Ryan Laukat, the creator and worldbuilder of Islebound, Above & Below, and Near & Far has released a new, smaller game set in that same beautifully-illustrated land. Roam hits a very sweet spot where gateway game meets deep strategy. It’s truly a “takes five minutes to learn but a lifetime to master” kind of game.
At heart, Roam is an abstract game for two to four players with area-majority mechanics driving gameplay and scoring. The backstory is that a mysterious illness has struck Arzium, turning its inhabitants into mindless shells. Only you, and your teams of explorers have managed to avoid succumbing. You are to scour the land looking for survivors and artifacts. Whoever does the best job wins.
The ever-shifting map of Arzium is represented by a matrix of land cards split into square grids. Each player starts with three explorers, each of whom has a particular search pattern. On your turn you activate one of your crew, flipping its card over and placing tokens of your colour on the grid in that explorer’s pattern. Some grid squares reward you with coinage which you use to buy artifacts that give you reusable powers and VP--and perhaps more importantly, help you break ties in winning land cards (see below).
When a map card is full, whoever has the most tokens on it gets the card, recruiting the Arzite wandering therein (each one comes with a nanofictionary account of what they were doing when rescued), joining your party to give you additional search pattern actions as well as VP. If there’s a tie for most coverage, there’s a once-around auction to determine who wins the card. Everyone else who has tokens on the card gets a coin in compensation. The game ends at the end of the round when a player gains their tenth explorer.
The game’s simplicity combines with Laukat’s art to produce a very tasty game that has plenty of depth to satisfy strategy hounds even as it gently introduces n00bs to concepts like area-control, bidding, and action selection. It’s more than a filler but its pricetag makes it a great stocking-stuffer. Click here to order your copy of Roam.