Roll Camera is a co-op game for 1-4 players about making a movie, where if something can go wrong it will go wrong. The theme and aesthetic instantly appealed to me as I have seen things go wrong from working in a theatre and problem solving is a reality. I also really like cartoony graphics and don’t own many co-op games (as someone who’s friends with people who want to win alone and who can blame them?). I think Roll Camera is an excellent thematic game though I find it hard to pinpoint who it’s for, as it seems too difficult for children yet there may be too little to do for adults. I’ve been playing on the Easy setting and it’s hard! I will probably struggle with the actual hard difficulties. There’s no doubt that the game does feel like a pressure cooker with the timer ticking down and the money draining fast. The production meetings and special abilities are incredibly important and you will definitely lose if you don’t utilise those.
Those are my general thoughts, but as you’ve gathered Roll Camera also has a solo mode so you can make all the key production decisions yourself without being hampered by other people! If only things really worked that way. But does this improve or hinder the game?
Setting The Scene
The set up for a solo game is exactly the same as a multiplayer one. You may get an idea card that you can’t use but this is indicated by a multiplayer symbol on the card. Your aim is the same, make a film that’s good or so bad it’s good! You start with two idea cards and your character role. I used to think the Director was the only viable option since you’re so scrapped for time (and the Director can compromise to get extra time) but actually everyone’s abilities are useful and they can all turn things around. You’d also arrange the scene, script and problem cards as usual. The script being the main way you score points as it values the emotions of certain scenes (for example, angry scenes for a film called ‘Bloody, Bloody Murder’) and you’ll get more quality points, the more angry scenes you shoot.
Every turn your schedule goes down by one and if you move the set or shoot a scene your money goes down. Every turn begins with a new problem, like the set designers deciding to paint everything with gold leaf or the lights melting the set. And problems get harder to solve the longer you leave them, from needing two dice to two matching dice to three matching dice. But any time you use your valuable dice to solve a problem, you have fewer dice to do other important things like hold production meetings and actually shoot scenes. For every five problems you solve you can choose to get $2 or 1 time. You shoot scenes by completing the dice formation on the scene cards.
And shooting scenes is important as it’s how you finish the game, if you run out of money or time at any point you lose the game immediately. So it’s all about resource management. I found that often it was better just to shoot a random scene than wait for the perfect one cause time is a-tickin’ and another problem will probably come and ruin your carefully planned out storyboard.
I did have a game where I got myself in the unfortunate situation of production meetings, new scenes and gaining quality were all blocked, leaving me in a bit of a pickle. And since you need quality to win the game, I was in even more of a bind. And losing quality (to make a so bad it’s good film) is harder than you think as that problem makes you go back to the start point if you do lose quality before the end of the turn. I did lose that game, but it was interesting to see all those problems basically destroy my chances of a good film.
So you continue to do these actions: having production meetings, solving problems, getting interns, arranging the set and shooting scenes until you either complete five scenes and win or you run out of money or time and lose. Hopefully you will find your inner production manager and be able to find ways to solve your problems and make your film work.
It’s a dice game, so if you roll badly you’re pretty scuppered. You do have the option of using an intern to change the die face but that creates new problems. The Producer has the ability to change unassigned dice for a die and $1, so that’s definitely something to utilise if you’ve chosen that character. Like a lot of co-op games, using your character’s unique abilities is really important as it bypasses some of the normal rules. The characters are really fun too, I am a fan of The Star as they get to play an idea for one die and they are the star. Though naturally the player privileges are not as fun when you’re playing solo. There’s no one to generate applause from.
It’s easy to see how this game could get really frustrating if you never rolled what you needed and you couldn’t really see a way of getting out of that situation. Lots of the actions feel expensive too and every resource is precious. That’s probably the point of the game, but it’s not for everyone. Some games just shake out better than others, perhaps you get a script that works great with the scenes. Or you turn your problems into opportunities. Maybe the set keeps spinning round, but if you can make a scene fit that set, then you’re flying. There’s enough variety to have a couple of fun games and make different kinds of films. Though there is a limit on the content in the game and once you’ve seen everything, the puzzle and theme aren’t really enough for me to see real longevity with the solo game.
There are some production company challenge cards you can use (like always have a full spread of problems, which does not sound like a fun challenge), but if the mechanics of the base game have run its course, then you won’t get much out of them.
That’s A Wrap!
I found Roll Camera! a little bit mixed as a co-op game. It’s not the easiest to access and felt difficult to get a handle on. It also has my general problem with co-op games that when someone knows the game well, they can effectively play by themselves and just tell everyone what to do (maybe the Director role is supposed to lean into that), removing the other players’ agency. But as a solo game, I felt much more control and I liked it a lot more. It countered the multiplayer solo game but just being a solo game where you can make all the decisions and it becomes more of an interesting puzzle that way. Maybe you’re not meant to have control in this game but I think it helped the experience.
The game continues to shine in its theme and aesthetics and I love the dice, they’re really cute. I’ve found as you learn the game, a bad dice roll is less likely to ruin you as you can find a compromise. Learning how to best utilise your role and how to make problems work for you gives the puzzle more depth too. This might not be a game you’ll be able to play over and over again solo, but it’s fun while it lasts.