I have been thinking about getting a copy since I saw (and played) this at last year's BGG.con. It went in the basket in a sizable Boards and Bits order that a friend and I put together, as it pushed the order over the magic $125 = free shipping level. I pushed the order button and waited for the confirmation email. And then I saw the note about shipping on Tumblin-Dice - it's so big that it isn't eligible for the free shipping offer. Oh, well... I had to find $25 worth of games to get to the level according to the rules - a *major* sacrifice!
There were two boxes on my doorstep when I got home yesterday. Alas, I had spent the day out of town in a large meeting of the deacons of my diocese with our bishop - a good event, but long and tiring when you get to tack four hours of driving on to the event. Getting home and still needing dinner, I did little more than pull it from the box. Today, I still found myself wiped out when I returned from my ministerial duties, the game still got to wait.
After a hefty nap, I got up, opened the box, and took a look at the contents. The game board, a huge wooden surface of five terraced levels, comes in two pieces. The top piece has two pegs that fit into holes on the bottom piece, so assembly is not a major task. The levels are:
a platform for launching the dice into play - dice can be rolled, flicked or slid as long as they contact the platform before entering the rest of the board
a large level that has two laminated dry erase scorepads (these flank the launch platform) and a vast expanse that is divided but a line that is perpendicular to the launch platform. Any die that is not entirely across this line is immediately removed from play. Any die that makes it across this line will be worth the die's value when scoring happens (assuming that it stays there - more on this in a bit). The far edge is curved.
A much narrower area, dice that end up here will be worth twice face value when scored. Again, the far edge is curved.
Similar in size to the previous level, this one has four wooden pins at its far edge that can bounce a die off at an angle or stop it. Dice landing here will be worth three times face value.
The final level, unlike the others, is not a single continuous surface. It is, rather, three separate platforms that each have two of the pins at the far ends. These platforms are small, and players successfully landing (and keeping) their dice on this level will be rewarded by scoring four times the face value when scoring happens.
The game also comes with a dry-erase pen (for scoring), rules and sixteen six-sided dice in four colors.
Play consists of the players taking turns launching their dice into the playing field from the launch pad. Those that fail to cross the line on the first platform are immediately removed from play - they will not score. Dice can be struck by other dice and moved to lower (and better scoring) platforms or even bounced out of play. After all players have used their four dice, the dice are scored (according to the rules above) and then returned to the players for a new round of play.
A complete game consists of four rounds of play, although the rules also suggest a variant where a goal of a certain point total is reached (500 points, for example). The winner is the player with the highest number of points.
So how does it play? In a word: excellent. To expand, it scratches the dexterity game itch well and adds a bit of luck to the equation. Players have to balance the need to make each die score with the possible need to try and move their dice into better positions and/or knock the high value dice of their opponents off the board. Dexterity, luck and a bit of strategy make a potent gaming mix.
Another plus is the potential spouse and casual gamer appeal. My wife very rarely plays games, but she looked in on this one more than once today, "just to give it a try". Like the other star dexterity games (in my book, Crokinole and PitchCar), this is a "spectacle game" - playing it in public attracts a crowd and non-gamers want to give it a try.
The game also has the possibility of variant play: people have suggested adding a couple more dice for play with smaller numbers of players, the designer has suggested possibly playing to a number of points and the temptation of playing with a set of polyhedral dice has proven hard to resist for a lot of people.
Finally, the game is simple enough to be playable by children and attractive enough that they're going to want to play. I can see that it might prove an interesting way to get children to practice their multiplication skills without seeming too boring.
Is there a weakness? Well, as long as you realize that you're not going to be getting a game that has a lot of strategic depth, no. When one wants depth, you're going to need to look elsewhere.
Beyond that limited caveat, this game represents money well-spent. I foresee it being a staple of gaming events for years to come, especially as a closer. I rate it a 9 - a rare ranking for me.