WBG Score: 8.3/10
Player Count: 2-5 players
Published by: HUCH!
Roll and write games have taken the modern hobbyist board game industry by storm. This type of game has erupted in popularity and now there are roll and write or flip and fill versions of bigger heavier games as well as games designed that way from the off. The appeal of the roll and write is obvious, it is a quick fix game which satisfies the need to play a game when time and space is tight.
Although originally light, quick roll the dice and scribble on your paper affairs, this genre has like the rest of the industry evolved in complexity. Now you can have three sheets and each die does ten different things, with rulebooks as long as many “board” games. These are less component heavy than their big sister board games, but they certainly aren’t lacking in the thinking department.
The original Rajas of the Ganges is a big box medium weight Euro game in which you place workers to gain resources and develop your kingdom to maximise your riches and fame and win. The Dice Charmers uses a colourful sheet and eight custom dice to recreate the atmosphere and theme of the big box game but in a small box with a low price tag and in about 20 minutes.
This game is all about managing your gap. Which sounds like an innuendo but I promise it is not! The sheet has two tracks that run round the edge, one is the money track, and the other is the fame track. The aim of the game is to move along these tracks and the winner is the first to get them to overlap. It is easier to ramp up collecting silver coins and progressing along the money track, but the jumps on the fame track are larger. You can collect only one of two fame in a turn but close your gap more than if you got 4 or 5 money. And herein lies the major gameplay feature of The Dice Charmers, which is increasingly agonisingly difficult decisions.
Want to Feel Clever? I Do!
Anyone who has read my reviews knows I love a combo move, mostly because I like to feel clever. It was what initially hooked me on Rummikub, the ability to think of how to get all your tiles out by dismantling and reordering the board. Rajas of the Ganges The Dice Charmers tickles that same fancy.
During The Dice Charmers, you will be drafting a die from the pool and carrying out the action associated with that icon. This might be as simple as collecting some resources, it might be building a road out from your palace to collect fame, sell goods and perhaps even progress on the river. Taking a pink die will allow you to collect the depicted resources and circle them for later sale. The pink die is one of the least powerful, but without resources to trade, your money gaining ability is seriously hampered. So the pink dice are still important.
Taking a blue die as your draft will let you progress to the next icon that is shown from the furthest point travelled so far. This may be a long way further down the river, or could be the next available spot. Progressing on the river gives you a smorgasbord of opportunities. The rewards are high on the river, trouble is you can only go forwards, so leaping to the end of the river early may well come with some issues later as you find your options closed off.
Green dice let you build bits of road, these will gain you fame, and sometimes extra juicy benefits too. These cause my brain to hurt a touch as you want to ensure you get as many benefits with every turn which can cause a little of the AP devil to rear its ugly head. Each of your turns feels so important and choosing a die and carrying out the best possible action every time can be quite the mind bending exercise.
You can take aid by selecting one of the orange dice and taking a Palace Action. These are my favourite actions because they have the capacity to be so powerful. Each of the palace people allows you to do a different thing, and the Great Mogul lets you choose what to go for. I can never resist his face when it appears in the dice tray.
Who Doesn’t Love Pointless Extra Cool Components?
Like in most games where you are drafting from a central pool, there is an advantage to having first pick. You are able to select from all those rolled. There is an additional advantage bestowed upon the first player in this game though, when you pick your die, the die of the same colour is placed upon the elephant and cannot be chosen by your opponent. The elephant is a hark back to the original big box game, totally superfluous and beautiful and I am totally here for it. Like the evertree in Everdell, you must build it as part of setup and dismantle as part or tear down. But do I care? Nope, because that thing is cute and completely unnecessary and yet I won’t play without it!
But Saggyhead, Where is the Balance? What is not to like?
Just like in the big box game, the Dice Charmers is bright and colourful, and the score sheet is pretty complex for a roll and write. The sheet is yes colourful, but it is also pretty cramped. There are a lot of rules to take on initially in order to start your first game. This is more a “learning game teach” than it is a “teach first in five mins and then play competitively” game.
Initially for the first couple of games, you will likely feel quite out of your depth as you watch your opponent pull a sweet combo move where they cross off five things, and you manage a paltry collect two resources with your turn. For me though, this is part of the charm. The chase to try and pull the most outstanding move.
The Dice Charmers is freely available presently on yucate for you to try out. This implementation is well executed and will let you see what I mean about the 'combo-tastic-ness' of this thinky roll and write. If you like it, then perhaps like me you will add it to your wishlist.