Full disclosure: A review copy of Popcorn Dice was provided by Van Ryder Games.
Let’s get rolling with a new game review! I’m always up for quick and simple games, and I was excited to see that Popcorn Dice was coming out right as I thought I’d be going back to the movies more often. I have not been back to the movies that often, but, still have Popcorn Dice! Let’s take a look at this little dice-chucking push-your-luck game from Van Ryder and see what it’s got going on!
In Popcorn Dice, you’ve got a lot of kernels and you want to pop some delicious popcorn! The idea is simple. Roll, pop, and see if you can make the perfect bucket of popcorn! But be warned: nobody really knows how long popcorn takes to cook, and you risk burning some kernels (and ruining the whole batch) if you’re not careful! Will you be able to make some ideal popcorn? Or will your whole game go up in smoke?
Effectively none. You take the dice, and you put them near the bucket.
And you’re ready to start! You can use a piece of paper to help track score, if you want.
Game’s pretty simple. You roll dice, trying to pop your popcorn into delicious treats. Let’s look at how!
On your turn, roll all the dice by putting them in the bucket (or equivalent) and shaking them up! Roll them out and check what you got:
- Kernel: Return this to the bucket.
- Single Pop!: Set this aside. It’s worth a point!
- Double Pop!: Set this aside. It’s worth 2 points! Or, you can use it immediately to cancel out a Burnt Pop you just rolled.
- Burnt Pop: Set this aside. It’s worthless! Unless you cancel it this turn with a Double Pop.
After rolling, you have a few choices on what to do next:
- If you only rolled Kernels and Burnt Pops: You’re popped out! Your turn ends.
- If you rolled 4 or more Burnt Pops: You’ve burnt the batch! It tastes very bad, and your turn ends without scoring.
- If neither of the above are true: You can stop and go to scoring or you can roll whatever’s in the bucket again! Your call.
If you score, add what you rolled this round to your running total. If it’s over 30 points, finish the current round so that everyone has played an equal number of turns, and the player with the most points wins!
There is another way to win. If you ever roll exclusively Single and Double Pops, you’ve made a Perfect Pop, and you end the game! Again, finish the round so that everyone plays an equal number of turns, but if you’re the only person to Perfect Pop, you win! Otherwise, all Perfect Pop players roll four dice and the player with the most points from those dice wins!
Player Count Differences
There aren’t a ton, here, just based on the nature of the game. It’s not particularly interactive, since every player rolls the dice independently on their turn. I can’t swipe or change or preempt your rolls; I can just see that they’re happening and try to roll better. Each set of rolls is an independent event. That said, the additional variance from a higher player count might be more entertaining, but it does lead to more time where you’re not rolling the dice. And you want to roll the dice. The game is about rolling the dice. So maybe the higher end of the player count spectrum I’d play less frequently? I’m not sure; it’s a very simple and kind of silly game. Two players kind of feels like a low player count, so I’d probably stick with 3 – 4 players.
- Try to … roll the dice … well. There’s not a whole lot more to it than that? It’s a push-your-luck dice-rolling game. If you roll perfectly, you win. If you roll slightly less-than-perfectly, you score a bunch of points. If you roll poorly, you bust. There’s a perfectly legitimate chance that you’ll roll 4+ burnt pops on your first roll and just immediately lose your turn. That’s goofy, but it is what it is.
- More seriously, there’s a point where the probability of rolling what you need is just crushed by the increasing likelihood of rolling something that will mess you up. Don’t reroll, in that case. If you already have three burnt pops and you’re rolling a bunch of dice, don’t do that. Just take the lower score and end your turn. Even if each die has a 1/6 chance of rolling a burnt pop, you still have an almost 60% chance of rolling at least one if you’re rolling five dice. That’s bad odds.
- On the other hand, there are also circumstances where you have too few dice left to burn the batch. In that case, roll until you’re done. If you haven’t rolled any burnt pops yet and you’ve got three dice left to roll, might as well roll them until you’re rolled out. You literally can’t bust. It’s a rarity, but if you can take advantage of it, you should.
- A Perfect Pop is mostly good luck; don’t overindex on getting it. You can sometimes happen into it, but you need to be rolling enough double pops to cancel out your burnt pops or you just need to be feeling God in a Chili’s or whatever you do to channel good luck into your dice rolls. Getting one is essentially a game-ender in your favor, so it’s worth trying to get it, but there’s not always a whole lot you can do beyond that.
- That said, if another player has already got a Perfect Pop or they’re significantly ahead of you and the game’s ending, you might as well roll until you either win or bust. This is kind of the “29 points is the same as 0 points as far as the winner’s concerned” mentality, in this game. If you’re on the last turn, then you’re either winning or not, and this turn decides it. There’s no sense in settling for a losing score instead of playing it wildly risky and busting (or not!) at the peak of your game. It’s exhilarating, it’s problematic, and it’s almost never successful. But when it works, nobody forgets it.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Cute theme. The idea of popping dice really works, in this game. I also just like popcorn-themed games or cinema-themed games. It’s really a good way to launch a game-themed movie night or a movie-themed game night. It kinda works for both!
- The press-your-luck element is simple, but effective. It is, at its core, pretty straightforward. You can roll until you decide to score out or until you bust. The big shift is that “bad” dice can be cancelled out by the best dice, provided they’re rolled in the same roll, which is nice. The game’s not meant to be especially complicated, and it succeeds on that front.
- The game’s very short. It could literally be over in one round, if players are lucky enough! I wouldn’t call that explicitly a pro, but it’s illustrative of the point, I suppose. Getting a Perfect Pop in Round 1 is relatively unlikely, but it is just as likely as any other round, I suppose.
- The game is really just the dice, so it’s portable, as well. You can throw the dice into a bag if you want to take them with you without keeping the plastic container if you want. It all works.
- They correctly capture that burnt popcorn is nasty and can ruin an entire batch. Burnt popcorn is truly foul and deserves to be vilified as this game is choosing to do. I respect their preferences and choices.
- I also like that rolling just kernels and burnt pops ends your turn without a problem. It helps prevent the game going on for a while if players are just having straight-up strange rolling luck.
- It’s probably worth putting the Burnt Pop rule clarification closer to the definition. We didn’t immediately realize a Double Pop only cancels out a Burnt Pop if they’re rolled at the same time, which naturally made some aspects of the game take longer (and scores per roll were much higher, as you’d expect). It’s a simple enough rule that we didn’t think to check the clarifications because we thought we understood it, unfortunately. It happens.
- It’s a bit of a bummer that they didn’t include a scorepad of some kind. Saves on costs, yes, but just offloads them onto the players.
- Rolling the dice in the popcorn bag is a surefire way to give yourself a headache. When I was reviewing Roll for the Galaxy: Rivalry a while back, I ended up getting myself some silicone cups in the colors of the game cups so that I could not have to deal with them anymore. They are just unfathomably loud when you’re shaking them up all the time, and Popcorn Dice has the same problem. I would have loved a solution like a felt-lined container or something silicone-based to reduce the noise, but alas, hard plastic is what you get. It was so bad after our first game that we just started throwing the dice into a bag and shaking up the bag, since the noise was less bad. This game seems ideally suited for a game night or a pub, but the noise from the dice is sure to attract a lot of unwanted attention.
- Van Ryder minting an NFT off of this game is … wildly ignorant? Irresponsible? Needlessly zeitgeisty? I wouldn’t even consider this part of the game, but it seems wildly wrapped up in it, so, here it goes in the review. Look, I’m not a big NFT fan, but I’m not terribly versed in them, so I paid my friend Liss to write the first-ever Guest Paragraph for What’s Eric Playing? about why this idea is not a good one. All yours, Liss!
“NFTs are the focus of a huge amount of discussion right now for a few reasons, most of which boil down to the fact that they’re an ecological hazard during this, a time wherein much of our population is experiencing a growing sense of dread due to the impending climate crisis. There are a lot of threads about the ecological impact of cryptocurrency mining and NFTs, but in short: to create or trade an NFT, you have to waste a lot of energy and create a lot of carbon emissions. This was less of a problem 10 years ago, when NFTs were new and no one cared outside of CryptoPunks and CryptoKitties. Now that there’s an all-time high in NFTs being created and traded, there’s a lot more damage being done. A single Ethereum transaction alone uses about 179.7 kWz of energy — that’s equivalent to about 6.09 days of energy used by the average American household. Ethereum transactions annually use roughly the same amount of energy as entire countries, which… considering how comparatively few people are doing Ethereum transactions, that’s scary. While the planet won’t combust because some dudes made 105 NFTs, the creation and sale of the NFTs in this collection absolutely contributes to a more broad trend of ecological waste during such a perilous time for the climate. Bandwagoning on the NFT trend does nothing more than help to exacerbate NFTs’ staying power in the collective consciousness. It’s a grain of sand, but when you get enough grains, suddenly you’ve got a mountain.”
Overall: 6.25 / 10
Overall, Popcorn Dice is decently fun! It’s pretty basic, so, I mean, you’re gonna see some gentle decline in its utility beyond “oh, yes, here’s a fun dice game for this specific purpose”. It’s a good niche, but it’s still fairly niche. What I don’t … really get about this game was Van Ryder deciding to go all-in on the whole NFT thing and made this game their flagship entry into the space? Popcorn Dice is fun and all, but I’m not sure it’s going to be popular enough to really bridge the divide on something so … obviously contentious. But, on the subject of the game itself, it’s perfectly reasonable. You roll a bunch of dice and hope they come up with the “good” or “better” face, rather than the “bad” or “neutral” face. It’s themed around popping popcorn, which I like, but it unfortunately comes in a plastic container with no sound insulation, so rolling the dice inside will be … loud. That may not work well if you’re trying to play discretely, but it does look great, so there’s that. I could see this being a great game before a movie night, but I tend to look for games that offer a bit more if I’m looking for games that have staying power in my collection. If you’re looking for more movie night-themed games, you really like popcorn, or you just want a quick and simple dice game, Popcorn Dice is a fine one! You might enjoy it.
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