Review of Dairyman

DairymanDairyman

  • Designer: Chih-Fan Chen
  • Publisher: Homosapiens Lab, Tasty Minstrel Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 14 and up
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Times Played: 6
  • Game provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Introduction

Roll Dice! Milk the Cow! Make Cheese & Ice Cream!

Dairyman is a push-your-luck dice-rolling game in which players compete as dairymen trying to collect fresh milk everyday, fulfilling orders, and making cheese and ice cream. Players take turns rolling, locking, and re-rolling dice to create sets of two or three dice with a total value of 10 to produce milk and then use it to claim milk tiles for points. Failure to produce milk may result in spoilage and the loss of a previously earned milk tile. There are opportunities to flip a tile to turn the milk into cheese for extra points or to freeze it into ice cream. This action provides an extra ability that can be used each turn. Flipping a milk tile also prevents it from being lost. The player with the most points on their milk, cheese, and ice cream tiles at the end of the game is the winner.

The game includes the following components:

  • 8 Dairy Dice (7 white and 1 yellow)
  • 4 Backorder Dice (red)
  • 22 Milk Tiles
  • 3 Barn Tiles
  • 20 Freeze Tokens
  • 5 Backorder Tokens
  • Rules

DairymanPlaying the Game

Set up the game by shuffling the Milk Tiles together face up (i.e., white side up) and creating a stack. Lay out the three Barn Tiles in order on the table along with three Milk Tiles from the top of the stack and Backorder Tokens equal to the number of players plus one. The player who hasn’t had any milk for the longest time takes the eight Dairy Dice and will be the starting player.

On a turn, the active player rolls the seven white and 1 yellow Dairy dice, as well as a red Backorder Die for each Backorder Token that the player has acquired from previous failures. In order to proceed, the player must lock at least one set of two or three dice with a total value of exactly 10 by placing it on the first Barn Tile. The player may choose to roll all of the remaining unlocked dice, but must then place at least one valid set on the second Barn Tile. If the player is able to do so and then chooses to roll the remaining unlocked dice a third time, any additional sets are placed on the third Barn Tile. The player may continue to roll remaining unlocked dice as long a valid set can be locked in on a Barn Tile after each roll. The player may choose to stop rolling after successfully locking a set and then use the total value of the dice locked on Barn Tiles to claim one or more Milk Tiles from the three on display. Unspent dice points are lost.

During a turn:

  • The player earns one Freeze Token for each roll starting with the third one, even if the result is a failure. Before rolling, the player may use one Freeze Token per die to prevent each one from being rerolled once. After the roll, the Freeze Tokens are discarded and the dice can be used for locking in a set, rerolled if the player presses on, or frozen again using another Freeze Token. A Freeze Token may also be discarded to flip a Milk Tile that has a Freeze Token requirement in its upper right corner to turn it into Ice Cream, which protects the tile from being lost and provides the ability shown on the tile that can be used once per turn: reroll all “1” dice, reroll all “2” dice, or reroll one die of any value. Players do not earn Freeze Tokens when rerolling dice using reroll abilities on Ice Cream Tiles.
  • The player may flip a Milk Tile by setting aside the yellow die if it has not already been locked and its value matches the requirement (a yellow 3, 4, or 5) shown in the upper right corner of the tile. Flipping the tile turns it into Cheese which protects it from being lost and increases its value by five points. The spent yellow die cannot be rerolled or used to create sets for the rest of the turn.

If a valid set cannot be created after rolling the dice or if the player is unable to claim at least one Milk Token, then it is a failure to produce milk. The player takes a Backorder Token and the turn ends. If the last available Backorder Token is taken, then the player with the most Backorder Tokens must discard one un-flipped Milk Tile with the highest point value because it has spoiled, and Backorder Tokens from all players are returned to the supply. Shuffle all discarded Milk Tiles and those currently on display together face up (i.e., white side up), add them to the bottom of the stack, and then refill the display with three new tiles.

After a player finishes a turn, refill the Milk Tiles on display to three if any have been taken. The game ends immediately if there are not enough Milk Tiles left in the stack to do so. Players add the point values from their Milk, Cheese, and Ice Cream Tiles and deduct five points for each Backorder Token. The player with the most points is the winner.

Dairyman

My Thoughts on the Game

Craig V: I’m a sucker for “push your luck” and dice games despite not being very good at either. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have fun playing them. Dairyman is no exception. While I can’t seem to actually win, it’s still an easy to learn, easy to teach, and easy to play game. Between the premise of the game – “Moo, moo! Milk a cow, produce some milk!” – and the really cute artwork, it’s hard not so crack a smile or two while playing.

While this game is simple, it’s not just roll some dice three times and then do something with them. It’s also not lacking decisions or strategy options. In addition to the usual decision of whether to stop rolling and collect or push on and possibly lose everything for turn, players can earn and use Freeze Tokens, use the special yellow Dairy Die to flip a Milk Tile, use special abilities on Ice Cream Tiles, or even fail on purpose to get an additional red Backorder Die to use on future turns to improve their chances of success. This can be a powerful strategy to get ahead, but it is also risky since it’s possible to lose an un-flipped Milk Tile. This adds an extra layer of “press your luck” to the game as well as some additional tension. However, some of that tension can be lost if all players decide to play conservatively and there is nothing to lose.

There is large disconnect between the theme and mechanisms of the game. Other than the Milk Tiles having pictures of milk in various formats with cheese and ice cream on the reverse, there doesn’t seem to be any other relationship between the story and what is occurring in the game. Why are players rolling dice to collect milk? Why is getting 10 with two or three dice the magical key to milking? Why is one of the Dairy Dice yellow and what does it represent? Why can unused Dairy Dice be rolled again? Why does rolling at least three times provide a Freeze Token? Why is an extra red Backorder Die granted for failing to produce milk on a turn? Why does ice cream grant special abilities? The answers to all of these questions seem to be “because those are the rules and makes it a game” rather than anything having to do with the theme or story. It’s true that the various mechanisms do form a game that works, but I was hoping for some attempt at bringing the story together within the context of the game. I’m probably over-analyzing this to some degree, but the point is that there’s no feeling whatsoever of milking cows or being a dairyman. Ultimately, Dairyman could have really been about anything or even nothing (i.e., completely abstract) and that is a bit disappointing to me.

The other concern about Dairyman is that the game doesn’t seem to scale very well. All of the Milk Tiles are used regardless of the player count. The various player counts create different gameplay dynamics, but not all are overly favorable: a four player game seems to have the best overall game length, but waiting between turns can seem a little too long; a game with three players reduces the wait time between turns, but the game seems to last a round or two too long; a two player game is just too long overall and later turns get lengthy and somewhat ridiculous as a player utilizes a bunch of special abilities to re-roll dice over and over. Using special abilities on ice cream tiles is part of the game, but over the course of a two player game it’s possible to earn a lot of tiles and then using eight or more abilities on a single turn just seems to take all of the fun and tension out of the game. There really are too many tiles for a two player game. Adjusting the number of Milk Tiles according to player count may help to normalize the length and overall tension of the game.

The components for Dairyman are of good quality and work as intended. The dice are 15mm and the pips are clearly visible. The rounded edges give the Milk Tiles a nice look and the dichotomy of their graphic design – mostly black and white on one side and colored on the other – is attractive and works well to distinguish the state of the tile during gameplay. The game box is sturdy and appropriately sized (approximately 6″ x 4″ x 1.375″) for the components contained within. It’s not quite pocket-sized, but it is quite portable and the dice and tiles could easily be bagged separately and stuffed inside a pocket or another game for travel. Also, the game rules are clear with no discernable translation issues, and the iconography used on the components is easily understandable. The production is nicely done overall.

I have enjoyed playing Dairyman – although I have yet to win a game – and it has a different feel than other games in the genre. I like the game overall, but it mostly lacks any true sense of theme, seems to work best with more than two players, and has more tension when players are actively trying to push their luck. The game works well in a social setting since it is fairly simple and can be played in a relaxed/casual style that allows for conversation and interaction between players outside of gameplay. I only have a couple other dice-rolling “press your luck” games (e.g., King of Tokyo and BANG! The Dice Game) in my collection, so Dairyman is a welcome addition!

Dairyman

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Dale Y (4 plays): As Craig mentioned above, Dairyman seems to work really well with four players.  My one play with two players felt prolonged as the two players needed to collect a LOT of milk tiles to get to the end.  Overall, I like the push your luck genre and I like dice games, and this game is a nice addition to the collection.  

The game seems to be most fun when players are actively pushing their luck.  There’s more excitement watching someone risk a roll on the third barn – hoping to get a “10” out of the two or three remaining dice.  Early on, it’s actually not too bad to fail as the extra red die can be quite useful.  However, the game also works if people are cautious – stopping their rolls early and collecting low valued tiles.  In fact, I’ve actually played in a game where the set of failure tiles was never completely distributed!  This was, in fact, a very dull game.  Since then, I have found that I like the game better when at least I am pushing my luck. If everyone else is cautious, then I might end up with an extra red die or two – and these can be crucial for getting to the “40” milk jugs – these are often the tiles that tip the scoring balance at the end of the game.  Sure, this is balanced out by the risk of losing the tiles later – but it’s a game, and one that is more fun when you push your luck.

I’ll always be up for a game where you Roll the Dice, Milk the Cow and then Make Cheese and Ice Cream!

Lorna: It’s got ice cream and cheese, what more could you want? Fun little push your luck game.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Craig V, Dale Y, Lorna
  • Neutral. John P
  • Not for me…

Dairyman

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About Craig V (shigadeyo)

I'm an outdoor adventurer, kettlebell/strength enthusiast, foodie/beer guy, and a touch of geek all rolled together. Some of my many interests include: beer, homebrewing, fitness (kettlebell and barbell), travel, food and cooking, hiking, backpacking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), letterboxing and board and card games, of course!
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