Dale Yu: Review of twenty one


twenty one

  • Designer: Steffen Benndorf
  • Publisher: NSV
  • Players: 2-6
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 15-20 minutes
  • Times played: 6, with purchased copy

Steffen Benndorf is becoming one of my favorite designers – mostly because the majority of his games are in my favorite genre, the Roll-and-Write game.  twenty one is the newest release from Herr Benndorf, and it has already reserved its place in my Roll-and-Write box with Qwixx and Qwinto after the first week.

Each player gets a scoresheet – there are six different varieties included in the pad, placed in sequential order so that each player in each game has a different sheet from his opponents.  On this sheet, there are five rows of dice, each with six dice per row.  The numbers on each sheet are in identical location, but the colors vary between the sheets.  Each row has each of the six colors on it, but in a different order.

During the game, the rows on the scoring sheet must be completed from top to bottom.  The game is over when all player has finished his fifth and bottom-most row.

On a turn, the active player rolls all six dice – there are six regular d6 in six different colors.  Any dice that roll a “1” are automatically locked as a “1”.  The active player then has the option to re-roll any non-“1” dice, and all results of the second roll must be accepted.

Then, all players look at the dice on the table, and each must mark at least one die on their current row on their scoresheet.  You can write down the number of the die rolled so long as the rolled number is equal or less than the number printed in the matching colored space on your row.  You can mark down as many spaces in your row as you want so long as you follow the “rolled is less than or equal to” rule.  There is a special rule is the rolled number is an exact match to the number on the scoresheet.  You still get to write in the number in the die, but then you also get make a tickmark in the small box off to the right of the space on the scoresheet.  This will come in handy for bonus scoring at the end of the row. In the unlucky situation where you are unable to legally write down a number, you must then cross out the leftmost open space in your current row.    Note that you cannot write down numbers in two different rows in a turn.

Once all players have written down their numbers (or crossed out a space), check to see if a row is finished.  If so, it is immediately scored.  You first sum up the numbers in all the spaces in that row.  Then you add a bonus score, calculated from the number of exact matches in that row.  The scoring here is triangular: 1/3/6/10/15/21 points for 1/2/3/4/5/6 exact matches.  The sum of the written numbers and your bonus is logged in the score column to the right of the row.  On your next turn, you may now start filling in spaces in your next row.

The active player moves one space clockwise around the board and the dice are rolled again.  The game continues until any player has finished the fifth and final row on their sheet.  All players tally up the points on the row they are currently working on, and then the sum of all their rows is calculated.  The player with the highest total point score is the winner! There is no tiebreaker.

My thoughts on the game

twenty one is another great entry in the roll-and-write set of games from Benndorf.  Here, the question is how much do you want to try to speed ahead to score points.  Moving down the sheet as fast as possible will possibly give you more scoring opportunities by the end of the game.  But, in doing so, you give up possible points by not maximizing the numbers written in your spaces as well as likely missing out on the exact number bonuses as well.

The bonus scoring should not be ignored.  The top row is the highest scoring row by numbers, and the numbers total 21.  It is not uncommon to get 10 pts for 4 matches in a row which is a significant bonus on top of the regular scoring.  I often end up with a row with maybe three or four numbers filled in but with all exact numbers – and this does pretty well in the scoring.  Of course, as I mentioned above, I lose some possible chances to fill in numbers later if I can’t get through all of my rows by the end of the game.

So, for me, I end up balancing the two competing desires of speed and accuracy.   A lot of my strategy is simply determined by the first roll I have in a row… If I can get an exact match or two, I might try to play that row slow and max out my score.  On the other hand, if I can fill in a bunch of numbers (3 or 4 usually), then I’ll probably sacrifice the scoring and just try to move onto the next row.

The other interesting decision point in each row is when you get to the end.  As you can only fill in spaces in a single row on a turn, there are times when it makes sense to take a suboptimal number to simply finish a row and start with a clean slate on the next go.  Of course, if you’re trying to get exact matches, it might be worth spending a whole turn to work on a single color… but, if you’re doing that, it might be a good idea to be the person rolling that turn or at least glance at the board of the player who is going to roll to see if his desires match up with yours.

Is this better or worse than Qwixx or Quinto?  You know, it’s hard to say.  They’re all a little different, and I like all of them.  Lucky for me, they’re all small and so they can all stay in the collection and be pulled out at different times.  For now, this one is shiny and new, so it’ll get played the most in the next few months – but this one will certainly be added to the permanent Roll-and-Write compartment of my travel gaming kit.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Dan Blum (2 plays): I like it, but there are possibly a few too many games of this type already. I think Benndorf and NSV should maybe take a few years off from these and do some other kinds of games; that would make the next one seem fresher.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!  Dale Y
  • I like it. Eric M, Dan Blum
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…


About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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1 Response to Dale Yu: Review of twenty one

  1. huzonfirst says:

    In addition to Benndorf, this was co-designed with Reinhold Staupe, a veteran designer who’s been creating quality games for over 20 years.

    My one play of Twenty One was only decent. The decisions didn’t seem that interesting and the luck factor felt higher than in something like Qwinto. However, the way Dale’s talking about it, there may be more here than I first thought, so I need to play it again.

    Right now, I rate Qwinto much higher. Qwixx is comparable, although the earlier game probably gets the nod, as it’s more accessible than Twenty One. That may change once I play this some more.

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