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Tom Vasel
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Collecting dice has always been a hobby of mine. Even though I’m not extremely fond of games that are totally based on the rolling of dice, such as Yahtzee and Risk, there’s something about rolling dice that no Eurogame can ever take away from me. So when I opened the box of Dice Run (Kidult Games, 2002 – Spartaco Albertarelli), I felt joy in my heart at seeing thirty dice in six different colors.

Do dice make the game? Well, every time I play Dice Run I am reminded very much so of Formula Motor Racing. There are differences in the game, but the similarities are striking. Dice run doesn’t involve as much rolling as one might think, but there’s still a good deal of randomness in the game. Despite this, Dice Run is a very fun “racing” (I prefer to use the term “positioning”) game that runs fairly quickly, flows rather smoothly, and while lucky – is a good bit of fun.

Game setup is simplistic. A pile of game cards is shuffled, and four lap cards inserted into the deck, the first a fifth down, the next two-fifths down, etc. All the dice are rolled, and placed in a pile in the middle of the table. Small square tokens (target cards) are shuffled, and each player draws one secretly, placing it face down in front of them. (The 30 target cards have a picture of a die on them. There are six for each color, with a different number showing on each tile.) One player is chosen to go first, and then play continues clockwise around the table.

On a turn, a player must play one of his cards face up, or use the “reroll” option. The cards affect the “racing” dice in the middle of the table. For example, at the beginning of the game, if a card is played that moves forward all the purple dice, then all the purple dice are moved one spot in front of the group. Groups can be moved all over the table, as long as the position of each group is intact. Each player is trying to maneuver dice of their color and/or number to the first position. There are several different types of cards a player can play.
- If a player plays a color card, all dice of that color, regardless of their numeric value, move up one group.
- If a player plays a number card, all dice showing that number, regardless of their color, move up one group.
- If a player plays a question mark, it acts as a wild, and they can pick any number or color – and all dice of that type move up one group.
- If a player plays a “sprint” card, the group in last place moves to second place.
- If a player plays a “switch” card, they can switch any two groups, with the exception of the lead group.
- If a player plays an “outdistance” card, they can put it between two groups, making the group behind have to move twice to catch the group in front.
A player can also use the “reroll” option, placing any card from their hand face down in front of them. This allows them to roll all the dice in any one group (except the first group). A player cannot use this option again, however, until another player first uses it.

After a player finishes this, they draw a card. If they draw a lap finish line card, all players reveal their target tiles. Each player gets one point for each die in the first group on the table that matches their number and/or color. If a die matches both, they get two points. Whichever player gets the most points receives three winner tokens, with the second getting two winner tokens, and the third one winner token. Ties are broken by going to the second group and calculating points, then the third if necessary, etc. In the last lap (when the fourth card is drawn), the player with the most points gets five winner tokens rather than three. After a lap card is revealed, all players draw a new target tile, and play continues. After the last lap card is drawn, players total their winner tokens, and the player with the most is the winner! (If it’s a tie, racing continues until all the cards in the deck are exhausted, and then scores are calculated again.)

Some comments on the game:

1). Components: The dice are typical normal size, six-sided dice in six vibrant colors – purple, pink, blue, green, and red. I found that the colors were rather easy to pick out when playing the game, but I’m not sure I’d recommend the game to someone with color blindness. The winning tiles and target tiles are nice and of decent quality. The cards were nice, but I have the same nitpick with them as with other games. First of all, I’d prefer if game companies would put the name of the game on the back of the cards rather than the name of the company. (Other examples of this are Mamma Mia and Coloretto) It’s just more aesthetically pleasing. Also, I would have preferred small playing cards instead of the square shaped cards in the game. However, these are minor quibbles, and all components (which are language independent) fit into a wonderful plastic case that sits nicely in a very sturdy, starkly black box.

2). Rules: As with all rules translated by Kidult games, there are some “interesting” quirks in the English translation, but it suffices. The game is a lot simpler than the rules let on, as they explain in great deal how to position the dice – using illustrations and examples – while I figured it out in about five seconds. Still, it’s better to over explain, sez I. The game is immensely easy to learn, and when I taught it to kids, they had it down pat in about one minute. There are some optional rules included in the rulebook (one of them – variable objectives, I highly recommend), as well as some more on their website.

3). Website: And once again, I applaud Kidult Games on their excellent website, www.kidultgame.com. On the Dice Run section of their page, you can find a kids’ version of how to play the game, as well as an “expert” version. There is a nice blurb by the designer as to how he created the game, as well as downloadable rules in various languages, and even new cards that can be downloaded and added to the race. A great page to modify the game, if you are one of the people who likes to do such a thing!

4). Theme and Formula Motor Racing: The theme is about racing dice. I think the game is a lot of fun, but the theme really doesn’t do it for me here, as I just can’t imagine dice racing down the street. The game itself is fun, but I think Formula Motor Racing may be a bit better, since the theme is just a bit stronger there (I know that sounds strange, talking about a strong theme in a Knizia game). However, complaints against Formula Motor Racing are that the whole game is really decided by the final cards played. Since Dice Run has four times throughout the race that points are awarded, it’s more important when cards are played.

5). Strategy, Luck, and the Fun Factor: There’s a little strategy in the game – when to play what card, but it’s usually fairly obvious. Usually it’s pretty obvious what color and number a player is trying to advance. Luck and chaos compose a large part of the game, especially with a lot of players. But strangely enough, it’s still fun. I know that as a filler (the game shouldn’t last more than 30 minutes), taken lightly, the game should be rather enjoyable.

So, if you like luck and games where your position can swing drastically, then this is a good game for you. If you really aren’t a fan of such games, stay away! I personally enjoy the game quite a bit, and especially found that it was a fun party-type game for the younger crowd (read: teens). It’s easy to pull out and teach, and everyone has fun. It doesn’t seem to have any lasting power, but if I pull it out occasionally, I’m sure there will be a lot of people who will gladly play it as a filler.

Tom Vasel
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