- Designers: Ulrich Blum & Jens Merkl
- Publisher: Stronghold Games, Schmidt Spiele
- Players: 1-4
- Time: 30 minutes
- Times Played: >20 combined between German version received as a gift as well as English version provided by Stronghold Games
Divvy Dice was one of the games that I learned about from some of my friends over in Germany – namely when they sent me a copy in the mail as a present. The original title “Man Muss Auch Gönnen Können” seems to have a bunch of varying translations when run through the different online translators, so I was hoping that the new US version would clarify the situation. The short answer – nope. But, the new title Divvy Dice does seem to be a nice riff on the alliterative German title.
So how do you play? From an earlier review by Brandon Kempf here…
To set up a game of Divvy Dice, you start by placing the board in the middle of the table. This board is where you will find the cards that players can buy. Shuffle up the 29 scoring cards and the 20 bonus action cards and place them next to the board. Then place out four of each in their respective rows.
Next deal each player two cards from each deck. From those four cards, they are going to keep three and discard the remaining card to the bottom of the appropriate deck. The three cards that players kept will be placed in front of them, adjacent to each other in some way to start the game.
All of the cards have spaces on them with numbers or colors, sometimes both. Those spaces all have to be filled in order for that card to be completed, and completing cards is what you want to do as cards have to be completed for their benefits to be used. The benefits are on the lower half of the cards. The B cards, or bonus action cards, will allow the players to manipulate the rules of the game. The B cards can give a player the ability to use an extra die as the off player, or allow a player to adjust the value or color of the die they are using, among other things. Each of these B cards can be used three times before they are exhausted and cannot be used again. This is tracked by marking the three circles on the lower half of the card. The scoring cards are how points are scored at the end of the game. Scoring cards are marked with a laurel, and they will give you points at the end of the game if you have successfully completed them. Some Scoring cards will want certain color cards adjacent, or rows or columns of completed cards, or maybe cards of the same color, just as an example.
How are the players going to accomplish scoring points and acquiring new cards? On a player’s turn they are going to roll all five dice, which are in five different colors. One thing to know before the player starts keeping dice. As the active player — the one rolling the dice — you have to be able to finish a card with the dice you roll in order to use them, no partials. After rolling one time, the active player may choose to keep any dice that they have rolled, and re-roll as many as they want. The catch is, any dice that they re-roll can be used by the other players. They may choose one die to use on their own cards. The active player may roll the dice up to three times. So in theory the inactive players can use up to two dice.
After the allocated rolls, or when the active player chooses to stop rolling, the active player may use their dice. If, through their rolls, they have dice in a combination that allows them to finish a card, they may use them to do so. Or if they have a three of a kind they may buy any of the four cards that costs three dice according to the board. Four of a kind lets the player buy any one of the eight cards on display. When you acquire a new card, you have to place it in your tableau. Your tableau of cards can never be any larger than three cards wide and three cards three cards tall. If the active player can do neither of those things, and they rolled the dice three times, they may take a chance and use two of their rolled dice on any cards they have in their tableau in front of them or they can draw a card from the top of one of the stacks.
Play continues like this, with the active player being moved clockwise around the table. The game will end at the end of the round when someone buys their ninth card for their tableau. Whomever has the most points from those Scoring Cards in their tableau is the winner.
Solo play wise, it’s pretty simple and I think that it captures the feeling of the multiplayer version pretty well, but it’s definitely not my preferred way to play. Most of the game remains the same, but without other players, you have to have “Bot” player of sorts. The player will roll all the dice like normal, but the number of re-rolls determines how many dice they can use on the passive “bot” roll. So if the player used no re-rolls, they could then use three of the dice from the “bot” roll. One re-roll equals two dice and so on. After an active phase and a passive phase, the player must remove one of the cards from the far right of the display. Use these cards as a round counter. A solo game ends based on a number of rounds noted on the solo play card in the box. There are varying levels of difficulty, so the number of rounds varies. The player will add up points just as in the multiplayer game and compare their score with the goal. It’s an interesting way to play and an interesting way to give you a bit of the somewhat cooperative feel of the multiplayer game.
My thoughts on the game
So, I think this is a genius twist on the R+W genre – in that the copy-protection is that the entire game is written upon. Sure, you could still make your own copy, but it’s a lot harder to copy 50+ cards than it is to copy a single sheet. That being said, the game itself is really good. There is an interesting balance between racing to acquire cards – it helps to have cards just to be able to fill in spaces; as well as trying to get the right cards that you need for scoring.
For me, this game gives a nice way of keeping everyone busy. The way that the inactive players use the re-rolled dice values is a great way to keep everyone watching the dice rolls, and it also adds some interesting strategic plays. A few of my opponents (Karen and Ryan) went out of their way to take suboptimal first rolls in order to not give any numbers to their opponents.
Since then, I have had the luxury of playing this a bunch more. It has been one of the games that I’ve pulled out in the lonely Coronavirus nights as it had a decent solo game. I will admit that the bot rules really do make the game feel like it involves more than just yourself, and it has been a pleasant way to spend an evening when I couldn’t get any of my kids to play games with me.
After dozens of games, the cards have held up better than I thought. The pens/coatings on the cards have not becomed smudged with marker residue, and there is not any noticable wear on the cards.
Since last year, the whole genre of “*** and write” was starting to feel a bit stale, but Divvy Dice was one of the games which helped me see that there is still a fair amount of exploration to be had in the genre. I’m extremely happy to see that there is a version now in English as the German-only rules was a big barrier from me being able to openly recommend this to casual gamers. Now, I’m pointing people to Amazon to order it! https://amzn.to/3bLWfJd
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Brandon Kempf: My favorite thing about the game has to be that decision of whether or not to reroll those dice. You just know that you are going to be giving your opponents dice most of the time and that is going to help them, and knowing my dice rolling abilities, it’s going to help them more than it’s going to help me. The ability to take a chance though after three rolls is certainly a reason to push your luck from time to time. You need to be able to fill in one or two spots now and then so that you can finish those cards on your turns in the future. No matter how many times I tried, I couldn’t take eight dice on my turn when I only got to roll five of them. So in the game there are a lot of times where you have to help others work towards their goals, in order to help yourself. The tough part comes when you decide to start cutting them off.
Ultimately, Divvy Dice, manages to take some very familiar roll and write things — rolling dice, marking off boxes — and turns it into a new style of roll and write. One that requires planning and more than a bit of luck and even a bit of teamwork, at least while it is helping yourself, more than others.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it. Brandon K.
- I like it. Dale Y, W Eric M
- Neutral. James Nathan
- Not for me…
It’s just occurred to me that there’s a structural similarity between Divvy Dice and To Court the King. In both games, you’re rolling dice which allow you to use cards. In DD, the dice let you activate your cards, while in tCtK, they let you choose the cards, but the end effect is similar. Moreover, there are two kinds of cards you can choose from in both games. In DD, there are clearly ability cards and VP cards. In tCtK, there are cards which let you modify the dice rolls, as well as cards which give you more dice; the latter are pretty close to being VP cards, given the ultimate goal of the game. I suspect in both games, you need to find the proper balance between these two kinds of cards. What’s most interesting to me is that the two games are based on what is the current state of the art in dice games at the time. For tCtK, it was Yahtzee-style dice rolling; for DD, it’s roll and write. There are obviously differences between the two designs, but I think there are some strong similarities as well, possibly hidden by what the current trend in dice games was at the time of their creation.