The Tall and Short of Solo Building with Rolling Heights
Roll meeples and watch a city skyline take shape with buildings that rise from various materials in Rolling Heights.
Onward with more exploration of Rolling Heights! I fell in love with the idea of literally crafting a city with stacks of cubes. From afar, it looked like my first couple of plays truly resulted in a tiny, living city. Yet I wanted to keep diving into gameplay to see how I would feel after completing multiple plays. Back to life amidst tabletop skyscrapers!
Game Name: Rolling Heights
Publication Year: 2023
Designer: John D. Clair
Artist: Kwanchai Moriya
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game
Buildings rise with the use of resources, which are gathered by rolling meeples. Scoring goals and targets provide objectives, while the available building tiles create interesting decisions. All the while, the solo opponent works tirelessly to construct in every neighborhood!
March 12, 2023
March 14, 2023
1 Hour & 15 Minutes
38" x 28"
Reach for the Sky
I still can’t get over the sheer fun of working on these buildings and seeing what they look like at the end!
Each tile shows the required material stacks. The larger the bulding, the larger the reward in most cases.
My only major issue was how these all lost their personalities after completion. Can you see the tile names on any of these? I didn’t love the overall tile designs.
The symbols were also tricky to see along the right side of each tile. It was important to know the types of buildings, and I couldn’t reliably just looks at the tile’s color scheme.
Climbing Up, Up, and Up
As I previously mentioned, I absolutely loved the end state of each play. How cool does this look?! But I wasn’t able to come up with silly little stories with hidden tile names.
It came down to memorizing what was where, so I only knew the reason why City Hall wasn’t completed came down to a zoning issue… It was next to the junkyard. Ha!
Gameplay was interesting, but somewhat hollow with the random nature of the solo opponent rolling a die.
This still felt like a fun experience, only with something missing. I kept on playing to find out what that was.
Not every building needed to be a massive skyscraper, and some of the lower regions helped give more weight to the height of the tallest buildings. Definitely a neat concept!
The end of the game was triggered by running out of any resource after the cubes were used to construct buildings. So, it was possible to partially influence this speed.
But that felt a little contrived. I liked the diversity in tiles, and wanted to build it all! Sadly, that wasn’t to be.
I found that the heart of this solo mode came down to blocking the solo opponent from picking up towers.
Despite my criticisms, I still didn’t lose my enthusiasm. At the end, this looked so very awesome. It’s a little city!
I had some laughs about strange construction areas where industrial buildings were right next to nature parks. It all made sense to the meeples who were doing the work!
My little trick for keeping the ownership markers upside down really helped, though. At a glance, you’ll likely be able to find the 4 incomplete buildings with little effort.
Yet… I wasn’t entirely grabbed by the gameplay. It all sort of flowed together as one, never changing that much.
The Struggle to Part with New Board Games
I had fun with my plays, although I knew pretty early on that this wasn’t going to be a game I would get to my solo table all that much. I was prepared to say that I enjoyed my time with it, yet could part with it during the next local board game swap. Of course, it was my husband who wanted to pick up this game, so we played it together once…
And now it will stick around! He liked it a lot after a single play. I will say that multiplayer seems more interesting since opponents don’t react randomly based on a die roll. But this is a solo blog. Ha ha! Still, as much as I was excited to free up a little shelf space, it’s not going to happen since there seems to be a little more life left in this one.
Of course, it’s never leaving our house or being played with anyone else due to how easy it is to lose components if they fly off the table. Mark my words: I don’t expect us to play this that much, and my initial reaction to let it go might just be the right one in the long-run. Still, my husband had a great time, so we’ll see if we can play this again at some point!
Although there were many level 1 and 2 tiles available, it was only the bottom 3 on either side that mattered. These were the only ones available to the solo opponent.
In a neighborhood without a building in progress, a new one was added with 3 cubes. One under construction could have up to 12 cubes added to it on another turn. Whoa!
The solo opponent scores based on the number of cubes on a tile, so limiting the options to 4-6 cubes was vital.
However, this made it obvious for me to do some serious blocking. I had to take the Heights Hospital in this case.
The solo opponent didn’t collect meeples, though, so I had all the fun with them! I managed to drop them, rather than roll them, for quicker results each round.
Coupled with a target tile for end game victory points, this group helped out quite a lot! The dark pink meeples gave me extra buying power to place on the expensive sites.
Green meeples can upgrade exhausted or working steady meeples, often granting ability or resource boosts.
I enjoyed this aspect of gameplay, too, since I could only roll up to 10 meeples. Decisions, decisions!
A New Ape in Town
As usual, I proceeded to destroy my city with the quick mini-game! Only this time, it wasn’t just the included figure that showed up… Giant Calico Critters monkey!
Technically all he did was show up in the aftermath to pose and take credit for all the damage. My Calico Critters are way too cared for to fall on top of buildings. Ha ha!
This was pretty close, yet the army kept defending the city. Or maybe I was just way too focused on small chaos.
I received absolutely no assistance with the cleanup. This monkey conveniently scampered off and disappeared!
Clearing the Slate
My building streak wasn’t quite done, though! I reset to create another city. It was nice to look at this empty area and know that it would be built up in no time.
The randomized setup is a nice element, too, for it offers different combinations of land and water. Ideal building spots differ, too, especially with separate islands.
Costs rise when not building adjacent to an existing owned building tile, so I found the perfect spot to start from!
I saw a whole bunch of possibilities with this assortment of neighborhood tiles… Time to get back to building!
This was my neighborhood, with the solo opponent only moving in with some very small buildings. I had it all under control, and my parks worked out quite nicely!
But then, there came a turn when I couldn’t block the solo opponent from picking up a giant tower. It was early on, so I figured it would be bad. 24 victory points bad, actually.
That sealed the deal, and set me behind in the scoring goals, too. Such a shame! My hold over the city was over.
I still had fun, but again, gameplay felt far too random in the solo mode and depended on me taking the towers.
The Cleanup Crew
Angry Ape Smash! Actually, before that calamity arrived, I found a pair of very helpful monkeys walking around the city. They were at a more appropriate scale. Gigantic!
They kindly put up their hands to show that they wanted to clean up the city politely. How very nice!
Naturally, the city destruction still happened and I was left alone with all the cleanup! But giant monkeys waltzing through a city don’t always mean the worst… Sometimes.
I nearly lost a few cubes off the side of my table, though, so I may have to put a halt to the destruction!
Play Number: 3 and 4
Expansion: Angry Ape Smash!
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game
Outcome: 97-86 and 135-150 (1 Win and 1 Loss)
I figured out the way to pull off a victory! But then, I ran out of ownership markers and miscellaneous cubes in the next play for a very unsatisfying ending. Oh, and naturally, the solo opponent picked up this monstrosity of a building and guaranteed the win. There are still things I enjoy about this game, yet I feel like a deeper look at the solo mode means I’m not as inclined to play it a lot more.
Price & Value
Challenges & Mechanics
Design & Theme
Components & Rules
Achievement & Enjoyment
Distinctness & Randomness
+ Pros (Positives)
- The final board state is awesome to look at with a realistic city skyline across many different neighborhoods.
- Meeples provide a variety of resources and abilities that can interact in interesting and useful ways.
- Randomized setup creates different kinds of islands where the most ideal building spots change between plays.
- Components create a fun experience that looks unique, while the stacks of cubes are generally very sturdy.
- Rolling or dropping the meeples creates a thematic experience that’s more intriguing than simply rolling dice.
- Variable scoring goals and targets can change some subtle decisions and choices over the course of play.
– Cons (Negatives)
- There are not enough components, and running out of ownership markers can be rather frustrating to deal with.
- Blocking the solo opponent from picking up large buildings is the core goal of the solo mode, which is repetitive.
- A lot of the building tile icons and numbers are hard to see from far away, and the names are entirely obscured.
- Gameplay doesn’t involve a lot of variety at a top-level, and winning comes from a very similar strategy.
Score the Most Points
- Overall Goal Progress 100% 100%
Goals and Milestones
Score at least 125 points.
Win at least 1 game.
Continue the Conversation
What do you enjoy about Rolling Heights and city building games in general? Are there other solo games in the genre you recommend? I still think this was a worthwhile experience for me, although I think the solo mode falls a bit short for me. Whereas the rest of the game is tall… Oh, the terrible jokes continue! Ha ha! Definitely glad I tried this one out.