Full disclosure: A review copy of Snowman Dice was provided by Brain Games.
I think maybe one of the worst parts of reviewing board games regularly is that your seasons start to get mixed up from time to time. I reviewed a very Halloween game a few weeks ago, and now, here we are, still in the summer (probably; dunno when this is getting published), and I’m posting a game that’s entirely about snowman construction and racing. What do I even do with that? I mean, I’m not gonna wait until December; that’s silly. On second thought, he writes, on the first of December, waiting until December is a great idea. Either way, let’s see what trouble we can get into with Snowman Dice, a new game from Brain Games.
In Snowman Dice, you are building some wily snowmen. All they want is to run to the North Pole so that they can be there first. It’s something about ley lines, probably. You want your snowman to win, so you’re willing to cheat a bit and chuck snowballs at your opponents to tip them over. First player to get to the North Pole wins, so, look at those snowmen go! Will you be able to reach the finish line before anyone else? Or is there snow way you’ll triumph?
There’s really not much to say, here. Set the North Pole in the center of the play area (maybe to one side if all players are sitting on one side of the table):
Give each player 5 dice:
You’re ready to start! Have each player put one hand behind their back.
So, as I mentioned, Snowman Dice is played with one hand. Your goal? Get your newly-created snowman to the North Pole as quickly as possible. Just watch out for your opponents, who are looking to take you down in a flurrious assault.
The game is played in real-time. Pick up the dice in one hand and roll them; you may reroll any number of dice as many times as you want. The different faces mean different things:
- Bottom: The base of the snowman; everyone needs one. You must put this die on the bottom when building your snowman.
- Middle: The middle of the snowman; best known for its buttons. This one goes between the bottom and the top.
- Top: The face of the snowman; usually considered the friendliest part. Goes on the middle of the snowman.
- Snowflake: A wild snowman piece; can be any part of the snowman you want.
- Arrow: Once you have a complete three-piece snowman, exclaim “look at my snowman go!” and then, using one finger, push your snowman stack towards the North Pole. If it collapses for any reason, you need to start rolling a snowman from scratch.
- Snowball: If you want to help accelerate that snowman collapse process, you may place the snowball die anywhere and flick it at the snowman to try and disassemble it. If it goes flying off the table, though (or if any die does, is how we’ve played), that’s on you to go get it. Be gentle.
Play continues until a snowman reaches the North Pole. When that happens, score:
- If the snowman has any wild pieces: +1 point
- If the snowman has no wild pieces: +2 points
The first player to get at least 3 points wins!
Player Count Differences
At two, I think it’s much easier to stalemate, since you’re not really worried about more than just your opponent. Keep a snowball handy and you can usually give them what for and stop them making progress. If you both do that for long enough, though, you’ll eventually get nowhere. At higher player counts, even the sharpest of snow shooters can’t possibly stop everyone. Plus, it gets wild. People are yelling, grabbing dice, trying to roll quickly, and just a chorus of “Look at my snowman go!!!”. I’d highly recommend it at four players for maximum chaos.
- I’m not sure you’re looking at the right game for strategy advice. This is, again, a real-time dice-rolling game about stacking snowmen and pushing them with one finger towards the North Pole. It’s not exactly a particularly strategic experience. If you want it to be, though, you can do as you please. I’m mostly suggesting that you don’t overthink it.
- That said, keep some snowballs handy. You really want to have one or two at the ready if an opponent starts moving so that you can take them out. It’s critical, otherwise they score.
- Don’t flick too hard. If the snowball (or, by our house rule, the dice you hit) goes off the table, you have to retrieve it. That should incentivize you to be polite, even as you’re being openly destructive.
- I usually tell people to just try and build a snowman as quickly as possible. Even a partially wild snowman is still one point, and it blocks other players from scoring, which is even better. Don’t waste time trying to build the perfect snowman.
- Don’t move too fast. If you do, you’re liable to tip your snowman over or just straight-up knock it down. None of those options are particularly great, so, avoid doing that.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Love the theme. I mean, you’re building snowmen and then racing them towards the North Pole. What’s not to like?
- The dice are a really nice quality. I always really like engraved or etched dice (as opposed to screen-printed); it’s just a personal preference, and they’re very nice for this game.
- Very easy to learn. Roll dice, build a snowman, push it towards the center. Destroy other snowmen. There; you’re ready.
- Very portable. You can honestly just put the dice into a bag if you want; there’s not really any reason to use the “box” / weird orb unless you’re super excited about doing so.
- Plays quickly. A game is usually at least two rounds, and each round takes about 30 – 60 seconds, so you can usually get through a game of this in 10 minutes or less (usually less).
- Always down for a good dexterity game. I mean, if you’ve read this for any length of time, you know that I have a soft spot for speed games and dexterity games, and this, like Pile-Up Rush, is both of those things. It’s just a lot of very fast fun and I’m into that.
- The one-handed rule makes the game very silly. I usually force every player to keep their hand behind their back for maximum silliness. Naturally, if a player needs to use both hands, let them, but it’s definitely fun for players who can play one-handed to be forced to do so.
- Ah, good, another game container that will fit precisely nowhere. It’s just a weird floppy ball; it won’t fit on any shelves and I’m not a hundred percent sure where I can usefully put it, so it’s just going to lay around places until I figure something out.
- The North Pole token can get bent if you’re not careful. I ended up putting it inside the tag that the game came with to keep it nice and flat. That seems to be working out, so far.
- If you’re not into it, don’t play it. You need everyone to be on the same page about how this game is going to go down, otherwise it’s not going to be fun at all. If even one player isn’t aggressively enthusiastic about it, then you risk dragging the whole game down, and that’s not great. If you’re not sure if this game is right for you, it’s probably not.
- You should have a policy in place because dice are going to go everywhere. They’re literally going to be flying off the table if people miss flicks. I usually tell the flicker that they have to go retrieve it to disincentivize people going wild with flicking stuff, and that seems to work well. Try to decide something prior to playing, though.
Overall: 8.75 / 10
Overall, Snowman Dice is super! I can already tell it’s going to be a bit of a polarizing game, since the box is … not really a box, and it’s a speed dexterity game. Those tend to split audiences, but, honestly, I think it’s really great. It’s super simple, almost no rules, and consistently fun to play. It will almost certainly make my 30×10, delightfully, and I’m hoping this, ICECOOL, and Hokkaido will start being some of my winter go-to games. (Reminds me that I should pick up the Winter Edition of Carcassonne.) I think, naturally, this will be a solid game for kids and families (Brain Games’s target market, to be fair); like I said, it’s easy to pick up and not terribly messy. But I think there’s a real good bit of the game that will appeal to people who just want to play a fun, fast, and silly game. It’s hard to be good at it, sure, but it’s a lot of fun in a very small package, and I really appreciate that! So if you’re looking for an ice game (or a nice game; I don’t judge), I’d recommend checking out Snowman Dice! I’ve really enjoyed the games I’ve played of it, so far.