Wednesday, August 9, 2017

GJJG Game Reviews - Dice of Crowns- by Thing 12 Games

Dice of Crowns
Designer: Brander Roullett
Publisher: Thing 12 Games
2-6p | 10-20m | 8+
GJJG Game Reviews - Dice of Crowns- by Thing 12 Games
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Game Overview:
As a Cubmaster for my sons' Cub Scout Pack, I do a lot of outdoor activities.  We do monthly hikes, camping trips, picnics, and a ton of other stuff.  Sometimes things get too busy to play as many board games as I'd like, so I'm always on the lookout for games that I can bring with to these events.  On camping trips I'll sometimes bring some bigger games, but usually I'm looking for small, quick games that are easy to teach to both adults and kids.  If they have components that can stand up to the elements that's even better.  We're often playing at picnic tables where it's dirty, breezy, and sometimes even rainy.  I definitely don't want to carry around a big box with me on a hike, either, so the smaller the better.  When I found out about Dice of Crowns I thought I had hit the jackpot!  It's small enough to fit in a mint tin, only has dice and plastic tokens, can be taught in just a few minutes, and can be played in about 20 minutes.  So, does Dice of Crowns hold up to my expectations?  Read on to learn more!

Components & Packaging:
Dice of Crowns is a small game, almost a tiny game.  The entire game fits in a tin the size of an Altoids mint tin.  This is great for taking pretty much anywhere.  Slip it in a pocket (even a shirt pocket), backpack, purse, or anywhere you might carry mints.  It's smaller than most cell phones!  The tin is nice and sturdy and has nice artwork and an embossed cover.  This doesn't feel like a cheap gimmicky game that you'd find at a dollar store or thrift shop, this is a nice, solid tin with decent heft to it.
Great components, great tin, great game!
Inside the tin you'll find the components for Dice of Crowns.  This includes seven custom dice, 24 crown tokens, ten fate tokens, and one crown.  All of the components are molded plastic with printing on them.  The dice are white with four different symbols molded on the six sides, each a different color.  The crown tokens are gold with green printing on them, and the fate tokens are silver with black printing.
Super durable components will stand up to anything.
The rules are the only paper in the game*, so this is great to bring with anywhere!  Since it's small enough to fit in my pocket I bring it on campouts and hikes with Cub Scouts.  I brought it to our Cub-O-Ree this year, which was very, very rainy.  Some of the events were canceled, so I pulled out Dice of Crowns and taught it to nine Cub Scouts!  Even though the game is supposed to top out at 6 players, we played with 10 and had a blast!  I wasn't worried about any of the pieces getting damaged in the rain or mud, so that was great.  Dice of Crowns is one of only a very few games that I don't have to worry about ruining anything if it gets wet, and it's the only one I have that can support a whole group of kids.

* UPDATE: I got this message from the publisher after this review initially posted:
"Something you may not have realized, is that the rules are printed on Revlar. Revlar is non-tearable and non-water soluble. We even did a video, posted on our facebook page, of us trying to destroy the no avail. So the rules are just as tough and sturdy as the game components are."
That's awesome!!!
Even on a Cub Scout camping trip, the components hold up!
Score: 9/10 x1

Rules & Setup:
Setup for Dice of Crowns is a snap.  All you have to do is open the tin and pull out the dice.  The tokens and crown can even stay right in the tin!  Even if you do take them out, it's a matter of 30 seconds to sort them into their own piles.  Games don't get much easier to set up than this.

The rules are pretty simple as well, especially the basic rules.  There are a number of advanced rules that can be added to the game, mix-n-match, that add quite a bit to the complexity, and some of these are a little more convoluted and difficult to understand, but the basic game can be taught in about two minutes.

On your turn you roll all the dice that are passed to you.  This could be as many as all seven, but sometimes some dice will be locked in place by other players, so you won't get to roll them.  There are four possible symbols on the dice: Crowns, Skulls, Daggers, and Scrolls.  Crowns, Skulls, and Daggers are pretty standard for press-your-luck games.  Crowns and Daggers you keep, Skulls can be rerolled (or five can be turned in for a Claim Token).  If you get three Crowns you'll earn a Claim Token.  If you get three Daggers your turn is over.
Three daggers will end your turn.
Scrolls are the interesting symbol that makes Dice of Crowns so unique.  When you roll a Scroll you pass that to any other player (multiple Scrolls can go to different players or to the same player).  The other player(s) then roll the Scrolls you passed.  Any Skulls or Scrolls are passed back to you, but Crowns are kept by the other player, and the other player can give any Daggers to anyone else.  These Crowns and Daggers remain with the players receiving them until their turns. This is why on some turns you'll roll less than seven dice - some may be locked up as Crowns or Daggers for other players.  If you start your turn with three Crowns or three Daggers you still have to roll the dice passed to you since they can potentially change the outcome.
Pass those scrolls and hope your brother doesn't stab you in the back!
The first player to gain three Claim Tokens earns the Crown and is the winner.  A basic game takes about ten minutes, give or take a bit depending on the number of players.

After you've played with the basic rules you can throw in some of the advanced rules.  Or heck, start with some of the advanced rules right away.  Even with all of the advanced rules, games take about 30 minutes (although our ten player game took a bit over an hour with myself and nine kids aged six to eleven).  There are four main additions possible in the advanced rules, but you can play with some or all of them.  In an advanced game you play until someone has five Claim Tokens instead of three. Overkill rules allow you to pass any Daggers you roll beyond the initial three to other players.  This means it's risky to pass someone Daggers so that they start their turn with three.  Mistress of Fate rules bring the silver Fate Tokens into the game.  Three or more Skulls can earn you a Fate Token.  Fate Tokens can be spent later to reroll dice: 1 to reroll one of your dice, 2 to make an opponent reroll one of their dice.  This enhances the press-your-luck element of the game; do you stop with three Skulls and gain a Fate Token or do you push on and try for three Crowns before you get too many Daggers?  Last Stand requires that you hold on to the Crown for an entire round, so that you start your turn with the Crown.  Instead of taking a fifth Claim Token, instead you would take the Crown.  But if someone else would gain a fifth Claim Token they'll steal the Crown from you.  So you must hold on to it for a full round.  This is much harder in a game with more players, but it works well in 2-4 player games.  Finally there are Legendary Rolls.  This rule gives special bonuses if you roll all seven of the same symbol.  I usually don't play with this rule set because they're so difficult to accomplish.  Or maybe I always play with these rules.  It doesn't matter because I've never rolled seven of one symbol.  Even Skulls I haven't managed to roll all seven of since five will get you a Claim Token.  But Seven Skulls will let you steal a Claim Token from another player!

So, there you have it.  The entire game explained, including the advanced rules in just a few minutes.  The rule sheet included with the game is mostly pretty clear, but there are a few spots where things are confusing and require a reread.  There is a pretty good FAQ on Board Game Geek that covers pretty much all of the edge cases and potential rules confusion areas.

Score: 7/10 x2

Dice of Crowns is a press-your-luck game, so it won't appeal to everyone.  But it's a press-your-luck game that really does a great job of keeping everyone engaged throughout the entire game, even in between turns.  There is a bit of strategy and social gameplay involved, too, which is unusual for a press-your-luck dice game.  The basic game is very simple, but the advanced rules really add a lot to think about.  Even the basic game is interesting with the Scrolls though.
Press-your-luck makes the game easy and fast.  The scrolls make the game exciting and engaging!
I really like how the game is simple enough to teach in just a couple of minutes, and casual enough that you can play without thinking too deeply, yet there are fun decisions and everyone remains engaged in the game the whole time.  This is a great conversation game that can be played at a restaurant while waiting for food, at the pool while the kids swim, at the beginning of game night while waiting for everyone to show up, or any other time that a quick, casual game is needed.  It's the kind of game that someone can jump into or out of in the middle of the game and it won't mess things up.  I wouldn't make an entire game night revolve around Dice of Crowns, but it's one that is a hit every time I pull it out.

As I mentioned above, I even played Dice of Crowns with a group of nine Cub Scouts (ten including me).  The mechanics held up well even at the higher player count.  I did tweak a few things, and we only played to the claim tokens, although we did use the fate tokens.  We didn't require a player to roll dice if they weren't passed at least three, which sped up the game a bit.  If I play with that many again, I think I'd say you can only pass scrolls to the next three players, and they can only pass daggers to any player between you and three players after them.  That should keep the dice grouped a little more, but regardless, the game held up and was fun even with a group of ten.
Eight of the nine Scouts that played.  Everyone had a blast, even at such a high player count!
The only area where Dice of Crowns falls a bit flat is with two players.  Mechanically it works fine, but some of the strategy and excitement is gone when you don't have a choice about who you pass scrolls and daggers to.  However, I really do enjoy the game and the fact that it can go anywhere with me.  So I came up with a solo variant that I can play any time!  In my solo variant you play against the evil Uncle Varrick, who will use the scrolls you roll to try and gain the crown before you.  So now Dice of Crowns can play from one to ten players!  It's best at four or five, but three or six is quite fun as well.  I'm quite enjoying my solo variant, and the game works well enough at two or seven and up.  Be sure to check out my solo variant on BGG for something to keep you busy on your own, and don't discount Dice of Crowns if you sometimes have larger groups.

Score: 8/10 x3

The element of luck in Dice of Crowns means that every game plays out differently.  It also means that you can't get too invested in the game.  The choices in the game are very mildly strategic, but everything does come down to the luck of the roll.  However, games are fast and fun, so while they won't form the core of your game nights, Dice of Crowns is a great filler.  It's a game you can pull out fairly often.
Three crown dice will earn you a claim token.  Get enough claim tokens and you'll win the crown!

Score: 7/10 x1

General Fun:
If you like casual, press-your-luck games, Dice of Crowns is a great option.  It has familiar mechanics (roll the dice to score before your turn ends) with a twist that keeps all players engaged the whole time (the scrolls).  The fast games have just the right blend of luck and perceived strategy with enough player interaction that you'll have a great time playing just about anywhere.

Score: 8/10 x2

Overall Value:
The MSRP of Dice of Crowns is $15, which is reasonable, but it's not readily available at that price.  You can find it on the Thing 12 Games website for $15, but Amazon has it for $16.50 and Miniature Market has one copy left for a whopping $32!  At $15 this is a pretty good value if this style of game is your cup of tea.  You can find used copies cheaper on the Geek Store, and I don't think you'll be disappointed if you pay a reasonable price.  Hopefully Dice of Crowns will see more print runs and you'll be able to more easily get your hands on a copy for $15.  Don't pass it up if you do see it anywhere though!
It's small, but packs a great game into a tiny package for $15.
Score: 6/10 x1

Final Thoughts:
Dice of Crowns definitely met, and even exceeded my expectations.  Press-your-luck games can really be hit or miss, but I'm thrilled with how well Dice of Crowns plays and keeps everyone engaged the whole time.  The game is super easy to teach, plays pretty quickly, has a bit of strategy (or at least gives the illusion of strategy), and has about as durable components as you could ask for.  It's the perfect take anywhere game.
Dice of Crowns holds up well, even with Cub Scouts on a rainy camping trip!
The only area where the gameplay falls a bit short is with just two players, but it's still fun, and the fact that it is so flexible at higher player counts totally makes up for that.  Dice of Crowns doesn't always make it to the table, but it's size and flexibility mean that it goes with me to every single game night.  And I take it with me to most events that I go to, like hikes, birthday parties, etc.  It's small enough to slip into any pocket, quick enough that you can teach and play it in just a few minutes with just about anyone, and durable enough that I don't have to worry about it getting ruined.  So where I go, Dice of Crowns goes with!  Very soon Thing 12 Games will be running a Kickstarter for their next game in the Dice of... series, Dice of Pirates, and I'm super excited to see how that continues this line of awesome, fun, durable games.  Definitely keep your eye on Thing 12 Games and what they're making!  Oh, and I did play with adults, too, who all really enjoyed the game - I just didn't grab any pictures of those games.  =(

Overall Score: 76/100

Want another opinion?  Dice of Crowns was also reviewed by Sarah on the Everything Board Games Network!  Check out her review here!

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  A score of 1-10 (low-high) is given to each game in six categories: Components & Packaging, Rules & Setup, Gameplay, Replayability, Overall Value, and General Fun.  Rules & Setup and General Fun are weighted double and Gameplay is weighted triple.  Educational games have an extra category and Gameplay is only weighted double. Then the game is given a total score of x/100.

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