#707 – Divvy Dice

Base price: $25.
1 – 4 players.
Play time: ~30 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 2 

Full disclosure: A review copy of Divvy Dice was provided by Stronghold Games.

I suppose this is an exciting milestone, in that I’m not totally sure when this review is going to be published. Which is nice! It means I’m back to almost something approximating normal, as opposed to being a bit behind the 8 ball for a few weeks / months / all of 2020. I’m hoping to burn some time before the end of the month fulfilling a few more of these reviews before things really wrap up so that I’m a bit more ahead of the curve in 2021 than I have been this year. Either way, I appreciate y’all sticking with the site through a tumultuous year. We’ve had some exciting things happen, but it’s been a pretty tough 12 months. Hope that by the time you read this, things are better! Onto Divvy Dice!

In Divvy Dice, you’ve got to try to avoid splitting things up! But it’s not so simple. The problem is that basically every turn, you’re going to have to try to complete a card. Dead simple, right? Game’s over in 9 turns, maybe a few more. The problem is that a lot of the cards can’t be completed so easily. And that means … you’ll have to reroll. What peril awaits you? You’ll just have to keep reading and find out!

Contents

Setup

Not a ton to do, here. You can set the dice nearby:

Set the Market Board in the center:

Shuffle the Scoring Cards. Deal each player two, and then place four face-up along the top half of the Market:

Do the same thing for the Bonus Cards; each player should get two, and four more should go face-up along the bottom half of the Market:

Finally, choose a player to go first and distribute the appropriate Tally Cards, or shuffle them and use that to determine who goes first:

From the four cards they have, each player now returns one card to the bottom of its deck, and plays the remaining three in some configuration so that they are adjacent to each other. You can play them in a single row or column, but that may make your life harder, later.

You should be ready to start!

Gameplay

In Divvy Dice, your goal is to score as many points as possible by completing your cards. But be careful! You can only use dice on your turn if they will complete one entire card, and rerolls give your opponents opportunities to score, themselves! Build up your grid and try to make the points work for you.

To start your turn, roll the 5 dice. You may use any number of them, provided:

  • You use them on exactly one card. You cannot split the dice up.
  • You complete that card on this turn. You cannot use the dice unless the card will be completed.

You can instead buy a card from the Market, provided you have three or four dice of the same value. If you do, choose a card and add it to your grid. Your grid cannot be more than 3×3, so choose the location carefully! Once you do that, slide the remaining cards to the right to fill the gap and reveal a new card from that stack.

If you can’t or don’t want to do either of those things, you may reroll any of your dice up to two additional times. Place dice you’re not rerolling on the Construction Zone, and reroll the rest. Once you’ve done that, hold up for a second! You don’t get to reroll dice for free. Instead, your opponents can take any one value on the dice you rerolled and use it on one of their cards. It’s very generous of you, if you think about it. This happens every time you reroll!

When we talk about “using dice”, we really mean that you write the die’s value on a card or cross that value off of a card. Some cards have requirements like values that need to be less than others or equal to others or certain values need to be from certain dice colors. But once you complete a card, then they really come into their own. You see, cards are either Scoring Cards or Bonus Cards. Scoring Cards (may) give you points, and Bonus Cards give you a finite number of special abilities to try and help you get even more points.

After two rerolls, if you have nothing you want you may do one of the following Chance actions:

  • Dice Chance: You can use any two dice on your cards. You may only use each of the two dice once, and they can be used on the same card or different cards.
  • Market Chance: You may take the top face-down card from either market deck and either add it to your grid or discard it to the bottom of the deck.

The game ends once any player has taken their ninth card and completed their grid. Finish the round, and then play one more complete round. If you, by some ancient magic, have finished every card in your grid, you have to still take your turn and roll three times, giving your opponents free dice on your rerolls. That’ll teach you for being presumptuous.

After the game ends, tally up your points on those handy tally cards. The player with the most points wins!

Player Count Differences

I’d say in terms of how the game is played, it can be pretty different as player counts increase. At lower player counts, it’s a bit harder to get started, as you aren’t getting that many additional dice when it’s not your turn (because there are fewer players). At higher player counts, the game can accelerate pretty rapidly as a result (you could get 6 dice between turns, often enough to complete a card!). It changes the calculus of what you should do on your turn a bit, right? You may want to focus more on buying cards if there are that many players around, or you might be able to complete cards more easily since you’ve had more excess dice to check off. Either way, it nicely compensates for the increased delay due to having additional players, so the playtime isn’t meaningfully affected. I do think that this makes a case for itself at three players, as a result, since you’re in the sweet spot of “not enough players for the dice” and “constant dice”. That’s personally where I’d recommend it.

There’s also a pretty interesting solo campaign with 7 levels! If you’re into solo play, this might be another one to check out.

Strategy

  • I wouldn’t recommend trying to rush the game. Even if you did it perfectly, there’d still be 10 turns that your opponents would get to take and they should be able to finish at least one card in that time, likely giving them more points than you. It’s not quite a short enough game that a rush strategy works, especially because players can score and take dice when it’s not their turn.
  • Early game, I think taking more cards is a good move for a bit. Other players will be trying to get their games started, so if you take a few additional cards without needing to reroll, you can prevent them completing cards until you have a much wider array of options, which will prevent you from stalling out later as your cards fill up. Just make sure that you leave room for certain cards with adjacency bonuses! Gotta max that score.
  • Try to have a couple available bonuses as much as you can. It’s nice to have some flexibility on your rolls, so saving a bonus for when you feel like you Really Need It isn’t always a bad move. Just avoid what I loosely call the Megalixir Problem, in which you hold on to a bonus because it’s “good” but ultimately never end up using it because the perfect moment never arrives. It’s a tough balance to strike, but that’s why you get three uses of the bonus.
  • Similarly, try to have at least two incomplete cards at any given time, until you approach the end of the game. Just having some extra cards available for extra dice is generally a good idea! If not, you won’t be able to take advantage of your opponents’ garbage turns. If you only have a few options left, your opponents may opt to try and reroll such that you can’t benefit, which is also no fun. Leaving yourself a bunch of available cards around the mid-game is good, for that reason. Naturally, you don’t want to have a bunch of empty cards by the end of the game, so make sure you’re still filling them in as you can.
  • Watch out when you take cards and make sure you’re not taking cards that overlap too heavily. Don’t, for instance, take three cards that all want you to roll 4s unless you’ve been cursed by a demon or something and can only roll 4s. Having a good variety makes it easier for you to use Chance usefully, when it comes up, and it makes it easier for you to take advantage of your opponents’ rerolls.
  • Try to strike a good balance between taking bonus and taking scoring cards. A lot of Divvy Dice comes down to how well you can get your grid to synergize. If you overindex on bonuses then you’ll be able to fill out almost every card that comes your way … but you won’t have enough room to place them, and so you’ll stall out mid-game. If you overindex on scoring cards, you’ll still stall mid-game, but that’ll be because you’re reliant on your opponents who have gotten enough bonuses that they don’t need to fuss with rerolls. You don’t want to be in either of those two boats, so keep an eye on what your opponents are taking and try to make sure you’re taking a good balance of cards, as well.
  • That said, you’re often going to see The Perfect Card. Just take it. It gives you a ton of points! It’s super easy to fill out! It’s the perfect bonus for you! There are all kinds of reasons to take a card, and if that’s the card you need, that might be the card to go for. A lot of the time it slots perfectly into your grid and gives you a bunch of points, so it may be worth the additional rerolls to get it before your opponents can try and snap it up.
  • If you have no good options, reroll the least helpful dice to your opponents. If you can see they’re waiting for green and pink, keep those dice in your Construction Zone and roll the others. That way, they either won’t be able to use your reroll or they’ll have to sacrifice a bonus for it. Making your opponents work for their numbers is always a good idea.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • I appreciate that the spatial orientation of the cards matters a lot. It gives the game a very different abstract sense than the combo-heavy roll-and-write games I’ve become somewhat accustomed to, which is interesting. There aren’t really combos, here. You either get the card or you don’t. I kind of wish the grids were bigger, but that would add a lot of play time to the game, so I’m satisfied with this. I just like the idea of more possible configuration scoring options.
  • I love that the first few turns are reroll-heavy, as a way to essentially seed player starts. There are not many cards that can be completed on your first turn, so you must reroll to either get new cards or to try and get a Chance attempt. Either way, everyone’s taking those numbers and using them towards their own ends, so it almost gives players a variable starting configuration beyond the variable starting grids. I like it a lot, though it takes some getting used to.
  • I like that the player interaction is on a reroll, so you really need to hope for your opponent(s) to have garbage rolls. I usually just chant “garbage turn” while they’re rolling, which is super appreciated and people love that I do that. Incidentally, and unrelated, but I’ve been playing a lot more games by myself. Nonetheless, usually garbage turns are fairly frustrating for everyone, but since your opponents benefit from rerolls, it adds a nice player interaction to those moments.
  • The tension between taking scoring cards and bonus cards is also interesting. It’s a tough balance to strike! I like that there’s never a consistent right answer, either, as it depends on where your opponents are, what cards you’ve already taken, and how far along you are in the game. Even the same group game-to-game may have different breakdowns of which cards were a good fit and when. I think that’s really cool! Makes the games very dynamic.
  • I’m glad more games are experimenting with dry erase cards. There are a lot of cool things you can do with them! Eye My Favorite Things is probably still my favorite example of this, but I did really like how Silver & Gold used their dry erase cards. Then again, I’m a sucker for a good spatial game.
  • I do like how bright and inviting the game’s color scheme is. It’s very colorful (mostly in a good way; more on that later), and it looks great on the table. I like games like that a lot (and not just because they photograph well).

Mehs

  • For your first game, you’re going to be referencing the rulebook a lot. Just par for the course with an icon-heavy game. I wouldn’t necessarily call the iconography unintuitive, but it’s definitely not something I remember every time I play. Them’s just the breaks with icon-heavy games. The cards look better because there’s not a ton of text and it rewards repeat plays, but your first few games are tough to remember because you have to learn an entire visual language.
  • As with most random market games, I do wish there were a way to flush the market if it’s growing stale. I think I’m just a grump about random markets. Or I’m impatient. Or both. But often you’re looking for a specific card of a specific color, and it’s just not there. The game’s solution for this is for you to blow through your two rerolls and take a random card from the top of the deck and discard it if you don’t like it. That’s a huge boon to your opponents, so, naturally, like a lady spilling popcorn all over herself in an infomercial, I’m just like, “there’s got to be a better way”. But, there’s not. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into my common complaint about games with randomized markets.

Cons

  • This game will not play well if you have any sort of colorblindness. This is a bit frustrating, because this is a simple fix. Just superimpose shapes into the background of the cards. Stars, lines, stripes, circles, something so that it’s easily distinguished from other cards that are different colors. Relying on color is a big (and … simple) accessibility barrier. There are already plenty of simple fixes available and we gotta do better on game accessibility.
  • This is another game where it’s possible to be so far behind that you cannot win halfway through the game. You can definitely see circumstances where one player is getting high 20s / low 30s off of a card and there’s just no realistic way to catch up. That happens, and it’s unfortunate when it does. It’s also a bit frustrating! My best advice is just to close out the game and try better next time. It’s difficult to negatively impact other players beyond taking cards they want, so it’s often hard to stop another player if they got their grid to synergize better than yours and they got the rolls to follow through on that.

Overall: 8 / 10

Overall, I think Divvy Dice is a lot of fun! It’s definitely … weird. It’s not quite as combo-focused as a bunch of other roll-and-write games and there will just be rounds where you have garbage rolls and garbage luck while your opponents reap the benefits. That said, those bad turns largely shake out over the course of the game, and it’s a lot of fun! It’s very abstract, though, and that kind of threw me off when I first played it. It definitely won’t be a game that everyone is going to gel with. It especially isn’t going to play well if you have any sort of colorblindness, as the cards only differentiate themselves by color and knowing which card is what color is pretty key to winning. This is also a game where you can pretty easily see who has how many points, so if you’re totally hosed, you may find out that there’s not really a path to recovery and you should end the game as quickly as possible. That’s how it goes sometimes. Beyond that, though, I think it’s really a lot of fun! I love how colorful the cards are and how they use dry erase cards smartly to make the game pretty low-complexity in terms of components. The small spatial element is satisfying, as well, as early choices you make with your grid can have long-term consequences (or at least strongly incentivize you getting certain cards). All in all, it provides a nice tension, though I do wish there were ways to mitigate the random market a bit. If you’re looking for another interesting roll-and-write, though, I think Divvy Dice definitely is interesting! I’d recommend checking it out.


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