Portable gaming is something that has interested me for a long time. I owned travel sets of classic board games like chess and checkers, and I was fortunate to receive a Game Boy and a copy of Pokemon when I was but a young'un. There have been plenty of tabletop games that can comfortably fit in your pocket—a standard deck of trading cards comes to mind—but I've always thought of it as a difficult concept to execute well. It's an inherently minimalist exercise. Dice of Crowns by Thing 12 Games is the product of a successful Kickstarter that purports to pack a fun experience in a tiny box no larger than a pack of cigarettes. I set out to see how good of a game it is.
Dice of Crowns is a point-scoring dice game similar to Zombie Dice. Players take on the thematic role of heirs to the crown, and through a variety of different rulesets they literally (and figuratively) roll the dice in an effort to accrue enough points to claim the title. The game has 7 six-sided dice, each with four symbols on them. Two of the faces have a Skull that essentially act as a "roll again" mechanic in the standard ruleset. Two faces have a Scroll that requires you to pass that die or dice to another player to roll. One face has a Dagger representing betrayal—three of these will end your turn. Finally, the last face of the die has a Crown—three of these will score you a point towards victory.
Points are tracked with tokens included in the box. Once you have them, they're safe. A standard game is played up to three points. Additional tokens, alternate rulesets, and a miniature plastic crown are included in the game's tin as well. Although it's a tiny package, Dice of Crowns offers a lot of variety in the box.
The game isn't as straightforward as "three Daggers bad, three Crowns good". The Scrolls mechanic gives other players an opportunity to mix things up. If another player is passed a die or dice due to you rolling a Scroll, one of three things will happen. If they roll a Skull or Scroll, they give the die back to you to re-roll. If they roll a Dagger, they can place that die on someone else. It sits there until their next turn, so throughout the course of a round you can end up with one or more Daggers on you before you've even had the chance to roll. Finally, if a player rolls a Crown on a die through this mechanic, they keep it for themselves for their next turn. Even if a player accrues three Crowns on other players turns, the rules require that you roll all of the dice you can at least once; it's still possible for them to lose everything.
Aside from gaining three Crowns, five Skulls will also score you a point towards winning the game. Although one occasionally has fantastic luck, Dice of Crowns is more about pressing your luck than anything else. You have to decide if you're going to risk everything and roll again. These risks can be complicated by alternate rulesets. For example, three Skulls will award a Fate token (a number of which are also included in the tin). Players can use a Fate token to re-roll one "locked" die (typically a Dagger) or two Fate tokens to force someone else to re-roll a locked die (typically a Crown).
The variety in rules and ability to adjust the length of the game makes Dice of Crowns a very versatile game, but one of the advertised features is that it is also a very sturdy game. The rules sheet is printing on a material called Revlar, a material that's both waterproof and tear-resistant. Thing 12 Games put out a YouTube video showing them running the rules sheet under water and attempting (and failing) to rip it. I wish I could say that I do my Russian and Polish ancestors proud with my ability to bench press 600 pounds while simultaneously fighting off a grizzly bear and chugging vodka, but alas the life of a semi-professional games journalist rarely has a need for feats of strength. Still, I'm a big guy and I've done my fair share of heavy lifting, so I took a crack at ripping the rules sheet. I struggled with it for a few minutes (in both wet and dry states) to no avail - the damned thing is exactly as sturdy as they advertise.
Dice of Crowns can be played in 15-20 minutes on average. It fits in your purse or pocket, and it's perfect for when you want to kill a little bit of time with your friends. Heck, I played it with my mom and she had fun. (I also may have uncovered a mild gambling streak; if she ever sets foot in Atlantic City, she'll probably have a lot of fun.) The game's case and components can take a beating, and short of throwing the tin into Mount Doom, you'd be hard pressed to damage it without deliberately trying to do so. We enjoyed it so much that one of my tabletop group members picked up a copy for himself after the first night we played it.
My tabletop group (as well as some of my family and friends) played a few dozen games of Dice of Crowns over the course of several weeks. We had a blast, and I can say that it's an excellent dice-rolling game. The components are great, the rules are fair and offer a lot of variety, and it's more than reasonably priced for the variety you get in the box. If you remotely enjoy dice-rolling games, it's absolutely essential that you add Dice of Crowns to your collection. Thing 12 Games has struck gold here, and in my mind they have (quite appropriately) taken the crown as the best dice-rolling game out there right now.
The Bottom Line:
Dice of Crowns offers a lot of variety in gameplay, a quick playtime, and durable components, all neatly couched in a compact package that fits in the palm of your hand.
Get This Game If:
- You like dice-rolling games.
- You like games that you can play quickly.
- You like travel-sized games.
- You care a lot about durable components.
- You don't like dice-rolling games.
- You have terrible luck.
- You hate fun.
What do you think of Dice of Crowns? Do you think you would be playing the game while out and about, or do you feel that dice games are better played in one's own home? Is the size and compactness of a game something that you feel is important or useful? Let us know in the comments below!
Dice of Crowns offers a lot of variety in gameplay, a quick playtime, and durable components, all neatly couched in a compact package that fits in the palm of your hand.(Review Policy)