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Designed by Richard Wolfrik Galland, VERSA is a dice rolling pattern recognition game from Sabrewolf that uses a set of 25 custom six-sided dice and deck of 25 cards showing various patterns of the different symbols on the dice. Most players will distinguish the different die faces by colour (red, yellow, green, blue, purple and blank) but the colours also use different symbols so the game is accessible to colour-blind players.

In this two-player game, the dice are arranged in a 5 x 5 grid. They start off all showing their blank face. Each player starts off with a hand of five cards. These each show a pattern of symbols in a single colour. You get to discard a card when you make that pattern on the dice grid. The winner is the player who is first to discard all their cards.

On your turn, you choose any row or column of dice and you roll all the dice in that row or column that are showing as blank. Obviously that means at the start of the game you'll be tolling five dice. You replace the dice you roll in the spaces left in the grid. That done, you choose a die (from anywhere in the grid) and switch it to match that of an adjacent die. You then get to swap position of any two adjacent dice. If after these steps you've made a pattern that matches one or more of the cards in your hand, you discard those cards. The dice used to make the patterns on the card(s) are switched to their blank side. You also switch to blank any row or column where all the dice are the same colour.

Unless you've just won the game, you end your turn by drawing another pattern card and dropping one from your hand. This means you aren't stuck with the same cards throughout the game.

Tho' the rules are simple, and VERSA is easy to pick up and play, it can be quite challenging unless you have good pattern recognition skills. There's strategy in thinking and planning ahead to increase the prospect of achieving the patterns on your cards. Since you're rolling dice, there's obviously luck involved but you can use the switch and swap actions to mitigate that luck. Canny players will try to use an opponent's actions to deduce the colour and pattern they are trying to achieve so that they can upset their plans. And you might also try to bluff or feint with your positioning and actions to throw your opponent off your scent so that they don't manipulate the dice that will sabotage your pattern.

Because you're reducing your hand size with every success in making a pattern, the game has a built in catch-up mechanic: a player who is lagging behind has more cards/patterns from which to choose.

We've enjoyed our plays of VERSA, and we've noticed our pattern recognition skills have improved the more we've played! With most games running to around 20 minutes, VERSA plays quickly. Our one gripe is that it is rather fiddly maintaining the 5 x 5 dice grid when you are constantly picking up, replacing and manipulating dice. Sabrewolf are currently packaging the game in a handy canvas bag but we'd liked to see it boxed with a moulded grid into which the dice could fit; possibly even in the base of the box, with the box lid usable as a dice tray for those that are rolled.

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