Designer: Adam Porter
Time: 45 minutes
Times Played: 2 times with review copy
Whether it’s Age of Steam maps or the variety of trick-taking games, I love exploring one system of games and the different places designers can poke at it to make something special happen. It’s something I’ve talked about before, but it’s like the Oulipo group or how many recordings there are of Philip Glass’ piano etudes.
What are the buttons you can push on a trick-taking game? The ranks, the suits. Following suit and what happens if you can’t. Points based on number of tricks vs points for what is in the trick. Bidding. Partners.
But what if the value of the cards was variable? 曖昧フェイバリットシングス (Eye My Favorite Things) explores this a little, though there, you know each suit is ranked 0-6, but you don’t know the rank when you play it. I also have rules for a Japanese prototype “24” where you use dry-erase cards which do not have values printed on them, but each player is given a certain amount of points (guess how many) to distribute among the ranks and writes the value on the cards. Mischievous Yokai does this in a manner through the use of dominos as cards you can play in either orientation. Bottle Imp does this in a skewed sense as well. But each of these examples only provides variability between games or between hands or adds some ambiguities to what you’re playing. None of them produce a situation where the value is undetermined at the time you play it.
Here, that’s what Adam does.
Your “hand”, and the, uh, things you’ll play to the trick are dice. As with a growing number of trick-takers, you will be able to see the suits the other player’s have left, as it is the dice on the table in front of them. (There are cards in the game, but they’re going to do something else.)
Want to play a low value blue card? No problem – just roll one blue die. Want to try winning the trick with a middle-strength blue card? No problem – roll two. Think you’ve got the biggest one left? Roll three dice. (That’s the most you can roll.)
Following suit? No problem. And if you can’t, choose 1-3 dice of any color and roll them. If you roll a 6, you’ve trumped the current trick (that’s a 6-face, not a sum of 6). Points will be awarded based upon the amount of dice the other players have rolled, and this will also affect your decisions on how many dice to roll.
Players will run out of dice at different times, and that’s fine. The players with dice remaining continue to play tricks until at most one player has dice remaining (and if they do, they’ll lose one point for each die in hand.) Play one round per player, and the highest cumulative score wins.
Those cards we’ve skipped over will do some interesting things. Each hand, four cards will be dealt face up for the table. (There is a basic and an advanced version of the game, with the difference being in how the cards are handled. This explanation will be a general overview, so refer to the rules for details.) Some of the cards will be special rules that apply to the trick if any dice of a specific color are in the trick (e.g. if a blue die is present, the trick is worth 2 extra points.) Others will grant special abilities to a certain color dice (e.g. in this round, green can trump in with a 5 or a 6.) Many of the cards give you the ability to discard dice still in your hand to activate certain abilities (e.g. discard a red die to force an opponent to reroll a die or discard a white die to flip over one of your rolled die).
Honestly, I’m torn on this game. I don’t think I love it, but the choices I find compelling and interesting! Choosing how many dice to lead or follow with. When is it worth it to discard dice to activate abilities. There is a lot of system to game here, but I don’t know (yet) that I have sufficient control to translate my choices into a victory. It’s an odd feeling to be so engaged with the choices a game presents, and yet not confident of the effect it will have on the outcome.
(If you’re saying to yourself, what about SK:dW? Well, this is the paragraph where I mention Skull King: Das Würfelspiel, as it is a trick-taking game that uses dice in lieu of cards. While I think it is a trick-taking game and it is packed with fun, it doesn’t feel like you have many choices on your turn. The indeterminate card value is shared between both, but SK:dW sorta feels like a party dice game that coincidentally is trick-taking.)
Thrown gives me a peculiar sense of simultaneously feeling like both a dice game (whatever that means) and a trick-taking game (whatever that may be).
But I look forward to exploring it further for now to see what happens, as I enjoy playing it regardless.
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Dale: I have been hot and cold on this game over my 4 plays. I love the idea/concept. Using dice as your “cards” is not a super common thing, and the novelty of that attracts me to the game. The downside is that unlike most trick taking games, you have no idea what your “cards” are actually going to do when you play them. I also like the fact that you can spend some of your resources to take special actions, sometimes increasing your own chances of survival, and sometimes reducing the chances of one of your opponents. The Euro-gamer in me really doesn’t like the targeted measures though (especially when they happen to me repeatedly). Yet, we keep playing it – so that says something. I do wish that the game came with a bag. Holding the box over your head is an in-elegant way of doing things. I would also recommend that you play with the advanced rules that allow you to use all the cards and not be restricted to one type of action in each turn. I’m not sad that one of my local game groups still has a copy of this to be played, as I am happy to continue playing it – but, I’m also fairly certain that this one would just miss the cut as being included in the permanent game collection here.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it!
I like it. James Nathan, Dale Y
Not for me…