One of the questions I get asked most, or see getting asked most, is one of the simplest questions you can ask: “what exactly is a roll-and-write?” The answer, though, is often vague. Something with dice and writing stuff down. Then a lot of comparisons with earlier games that people might know: Qwixx (2012), Yahtzee (1956), by now Railroad Ink (2018) as well.
The result is that a lot of conversations I see on roll-and-writes get lost in translation. I’ve been briefly in a Facebook group on roll-and-write games, in which vastly different games were lumped in, only because a pen was involved somewhere. As well as a review on said non-roll-and-writes from the group’s owner and moderator. On Twitter I have seen the joke that Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop role-playing games are also roll-and-writes, because you need to roll and write down your character’s strengths and weaknesses when creating a character. The first example you can make of what you will, the second is a good joke that doesn’t make the conversation any clearer.
What to call roll-and-writes is also a bit muddy: is it ‘roll-and-write’? Is it ‘roll and write’? Plural? Do we add the word ‘game’ at the end? What about ‘flip-and-fill’ because we are feeling pedantic and cards, rather than dice, are involved? ‘Rando-writer’ as we are unhelpfully trying to cordon off the concept?
This first chapter is all about what roll-and-writes are. The basics. A definition and short history first, followed by some names and terms so we can talk about the same thing. Then the core mechanics and concepts you will find in every roll-and-write. Some of these mechanics and concepts you might already know from other (board) games, others are more unique to the genre, such as the idea of permanence. Hopefully, all of this will be clear at the end of the chapter.