Thursday, January 28, 2016

GJJG Game Reviews - Rollet (aka Bonk!) - by Et Games Limited

Designer: David Harvey
Publisher: Et Games Limited
GJJG Game Reviews - Rollet (aka Bonk!) - by Et Games Limited

Note: Bonk! is the mass produced Target exclusive version published by Buffalo Games.

Game Overview:
Rollet is a game for 2 or 4 players where each player controls a tower in a corner (or two on a side) of the board.  By rolling metal ball bearings down the slope of the tower players work in teams to knock a larger wooden ball into a goal on their opponents' side of the board.

When I was contacted back in November about reviewing Rollet, I had just finished reviewing another dexterity game called The Universe.  The Universe was a bit of a disaster, from the cheap components and lackluster gameplay to the pizza box packaging.  My family wasn't impressed.  So I was really hoping that Rollet would give them a better impression of dexterity games.

Rollet arrived at my home on Christmas Eve, just as we were heading out for holiday festivities.  So I figured the game would make an excellent addition to our pile of gifts around our tree.  On Christmas morning my kids unwrapped it along with their other gifts.  So, was Rollet able to redeem dexterity games in the eyes of my family?  Read on...

UPDATE: Rollet is available right now on Kickstarter at a substantial discount!  Through August 9, 2016 you can get a copy for £52 (that's about $69), over 35% off!  (Or less if you snag an early bird!)  The game should arrive in time for Christmas, and I know from experience that this makes an AWESOME Christmas gift!

UPDATE 2: Rollet is now available with the new name, Bonk! exclusively at Target.  You can get Bonk! for only $40.  This is the same great game, with the same great gameplay.  It's still made of wood, but it's mass produced by Buffalo Games instead of hand produced.

Components & Packaging:
My, oh my.  The Universe was a big game.  It came in a 21" x 21" x 2" box.  Rollet gives that a run at 28" x 17" x 4", and weighs a ton.  Both games came in corrugated cardboard boxes, but where The Universe came in a plain pizza box with a sticker on it, Rollet cane in a beautifully printed, 3 color, custom box with a nice plastic carrying handle.  The outside of the box is printed with a picture of the game and some fun marketing slogans (like "Warning: Fun" and a notice that players may become "fiercely competitive").  The back has more fun graphics, a description of the game, and a picture of a bird on an old fashioned milk bottle uttering the phrase "Try skimming the milk!"  Don't worry, that'll make sense later.  All of it presents an intriguing package that is reminiscent of classic games and, although it's a new game, gives a sense of nostalgia.  So right off the bat I was impressed.
Nope, that's not a mini-disc, it's a full sized CD.
It's an appropriate warning.
I believe that's a lark telling you to try to 'skim the milk'.
Then I opened the box.  Inside was a sturdy cardboard insert with slots to hold the four corner towers and a central slot with a bag of components.  Under that was the main board, fit snugly inside.  Let me just say I was floored when I saw the actual game.  The pictures and videos you'll see online just don't do it justice.  The entire game board is solid wood, finely crafted, and beautifully created.  This game is a work of art!
Everything packs away nice and neatly so nothing can get damaged during transport.
Underneath the cardboard insert is a beautiful game board.
 The components consist of four wooden tower shoots that are placed in holes in the corners, a larger wooden ball (about 1" in diameter), and 12 small metal balls (large ball bearings).  Also included is several drink coasters that can be used for drinks or ensuring the game is perfectly level and a nice cloth bag screen printed with the game name to keep everything in.

Every detail is looked after, from the coasters to ensure a level playing field to the zippered storage bag.  
Everything is Quality, with a capital Q.
This is as much a work of art as it is a game!
Further looking at the box and the instructions you'll learn that the game was hand crafted by artisans in India who are paid a fair wage.  And then profits from the game are reinvested back into the community of the artisans.  You can find out more about how Et Games is doing the right thing with their fair trade partners here:

Suffice to say, Rollet is one of the most gorgeous games in my collection.  The components and packaging are absolutely stunning!  This gets a HUGE 10!

Score: 10/10 x1

Rules & Setup:
Rollet is super simple to learn and teach.  Anyone familiar with any kind of sport like basketball or soccer, or tabletop action game like foosball or air hockey can get the gist of the game just by looking at the board.  Two teams each try to get a ball in the goal on the opposing side.  In Rollet the means to do so is by rolling metal ball bearings down wooden ramps.  Each player starts with 3 balls (in each corner) and each round starts with all players high-tenning (a double high five) before beginning to roll one ball at a time down the ramp, trying to knock the larger wooden ball into the goal on the opposite side and keep it out of their own goal.  That's it.  The whole extent of the game.
High-ten (to make sure no one is smuggling budgies) and you're ready to go!
 Setup is likewise just as simple.  The game pretty much comes already set up.  All that's needed is to make sure the game is level (there are a few drink coasters included that can be used to prop up a corner if necessary) place the towers in their corners, pass out 3 metal bearings to each player, and place the wooden ball on the slight indentation in the center of the board.  Then everyone high-tens and the fun begins!
Set up and ready to play! 
The only downside is that the game is huge.  Unlike most other tabletop games it doesn't fold down into a smaller box.  And unlike foosball or air hockey, it's not quite big enough to be its own piece of furniture.  So it's going to take up a lot of space on a table, even when not in use, or its going to go back into its large box that won't fit on any standard game shelf.  Luckily I found a nice spot between a cabinet and wall that the game can be stored in when not in use, but be warned that it is big.

Score: 9/10 x2

I pretty much described the gameplay above in the rules.  There's not much more to the game than that.  But once you start playing it's addictively fun, especially with the right group.  As you play more you start to learn some technique and even a bit of strategy.  Remember that 'skim the milk' reference above?  That's a reference to a technique for hitting the wooden ball in such a way that your metal ball comes back to you.  The rules are chock full of other fun slang references, too, like 'lark's breakfast' and a 'full-fat' or 'smuggling budgies'.  There are even special rules (the Cannonball variant) for two player games that make the game exciting, tactical, and a ton of fun for two!  Games can be played to a set number of points, or just give up on points and play all night!
But let's let the game speak for itself.  I set the game up and the boys were fighting over who got to play and played long after they were told it was time to leave (the parents were having as much fun watching as the boys were having playing).

Score: 8/10 x3

Rollet is the type of game you have to be in the right mood for.  It's high energy, rollicking fun, but probably not something you'll want to play all night every night (or at least not after the first few times you play).  So while this is a game that is a ton of fun to play, and it can easily turn into an hour or two of playing, it's not a game that I'd want to play all the time.  I do enjoy some downtime and slower, more strategic games.  Although, the times that Rollet will get pulled out, I know that it'll mean an evening (or afternoon) or action packed excitement!
An after Christmas breakfast round of Rollet is just what they need!
Even secret spy agents (that's what my son in the tie was being tonight) can't get enough of Rollet!

Score: 7/10 x1

General Fun:
This is a ton of fun to play.  Everyone I've played with has had a blast.  I'm not usually a big fan of dexterity games, but the ease of play, high energy, competitiveness, and absolutely gorgeous components make Rollet a great game to play both with families and with adults.  And using the catchy slang terminology from the rulebook just adds to the fun (and gives the game a sense of nostalgia and timelessness even though it's only a few years old).
This was the most fun anyone had at game night!
Looks like he'll have to skim the milk here!
Score: 10/10 x2

Overall Value:
At $104 plus shipping this isn't a cheap game.  For that amount of money you can get quite a few typical family board games that will probably have a bit more replayability.  But none of them are going to be huge chunks of solid wood either.  If you are looking for a unique addition to a dedicated game room you can't go wrong with Rollet.  It'll look right at home next to a billiards table, crokinole board, or WeyKick table and in that setting $115 or so is a great value.  So, while I probably wouldn't have bought this game for my own family at that price, I have to admit that it's a gorgeous game, piece of art, and game room attraction for the price.  And if your family is really excited by these types of dexterity action games, Rollet would be a great addition to your collection.

UPDATE 2: Rollet is now available with the new name, Bonk! exclusively at Target.  You can get Bonk! for only $40.  This is the same great game, with the same great gameplay.  It's still made of wood, but it's mass produced by Buffalo Games instead of hand produced.

Classic looks, solid construction, fun gameplay all make Rollet a winner!
Score: 8/10 x1

Final Thoughts:
Well, Rollet definitely redeemed dexterity games in the eyes of my family.  They loved playing and are super happy to have it available to play.  Everyone I've pulled it out for has been super impressed with the size and quality of the game and then had a blast playing!  It does come with a hefty price tag compared to board games, but when compared to other solid wood tabletop dexterity games like Crokinole or WeyKick the price is very reasonable.  The quality of the game is absolutely outstanding!  So, if you like dexterity action games and are looking for something unique to add to your collection you won't be disappointed in Rollet (and Et Games' other dexterity game Pucket looks fun, too).  And if you're not sure about a dexterity game, be sure to check out Et Games' strategy game, Bridget!  You can find Et Games at their website:
There goes my shot!
Looks like I got a lark's breakfast!

UPDATE: Rollet is available right now on Kickstarter at a substantial discount!  Through August 9, 2016 you can get a copy for £52 (that's about $69), over 35% off!  (Or less if you snag an early bird!)  The game should arrive in time for Christmas, and I know from experience that this makes an AWESOME Christmas gift!

Overall Score: 87/100

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Rubber feet and a felt bottom protect whatever tabletop the game is played on.

GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  A score of 1-10 (low-high) is given to each game in six categories: Components & Packaging, Rules & Setup, Gameplay, Replayability, Overall Value, and General Fun.  Rules & Setup and General Fun are weighted double and Gameplay is weighted triple.  Educational games have an extra category and Gameplay is only weighted double. Then the game is given a total score of x/100.

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