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Subject: A comparative review: Skyline, Ra the Dice Game, Roll Through the Ages, To Court the King and Airships rss

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Jon Ben
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Background
I received Skyline for free for backing the Ground Floor kickstarter campaign. Although I enjoy dice games, I find Skyline lacking and thought that I would share my views. I find critical reviews more helpful than positive ones since the author typically explains in greater detail what she didn't like.

For those who are interested I rate the games as follows:
Ra the dice game--------------8 (11 plays)
Roll Through the Ages-------7 (14 plays)
To Court the King--------------7 (10 plays)
Airships--------------------------7 (10 plays)
Skyline---------------------------5 (5 plays)

Skyline rules and components
The rules are simple I encourage you to read the excellent summary in Karlis' review. I will assume you have a working knowledge of the rules. The only other review at this time is by Steven Metzger, who also explains the rules well.

Neither review comments on the components so let me. They are excellent! The graphic design and production are of very high quality. The bits are very pleasant to touch and are perfectly functional as well. Some people may find distinguishing between the Ground Floor and Upper Level dice confusing at first. However, the similarity is necessary to have consistent looking buildings. In fact it's a bit of a shame that you have to discard your beautiful die building when you add a penthouse to it. You only see the true glory of the die building for a fleeting second, and even that is an indulgence.



Comparison
Skyline is undoubtedly a filler game. It takes about 5-7 minutes per player scaling with experience of the player, more experience leading to less time. Therefore, even with 4 players the game is under 30 minutes. Already this puts the game on very shaky ground for me. It means that the game play is dead-simple and for me the game would only be useful to keep people busy while another group finishes up at my weekly game night. However, there are some games in this category that I do enjoy such as Cheeky Monkey, Coloretto, No Thanks!, 6 Nimmit, and For Sale. Some of these (Cheeky Monkey) feature a lot of luck but remain very fun for me. It's hard to justify subjective preferences so I won't try, but I want to point out that while I don't care for Skyline others may be able to see past the things that I don't like and still enjoy the game a lot.

What I want to do with this review is compare Skyline to other dice games which are fillers. These games came to mind while I was playing Skyline and a lot of the aspects I like about these other games are missing. The games I want to focus on are Ra the Dice Game (Ra), Roll Through the Ages (Roll), To Court the King (Court), and Airships. Familiarity with these games will help but you should still find some value even if you don't know anything about them.




Choosing what you roll
Choosing what dice to roll on your turn is one of the unique aspects of Skyline. It's a nice mechanic and it gives you something to consider at the start of your turn. Unfortunately the decision is very seldom complicated enough to illicit more than a second worth of thought. There is nothing really satisfying about this decision, it's pretty obvious what to do. Ground Floor dice are nice to avoid abandoning, penthouses are less frequent especially for high-rises so if you want to finish a building take lots of them. If there are 4 or more abandoned dice you usually take them. With only three dice to choose there isn't too much to ponder over.

Choosing what to re-roll
The mechanics in Skyline are very similar to Roll and Court. Some dice must get locked/spent after each roll. Skyline imposes no limit on the number of rolls but since you typically have 3 dice this isn't really a large difference. The Skyline die-results are very easy to evaluate. The only hard choice is if you don't want to use any of them. Then you have to decide if you're going to demolish a building (complete or under construction) or abandon a die. This really is the singular interesting decision in the game! However, ironically, your goal is to never encounter this decision. You don't want to do either of these things, therefore you will often include Ground Floor dice to act as buffers since they can always be built. Additionally if you have many Ground Floors built you can easily demolish one without loosing points. So while this decision is in principle interesting your job is to ensure that you have the most boring playing experience possible by avoiding though choices.

To make matters worse a bad result means that you are double punished. Obviously you are punished by the roll of the dice (which you selected) but then you are punished again by the game since you have to either help the opponent to your left (abandon) or demolishing a building.




Contrast that to Ra, Roll and Court. In these games players must weigh the relative merits of the roll with what they can accomplish that turn. Then decide what they want to re-roll. Since these games offer many different things to do the decision of what to keep and what to re-roll is more varied and enjoyable. These games aim to make the re-roll decision interesting. In Ra different combinations of results are more or less valuable and your current position will have a large influence on how you value the results. In Roll you are often worried about feeding and then doing something else like buying a technology. You want coin/food/people/pots/skulls some of these interrelate and your value function depends on the current state of your board, your opponents' boards, and what you rolled already. Finally in Court you are trying to buy something so you must weigh your desired purchase against what is likely given the dice you have rolled. I consider the decisions in Court to be relatively simple, however, interesting decisions often come up due to the special powers you accumulate and the most efficient/effective order to use them can be fun to work through.

Finally I will consider Airships. In Airships you can not choose what to roll (usually) and re-rolls are not allowed, instead you must choose what card/airship you will try to acquire that round. This is a decision of risk management weighed by rewards, including the reward of depriving cards/airships from opponents. There are 6 types of cards and two types of airships (Hindenburg and non-Hindenburg) one can choose. Although this is essentially the only decision in the game it is not always obvious what to choose or how much one should risk. Failing a roll in Airships is bad but the game gives you a +1 token which helps mitigate future bad rolls.

Variety
Skyline has three building types which have different earning potential and whose components appear with different frequency on the dice. Small buildings appear more often. At first glance you may think there is a breadth versus height (quantity vs. quality) dichotomy in game strategies, however this does not appear to be the case. There is certainly an option to try for the 6 height tower or not, but you are not going to win the game with size 3 and below towers. The exact distribution of the buildings you build will mostly be decided by the dice. You can be competitive focusing on mid-rise buildings to the exclusion of high-rise but often it will be a good idea to have a high-rise in the mix. There isn't really a point of strategy here, the only consideration is if you happen to roll a high-rise Ground Floor or not. Unless you fear the game will end before you're next turn you will always try to extend buildings to their maximum height.

The end result of the dice and scoring system are quite humorously similar skylines for all players. The theme is about creating the most beautiful skyline but in most games there is precious little to distinguish one from another.

In comparison the other games being considered fair better than Skyline. Ra has lots of variety, pharaohs, boat/flood, monuments, and civilisations. The need to get civs or loose points each round adds tension and you can even take the hit for gains elsewhere. The player interaction of the monuments and pharaohs adds lots of uncertainty in another form altogether to the game. Ra has multiple sources of points and you can largely ignore one or two and still do well if the ones you focus on are spectacular.

Roll has cities to build that increase your die pool, special abilities to buy, monuments to construct and a few disasters to contend with. There are several different strategies one can pursue through the special abilities and they feel satisfyingly different when playing. Of course we're still taking about a 30 minute game so it's not dramatic, but there is far more variety than Skyline has to offer.

Depending on the special powers you accumulate in Court your decision space can change a bit. There actually isn't very much variety in Court. In our group we call it "To Court the General" since the people who manage to get the General typically win. There is at least the option to focus more on number of dice versus powers that manipulate die values. A balanced approach also works well and you can not totally neglect number of dice. There are also a fair number of special abilities so you won't use them all in a given game, leaving some powers and combos to discover on future plays.

Finally Airships has some variety in the cards you build, and which airships are in a given game. There are not wildly different paths to take since the game is all about rolling more dice. There are cards which grant permanent dice of certain values, cards that convert X dice of one type to Y of another, engines which give +1 to certain dice, and even some cards which give victory points. That's not exhaustive but the point is clear, there are things to choose between and consecutive plays will be meaningfully different.


Conclusion
Skyline is a fast and light die game with very few decisions and almost no replay value. Several very nice games exist in the filler-dice-game niche that Skyline occupies: Ra the Dice Game, Roll Through the Ages, To Court the King and Airships. Each of these games offers more interesting decisions and variety of gameplay. I can not think of any situation where I would choose Skyline over one of these other games.
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Mathue Faulkner
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Outside of box size (and price?), I actually wouldn't put Skyline in the same category as those games. It is more of a push your luck game like Zombie Dice, Martian Dice, Bears!, Go Nuts! or Dino Hunt Dice. It's the cardboard pieces that make the game seem like it should belong in a different category...
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Jon Ben
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mfaulk80 wrote:
Outside of box size (and price?), I actually wouldn't put Skyline in the same category as those games. It is more of a push your luck game like Zombie Dice, Martian Dice, Bears!, Go Nuts! or Dino Hunt Dice. It's the cardboard pieces that make the game seem like it should belong in a different category...


You can certainly make that comparison as well. Note that most of the games you mention are in the Party Game category and skyline is not. The 2-4 player limit and boring theme prevent it from being a good party game. It's interesting to note that the 4 player upper limit is not due to design or component constraints as far as I can tell. My guess is that the down time and lack of interaction makes this a bad game for 5+ players.

If you envision Skyline as a push-your-luck party game you may be happy with it, or you may be disappointed for other reasons. I don't know because I have no interest in those types of games.

Skyline is a light filler dice game. Looking at the category, play time, player count, and mechanics of Skyline and the comparisons I choose I think it's clear why these games are relevant. Note that Skyline isn't 15 minutes with 4 players it's much closer to 30 minutes. If the game lasts 9 rounds and each turn is 45 seconds the game will take 27 minutes.
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Mathue Faulkner
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JonBen wrote:
mfaulk80 wrote:
Outside of box size (and price?), I actually wouldn't put Skyline in the same category as those games. It is more of a push your luck game like Zombie Dice, Martian Dice, Bears!, Go Nuts! or Dino Hunt Dice. It's the cardboard pieces that make the game seem like it should belong in a different category...


You can certainly make that comparison as well. Note that most of the games you mention are in the Party Game category and skyline is not. The 2-4 player limit and boring theme prevent it from being a good party game. It's interesting to note that the 4 player upper limit is not due to design or component constraints as far as I can tell. My guess is that the down time and lack of interaction makes this a bad game for 5+ players.

If you envision Skyline as a push-your-luck party game you may be happy with it, or you may be disappointed for other reasons. I don't know because I have no interest in those types of games.

Skyline is a light filler dice game. Looking at the category, play time, player count, and mechanics of Skyline and the comparisons I choose I think it's clear why these games are relevant. Note that Skyline isn't 15 minutes with 4 players it's much closer to 30 minutes. If the game lasts 9 rounds and each turn is 45 seconds the game will take 27 minutes.

Most of those games aren't really 'party' games in the aspect that I'd ever play with more than 4, and 2 would really be my preference...for the exact same reasons you say Skyline wouldn't work with more than 4. And with 2-players, Skyline really is a 10 minute game (15 if you're taking your time and actually make it to 9 rounds).

Those type of games aren't really my thing either. Actually, none of the games listed in this thread really interest me. I've played about half of them, and don't particularly love any of them...

My post is really just reinforcing your review. Someone who is looking for a mildly heavier dice game like Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age isn't going to be happy with Skyline, but someone looking for a push-your-luck game like Martian Dice may be very happy with the game.
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Jason Birzer
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mfaulk80 wrote:
My post is really just reinforcing your review. Someone who is looking for a mildly heavier dice game like Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age isn't going to be happy with Skyline, but someone looking for a push-your-luck game like Martian Dice may be very happy with the game.


To be honest a game like Martian Dice (or Zombie Dice) might be a more interesting filler than this game. I've played it three times, and I don't know if there is enough game there.
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Chris Talmadge
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The critical review concept is a good one. However, you just compared one filler dice game to 4 non-filler dice games. Putting Skyline up against Zombie Dice, Martian Dice or Trophy Buck would have been more appropriate.
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Clyde W
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Would it have?

Ra - 45m
Roll - 30m
Court - 45m
Airships - 45m
Skyline - 15m (reviewer claims 30m)
Martian - 10m

Hm, yeah. Hard to say. I like the math someone else did... 45 seconds per turn, 4 players, 9 rounds = 27 minutes. So if you play quick at 30 seconds a turn, then it's 18 minutes, near what the box claims. Perhaps the reviewer should've compared to Liar's Dice, which can be played in 15 minutes. That game is fantastic with 3-5 players for that amount of time.

Also, let's face it, it's hard to compete against Knizia, Lehmann and Seyfarth.
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Mathue Faulkner
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clydeiii wrote:
Would it have?

Ra - 45m
Roll - 30m
Court - 45m
Airships - 45m
Skyline - 15m (reviewer claims 30m)
Martian - 10m

Hm, yeah. Hard to say. I like the math someone else did... 45 seconds per turn, 4 players, 9 rounds = 27 minutes. So if you play quick at 30 seconds a turn, then it's 18 minutes, near what the box claims.

Also, keep in mind that games often end before 9 rounds, or at least it seems. There has already been a thread wondering if most games end early. In my only game (yeah, I enjoyed it that much...), we ended early by a couple rounds. Either way, not really my type of game.
 
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Clyde W
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Yeah. My one game of Skyline went all 9 rounds, but...I'm not sure if we were getting the strategy or just had bad luck. Plus most of the people at the table were checked out and browsing Pintrest on their phones (ie, the three girls).
 
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Jon Ben
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ct5150 wrote:
The critical review concept is a good one. However, you just compared one filler dice game to 4 non-filler dice games. Putting Skyline up against Zombie Dice, Martian Dice or Trophy Buck would have been more appropriate.


I am sure that a comparison with the games you mention would be valuable for fans of those games. However, I am not a fan of Zombie Dice. I am a fan of Ra, Roll, Court and Airships to varying degrees. So when I saw that Skyline was a light filler dice game that plays 2-4 I thought "Hey I might like this". This review is meant to help people with similar interests understand where Skyline falls in the light-strategy die-roller category.

With 4 experienced players Ra, Roll, Court and Airships all fit easily into 30-40 minutes. I played a 3 player of Ra the other day in about 25 minutes. I think the comparison with these games is apt.

I don't think Skyline is a fun-filled romp like Zombie Dice and other ultra-light offerings. It's themed like a Euro and has some Euro mechanics as well. From the buzz around the game I had the impression that it had at least a little strategy.

Taking all of this into account perhaps Skyline doesn't properly fit into either category?
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Jon Ben
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clydeiii wrote:
Would it have?

Ra - 45m
Roll - 30m
Court - 45m
Airships - 45m
Skyline - 15m (reviewer claims 30m)
Martian - 10m

Hm, yeah. Hard to say. I like the math someone else did... 45 seconds per turn, 4 players, 9 rounds = 27 minutes. So if you play quick at 30 seconds a turn, then it's 18 minutes, near what the box claims. Perhaps the reviewer should've compared to Liar's Dice, which can be played in 15 minutes. That game is fantastic with 3-5 players for that amount of time.

Also, let's face it, it's hard to compete against Knizia, Lehmann and Seyfarth.


Yes Liar's Dice is fantastic, I agree. I play that game primarily in pubs with non-gamers and it's always a lot of fun. Liar's dice pits you against the psychology of your opponents, as such it's a highly interactive experience. You feel like you're playing against other people. With Skyline you're mostly playing against the game, at least in comparison to Liar's Dice. I don't think Skyline promotes laughter and fun the way Liar's Dice does. Skyline is light but not light-hearted.
 
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nyn -
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Interesting comparision. I do understand why you chose those games (you like them, of course), but I agree with the commenters above that you're trying to compare a press your luck game with games which are more geared toward a dice based strategy genre (time being irrelevant here). Skyline is far and away a simpler game than any of those you listed. Skyline bills itself as a press your luck game, not a strategy game (also, not to be confused with party games which are typically geared toward a bigger crowd and don't have the same time restraints).

It is true that Zombie Dice hit paydirt with its theme, but this is not to say that the Skyline theme is not engaging. My family finds it more entertaining than Martian Dice (in which case the decisions between cows and chickens fails to impress anyone) but less so than Zombie Dice (which just seems to move faster while eating brains is a blast for all). We also prefer Skyline over Cthulhu Dice. That's about the extent of what I'm willing to compare it to.

I will say that this game should absolutely NOT be played with more than 4 players. I made this mistake and regretted every painfully excessive minute of it. I fudged the round marker to make the game end sooner because it was so painful (also, all the penthouse dice wound up in the abandoned pile which was annoying). The game is accessible to children and provides variety. One requirement I have with fillers is that I must have variety in my collection as I feel they tend to wear thin faster than meatier games.

One of the downfalls, in my opinion, is that there are so many bits. I'd much rather the game be contained into a single cylander/bag such as Zombie Dice, etc. rather than filling a table with separate pools of dice as well as a round tracker board and scoring markers. It's way too much for a 15-20 minute game. This makes it more difficult to pull out at a restaurant, for example, where other simple card or dice games might go over fine.

Thanks for sharing your review!
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Mathue Faulkner
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thenyn wrote:

One of the downfalls, in my opinion, is that there are so many bits. I'd much rather the game be contained into a single cylander/bag such as Zombie Dice, etc. rather than filling a table with separate pools of dice as well as a round tracker board and scoring markers. It's way too much for a 15-20 minute game. This makes it more difficult to pull out at a restaurant, for example, where other simple card or dice games might go over fine.


+1

I could really go without any of the cardboard in the game. I don't mind the heaps of dice, but the cardboard could be replaced with a pen/paper.
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David Short
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JonBen wrote:
Taking all of this into account perhaps Skyline doesn't properly fit into either category?

This.

I was inspired by Martian Dice in that I wanted a very quick game that was easy to get to the table, but with decisions that lasted longer than a single turn. I think I succeeded in this goal, but recognize that this may leave some players on each end dissatisfied. On the other hand, it should also appeal to many gamers on both ends.

Nevertheless, I appreciate the thoughtful review, Jon.
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mfaulk80 wrote:
Outside of box size (and price?), I actually wouldn't put Skyline in the same category as those games. It is more of a push your luck game like Zombie Dice, Martian Dice, Bears!, Go Nuts! or Dino Hunt Dice. It's the cardboard pieces that make the game seem like it should belong in a different category...


Agreed. Skyline is a simple push-your-luck game that is an improvement on games like Zombie Dice because you have real strategic decisions to make. Very fun game that is different than the other games in this review.
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mfaulk80 wrote:
thenyn wrote:

One of the downfalls, in my opinion, is that there are so many bits. I'd much rather the game be contained into a single cylander/bag such as Zombie Dice, etc. rather than filling a table with separate pools of dice as well as a round tracker board and scoring markers. It's way too much for a 15-20 minute game. This makes it more difficult to pull out at a restaurant, for example, where other simple card or dice games might go over fine.


+1

I could really go without any of the cardboard in the game. I don't mind the heaps of dice, but the cardboard could be replaced with a pen/paper.


Interesting. I couldn't disagree more. I love the cardboard and feel the little buildings add a ton of "theme" to the game. "Its the difference of opinion that makes horse races." -Mark Twain.
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FezAZ wrote:
mfaulk80 wrote:
thenyn wrote:

One of the downfalls, in my opinion, is that there are so many bits. I'd much rather the game be contained into a single cylander/bag such as Zombie Dice, etc. rather than filling a table with separate pools of dice as well as a round tracker board and scoring markers. It's way too much for a 15-20 minute game. This makes it more difficult to pull out at a restaurant, for example, where other simple card or dice games might go over fine.


+1

I could really go without any of the cardboard in the game. I don't mind the heaps of dice, but the cardboard could be replaced with a pen/paper.


Interesting. I couldn't disagree more. I love the cardboard and feel the little buildings add a ton of "theme" to the game. "Its the difference of opinion that makes horse races." -Mark Twain.


I agree that it's pretty. The whole game has a very pretty design and the theme is well integrated throughout. But it's a 20 minute game with a 10 minute setup that takes up an entire table and that just seems a bit off to me. I enjoy the game, don't get me wrong, but I learned my lesson in trying to take it to a restaurant.
 
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FezAZ wrote:
Interesting. I couldn't disagree more. I love the cardboard and feel the little buildings add a ton of "theme" to the game. "Its the difference of opinion that makes horse races." -Mark Twain.


I love having extra "stuff" for a game, but I do see the point that it makes this game appear to be heavier than it is. It could potentially give new players the impression "that was it?"

The opposite is true, since for a heavy game, I want all the extra thematic pieces to convey the epicness, but I think that's obvious for everyone.
 
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travvller wrote:

On the lighter end I love Liar's Dice and Can't Stop. Skyline is in the Can't Stop category from the looks of it.
Picking up the game tonight, so I'll see.


This was my feeling as well - Skyline has a very similar feel to Can't Stop with the addition of a minor strategic choice or two. It feels far more like Can't Stop than it does the more complex games listed above.
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mfaulk80 wrote:
thenyn wrote:

One of the downfalls, in my opinion, is that there are so many bits. I'd much rather the game be contained into a single cylander/bag such as Zombie Dice, etc. rather than filling a table with separate pools of dice as well as a round tracker board and scoring markers. It's way too much for a 15-20 minute game. This makes it more difficult to pull out at a restaurant, for example, where other simple card or dice games might go over fine.


+1

I could really go without any of the cardboard in the game. I don't mind the heaps of dice, but the cardboard could be replaced with a pen/paper.

And indeed, there's no reason you really need to use the cardboard bits. They're main function is to ensure the dice don't run out, but you could easily replace them with paper for a more portable experience.
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Jon Ben
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I'd like to thank everyone for the feedback.

Focusing my review on more strategic games was perhaps short-sighted of me. That's what I wished Skyline to be but I should have included a broader range of dice games. It would be difficult for me to write that review though. As it stands I have highlighted why fans of my chosen games might not like Skyline. However, I haven't addressed why liking game X might mean you like Skyline. I'm at a disadvantage in this respect because I don't like Skyline and I suspect I don't like game X either

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If you like can't stop, you will likely enjoy skyline. Also skyline fits more solidly with the hasbro express games (and can't stop) than any other sub rheme.
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Bagherra wrote:
If you like can't stop, you will likely enjoy skyline. Also skyline fits more solidly with the hasbro express games (and can't stop) than any other sub rheme.


Can't Stop has slightly more nuanced push-your-luckness, but can also run far too long. Perhaps Pickomino would be a better game to compare it with?

B>
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Jon Ben
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There are 152 dice games with the push your luck mechanic in the database. Of those the top 5 in rank are:

Roll Through the Ages
Can't Stop
Ra: the Dice Game
Pickomino
Sushi Bar (Sushizock im Gockelwok)
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David Dawson
United States
Cincinnati
Ohio
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Has the reviewer or anyone else played Alea Iacta Est, or would you consider that type of dice game a little too different to compare?
 
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