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Review: Scripts and Scribes: The Dice Game

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Scripts and Scribes took the life of a monk in a medieval abbey and let you live it out in a quick and clever card game.  Now you get to have the same exciting experience of collecting your favorite miscellaneous manuscripts and whatnot in a dice game!

How It Works

Scripts and Scribes: The Dice Game is a dice selection game that has the players acting as monks that are acquiring materials for their abbey to sell and become the most prestigious abbey in the land.  There are six categories that represent resources that the players are attempting to gather to aid in their craft. Five of these are materials (scrolls, manuscripts, pigments, quills, and ink) and the last is influence of the Abbot. Each category is represented by a column on a main board that shows each player’s progress in acquiring that resource. At the top of the column is a scoring die that represents how valuable that category is, all the categories start with a value of 3 but may be increased or decreased throughout the game.

Players take turns rolling a set of seven dice, five of which represent the six resources that they are collecting and the other two have special functions. The first of these two additional dice is a gold colored die which indicates what type of turn is going to occur. The most common is a standard turn, represented by a coin with a value of 1, 2, or 3. During a standard turn, starting with the player who rolled the dice, each player selects a set of resource dice that all have the same symbol on them or one of the other two dice. When selecting a set of dice that indicate a resource, the player will move their marker up the appropriate track equal to the number of dice selected. If the die with the coin is chosen then the player will simply take the amount of Gold indicated. The last die that is available represents the ability to adjust the scoring dice. When a player takes this die they will increase and/or decrease 1 or 2 categories as indicated on the die.

Each of the resource dice clearly indicate which category they represent

If the gold die has a symbol showing two dice then, before the turn occurs, the active player may pay in order to reroll any number of dice (excluding the gold die). Each time they reroll the dice it gets more expensive so this is a limited but useful option. Once the active player is done rerolling the dice a standard turn occurs as normal.

Finally, the last two sides of the gold die contain symbols for two different types of auctions. The first type of auction has the players bidding for the ability to take and use all the dice that got rolled that turn. This auction is done in a somewhat blind fashion where players are simultaneously taking money cards from their hand and playing them face down in front of themselves to indicate how much they are willing to bid. Once cards have been placed down as a bid they must remain in front of the player but more money may be added to the bid at any time. Players continue adding to their bid until all players are done and then everyone reveals their bid. The player who bid the highest pays that amount and activates all the dice, moving up on the tracks accordingly as well as adjusting the scoring dice.

3 player game set up and ready to play

The second type of auction has the players offering to remove one of their markers from a resource track for a one time payout. The bidding can start as high as 10 gold and in turn players can either bid lower or pass. The player that bids the lowest receives that much money and picks one of their markers to remove from a resource track.

As players race up the tracks, they will receive gold at certain intervals along the way to the top. When landing on or passing a spot that indicates a payout, a player will receive an amount based on whether they are first or second player to reach that spot. The higher on the track, the larger the payouts.

Passing a spot with a coin symbol will earns you gold

Once players reach the top of the tracks the game approaches the end. Once three markers reach the top of any of the five resource tracks or one player reaches the top of the Abbot track the game ends immediately and a final gold payout occurs. This is where the scoring dice are finally used. Players that are positioned first and second on each of the resource tracks receive an amount based on the scoring die for that category, three times the amount for first and one times for second. After all five categories have payed out the player with the most gold wins and gets to go on and on about how great their abbey is.

Is A Medieval Monk’s Life For You?

Scripts and Scribes: The Dice Game is based on a card game that shares it’s name (and was later published by iello as Biblios). The games share the common theme of monks collecting resources for their abbey as well as the trademark scoring dice to indicate how valuable the resources are. I will say that even though I tend to stay away from quick dice games I decided to give this one a try because of how much I like Biblios. One of the things that sticks out to me about Biblios is how clever the game is, I appreciate simple rules that lead to quick but meaningful decisions. There are even two completely different phases of the game that flow seamlessly (drafting and auction) and the rules still manage to be dead simple. Scripts and Scribes Dice has a completely different game flow but shares some of the ideology of Biblios in this regard.

First, the rules are simple and the choices that a player has to make are presented very clearly. After the active player has rolled the dice, both the turn structure and the choices that each player will make are displayed on the dice. The gold die that indicates the turn is easy to read to know whether any additional action needs to occur (reroll, auction) before the normal round structure should begin. The choices for a standard turn are presented very quickly by grouping the dice in categories and you can even place them below the categories on the board to allow for an easy indication of how they will affect board position when selected. I will always do just that when an auction occurs to give the players a good idea of what winning the auction will look like. Having all the choices that you need to make on a turn right there on the dice is excellent for keeping the pace of the game quick, no reference is needed outside of interpreting what type of turn the gold die is indicating and even that isn’t needed after you’ve seen one of each occur.

Auctioning off a lot of dice

Second, there is a seamless integration of mechanics with the auctions that have a very large impact on the game. Auctions only occur one third of the time (2 of the 6 sides of the gold die) but when they do happen it’s a meaningful event that doesn’t break the flow of the game. The very fact that they don’t occur often serves to emphasize their importance. When you’re bidding on a lot of dice you really feel the urgency to either win the bid at all costs or drive up the price for someone who needs it more than you. Likewise, removing a cube from the board may not seem like a big deal at first but the loss of flexibility both in dice selection and future auctions is significant enough to really make it a painstaking investment. When the auctions occur, the stakes are clear and the impact of winning the auction is immediately realized on the board. The transition back into the normal flow of the game is seamless as players pick up right where the left off.

Third, the random nature of the choices presented both by the dice selection of a standard turn and the lots up for auction result in a very tactical experience. The options that you’re presented with on your turn must be weighed against the unknown nature of future turns. Players are effectively investing in the different resources not knowing how plentiful or scarce they will be in the future. The game nicely challenges players to juggle multiple categories, weighing their options as they go and taking advantage of opportunities to get ahead or ride behind someone else.

End of game scoring: Orange earns 12 gold (4 x 3) and Blue earns 4 gold (4 x 1)

Where the games differ most widely is in the open nature of the Scripts and Scribes Dice board versus hidden information of the cards in Biblios. Rather than trying to read into what your opponents are doing and bluffing to get ahead, Scripts and Scribes Dice puts everything out there and tasks the players with trying to figure out how to get ahead with everyone watching. The race in each category is tense throughout the game as each player struggles to stay ahead in categories without the scoring die plummeting to a meager 1. There is some commonality in the fact that gambling does play a part in a significantly different way based on how players choose to get ahead. Biblios let you bluff your way into the majority position in a category and convince all the other players to dump their holdings. Scripts and Scribes allows players to push their luck a bit and gamble with what the dice might bring. In both games you can stick to a safe strategy, make sure you have the majority in Biblios and get a clear lead in Scripts and Scribes but sometimes you need to play a little risky in order to pull off the win.

When I first read through the rules I was imagining that Scripts and Scribes Dice was designed for at least 3 players and that the 2 player game would lack the tension and interaction that having more players would allow for. But I have found that some of the mechanics, mainly the gold auction and game end conditions, lead to a significantly different and interesting experience. The way that the game can play out varies more with each play as both players consider whether to dominate their own categories or attempt to fight over each one. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the game was not only playable but offered a unique and fun experience with 2. I do think that it plays best with 3 and is still fun if not chaotic with more.

Racing up the tracks!

If there is a downside to Scripts and Scribes it would likely be in the nature of a light game that plays in a short timeframe. There are a good number of meaningful decisions packed into the game as turns are kept brief but at times it can feel a bit swingy. This can come from both the luck of the dice and the interaction of other players to devalue and steal what you worked so hard for. I also found that the first couple of turns can really lack any sort of meaningful decisions as you are effectively seeding the board with your initial positions. This is a very slight annoyance as it only takes a couple turns to get to the point where you are faced with some tough choices.

Overall, Scripts and Scribes: The Dice Game manages to take a very clever card game and translate it into a quick and simple dice game crammed with tense and meaningful decisions. If you want a fresh take on an excellent dice filler or are scared of dice games entirely this is a great choice.

Summary

  • Rating 8
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Summary

Pros

  • Simple rules and clearly presented choices
  • Turns are quick and meaningful
  • Auctions are seamlessly integrated and impactful
  • Tactical focus leads to tense gameplay

Cons:

  • Unlucky rolls and mean opponents and squash your plans
  • First couple of turns lack meaningful decisions
8.0 Very Good

I love optimization and engine games with tableau builders and card driven ones being my favorite. This usually means medium-heavy euros and medium-light card games.

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