Square Shooters – Banality In 54 Simple Steps

You may recall me doing some reporting on GenCon last month, and one of the pages had an article about how this little old lady who lives on the Mississippi figured out how to put a 54-card poker deck onto dice, while still allowing it to make a wide array of the high hands such as 4-of-a-kind and all manner of straight flushes. On its face, Square Shooters contains some pretty impressive stuff right there. Well, as it turns out, there’s a reason nobody ever did that before; it doesn’t make much sense. Besides the fact that not everyone can play at once unless you buy a pack for all of the players, at $20.00 a pack, the fact that these dice are almost the size of Vegas craps dice means that you’re rolling nine huge dice. Unless you’re Shaq, it’s pretty hard to get them all in your hands at the same time. Plus, if you have a glass table like my neighbor does, every time you hear those dice hit the surface you’re praying that they don’t shatter the table.

But, let’s get this started out right, and I’ll explain the game. This is one of the most simple games of all time; you take a card that pictures a poker hand and has some text that tells you how many chips you get for getting that exact hand, and how much you get if you get the same kind of hand, such as a straight, but not the exact hand. You roll three times, Yachtzee style, and if you nail it, you get the chips listed. There’s also a couple other kinds of cards in there that let you get chips when other people score, that provide you a free Joker, and that allow you to go head-to-head with someone for the best poker hand. There’s rules for other kinds of games, like a weird Rummy analog and some others. But, in short, it’s a Yachtzee-style set building dice game. 

Now onto the “analysis” portion of this article, and I want to get this started out right: Seriously, I couldn’t stand this game, and I mean, like, white-hot “please can I just go home now” kind of searing, mind-destroying boredom. But, because I love you guys and gals, I played this game maybe 5 times. That feeling never really went away, but I did learn quite a bit about who this game is for, and I even have a variant for the drunken party-girl crowd.

This game does not fit into the “filler” game space, and it doesn’t fit into the “main event” game space. It fits into the “put this in your camper and let the kids play it while you sip Genny Cream Ale by the fire. This is most assuredly a game like Uno, Yachtzee, Farkle, Bunco or even Sorry!; it is for people who like games but haven’t been introduced into better games yet. It’s not a bad game by any standard, although the fact that the dice are over-sized is a real bummer, it’s that it’s simply a mainstream game made for people who like things simple. I think the fact that it’s been ported to iOS probably adds a lot as this game design is really well suited for that kind of play style; if it has asynchronous multi-player then it really would surpass Can’t Stop iOS in the “over the ‘net press-your-luck game category.

My kids loved this game, while my wife was a little bit unenthusiastic. That said, my neighbor, who lives to drink and party, really liked it. That said, she was utterly toasted when we played. She came up with the idea that every time you win a card, you get the chips shown, but every time you can’t make the hand, you toss a quarter in the pot; the person with the most chips at the end wins the pot. Now, we play gambling games with her all the time, and you really kind of have to have money involved to make her like a game. That said, she was all about playing a second time and when both the wife and I pretty much said we were done, she was quite disappointed. So, there is a market for this game, it’s just not primarily the hobby market. 

I’d love to do a much more in-depth review of the game, I really would, but honestly, there’s no depth to it. It is essentially Poker crossed with Blackjack, where you have to beat the “dealer” instead of other players, but with less options than Poker, and that can be played by only one person at a time. Oh, and with monstrous dice, to boot. This game is the ultimate game that embodies “Your Mileage May Vary”. Tom, the gentleman who gave me this review copy at GenCon, told me that they had sold over 200,000 units, so this may very well be the game that is remembered along with Yachtzee and Farkle as “classic American family gaming”; that may be close to the truth as my five year old and twelve year old liked it quite a lot. Who can say that they’ve never had a bit of fun playing a bromidic board game with their kids, not because of the game but of playing it with their kids? 

Why Square Shooters Aims To Please:
– It’s definitely a game that kids and drunken neighbors will get a kick out of
– I can see this being a party game for campouts or barbecues
– Everything is very high-quality, from the dice to the chips
– There’s a lot of press-your-luck in this game

Why This Game Is A Busted Flush:
– Why the monstrous, heavy dice are required, I’ll never understand
– Quarriors is a better example of using dice as cards, at around the same price
– Monotonous play gets tiring after five or six rounds. Or less

While I think this game would appeal to people who have children of a certain age, or perhaps as a replacement for dominoes at barbecue gatherings or something, this game isn’t one that I, personally, enjoyed very much. There’s just so many better ways to kill 45 minutes, and just using the cards included in the game combined with a regular deck of cards would be a better gaming experience, I think. The long and short is that It’s not a bad game, but it’s not a really good one either, and it’s most assuredly not one that was designed with the hobby game market in mind. 

1.5/5 Stars

Learn more about Square Shooters here, and download the rules here if you’re so inclined:

And if you’re a creative sort, check out their contest here:

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