There’s something about dice in a game that enhance the value in my book. For starters, it makes the game feel more tactile and hands on. There’s no feeling in a game like picking up a handful of dice, chucking them, and seeing your fate randomly determined. In Monopoly, it can be the difference between Community Chest and Boardwalk with a hotel. In Yahtzee, it can be the difference between Four of a Kind and having to zero out your Yahtzee space. Each scenario could ultimately cost you the game! Today, I would like to tell you about two particular offerings from Gamewright that rely solely on dice. So let’s roll the dice and get started!
Rolling America could be considered a micro game (fits in your pocket) and a filler game (15 minute play time). It is for ages 8 and up, retails for $12, and accommodates any number of players–including one. Included in the box are a dice bag, seven dice (Red, Blue, Yellow, Purple, Orange, Green, and Clear) and a pad of maps of the United States with regions in the six colors previously mentioned (not Clear). The map is your game board and where you will be placing your dice rolls. To start out the game, place the seven dice into the bag, and the first player draws two dice out. He/She rolls the dice and then places the number on each die in a corresponding colored box on the map. The clear die is a wild color and can be used for any color. The next player then repeats the action of the first player, choosing two new dice out of the bag to roll. The third player follows suit, and that ends a round. As you can see, only six of the seven dice are rolled per round, and there are eight rounds total.
This all sounds simple enough, but the I haven’t told you about the biggest strategy element of the game. You cannot place a number next to another number unless it is within +1 or -1. So a 3 could be surrounded by a 2, 3, or 4. However, there are three different “power-ups” that can be used three times each to help you. These power-ups including color change, duplicate a number, and guard. The first two are self-explanatory, but guard means you can put an “illegal number” (a 6 next to a 2 for an example) on your map and circle it, so you remember it is guarded. If you can’t place a number legally and are out of power-ups, you must place an X on your map. After all eight rounds are complete, you count the number of Xs you have and the fewest win. The first time I played this with my wife, I got creamed, but I have gotten better. Unfortunately, so has she! 🙂 A lot of people might not like the random nature of dice games, because it does require good rolls or a bit of luck to get the numbers you need. However, the “power ups” and the ability to choose where you place the dice results add enough strategy to counter the randomness of dice rolls and create a nice strategy-luck balance. This game is clever in design, easy to learn, quick to play, requires logical thinking, and also a bit of luck. It’s definitely worth checking out!
Besides being an excellent game mechanic, dice can serve another function. They can tell a story! No company has achieved the ability to tell a story with dice like Gamewright and their Rory’s Story Cubes product line. The original version of Rory’s Story Cubes was a box of nine dice with different images inked in black (Ink color will be important later) on every side. This created 54 unique images that could show up with a shake and roll of the dice. Due to the low price point ($10), box, the quick playtime (15 minutes), and the low age required to play it (8 years old), several expansions were released – Actions and Voyages. Actions and Voyages each come with nine dice, like the original, with their ink color being blue and green respectively. You could then choose to use these sets individually, add three of each version for a total of nine, or roll all 27 together to create 162 possible images that can come up on the dice. Having these three versions of Rory’s Story Cubes felt like it created infinite possibilities, and I was content, but puzzled why they stopped with these three boxes. Apparently, I was not the only one who wondered if we’d ever see another expansion, because this amazing product has seen a recent rebirth.
In addition to licensing Batman to make a Dark Knight version of Rory’s Story Cubes, Gamewright has released three mini-expansions called Rory’s Story Cubes Mix with at least another three on the way. The first three mini-expansions are Clues, Enchanted, and Prehistoria in the colors purple, pink and green respectively. Each of these Mix sets comes with three dice, as opposed to nine, with a price point of $5. As with previous versions, you can mix and match to suit your fancy, and while making a monster set of 36 dice may be tempting, your story might not make a ton of sense. However, that might be okay with you, because you wanted to do a CSI: Fairy Tale Land. The other three coming out later this year are Intergalactic, Medic, and Score (sports related). I’ve seen others on Amazon, but can’t confirm or deny their validity, so I won’t bother mentioning them yet, as I’m not one to spread rumors.
I cannot begin to express how much I LOVE Rory’s Story Cubes! I have been buying and recommending these dice for years. In addition to making a fun game out of the dice, they are also excellent teaching tools that can be used in the traditional or homeschool setting. In fact, that is the reason I bought them in the first place. My wife and I have kicked around the idea of homeschooling before, and I thought these dice would be perfect for an English/Creative Writing class. Just grab a handful of dice, roll them, and make a story out of them. In addition to a formal writing assignment, they can be used as an icebreaker in a classroom or social setting. First date and want to know if your guy/girl is a keeper? Bring the dice and see how they respond.With Rory’s Story Cubes, not only are the story options limitless, but the personal uses you’ll find these dice are equally limitless. With the addition of Batman to the product line, I’m curious to see if they will continue to license other DC superheroes, like Superman, or other things in general. Only time will tell!
Some of these products were provided to me by Gamewright, and some came from my personal collection.
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Copyright 2016 Stuart Dunn
All images copyright 2016 Stuart Dunn. All rights reserved.