Who would have guessed that building a galactic empire would revolve around rolling six-sided dice?  In Roll for the Galaxy, from Rio Grande Games, players vie for victory through developments, planets, and lots and lots of dice rolling.

The object of Roll for the Galaxy is to have the most victory points when the game ends.  Players begin the game with: a cup for rolling dice; a starting tableau of a faction tile (two developments) and a home planet; a construction zone mat with the Citizenry and spots for development and planet tiles; a phase strip, with all the possible roles; a screen which also has all the rules inside; three Home (white) dice in the cup, and two Home dice on the Citizenry, plus any dice given from the home planet.  And a number of victory point chips, based on the number of players, are placed in the middle of the table.
At the start of each turn, players roll the dice in their cup behind their screen, assign the dice on their phase strip to one phase, and all lift their screen together to enact the phases.  Dice normally go under the phase matching the symbol on the dice.  In addition, players can assign any one die to the phase regardless of the die's facing; players can also use the Dictate power to set one die to the side and then assign any other die to any phase.
There are five phases.  Explorer gives players two choices per die.  They can Scout, discarding any number of development or world tiles from their Construction zone mat, drawing a number of tiles equal to the number of discarded tiles plus one, choosing which side to use (one side has a development, the other side has a planet), and putting the new tiles under the tiles already on the mat; or they can Stock, gaining two galactic credits.  Developer puts the dice on the top development tile.  If the dice equal the cost of the development, the development goes into the tableau and its powers start immediately.  If there are fewer dice than the cost, the dice stay on the development; if there are more dice than the cost, dice above the cost go on the next development in the stack.  Settler works exactly like Developer, but for planets on the mat.  Producer puts each die used as a good on available planets, one die per planet unless a development allows more than one.  And Shipper gives two choices per die.  A player can trade goods, for three to six galactic credits, based on the color of the planet.  Or a player can consume goods, getting victory point chips: Always one victory point, a bonus victory point if the die matches the color of the planet, and a bonus victory point if the Shipper die matches the color of the planet.  And the Consumption (purple) die matches all colors and gains a bonus victory point.
After these actions, all dice used by a player go on the Citizenry, and unused dice go back into the cup.  Players can also take dice used on developments, planets, or as goods and place them in the cup.  Players they use their galactic credits to move dice from the Citizenry to the cup, at one die per galactic credit used; if a player has no credits, they automatically gain one.  Then players roll the dice in their cup, assign them to a phase, and  so on.

The game ends when a player has thirteen or more developments and planets in their tableau (including the three they start with) or the pool of victory point chips is empty.  Players then add up the victory point chips, plus they get victory points equal to the cost of their developments and planets; some 6-cost developments and planets give bonus victory points.  Whoever has the most victory points wins!

I really enjoyed Race for the Galaxy.  There is no combat with or blocking of opponents, letting players focus more on their own strategy than that of opponents.  The game starts slowly, but as players get more dice from planets and more benefits from developments players get a lot more dice to use and options for using them.  Players can work to end the game when most beneficial for them, while checking to see if an opponent is close to ending things.  And since active dice don't go back in the cup, earning enough galactic credits to add dice to the cup can be as important as getting more developments and planets.

The one slight downside is that this game requires a tremendous amount of trust: You have to be sure you and your fellow players aren't illegally changing the facing of dice behind the screens before revealing them.  But as long as the players are trustworthy, Roll for the Galaxy is a nice blend of luck and skill in creating a star-spanning empire.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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