turns.
Not your thing? For an added challenge within the base game you could play any combination of holes from the course, strung together and with win condition "meet all requirements of the holes and play in one go to win". That'll keep you occupied, if you ever manage to best the whole course in 36 par or less on 'hard'.
And do mix in the 9th hole, Mirrors. I have yet to crack that one, even in normal mode. I shudder to think what the hard mode will do to my normal success on the course.
One minigolf game takes up 10 minutes. Set-up is less than one. And yes, it is a light game like so many other roll and writes, but this one has the divide and conquer strategy of Ganz Schon Clever with the dice manipulation of Roll Player. There is some luck involved as with all roll and writes, but Rolling Realms never turns boring like Super-Skill or gambly like On Tour. But enough with the comparisons, because really: you just want to try an Automa Factory roll and write. With out of the box challenges – sometimes requiring you to ransack other player decks in order to get 3 copies of the Between Two Cities realm – from the solomode master himself.