Martian Dice is a pocket-sized filler game with a press-your-luck element to it. For those unfamiliar with those terms, allow me to explain. Pocket-sized means it’s a tiny game, which is composed of only 13 dice and nothing more. Filler game denotes the time to play the game, and this one takes approximately 10 minutes per player. So if you have two players, you’re looking at 20 minutes, but the more you have the longer the game is unless you buy multiple games. (If you have a large family, you might want to as you can have as many or as few people as you want with this game.) The press-your-luck element means you roll your dice and you can keep rolling them to get a desired result, but by doing so, you might get an undesired result and your turn would end, and/or you would not score any points.
The 13 martian dice in this game are custom-made with unique images on each side. On two sides of the die is the image of a Death Ray. The other images on just one side are a Human, a Cow, a Chicken, and a Tank. On your turn, you pick up the 13 dice and roll them. Immediately set aside all Tanks. These dice cannot be re-rolled. You then must then choose, which single image you want to keep – Human, Cow, Chicken, or Death Ray. If you set aside Humans, Cows, or Chickens, you cannot set them aside again on later rolls. However, if you set aside Death Rays, you can set those aside on later rolls. After you have set aside the tanks and one of the other four symbols, you take your remaining dice, roll, and repeat until you can no longer set aside dice, or you choose to stop rolling and not press your luck anymore. Then, you score your set aside dice and it is the next players turn until someone reaches 25 points.
So how do you score? For starters, you must have at least as many Death Rays as Tanks or else, you will score 0 points. After you have performed that check, you then add up the rest of your dice. Each Human, Cow, or Chicken counts for 1 point, but if you set aside at least one of each, then you score 3 bonus points. Some people play a variant where you get 3 bonus points for each set of Human, Cow, and Chicken, but that can be overpowered, if someone has really good dice luck. To further illustrate the scoring I am going to do a quick sample turn.
First roll (13 dice) = 4 Tanks, 3 Death Rays, 2 Humans, 2 Cows, and 2 Chickens. The 4 Tanks are automatically set aside and I choose to set aside the 3 Death Rays.
Second roll (6 dice) = 1 Tank, 2 Death Rays, 0 Humans, 1 Cow, and 2 Chickens. The 1 Tank is automatically set aside and I choose to set aside the 2 Death Rays.
Third roll (3 dice) = 0 Tanks, 1 Death Rays, 2 Humans, 0 Cows, and 0 Chickens. I choose to set aside the 2 Humans and then opt to roll no more, as I don’t want to press my luck.
The score is 2 points, because my 5 Death Rays were at least as many as my 5 Tanks, and I had 2 Humans.
Overall, this game will scratch an itch if you have a hankering to chuck some dice and gamble with how lucky you think you will be. The theme is clever and the actions makes sense. The designer, Scott Almes, is excellent and one of my favorite designers of little games (particularly the Tiny Epic line). The packing makes sense (dice come in a cardboard cup, which doubles as storage and a dice cup). The price point is low ($15 MSRP, but $11 on Amazon). Children can play this at a very early age. 8+ is recommended, but younger kids can play. And it’s just fun! (Unless your Tanks outnumber your Death Rays…) So if you are looking for a clever game to take on the go or just gather your whole family around the table, pick up a copy (or 2) of Martian Dice and see who the best alien in your family is.
Copyright 2016 Stuart Dunn
Photo copyright 2016 Stuart Dunn. All rights reserved.