2 – 4 players.
Play time: ~30 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Logged plays: 3
Full disclosure: A review copy of Gang of Dice was provided by Mandoo Games.
Getting back into the swing of this review-writing stuff is hard. At the very least, I can write a bit while the TV’s on, but if my housemates are watching something that requires even a modicum of my focus I end up not being able to write at all. Something about the part of my brain that processes and outputs language getting its wires crossed. To avoid the risk of writing a major chunk of His Dark Materials or whatever my housemate is watching into this review, I’m trying to figure out how to focus on just this paragraph. So far, so good! This week, we’ll be taking a look at a few more games, one of which is Gang of Dice from Mandoo! Mandoo has been a frequent friend of the site (and published some great games), so let’s see how it plays!
In Gang of Dice, players are Lieutenants of a mob boss that’s imminently retiring. Of course, you need to outwit the other lieutenants in order to get there. Win over their minions, but most importantly, impress the boss along the way! You never know how he might dispose of people he doesn’t like. So roll some dice, figure out what you gotta avoid, and try to become the next boss of the family! Will you be able to pull it off? Or will this whole thing end up blowing up in your face?
Each player starts off getting a player screen:
Now, each player gets a set of Gang Tokens:
Set six of them aside. With two players, return twelve of the Gang Tokens to the box and twelve of the dice. Distribute the Gang tokens and dice equally among all players.
There are two types of Warning Cards: light back and dark back cards. Shuffle both stacks and remove three from each stack, setting them aside. Place the dark back cards on the bottom of the stack:
Place the light back cards on top of them:
You should be ready to start!
Over twelve rounds, players are going to try to become the leader of the gang! They’ll do that by rolling dice a whole bunch to try and gain additional minions and gang members. But be careful! The wrong combination can lead to … explosive results.
To start a round, reveal the top card of the Warning Deck. This shows the combination of dice that leads to a bust. In the final three rounds, you’ll also place 1 / 2 / 3 Gang Tokens on top of the Warning Card as a bonus to the victor.
Then, each player, on their turn, can choose a number of dice to use (though they must use at least one). After rolling them, you can usually reroll up to two times. However, if the Warning Card has an explosive background, if you roll the combination at any point, you immediately bust. If the Warning Card is just a bomb background, you bust if, after your second reroll, you’re still meeting the Warning Card’s combination. Some combinations indicate the sum of the dice, some indicate the values relative to each other, some just don’t want dice to be equal to each other. The player who wins the round is whoever gets the highest result. If there’s a tie, the player who used the most dice wins. The winner gets all the dice spent by the losers of the round (including anyone who busted). It’s usually easiest if players have the same number of dice, so settle debts by letting players buy back dice with Gang Tokens.
After the twelfth round, the player with more dice wins! Remember that each Gang Token counts as three dice.
Player Count Differences
There aren’t really a ton of player count differences on the practical scale, since you’re just trying to win a given round. You have a set of dice that you roll, and either you’re the best or you’re not the best. That’s the same at two players as it is at four. On a more functional scale, however, as the number of players rolling dice increases, the variance of any given roll increases, so there’s a trend towards having to make “better” rolls at higher player counts than you would need to make at lower player counts, if that makes sense. That said, as a result, if you win a round at a higher player count, you will likely get far more dice as a result than you would if you won at two players. Honestly, it feels like it all mostly averages out, but there are pockets of high variance that can emerge with more players. That all said, it’s a light press-your-luck dice-rolling game, so I’m not too bothered by Gang of Dice at any player count.
- Much of this game centers around risk assessment. How likely do you think a certain roll outcome might be? You should consider that before you roll the dice. If your only hope is to get two sixes on your next roll, you might want to not do that, since rolling a six is impossible. But if you just need two dice to not be equal, well, you have decent odds there (since both dice have a blank face on them). I think it’s something like 31 / 36 chance that they won’t be equal? Someone else can check my math on that; it’s been a while since I’ve done any probability work.
- Going last has a lot of advantages. In particular, if everyone else has busted, you just need to roll one die and you get the spoils of it all. You really can get away with a lot if you end up going last, which is, of course, why the first player cycles around. But don’t squander the opportunity. If you’re going last, take a second to see how everyone else did and then figure out what that means you need to roll. Hopefully it’s low, but you can use that to determine how many dice you need to roll.
- Generally, the pigeonhole principle is your friend, here. If, for instance, you can’t have three dice with odd numbers on them, then rolling two dice is always safe, as you can never get three dice with odd numbers on them by rolling only two dice. It seems almost stupid, but that very simple logic can help you avoid busting in a number of situations. Sometimes, the safest thing to do is to just roll something that’s guaranteed not to bust.
- The last several challenges are pretty critical, since they come with additional Crew Tokens. You should try to win the last three rounds most of all (especially the final round). The extra Crew Tokens that they provide can be pretty helpful if you’re thinking about trying to win the game. And, since you’re reading the Strategy section of a review, it seems fair to assume you’re interested in winning the game? I suppose you could be reading this as a “What Not To Do”, but … if you are, I mean, go for it. Live your best life.
- Keep in mind that there’s no 6; it’s a blank face. That can help (or hurt) you. Specifically, the blank side will count as a 0, which means it won’t hit any Warning Cards’ effects but it also won’t help towards your total. Sometimes it’s fine to leave it that way, and sometimes you need to reroll and hope that you don’t bust on the next roll. It’s rough.
- It’s not really worth rolling a ton of dice. Pretty much every Warning Card will clown you if you roll more than, say, six dice, just from a probability / expected value perspective. For instance, if you’re rolling six dice and the Warning Card busts if you roll 7+, while it is possible to roll under 7 with six dice (especially given the blank face), it is not particularly likely to happen. Think about what you’re trying to avoid when you’re allocating dice for your roll, and maybe don’t go particularly high if you don’t need to. Sometimes you will! If a player hits, say, 6 for that Warning Card, you need to hit 6 with more dice if you want to win. If you don’t care about winning, well, just roll one die and call it a day. Then you cut your losses, at least?
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- A very silly theme for a game. I think the art helps sell it, just goofy mustache guys that are a bit boxy all in a mob together. Yes, there’s violence and mob shenanigans, but they’re so abstract and goofy-looking that it’s hard to see this as anything other than a very silly game. Plus, it’s hard (not impossible, just difficult) to make a particularly serious press-your-luck game, just because you really can lose it all in a second.
- This game correctly understands the single Greatest Truth of Board Gaming: rolling a bunch of dice is fun. Everyone loves rolling a bunch of dice; this is why Dungeons & Dragons is so popular. Granted, you can roll 12 d6s if you want, on your turn; I’d just strongly recommend against doing that precise thing. You usually can get away with rolling max four or five, and even that is pretty risky.
- Plays pretty quickly. It’s a single round of dice-rolling, see who has the highest without busting, and do that twelve times. There are shenanigans when you have to give dice away, but that’s mostly just bookkeeping. Surprisingly easy to pick up and play, though it takes some time to learn all the Warning Cards, so that’s worth explaining to players.
- I really like that there are instant-bust conditions and end-of-turn bust conditions. The instant-bust conditions are particularly fun because they can be risky. It forces players to do the mental calculus of deciding whether or not it’s worth rerolling again to try and get a better score and risk losing immediately, or sticking around with a score that may not be all that high. Personally, I tend to play this game fairly conservatively, given how easy it is to bust, but that’s me.
- Press your luck games are very fun, for me, and this has a nice sense of danger every time you reroll. I love the danger! I think Cubitos, as far as press-your-luck dice games, has a bit more going for it in terms of complexity and results, but it’s also in a box that’s four times the volume of this one; you have to make tradeoffs for portability, I suppose. I think this is a solid introductory game for the press-your-luck genre, anyways. It’s not too hard to pick up, as I’ve mentioned, and it’s fairly approachable for a wide variety of players who all want to explode with extreme prejudice.
- The symbols are fairly intuitive, which is nice; language-agnostic games are a plus. I say fairly in that there will be players who don’t immediately understand, but once you learn the generic language of Gang of Dice it’s pretty internally consistent. I think if it’s any player’s first game, you should explain to them what each card means, just for their understanding (and to reinforce yours).
- There’s some calculus to how dice exchanging has to work, since each token represents three dice and you don’t want a player to be without enough dice for a challenge. It almost would have been better if each Gang Token were just one die, but then you’d have a ton of extra cardboard. I get why three was the number chosen, but since you can often lose numbers of dice that aren’t divisible by three, you sometimes don’t always have the dice you started the game with, which can feel a bit strange.
- Auto-busting because you picked too many dice is a bit annoying, but that’s more your fault than the game’s, I suppose. On one hand, I love rolling a lot of dice, and I don’t like it when the game punishes me for doing what I love. On the other, you can stand to be selective when you’re trying to determine how you want to make your next move, so try to actually be selective.
- It can be a bit underwhelming when you just roll a single die and win the round because all the players before you busted. I mean, that’s what going last in a press-your-luck game entails when everyone else has busted. It’s not particularly showy; it’s just a matter of fact. It doesn’t feel like an incredible victory, but a win is a win, as far as a lot of things are concerned. If you have an issue with an opponent winning this way, just don’t bust, you know?
Overall: 7.5 / 10
Overall, I think Gang of Dice is fun! It has a Las Vegas-style run of just dice and shenanigans, which I really enjoy, but this is a bit more hectic. Rather than going for majorities, you just want to get the highest roll without busting based on some highly capricious criteria. The capriciousness will likely frustrate players who are looking for a more serious game, but for folks looking for something easy to learn and quick to play, this is right up their alley. Serious games aren’t as much my scene anyways. Gang of Dice makes a great opener for a wide variety of players at game night. It’s language-agnostic, press-your-luck, and it lets you roll a bunch of dice and see what happens, which has been fun pretty much since dice were invented. The game’s more about the hilarity that ensues when a player bets big, swings for the fences, and utterly whiffs. That’s the dream and promise of press your luck games, and Gang of Dice delivers on that in spades, usually much to almost every player’s delight. If you enjoy rolling dice, pressing your luck, or self-inflicted catastrophe, you’ll likely enjoy Gang of Dice, as well! I had a good time with it.
If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!