Reviewed by Herb Levy
LOST CITIES: ROLL AND WRITE (Kosmos, 2 to 5 players, ages 8 and up, 30 minutes; $14.95)
It seems an inescapable fact that if a game is successful, it will spawn new versions of itself. If the original was a board game, can a card game version be far behind? If for 2 players, will a multiplayer player version soon appear? And what about a roll and write edition? So it goes. And Reiner Knizia designs are not immune to this trend. The good news is that Lost Cities (a classic originally featured in the Summer 1995 (!) issue of Gamers Alliance Report) has spawned these variations. The latest iteration of the Lost Cities franchise? Lost Cities: Roll and Write.
In Lost Cities: Roll and Write, there are six dice (three showing the six colors of the expeditions and three showing numbers from 0 to 9.) The active player rolls the dice and chooses one color and one number. Everybody else chooses from the REMAIINING dice. (Non-active players may choose the same combination). The active player may decide to NOT choose a pair of dice. In that case, ALL of the dice end up available to the other players.) In any case, everyone has the option to not choose a pair of dice on a turn (but this has consequences).
Progress in each expedition is charted by putting a number in the corresponding color column. As you climb upward, subsequent numbers must be the same or higher than previously played numbers. (If a 0 is used BEFORE an expedition is started, then the value of an expedition will be doubled at the end of the game.) Along the way, there are “accelerated” spaces (where you go up two spaces instead of one) and spaces with “urns” (indicating discovered “artefacts”) which are charted on a separate column. (Reaching the top space of an expedition column also allows a player to check off an artefact in its column.)
If a player decides NOT to choose a pair of dice, a space on the “exhausted” column is checked off. The higher up you go, the more points you will score – up to 70 if this is done 8 times. But fail to claim a dice pair the 9th time and your score for that column drops to 0! YOU have become “exhausted” and that much closer to ending the game. This element of the game adds a certain “push you luck” factor that forces you to decide between dice rolls that are marginally beneficial to you versus passing on them to go up the artefact “ladder”. Just how far you can go up safely before going “bust” on that track (dropping from 70 points to none at all) adds another dimension to play and gives the game a unique character. (Even when a player is considered “exhausted”, he/she is still allowed to continue to work towards completing expeditions and collecting urns.)
As the 8 columns of the game are filled in, a bonus (aka “bridge” worth 20 points) is given to the player who first crosses the bridge. (No bonus for being the second or third or… to do it.) The game continues until either ALL bridges have been crossed (by any combination of players) OR ALL players are exhausted. At that point, scores are tallied.
Each expedition scores points equal to the highest point reached, twice the amount if the “doubled” space has been marked. (Bonus points for “bridge crossings” are not doubled.) If three or less numbers have been placed in a column, the result will be negative one! An empty column is worth no points at all! Then the amount of points scored for artefacts are added (which can be worth as much as 100 points). Finally, points (if any) from the exhausted column are added to that. The player with the highest combined total earns the win!
Dice quality is good and while there is an ample number of double-sided scoresheets, be aware that you have to provide your own writing implements to mark them. No pencils provided.
In the pantheon of Reiner Knizia design, Lost Cities has gotten attention for its several reworkings. But Knizia’s game design mastery is evident as he can still breathe freshness into a vintage and well loved design. In Lost Cities: Roll and Write, players will find themselves, once again, on the right track. – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy
Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.
Other Fall 2021 GA Report articles