Roll and Write games can pack a lot of quality into a little box. These games are often compact combinations of luck, strategy, and theme. Whatever your experience level with board games, Roll and Writes have a lot to offer you – and we’ve picked the best ones to try.
Below you’ll find the best board games in the Roll and Write genre. These titles are suitable kids’ board games as well as excellent board games for adults. Each of them can also be played in under an hour (so if you’re looking for heavy strategy board games, check out one of our other board games guides instead).
These are the best Roll and Write games in 2023:
- Yahtzee – best classic Roll and Write
- Railroad Ink – best modern Roll and Write
- Next Station: London – best Roll and Write for families
- Cartographers – best complex Roll and Write
- Three Sisters – most thematic Roll and Write
What is a Roll and Write game?
The core mechanic in a Roll and Write game is rolling dice and then writing the results on a sheet of paper or erasable board. Many Roll and Write games replace dice with cards or another component, but the core gameplay remains the same. You receive a randomly determined result, and you must mark it on your sheet’s increasingly limited space in a way that (generally) scores the most points.
Best classic Roll and Write
Yahtzee may be a classic board game, but it’s still well worth playing today. This is a simple dice game where you have three attempts to roll the best score possible with six dice. Different combinations are worth different amounts of points – will you roll three of a kind, a full house, or maybe the coveted Yahtzee, where all five dice show the same number?
Each player has a score sheet where they record their rolls. With only a limited number of boxes (that must be crossed out completely if you can’t score on a turn), you’ll need to combine a bit of strategic thinking with your luck-based rolls.
Yahtzee is a fantastic gateway game, as well as an excellent way to bring board gamers of all generations together. Plus, if you’re new to Roll and Write games, starting with one of the most famous titles in the genre is never a bad move.
Best modern Roll and Write
Railroad Ink isn’t just one of our favorite travel board games – it’s also a great take on the Roll and Write genre. Lovers of train board games who want to try something a little different should take note of Railroad Ink.
The concept here is simple. Instead of numbered pips, the dice you roll show different types of railroad tracks and features. These are rolled each round, and players must use the results to expand their railway routes by drawing the new features onto an erasable board. So far, so Roll and Write.
Your goal in Railroad Ink is to connect as many exits on your board as possible using the dice results over several rounds. This is a deceptively simple goal that leads to a joyfully addictive gameplay loop where you agonize about the perfect arrangement of your railroad track. Railroad Ink makes a wonderful solo board game as well as a replayable Roll and Write to try with friends.
Next Station: London
Best Roll and Write for families
Another train-themed Roll and Write that’s worth your time is Next Station: London. Here you’ll be redesigning the London Underground, aiming to fully optimize the space available while sticking to specifications laid out in randomly drawn cards.
It’s not enough just to build an efficient tube system. You’ll score points for passing popular tourist sites on your route, crossing under the Thames, and creating interchange station points that connect to multiple tube lines.
Next Station: London does a lot of things differently from your traditional Roll and Write – there are no dice involved, and you can often choose not to write at all rather than add an unhelpful new feature to your route. These differences make it stand out in all the right ways, though. Its combination of strategy and simplicity make it an excellent family board game for tabletop gamers of all ages.
Best complex Roll and Write
Cartographers brings Roll and Writes to the fantasy board game genre, turning you into a titular cartographer for the queen of a distant land. She wants to claim territory for her Kingdom (regardless of what other settlers want), and you’ll make or break your reputation by catering to her whims.
Cartographers plays a little like a game of Tetris. Each turn, randomly drawn cards dictate what shapes you add to your map, and what kind of terrains your land includes. The game also features some interesting player interaction, as some cards allow your opponents to draw on your map – potentially messing with your carefully organized space.
Cartographers adds more competition and complexity to the Roll and Write genre, but it’s still a very approachable game for newbies (or anyone looking for a relaxing gaming session). It’s a highly satisfying game of puzzling and planning that any fans of Roll and Writes should look out for.
Best thematic Roll and Write
Three Sisters combines drafting game mechanics with the classic Roll and Write formula. The result is a combo-heavy game that makes gardening feel truly thrilling. While real gardens take months to bear fruit, you can get all the satisfaction of a green thumb in under an hour by playing Three Sisters.
At the start of a round, a pool of dice is rolled and assigned to various tasks on a board. You’ll choose which dice to take on your turn, which grants you its action as well as the result on the die, which is used to plant or water crops in your garden. You’ll do this by filling in boxes on your garden sheet – fill every box in a section of the garden, and you’ll score points.
The real joy of this game comes from its satisfying combos. A well-chosen die can trigger a chain reaction with enormous benefits. Lovers of engine builders like Wingspan will reap many rewards from this little garden.