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Subject: dice, dominos and fun! rss

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Lowell Kempf
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I already play Liar’s Dice, Farkel, Cinq-O, Can’t Stop and Cosmic Wimpout, not to mention I own several sets of poker dice. Do I really need another push-you-luck dice game?

Well, after playing Pickomino a number of times on BSW, I guess I do. I should also apparently get a copy of Reiner Knizia’s book Dice Games Properly Explained, since it seems he knows what he’s talking about.

Reiner Knizia is one of my favorite game designers. It’s true I like Andrew Looney for his far out games and I like Bruno Faidutti for the fun-filled chaos, but if I am looking for a balanced game that I will want to play over and over, Knizia is the name I find myself coming back to. Pickomino is just one more example of why I’m a Knizia fan. Even his light games are great.

In Pickomino, each player takes the role of a hungry chicken and is trying to get the most fried worms off the grill. I admit it’s not a theme that I probably would have ever come up with, not without the help of Jim Bean. The mechanics behind this are your basic push-your-luck style dice rolling but with just enough tweaks to give you some actual choices.

The game comes with 16 domino style tiles and eight dice. The tiles are numbered twenty-one through thirty-six and have one to four worms on them. The lower numbers have only one worm while the higher numbers get four worms, with the numbers in between getting two or three. The dice are six-siders with pips, only the sixth side has an image of a worm instead of six pips on it.

To set up the game, the tiles are laid out in the middle of the table. They should be placed in order and it generally helps to make three rows of six to give them something of a grill like look.

On your turn, you start off by rolling all eight of the dice. You then set aside all of the dice of a specific pip. Hence, you can set aside all of the twos or fives. You can then reroll all of the remaining dice and again set aside all the dice of a specific pip. You can only set aside each pip once in your turn. After you’ve set aside all of the fours of one roll, you can’t set aside fours again that turn.

After any roll, you can take any tile from the grill that is either equal to or less than the total of the dice you’ve set aside. For the purposes of figuring out that total, the worm pips count as five each. However, you can only take a tile if you have at least one worm in the dice you’ve set aside. If you have no worms, then you can’t take a thing.

If you have more than one tile in front of you, which is something of a goal since the tiles are your points, you place them on top of each other, with the most recent on the top. The reason why you do this is because there is another option in addition to taking worms off the grill.

That option is taking worms away from other players. If the total of your set aside dice is exactly equal to the top tile of another player’s pile, you can steal that tile away from them.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a push-your-luck game if there wasn’t a penalty for pushing your luck too far. If you roll and all of the dice are pips you’ve already set aside, your turn ends. Also, if you’ve set aside all of your dice and there’s no tile you can take, that also ends your turn.

The penalty doesn’t just end there, though. If you wash out and you have tiles sitting in front of you, the top tile in your pile gets returned to the grid and the highest tile on the grid gets flipped over. For the purposes of the game, a tile that’s flipped over is out of the game.

The game ends when there are no more tiles left on the grill. At that point, you will count the total number of worms that are in your pile. Whoever has the most worms is the winner, as well as one well fed chicken.

Obviously, Pickomino follows the very familiar line of games like Farkel or Yahtzee. I don’t think anyone who has played any dice games will have any problems picking up this game in more than a couple rounds. However, there are some things that I think stand out about Pickomino.

The fact that you get eight dice to roll makes the bell shaped curve a lot more forgiving than many other dice games. For at least your first couple of throws, you’re going to have problems washing out. It’s not impossible but it is unlikely. Like any dice game, luck can be against you and the dice simply won’t give you anything to work with. However, with that many dice to play with, there are still plenty of odds for you to play with.

I also like the fact that you can steal tiles away from other players. It’s a little harder than just getting tiles off of the grill. However, it adds a level of interaction that many dice games simply don’t have.

However, my favorite facet of Pickomino is the way that tiles get eliminated from the game. Many dice games can hit a point in which they can never seem to end. In Pickomino, the endgame is inevitable. One way or another, the grill is going to get cleared. This ensures that the game has a nice, quick play time.

Pickomino is also the perfect game to play at the bar or on a picnic or at the beach. Every piece of the game is waterproof and durable and the whole thing it pretty portable, although I can say that about most dice games.

Pickomino is a light, fast dice game that has a lot of familiar ideas but just enough changes to make it interesting. If you’re looking for a fun filler that will get your blood pumping, Pickomino may be the game you’re looking for.
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