ROLLING REALMS is growing bigger and bigger with some fantastic new Realms to try including BEYOND THE REALMISPHERE (a 4 part solo player mini campaign!)!
PLEASE NOTE YOU WILL NEED THE BASE GAME OF ROLLING REALMS TO PLAY THESE PROMOTIONAL EXPANSION PACKS
* ROLLING REALMS * SKULK HOLLOW * MILLENIUM BLADES * ROLL PLAYER * A FEAST FOR ODIN * LOST RUINS OF ARNAK * EXPEDITION * BEYOND THE REALMIVERSE * ARK NOVA * ARCHITECTS OF THE WEST KINGDOM * LIBERTALIA * HONEY BUZZ * THE ISLE OF CATS * SMITTEN * RISKY REWARDS *
If you haven’t played ROLLING REALMS yet, I’d highly recommend it! I was an instant hit for us when it first came out in 2021 after Jamey Stegmaier turned his free-to-play Pandemic PnP into a fully fleshed out game! Thanks to its clever design and tie-ins with other publishers and talented designers it is an infinitely scalable and (so long as the hobby continues to grow) infinitely expandable game!
In a nutshell, ROLLING REALMS is a roll and write game where you allocate the number shown on two (seriously chonky!) shared D6 to two out of three “realms” in play for a given round. You’re trying to score as many stars as you can and you’ll picking up and using resources along the way too.
“Realms” are mini efficiency puzzles based on much bigger games and can be picked or randomly chosen. Overall, they do a great job of distilling a major mechanism used in/the essence of the titles upon which they are based into a simple number allocation exercise. The overall winner is the player with the most star points (and any unused resources count towards the total) after completing 3 rounds.
Each player has the same realms in play during a round and cannot use both die results in a single realm (unless they pay the resource cost to do it!). The resources do different things too. For example, one use of coins is that they let you “buy” an extra dice to be used in the third realm whereas spending pumpkins lets you manipulate a die result or use a die in al already activated realm. Hearts let you gain a die if you roll a double…. etc. What’s really cool is that you can combine results and resources and sometimes unbelievable combos of stars and more resources link together for a super satisfying turn. And combo really is a key word because using the two rolled die faces alone each turn is going to gain you the absolute minimum which means an uphill struggle for victory!
The base game includes 11 realms all based on Stonemaier games (Scythe, Viticulture, Between Two Castles, Wingspan etc.). Plus there’s a super solo 18 chapter campaign (mini-golf) which sets targets based on playing particular combinations of realms in order
Since publication, there have been a huge number of promotional realms added and these have now expanded beyond just Stonemaier titles. Incorporating them is easy – you just add one of each copy to the 6 player sets in the box and they get shuffled into rounds like the base realms. What’s great is that, because of their collectible card type packaging, there’s no room for long instructions. As such, each realm must be explained by at most one line on the card themselves. This pinpoint focus generally necessitates easy to grasp gameplay that’s quick to pick up (although Jamey does a brilliant video series on YouTube where he plays all the realms solo if you do need some clarification).
Having been playing the base game with 11 realms for 2 years, I can honestly say that we haven’t exhausted it by any means. But every new Realm brings a fun mix of flavours of the games on which they are based, and keeps every game feeling extra fresh and exciting!
We have been incredibly lucky to have been sent a bumper pack of Realms to review so here’s a quick rundown of each of them and what we thought. Some of them are based on games we have played, others not. Some are also more challenging whilst others are more generous with their rewards. And that’s great because when you get one of each in a round, it brings a superb balance that is there for the striking. I must give a warning though: be prepared to want to add to your collection. Some of the games we have now “realmed” (or should that be rolled?) are now definitely on our wish list to play!
Rolling Realms, Libertalia, and Honey Buzz
Starting with a meta choice, Rolling Realms is a neat one – each of the three faces on a given “world” must be unique to gain a star. If the total showing on one world matches another, you’ll get a bonus star! We liked this one and definitely needed to prioritise pumpkins in order to use a dice in an existing realm to make it pay out! Libertalia is a tricky one indeed (and is fact becoming one of my personal favourites)! To progress, you must use a die to generate a two digit number on a pirate. So far so simple. But numbers must increase in size and, as you start to get closer to the juicier rewards (including stars), you have to pay other resources to buy them! Given the number of pirates on the card, this required you to activate it almost every turn (or be using a lot of pumpkin powers to reuse realms!) and definitely demands a lot of attention. If it comes out in combination with realms that have an impact on others (like ), that definitely helps stem the tension! Honey Buzz looks sweet but has a sting in its tail! You are using die to mark off hexes but the rewards only come when you completely surround a honey hex. The rewards are tasty but you are made to wait for them!
The Isle of Cats, Lost Ruins of Arnak, and A Feast For Odin
I love The Isle of Cats – the Explore and Draw flip and write is top tier, and I love being able to sit down with the larger OG tile laying game when time allows. The realm does a great job of demanding the need for matching adjacent numbers (akin to cat families) as well as bringing in a real trade off between placement and resource collection. Lost Ruins of Arnak is in my husband’s top 3 games of all time so we had high hopes for the ream. And honestly, it focuses on the thing I prioritise every time we play the OG – the recourse track! Pushing the book and magnifying glass up and selecting resource bonuses whilst all the while ensuring that the book’s position is never higher than the magnifying glass is Arnak to an A!
My dear friend and wonderful creator Board Game Happy (who you should definitely check out on YouTube and Instagram if you haven’t already!) has just obtained his grail game; A Feast For Odin. His enthusiasm for it is infectious, and I can’t wait to play it with him after hearing how much fun he and his wife have been having with it. I can’t say how true to the OG this realm is of course, but for now we are hoping to taste a wee morsel of the magic! And our impressions are of a realm that feels one of the most generous of all the base and promo realms. And given how punishing some others can be (Libertalia and Charterstone, I am talking to you! haha), having AFFO in the mix is very welcome indeed. A little like the Tapestry realm (and actually Get on Board the flip and write game), you are using die numbers to transpose polyomino shapes onto islands. The resources and stars you cover are yours, and a bonus star is awarded for each completed island. Each number can only be used twice though (with each use triggering a different shape), and 6 is not only wild but also doesn’t count towards the 2 time use imposed on every other number. We both pump AFFO for everything it gives as the rewards outweigh the cost even though 6s are usually pretty weighty in many other realms!
Architects of the West Kingdom, Expedition
Expedition and Architects of the West Kingdom are two more games that we haven’t played in real life, although I have played Architects once on on Board Game Arena. Interestingly, although Expedition is based on Expeditions (Stonemaier’s new release set in the Scythe universe) the name is different. The reason? Well, they changed the name of the OG after they had printed the realm to match, and to avoid wasting all the products, they went with it. Which I think is pretty cool indeed! Expedition is a crunchy one – you effectively move x hex spaces and collect the reward on the space you land whilst blocking off the hex space from which you left. As you go round, you cannot use a die if it would leave you on a blocked off hex. How much this represents Expeditions is a mystery to me but I really enjoy the puzzle the realm provides. Architects is a growing and trading affair – you can collect rewards but you must fill in spaces in ascending and descending orders. Alternatively, you can spend a 4, 5 or 6 to outline a building and carry out a one time trade of resources there. My memory of the OG is pretty hazy but from memory there was a lot of resource collecting (based on the number of workers at each spot) so it feels like it’s vibing with Architects for sure.
Smitten, Terra Mystica, Ark Nova
Smitten is sneaky and I find it promises a lot to those who can maximise it’s combo-benefits. Being able to write the sum of the two D6 in the grid not being activated on that turn means that both sides of the Smitten card should get filled up quickly. And as such the rewards should flow. But because numbers cannot repeat, and only filled-in intersecting rectangles pay out (not to mention that the pattern of resources is different on each side), it can be tricky to capitalise on its potential. Teasing with its temptation of all things good, I am smitten with Smitten! Terra Mystica was one of the first promo realms to come out and it together with Ark Nova are two of the more resource bountiful realms. Ark Nova is a particularly useful one to have in any round because you effectively charge up numbers 1 – 5 in the early turns and then use them (or the wild 6) for larger resource pay outs as you go along. Terra Mystica is generous in a different way. If you choose to forgo crossing off numbers on the map in pursuit of completed deserts and linked dwellings (like the OG), you can use a number 2 and/or 6 to outline one/two buildings which will automatically give a free resource each turn. And whilst it would seem obvious to go for the buildings at the earliest opportunity, it’s not so easy – the map and the other realms are permanently tempting you away!
Skulk Hollow, Millennium Blades, Roll Player
Three more games we haven’t played but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying the realms in and of themselves! Skulk Hollow is a tense one – you allocate a die to a number and (a) pay a small resource cost to gain a bigger bonus whilst simultaneously crossing off (“defending”) a piece of a big guardian monster so that it can’t come back and deny you resources later on if you roll a pair of D6 and the result happens to be an undefended number! As such, you are racing to defend and cash in on as many parts as early as possible to avoid missing out. This puts a twist on things because in every other realm, pairs are usually a good thing. If you have sufficient hearts in stock, you can spend 3 of them to gain a 3rd dice of the same value as the paired dice. And having 3 dice at your disposal with the same number is sometimes key to cashing in – it avoids the trade-off dilemma as each realm can be activated on a single turn!
I thought Millennium Blades was going to be easy but it’s not! It reduces the usual cost of die number manipulation (down to one pumpkin or one coin) and you even get a bonus die to use elsewhere each turn. But you have to manipulate the die here, and if there’s no unmarked cards or the bonus die isn’t useful in another realm (although you can spend further resources to modify it if you have them!), it feels like a waste. And that’s such a good-bad feeling! It ramps up the tension and gives those great grrrr moments that I love in Rolling Realms! Roll Player is a great little spatial puzzle – you always need to be pushing forwards and claiming rewards on your orthogonally adjacent landing spot as you cannot go back. But direction is dice number dependent so it takes methodical planning to do well!
Beyond the Realmisphere!
Now, Having raced through plenty promos, Beyond the Realmisphere is a little bit different again! As someone who has completed the mini-golf solo campaign in the base game twice now, a further mini solo only campaign sounded ace……..and it is! You don’t need anything other than the base game to play it either. Additional realms are great fun of course, and will always increase the variability game on game, but the OG has 11 and you will only be using a selection (your “fleet”) during the Campaign. “Active” realms are those in play for the relevant Chapter and you’ll have a “reserve” from which to draw too. I won’t spoil the surprise and tell you what you will be facing but I can say it’s a 4 chapter experience with variable scoring goals, boss monsters, rules switch ups, and more besides. If you don’ succeed first time, you also get to try and try again. Unlike the other realms, this pack comes with a mini instruction booklet and a few extra cards. There’s a bit more to it for sure, but nothing that felt beyond me! Plus there are times where some of your fleet will change from chapter to chapter, and this becomes a fun mix of random selection and choice. As such, you need to think carefully when assembling your fleet for the game! There’s also a tie in with Risky Rewards which is not a realm in and of itself, but gives bonuses and extra rewards when added into a regular or campaign game of Rolling Realms.
We have absolutely loved playing all of these new promo realms. Don’t get me wrong – some of the original realms are still my favourites (Wingspan for one). Each one feels different and, of the OGs we have tried, it is easy to see the inspiration and link to the connected mini-game. For example, the research track in Lost Ruins of Arnak is the focus of the mini-game and works so well as a realm. I guess maybe that could be because, to my mind at least, Arnak OG feels like a series of connected smaller puzzles – the deck building, the Guardian fighting, the Track – that interweave to create a bigger, more expansive experience.
Being able to have a taster of new games through the realms is wonderful and pretty cost effective too…until you realise how many more full games you want to add to your collection! haha. Since writing more realms have been published (Apairy, Sleeping Gods, Onirim for starters) and I am adding them to my Christmas wish list for sure. It feels like Stonemaier Games are meta-creating this celebration of our hobby and showcasing brilliant designs and the people behind them. Jamey’s approach and attitude towards innovation happening outside of his own company is incredibly generous in terms of support and knowledge sharing, and I hope this long continues in part through the representation of more great games through Rolling Realms.
I would mention that luck does play a part when randomly drafting realms to play on a given round. You can sometimes be lucky and get 3 that balance really well in terms of challenge and reward. For example, having Libertalia in a round with a realm like Ark Nova that offers big rewards and/or bonus dice makes it feel more achievable. But even if that doesn’t happen, it is a challenge that faces all players equally. On that basis, only your skills in being as efficient as you can be with what you are given will see you rolling towards victory!
Please note that a copy of the promo realms for this game featured here were kindly provided by the publishers for review. I am not paid for my comments, however, and all opinions are my own. I am also not affiliated to or sponsored by any retail store.