May 7th, 2016


Liars' Dice and Rule-Changers' Dice

Meg and I are in Wales this weekend! We are staying with friends and playing board games. We arrived fairly late last night after coming up from London by train. (There was a braying wedding party on one of the trains we took, then we were joined by several fat, drunk Scousers who had mostly lost money at Chester races. It wasn't the most pleasant journey.)

After our late arrival, I only played one game last night, but it was such a good one that it's worth sharing. it started off as regular Perudo (Liar's Dice) but - as tends to happen sometimes with this crowd - we reasonably quickly started seeking a little variety. I choose not to explain the basic rules of Perudo, deeming it sufficiently familiar; Quintin Smith of revered-but-slightly-hipster board game site Shut Up and Sit Down tells the tale of having travelled in China, not speaking Chinese, but still ingratiating himself with the locals by getting into games of Perudo with them.

Fourteen years (and more than one blog) ago I posted about a remarkable game of rule-changing Perudo that I once played. Last night generated a rather less alcoholic and rather more restrained inadvertent sequel, but nevertheless we spawned some variants worth sharing. We were playing with four players, leaving the blue and yellow sets of dice alone.

Before long, we substituted one blue die per player in for a regular die, with the variant rule that a 1 on the blue die wasn't wild and that the blue die had to be lost last. Tracking the number of unseen dice became slightly trickier as you now had to track the number of blue dice separately.

This left one spare coloured die per player. The next stage of the variance was to roll these spare dice to generate a fresh turn order per round; while rolling them to try to find a highest-to-lowest order generated far too many ties, rolling the handful and seeing which die rolled farthest worked well and added a little amusement.

The real winner of the night was substituting the blue dice for yellow dice with a different variant property still: they counted as minus one die of the colour they rolled. Yes, rolling a wild one on a yellow die counted as minus one to everything. (The yellow die, again, had to be lost last.) The game broke down somewhat towards the end, though not without great entertainment, but everyone's first topic of discussion this morning was how to fix it because it was sooooo-o-o-o-o-o nearly there.

The current plan to fix it is that higher bids are measured by magnitude. A bid of minus one of a number suggests that there is at least one more yellow die than coloured die of that number. Bids of minus numbers outrank bids of positive numbers of the same magnitude - so the sequence goes one 2 to one 6, minus one 2 to minus one 6, one 1, minus one 1, two 2s and so on.

Worth a try. Variants do not often survive rule-changing mayhem where the games created are generally intended to be played only once, but this one has legs.

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