This week’s reviews look at the conjugation of dice games from Essen 2014. There are a good number of dice games this year – and I’m slowly but surely making my way through that stack. I will start the reviews this year with the games most similarly named. Each uses a bunch of dice in different ways to achieve fun.
- Designer: Alf Seegert, Steven Poelzing
- Publisher: Gryphon Games
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 7+
- Time: 40 minutes
- Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Gryphon Games
The final game in this conjugated review series is Cubist – a relatively unheralded game that I discovered just before the fair this year. Cubist thematically has gamers trying to make art installations to contribute to a local modern art museum.
Each player starts with his own workshop, with two areas for working on art projects. These projects are constructed out of the twenty dice in that player’s color. In the center of the table is the Museum of Modern Art. Players will contribute their dice to the construction of this museum – the size and shape of which is determined by a randomly drawn card. There is space on the central board for the museum to be built. At the start of the game, the single red die is rolled and placed in that area. This is the first portion of the museum to be built. The rest of the pieces will come from the players. There are three art installation cards available in the center of the table which can be claimed in the course of the game, and there are also four Artist cards – each of these will grant their holder a special ability.
On your turn, you take two of your dice and roll them. Without changing the faces rolled, you then can assign any unused dice to either of your workrooms, to an Artist card or to your storage area (which can hold up to two dice that can then be used on your next turn).
Dice that are placed in your workroom are arranged spatially following a few simple rules. First, all dice in a particular workroom must touch each other. Dice that are NEXT to each other must be exactly one more or one less than their neighbor(s). If you want to stack dice on TOP of each other, they must have the same value. Your goal here is to try to construct an arrangement of dice that matches one of the Installation cards in the center of the table.
If you are able to match an installation card with the dice in one of your workrooms, you can take that installation card from the table. There is a VP value on each of these cards – you will score this number of points at the end of the game. At the bottom of the Installation card, you see one or two brackets – you place a die in each set of brackets with the number shown on the card next to the brackets. You can, at any point, transfer these dice to the construction of the museum. Building in the museum follows the same placement rules as your workroom!
You could also choose to place dice on an Artist card. These cards want multiples of the same number (seen in the upper right corner) – usually 2 or 3 dice with the same value. If you place dice on a card, you may not use that Artist card until the next turn. You can also replace another player’s dice on an Artist card as long as your set has the same value or higher on them.
On a later turn, you can choose to use an Artist card that you control – some of the possible Artist actions are:
- Take a die from your supply and place it as a 1 or 6
- Remove a die from one of your workrooms
- Modify a die by +2 or -2
- Take a die from your supply and make it any number you choose
- Move one die from one of your workrooms to your other
If you choose to use an Artist card, you discard the dice on it to your supply and take the action. You then discard that Artist card and draw a replacement card from the Artist deck.
Again, you can always save two dice in your storage area that can be used on a later turn. Any other dice must be discarded to your supply. You can also choose to abandon an installation at any point (i.e. if it looks like you won’t be able to match one of the current Installation cards) – if you do this, you either place these dice on Artist cards or you place them in your supply.
That is pretty much what you do on your turn. Once you are done, the next person clockwise takes their turn. The game continues until either: A) the museum in the center of the table has been completed or B) a player has finished 5 installations (and has collected 5 cards).
At that point, you tally up the score. You score the point value of all the Installation cards that you have collected PLUS 2 points for each die that you have contributed to the construction of the art museum. The player with the most points wins!
My Thoughts on the Game
Cubist is an interesting take on the dice game genre – while you still need to roll the d6 at the start of your turn, it’s an interesting change to use the dice as building blocks for the rest of the game. Since you can usually only add two dice per turn to your area, there is a bit of advance planning that you need to do to succeed at the game. You also need to keep an eye out of what your opponents are doing because you might be fighting to finish the same Installation card!
Once you commit your dice to a workroom, it’s hard to get them out other than finishing an Installation or being forced to abandon the whole thing (and thus throw away the work of your previous few turns). Of course, even if you have a great plan, you still have to roll the right numbers in order to be able to place your dice into your workrooms. The key (IMHO) is to leave yourself with some flexible cores in each workroom that you can then quickly add dice to based on the cards available.
The Artist card actions can be very powerful, but the game gives you time to fight against them. Since you have to wait a full turn before using an Artist action, you are at risk of being bumped off your Artist before you can take that action. But, trust me, when you need a 1, you’ll probably not roll it, and you’ll be thankful to have an Artist action that allows you to simply generate a “1” when you need it!
The game moves fairly quickly as each turn normally only has two new dice being rolled. There is a bit of time spent trying to figure out how to best use your dice, but your options are fairly limited by the rules. As a result, each individual turn is short, and the turns come back to you quickly. Even when you’re not actively rolling and placing the dice, you will likely feel involved in the game as you are watching to see what your opponents are trying to build as this will help you figure out what you will try to do on your turn.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y, Dan Blum, John P.
- Not for me…