WBG Score: 7
Player Count 2-5
Published by: KOSMOS
Designed by: Reiner Knizia
Back in 2003, a game came out called Reiner Knizia's Decathlon which caught peoples attention due to the name attached to it, and the simplistic but addictive game play. You can try it yourself at home here. Reiner Knizia has made over 600 games and doesn't usually attach his name to a dud. His background in mathematics has led to some very interesting and clever games being developed. Decathlon is no exception! But for nearly 20 years it has been crying out for a proper printed version.
Thankfully, the good people at Kosmos obliged and you can now get your dice chucking hands on High Score, a new version, very similar to Decathlon, with all the polish you would expect from a fully published game, the sporting theme removed, but all the Yahtzee style dice throwing fun still there. Let's take a look and see how it plays.
To set up the game, place coloured cubes, one for each player, inside the scoring ring. Then draw seven cards from the shuffled deck and place them face down. And you are done! That was easy!
There are seven cards, one for each round. Each round, the card will dictate what the sixth 'vortex' face of the dice represents, how many re-rolls you can have, and how you score points. At the beginning of each round, the first player will flip the card and get rolling!
After they have finished rolling, they will record their score with their coloured cube on the score tracker. Once each player has rolled, the person with the highest score will collect the three point chip, the second placed player gets a two pint chip, and the third placed player gets a single point. The scores on the tracker are they re-set and the second round commences. The scores on the track do not contribute toward your final score, they simply dictate which end game scoring chip you will get that round. After seven rounds, the player with the most points from the scoring chips wins the game.
There are 21 challenge cards in the box, so plenty of variation from game to game. They are all quite self-explanatory, and the rule book has a clear explanation for each symbol. From the above examples, you can see on the top left, the vortex side of the dice, which replaces where the six face would usually be, can be wild in this round. Sometimes they are zero, or six as you can see, or other things. The re-rolls are on the top right of the card and you can either re-roll all the dice or just the ones you want. Sometimes you have to keep at least one dice for each re-roll such as the one on the top right card above.
Here is an example of a card in action. The vortex value is six. You can have up to four re-rolls but you must roll all the dice if you chose to do this. And the way you score with this card is thorugh pairs. Any dice that are the same will score you their face value. Roll two vortex's and get 12 points for example. So, the below roll would get you... well, go figure it out. See if you have got this? (bit like school isn't it!)
That's right 18! / No, sorry, the third four isn't in a pair so that doesn't count. (Delete and read as appropriate)
If the above was your roll on the first try, you would be tempted to go again, but you may never beet this score. Do you lock down a score early no matter what it is, or risk throwing it all away for fame and glory! Of course, if you are the last player you will know exactly what it takes to get a winning score this round. If you are first up, you may be tempted to take more risks and try and lay down a more formidable score.
I have played may heavy games, with intense strategy and significant thought process required. But rolling dice in games like High Score never fails to bring the cheers, laughter, and sorrow that only comes from the sort of tension this luck based mechanism brings. You often have very little control of your destiny with dice based games, obviously the re-rolls and how far you push your luck adds some way to bring a strategy, but ultimately you could be lucky or not.
Playing High Score is a lot of fun. If you enjoy chucking dice, pushing your luck, and simple games that create high tension, this could be for you. If you don't, and find the luck from dice just annoying or devoid of strategy, then this will not help you change your mind! But I love games like this. I couldn't play them all the time. But I also couldn't play three hour euros non-stop either. It is nice to have a balance in games as it is in life, and thanks to the good Doctor Knizia, here is one big slice of luck-based happiness I will enjoy for many years to come!