#004 Rolling Japan (2014)
Designer: Hisashi Hayashi
Artist: Ryo Nyamo
Publisher: OKAZU Brand
Rolling Japan is a light roll 'n write game that plays in 15 minutes. Although the game only comes with 8 pencils, you could play with more; 99 if you're feeling ambitious. Rolling Japan is the first in what would later become OKAZU Brand's Rolling series, which includes Rolling World and Rolling America.
What's in the box?
Take a good look at the Japan map. This is the game. On your turn, you'll draw two dice from the bag, roll them, and call out the colors and numbers. For example: Red 5! Blue 5! Following our example, each player now writes one 5 in one red prefecture and one 5 in one blue prefecture.
- Before we write down our number, all adjacent prefectures (regardless of color) must be blank, have an "X", or have a number difference no bigger than 1. Continuing our example, this means all adjacent prefectures (regardless of color) must be blank, 4, 5, 6, or have an X.
- Writing a number is mandatory. If there isn't a valid prefecture, then the player may place an X in a prefecture of the rolled die color.
- If there are no eligible prefectures in the rolled die color, the player does nothing.
- Each player can perform a personal "color change" three times per game. The player can treat the die color as any color they wish for their individual map.
- The purple die is treated as a wild color for all players.
When all players have resolved both rolled dice. The dice bag is passed to the next player. They draw two dice, roll them, and call out the colors and numbers. Once 6 dice are outside the bag, all players scratch out the lowest round number. The 6 dice are returned to the bag, and the next round continues. Play continues until Round 8 is crossed out. The player with the fewest Xs wins Rolling Japan.
TL; DR & Final Thoughts
Rolling Japan has been a fairly successful a roll 'n write game. It has been compared to other roll 'n write games over the years like Quixx. But perhaps the best comparison isn't to another roll 'n write game, but to Bingo. Yes, you read that right. Due to the game design you could play this game with over 100 people, like a Bingo parlor; however, instead of the Bingo grid determining your game, the individual player determines and calculates their individual map's layout. I wouldn't be surprised if all 100 people created a unique map by the game's end. I would never want to play a game that big, but then again why not? I have played this game with groups of 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, and solo, and it scales well because there is zero interaction between players. However, if you're looking for deeper decisions with more player interaction, you really shouldn't be playing this game anyway. Rolling Japan is a solitaire puzzle, and while others may see this as its weakness, I see it as it's strength. Although roll 'n write games aren't for everyone, Rolling Japan can be played by anyone: adults, grandparents, and kids. It's footprint is almost nonexistent as you only really need the map in from of you. The publisher, OKAZU Brand, has even designed a few additional maps of other countries and cities that can be found online. If that isn't enough, the BGG community has not only created and posted even more maps but even thematic variants. Rolling Japan's design has proven itself so well over the years, it became the first in a series of roll 'n writes. Rolling America uses the American map by OKAZU Brand however with slightly different rules. Rolling World comes with four different maps straight out of the box. I don't think one is any better than the other really, although Rolling World does come with four maps instead of just one. Hisashi Hayashi has designed several great games over the years--some of his biggest being Yokohama, Trains, and String Railway. It's always fun exploring small box games by big designers and seeing how much more they can do with so much less. Rolling Japan's simple solitaire puzzle design holds up well after four years and has easily earned its space on my shelf. If roll 'n writes are your cup of green tea, then definitely keep an eye out for Hisashi Hayashi's latest 2018 roll 'n write, MetroX, where players design subway networks!