Roll Player accessibility teardown

Roll Player (2016) – Accessibility Teardown

Game Details
NameRoll Player (2016)
ReviewMeeple Like Us
ComplexityMedium Light [2.39]
BGG Rank205 [7.52]
Player Count1-4
Designer(s)Keith Matejka
Artist(s)JJ Ariosa and Luis Francisco

Version Reviewed

English Edition

Introduction

The biggest problem that Roll Player has is that it’s a good game without a great use-case. It’s too nerdy in its theme to really be an ideal pick for a ‘non gamer’ audience. Its excessively forgiving design means that in a world that contains both Sagrada and Azul it’s an unsatisfying experience. We liked it well enough to give it three and a half stars in our review, but honestly I don’t know when I’d really consciously choose to play it again and that’s a rough final conclusion.

Still though, the review is only half of what we have to talk about on Meeple Like Us. We also need to address the game’s accessibility and there’s a real chance that its design will have some positive impact on a number of sections here. Let’s roll a DC20 check against Int and find out how it goes.

Colour Blindness

Well… okay.

Sagrada is the only game, as best I recall, where in this section I said something along the lines of ‘This is the only game we’ve looked at where I can see why addressing colour blindness could potentially be a problem’. Roll Player had the chance to do colour blindness support better, and it unfortunately hasn’t.

Colour blindness and the character sheets

Purple and green create problems for people with Protanopia. Red and green for deuteranopes, and green and blue for Tritanopes as usual. This can be seen in the background card shown above, and also in the dice allocated to particular slots.

Allocated dice in roll player

For a game where colour is an important gameplay mechanism this is immensely unfortunate. It is though not necessarily a deal breaker. There are sufficiently few individual examples of this on a player board that inquiring of the table can be a solution. It would though have to be done carefully. Asking someone if a die on the initiative track is a particular colour will bring the attention of everyone to that die and what you might be planning to do with it

Marketplace cards and colour blindness

Marketplace cards at least come with textual descriptions of what they are, and in any case their effect is written clearly on the cards themselves.

We don’t recommend Roll Player for players with colour blindness, but it’s likely playable with support. For a 2016 game though, it just shouldn’t be an issue.

Visual Accessibility

There are a lot of dice in a game of Roll Player, and replacing them with accessible dice is not going to be an option since they need to be slotted into a player board. Technically the board is optional, but if you were going down the route of just placing the dice on a table you’d lose a lot of the player guidance and you’d still need eighteen dice of different colours. It seems like a non-starter really.

However, the good news is that the dice used have indentations that can be felt out so it is possible, although not easy, to determine face value provided someone has good sensitivity in their fingers. Diabetics, for example, may be out of luck. That’s only going to be a partial solution though because the colour information of dice isn’t going to be possible to tell by touch.

The game state of a player board can be reasonably easily summarised, perhaps with reference to colour and sum of faces as separate information. ‘Your next strength dice will need to be red to hit your background, and you currently have a stat of ten and need sixteen’. With six stats it’s a lot to remember but it’s feasible.

allocated dice on player board

The problem is that the stat powers require a more granular appreciation of game state and it also needs to be considered with reference to future opportunities. For example, knowing that the next strength die you place lets you change a green one to a green six, which can later be swapped with a blue five as a Dex action to give you the stat goals of two rows… that kind of thing. If someone can make out the colour and faces of the dice with close inspection then there aren’t so many that it can’t be done. In conditions of total blindness though a player would need to hold as many as seventeen dice in mind, with colour, face and position of each being potentially important pieces of information.

Market cards at least will be of limited quantity and their impact on a player can be verbalised, and the offering of dice on the initiative track can likewise be easily explained and actioned.

We very tentatively recommend Roll Player in this category.

Cognitive Accessibility

Roll Player gives you many options for improving your board state. On one hand, this makes it a considerably more forgiving design than many of its competitors. On the other hand, it does considerably increase the cognitive cost of evaluating options. The decisions space shrinks as spaces are used up but there’s always a possibility through the use of skills or stat abilities that options once ruled out can be ruled back in. There’s a powerful synergistic effect too in the abilities. You might not want to swap a green two into your strength row because it’s too small a value to meet your needs. And that green two would need to be replaced with a blue four in meet the needs of both rows. However, if you get a blue four you can place it in the strength row, flip the green two to a more desirable five, and the later swap the two around when you make a dex action. All of those possibilities, across all rows, dice, skills and criteria you’re attempting to meet, make for a cognitively costly game.

Roll Player puts a big emphasis on numeracy, and occasionally in odd ways. For example, you may or may not be aware that opposite sides of a die will always sum up to seven. The opposite of six will always be one, the opposite of five will always be two, and so on. There’s an element of a kind of ‘quantum superposition’ here in that dice have both their current face and their opposite face, depending on how many strength slots are left to fill. That means assessing the strength of a board is really assessing the strength of a spectrum where the board is as it is now and as it is when everything is potentially flipped. I’m not sure I’ve seen a game before where this is an element.

Jeweled Dagger

Numeracy too is stressed by equipment cards that provide incremental points based on set collection, or those that offer some ‘flex’ in meeting stat goals. The jeweled dagger for example lets you treat all yellow dice as if they have a face one greater than what they have. Some traits also change scoring conditions and this changes the relative value of dice in the offer. Envious for example gives a victory point for every two yellow dice on your character sheet.

Coupled to this, certain skill actions will add a great deal of additional possibility space that needs considered. Sleight of hands let you move a die to another empty space, which means that you can potentially gain extra uses of stat powers by repeatedly freeing up their sockets. Acrobatics permits a player to increase one face while decreasing another, which when you consider that in relation to the various stat powers has a massive impact on what could be done in a round.

Literacy too is required throughout, since equipment has textual descriptions that outlines the effect it is supposed to have.

For those with memory impairments alone, it’s important to track cards that have not been purchased from the market because set collection is an important aspect of play. Also, knowing which cards are available in which parts of the game will be a boon – they get split into ‘early’ and ‘late’ game cards and as such if you know the composition of the deck there are potential advantages to be had.

We don’t recommend Roll Player in our fluid intelligence category, but we can tentatively recommend it for those with memory impairments alone.

Emotional Accessibility

As mentioned in the review, Roll Player has a notably forgiving design – it’s relatively easy to change board state if you make mistakes, and even the idea of a ‘mistake’ doesn’t make a lot of sense when you can flip, reroll and rotate dice around the board. The goals you are set are achievable and only rarely are you put in a position of truly having to live with your own mistakes.

Player versus player aspects are confined to competition over dice and market cards, but in many respects the only challenge that really reliably exists in Roll Player is that set by other players around the table. You’re almost always in a position where you can score well, but winning depends on scoring better than everyone else. That gives a little bit of psychological cover – you’ll score strongly except in circumstances of especially poor performance or rotten luck.

That permissive design though also makes available a range of options for players to bully each other. In Sagrada, ‘hate drafting’ is a ridiculous thing to do because you almost always do as much damage to yourself as you do to anyone else. In Roll Player you can take a die that someone else really wants knowing that you can flip it, move it, reroll it and more as time goes by. Since the order in which people get access to the market depends on which die they take from the initiative track, this can be a double punch – take a ‘bad’ die that someone else needs to meet a character goal, and use your early mover advantage to buy a card that denies them a set they’re building. A whole table can do this, imperfectly, and repair the damage they do to themselves with stat and skill powers. As usual though, it’s not easy to design around people that absolutely want to undermine the fun of another person.

Overall, we’ll recommend Roll Player in this category.

Physical Accessibility

There is, of course, a lot of dice rolling Roll Player. Dice to be rolled are drawn from a bag so as to obscure their combination of colours, and then they’re arranged in order along an initiative track. They’re then selected and slotted into a player board, and occasionally moved around and rotated in that board. The good news is that all of this is possible to do with another player performing the physical interactions – the vast majority of the game is in dice placement rather than dice rolling. As I often remark though, the physicality of an experience is part of what makes it enjoyable and the rolling and socketing of dice is enjoyably tactile. If playing with support of another player, that would be lost. It’s not a major issue, but one to bear in mind.

Sockets in Roll Player

The better news is that the boards are thick and the sockets hold the dice securely. Backstory, class and alignment cards are only placed atop the board rather than being placed more securely but only the alignment card carries any game state information. The rest are scoring goals. They can all be stored safely off to the side if moving the board between players is going to be necessary. I love socketed boards for this kind of thing.

If a player cannot withdraw dice from the bag, then there’s a small issue of trust – you’d need to be willing to believe your agent in that respect is not able to see the dice colours that are being selected. It would certainly be possible for someone to draw from the bag and make sure valued colours are part of what they select. As long as you’re confident people won’t be peeking, it shouldn’t be an issue.

Inside of bag

The game is fully playable with verbalisation, since the rows are all named based on stat, and dice can be identified by column. ‘Replace my second strength die with my third charisma die’, or ‘reroll the second wisdom die’. ‘Move my alignment one point towards law’, and so on.

We’ll recommend Roll Player in this category.

Socioeconomic Accessibility

The player boards in Roll Player are double sided, letting you pick male or female characters. For something like this when you’re engaging in a gamified character creation process that’s really important and I’m delighted to see it. I’m less delighted by the cover art which shows two men and one masked figure of indeterminate gender. The manual uses gender neutral language throughout.

Roll player box

Cards in the game have a range of artistic themes, ranging from representational to ornamental. A blend of genders is shown in the cards but it skews heavily towards men. And, as is usually the case, it skews equally heavily towards white men. A better blend would have been good.

Cost wise, it comes in at around £45 which is weighty considering its two main competitors (Azul and Sagrada) come in at closer to the £30 mark each. Given its geeky theme and the fact it only supports a maximum of four players, it’s not a compellingly strong proposition in terms of its cost and applicability. It’s not egregious or anything – just a difficult price-point to justify.

We can only tentatively recommend Roll Player in this category,

Communication

There is a need for literacy during play, but no other formal need for communication. There is no reliable iconography used for the textual parts of the game, so either a crib sheet or comprehensive instruction will be required during the game.

We can only tentatively recommend Roll Player in this category.

Intersectional Accessibility

We’ve given a very tentative recommendation for those with visual impairments, and we’ve said that for those with colour blindness that it’s not recommended but probably playable. As you might imagine, both of those suggestions are rescinded in the event both conditions must be compensated. Similarly, someone with a visual impairment and a memory impairment is going to find the increased burden on memory implied by a lack of easy visual state is enough to avoid the game.

Otherwise though, there are no obvious intersections that come to mind.

Roll Player can be played relatively quickly, and given the nature of the game it’s easy to adjust on the fly to deal with a diminishing player count – just change the number of cards in the initiative track and marketplace and nothing else needs to adjusted.

Conclusion

Honestly I was kind of hoping for better when I started writing this teardown. I don’t prejudge a game. I only come to conclusions when I work my way through the categories. Here, we can see some actual proper blunders (colour choices being an obvious example) as well as a few sub-optimal design choices. There’s room for improvement in a future edition of Roll Player.

Roll Player, Meeple Like Us, [CC-BY 4.0]
CategoryGrade
Colour BlindnessD
Visual AccessibilityC-
Fluid IntelligenceD
MemoryC
Physical AccessibilityB
Emotional AccessibilityB
Socioeconomic AccessibilityC
CommunicationC

Some of this though is simply down to the design of the game. Since the possibility space grows and contracts over time it never has the ‘narrowing to a single decision’ feature we often see in games of this kind. The more options you give people, the harder you make it to optimise. Roll Player gives you a lot of options and that has a natural impact on its accessibility.

We liked Roll Player enough to give it three and a half stars in our review. It’s a fun, enjoyable game that unfortunately it’s fun or enjoyable enough to be an obvious candidate to dethrone other site favourites. However, if like me you enjoying creating characters more than you like playing RPGs, it might just be the thing you need in your life. If, of course, it’s accessible enough for you to actually be able to play.


A Disclaimer About Teardowns

Meeple Like Us is engaged in mapping out the accessibility landscape of tabletop games. Teardowns like this are data points. Games are not necessarily bad if they are scored poorly in any given section. They are not necessarily good if they score highly. The rating of a game in terms of its accessibility is not an indication as to its quality as a recreational product. These teardowns though however allow those with physical, cognitive and visual accessibility impairments to make an informed decision as to their ability to play.

Not all sections of this document will be relevant to every person. We consider matters of diversity, representation and inclusion to be important accessibility issues. If this offends you, then this will not be the blog for you. We will not debate with anyone whether these issues are worthy of discussion. You can check out our common response to common objections.

Teardowns are provided under a CC-BY 4.0 license. However, recommendation grades in teardowns are usually subjective and based primarily on heuristic analysis rather than embodied experience. No guarantee is made as to their correctness. Bear that in mind if adopting them.