Dale Yu: Review of High Score

High Score

  • Designer: Reiner Knizia
  • Publisher: KOSMOS
  • Players: 2-5
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by Thames&Kosmos

Says the publisher: “Roll some dice, make the right moves, get lucky, and earn the most points by the end of the game! High Score is a competitive dice game that marries the luck of the dice with strategic gameplay and ever-changing rules. 

Each round players are presented with a new challenge card that dictates different dice-rolling rules for that round. Players take turns rolling dice, deciding if they want to re-roll dice, and trying to get the most points possible as determined by the current challenge card: Do only the odd dice count? What value is the vortex die in this round? Which dice count towards your final score? The player with the most points by the end of seven rounds wins! 

High Score takes the basic concepts of Yahtzee or Farkle and adds a layer of strategy that makes the game way more replayable. It’s great for game nights or to teach kids basic math concepts like quadratic equations in a simple and fun way.”

To set up the game, shuffle the deck of challenge cards and make a deck of 7 facedown cards.  Each player takes a player color, putting the score marker chit in front of them as a reminder of their player color and the wooden cube in the center of the score track board. Choose an initial start player at random.

In each of the seven rounds of the game, a challenge card is flipped up and read aloud to make sure that all players understand the conditions of the card.  Then, the start player takes the seven dice and rolls them.  The dice are six-sided, but they are a little unusual; their sides have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and a swirly vortex symbol on the last side.  The scoring card for the round will have criteria for: 1) which dice can be rerolled, 2) the value of the vortex symbol, and 3) how points can be earned.  

When the turn is complete; tally up the points earned.  If the score is positive, place your marker on the score track on the space that matches your score for the round.  If the space is already occupied, move your marker back to the first available free space.  If you score more than 30, flip your score marker over to the +30 side.   

All players have a chance to take a turn with this score card, and when all players have rolled, the medals for the round are awarded.  The gold medal (worth 3 pts) goes to the highest score, the silver medal (worth 2 pts) to the next highest, and the bronze (1 pt) goes to third place.  The next round starts with the player who won the gold medal in the previous round.

After seven rounds, the game is over, and each player tallies the points from the medals won during the game.  Ties broken in favor of the player with the most gold medals.

My thoughts on the game

This really feels like a classic Knizia game – familiar concepts, simple rules, yet lots of space to make decisions in the middle of the game.  Here, you try to roll the dice better than your opponents – with a bit of push your luck/risk mitigation thrown in.  When you go first, you may have to decide if you want to stop rolling early if you think you already have a decent tally.  If you are going last in a round, you have the most information about the relative value of your turn, and this may give you more impetus to push your luck and risk it all trying for a gold medal…

The 21 challenge cards are nicely varied, with plenty of variety in all three components (vortex value, re-rolling rules, scoring conditions).  The icons are really pretty simple to follow, but if you have questions, all of the icons are nicely explained on the last three pages of the rules – we just leave the rulebook open as we play, and at the start of every round, we go over the card to make sure that everyone understands the task at hand.

Though the game comes in a small box already (the size of an EXIT game); if you wanted to further shrink it down, you honestly can play the whole game with just the 21 goal cards, and you could find dice and track everything else on pen and paper. 

The game is definitely math oriented, but as far as I can tell, there isn’t actually a card that involves the quadratic equation as intimated by the publisher’s text!   The scoring rules are generally easy to follow, and we’ve found that physically moving the dice around the scoring card to show how they fit into the criteria helps a lot (i.e. positive scoring dice to the left, everything else to the right).

As you might expect, a large majority of your success will simply be due to how lucky you are with the dice; but players usually feel like they have some decision making in each round as they try to make the results best fit the scoring plan.  The box says 30 minutes, but we’ve found that our 3 player games are closer to 12-15 now that we know the rules.  It’s a lightning fast filler, and one that gives you a lot of game for that short playing time.    I will say that we find the game much more compelling at the full complement of players than at 3p though.  There isn’t as much trash talk nor impetus to push your luck with fewer competitors.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Dan B. (3 plays): I like it – I’d happily play it if asked – but not enough to keep it. It’s fine but pretty similar to a number of other games.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! 
  • I like it. Dale Y, Dan B., John P
  • Neutral. Jim
  • 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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