Publisher: Toy Vault
Game Designer: Kevin G. Nunn
Playing Time: 20-30 minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Time travel love story
Quite a few games have been published based upon various television show and movie IP’s. Toy Vault is no stranger to this market, having released titles based around Godzilla, Princess Bride, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and of course my beloved Firefly.
In their latest release, Toy Vault takes us to the land of Scotland in Outlander: Destiny Dice. Outlander is a hit show from the STARZ TV network, based on the novels by Diana Gabaldon involving a former World War II nurse named Claire, who is transported back through time to 18th century Scotland. While there, her destiny becomes forever entwined with that of Jamie, a Highland warrior involved in the Jacobite risings.
The aim of Outlander: Destiny Dice is to bring the two together while avoiding the treacherous Laoghaire Mackenzie and the sadistic Black Jack Randall. Can you save the two star-crossed lovers and the day?
When I was approached about reviewing Outlander: Destiny Dice my first thought was of how easily I could get this to the table. My wife is already a fan of the show, which guaranteed the game plenty of table time. On top of that, she could better help me gauge how well the game ties into the series.
The premise of the game is very straightforward; it’s Yahtzee with card play. Roll dice, play cards, match dice, collect sets and score points. Each turn you score based on how many Jamie and Claire faces you roll, with bonus points for collected sets. The player who reaches 40 points first wins, easy peasy.
During setup the first card of the deck is used to determine the points awarded to the top three finishers at the end of the round. Everyone is dealt two cards from the 36 card deck, which can be played for their effect at any point in their turn. Of these cards, 20 are unique, with the balance being assorted duplicates. Card effects vary from gaining victory points, to changing die faces, drawing more cards or die re-rolls as some examples.
On their turn, players roll the six nicely illustrated and hefty 25mm dice. As mentioned earlier, you are looking to roll the most Jamie and Claire faces and sets of the two as possible. Dice facings can be altered by cards played from your hand, or allies rolled on the dice.
There are three colors of dice; two each of white and grey, and one each of yellow and black. Jamie appears twice on every die except black, which has two Black Jack faces and two each of Jenny and Murtagh. Jenny is an ally; she can count as either Jamie, Claire or even Geillis, who is a special case that we’ll cover below.
A guide at the back of the rule book covers each of the characters special powers and there are player aid cards to assist in identifying these as well. These both will come in handy and referenced quite often as you play. In all, there are eight characters, with only two of them being truly negative. Black Jack and Laoghaire cannot be re-rolled and subtract Claire and Jamie faces respectively. Geillis is special, normally deducting points unless you roll six of her. In that case, she scores more than Jamie or Claire but this is extremely tough to do.
The percentages are very good that you will see a fair number of Jamie’s and fewer so of Claire. Since he is prevalent, Jamie doesn’t really score well until you’ve got at least four of him, which earns you 6 points. His value then jumps up considerably to 10 and 15 points with five or six matches of him. Claire being a little rarer, counts strongly out of the gate, and in comparison, four of her nets you 11 points.
This is where the other characters come into play, and are further backed by card play, whose effects were covered earlier, to mitigate poor rolls. Note that there is no take that aspect in this game, all cards played affect only the current player on their own turn. Everything you do is about maximizing your points, so gamers who don’t like direct conflict will feel very comfortable here.
At the end of each turn players score their points, draw another card and play moves to the next person in line. Upon conclusion of the round, the top three players are awarded the points from the victory card. Play continues until one player has reached 40 points and they are the victor.
Outlander: Destiny Dice is a very simple and casual game that you can easily get to the table and plays in about 20 minutes, give or take. As expected when using a Yahtzee mechanic, everything is dependent upon pure luck although there is some lite strategy in the card play.
Die-hard fans of the show will enjoy the tie-in, and the production quality is quite high. From the Celtic flare of the board, to the sturdy cards and hefty dice embellished with beautifully rendered full color images of characters and scenes from the show, the components are all very well done. My wife the Outlander fan did enjoy the game’s presentation, however as with me, felt the game just fell flat overall.
Where the game falters is its inability to draw you into the theme, transport you to its setting, and endear you to it. Everything is dependent on luck, there is very little strategy and no bold moves to make. Sure, you can re-roll dice, if you roll a character or you have a card in your hand that allows it but there is little to no choice for the player aside from that. Absent player interaction of any sort, the game remains simply a multiplayer solitaire experience, with the luckiest player coming out the winner. With no way for players to impact their opponent’s rolls, the game never capitalizes on the the story’s overarching tale of struggle and love.
The end result is a game that works mechanically but fails to convey its rich story into compelling gameplay. Any theme could easily apply to these mechanics and play equally well.
Company Website: http://www.toyvault.com/
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/ToyVaultInc
Note: A copy of this game was provided to me for this review.