Design by Klaus Teuber
Published by Kosmos
3 - 6 Players, 45 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser
NOTE: This review first appeared on the Opinionated Gamers website.
I enjoy a good party game, one that can get a lot of folks involved and where the emphasis is placed on fun rather than intricate rules or strategies. Way back in 1988, Klaus Teuber of Settlers of Catan fame designed a clever game of sculpting shapes using molding clay. The game was oddly named Barbarossa, which reminded history buffs of the German invasion of the Soviet Union back in World War II. The central mechanism of molding and guessing sculptures was fun, but the rest of the game, which among other things involved sticking plastic arrow pieces into the sculptures as guesses were made, felt a bit too fiddly and contrived.
Dohdles is Teuber's latest reinvention of Barbarossa. Players still create sculptures from molding clay, but gone are the more complex and fiddly rules that characterized the former game. Still, the game does have more rules and gimmicks than it probably should, as there are different levels of questions and a cube chute that requires players to quickly and accurately toss cubes into it in order to gain priority in making guesses.
Each player receives a stick of molding clay, a guess cube, three clue chips and a double-sided "Suggestion" board, which lists dozens of sculpture ideas on one side and 20 possible questions on other. The round central board has a dozen spaces for sculptures, each with a seven space clue track surrounding it. These spaces will dictate the type of questions that can be asked. In the center of the board is the guess funnel, into which players will frantically toss their guess cube in an effort to be the first to make a guess.
Depending upon the number of players, each player creates one or two sculptures, known as "dohdles" in game parlance. The idea is the same as in Barbarossa and Northstar Games' Cluzzle: create a sculpture that is not too easily identifiable, yet not to difficult either. Ideally, you desire for it to take three or so guesses to correctly identify it. If folks correctly guess it too early or too late, few, if any points are earned.
Sculptures are placed on the board with a clue sheet slid beside it. Each clue sheet has spaces for the first five letters of the answer. A clue chip is placed on the first space of the track surrounding the sculpture.
Players alternate turns asking a question about one of the dohdles. They move the clue chip one space and ask a question of the type indicated by the track. There are three types of questions that can be asked, depending upon the location of the clue chip:
Ask up to two questions. The questions cannot directly ask about the solution or a specific letter in the answer. All questions must be able to be answered with "yes", "no", "maybe" or "cannot be clearly answered." The player's solution board provides numerous possible questions.
ABC Clue. The player may ask if the solution contains a specific letter, but that letter must be located within the first five spaces of the answer. If correct, the player writes that letter in the appropriate space on the adjacent clue sheet.
Combination. The player may choose one of the above two options.
If at any time any player feels they know the answer to any sculpture (not just the one about which the active player is inquiring), he may toss his guess cube into the guess funnel. If more than one player tosses their cube into the funnel, the order in which they emerge determines the order in which the players may make their guess.
If a player's guess is correct, he moves his playing token on the score track a number of spaces as indicated by the space his token currently occupies. This begins with a whopping five spaces, but reduces to a single space as a player approaches the finish line. This is a bit of a "catch-up" mechanism, giving players further back on the track the opportunity to catch the leaders.
Further, the owner of the dohdle whose identity was correctly guessed may get to move his score token forward as well. This is based on the position of the clue chip on the surrounding track. The number of spaces the player may move ranges from 0 - 3, with the greatest amount being if it took exactly three guesses before it was identified. Having one's dohdle guessed too quickly will result in little or no advancement for the player.
If, however, a player guesses incorrectly, he must move his score marker back the indicated number of spaces on the score track. If on the first half of the track, this is only a one space loss. However, the number of spaces lost increases up to four spaces as the player progresses further along the track. Again, this is another "catch the leader" feature.
The game continues until someone reaches the end of the score track, which is a rather lengthy 21 spaces. If, however, all but one dohdle has been correctly identified before this occurs, the player furthest along the track is victorious. In most cases, a game can be played to completion in about 30 - 45 minutes or so.
The first real task in Dohdles! is in creating a challenging, yet not too challenging sculpture. As mentioned, if you make it too easy, you will score few points. However, the same is true if you make it too difficult. So, you would prefer to make a sculpture somewhat ambiguous as opposed to too lifelike. This is not as easy as it may sound. Indeed, it can be quite challenging.
The next big challenge is in asking the proper questions in order to gain clues about a sculpture's identity. The type of question you can ask is somewhat dictated by the location of a sculpture's clue chip, but there is usually still plenty of room for creative questioning. Of course, you also have to be prepared to accurately toss your guess cube into the funnel if you feel you know the answer. There can be a rush to toss cubes into the funnel, often causing errant shots. While this can be a source of humor, I am not sure it really fits in a game that seems to be more about proper questioning and deduction. This speed / dexterity aspect seems forced and out of place.
The creation of the sculptures is fun for most people, but I have found that folks with the most artistic talent often make their sculptures too lifelike and therefore too easy to identify. So, in this case, the less talented artists seem to have the built-in edge.
That being said, I can't help but feel Dohdles! is laden down with a bit too much complexity. I think Cluzzles by Northstar Games handles the actual game surrounding the clay-sculpting mechanism better as it is purer and less encumbered. Still, Dohdles! is a fun party game that will get folks laughing, which is one of the main features of a good party game.