Tabletop gaming and video games have always been closely related. One of the first things that tabletop gamers did when video games become a thing was turn their tabletop RPG campaigns into video games. These days, most modern board games and RPGs have been turned into digital games, for better or for worse. We’ve even got some games that are about the hobby, even if they’re not directly connected, such as Knights of Pen & Paper. Now, CrossOver: Roll for Initiative is hoping to sweep the market by bringing a strange new concept into the fray: polyhedral dice matching mixed with RPG tower defense. Well, at least you can say it’s ambitious.
What is CrossOver: Roll for Initiative?
CrossOver: Roll for Initiative is a strategy/RPG/puzzle/tower defense hybrid game from GatorOoze Ink that literally blends video game and tabletop elements. It was published by MicroProse, which is probably one of the most fitting things I’ve ever heard, considering that companies history in the industry goes back over 30 years at this point. For the most part, the game consists of various campaigns inspired by different tabletop settings, all played by matching groups of different polyhedral dice together.
As you match dice, they enter your dice pool, and you can spend on various weapons, spells, mercenaries, and items. Your goal is to defend your character sheet from the video game characters that keep showing up to attack it. If they do enough damage to bring your character’s health to zero, then it’s game over. Along the way your stats and equipment improve, helping you in taking on the progressively harder waves of enemies that the game sends after you.
Familiarity, but in a New Way
The framing device for CrossOver: roller for Initiative is actually pretty cute. You’re sitting at home near your not-Apple II one night when a lightning bolt strikes nearby. After a weird feeling, you notice that the enemies from your computer games are crossing over into the real world. Apparently, they’re not a big fan of tabletop games, and they immediately start attacking your character sheet, prompting you to destroy them using your various abilities and items.
The core of the gameplay is pretty familiar. You match 3 or more of the same die type on the right of the screen, then spend the dice that you’ve earned on casting spells and attacking with weapons. You also have items and mercenaries which you have to pay for using gold. As the enemies swarm all over your character sheet, they’ll attack various parts, such as your stats or your attacks. If they destroy any of your stuff, you can’t use it until the next game, meaning as you go on, you’re only going to get weaker.
CrossOver: Roll for Initiative – Strategically Aligned
This really is a new take on tower defense gameplay too. The enemies have walk speeds and different attack ranges, meaning you have to prioritize who you’re going to attack very carefully to have the best chance of success. There’s also no way to build blocking parts, at least right now, so they have free reign over your entire character sheet. Still, it’s a lot of frantic fun having to divide your attention up between matching dice, then using them to clear a group of enemies whittling your health down, before returning to the dice once again.
There’s also a fair amount of strategy and planning to take into account. You choose your character at the start of each campaign, and that has a huge impact on how it all plays out. There’s also the need to choose your leveled-up stats and pick which loot you win each round. All of these factors mean that it’s not just about matching dice, it’s also about what you spend them on, and how well you use what you have.
A Good Foundation, but Not Much Else…Yet
Right now, unfortunately, there’s not much else to say about CrossOver: Roll for Initiative. In its current form, it features only a handful of available campaigns, and while the gameplay is interesting, visually there’s not much going on. Every level, no matter what you’re actually doing, takes place on the same backdrop of your desk. Sure, the campaign is about journeying around the mystical land of Eldar or whatever, but it’s meaningless because all you’re seeing is the same desk and dice.
There are also a few gameplay kinks that need to be ironed out a bit. The enemies can crawl pretty much anywhere on your character sheet, but you can’t use abilities in certain areas because you accidentally select a new ability instead. It’s also sort of easy to exploit the game if you get lucky. I unlocked a 3-man mercenary team early on that basically became my win condition against 99% of the enemies I faced. That said, there’s a solid basis here, with more campaigns and a visual shake-up to keep things interesting, this could be a legit gem of a game when it finally releases.
CrossOver: Roll for Initiative – In Summary
While it’s a bit early to say with any certainty, CrossOver: Roll for Initiative has built a strong foundation on which to craft a pretty unique experience. The gameplay blend is interesting, the narrative framing device is creative, and with a nearly half-century-long tabletop RPG history to draw from, there is so much potential for additional content. That said, if this game is really going to take off, it’s going to need something to keep the levels visually interesting, and a bit of spit-and-polish in various different places. Either way, this game is one for tabletop fans to keep their eye on.