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Subject: Sharp Shooters - A Detailed Review rss

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Dr. Dam
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This review continues my series of detailed reviews that attempt to be part review, part resource for anyone not totally familiar with the game. For this reason I expect readers to skip to the sections that are of most interest.

Image Courtesy of DeanMary

Summary

Game Type – Dice Game
Play Time: 20-30 Minutes
Number of Players: 2-6 (Best 2-4)
Mechanics – Dice Rolling, Push Your Luck, Dice Pool Management (x2)
Difficulty – Pick-Up and Play (Can be learned in about 10 minutes)
Components – Excellent
Release - 1994
Designer(s) –

Jeffrey Breslow (Trump: The Game)

Howard J. Morrison (Simon, Trump: The Game)

Rouben Terzian (Trump: The Game)

Overview

Welcome to Sharp Shooters, the Yahtzee-esque styled dice roller that uses just a little more than a hint of a Casino vibe to attract the average punter.

Indeed the box front uses a combination of a 'wild west' styled font coupled with the Casino feel to let would-be gamers know that this is a high stakes game of 'Roll-'em and Rack-'em'.

Of course the obvious question is 'How good can this one be?!' I mean...dice games are about as common as fast food franchises...you can pretty much find one on every corner these days. And Sharp Shooters comes from the dark old days of 1994!!! Well before the new Golden Age of gaming...

I think we better go in for a closer inspection...

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The Components

Everything from the size and shape of the box through to the design of the components are a dead give-away that Sharp Shooters is from another era. It's large and chunky and simply doesn't meet the cost-per unit criteria of today's market. Along with all those descriptions I would also add the word charming. meeple

It should be noted that the components vary between both the publishers of this game and also the edition as it appears that there were several made as well.

d10-1 Rolling Tray – This is the single largest component of the game and the main reason that the box is of the size and dimensions that it is. There is no doubt that this would either a) be much smaller in a current day design or b) not exist at all, which would in effect allow Sharp Shooters to fit into a Carcassonne sized box.

It is made of black plastic and is designed to primarily give the players something to roll into. The green felt lining is a really nice feature and not only helps to dull the noise that a bunch of dice will make, but it also adds to the casino feel of the game, which in turn supports the 'push your luck' nature of the title as well.


Image Courtesy of TMJJS


d10-2 Dice – These are classic 1990s styled square corner affairs of the red with white pip variety. They literally scream, 'You will have to gamble with your options in this game', support the casino theme well and look great when contrasted against the green felt of the rolling tray.


Image Courtesy of Toynan


d10-3 Round Cards and Tray – This is our first glimpse into how the game differs from Yahtzee. Instead of players using an individual scoring sheet, the game comes with a set of 12 Round Cards, which are double sided. Each card is made of nicely thick cardboard and displays 6 rows, with each row showing a sequence that must be filled in order to earn the cash listed to the right of the card.

The tray (which the Round Cards are inserted into) is a sturdy plastic design. A plastic grid sits atop the tray to create a gap which allows the Round Cards to be inserted. The 6 x 6 grid consists of raised lines that perfectly align with the dice symbols on the Round Cards, thus when a player locks in dice on their turn they fit snugly and cover the dice images underneath.

The card tray is attached to the dice Rolling Tray by simply sitting on a raised groove located on the Rolling Tray's edge.

It's all very simple really but still a nice piece of effective design.

Oh I should mention that in my edition each scoring value is given a title such as 'four', 'sixes', 'Full House' or 'Small Straight'. These of course are classic Yahtzee references, which is not surprising given that Milton Bradley were the original publishers of that game until Hasbro acquired them. (An interesting historical side note is that Hasbro acquired MB in 1984, making them the largest Toy Company in the world. For the record I would have assumed that this acquisition occurred much later, perhaps in the mid to late 90s but there you go. It goes to show that Hasbro did not always make 'dollar and cent' decisions around component quality. I should also highlight that Hasbro was known as Hasbro Industries back in 1984...history lesson is done for today). meeple

You can almost see the design team discussion all those years ago...

'Ok the company wants us to create a Yahtzee-variant that differs quite a bit but still retains that essence of the original'.

Collective sigh from the room.

'I didn't get a degree in applied maths theory from Stanford for this Jim! angry

The company flunky who has been sitting in the shadowed corner leans forward to appear from the smokey mists of his cigarette...

'You work for us now. It has to be easy for our Yahtzee buying market to adapt to and that will help with sales...Yahtzee is our biggest selling board game product you know! Ideology doesn't pay the bills kid...stick to the brief.' sauron

The shady company flunky leans back in his chair, returning to the gloom from whence he emerged...

'Yeah I don't like it either Bill (well in this case it would have been Jeffrey, Howard or Rouben) but the company gets what the company wants and I've got kids to feed dammit!

Man if I did video reviews I'd be creating a whole vintage boardroom scene right there complete with hammy acting...ah the possibilities. cool


Image Courtesy of Neil Thomson and tasajara


d10-4 Poker Chips – The inclusion of Poker chips also supports nicely the theme of the game and suggests to the players that they will need to gamble and chance their arm at times.

More than that though the Poker chips also allow the game to do away with any pencil and paper scoring as these are used to track a player's success and lord it over their rivals should their stack be suitably impressive! cool

The chips come in 3 values of; 10, 50 and 100, with each featuring a different colour (they will vary based on publisher). Given the age of the game you might expect some pretty cheap and nasty chips but that is not the case. These are really quite nice, consisting of a reasonable thickness, a nice border and both sides of the chips are printed on.

They are certainly not up to the modern style 25 gram weights of modern Poker Chips but they are vastly superior to those offered up by the original version of Vegas Showdown and I really don't feel the need to replace these with chips from my Poker set.


Image Courtesy of davwj


d10-5 Insert – Now the image of the insert shown with this item is quite a classy affair (it comes from the FX Edition).

My edition however, which is a Milton Bradley edition, uses the insert shown in the final image of the components section below. That is to say that there really isn't an insert as such...simply a basic cardboard tray to stack the dice and chips into...quite similar actually to those used in Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit.

Image Courtesy of [b]Werbaer


d10-6 Rules - The rules do their job and offer up some nice examples to make sure that everything is clear. They are pretty standard for the period this was published in, being largely a 'no-frills' affair. It makes one appreciate the effort that modern designs go to in making rules that are as appealing as possible and encourage a player/owner to want to read them.

That said, it may well have felt like overkill in a game of this weight.

The final point worth noting here is that my edition does not include the designer's names, which is a standard company directive of the day. Designs by companies like this were simply treated as company material and it hails back to a day when designers were considered as the 'monkeys in the machine'. Quite a contrast to what some call our hobby today - 'Designer Games'.

Of course BGG once again showed its importance as an industry resource and promptly gave up the names we have to thank for this game. kiss


Image Courtesy of tasajara


I am actually quite impressed with the components found within Sharp Shooters. They are well above the design quality I would expect of the 90s (the 80s were often excellent but the early to mid 90s saw quality standards, I'm talking the family game market here, generally fall as the advent of home video game consoles were on the rise - call it the middle ages of the gaming industry if you will).

My only gripe would be that the two main editions featured in the images of this game both have some failings. I much prefer my edition's Round Cards, which are orange and come with the card tray. But my edition lacks the nice insert and a dice cup. Games always feel at least 20% cooler with a dice cup.

In a perfect world the two would have been married together...oh well.

What I do love is the care that was taken to ensure that the components lived up to and supported the theme. Real care was taken with this design and you can almost feel the love that went into it. Kudos to all involved for that.


Image Courtesy of djbrickhaus


The Set-Up

The set-up is pretty straight forward. The rolling tray is placed central to the players and the card tray is put in place to the side of the rolling tray.

Each player is given a set of dice ranging from 5-16 depending on how many are playing. Each player also receives 60 bucks in chips.

The Round Cards are mixed up and 6 are chosen for the game at random and slotted into the card tray in a pile. These denote the 6 rounds of the game.

A start player is selected and the game is ready to get underway.

Image Courtesy of davwj

The Play

The play to Sharp Shooters is pretty straight forward so I'll be as quick as I can on the flow of the game so we can get down to the analysis.

d10-1 Roll the Dice – Regardless of how many dice are in a players starting pool (remember this is based on the number of players), a player must roll 5 dice on their turn if they are able and only these 5 dice can be rolled in the current turn (in other words dice still in the pool cannot be added to the initial 5 for a given turn).

d10-2 Set Aside/Lock in at least One Dice – After a given roll the active player must add at least one dice to a row if they are able.

This will always be likely in the early turns of a round but as the available slots fill up or a player's dice pool becomes diminished, it is entirely possible that a player will not roll any open values that remain.

d10-3 Roll Again or Pass – After each roll including the first the active player can choose to roll again to try and complete a row for cash or they can pass, which allows play to move onto the next player.

d10-4 Ending a Turn – A player's turn can end in one of 3 ways;

A player can choose to voluntarily pass.

A player can allocate their last dice in the current turn (that would be their 5th dice) to the board and thus can do no more.

Or they can roll no open values still in play, thus ending their turn.

It should be noted here that if a player has exhausted all dice in their pool and the play comes back to them, they are simply skipped. Essentially they are out of the play for the remainder of the round.

d10-5 Ending a Turn – Should a player end their turn with dice still left, these dice are simply returned to their dice pool, ready for their next turn should they get one.

d10-6 Completing a Row - When any player manages to place the last dice in a row to complete a sequence, they earn the stated money from the bank. Of course if someone is unlucky enough to finish a row with a negative value they will be required to pay that amount back to the bank.

d10-7 Ending a Round – The player that completes the last row on a card takes or pays whatever is listed.

Each player takes back dice to refill their pool to its maximum for the beginning of the new round. The just finished Round Card is removed from the tray and the next card in the stack is the new Round Card.

The player to finish out the round then gets the benefit of starting the new round.

I also like all players to state their total at the end of each round to build the suspense and inform players of where they sit as this may help them to evaluate what risks they need to take.

d10-8 Ending the Game and Winning - When the last Round Card is completed the game comes to an end. The players simply add up their chips and the highest score wins. In the event of a tie, all players play one more card in a 'Dice-Off' if you will. cool

NB - It does seem a little weird that all players get another round rather than just the tied players. Some will like the fact that all are still in with a shot, others may like to house-rule it.

Image Courtesy of Neil Thomson

The Appeal of Sharp Shooters

This game has a lot going for it and has seen me play it almost 20 times this year alone and now that my boys have played it to help with this review and love it (not to mention my girlfriend), I can see this one picking up 50 plays in 2013 with ease.

d10-1 Dice Pool Management - The great appeal of Sharp Shooters is the need to carefully manage your dice pool. But this isn't your average management consideration. Sharp Shooters offers two tiers to its pool management.

mb First off there is the notion of when to stop in a given turn. When rolling the maximum 5 dice you are often posed a question by the game,

This is the game talking...(yes I take medication but it doesn't seem to help)...

'Ok so you rolled two 4s and you could place them on the four 4s position. If you do that you will likely give the points to someone else but of course you could go for the points this turn. But you only have 3 dice left to roll the remaining two 4s. Do you have what it takes? Are you a Sharp Shooter or should you just place one 4 or something else and be done with it?'

These decisions are thought provoking and anyone who likes games of this nature will find them very rewarding.

mb If the game resting on the above laurels it would still be good, but it doesn't. The secondary consideration is to manage your total dice pool. Take for instance a 4-player game in which all players start each round with 8 dice. The last thing you want to be doing is to allocate 4 or 5 dice on your first turn (unless you can pick up a big score of course) as any future turns will see you rolling only 3-4 dice in a turn and this reduces the odds of rolling what you need in a clinch situation.

In other words, dice in hand = options. It's genius and really takes this game to another level.

d10-2 After You...No After You - Overlaying the dice management considerations are the very nature of the rules themselves. A player can only collect the cash on offer if they place the last dice in a given row to complete a sequence.

The last thing a player wants to do is place one or more dice into a row and pass if that means the next player has a simple roll to make to take the cash. In this way the game feels similar to Qwirkle.

A player also has to consider how many players are to follow them before they get another go. Sure you may not give too much away, but even giving the next player a sniff may see them go for it and just fall short, thus allowing the next player to finish it off.

What this tends to do is see players being quite cautious on their first turn, perhaps only placing one dice in a larger row to both manage their dice pool and not give too much away. It lends the game a pacing all of its own...strategic early on and then frantic rushes to close out each round.

d10-3 Suspense x6 - And it is that suspense that is the icing on the cake and makes you want to play it more. Unlike most games where the suspense and climax come in the final endgame, Sharp Shooters manages to deliver it 6 times thanks to its 6 rounds, not to mention the entire last round as players are aware of their position in the pecking order and what they need to do to snatch the victory.

d10-4 Easily Accessible - Thanks to the minimalist rule-set the game can be learned in 10 minutes and that goes for non-gamers too, which this game can easily appeal to.

d10-5 Multi-Player Action - The biggest improvement that this has over Yahtzee though is the fact that it takes a relatively solitaire-player experience with no interaction and makes the game a multi-player experience where one player's decisions will certainly impact on the rest of the table. That's chock full of win right there.

d10-7 Great Scalability and Time Frame to Match - Not that many games can play well 2-6 players but Sharp Shooters manages it beautifully by modifying how many dice each player gets in their pool for each round. The game also plays pretty true to its 30 minute time frame with any number of players, because despite having less dice in a large player game, the larger number of players will see dice being added just as quickly, albeit perhaps less dice per player each turn to manage their dice pool better.

Overall I think the game is excellent with 2-4 players. I have yet to play a 5 or 6 player game and have some reservations about it but will tackle those in the negative section below. I have no doubt however that Sharp Shooters is excellent with 2-players if you like tight control and tactical decisions. As you add more players the luck factor does go up.

It's also worth noting that player downtime is pretty minimal as most players will finish their turn in under a minute, often in less than 30 seconds.

d10-8 Varied Experience - The final positive I'd like to highlight is that the game offers up a pretty varied experience. For starters the size of your dice pool based on the number of players makes for considerable alterations to your strategy if you are to manage your pool well.

Then there are the 24 Round Cards on offer. Sure they are all similar in how they are laid out but each card offers its own set of challenges. Many offer easy 1, 2 and 3 dice options that are quite attainable on a first turn, but how will that affect your dice pool overall? Will you be left short for those more lucrative larger sequences?

In all there are the six dice values to go after plus the Full House, Small/Large/Super Straights and Wild spaces, which are like your Yahtzee (all of the same kind). Anything marked with stars allows the first player to place a dice there to denote the values needed of the sequence.

It all adds up to analysing each board, your dice pool and the number of players to work out how best to play each turn and roll. The rest is then in the luck of the dice! meeple

Anything to Dislike?

As with any title it will not be for everyone...

d10-1 Weight and Style - For many a dice roller like this will not be to their tastes. For some Stone Age and Kingsburg are as light as they like to go and fair enough. Heavy Euro fans need not apply here if that is all you will play and thematic junkies may find the experience just downright dull.

d10-2 Seat Position - Not having reviewed Puerto Rico in any great depth I haven't had to mention this before, but seat position and the players in general can be a negative factor here. I say this because it only takes one player to keep going after low odds and falling just short to continually set up the next player and this can result in a form of involuntary king making if repeated for large chunks of the game.

Of course many games can have this potential and it shouldn't be a problem if the players understand the game well. Heck I just played with my 9 year old (who is more like a 7 year old in game terms) and it only took one or two bits of advice from me early on for him to see the dangers.

d10-3 The Luck Factor - This may seem like an obvious comment to make but I want to go beyond purely the dice themselves. The player count can also have a major bearing on the luck factor of the game and the need to be in the right place at the right time...I'm looking at you Alhambra (but I still love you kiss).

This is essentially because the more players that sit between you and your next turn equates to a higher chance that rows will be filled and you miss out. Factor in that you might be the start player for a round and it is entirely possible that you are locked out of any chance to secure a 5 or 6 dice row, meaning the big points are gone.

For some the opportunity to play with 6 will outweigh this but for me it really makes the sweet spot 2-4 players as I still want some control over my destiny.

d10-4 Runaway Leader - Sharp Shooters can have one major problem though. Because the game is built on a 60-70% luck, it is entirely possible for a player to jump out to an unassailable lead by the second last board. Factor in seat position or a final board that offers up too few points and the game can result in an anti-climactic feel as the players realise that they cannot catch the leader.

This may happen once or twice in 5 games but it is definitely worth mentioning.

My solution is fairly simple. As a group you can commit to playing the game a set number of times in a row (say 3) with the highest total score winning. Another alternative is to play multiple times and the first player to accumulate a set number of points is the winner (1,000 or 2,000 for example).

The game is easily enough fun to play 2-3 times in a sitting and this format can lend the game that 'larger picture' aspect and reduce the end result all hinging on a single game.

The Final Word

Well that pretty much sums it up kids, for me Sharp Shooters is a really great design in this genre. But I'll go further than that and state that really this game hoses Yahtzee in every conceivable aspect and if you have this there really is very little need to ever return to Yahtzee again. That is some high praise given I have played close to 1,000 games of Yahtzee and appreciate it more than the average gamer.

It really has it all from great components to player interaction to interesting decisions and tense moments. That's about all you can ask for in a game of any nature and Sharp Shooters delivers it all in about 30 minutes play time. wow

So the only sad point here is to finish by saying if you would like a copy you will have to hunt for one as it has long been out of print. I think living in the USA will up your chances considerably given the Thrift Store market over there.

Oh wait there are quite a few on the BGG marketplace going for good prices. If this review has peaked your interest I highly suggest going after a copy, I'm certainly glad it is in my collection.

Till next we meet may you shoot sharp and take your place in the pantheon of the dice rollers! mb

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Annie Flavel
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Re: [Voice of Experience] Sharp Shooters - A Detailed Review
Excellent review for an excellent game! Really enjoyed the little history lesson and board meeting dream sequence in there too laugh

Also enjoyed your own photography skills being put in place, very nice job meeple
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Dr. Dam
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Re: [Voice of Experience] Sharp Shooters - A Detailed Review
Alice87 wrote:
Excellent review for an excellent game! Really enjoyed the little history lesson and board meeting dream sequence in there too laugh

Also enjoyed your own photography skills being put in place, very nice job meeple


Thanks sweetie...seems weird you reading a review of mine from 350Kms away.

Yeah they are not the best shots but about as good as I'm capable of with an iPhone. I could see myself getting a decent camera to take game images more often.
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Re: [Voice of Experience 2.0] Sharp Shooters - A Detailed Review
They are great photos for an iPhone! But yes we should get a camera
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Re: [Voice of Experience 2.0] Sharp Shooters - A Detailed Review
Dude you should have told me - I would have brought over my camera and could have then edited them in Photoshop on my ultrabook. Oh well, they're still decent shots regardless. Great review for a great game.
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Re: [Voice of Experience 2.0] Sharp Shooters - A Detailed Review
davwj wrote:
Dude you should have told me - I would have brought over my camera and could have then edited them in Photoshop on my ultrabook. Oh well, they're still decent shots regardless. Great review for a great game.


Cheers mate - we still can if you like - I don't think the review is judged till end of the month.

Game images is a tangent I could see myself getting into though. The artistic side anyway.
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Re: [Voice of Experience 2.0] Sharp Shooters - A Detailed Review
Excellent review which gives a very accurate description of the game. This game solidly fills the niche of a game that is just fun to play while you are socializing or having a few beers.

I think I've purchased three sets of this in thrift shops and given away two to friends who we introduced it to (better than lugging our copy to their house !!!)

Your comment "dice in hand = options" also applies near the end of the game when invariably, the only open spots are on the negatives. Prior to that, it is often a good play to roll and get rid of dice to limit your options so you don't get stuck paying back your hard earned chips.

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Re: [Voice of Experience 2.0] Sharp Shooters - A Detailed Review
kjamma4 wrote:
Excellent review which gives a very accurate description of the game. This game solidly fills the niche of a game that is just fun to play while you are socializing or having a few beers.

I think I've purchased three sets of this in thrift shops and given away two to friends who we introduced it to (better than lugging our copy to their house !!!)

Your comment "dice in hand = options" also applies near the end of the game when invariably, the only open spots are on the negatives. Prior to that, it is often a good play to roll and get rid of dice to limit your options so you don't get stuck paying back your hard earned chips.



Yes that is an insightful comment regarding wanting few dice left when it comes to the negative scores.
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Re: [Voice of Experience 2.0] Sharp Shooters - A Detailed Review
Updated review with a couple new images that were better than mine and added one final negative point with some possible solutions to it.
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Nice, new review! I just thrifted an UNPUNCHED copy of this game.

I think I'm going to take it for a spin!
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bop517 wrote:
Nice, new review! I just thrifted an UNPUNCHED copy of this game.

I think I'm going to take it for a spin!


Very nice. I've recently picked up the sister game Last Chance and will review that in the weeks ahead.
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