Auction: Pretty straight forward concept in gaming, there’s some part of the game that you have to bid on to get. It could be something like turn order, which is my choice, or it could be the majority of the game where you are trying […]
Tag: King of Tokyo
Jumping back into another board game list, this time going with another mechanic I like quite well. Area control is a fun mechanic because it really pushes conflict in the game, and the games that do area control well really encourage that conflict to happen. […]
That dreaded moment in the game of Sorry, you are trying to role a two, exactly, so you can end up finally ending the game, and you roll and fail, again, and again, and again.
Or Monopoly when you’re five away from the spot you want to land, and you get a four on the two dice, and now you have to hope no one else lands on it before you get around again, even though you’ll probably not land on it yet again.
In Clue, when you need to get into a new room to find out some information, and the room is six spots away, but it takes you three turns to get into there, so you’re way behind on information as compared to every one else.
Your troops are poised in Risk to take out the single troop, and you have five, but you end up rolling every single time below what the other person rolls and you lose your troops until you’re down to one, and now you’re wide open for the next person’s turn, even though you should have been able to beat the other person on one of those dice rolls.
Those are the classic frustrations that came with dice in board games that people grew up on. Maybe not teens now, but when I was a kid, those were the games we had and man, it sucked. A game that could have been fun, ended up being ruined by a bad roll of the dice. But, there are still dice in games now, how are those games not ruined by the randomness of dice, and are dice always bad in a game?
There are some games that still use what is called the classic roll and move. If that doesn’t make sense, it’s when you’re rolling a die or two to see how far you move. So it might mean, if you’re rolling two six sided dice, and this is especially noticeable in Clue, you roll and you can go two spaces while someone else rolls and they can move twelve. This is generally still considered a really bad thing in a game. Because someone with a bit more luck with the dice might be able to run away with the game.
So what are dice doing in games now that is good?
The first thing that games are doing is making the dice mean something beyond movement, or maybe they can be movement, but they can be other things as well. When dice are used as movement or in a lot of games now, they are rolled in what is known as a dice pool. A great example of this is Dead of Winter where you have a die for each survivor plus one that you roll at the start of the turn. You can then use those dice to perform certain actions. Each character has a search level and killing zombie level that if they can match or beat higher on the dice, means that they can do that action. But what if you roll below? If you roll below that number or even if you don’t need to search or kill a zombie, you have other actions that require a die. So you could use a die to barricade against zombies or clean trash out of your base. But you’re always able to do something useful, but maybe not as useful or not exactly what you had hoped. There are a number of games that do this or something similar, and that keeps you always able to do something.
Dice are still very common in the genre of game known as Roll and Write games. Yahtzee is an example of this where dice are rolled a specific number of times and you’re hoping to get what you need to score the most points. While the point thing is still huge in a lot of these games, a number of done away with the dice mitigation of rolling multiple times that Yahtzee has, we’ll get back to this mechanic in a bit. Instead of looking for something very specific, they pretty often look for where you place a certain number. And depending on where a number is in conjunction to other numbers or things printed on the board it is worth points. These games are generally a bit tricky to explain abstractly without the game being in front of you, but the rules are generally simple. The dice randomness makes the game play differently every time as well.
But let’s hop back to the Yahtzee mechanic, the roll dice, take some dice, roll again, take some more, and roll one final time. This works in two types of situations, one where the game is fairly silly and the other where the game is more serious, but the dice are always useful. Kind of like Dead of Winter, in the last of the two options for the Yahtzee mechanic, it sets you up so that you can do stuff, but you might not be able to do everything you wanted. The Reckoners is a game like this, but along with that, they also tend to give you a large number of dice to roll, so that you can always do something that is very good just by sheer number of dice faces you’ll see. However, silly games are probably more common, and even in those cases you can generally use most of your dice. King of Tokyo is the prime example of this. Monsters fighting in Tokyo, trying to punch each other, get energy to buy more powers, heal up, get points, you are doing a ton of things with dice. Because of this, it keeps the game moving well and generally as compared to a roll and move game the game doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.
Now, there are a number more things that dice are still used for. And a lot of custom dice that come with some of those things. Dice are still used in combat, but now, instead of the Risk mindset of roll and whatever you roll is what you get, you can use cards to boost results, to change results, or to roll again. A game like Star Wars: Rebellion actually adds in some more with that by having different troops roll different dice, which isn’t unique to that game, but it makes there be even more strategy with what troops you are bringing into the battle. This bit of added strategy makes the game feel much less random in combat than Risk does. The larger force of troops should generally win.
Dice are also used to simulate things that are difficult to do. And this is generally tied into your characters ability to do something. Fantasy Flight has a number of great examples of this with their Arkham Horror and Mansions of Madness games. In these games you have different skills like strength, agility, observation, will, and more that you will be tested with at times. Instead of just rolling a die to see if you get it, if you’re a strong character, you’re going to roll more dice on a strength test, but if that character also has a weak will, you are going to roll less dice for a will test. So while you still might not be able to do this impressive strength test because of a poor roll, you’re going to succeed with that more often than you will with a will test. And when you get a tough will test, it feels like you’ve really accomplished something. With this, they also do away with some of the pass or fail die rolling that people expect. A good will test might not stop all the horror from coming through, but you’ll be able to stop some of it. This is pretty common in combat dice as well, where a die roll might give you defense to stop some damage but not all of the damage.
This is getting to be a pretty long post, but you can see some of the ways that dice are being used now that is different than your standards from Sorry, Monopoly, Risk, and Clue. And I hope that while I was negative with dice in those games, you can understand that dice are great in some games when used correctly. It’s when dice are used too simply that they can become an issue. There are a lot more examples of how dice are used well such as in games like Sagrada where they are being drafted or how dice can change throughout the game, such as in Dice Forge.
What games do you think use dice well or how in modern board games do you think dice are used best?
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THIS IS HALLOWEEN! With possibly my favorite holiday coming up, probably Christmas then Halloween, I thought it would be a fun to toss out some of my favorite or good ideas for scary books, board games, movies, anime, or anything else. They are going to […]
Euro Games are probably the biggest and best-known type of board game right now. They are the games that have really brought around a revolution in how we think about board games, and what we expect board games to be like. Euro games balance luck and skill, giving all players a chance to win the game, from a seasoned board game player to a beginner playing the game for the first time. They also often use the mechanic of hidden point totals or end-of-game points to help keep the games up in the air even longer.
A great example of this type is Ticket to Ride. In Ticket to Ride, you are trying to complete different train routes across the United States (or Europe, Scandinavia, or Africa, in other versions of the game). Between different cities, you have to build rows of connecting cars to complete the routes you’ve drawn by playing a different number of cards. These cards are different colors, and each color matches different sections of the rails on the map. So, there is luck involved in Ticket to Ride based on getting the color of train cards you need to complete a route. But there is also skill — you have to know your routes. and know how you can connect them in an attempt to get the longest route. You get points for playing down sections of train cars, and you also get points for completing routes. The first lets players accumulate points that are known to all players during the game, and everyone is chasing each other in that scoring, but the person who has the most points from the routes they’ve completed can change the outcome of the game in an instant, once everything is tallied up at the end.
So Who do Euro Games Target?
Thinking back to the article on board game groups and knowing your group dynamic, Euro style board games are great for a wide variety of groups. They allow the more serious players to really try to come up with a strategy and find a slight advantage (possibly) doing that. At the same time, very casual players or people who are new to board games are going to be able to pick up these games quickly and not feel like they are ever falling too far behind.
How Easy are They to Learn?
This really depends on the game, but a lot of them are quite simple. Ticket to Ride limits the amount of things that you can do on your turn, so you are deciding between just three different actions. Settlers of Catan has a very specific order for taking your turn, and that really doesn’t ever change. Those games are examples of simpler ones, but even the more complex Euro style games really do focus in on a repeatable turn so that new players are able to pick them up quickly. And unlike Party Games from the first episode of this series, they tend to remain playable over and over again, even with the same group of players.
What Would You Recommend?
The first one that I would recommend is the one that I’ve used as an example. Ticket to Ride is a very simple Euro Game that holds up to multiple plays. It is great for beginners, it is great for family, and for a more serious board game, it is great for smaller parties, because you can talk while playing it.
Settlers of Catan is another classic option. With a board that can change each time you play and the randomness of die rolls, Catan holds up multiple plays. Catan, when it starts to get repetitive, has plenty of different expansions which you can play with, and the game will seem fresh again.
Smallworld is probably my personal favorite. I have a TableTopics article up about it, if you want to know a lot more detail. What makes it a good game, though, is that it is a fast-moving game. Also, it is a more competitive game at times, as it encourages and actually forces conflict. That might seem like a negative, but since the game does force conflict (rather than the players doing so themselves), people generally don’t end up with hurt feelings. It is also another game that has many an expansion.
Finally, King of Tokyo is another one that is a lot of fun to play. This one has more strategy involved with it, but there is a wide variety of strategy. You play monsters who are vying for the most points and to be crowned the king of Tokyo. But there are multiple ways to do this — you can simply try to take out all your enemies, you can try to roll the most victory points, or you can try to buy the best cards and collect victory points. This game also goes by very quickly.
So now that you have a list of a bunch of different Euro Style board games, what are some of your favorites?
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