I enjoy a good little roll and write game when I have some time to kill and just want to toss a fistful of dice. It’s satisfying on a basic level to mark off boxes on a score sheet and tally points. While the genre has gotten increasingly crowded and more complex (sometimes for good, sometimes for ill), there’s still a place for a good, simple, portable dice chucker. The question is: Is Bloom a flower you should stop and smell as you wind your way through the crowded garden of roll and writes?
How It Plays
In Bloom, you are a florist trying to choose the perfect flowers for your picky customers. The dice are your customers. You will be choosing among them and circling the matching flowers on your score sheet. Each correct bouquet you “deliver” earns you points, while unhappy customers (the result of being unable to circle the exact flowers they want) will cost you points. The person with the most points will win the game.
At the beginning of the game, each player is given a score sheet. The sheets are lettered A – E and each player should have a different letter. The differences are subtle, but each sheet offers a slightly different flower layout so that players aren’t all faced with the exact same choices.
Bloom is played over a series of rounds until someone wins. To begin a round, the start player rolls the six dice to create a shared pool of “customers.” Beginning with the dice roller, players take turns selecting one die from the pool and then circling the corresponding flowers on their score sheet. (In a two player game, each player will get to select twice.)
For example, let’s say there’s a die showing a purple four on the table. If I take that die, I’ll get to circle four adjacent purple flowers on my score sheet. Flowers cannot be circled if they are diagonally adjacent, only orthogonally. There are white flowers on the score sheets and these are wild. They can be any color you choose. I could circle a group of three purple flowers and one white and meet the requirement for the purple four die. There is a white die in the pool and it is wild, as well. If you choose it, you may decide the color of the flowers you will circle.
As long as you satisfy the color/number requirements of the die you select, your customers are happy. Unhappy customers happen when you fail to meet those requirements. Each time you’re forced to circle flowers of a different color, or to circle a smaller number of flowers than shown on the die, you lose one point and mark it on your score sheet.
Points are earned in two ways. First, you earn points when you have circled all the flowers of a color on your sheet. If you’re the first to get all of one color, you’ll earn six points. The second person to circle all of that color gets four points and the third player gets two points. Anyone who finishes after that gains no points.
Second, you earn points by completing flower beds. The flowers on your sheet are divided by lines into beds. When all of the flowers in a bed are circled, you earn three points for the first bed you complete, four for the second, five for the third, and six points for the fourth completed bed. No one is locked out of these points as they are for the color points. Any time a player completes a bed they earn the points, regardless of how many other players have already accomplished the feat.
There’s one safety net in the game and that’s the re-roll power. Each player can re-roll all the dice available to them once per game. If, for example, it’s your turn to choose a die and there are three remaining on the table, you can take those three and re-roll them. If you use this power, mark it off on your sheet. You cannot use it again. Using it will cost you one point at game’s end, so use it wisely.
The round ends when all players have taken dice and circled flowers. The dice are passed to the next player who rolls them, beginning a new round. This continues until the game ends which happens either when a player has circled all the flowers in three different colors, or when someone completes four garden beds.
Finish the round so everyone has an equal number of turns and then tally points. Add up the points for all circled numbers in the color and flower bed sections on your sheet, and add an extra point if you did not use your re-roll power. Subtract one point for each mark in the unhappy customer section. The player with the most points wins. If there’s a tie, the player with the fewest unhappy customers wins.
Is Bloom a Beautiful Flower, or an Ugly Weed?
In the crowded world of roll and writes (plus flip and writes and whatever other variants there might be), Bloom caught my eye via its bright colors. Just like a bed of flowers, Bloom is vibrant, pretty, and spring-like (a plus given that I’m writing this on a bitterly cold, rainy November day.) But beauty isn’t enough to carry a game, it needs to actually offer something fun and interesting. Bloom does manage to be fun and interesting, but only up to a point and only for certain audiences. Let’s pick the petals off the stem, shall we?
Bloom is just about as simple of a roll and write as you will find. Your choices boil down to which die to choose on your turn, when/how to utilize the wild flowers or wild die (if you can snag it on your turn), and whether to use or preserve your re-roll power. That’s about it. So, we’re not talking a complex game. I’d argue that Bloom is even simpler than Qwixx, and it’s definitely simpler than Rolling America. Both of those games are also part of Gamewright’s roll and write line.
Let’s start with the good parts of Bloom. It plays quickly, is easy to learn, vibrant, and portable. It’s a good first foray into roll and writes for non-gamers, kids, and families. If you’re not familiar with the genre, this is a solid, inexpensive way to try it out. It also has a solo mode which provides a way to kill some time and chuck some dice.
Beyond those basics, I enjoyed having different score sheets for each player. Not only does this increase replayability by giving you a few different arrangements to work with, it keeps everyone at the table from needing the exact same dice. If all the sheets were the same, then everyone would need that purple two, or the pink three (as examples) when they came up. The differences make the competition for dice a little fairer. You’re still likely to groan when someone takes the one you want, but the odds are decent that there will be something else on the table you can use.
There’s a little light strategy here, but nothing heavy. Your main decision point is which die to take. Do you grab one that will get you closer to completing a color, or a flower bed? Do you want it even if it will mean an unhappy customer, yet speed you toward another goal? Is the point tradeoff worth it? Can you snag the wild die and fill in a stubborn hole on your sheet? If there’s nothing good to take, which option will cause the least damage in terms of an unhappy customer and limiting your options on future turns? Bloom is (like most roll and writes) all about making the best of what is available on the current turn while hopefully leaving you good options for future turns.
Of course, it gets harder to use dice in the latter stages of the game. When there are fewer spots left, you’re more likely to have to make customers unhappy. This is why careful use of your wild flowers in the early game is important. You want to balance completing flower beds and colors with having some options left at the end of the game. Yes, there’s a speed element to completing the colors and you want to be first or second there, but unhappy customers can cost you some of those points you earned. Sometimes you just have to use the wilds, but sometimes saving them for later can pay off.
There’s also a speed element to the end of the game because the first player to finish three colors or four beds will end the game. So you don’t want to be lollygagging around waiting for the perfect time to fill part of your sheet while everyone else is running up their numbers. So there’s a bit of thinking to do in Bloom, but it’s far from brain burning.
Which brings me to the not-so-good. And bear in mind, none of this means that Bloom is a bad or broken game. It does simplicity and Zen-like play very well. It’s just that Bloom doesn’t do a whole lot to distinguish itself in the crowded garden of roll and writes. If you’ve played a lot of them, you’ve seen everything Bloom has to offer in some form already.
First, there’s virtually no player interaction in Bloom. There’s no way to directly mess with another player’s score sheet. You can hate draft a die that you think another player wants, but this is only worthwhile if it won’t hurt you, too. Since you have to take a die on your turn and you must fill in the flowers on your sheet, a die you don’t need can leave you with unhappy customers and lost points. The only way hate drafting works is if you need the die, as well, and then it’s not really hate drafting, is it? This lack of interaction is fine if you like to play solitaire, but if you’re craving interaction you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Second, Bloom is incredibly simple. Which is absolutely fine if that’s what you’re looking for. Simple suits some audiences perfectly. It’s just that there are so many other games out there offering more interactive and complex experiences that it’s hard to recommend Bloom to gamers. If you’re already well-versed in the genre, you won’t find much to engage you in Bloom.
Still, if you’re looking for a “first roll and write” Bloom is a solid choice. It doesn’t overwhelm with options, stuff, or deep strategy. People new to games, kids, and gamers who host non-gamer family visits will likely find a use for Bloom in their collections. If you’ve never tried a roll and write, Bloom would serve you well as an introduction. I’d probably recommend Qwixx over this, just because it’s a tiny bit more complex and likely to stretch further among gamers while still appealing to non-gamers. But there’s no denying that the vibrancy of Bloom makes it the more visually appealing game and an easier sell to some.