Sometimes you want to play a challenging brain burner; other times you just want some less demanding fun. That's where Cherry Bomb Table Games' Dice War comes in.
Essentially, it's a Poker Dice variant. You roll five conventional six-sided dice and you score them as poker hands in ascending rank order: Three of a Kind; Full House (3 of a kind plus a pair); Small Straight (4 dice in sequential order); Four of a Kind; Large Straight (5 dice in sequential order); 'Fiver' (Five of a Kind). You get three rolls (ie: you can re-roll twice) and the winner of each round is the player with the highest ranking dice combination. The game doesn't distinguish between dice values, so three 6's is considered to be just the same as three 2's; this initially seemed odd but we reasoned that it helped to reduce the disadvantage of being the player who rolled earlier in a round.
There are oddities in the combo rankings tho'. The game categorises anything below Three of a Kind as 'No Dice', so rolling two pairs is no better than rolling just one.
If you were just rolling dice in this way tho', Dice War would be indistinguishable from Poker Dice. What makes the difference are the cards. There's a deck of 25 cards. Everyone draws a card at the start of the game and you draw another card whenever you win a round. Most cards can be held in reserve. The 'Extra Roll' card (of which there are five) does just what it says on the card and can help you better the combo you got in just three rolls; most of the other cards tho' have a 'take that' effect on other players. Variously these let you 'Steal a card', 'Steal a roll' (actually just depriving an opponent of their third roll), or 'Steal a Dice' (taking away a die of your choice after their final roll!). 'Keep it Pushin' makes an opponent miss their turn altogether - so they quite literally score 'No Dice'. Slightly less devastating, 'Pick Your Poison' lets you call out a number 1-6; if they happen to roll that number in their first roll, they score 'No Dice'. 'Respect the Ones' allows the player to score but they can only preserve 1's when they re-roll. There's a 'Not Today' card that you can play to protect yourself from the effects of a 'take that' card. There's also a Bankrupt card that forces a player to discard all their cards. Finally, the 'Dice War' card - which is the one card you have to play immediately you draw it - forces a 'roll off', with all players rolling and comparing a single die. The winner scores a point and draws another card - so the cards are the opposite of a catch-up mechanic!
As if rolling dice wasn't random enough, the cards inject further creative chaos into the mix. There are tactical choices to be made about when to play your card(s) and since you don't know what other card(s) players have in hand, there's a tension over whether or not someone will play a card on you... Dice War worked especially well for us as a drinking game which you could take down the pub and play for laughs without having to invest a lot of concentration. Dice War includes a score sheet for 2-5 players, but it's really only the score sheet that limits the number of players to five. You could easily add another player.
We didn't like the 'Dice War' roll-off card because it gives no advantage to the player who draws it, so if you are unlucky enough to pick up this card then you are effectively losing your single-use boost or 'take that' effect that all the other players will be earning from their card. You don't even get to choose when to play it. In our Board's Eye View plays we ended up house ruling our own compensation for this by giving a +1 to the die of the player who draws the card. Another aspect of the game that we found annoying was the rule that insisted you can't win until you win a round with a 'Fiver' (Five of a Kind). Tho' this provides an opportunity for lagging players to catch up, it risks prolonging the game in the same way that needing to roll a 6 to win can stretch out children's roll & move games. We'd be tempted to ditch this requirement as another of our 'Public House' rules.
If you're looking for a dice chucking filler-length game, then Dice War could be just the ticket. It's due to come to Kickstarter on 29 March and the KS promises more card effects thrown into the mix. Watch this space: we'll add a link to the campaign when it goes live.