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Review: Dicey Goblins

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As a goblin, there are many ways to make money. You can raid small, unprotected villages. You can raid small, unprotected convoys. You can wait for action-seeking heroes to dig the treasure out of the local labyrinth and then steal said treasure out from underneath them.

But why settle for less than the most glorious method of gathering treasure: stealing it out from under the nose of the local dragon. Sure, it’s dangerous. Sure, that dragon could wake up at any second and fill the cave with her furious flame breath. But there’s a ton of treasure to be had, and even more importantly, glory. So, will you be the bravest, the boldest, and the richest goblin? Will you live to tell your dicey tale?

Find out as you play Dicey Goblins.

How It Plays

Dicey Goblins is a race to score 18 points, in the form of dragon egg currency. To do this, players will risk forays into the Dragon’s lair in an attempt to steal the most valuable dragon eggs without awakening, and thereby facing the wrath of, the indwelling Dragon.

Let's go spelunking!
Let’s go spelunking!

The method of play is simple: each turn, players secretly decide whether they’re going to keep exploring or run from the cave. Whoever leaves gets to take one die from the treasure pool, but all Goblins that leave must get an equal value of treasure. Thus if more than one goblin leaves, an equal number of dice have to have the same number of eggs. (You can’t double up on dice – for example, two dice with 2 eggs each does not equal 1 die with 4 eggs). Otherwise, each leaving player just gets one coin.

For whoever stays, the exploration dice are rolled. Eggs are added to the treasure pool, footprints go back in the exploration pool, and goblin skulls go to the top of the board. If there are 3 goblin skulls, all goblins in the cave are chased out and get nothing. Otherwise, a new turn begins; more dice are added to the exploration pool and goblins must once again decide to continue or leave.

If only one goblin is left, they can take two dice when leaving. If one or more goblins make it all the way to the end of the cave – that is, the dice bag is empty – each Goblin can take 3 dice, although they again must split the treasure evenly.

It should be noted that there are four types of dice. Bronze, Silver, and Gold, each with increasing values of eggs and increasing risk of rolling skulls, and a special Red die which is like a Silver but it allows the player to steal from the richest Goblin instead of taking their coin from the bank.

Coinage!
Coinage!

When all Goblins have left the cave, all dice are returned to the bag and a new round begins. The game ends after 6 rounds or when one Goblin reaches 18 coins or more at the end of a round.

Spelunking for Dragons

When it comes to push-your-luck dice games and stealing from dragons, I have a mantra: simpler is better. The key to creating entertainment value is to make it feel like you can take a risk and actually succeed, and that your choice of when to run and when to dig deeper actually matters. If you can’t gain a meaningful reward for your risk, or if the penalty for failing when you take a risk is so high you’re out of the game, you’re not going to have fun. If the game lasts too long, it’s going to feel boring and repetitive. You don’t want the foils of luck or the simplicity of the game’s structure to overpower the thrill of risk, basically.

Who doesn't love felt bags?
Who doesn’t love felt bags?

As I was pleasantly surprised to discover, in all of these things Dicey Goblins lands on the positive end of the spectrum. It’s pretty straightforward and lasts just the right amount of time. But it also has a few unique elements to it that make it more interesting.

First, lets cover the basics.

The 6-round limit plays with a tricky balance: without a limit, these types of games have a chance of simply going on too long if no one can reach the designated score. I’ve had games of Martian Dice last seemingly forever, simply because none of us could roll any points before busting. On the other hand, a limit that’s too short gives the “luck” aspect of push-your-luck too much sway.

In this case, 6 rounds is just enough. It keeps the game’s pace from running into the ground, and while it’s entirely possible to score the necessary 18 points earlier than that, it gives you enough time to consider the odds. You can play it safe and still have a chance to win; you can also take a big risk and fail, and still have a chance to win.

The board depicts what happens if you wake up the Dragon
The board depicts what happens if you wake up the Dragon

And that brings me to the Tough Choice. Do you stay or do you go? Dicey Goblins gives you all the information you need – how many dice are going to be rolled, the number of skulls already on the table, how much treasure is available. You can weigh the risks and rewards. Sometimes leaving is the best option; sometimes, you stay as long as possible and it pans out. You don’t know beforehand, so the choice is interesting.

But what makes it even more interesting, what sets Dice Goblins apart from many other push-your-luck dice games, is that all the players are in this together. Not only do you need to weigh the chance of scoring big or taking the safe bet, you have to weigh the chances of the OTHER players scoring big if you let them go on alone. You’re all riding on the same roll, and if someone gets left alone in the cave, they’re going to score big.

Think of all the cash these eggs are worth!
Think of all the cash these eggs are worth!

I can’t think of another game in this vein that puts players together like this. Sure, you lose the joy of rolling your very own fistfuls of dice, but you also lose the frustration of always rolling total garbage while your neighbor scores point after point. There’s something inherently exciting about being in there with other players, with your choices affecting what happens to them and vice versa. It’s quite pleasing to be the one who flees the cave just before the dragon eats everyone else, or to be the one that risked it all and got a huge payoff at the end. It’s also not so bad to be in the cave along with someone else; at least if you’re eaten, you’re eaten together.

You might have noticed, but the game shares many similarities to another popular title – Incan Gold. While the theme is a little more fantastical, you’ve got some of the same core concepts; a group of players headed into a dangerous cave together, with ever-increasing rewards and threats, who must split any rewards.  The dice system is a little more restrictive than the gems of Incan Gold as far as collection points, but rolling dice is a little more exciting than flipping up a card.

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?

And while nothing is certain, it’s nice that you have information to work with. You know if you’re playing against the odds, or with them. You know, at least in some sense, your odds of getting treasure if you leave along with other players. There are always valid arguments to made for either decision, so again your choice remains interesting.

While I can certainly speak positively of this game, keep in mind that, well, it is what it is. Don’t like push-your-luck dice games? This ain’t gonna sell ya. There’s always the chance of frustrating failures, of rolling dragons all the way home, or of watching someone else take the cake with a full cave run on their own, completely against the odds. None of that bothers me because the game is a short, zippy dice game.

Delicious, delicious golden eggs.
Delicious, delicious golden eggs.

One thing Dicey Goblins does NOT have is a neat, compact, portable container a la Martian Dice. I mean, those self-contained dice cups are pretty fun. But this comes in a box – a small box, yes, but it’s not going to fit in your pocket. You do get some nice components – a helpful board to keep things organized, the dice, a felt bag, and lots of coins to keep score (no round tracker, though).

With all these simple push-your-luck dice games out there, it’s hard for anything to really stand out from the crowd. By putting all the players together in the same run, Dicey Goblins adds something unique to the mix. While I wish it had a more portable container, I think it’s actually become my favorite dice game in this genre. It’s quick, clever, and entertaining, and even works well thematically.

Plus, you know how we feel about foiling dragons around here.

iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Renegade Games for providing a review copy of Dicey Goblins.

  • Rating 8.0
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Summary

Pros

Simple and quick
Round limit keeps game from going too long but doesn't cut the game short
Reasonably tough risk/reward choice
Rolling dice is fun!

Cons

Lacks a round tracker
Box isn't as portable as other dice games
Goblin theme may not appeal to everyone

8.0 Very Good

Futurewolfie loves epic games, space, and epic games set in space. You'll find him rolling fistfuls of dice, reveling in thematic goodness, and giving Farmerlenny a hard time for liking boring stuff.

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