Top 10 Push Your Luck Games
This is a mechanic that I don’t always love in games. Push Your Luck, if it’s the whole game can get a bit tiresome because it just feels like, are you luckier than I am. But push your luck in games has some interesting things to it if it’s blended with other mechanics and other choices that need to be made, not just pushing your luck.
But let’s get to the list.
10 – Skull
This one is purely push your luck, but done in a very clever way, almost trick taking style, probably qualifies for that as well on Board Game Geek. In Skull everyone is playing down tiles, face down, that can either have a rose or a skull on them. You want to flip only roses, so at some point in time someone will say that they are comfortable flipping a number of the tiles over. The trick is that they have to start with their tiles, so are you bluffing that you don’t have a skull in your stack hoping to get other people to bid or are you confident that you don’t have one in your stack of tiles, but now you might need to flip from other people’s stacks and where might they have placed the skull. So players go around increasing the bid higher or dropping out of bidding until there’s someone who won the bid, and they have to flip that many tiles, starting with all of their own that they’ve played down. It’s well done mainly because it’s fast, I’ve had it draw out only once at the end when everyone was so close to winning, but created a good challenge in the game.
9 – Risk Legacy
Any game of Risk is going to be push your luck because you are rolling dice and trying to beat your enemy down. Now, just by pure number of pieces in your army you might able to win just because of the law of averages, but the attrition might be really high. Also, because it’s dice with no die mitigation you might be able to take a tiny army in and bust up someone’s plan to hold a continent. There are a lot of risks that you can take in Risk, and while those are a bit mitigated in Risk Legacy because you are looking for victory points and in the game there are more ways than just conquest to get those victory points, conquest and the dice combat is a big part of it. The fact it’s not just only push your luck helps out the game a lot.
8 – Codenames: Pictures
Both the clue giver and the people guessing can push their luck some. You can give a clue that might only match one thing and make it really obvious as the clue giver, but then you might end up being beaten out by someone who is a bit riskier. As guessers you can always guess beyond what you’ve been given clues for, this is strategic at times when you know you made a mistake on the previous one, so you can guess further, but you could also just guess blindly if you are too far behind and you need to catch-up. There’s big risk to it, so it’s a push your luck only if you really think that you need to catch up.
7 – Tsuro
Odd choice for push your luck, but I think that there is a piece of that in the game in two areas. The first is a little bit odd because leaving your pawns fate in another players hands is a bit push your luck. You don’t know if they’re going to send you off the board, but you want to play the odds that to keep themselves alive, they’ll have to keep you alive, so it’s a non-traditional push your luck, but still kind of one. The other is when you are trying to avoid other pawns so you go into your corner, you might not be able to get out with the tiles that you have, but if you get the right tile you’re going to be able to escape your corner.
6 – Ticket to Ride
Now, Ticket to Ride is more of a set collection game with a light push your luck element to it. In Ticket to Ride you are trying to connect train routes by completing segments of track based off of color. There are two ways you can push your luck, one is if there aren’t colors that are flipped up that you need or at least ideal colors, you can draw that from the top. So you could maybe find a route further around but it would take longer based off of the colors, or draw from the top and hope you get lucky. The other way is after you’ve completed routes, you can draw more but have to keep one, so late in a game if you’re worried you’re behind, but you have a solid network of trains but not that many cars, you can push your luck drawing more route tickets hoping you can get one you can complete.
5 – King of Tokyo
A dice game that’s all about getting those exact symbols you need. If you’re in Tokyo, do you push your luck to hold it after everyone has been punching you for the few points and the ability to punch them all back? Is it going to be worth the risk to your monster’s health? Probably the purest push your luck game on the list, this one gives you some cards, but those are mainly new abilities or more points to put you closer to winning. It isn’t going to help you manipulate the dice, so you’re always going to be rolling and hoping that you can get attacks, healing, energy, or points when you need them. It’s a lighter game, but certainly one that is a lot of fun.
4 – Dead of Winter
I think of Dead of Winter as more of a survival game, but it really has a strong push your luck element. Every time that you go somewhere, you’re rolling a die hoping no to get bitten and turned into a zombie or get frostbite and potentially end up dying. But you need to move otherwise the main base will be overrun by zombies. So you go out exploring, and you push your luck there as well by making noise. So you can dig further through the deck in hopes of finding what you need but making more noise while looking longer means that you might have more zombies come, so you risk it and make a location not that usable for searching in the future to just find that one thing that you need?
3 – Dice Throne Season 1/2
Dice rolling games, as you can probably tell at this point, are good for pushing your luck, especially games where you can roll the dice, keep a few, roll some more and hope that you end up with what you need. Dice Throne, in my opinion, does that the best, in this game where heroes face off in a tournament. Or done in a one on one battle in a one off. You each have your own abilities and cards to manipulate the dice, but you’re still pushing your luck. Getting five dice to roll to six is the best outcome possible, but it could mean that you don’t end up with anything if you fail, so do you push for that ultimate ability to play it safer?
2 – Clank! In! Space!
One of the more pure push your luck games, Clank! In! Space! still gives you some good choices to make because you decide which routes you take, you are still building a deck, but it’s mainly a game where you are pushing your luck to get as far into the spaceship of Lord Eradikus that you dare and then grabbing a treasure and running for it, but the further you get in, the better the treasures are going to be. But he’s always out there and might take you out before you can escape. Plus, the bag building mechanic of who Eradikus hits is also push your luck, because you could get good cards that give you clank, which is how he finds you, or you might want to take it a bit slower and safer, but that could end up causing it to take longer and leaving you in the same place or without as good a treasure.
1 – Tainted Grail: Fall of Avalon
This one I wasn’t thinking about, but it showed up on Board Game Geek as push your luck, and there is some of that in combat where you know you might get hit, but if you hold out for a turn and draw the right card, you’ll be able to take out the enemy, and there are some explorations as well that you push your luck. This is more of a grandiose adventure survival game than it is a push your luck game, but there are aspects of it that make sense for the mechanic, and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite games. It’s definitely a hard game, but overall, really rewarding when you start to figure things out.
So barely keeping it in my top 100 with the games here, and probably Skull would be pushed just outside now as I’ve gotten more games to the table. But all really enjoyable games, and something so push your luck as Skull works for me because it’s fast. Push Your Luck is almost like a take that mechanic to me because you can just end up losing because of a bad guess for pushing your luck, and it feels too random. I like some randomness in my games, but something that you can lose just because of a small thing is too much.
What are some of your favorite push your luck games? Are there any games that you think use push your luck well as a mechanic in the larger game?
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