A to Z Gaming: Roam

A card showing a panting dog with the text: Crisom the Dog was chewing on a rusty sword." At the bottom of the card is a pattern of squares.

We sought out confused and lost residents of Arzium in Roam, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Roam cover with an artistic drawing of a landscpe separated by a waterfall and a large rock bridge connecting the two sides. Two silhouetted figures cross the rock bridge.

Players: 2-4
Time: 30-45 Minutes
Designers: Ryan Laukat
Artists: Ryan Laukat
Publisher: Red Raven Games

Roam is a game where players are sending out their characters to explore the land to find people who have been lost and wandering. Each character can search a specific region, as depicted on their card. Once a landscape has been fully searched (has player pieces on all squares of the card), the person is found, and whoever placed the most pieces on the card will claim them — adding to their group who can search for even more people.

Roam game set up for two players. Six landscape tiles are in the center of the board, each player has three character cards aligned with the landscape tiles on their side of the board. A market of artifact tiles are laid out showing a wizards hat, a stone hammer, a walking stick and a backpack. Each player has a pile of markers and a helper card. There is also a pile of metal coins

Game play

The game is set up by shuffling the landscape cards and placing out a grid of six cards. The coins are placed in a supply in reach of all the players. Each player selects a color and then takes the player pieces and three starting characters associated with their chosen color. The players line their characters up with one side of the landscape grid, so that each player is along a different side. Players can optionally choose to use the artifacts or gems expansions — we played with the artifacts for our play-through. The helper cards are dealt out at random, and whoever gets the one marked “First Player” will play first. The other players will get coins based on their position in play order.

The players take turns playing out their markers on the board. On their turn, players first check to see if all of their characters are turned over — if so, they turn everyone back to their active side. They can optionally turn over their characters early during this phase by paying a coin for each character who is still face up.

A card is held over the landscape tableau. the card depicts an artistic drawing of a black woman with the name "Riza" at the top. Below her picture is a strip on the card showing a pattern of squares. On the landscape just to the left of the Riza card there are yellow player pieces played out in the same pattern as shown on the card.

Then players choose one of their characters and turn them face-down. They’ll use the pattern of squares on that character’s card to place out their player pieces on the board. The pattern must fit entirely on the landscape grid and can’t be rotated. They’ll place their pieces where there are solid squares in the pattern, only skipping spaces if there’s already a player piece on the space. Any squares depicted by a dotted outline can optionally be placed by paying two coins for each. If any of their pieces cover a coin or two, they immediately take those from the supply.

At the end of their turn, they’ll check to see if any of the landscape cards are completely full. If so, the player with the most player pieces on that card claims it. Other players with at least one piece on the card will receive one coin (no matter how many pieces they have on the card). If two or more players are tied for how many pieces they have on the card, it will be auctioned off by those players.

Play continues like this until a player has ten characters in front of them, including their starter characters. Then the current round is completed and players tally up their points, as shown on their claimed cards.

If they’re playing with the artifact expansion, a player can optionally buy one artifact tile at the end of their turn by paying the depicted number of coins. These have abilities like placing a “dotted outline” piece for free, sliding a player’s piece, or claiming a coin. When used, the artifact is turned over, and then it is turned back to its active side when the player turns over their characters.

Six landscape tiles are laid out, each showing a different type of land from a lush prairie to a forboding volcanic scene. Each card has a stripe at the bottom with a number of points shown in a diamond and a pattern of squares showing what pattern the player will be able to play when they claim that card. On the cards are several player pieces.

My Thoughts

I picked up Roam when it came to Kickstarter a several years ago. I was already a fan of Arzium, Ryan Laukat and Red Raven Games with Near & Far, so it was an insta-back for me.

This is a fairly quick, mostly abstract game. Usually I’m not a big fan of area control games or abstract games, but I love the art so much in this one that it carries the game for me. Plus the area control doesn’t feel overly combative, so I don’t mind it here.

My favorite thing about the game are the little one-sentence stories on the back of each of cards that tell you what the character was up to when you found them.

Three player cards showing the backside of the cards instead of the chracters

Three Quick Questions

How is it as a 2-player game? Roam works well as a two player game. As with most area control games, it’s better with more players, but I’ll definitely pull it out when its just two of us.

How about the art and component quality? The art is absolutely amazing — it’s probably 90% of why I bought this game. The components are great, with good quality cards, nice player pieces, and metal coins (though I think I upgraded my pledge to get those). The expansion artifacts are made from chunky cardboard, so they’ll stand up to use.

Will this stay in my collection? Yes, while I’m not usually a fan of area control as the main mechanism in a game, I don’t mind it here and the art carries the game for me. Plus, the little one-sentence stories on the back make this just a delight.

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