Roll Camera! – Cooperative Filmmaking
Lights, Camera, Action!
Going to the movies has been a family pastime since I was a kid. I vividly remember going to my first movie, E.T., at the dollar cinema. (This began my life-long addiction to Reese’s Pieces).
I’m also a huge fan of cooperative games like Horrified, Endangered and Horrified. So, when I heard about Roll Camera!, I was excited to play because because of its unique theme and mechanics tied to filmmaking.
In Roll Camera!, you work for a struggling film production company in its last chance to create a successful film. In this co-op game designed by Malachi Rempen and published by Grand Gamers Guild, players work together to film five scenes to complete their (hopefully high quality) movie.
Roll Camera! is best for teens and adults and takes 1-6 players 45-90 minutes.
A player’s turn consists of five steps: Draw a Problem, Roll the Crew Dice, Assign Crew Dice, Clear Crew Dice, and Advance the Schedule.
1. Draw a Problem
Reveal a Problem card and place it in the leftmost slot in the Problem Queue. Slide existing cards into the slots to the right. Should the Problem Queue be full, don’t draw a new card. However, you cannot take actions, play Idea cards, or gain bonuses that require a Problem card.
Problems alter or contradict rules in Roll Camera!. When in doubt, Problems take precedence over everything. Problems also require players to take the Resolve action to clear them.
2. Roll the Crew Dice
After resolving the Problem card, roll your Crew Dice to determine which cast and crew you can use this turn. Only dice that have not been locked on the board can be rolled, but you can recall and reroll those dice at any point during your turn, even in later steps!
Each die has six faces: camera, light, sound, actors, art department, and visual effects (VFX). VFX is wild.
3. Assign the Crew Dice
Assign your cast and crew to blue spaces on the main board, on set pieces, or your board. To take an action, place the required dice on the action space. See the blue space reference.
The actions on the main board progress the game. For example, Build New Piece can create spaces for the dice required to shoot scenes.
Take the Production Meeting action so everyone can discuss ideas (positive or negative) they can play, save for later, or discard. Roll Camera! is cooperative, so there’s no reason you can’t discuss your plans with others.
Play dice to your player board for unique, thematic actions that no one else has access to. For example, the Production Designer allows the player to play a set piece or rearrange unoccupied pieces already placed.
4. Clear the Crew Dice
Once you’ve taken all the actions you want, take back used dice (including those used to shoot a scene). Then pass them to the next player. Leave any dice you want locked in on the board for the next player to use.
5. Advance the Schedule and Pass the Dials.
Turn the schedule side on the budget/Schedule dials one spot lower. If the dial reaches “Shut Down Production”, you lose.
Players continue taking turns and working together to complete filming five Scenes. Once the Scenes are complete, finish the turn without advancing the schedule. Consult the Script to award any Quality Bonuses or penalties based on the color and arrangement of the Scenes in the editing room.
If your film’s Quality is outside the middle red zone of mediocrity, the film is a success and everyone wins! Otherwise, everyone loses and you’ll have to test your filmmaking skills again.
Roll Camera!: Super Hero Story Pack Expansion
We also took a look at the Super Hero Story Pack expansion. It introduces new scripts, scenes, a production company, equipment, and CGI tokens. Mix these new cards with the base game to add super hero variety to the game. The biggest change in mechanics is the Wonder Studios Production Company. After placing a Scene into the editing room, add a CGI token to it. To complete the film, you must remove all five CGI tokens by placing a wild die on the space on the production card’s spot to “render” it.
The expansion also introduces a single Equipment card called VFX Supercomputer. This card is a one-time use ability allowing the team to change three used Crew dice to Wilds and to reassign them. Super Hero Story Pack also introduces double-sided Script cards that allow players to choose a side when an effect instructs them to change half of the script.
We loved playing with the Super Hero Story Pack, both because we love superheroes and because the Render It! action required extra mindfulness to remove those tokens in time.
Roll Camera! is a blast, and changes what I’ve been accustomed to in cooperative games. In games like Pandemic and Castle Panic you’re playing to mitigate some force to win. In Roll Camera!, you’re working to shoot five scenes by building scenes with tiles and dice.
The actions in Roll Camera! felt unique. Players use dice as workers to perform actions throughout the game. For example, Holding a Production allows players to pitch their idea cards to the active player who then selects one to play. This provides some kind of benefit or advantage in the game. My friends got excited to share their cards and talk through how it could benefit the the current game state. This type of social interaction kept the game lively, even when we were stressed about upcoming turns.
Whimsical, but Stressful
The game’s whimsical art worked perfectly for the theme, and I loved that its style wasn’t photo-realistic. But don’t let cheeky bean stick figures fool you!
The Budget and Schedule dials apply pressure throughout the game. At times we had to pause our scene filming to figure out ways to get extra time back. By the end of the game, we were really cutting it close; and that’s great, because the game shouldn’t be easy to win.
There are ways to mitigate the budget and schedule with ideas cards and resolving problems. For every five problems solved, players can choose to gain $2 or gain one month on the schedule.
Not only do you have to shoot the film, but also mind its quality. In our plays, we worried about boosting quality as we progressed along late in the game, and we found plenty of ways to get it up in the last few rounds.
Players: More is Better… but Longer
Roll Camera! is best at four players, purely for the social interaction. Played solo, it was okay, but dull.
Although the box says 45-90 minutes, it’s more towards the 90+ minute mark. In fact, our first game blew way past 2½ hours because of questions and strategy discussions we had along the way. Subsequent games were still pretty long, because we got into great discussions. This isn’t the fault of the game: time melted away while we were playing.
Roll Camera! has two ways to adjust difficulty: initial dial settings and Production Company cards. Production Companies add new constraints filmmakers will need to deal with. Skip these until everyone is comfortable and looking for a greater challenge.
Good for Families?
If you’re looking for a different type of cooperative experience, with a lot of group discussion and interaction, then Roll Camera! is for you. I loved the premise of the game and its cheeky artwork.
The box says ages 11+ but it skews higher than that. I don’t think average 11- or 12-year-olds will have the patience to be at the table for 90 minutes. There are a lot of moving parts, and an older crowd requires less guidance from adults.
Ready to film the next blockbuster Hollywood movie? You can find Roll Camera! direct from Grand Gamers Guild or at your local game store.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Roll Camera! from Grand Gamers Guild for this review.
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Roll Camera! - Cooperative Filmmaking
Number of Players: 1-6 (we say 4)
Age Range: 11+ (we say 13+)
Playtime: 45-90 minutes (we say 60-120)