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The Invasion is Coming! (A Review of Martian Dice)

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Fortunately it comes in English and Squiggly

Martian incursions on the planet Earth are the subject of many geek discussions, conspiracy theories, and science-fiction franchises. Have they visited? If so, why?

In Martian Dice, players will get a chance to answer these questions by taking on the roles of the Martians and exploring the motivations, the cultural backgrounds, and the scientific expenditures that would bring them to Earth the capture and experiment on humans and animals.

Just kidding. You’re just going to roll a fistful of dice and try to capture as many humans, cows, and chickens as martianly possible while fending off tanks so that you survive.

How It Plays

The goal of Martian Dice is to score 25 points before anyone else, or at least have the most points after someone scores 25 points (and everyone has had an equal number of turns).

On a player’s turn, they will roll the thirteen colorful dice, which feature humans, cows, chickens, tanks, and death rays.

Tanks must be set aside, and after that, the player can set aside one other type.  However, they must set aside all of the type chosen.  In addition, if they have already set aside humans, cows, or chickens earlier in the same turn, they cannot set the same type aside again twice. (That is, if you have previously set aside humans in the same turn, you cannot set aside humans on a later roll).

Dice are fun!

All dice that have not yet been set aside may be re-rolled, or the player can choose to stop, until after a roll no additional dice may be set aside (either because all dice have been set aside, or because the dice rolled match humans, chickens, or cows that have already been set aside).

After stopping, the player scores 1 point for each human, cow and chicken set aside, and 3 bonus points if there is at least 1 of each type.  However, if the player did not at least match the number of tanks with an equal number (or higher) of death rays, they score NO points at all.

Planetary Conquest or Crash Landing?

Not every game needs to be a deep euro, or a super thematic game of conquest, or even a lite but mechanically interesting filler. Sometimes you just want to casually roll dice, and as it turns out, it’s a lot more fun to roll dice with a purpose than without one. (Seriously, I tested it out.)

Martian Dice is a simple concept and adds its own small twist to it to make it just a little different and stand out from the other dice-in-a-cup games. There are at least a few of those available, from the mass market Farkle to the featured-on-Tabletop Zombie Dice.

Martian Dice is enjoyable because of its simpleness. It gives you a sense of control over what you have little control over, and it is quick and casual. I especially like the dice, which feel like good dice (I can’t say that I’m really any sort of dice-manufacturing expert), but most importantly have very clearly distinguished sides, both in color and shape.  Even in a mess of 13 dice it is quick to separate the dice into groups and make a quick choice about what to keep.

This would be a great score for a single turn. 10 points! But this kind of thing never happens to me.

It is possible, well really like any dice game, to roll and score no points for many rounds in a row. After all, if you roll seven tanks on your first try, you’re already doomed. At least it goes quickly. Fortunately, as there are only five symbols for a six-sided die, you have two chances to roll those ever-so-helpful death rays. Of course, it’s equally as scoreless if you roll seven death rays and six tanks, or ten death rays and three tanks, or thirteen death rays. But that’s the nature of the game.

At its most fun, Martian Dice captures the essence of push-your-luck in a single decision: do you take the five cows and hope that your limited dice pool doesn’t add any more tanks to what you have, or do you set aside the two humans so you have more chances of rolling death rays in the future? Do you grab an excellent set of points and hope you roll the one extra death ray you need with your last die, or play it safe? Sometimes you’ll score big, sometimes you won’t. It’s fun to risk it all though, even as it’s fun to score points.

Martian Dice is best when it doesn’t last too long, and although I have experienced a game in which an exorbitant amount of those roll-only-tanks-and-death-rays turns pushing the game well over the twenty-five minute mark, most of the other games lasted five to ten minutes, and you don’t really have to wait long for your turn.

The tanks fended off the Martian Invasion… this time

So for what Martian Dice is, it works just fine. Each turn boils down to pushing your luck as far as you can go. Sometimes you will play conservatively just to make sure you add a few points to your score; other times you will risk it all to chance winning big. It’s simple and quick and an enjoyable diversion. The dice are nice and the “game box” doubles as a nice dice cup to help you roll all those dice. No scoring tokens or papers are included, so you’ll have to come up with something on your own, but that’s not a big deal considering the low cost and diversionary nature of the game.

It’s not a must-have, but if you’re looking for a very quick diversionary game with a little luck-pushing excitement, Martian Dice is certainly a worthy option.

Summary

  • Rating 8
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Summary

Pros

  • As a quick diversion, works great
  • Well-designed and easy to read dice
  • It's fun to roll fist-fulls of dice

Cons

  • Bad luck can extend the length of the game
  • if no one is scoring any points
  • Not the game you're going to be itching to play at game night
8 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.

Discussion2 Comments

    • I had the same question myself before I played it. I knew about Zombie Dice from tabletop, but just happened to get my hands on Martian Dice first. Both very simple concepts but different in their own rights.

      I just don’t know that you would need both.

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