Going Analog

Where video game industry veterans introduce great board games to video gamers

Bored? 4 roll-and-write games you can play with friends online

Got some dice and a webcam? You're good to go.

It’s not easy to be five people at once. Playing a game of chess against yourself looks cool in a movie, but try to pull that off in a game of Scythe, and your brain will rapidly collapse into fried jello. Who do you want to win? Which player is the real you? And why won’t you #3 stop attacking? That guy was always such a dick….

It might be hard to organize a safe game night with your friends these days, but you needn’t take such drastic measures to get your multiplayer board game fix. There are plenty of excellent roll-and-write games you can organize via video or voice call that’ll let you gather your friends around an imaginary table. Taking part is as simple as tossing a few dice and marking numbers down on sheets of paper, meaning they’re ideal to teach to and play with friends online.

Roll-and-write games you can play over the internet

Below, we’ve collected four of our favorite roll-and-write games to play over the internet. Most of them are entirely free, and even the ones that aren’t won’t require everyone to own a copy. Many designers have been releasing free print-and-play files to support online sessions during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it easier than ever to game together, even while separated.

If any of your friends are lacking a printer -- you know, one of those archaic devices for putting ink to paper -- they don’t need to miss out either. Instead, get them to download the relevant PDFs onto a device with image-editing software. Microsoft Paint, Paint.Net -- anything will do as long as you can mark the sheets required. At this point they won’t even be spending money on ink or paper! Yes, we know we’re geniuses. You don’t even need to thank us. 

Rolling Realms

4 roll and writes you can play with friends online

How many players?

Infinite! (or at least as many as your video/voice chat can host)

Complexity:

Simple minigames but scoring high is tough

What do I need?

Two dice

Jamey Stegmaier clearly has too much time on his hands. Not only did he recently reappear on our podcast, he’s also created -- at the time of writing -- 10 revised versions of an infinitely scaling roll-and-write which somehow combines all the major games his publishing company has released. 

Split into three rounds, Rolling Realms has you mix and match miniature puzzles, each based upon a core mechanic from a game in the Stonemaier collection. One box could see you assigning numbers to a bird from Wingspan, while another fills out Charterstone’s crates. 

print and play online rolling realms roll and write
There's even a digital form for Rolling Realms you can use to keep track of your scores.

Despite sounding daunting, it’s actually pretty simple. After choosing three minigames to start with, one player leads the group by rolling a pair of dice and reading out the result. Players then fill the numbers rolled into boxes of their choice from the minigames selected. Which numbers you place and where will change the powerful resources and game-winning stars you earn.

Each group of minigames makes for a unique dynamic as you swap and spend resources between them. We did the math and making groups of three from nine options leaves at least one gajillion unique combinations -- that’s some serious replayability! If you’re not sure where to start, Stegmaier has even hosted his own livestreamed games for anyone to join in with.

Rolling Realms is a brilliant choice for seasoned board gamers who’ll really get a kick out of seeing how each miniature puzzle mimics the full game. The major downside, however, is that playing it will make you want to pull out the inspiring games. Heck, why not play them all at the same time. Imagine the glory of Scythe, Wingspan, and Between Two Cities spread out across three tabletops! Actually, considering we don’t own a mansion, we might just stick with Rolling Realms instead.

Gimme the link!

Corinth

Roll and writes to play online

How many players?

Up to four

Complexity:

Much to our disappointment, you won’t even need to know the basics of Ancient Greek to play.

What do I need?

A six-sided die, ideally 12 of them

Corinth’s mercantile-themed roll-and-write game is such a simple pleasure that we’ve often avoided recommending it to more experienced board gamers. But when Days of Wonder thrust a free print-and-play version out to the internet wilds in March, we lost any excuses not to recommend trying it.

Each round, a pool of dice is rolled and sorted into resource piles based on the numbers shown. Players then take turns claiming all of one number, crossing off an equal quantity of pots, spices, or donkeys -- famously the most prized possession of all ancient Mediterranean societies -- on their respective sheets in an effort to score points. It’s an incredibly basic gameplay loop but one that proves surprisingly satisfying and soothing. With such short games, you’ll be eager for another quick go as you attempt to outdo both your personal score and those of your friends.

Corinth roll and write online print and play

Corinth is perfect for those socially distanced pals who are less well-travelled in the cardboard gaming realm. It’s simple enough to teach in minutes, and with the files provided, you don’t even need someone to own a copy. Sure, it helps to have 12 dice handy, but you can just as easily roll a single one multiple times and record the results. We do however recommend using some kind of streaming software to show the dice rolled each round or the remaining choices for each player. If you’re lacking dice altogether, you can even just use an online random number generator, though that’s a lot less fun than physically tossing cubes about.

Gimme the link!

Welcome to… Your Perfect Home

Welcome to your perfect home roll and write online with friends

How many players?

According to the designers, 1-100 players (we’re not sure what happens past 100, and we’re too scared to find out) 

Complexity:

A lot easier than moving to a new home

What do I need?

One copy of the game and a mobile phone in each player’s hand

OK, so we know we called this a roll-and write list, but Welcome to… Your Perfect Home actually uses cards. Before you reach for that purist pitchfork, it gets worse: Even though players would normally use paper for playing, they can (and should) use their mobile phones for a better experience. Deep breaths folks, we promise it’s a good thing.

You see, Welcome to… Your Perfect Home is very much built from the foundational bricks of the roll-and-write genre. Attempting to realize the American dream, you’ll be filling a neighborhood of identikit houses with happy little numbers. And if school taught us anything, it’s that numbers will only accept their neighbors when placed in a legal, ascending order; an intolerant bunch, we know. However, instead of the cruel toss of a dice deciding the figures you scrawl, each turn sees you flipping numbered cards from three decks, choosing one to add to your increasingly stressful village.

Welcome to your perfect home app for online play

The added complexity of bonus points from pools, parks, and milestones grants Welcome To… Your Perfect Home a brilliant mix of planning and pushing your luck. But that’s not why we’re recommending it. Knowing that the physical sheets in each box are limited, publishers Deep Water and Blue Cocker have helpfully created a Welcome To writing/scoring app for both Your Perfect Home and sequel, Welcome to... New Las Vegas. They’re free on both the iOS and Google Play stores, so you can have as many friends as you like join in via an online call. 

There’s no rolling, and you don’t even need to write, yet Welcome To… Your Perfect Home is still one of the best roll-and-write games to play with friends over the internet. If you’ve got a copy of the game and a camera to record the cards you flip, we highly recommend inviting your friends to the paper neighborhood as a cure for your quarantine blues.

Gimme the link!

Railroad Ink

Roll and writes to play online railroad ink

How many players?

Unlimited!

Complexity:

It doesn’t take long to get this old engine rolling

What do I need?

One player with a copy of the game.

All aboard the hype train! Wait, what do you mean tickets for Railroad Ink excitement expired back in 2018? Well the board game community at large may have moved on, but this sleek little engine remains a superb introduction to the novel gaming format of combining pencil and paper.

As the other entries on this list have probably made clear, the roll-and-write world is typically governed with the cold, utilitarian jurisdiction of numbers. We can’t deny the ineffable satisfaction of placing the exact figure we were after in just the right box. But Railroad Ink, for all its rigid tracks and steel wheels, understands that silly doodles are a lot more fun. 

Railroad ink print and play

Instead of numbers, Railroad Ink’s dice are covered in the corners, straights, and crisscrossing threads of train tracks and roads. Connect a path from one edge to another and you’ll score big points; leave it awkwardly unfinished, and you’ll pay dearly for your railway sins.

Board game reviewers Shut Up & Sit Down recently hosted a live game of Railroad Ink via YouTube, and thanks to the printable PDFs they released with publisher Horrible Guild, it’s now possible to organize your own online game if you have a copy on hand. Have one player stream or screenshot the rolls each turn, then as many players as you like can scribble on printed sheets of digital PDFs. Public transport isn’t a great place to be right now, but there’s nothing stopping you from creating connections with your friends in Railroad Ink.

Gimme the link!


Those were four roll-and-write games you can play with your friends while staying home and safe. Do you prefer to roll your dice elsewhere? Drop us a message with your favorite games via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. While you’re in the mood for board games, be sure to listen to the Going Analog Podcast as well!