- Designers: Michael Kiesling and Reinhard Staupe
- Publisher: NSV
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 8+
- Time: 30 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by NSV
The Border is a new game from NSV (in their somewhat smaller spring 2022 release set) that at once felt familiar. The board has a string of colored hexagons on an erasable board with dice with colored spots on them. And, yes, the components are pretty much the same as in Diceland, an earlier NSV release.
In this game, the board has 9 different areas that are surrounded by these paths. Each of the four boards in the game has the same layout, but the arrangement of the colors is different on each. Each board starts with 2 white spaces that already have a mark in them, and the goal is to encircle the most valuable areas on your board. The game will end with a player encircles their 6th area.
On a turn, the active player picks up the 5 dice and rolls them. You can reroll any dice you like, and you have up to three total rolls on your turn. The active player may then use any dice he wants from the roll – marking off one space of matching color on the board per die – BUT can only make marks if he can mark off EVERY space in a colored area on the board. This area can be anywhere on the board; it does not need to be connected to any previously written marks. Given this restriction, it is quite possible that the active player is not able to make any marks on his sheet.
Then, the non-active players can cross off spaces using any dice that the active player didn’t use; again, crossing off one space of corresponding color per die remaining. In this action, you are restricted to only making marks in spaces which are directly adjacent to previously made marks on your board. You are not obligated to finish marking off an area in this action, though you are certainly allowed to do so if the dice work out in your favor. In the rare case that the active player was able to use all 5 of the dice, the non-active players can simply choose to use any ONE of the five dice and make a mark.
As soon as a player finishes an area, announce it loudly. If you are the first player to encircle an area, score the higher value and circle it on your board; all other players can cross off that value so they don’t mistakenly score it later. If any player circles this area later, they score the lower value. If multiple non-active players finish an area on the same turn, and it was not previously circled, they all get the higher point value.
The active player then rotates around the board and the new active player rolls the dice to start the next round. The game continues until a player has finished circling their 6th area. Finish the current turn, and then all players sum up their points. The player with the most points wins. Ties broken in favor of the player with the single highest scoring area.
My thoughts on the game
In The Border, players race to finish different areas on the board. The timing can be important as the most valuable areas can be worth 12 or 11 points to the player who finishes them first. Of course, there is likely the highest competition for these areas, so the risk is a lot higher – because if you’re not the first to finish, you will have spent a lot of actions to end up with second place points – and you’ve likely not been able to gain first place bonuses elsewhere.
Turns go pretty quick. For me, one of two things usually happens. First, if I want to finish a particular area, I just re-roll things that aren’t the color I want and hope I get enough. Second, if I’m more neutral, I roll the dice, see what I get the most of, and then work on maximizing that color. At the start of the game, I like to actually spread my marks around as this gives me a bit more chance to make non-active marks as I’m adjacent to more colors.
The game seems to have a mild first player bias that is not accounted for. You can only make marks as the non-active player if they are adjacent to previous marks. The first player in turn order will almost certainly be able to mark something on his board, and then will have more options for non-active marks than say the 4th player in turn order, who has to hope that the right colors come up for him as he’s still stuck expanding from the original 2 white spots. Maybe this is an insignificant thing in the long run, or something not to worry about in a 20 minute roll and write – but it’s something my developer’s eye caught on from the first game I played.
From reading the rules, I felt that I would like this one… I should start by saying that I have always liked Diceland, and I also liked the recent extension, Diceland: Europe. This game looks and feels very similar to Diceland, so it feels natural to me to compare them. To start off with – I’ll stay that the games feel different enough to each stand alone, and it could certainly be possible to like one and not the other.
In The Border, the dice rolling is a bit different (in Diceland, you only get to use a single color, and there are 6 dice and not 5). Also, the non-active players choose any one non-used color in Diceland as opposed to being able to use any non-rolled dice in The Border. Despite those changes, it still feels pretty familiar. The Border also comes with the great felt lined box top to use as a dice tray; which is one of my favorite features of these NSV dice games.
The Border offers a quick challenging roll and write game, and as it uses the same dice, I think that long term these boards will be stored together with Diceland to save space. Both are different enough to be kept, and they each have a different feel – it just depends what sort of mood we’re in when we want to roll dice and mark Xs down on a map!
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale, James Nathan, John P
- Not for me…