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We played only one game this week: a four-player round of Castle Dice. I Kickstarted it at the Print-and-Play level: enough to get a set of its custom dice but not the entire game. The rest required supplying my own tokens and printouts.

It’s a dice drafting game. Players select which custom dice to roll based on the resources they want that turn — brown dice produce varying quantities of wood, yellow dice make coins, red dice make iron, etc. Resources buy various Villagers (which help your production) and Buildings (which are mainly worth victory points). Dice might also produce livestock, which have inherent bonuses and can also be traded in for more cards, or barbarians, which steal resources. The drafting comes into play after the roll. Although players independently select which dice to roll, they don’t keep their rolls straight up. Rather, the dice are rolled into a community pool and the players take turns collecting them one at a time until none are left.

The final scores went 8-9-9-10, with me winning. Part of it was me being most familiar with the game, and part of it was luck: other players drawing too many expensive cards mid-game, me drawing Walls before drawing cards that work better based on your Wall count, me drawing the perfect combination of cards on the last turn to reach a bonus condition I’d been stymied on the turn before.

Overall, it’s not a very good game. It’s inelegant, with lots of small rules that feel tacked on and too many tiny phases to the turn. The card rules are overbearing. There are three decks of random cards (in a dice game!) You can hold a maximum of five cards, combined, from the first two, but any number of the third. (This was obviously done to prevent players from getting stuck with too many Villagers when they want Buildings, or vice versa, but it’s still a kludge.) Also, the variety of cards within each deck is low. Even though the game runs a fixed seven turns, it felt like it drug out. (Some of this was due to most of the players being new, but not all.) Two of the players complained there was too much luck involved, and a big part of that is the drafting: you might get unlucky and roll poorly, or you might roll well but have some of “your” dice drafted by other players who want the same resources you do. Several ideas for fixing the game got tossed around, but nothing conclusive.

In the line-up for future game nights: Trains, Hanabi, and a vintage board game from the late 1930s.

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