Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Bruno Cathala


No. of Players:
2 - 5



The boom for tactical dice games still is at high tide, and just like the old days in the Wild West we now even see a boomtown spring up where dice-freaks can find a new home. The new town (or game) is called Dice Town, and indeed the well-known French authors Ludovic Maublanc and Bruno Cathala are inviting the players to find their destiny in the Wild West. However, common dice were somewhat unusual in these days, and so the six-sided gameshooters actually do not show dots, but instead they show Poker results (9, 10, Joker, Queen, King and Ace). With these dice the players "poker" for getting the right to use the abilities of different members of the Dice Town community.

The basic mechanism for rolling and collecting dice resembles to some degree the traditional Yahtzee-scheme, since each player possesses a total of five dice which are rolled several times in order to get good poker-combinations (Pair, Full House, Straight etc). However, the authors cleverly have made some adaptions to the mechanism, adding more tension and action for all players, and there is even room for a bit of speculation and tactical playing. Thus, all players have a dice cup (looking a bit like a round of ammunition) and they roll their dice simultaneously. Then each player secretly checks his results, keeps one dice and places the remaining dice back into the cup. Now the results kept by each player are revealed, and the players make another roll with their remaining dice, and from this roll they are once again allowed to keep one dice. The dice rolling continues this way until the fifth and last dice was rolled alone, and with this result each player finishes his "poker"-hand of five dice results.


Quite useful in a round of dice-poker is the possession of some dollars, since there is always a chance that a player would like to keep more than one dice from a good roll. In this occasion the player is allowed to keep more than one dice if he pays a dollar for each additional dice he keeps, and apart from the fact that this allows the player to keep a good result it is also an option for pushing the other players towards an early end of the round. Thus, a player can finish the round earlier by paying to keep additional dice, and when the first player has finished his poker-hand all other players will just get one final roll before the round is over. A simple but nifty trick.

With all players finishing the round of dice-poker the turn moves towards the action phase, and now the players will use their dice-results to interact with the different people and locations of Dice Town. As a general rule, each location only can be used by the player with the best fitting dice result, and so each player's hand will be checked when the locations are dealt with. Most of the locations can be used by the player who has rolled most results of a certain kind, and so the "9" is associated to the Goldmine, the "10" with the Bank, the "Joker" with the General Store, the "Queen" with the Saloon and the "King" with the Sheriff's Office. As indicated, each of the locations allows the player who gains its use a specific action:

  • The Goldmine can be used for digging up gold, and here the player receives one gold nugget for each "9" he has rolled. At the end of the game each nugget will count as one victory point.
  • The Bank is the place where all the money paid by the players is placed (the money is placed there with a delay of one turn). A player who has rolled most "10"s will successfully rob the Bank and may take all the money and add it to his purse. Money may be used during dice-poker, but at the end of the game a player will receive one victory point for each two dollars left in his possession.
  • Variety is added to the gameplay by the use of the General Store, since the successful visitor may take one Store card for each Joker he has rolled. He then may chose one of these cards to keep, whereas all other cards will be discarded. Some of these cards show up to 8 victory points which can be scored by the possession of this card at the end of the game, whereas other cards are special action cards which can be used either during dice-poker or in connection with a visit to one of the twon locations.
  • The pretty dancers will help the player who has rolled most Queens to distract a competitor, and so the player may draw as many cards from that player's hand as he has rolled Queens. He may chose one of these cards to keep, and so the victim looses either a special action card or a victory points card.
  • Being Sheriff of Dice Town is a position of power and fun, since the player who becomes Sheriff by rolling most Kings will be asked to decide whenever two players have rolled the same result for a location. Thus, it will be the Sheriff who says which player gets to use that location, and this often leads to the competitors offering the Sheriff either money, nuggets or cards in order to influence his decision.

The final building of the town is the City Hall, and unlike the other buildings the players here will have to compare their poker-results. The player who has rolled the best poker-result now will receive the Major's assistance, and so the player gets one ownership card for rangelands with a value from one to five victory points. In addition, up to two additional ownership cards may be obtained for each Ace in the player's poker-combination, and so the City Hall is the crucial building for scoring victory points in the game.

Finally, there also is Doc Badluck's wagon, and here all the unhappy players will turn who were not able to get any of the town benefits during a round of play. Doc Badluck will offer a minor compensation, and so a player with such a bad poker-combination will receive a small benefit like some dollars, a Store card or even a roll of barbed wire which allows the player to place two of his ownership cards in front of himself, protecting these cards from any further stealing attempts.

The game finishes either on the depletion of the Mine's gold or the acquiring of the last ownership cards. Now the players will add their victory points from ownership cards, Store cards, nuggets and dollars, and an additional five points will be scored by the last Sheriff in the game. The game is won by the player with most victory points, and in case of a draw - of course - the Sheriff will decide!

Of course you will have discovered when reading this review that Dice Town not really is a strategic game, since the player's usually should try to aim for the acquiring of ownership cards. Quite often dice combinations which allow the use of one of the other buildings partly are a side effect of aiming for the best poker result, and so there is not much of a strategic decision to aim for the use of a specific building. However, there are some occasions when the use of a specific building comes in quite handy (e.g. many dollars at the Bank or an opportunity to steal a just acquired good ownership card), and so there are some basic tactical decisions which can be made. Thus, it is no wonder that some of the dice games which were released over the last few years like Kingsburg or Alea iacta est! offer a slightly increased strategic potential.

However, when it comes to the question of playing fun Dice Town does not just keep up, but the game actually outclasses many of its competitors. The players are eagerly shaking their dice cups waiting for the next result, and it's rather entertaining to put some pressure on the others by spending money to keep additional dice. As indicated, the position of Sheriff also brings fun and interactive elements, and coupled with the cute comic artwork all these elements add up to a great playing atmosphere. This high entertainment value and the seemingly familiar part of the dice-poker mechanics makes Dice Town a splendid game for groups of occasional gamers, but the game also is a rather enjoyable interlude on a longer gaming night. Coming as a bit of a surprise, Dice Town can compete with any of the other dice-games available these days because of it's fast-paced gameplay, and so players really should not underestimate this funny little game!!!

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany