Review: Dig Down Dwarf by Grey Gnome Games

Dig Down Dwarf by Grey Gnome Games, (2014) is a fast-paced dice game in which each player takes on the role of a dwarf chieftain in line for the throne. In the game, you roll dice to obtain gems from the mine. Gain the most valuable collection of gems, and you’ll be crowned the new dwarf king!

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After a very successful Kickstarter campaign, Dig Down Dwarf is finally getting into backer’s hands and soon (hopefully), into your FLGS.  Designed by Jason Glover, Dig Down Dwarf enters a competitive arena with other fast-playing dice games like Dungeon Roll from TMG and Age of War from FFG.  How does it fare?

Gameplay: Each player takes a card representing one of the potential heirs to the Dwarven throne.  4 random gems are drawn from bag, adding two more gems each turn, as players attempt to roll poker hands (2 of a kind, 3 of a kind, straight, 4 of a kind, etc.) on 4d6, each die has a different color.  Rolling a 1 on a die locks it and it can’t be rerolled, but the others can be rolled up to two more times, Yahtzee-style.  Each turn can garner the player gemstones which represent victory points but can also be spent for more powerful actions like re-rolling the dice or gaining a 5th die to roll to help gain more gems on future turns.  If you roll a 6 on your favored die color (depicted on your card), you can use a special power on your card.

Most of the game is simply rolling the dice and making the best decisions you can with what you’ve got, with some options for special actions at times.  The game is over once the last gem is drawn from the bag and all players have had a turn.  Add up the points for gems, plus bonuses and high score wins.

While everything comes down to dice rolls and whatever gems are randomly drawn and available, there are still a number of choices to make in your turn, particularly how/if you spend gems you own to gain more gems, additional powers or just get a chance to reroll.

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What do I think of Dig Down Dwarf?

The good:  Straight away, I think this game is a lot of fun and is very easy to teach.  It hits the sweet spot for a filler game very well and the rules are clean and play fast.  The game is light, but I always felt like I had choices to make, and they were not always easy ones.  No one is likely to get analysis paralysis from what this games offers, but it is not mindless either.

The entire game fits in a 5”x5”x1.5” box.  Considering the game includes 45 plastic gems in a cool drawstring bag, 5 large dice and 12 linen finish cards (as well as a large plastic gem to indicate current player – Kickstarter exclusive), this game offers the highest quality components for a minimal price.

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The Not So Good:  The game doesn’t offer much player interaction. Yes, there is an opportunity for one player can swap gems with another player, but it doesn’t occur often. Most of the game is players waiting for their turn, doing the best they can on their turn and passing to the next player. That’s not to say it isn’t fun, but there isn’t a lot in the game to engage players during the down-time between turns.

The high quality of the components really contrasted with the art on the cards, which is downright amateur.  I’m not trying to be mean, but I didn’t think the art added anything to the game and, if anything, it detracted.

What is the judgment call on Dig Down Dwarf?

RETRY

Dig Down Dwarf holds its own within the light-game genre, and bests many. It is a solid filler game and I will play it regularly for a while.  I’m really glad I backed this Kickstarter, and hope to see it in stores soon. For more info, see Grey Gnome Games website.

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Review of Hipster Dice. Yes, it is a Thing.

Note: I’m doing a straight review of Hipster Dice, though a review of something so silly begs for arrogant hipster ad-libbing. I know I’m being boring, mainstream and commercial, Mr. Obvious. Duh.

Ok, the review is not completely straight.  Whatever.

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Hipster Dice by Steve Jackson Games retails for $4.99 and consists of a single, custom, faux vintage 19mm die and faux vintage instruction sheet in a blister package.

The game is agnostically rebelling with the title itself – dice is plural, and there is only one. Calling it “Hipster Die” has an entirely different meaning, so I understand the misnomer, but Hipster Die sounds infinitely more fun to me. This is Hipster Dice (with one die and no hipsters dying). So mote it be.

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The package says, “Hipster Dice is a party game, if you are into that sort of thing.”

I like party games and I like Steve Jackson Games. $5 was burning a hole in my pocket so I picked up Hipster Dice. I’m here as a PSA and living warning to save you $5, but I’ll tell you what this thing is all about.

To play Hipster Dice, you will need these things:

  1. Tokens, pen and paper, or some way of keeping score (not included)
  2. A device connected to the internet (not included)
  3. Other people who are willing to participate (not likely)

The 6-sided die has an icon for each of the following categories:

  • Music your friends have not heard
  • Fashion that isn’t too commercial
  • Drinks your friends have not tried
  • Movies your friends have not seen
  • Literature your friends haven’t read
  • Food that is not mainstream and the places you find it.

Each turn, a player rolls the die and says something about the category rolled in the most over-entitled, self-centered way possible.

Example: “Have you seen Terry Gilliam’s latest movie? It’s not in theaters. He only does personal screenings at his winter home in Cannes for his closest friends. The movie is an absolute hoot and stars his kids playing volleyball for four hours. Best. Thing. Ever.”

It doesn’t have to be true, just on topic for the category rolled.

If the others buy it, then you get one hipster cred (point).

If everyone has heard of it, you don’t get any hipster cred.

If any player calls you a Poseur, you are challenged. You have two minutes to search the internet and find proof that what you said is true, getting two hipster cred if you succeed, or if you fail, giving the challenger one of your hipster cred.

The game ends when one person has 5 or more hipster cred.

That’s it.

So, who is Hipster Dice for?

True, arrogant hipsters who will participate as if it were any other banal activity. Whatever.

Or

People who really want to spend 30 minutes or so making fun of arrogant hipsters.

If you are not in one of those categories, you probably won’t care for Hipster Dice.

Yes, I get the joke. It’s smile-worthy at best and numbingly pretentious at worst. I will say that the die is a quality engraved 19mm die, and comes in different color combinations, if colors are your thing. If you want it, get it now, since Hipster Dice has been published, it’s so out of vogue.

ARIF Rating:  Fail.  It may be collectable and cool in 10 or 20 years, but as of now, it is so yesterday.

Game Review–Dungeon Roll

In Dungeon Roll by Tasty Minstrel Games, $19.95 – The players are adventurers, entering the dungeon with goal is to collect the most experience points by defeating monsters, battling the dragon, and amassing treasure. Each player selects a Hero avatar, such as a Mercenary, Half-Goblin, or Enchantress, which provides them with unique powers. Then players take turns being the Adventurer, who boldly enters the dungeon seeking glory.

Each Adventurer assembles their party by rolling seven Party Dice, while another player serves as the Dungeon Lord and rolls a number of Dungeon Dice based on how far the Adventurer has progressed through the dungeon. The Adventurer uses Champion, Fighter, Cleric, Mage, Thief, and Scroll faces on the Party Dice to defeat monsters such as goblins and skeletons, claim treasure chests, and revive downed companions with potions.

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The game components are excellent, and I love the custom dice and that they matched the colors on each die to coordinate with what character is most effective against what monster (Clerics are the same color as skeletons, for example). The cards have nice artwork, the counters are thick and double-sided, and the box looks like a little (3”W x 3”L x 3”T) treasure chest and is used to store and draw from for treasure tokens during the game.

Spencer and I have played this a dozen or so times now, and it’s a simple and fun game. Playing time for two players is about 15 minutes, and only slightly more for 3 or 4 players, so it’s definitely a quick-play game, suitable as a warm-up game for something longer, or to play while waiting for other players to arrive. It also has a solo mode which plays exactly like the multiplayer, and that strength is the biggest failing of Dungeon Roll.

Playing the game is really just the player doing hand-control with his party dice vs. the monster dice he is facing, pressing their luck as far as they can without being defeated and having to flee the dungeon. There is no interaction between the players. Yes, another player rolls the monster dice each round and keeps up with what dungeon level you are on, but there is no point where a player can take an action in their turn that affects another player. You are multiple players taking turns playing a solo game, and it feels that way. The only competition at all is when you add up Experience Points at the end of the game to see who had the most and therefore won.

Still, Dungeon Roll is fast, well-themed, well made and despite the lack of interaction, it is still fun. For the price, it’s worth picking up if you play games like Zombie Dice or Cthulhu Dice, or just want a simple filler game with nice components.

We will continue to play this one, but the lack of player interaction kneecaps it severely.

Dungeon Roll
© 2013 by Tasty Minstrel Games
Designed by Chris Darden
1-4 Players
Ages 8+
15-30 minutes play time
Recommended RSP, $19.95

BANG! The Dice Game – Table Top Game Review

BANG! The Dice Game by dV Giochi takes the basic formula from BANG! The Card Game, and provides a simplified and faster play experience.  Personally, I never played the card game, but almost universally, players and game reviewers have said BANG! TDG is so much better, they won’t play the card game version again.

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To start the game, players will be dealt a card with a character and a role with different victory conditions. Outlaw kills the Sheriff, Sheriff kills the Outlaws and Renegade, Renegade to be the last man standing; and characters have different special abilities.  Except for the Sheriff, these identities are concealed from the other players.

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On each turn, you get five dice, and three rolls, Yahtzee-style.  After each role, you have the option to re-roll any of the dice except dynamite, but whatever you have rolled at the end of the third roll must be kept.  Players take turns rolling dice and shooting at each other until one of the victory conditions is achieved.

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The different faces on the dice are:

Gatling gun – puts one hit on all other players if you have rolled three of them, and you get rid of all your arrows.

One distance attack – allows an attack on a player one seat away from you.

Two distance attack – allows an attack on a player one seat away from you.

Beer – heals a player by one (yourself or another player of your choosing).

Dynamite – cannot be rerolled and if three are rolled in your turn, immediately end your turn, causing one point of damage to the rolling player.

Arrowsimmediately upon rolling an arrow, player must take an arrow from the middle (you take wounds equal to your number of arrow once the arrow pile is exhausted and the Indians attack). 

The game sets up and plays fast. Things are always happening and games rarely last 15 minutes, slightly longer for more players. Unlike so many other games that utilize the Yahtzee mechanic of roll three times, keep the result, BANG! TDG has player interaction.

Consider Yahtzee, Zombie Dice, Roll Through the Ages, Dungeon Roll or any number of other games with this mechanic. They are single player games that can be played with others, but you are essentially taking a turn, waiting while other players play, and take your turn again. You do not attack, defend or collaborate with other players. BANG! TDG allows for attacks on other players, arrows which must be resolved immediately when rolled and quite possibly the rolling player doing themselves in. This was a welcome change, and one of the things that set BANG! TDG apart and gave it a fresh feel.

The rules are simple and after one play-through that takes 15 minutes, players understand the dynamics and options.

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As for the game components, they are excellent. The dice are large and brightly colored, the cards have cool artwork, and the counters are thick die-cut. The cards, counters and box also have a semi-gloss, linen finish, and the box has a molded insert to hold the various components. Instructions are a single sheet, and that is all that is needed. And all of this for under $20.

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Gameplay is involving because of the secret identities of the players and the randomness of the dice rolls. Because you are forced to use the dice, you can sometimes get away with shooting the sheriff and calling it an accident.  Not knowing for sure what the goal of the other player really is keeps the game edgy and has a Werewolf-like feel to it.

I will say that the roll you get matters. The Outlaw has an easier goal than either the Sheriff or the Renegade – to eliminate the Sheriff. The Renegade role is difficult to play because the goal is to be the last man standing, and the Sheriff is stronger than the other players, but everyone knows who has the Sheriff and they are an easy mark. In games of 5-8 players, there are also deputies who are concealed (even from the Sheriff) but have the same goal as the Sheriff – eliminate the outlaws and renegades.

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The other variable is the randomly dealt character cards, some of which have very powerful abilities, such as being able to reroll dynamite or only take 1 point of damage from arrows, no matter how many they may be holding. Certain combinations of these cards can result in some very imbalanced games.

All said, the game is big fun. Sure, this is a game of chance with a little strategy and cunning in how you use your dice and interact with the other players. If you attack the Sheriff at every chance you get, it’s pretty obvious you are the Outlaw. Play it crafty and spread it around, and you might fly under the radar. The fast play and interaction keeps everyone involved.

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I rate BANG! The Dice Game (scale from 1-5)

Ingenuity – 4 The fresh twist on a common game mechanic works very well, making the game feel familiar and fresh at the same time.

Strategy – 3 There is a lot of luck involved in this game, but there are also choices to make, and that helps offset the chance a bit.

Social – 5 The interactivity of play keeps players engaged, with actions being made that affect other players, even when it is not their turn.

Theme – 5 The Old West shoot-out scenario is supported perfectly, here. A shootout is fast and furious, and that is the way the game plays.

Fun – 5 We love this game. It’s become a go-to game for us when longer games are not an option. It’s also a good gateway game to introduce players to the hobby.

Components – 5 Everything in the box was top-notch, including the box.

Overall – 4.5 We’ll be playing this one for a long time.