- Designer: Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
- Publisher: Schmidt
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 8+
- Time: 20 to 30 minutes
- Times played: 5, with review copy provided by Schmidt
Mistkäfer is a new game from Schmidt Spiele in their small box format. In this game, players are trying to be the best dung beetle by collecting the most balls of poop (or collecting enough lucky 4-leaf clovers). Throughout the course of the game, players will collect scoring chips – on these chips, they will discover either a single dung ball, double dung balls or a four-leaf clover. The winner is the first dung beetle to collect 12 dung balls OR four 4-leaf clovers.
Each player is given a player board – there are three rows on this card, each with six spaces. The rows are colored with Green on top, yellow in the middle and blue on the bottom. There is a white line which separates the second and third columns on the board.
The game also includes 27 dice, nine in each of the three colors. They are left in the center of the table until they are claimed. If there are fewer than 4 players, certain dice and scoring chips are removed from the supply. The chips are shuffled face down as a supply.
On a turn, a player can do one of two basic options – he can either roll dice or he can score his board. If he chooses to roll dice, he selects one of the three colors. He then takes up to 4 dice of that color from the supply and rolls them (the only time he wouldn’t choose 4 dice is if there weren’t 4 available to be chosen). Then, he chooses any one rolled value – for instance, all the “2”s – and placed them on his board. These dice must be placed in the matching row on the board from left to right AND they must be of a higher value than all placed dice in the row. The player also has the option to steal a die, if a player has the same combination of color/number as the rightmost die in his corresponding row, the rolling player may choose to steal that matching die and place it along with his other rolled dice. You may only steal one die per roll though you can choose from which opponent you take the matching die from if there are multiple available.
There are special action icons shown in the fourth and sixth columns of the board. If you ever place a die on top of the icons, you immediately get the effect of that icon. In the top green row, there are “take an extra turn” icons. In the middle yellow row, you collect one or two scoring chips from the supply. Finally in the bottom blue row, you can steal a single scoring chip from an opponent of your choice or one chip from ALL opponents.
If you are unable to place any dice from your roll, you must take a penalty. First, you discard all previously placed dice in the row matching the color of your roll. Then, you must also then discard any dice which are placed to the right of the white line on your board in the other two colors.
If you choose not to roll, then you score your board to collect chips. If you look at the leftmost two columns of your board, you’ll see a chip icon underneath. For each fully complete column (of green/yellow/blue dice) of those two, you collect a face down chip from the supply. Additionally, for EACH die to the right of the white line, you collect one chip per die. You can, of course, look at your chips at any time, but they stay secret from your opponents. Once you have collected all of your chips, you then discard ALL dice from your board back to the supply and the next player takes their turn.
The 4 player game ends immediately when a player has either 12 dung balls or 4 four leaf clovers. He immediately reveals his chips to show the winning condition and the game is over.
My thoughts on the game
Mistkäfer is an amusing dice game with a little bit of push-your-luck and a little bit of cut-throatness when you steal dice from your opponents. There is a fairly high risk/reward ratio here in the dice rolling as the payoffs for having many dice on your board are great BUT the penalty for failing a roll is also severe! It can take awhile to build up enough dice on your board to score chips, so this is not an easy decision to make…
As you would expect with a game that has both dice as well as facedown scoring chips, there’s also a great deal of luck involved in the game. For this short 15 to 20 minute affair, it feels right. I have seen a game be won early on when a player drew four clovers in his first six chips. I have also seen games won by a huge scoring turn of 7 chips (a player had two of the three rows all the way out to the end ).
The decisions themselves aren’t too hard, but there is enough here to make it seem more than just dice rolling and random chit grabbing. As I alluded to earlier, the decision of when to push your luck and roll versus scoring your board is not as easy as it seems sometimes. Also, when rolling, sometimes you need to decide between a lower number with more dice versus a higher number which might let you steal from an opponent. Placing the higher number may limit your own advancement in the row, but it might be worth it to slow your opponent down at the same time.
Games are full of groans and laughter, and my group has lovingly added the term “Shitballs!” to the vernacular – it is generally used when someone steals from you or when you fail on a roll, but it has also just become something to blurt out when just about anything happens.
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Craig V: I’m a sucker for push-your-luck games (even though I’m pretty terrible at playing them), but really dislike most “take that” mechanisms in games since that kind of interaction isn’t fun for me. However, I really enjoyed playing Mistkäfer. It seems to have the right blend of tactics, luck, and combativeness, and is presented in a quick, easy, and lighthearted way. The cute theme and artwork really set an appropriate tone for the game, but I can see how it’s possible for people to have an unfavorable experience if players take the game too seriously. Our game group approaches games like this in a relaxed and playful way, so the experience is sociable and fun. That’s the perfect atmosphere for a light game like this at the end of the night. Oh, shitballs!
Joe Huber (1 play): I’m not a fan of take-that mechanisms; here, they take what’s otherwise an unobjectionable game and make it one I lost interest in before the end of my one and only play.
Dan Blum (1 play): I agree with Joe, except that I’d probably be OK playing with two or three – with four players the take-that element was just too much. There are still so many better dice games out there now I can’t really see a need to play this, though.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y, Craig V
- Neutral. Dan Blum
- Not for me… Joe H.