I love dice games, and when I saw this game being announced, I asked AEG for a review copy, since it was so much different than anything I had seen before. I received it and gleefully played it five times at Origins with two through five players. Suffice it to say that it is definitely different, and I absolutely adored it. It most assuredly has been influenced by Yahtzee, but it is so much more than that, for many reasons, not the least of which are the many paths to score points, the round breakdown, and the special abilities that you can buy with your rolls. It’s nothing short of addictive, and because the Circus rules force me to give most of my review copies away, I gave it to one of the players at Origins, and I immediately ordered a replacement copy on Amazon.
The premise of Octo Dice is that players act as scientists beneath the sea, whose goals are to capture octopi, expand the lab, collect gems, enable robots, and launch autonomous subs controlled by said robots. Where this game is different is found in how you do that with the dice. Players, on their turns, will roll the six dice, three each of black and white, with the white dice representing actions and the black dice representing values and colors. After rolling, they’ll keep two and reroll the balance, then keep another two and roll the last two again. After all the dice are rolled, the active player chooses two of the three actions and scores them or advances their token in the lab, gaining an additional, persistent power. Once all of the actions have resolved, the player then counts the octopi faces they rolled, and it’s then the other players’ choice to use one of the action dice and one of the value dice rolled for their own benefit, although they may only do so once per round. It’s really that simple, from a rule perspective, but there is a surprising amount of strategy and breath-holding going on the entire game.
The scoring system is very slick, and the game comes with a thick brick of double-sided score sheets that allow players to track their scientists’ progress through the game. The sheets have an upper and lower area, with the upper area used to tick off boxes and the bottom area used to record scoring values and octopi captures. The game is broken down into six rounds, which are broken down into three, two-part sections and a final scoring section. This is done because you have both short and long term goals and some actions don’t score points immediately but rather only score during the “intermission” between each two-part section. For instance, while robots do score immediately, subs do not, but the subs score each intermission. Additionally, you must collect at least two octopi every two rounds or you will suffer a minor penalty for that section.
The labs have nine double-sided tiles, grouped in lines of three, and each with their own special ability such as changing a black die’s face to any face of your choosing when it is naturally rolled as a yellow face, or allowing you to score one point every time you activate a sub. The powers vary wildly, and as you roll “computers”, which are the die faces that allow you to advance the labs you get to move one of your trackers down to the next level on one of the three paths, gaining a new power and retaining all the powers from previous tiles above. The third tile on each path is a sort of super-scoring tile, which provides you big point bonuses based on how well you’ve done in the lab paths.
The one thing that really stood out for all of us, aside from Mark, is the graphic design. The illustrations are nice and all, but the layout of the scoring is just so well done that it trumps everything else from a “product” perspective. It’s language independent, and the icons are very easy to understand. I literally taught the game to my wife for 2 minutes, and she got it immediately. Now, this wasn’t my experience, because it took me all of two plays to really “get it”, but I think if it’s taught to you by someone who knows the game, or if you watch something like Watch It Played or something, you’ll have better luck on your first game. Or, don’t be buzzed and sleep-deprived when you try to learn it as I was.
I’m going to cut to the chase and tell you that I adore this game, wholeheartedly, but that a few others I’ve played with have not. My buddy Mark despised it, calling it “Fucking Euro Point Salad Bullshit”, and my more eloquent buddy across the street, said “This damned game has too much shit going on”, but to be fair, Brian isn’t a hobby board gamer as much as a constantly inebriated guy, so take that under advisement. If I had any complaint about the game, it’s purely on the wooden dice. On the review copy I got, some of the paint on the faces was smudged a tiny bit, but not anything that I’d call “defective”. On the copy I bought, however, the paint was dodgy as hell, with half of it missing from some faces, and on one face, there was nothing at all. Now, Todd from AEG told me, in advance, that some copies had bad paint and that the AEG Minions (customer service) would rush out replacements to anyone who got a bad copy. To me, a good company is one who knows that mistakes happen and get in front of it, providing exceptional service. So, to me, it’s forgiven and I already have my replacements en route, after one email.
Why Octo Dice Is Eight Times The Fun:
– Pressing your luck is really fun in this game
– The score sheets are a triumph of graphic design
– Despite steep learning curve initially, it’s quite intuitive
– It’s fast and due to shared dice mechanic, everyone’s engaged
– At least 8 different paths to victory, by my count
– More addictive than opiates
Why Octo Dice Isn’t Hitting On All Eight Cylinders:
– Production mistake on dice caused me some inconvenience
– We experienced a steep learning curve, initially
– There’s almost no player interaction, except the dice “borrowing”
If this was just me, I’d call it an auto buy. But it’s not. I’ve played this game with 12 people now, over 10 times, and while most people gave it very high marks, several despised it, and Mark is an “in the know” gamer who has good taste usually, so I can’t just discount his “solid two” as an outlier. So, it’s my opinion that this is a fantastic game, but because several players gave it really bad marks, I’d definitely watch a couple of videos or play with a friend who has it if I were you so you can make up your mind either way.
Learn more about this game at Alderac Entertainment’s site, here: https://www.alderac.com/octodice/