Review: Copenhagen: Roll and Write

Let me get this off my chest – not ONCE in my several playthroughs of this game did I ever roll more than two of the same color die. My CAT rolled better than me!
(Editor’s note – its entirely true, I was there)

What Is It?

Copenhagen: Roll & Write is designed by Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen and published by Queen Games.

In this game, players are competing to finish the facades of new buildings by drawing shapes and unlocking special abilities. Every player receives their own player sheet while collectively sharing a facade sheet. Both pads of paper are double-sided, which is great!

On a turn, the active player will roll five dice and then subsequently draw a facade shape on their sheet corresponding to their die roll. For example, if a player rolled three blue dice, they may now choose either a blue 2-square or a blue 3-square facade shape. The facade sheet is split in two: the left side are shapes players can draw in their buildings as many times as they went (represented by the infinity symbol on the top) and the right side of the sheet are shapes that can only be chosen once after being selected by a player (they must be crossed out afterwards.) 

After drawing the shape, the active player must fill the shape with one X and the rest with O’s. This comprises the bulk of the strategy of this game. Points are awarded based on completed rows and columns. Every complete row with at least one X earns 1 point, while a row comprised of only O’s earns 2 points. A complete column with at least one X earns 2 points, while a column of only O’s earns 4 points. Therefore, cleverly aligning O only rows and columns can quickly accumulate points.

 After the active player has decided on which die they are going to “claim” – the other players may now choose one of the unused dice and mark the next square off of the corresponding ability track.

Completing a row or column can also unlock a “coat-of-arms” – once a player has done so, they are able to either draw one O square or mark off two squares on the ability track of their choice.

The ability track contains bonuses and abilities symbols. Once “unlocked” – a player may use the bonus or ability on their subsequent turn. When a bonus or ability is used, the player crosses it out and it may not be used again. Bonuses act as an extra die of the corresponding color when marked out. Abilities alter the rules of the game and help to mitigate some of the luck. Some of the abilities include a chance to re-roll, a “use-again” that allows the player to choose a facade shape that has already been crossed out, a “color-change” where the player may choose as many dice of one color and change the fact to a single different color of their choice, and more.  

The player who reaches 12 points first triggers the last round and the player with the most points wins!

Is It For Me?

Copenhagen: Roll and Write has the spatial puzzle, Tetris-style feel that I often enjoy in games. However, roll and writes have become popular due to their ease of play and quickness and Copenhagen: Roll & Write fails to deliver.

A sign of a great roll and write is simultaneous actions, where all players have things to do. At first glance, it seems that this game has that as well. But in reality – the active player has to sit and think about which dice they want to claim before the other players can decide between the remaining die. I’ve seen people take up to five minutes on their turn because they’re deciding which shape and/or ability to use. And I’ve been guilty of that as well!

Also, it’s difficult for players to see what other people are building and how close they are to 12 points. Therefore, there is oftentimes a solitary feel to the game.

As I mentioned in the beginning, I had terrible luck when rolling the dice. It even became a joke when someone rolled poorly to call it a “Beneeta” roll. Additionally, it’s difficult to plan out your turn in advance due to the high luck factor of the game, even with the abilities and bonuses. While I enjoy some luck in games, I found this one in particular to be too luck-based and arbitrary.

I do appreciate that everyone has the same number of terms, which more games need to incorporate.

Table-Takes

Here are what some of my friends had to say about the game:

  • “I liked it but I didn’t love it.”
  • “I liked it until it crashed to an end.”
  • “I got screwed by the dice a lot.”
  • Tim’s Take: “It did all the things a Roll & Write shouldn’t – it had too much waiting time, clunky game flow, and a brutal stochasticity. Winning was boring, losing just felt unfair.”

Beneeta’s Rating: 6.5 out of 10. While this game gives you polyominoes to play around with, too much luck and the solitary nature of the game hinders the overall enjoyment.