Roll the dice, fill in the hexes, you're Hex Rolling, baby!
Hex Roller is a traditional roll-and-write from Frosted Games, brought to the digital world by Outline Development. Players roll eight dice and pick two sets of numbers, filling in spots on their score pad with the chosen numbers. The game ends after seven rounds, all of your points are added and your final score is tallied. The app is mostly solo and takes under five minutes once you are familiar with the rules and interface.
There isn’t a whole lot more to add on top of the introductory paragraph. Each turn is the same; roll the dice, pick your first set of numbers, fill in your scoring pad with those numbers, then repeat with another set of numbers from the roll. You might use three sevens you rolled as your first action, then one four for the second. Then reroll and do it all over again. The dice are numbered three through eight, forgot to mention that part.
Your goal in Hex Roller is to score points, obviously. This is done in a few different ways, four to be exact. To oversimplify you get points for: unused special actions, filling in colored sections, connecting pre-populated hexes of matching numbers, and building straights (using the poker definition of straight) in which value you select in your first and second actions of your turns over the course of the game.
I could explain these in great detail, but trust me that the game is a bit more clever than it might initially appear, and these scoring routes provide some tough decisions to be made in each game. You might want to go for the obvious and connect the two eights on the board for eight points (versus three points you get for connecting the threes, and so on). However, the eights are really far away so you’ll need a lot of them, and you’ll also block connection routes on multiple other numbers if you do connect those eights. Hmm...maybe go for sevens, fives, and sixes instead?
The way the color regions score is interesting in that, if completely filled, the value which has the most in that region is the amount of points you get. So use those threes carefully, you don’t want them to overrun a section with a few high numbers, you’ll end up only scoring three for that section, which is a major lost opportunity. The special actions are all helpful in their own way as they allow you to break the standard rules and fill in more hexes than normal.
On first pass, Hex Roller was a bit underwhelming to me. I was trying to fill in these regions and connect some numbers, and see what number the app spits out at me for my score. Yay? However, as I started to understand the tradeoffs, I began to get much more interested in the puzzle Hex Roller offered. I have barely touched on the straights, but these are huge in that they will force you to consider taking numbers you may have only rolled one of in order to connect a straight for a few more points. Is that more valuable than filling out three spaces on the scoring pad? I don’t know!
The app allows you to play games in just a few minutes which creates a fantastic “one more time!” appeal. It is mostly a solo app, so you will be chasing your own high scores. I’m fairly susceptible to enjoying these quick playing, “I know I can do better next time!” type of games, and Hex Roller is a fun addition to that niche for me.
Learning the rules
Starting a game
Barrier to Entry
The game is taught through a simple text rule set. The core rules are simple enough that the text is enough to get you going, particularly if you have some roll-and-write experience under your belt going in. The game will also yell at you when you inevitable mess up trying to make your initial moves in your first game, while also pointing you in the right direction. It isn’t perfect, but between the text rules, the popup hints, and the quickness of the games, players should be able to get up to speed on Hex Roller fairly quickly.
Look and Feel
The game looks great. The bright colors pop on your screen and help stand out with very clean design and layout all around. The game shortcuts actions for you, requiring you only need to click on the score sheet to start using the dice. It will also move to the next round when you are done. It’s all very streamlined and helps the games play in just a few minutes.
There is an undo button, but it’s a bit hidden. If you want to retract a single placement, hit your starting hex. If you want to completely change your starting hex, simply click another one and carry on from there. These are great features, it would have been nice to have them called out at some point when you are learning the app.
If you are finding yourself not liking not being able to use a special ability after you take your two turns, you can turn off the auto end turn feature via settings.
There is no online multiplayer. There is a local pass-and-play mode, but it only plays two players. The physical game supports up to eight. Like we’ve seen in all other digital adaptations of roll-and-writes, this version focuses on solo play and allowing you to try to beat your high scores. It’s important to note that Hex Roller has no player interaction even with more players. It is, quite literally, multiplayer solitaire. This makes the omission of online play as forgivable as any case we’ve seen.
This is primarily a solo game. There is a local leaderboard, prepopulated with some fake names of varying skill levels, that will track your scores.
The does feature two different modes to play. It defaults to Mode 8, which has you rolling eight dice over seven rounds. Mode 7 changes the scoring arraignment a bit and has you rolling seven dice over six rounds, making the challenge a bit stiffer.
Digital score pad mode
My sad local leaderboard
Two and a half stars!
The game has a very cool option of being used strictly as a scoring pad if you have dice of your own to roll. This is a totally unnecessary addition to the app, but a very welcome one if you want to add some physical presence to your digital experience. Or digitize your physical experience. There is also a less cool, less useful option of rolling eight dice over and over again.
The Wrap Up
Hex Roller is a straightforward roll-and-write. It isn’t trying to melt your brain with complicated combinations like Clever, or try to expand the horizons of the genre like many of the new physical roll-and-write releases are doing. You roll and you use the dice. Repeat. If you like games in this mold, the best comparison point in the digital world is Noch Mal!, then you will enjoy Hex Roller. It’s a fun way to spend a few minutes trying to get the dice to land your way and use them wisely.
Implementation-wise, the app is well made. There's really nothing of note, or otherwise, to be nitpick about. You might wish there were online play, but being absolutely 100% multiplayer solitaire, you are chasing your own score anyway.
This game isn’t breaking any new ground. It’s got some interesting decision points, but that’s pretty much barrier to entry in the genre. It’s a quick, fun, entry level roll-and-write. Want a fun way to spend a few minutes chucking some digital dice? Give Hex Roller a shot.