Thunder Rolls is a 1-8 players dice-driven racing game designed by Richard Launius. You can either play a single race or a championship over multiple sessions. In a race there are always 8 drivers in competition, regardless of the player count. When playing solo, you will therefore face (and manage) 7 Non-Player Drivers or NPDs. It is live on Kickstarter and the campaign will run for another 15 days.
To set up the game, you will draw a race card and follow its instructions. A race can be comprised of either one or two stages, with each stage being played in two phases: the Rolling phase and the Thunder phase. Each driver is represented by a miniature car on the track. The race card also specifies the board (i.e. track) on which you will play.
In the Rolling phase, you start with a pool of 8 dice. You begin by rolling all the dice from your pool, and place all dice showing a given value (e.g. ‘6’), called a “set”, on the Action Space matching this value. The bigger the set you add, the higher you will get in the priority ranking of that action, but the more dice will be locked into that action on future turns. Note that, on a future turn, you may add up a set of dice to an already placed one to achieve a better position in the priority ranking. Once the dice are placed, you take the corresponding action. The priority ranking does not affect the action taken, but will only become relevant at the end of the round. Indeed, once you have rolled and placed all your dice (due to the set system this may take a varying number of turns), the three Thunder cards attached to each Action Space are revealed. The player with the highest priority number will get the first pick, then the second-highest the second pick etc., and the remaining cards are discarded. All dice are also retrieved for the next stage.
The AI is managed with two separate pools of dice (that is, two pools of 8 dice, from two different colors). After you take a turn in the rolling phase, you roll one die from each of these pools. The highest roll specifies the action taken, the lowest roll states how many dice (with a maximum of four) are added as a set. Whenever one of the two pools gets depleted, the AI no longer takes turns. On top of that, all NPDs then take a turn by drawing a Non-Player action card and following the instructions. Once you have placed a set, managed the AI, and played the NPDs, a new turn begins by re-rolling the remaining dice in your pool, or if there are none, you pick the Thunder cards and move on to the Thunder phase. Extra rules specify which cards get discarded first if the AI is above you in the priority ranking on any Action Space.
In the Thunder phase, players first discard cards so that only four remain in their hands. Then, for each “Hazard” icon shown on the remaining cards, you roll a die: each roll of “1” makes you draw a Hazard card. You must then program your four cards in a row, adding Hazards on top of some slots as specified on the Hazard card. For each of the four slots, you first reveal and activate all cards on the slot (that is, the card you programmed and the additional Hazard cards you may have gained); then, you draw a card for each NPD and follow the instruction shown on them. The cards you program (these are usually Thunder cards you picked at the end of the Rolling phase, but if you did not earn enough, you complete up to four with lesser cards) usually show a Movement value and may add a special bonus effect. Hazard cards typically force you to backtrack.
This ends the stage. Depending on the race you have chosen to compete in (this may be done by drawing a card from a set of “race” cards), this either ends the game or you may go for another stage. At the end of the final stage, you score directly depending on your position in the final ranking. The first two cards also give additional points at the end of each stage, contributing to the race scoring and ultimately to your final score.