As of late, I am have been ruminating about dice games. There’s actually a reason for that and it’s because I recently picked up Martian Dice, which is the latest in a long line of simple dice games. I got it because it was cheap and wouldn’t take up much space on the shelf and I do like playing dice games. Besides, the dice looked neat.
Amusingly enough, the theme of the game actually fits the mechanics. You are evil Martians who are out to abduct as many Earthlings as you can. Apparently you can’t get a hold of the dominant species of the planet Earth, dolphins, so you’re just going to have to settle for abducting humans, chickens and cows. Unfortunately, those nasty humans refuse to just own up to Martians being at the top of the food chain and are fighting back with tanks. Fortunately, Martian death rays beat those wimpy human tanks every time.
That said, the mechanics could work for just about any theme you can think of. The game with thirteen dice that you roll and you lock a specific face each time you roll. The catch is that tanks are automatically set aside and are out to get you. On top of that, you can only lock each of the scoring faces once per turn. However, every death ray you set aside counter a tank. Still, if you have more tanks than death rays at the end of your turn, the humans have thwarted your perfectly reasonable plan to abduct them and probe them and you score no points.
If you do get to score points, you get one for every earthling you have carried off screaming into the stars, plus a bonus three points if you have captured at least one of each of the pathetic beings. Twenty-five points means endgame, although everyone gets one last chance to beat that score.
My fiancée and I pulled Martian Dice out and gave it a spin. Afterwards, our feelings were decidedly mixed.
Martian Dice does actually offer some real decisions. The dice you set aside and the number of dice that leaves you with to roll again isn’t always an automatic decision. HOWEVER, there was never a time when we felt like we wanted to stop rolling and scoring. There wasn’t any point in which we said “Yeah, I pushed my luck enough. Time to quite while I’m ahead.” If you hadn’t locked all three scoring faces, there was no reason not to keep rolling. The tension just wasn’t there. When the whole game is rolling them bones, you got to have some tension and risk to keep you interested. The tanks are annoying and could leave you busted but they just weren’t enough to make us excited.
The game we were most inclined to compare it to was Zombie Dice. Both games look like they came out of the exact same plant in China and both are simple push-your-luck dice games where the players take on the role of the traditional ‘bad guy’ of the scenario. (Zombies aren’t bad. They are just misunderstood and their desire to eat your brains is perfectly reasonable. Honest.)
As simple as Martian Dice is, I’d have to say Zombie Dice is even simpler and the decisions in Zombie Dice can (appropriately) border on being mindless. However, that crucial decision of stopping and collecting your points or risking everything by keep on rolling, it’s a whole lot more tense in Zombie Dice. Zombie Dice has that excitement (Heck, that’s all it really has) and we just couldn’t find it in Martian Dice.
I haven’t written off Martian Dice. Heck, it takes up almost no space and it plays out in ten minutes or so. However, the first impressions just are pretty meh.