I’m always on the lookout for board games with out of the ordinary themes. That was the main thing that drew me to Roll Camera! The Filmmaking Board Game.
Roll Camera! is a dice driven cooperative board game all about trying to make a movie without running out of either time or money.
Disclosure: Thanks to Grand Gamer’s Guild for sending us a review copy of this cooperative game. Links in this post may be affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps support this blog and our podcast. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
What is Roll Camera! all about?
Roll Camera! The Filmmaking Board Game was designed by Malachi Ray Rempen, who also did the art and graphic design. It features a film reel shaped insert designed by Bryce Cook. Roll Camera! was originally funded on Kickstarter and published in 2021 by a collaboration between Keen Bean Studio and Grand Gamers Guild in North America. A second printing of the game is currently being funded on Kickstarter along with a new B-Movie expansion.
Roll Camera! plays one to six players (despite what it says on Board Game Geek) with games taking between 45 minutes to about an hour and a half depending on player count and player experience.
Roll Camera! is a cooperative board game where you take on the role of a production company brought in to save a failing movie. If you aren’t able to complete this film on time, on budget and at an acceptable quality level you will never get work in the film industry again. The movie magic comes to life through a dice driven worker placement game where you spend dice to build sets, hold production meetings, deal with and resolve a never-ending stream of problems, place actors and equipment on set, and film scenes for your movie while trying the best you can to stick to the script.
The original standard box printing of Roll Camera! had a price of $44 USD, whereas the new printing that just funded on Kickstarter had a $50 USD pledge. This new second printing features the upgrades that were in the original Kickstarter edition, including UV coating on the boards, a special “clapper box” and more.
To see this unique clapper style box and what you get inside it be sure to check out our Roll Camera! unboxing video on YouTube.
The production quality of this game is top-notch.
It features the highest quality set of rules I’ve ever touched, even beating out Tapestry for paper quality. The game board is thick and two-sided, even though you only use one side to play (the other side is a tool for storyboarding and telling your own stories with the included scene cards). The dice are etched and feature symbols in two colours. Cards are well finished and feature very clear iconography and readable text.
I can’t think of a single thing to complain about here. I wish more of my games were at this quality level.
How do you play Roll Camera! The Filmmaking Board Game?
Set up for Roll Camera! is pretty quick. Every player selects, or is randomly assigned, a role and they then take the player board and summary card matching that role.
The board is set out and the set tiles are shuffled, split into two, and placed face-up on the board. The idea cards are shuffled and three (or two with five or six players) are dealt out to each player. The rest of the idea cards are placed next to the board. The problem cards are shuffled and placed beside the board. The scene cards are shuffled and placed face-up on the board and two scenes are drawn so that there are three face-up scenes available at the start of the game. Five script cards from each deck (top and bottom) are shuffled and placed face-up on the board and the quality token is placed on the start spot.
Finally, you take the money and time tracker, flip it over and set the dials according to the number of players and the difficulty setting you wish to play.
Optionally you can draw or select a production company card to use during your game. Production companies add an extra level of difficulty to the game, including requirements like spending extra money to film, having a tighter time schedule or having to finish on a certain quality level.
Each turn in Roll Camera starts with drawing a new Problem card, reading it out and placing it face up above the board. Note if the three problem spots are already full then you already have enough problems to deal with and this step is skipped. Problems involve all kinds of things to make your life more difficult including needing extra dice to film, not being able to use certain action spots, needing more money to do certain actions, and a ton of other complications.
After resolving the current problems, the active player rolls any dice that aren’t currently “on set.” They then place these dice onto various action spots either on the main board or on their player board to take actions.
Resolving problems by spending two dice, a matching pair of dice or a matching set of three dice. Resolved problems get flipped and are placed above the board. For each five problems that you resolve you get to choose to either gain $2 on your budget or 1 week to your schedule.
Adding a set piece to the set or rearranging the set. Adding pieces costs money and set pieces are chosen from the top of either set piece stack. These tiles are placed on the five by five set grid, hopefully in a way that will let you later film one of the three face-up scenes. Rearranging set pieces doesn’t cost money and lets you move around the tiles already on set as long as they don’t already have dice assigned to them.
Holding a meeting. Three players are selected to present one idea card each. One of these ideas will be enacted right away, another will be placed on the to-do list, and the third will be trashed.
Ideas include tons of ways to break the rules of the game, gaining you valuable money, time or quality, taking actions for a reduced cost, using other players’ special abilities and more. After the meeting players replenish their hand of idea cards.
Hiring an intern will turn another die to a side of your choice, but this instantly causes a new problem to happen.
Filming a scene involves placing dice onto the set in a pattern that matches one of the face-up scene cards. Filming scenes is how you end the game, with the one goal being to film five scenes before your money or time runs out. Filming scenes costs money and can also have an impact on your quality rating and schedule. Scenes that have been filmed are placed onto the editing room track and a new scene is revealed in the storyboard.
Complete an idea on the To Do list. The board has two spots to hold ideas that are saved for later during meetings, these can be enacted either by spending two dice or by spending one die plus a money or time cost.
All of these actions are located on the main board. Each player’s role board has three additional actions on it, each of which uses one or more dice to activate. Everyone has an action that allows them to discard and draw a new idea card, the other two actions are unique to each role. These role specific actions include things like the star being able to change the script, the cinematographer being able to use gaff tape to fix problems, the director being able to reframe scenes and change the storyboards, and more.
At the end of each player turn, the number of weeks left in the shooting schedule is reduced by one. If time runs out the entire team loses. As mentioned earlier you can also lose by running out of money.
If you don’t run out of time or money, the game ends whenever your team films their fifth and final scene. You then look at the script and compare that to the scene types and the order of your scenes to gain any quality bonuses. The group as a whole wins if your overall film quality isn’t in the red. There are a total of five good quality winning ranks, but amusingly you can also win if your quality drops to the absolute bottom of the quality track as you’ve made a movie that’s “so bad it’s good”.
Along with these pretty dry and simple mechanics, the game also encourages some roleplay while you film your movie.
Every role includes a Player Privilege that you can use during the game. These include things like the star being able to call for silence or the cinematographer being able to direct anyone taking pictures or videos while playing.
The other roleplaying aspect happens once you’ve finished the game. Once you’ve tallied your final score, the group is encouraged to tell the story of their movie using the prompts on the board and the specific scenes that were used to finish their film.
Finally, there’s a whole other way to play the game. By flipping the game board over, you can play through an improv storytelling experience where you select twenty scenes, place them onto the board to form a typical five-act movie and tell the story of that film.
Roll Camera! is a quick to play, very interactive and engaging cooperative board game.
The first thing that caught my attention about Roll Camera! is the theme. I’m always looking for tabletop games that feature new and unique themes and this is the first non-RPG tabletop game I’ve played that focuses on movie making. Yes, I know there are others out there, like Dream Factory or the old Cheapass Games’ Deadwood Studios USA, but this was the first movie making board game that I’ve played and it’s not what I would consider a common theme.
The next thing that struck me was the component quality. I didn’t really do any research before this game showed up and when I did the unboxing video I was surprised at just how well-designed everything was. Along with that, I was shocked by how little of what I got was Kickstarter exclusives. At first, I just assumed that things like the reel-shaped component organizer were some kind of bonus, only to learn that it’s included with every copy of the game. That’s pretty awesome.
Now with the new printing being Kickstarted, even the stuff that was exclusive to the deluxe edition will be included in all future copies, something I would love to see more companies doing.
As for the mechanics and gameplay, they are very solid. What I like most is that the actions you take make perfect sense when compared to the theme. Where there is still some abstractness, like needing sets of the same dice to fix problems, everything is logical and makes sense. This is helped by some simple but effective iconography used throughout the game.
One great touch in this game that I haven’t mentioned earlier is the humour that is included. Along with the mechanics, things like the problem and idea cards have hilarious flavour text on them that really makes the game come alive, especially when combined with players who get into character and use the Player Privilege abilities.
That said, I do realize that this aspect of the game won’t be for everyone, especially when it comes to those player privileges. Thankfully those rules are optional and can be used by groups that dig that kind of thing and ignored by people looking for a more serious gaming experience.
One of the best parts about Roll Camera! is the game balance. This is a cooperative game that feels tense at almost every moment.
You constantly have problems to deal with, you never have enough dice and there’s no way you are going to complete your film without running out of time or money, or at least not without clever use of the idea cards. Even in games where you win, it still feels like you could lose at any moment and that win is always rewarding at the end.
>While I love a tense game, I also appreciate the variable difficulty levels available, which adjust your starting time and money. Plus, the Production Company cards can also be used to add a higher level of difficulty.
Even with all of that great stuff going on Roll Camera! does have one potentially serious problem and that is quarterbacking.
This is a game where players need to work together to get their film created and that is going to involve players suggesting to other players what they do on their turns. This includes simple things like someone saying “Call a meeting, I’ve got a great idea!”, to having players physically moving around the set tiles on other players turns to find the optimum position for all of the current scenes.
With the level of cooperation required in Roll Camera! I think some quarterbacking is inevitable. That’s going to turn some players off this game right from the start. This potential issue gets worse when you have experienced players playing alongside new players.
We’ve yet to see a game where each player didn’t try to take control at some point in the game.
At this point, I think I can actually say I’ve never seen as much quarterbacking in a cooperative game as I have with this one but, with us at least, this hasn’t really been a problem. Now and then someone has had to ask everyone to step back and talk things through one at a time (the Actor has a great Player Privilege for that), but our games have never actually broken into an argument or anything like that.
Overall Roll Camera! is a very well-produced and well-designed cooperative board game with a theme you just don’t see that often. It’s very well balanced, providing tension from start to finish, and offering a variable difficulty system to keep the game interesting as your group learns to play. The mechanics are easy to learn and well tied to the theme. Except for a potential quarterbacking problem, I’ve got nothing negative to say about this game.
If you love working with other players to solve problems and compete against a game, you really need to check out Roll Camera! It’s one of the tensest and most rewarding cooperative games I’ve played.
Due to the variable difficulty rules, it’s great for gamers of all experience levels and can even be enjoyed by kids. Things like the humour and roleplaying aspects are just an added bonus and if you don’t like these aspects they are easy to ignore.
However, if you don’t like group decisions and the possibility of players telling other players what to do in your cooperative games, you probably want to steer clear of Roll Camera! unless you are looking for a solid single-player dice placement game. This is definitely a game that not only lends itself to quarterbacking, I would go so far as to say it encourages it.
For the rest of you, I suggest checking out Roll Camera!
This is a very enjoyable game. While I usually prefer competitive games, this is one cooperative game that’s won me over and more impressively it also won over my wife, who normally doesn’t enjoy cooperative games at all. I think the theme here is going to appeal to a lot of gamers and may even be enough to get a non-gamer to sit down at the table and work with you to make a movie.
I have to admit I’m not a big cooperative game fan. Due to this, I was really surprised by just how much I have enjoyed playing Roll Camera! This is especially true due to the amount of quarterbacking that can be part of this game. In other cooperative games, this can drive me nuts, but that’s not the case with Roll Camera! Something about the theme and design of this game makes discussing what to do and sharing your ideas with other players a big part of the game. Telling other people what you think they should do is just part of the fun in Roll Camera! The Flimmaking Board Game.
What games are your exceptions to the rule? For example, what’s the one solo game you actually enjoy playing if you normally never play solo or what’s the one dexterity game your group will play, when they avoid all others? Let us know in the comments below!
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One lucky Tabletop Bellhop fan is going to win their own copy of Roll Camera!
This is the retail edition from the 2020 Kickstarter (which has a non-clapper box and a cardboard insert).
This giveaway will run for three weeks. It starts on November 2nd and will end at 11:59 PM ET on November 24th. The winner will be contacted by email. We will also announce the winner on the episode of Tabletop Bellhop Gaming Podcast to be recorded live on Twitch on December 1st.
This giveaway is open to folks in Canada and the United States.