Monday, September 2, 2013

Game Review: ROFL

Cryptozoic Games, the publishers behind the World of Warcraft collectible card game and Penny Arcade: Rumble in R’leyh, brings us the new “party game of mix-communication” called ROFL. ROFL is created by John Kovalic, the mind behind the go-to party game Apples to Apples. I had a chance to give ROFL a good playthrough recently. So does it hold up against my other favorite party games like Apples to Apples, Dixit, and Scruples? Let’s break it down...

Presentation and Unboxing:

Yes... That's Gilly the Perky Goth on the box!
The first thing I noticed when I opened up the cardboard package in which ROFL arrived is a colorful little orange and yellow box covered in artwork from Kovalic himself. As a fan of Kovalic’s other work on Dork Tower and Munchkin, this made me extremely happy but I suppose milage may vary if you’re not a fan of John’s cartoony style.

Compacted inside this fairly small game box is everything you need to play the game... and I mean everything! It comes with a game board, a set of 175 cards, a package of cardboard counters, plastic player pieces, an hourglass timer, and enough dry erase boards and erasable markers for up to seven players. Oh... and it has a rulebook. I suppose you kind of need a rulebook. And, as a bonus for people who are a little anal about their games, the pieces fit easily back into the box. Heck! It even comes with a tiny baggie for the player pieces! Score!

But how does it play?

Gameplay Basics:

As the title suggests, the basic gist of ROFL is based on text and internet lingo. ROFL, OMG, JK, TTFN, THX... you get the picture. Starting with that as a base, ROFL is a spiritual successor to classic games like Charades and Pictionary. It’s a guessing game but, instead of one player trying to get the rest of the group to guess, it’s actually flipped the other way ‘round.

A gameplay turn goes as such. A player, appropriately called the guesser, draws a card. These cards each have a phrase, quote, or saying on them with a corresponding category like music, movies, books, etc. Without looking at the card, the guesser shows the phrase to the other players who then simply tell the guesser the category. Those players then have 30 seconds to write down any combination of letters and symbols to convey that phrase back to the guesser. The catch is that this has to be done in as few letters/symbols as possible, hence the text lingo aspect. After they’ve written their shortened phrases, the players place their pieces on the game board to indicate in which order they’d like the guesser to guess their phrases. Then, starting with whichever player placed their piece on the lowest number on the game board, the guesser gets 30 seconds each to try and guess the phrase. If he doesn’t, gameplay continues on to the next player until the guesser either guesses (or doesn’t) the phrase. Once the guesser guesses, points are tallied based on where the pieces were on the board.

Gameplay sounds simple enough. It does sound like a party game in that it’s casual and easy to explain. Now to actually try it out...


As a father, most of my casual gameplay is done with my family. This is great for play testing since I get a group of players from across different ages. My first night of ROFL gameplay was with 5 players ranging from 9-39. (I’ll let you guess where I fall in that group.) Of course, the rules for ROFL recommend that it is for ages 13+ but I’m just a rebel like that.

This box is like a TARDIS with how
much they crammed in there!
The game started off slowly as I discovered that the game was a little harder to explain than I first imagined. This is mainly due to my group not grasping the idea that the game board is only for determining play order rather than the traditional get-to-the-end-to-win kind of board. But I got the rules explained thoroughly by playing through a mock turn with no point tally. This worked splendidly and our game of ROFL was underway!

The gameplay goes in 3 rounds. This means that every player gets a chance to be the guesser 3 times. This meant, with a group of 5 players, our game consisted of 15 turns. The first few turns were a bit awkward as players found their footing. Each player started off writing abbreviations as we so often do in texts. OMG = Oh my God! TTYL = Talk to you later. ...and so on. But, as we came to find quickly, quotes and phrases don’t lend themselves well to direct first-letter anagrams. If I wrote “WIC”, would you guess that the phrase is “Winter is Coming”? Of course not! And if you do, I’m not sure I want to play this game with you... weirdo!

After a couple of turns, things started to get more interesting in their phrasing. For example a phrase like “Winter is Coming” became things like “WNTR CMS” or “WNTR S CMNG”. Then, after about 2 rounds, things started getting creative. “Winter is Coming” started becoming “NED SAID”, “AFTR FLL”, or simply “STARK”.

Like any great game, once the simplicity of the rules is established, then the strategy begins. The main strategy in ROFL is determining the order in which you want the guesser to try and guess your phrase. It would seem obvious that you’d want to go first but then you realize that, if the guesser doesn’t guess the phrase from first player’s symbols, they then have a hint of sorts going on to the second player and so on. For example, we drew the phrase “My precious...”. One player, wrote simply “LOTR” and another “GOLLUM” and jumped to put their pieces on the board first. When the guesser incorrectly guessed “Lord of the Rings’, and “Gollum”, as they seemed obvious, the next player wrote simply “RING” and took the points. Another strategy tip that we quickly learned is that, if the other players beat you to the board and you’re going to be last anyway, go ahead and write out the whole phrase. On the off-chance that the guesser gets you to, you win the turn... and the points


So, was ROFL a hit? In short, I’d say yes. It takes a little more rules explaining and paying attention to strategy than the aforementioned party games but it’s still great fun to play. Even with the younger kids in our group, the only change we had to make was to toss out a card if we deemed it too difficult for the group. This mostly consisted of us removing pretty much anything in the “politics” category. As an added bonus, as with Munchkin, there are blank cards so that you can insert your own phrases to the box for even more added fun.

The one thing I expect a few may balk at with ROFL is the price. For such a small box, the cost is nearly $40 but, like I said on unboxing, Cryptozoic packed a LOT into that bright little box for the cost. In fact, I’d think that if they sold the cards, board, and pieces by themselves for say $25-30 and you had to go buy dry erase boards and markers, you’d still be over $40 so don’t let the size fool you. BST THNGS CM N SML PKGS.

Buy ROFL here and get your game on!