Ever since Geekdad’s PAX Prime panel, I have been thinking a lot about how tabletop games can facilitate social interaction. Rael Dornfest, the honorary GeekDad on our panel, brought up this point when talking about how introverted people can find it awkward to carry on polite conversation. Rael suggested that games can provide an easy point of contact, giving the introvert a natural entry into conversation with a neighbor or acquaintance.
This has led me to reflect on the different roles games can play in my family. Last March I wrote about Merchants, which I said was one of my favorite “date night” games. Portable, quick, and low strategy, it was perfect for play in a coffee shop or restaurant. Lately, my wife has taken to soundly trouncing me at For The Win.
So that has had me thinking of what other games are perfect for a given situation. One situation which can cause huge problems in our family is Thursday night dinner conversation. Why Thursday night, you ask? Because it isn’t yet Friday, and we are all worn down by our work week. Friday night dinner conversation is fine because tomorrow we will relax. Thursday night conversation can be a bit testy because we still have another day to go. Sometimes the right game can provide just enough distraction and focus to smooth over the wrinkles and keep dinner from turning into something regrettable.
Yet, on a night when we are all tired, it has to be the right game. Recently in our house Martian Dice by Tasty Minstrel Games has been that game. Martian Dice is a simple, dice-rolling, press-your-luck game akin to Zombie Dice. However, for the particular scenario of needing to avoid conflict and frustration among children, this game is even a little better than Zombie Dice. Why? Because it has less press-your-luck and more simple mathematics. In Zombie Dice, almost each role is fraught with risk. In the vast majority of situations, I would say that this makes for better game play. However, when I am trying to keep my five-year-old from yelling at my twelve-year-old for telling her how to play, I don’t want more risk. I want just enough risk to keep it interesting and not a drop more.
The game play is quite simple. Each die has one human, cow, and chicken, as well as one tank and two death rays. You are the commander of a force of Martians who are trying to determine which of the three aforementioned species is the ruler of Earth. You are making runs over the planet beaming up members of each species for study. However, your beaming device can only take one species at a time, so in each roll you may keep either the humans, the cows, or the chickens. You also must watch out for the tanks, which you must always keep. If at the end of your run you have more tanks than death rays, your ship has been shot down, and you do not score points for that run. Keeping death rays is always optional. You may keep as many or as few as you like.
A player rolls the dice and sets aside the species of their choice along with any tanks. They then choose how many death rays to keep in order to offset the tanks. All dice not set aside are rolled again. Scoring is quite simple. When you have either run out of dice to roll, or when you choose to stop rolling, you count up the total number of humans, cows, and chickens you have captured, and add to it a bonus of three points if you have captured at least one of each species. The first person to 25 points wins.
That is it. There are no more rules. Martian Dice is the perfect game for keeping a tired family of five from dissolving into conflict.
Wired: A great family casual game when you don’t want to think much.
Tired: Not much meat on these bones. A very simple game.
A review copy was provided by Game Salute.