Board Game Gumbo: Spice It Up! with Dice of Pirates
Every Wednesday, like clock work, the Krewe de Gumbo gathers for another game night. Every week is different in terms of the games that we play, but almost every week begins the same.
What are we gonna play?
A lot of times, it is just two or three of us waiting for the larger group to get there. We’re not ready to break out a big game, because we want to see *all* of the games that are available! What we need is a game that is easily teachable, can be brought weekly without worrying about taking valuable space, can add players easily, yet still packs in the fun.
Does your group struggle with picking a game to start the night? Do you have stragglers that come in at various times instead of en masse at the start of the game night?
Dice of Pirates is a successor to Dice of Crowns that Thing 12 Games launched on Kickstarter last year, and is designed by Sean Epperson and Brander "Badger" Roullett. It is a small box game -- really just the size of an Altoids tin -- that involves classic dice rolling, push your luck, and take-that mechanics all wrapped up in a pirate theme. Thing 12 Games was kind enough to send us a prototype copy to play.
It is on Kickstarter right now, and has already funded. The MSRP is $15, but Thing 12 Games has it priced at $10 plus shipping on Kickstarter.
The kit we were sent was not a final version. It contained seven 3D printed dice (a little too light for our taste) with hand-colored symbols on them (ship, Kraken, sword, and coin) plus gold tokens, dark tokens, and a small 3D printed ship. The tin had a rudimentary graphic design cover, but the designer promises that all of this will be cleaned up in the final artwork which you can see at the Kickstarter page.
This is a very light, party style game for two to six players. Players take turns trying to earn gold (first to seven gold coins is the winner) by rolling dice. If you can roll at least three coins on your dice roll, you can earn a gold token. Other symbols allow you to re-roll the die, or help your opponents by forcing you to hand dice to them to roll. Crossed pirate swords allow you to potentially attack (plunder or raid) other pirates to steal their treasure. And the dreaded Kraken -- well, it unsurprisingly moves you closer to ending your turn (or losing a sea battle.)
Thing 12 Games has taken its successful concept in Dice of Crowns, namely pushing your luck to keep rolling, but with the chance that you will give dice away to other people to either help or hurt them, and amped it up a night. Our group played Dice of Crowns for a couple of hours last year, and although we had some light hearted fun, frankly it got old pretty quickly. The designers included some variations, but when we bootstrapped them on, the game play become a hot mess.
It looks like Thing 12 Games is moving in the right direction. This time, in Dice of Pirates, the game play was smooth, and the addition of the molded plastic ship mechanic -- it gives you a bonus when attacking or defending during plunder, or you can play that to win, someone has to possess the ship -- adds some welcome gamer-y elements to what is essentially a very light game.
I like the current trend, exhibited best by Oink Games, Five24 Labs, and now Thing 12 Games, of taking very small packages (remote control boxes or altoid-type sized tins) and trying to stuff as much game as you can in them. These companies are making games that you can carry in your jeans pocket and can be broken out just about anywhere, but attempt to give you a big game experience in a small package and 20 minutes of game play.
In some ways, Dice of Pirates seems like a 1.5 or even 2.0 version of the Dice Of… series and it is a welcome upgrade. Plus it makes me even more curious about what Sean and the rest of his team can come up with next year, because I do not think we have seen the last iteration of the Dice Of…. series.
Dice of Pirates is a simple game to teach, one that any group can break out while players are arriving at game night, or play at the end of the night when players just want a light game to play after a bruising night of Lorenzo Il Magnifico. It is certainly not for those that hate take that games, as you do have to target players to win. It is also not for those that want a lot of deep strategy or even tactics in the game play. And it is not for someone who has to have a giant American-style themed experience. But it is for that group that likes to talk trash during games, and likes to cheer, groan or curse the fortunes and misfortunes that befall each member during a particular important dice roll.
So that’s Dice of Pirates. It is a great little filler, and has just enough luck and strategy to fulfill most game group needs.
Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!