Tabletop Game: ‘Martian Dice’

Image: Rory Bristol
From left to right: Cow, Human, Chicken, Laser, Tank. Image: Rory Bristol

Martian Dice is a press your luck dice-based table top game from Tasty Minstrel Games. It begins simply enough, with 13 dice showing 5 different symbols. Each roll of the die has a 1-in-6 chance to roll either a Chicken, a Cow, a Human, or a Tank, and a 2-in-6 chance to roll a Laser. The goal is simple enough: Abduct 25 Earthlings before your competitors, without being forced to flee by Earthling military forces.

When I pulled Martian Dice out of the package, I was a little disappointed. It looked like a re-themed Zombie Dice, which had worn out its interest in our home some time ago. After playing the game, however, Jenny and I were both pleasantly surprised at the replay-ability and strategy choices available.

The mechanics are straight forward. Roll the dice, putting aside any red tanks. Choose one of the remaining four types to “keep”, and put those aside as well. You must “keep” all of a single type every turn, not including Tanks. You may only set aside groups of Humans, Chickens, and Cows once each. You may choose to set aside Lasers during more than one turn, however. If you are unable to collect anything on a roll, your turn ends immediately. The player scores one point for each Human, Chicken, or Cow they were able to keep without busting (see next paragraph).

The Lasers and the Tanks are the iffy bit each turn. You must have a number of Lasers more than or equal to the number of Tanks at the end of your turn to score any points. If at any time you roll a seventh Tank, you automatically bust, because you cannot roll enough Lasers to win the round. When you bust, you score zero points.

As a press your luck game with a low goal (25 Earthlings), it can be hard to know when to quit. We learned very well that caution wins, but adventure is fun. If you like to press your luck, you may be able to compete, but be prepared to bust just as often as you succeed. If you play safe, you have an advantage, but be prepared to only get a few points each turn. The larger the group is, we found, the easier it is to be adventurous, so if you prefer to really push, then invite a few more people over.

Body
A successful heist. The dice on the right are the ones previously kept. On the left, you can see the player must keep the cow or the laser. After keeping the cow, the player decides to stops for a total of 9 points, thanks to the bonus. Image: Rory Bristol

The ways Martian Dice is not similar to Zombie Dice:

  • All the dice are identical. Zombie dice has a “luck” factor based on which dice you happen to roll.
  • There are no brains. This makes things less gross for sensitive players.
  • The Shotgun is replaced by a Tank, which can be countered. Also, losers are forced to “retreat” instead of being “killed”, the latter of which might bother some players.
  • Instead of a mad-grab for brains, strategy is required to score points.
  • If a player gets at least one of each Earthling (Cow, Chicken, Human) they get a bonus three points!

Theme note: Due to a lack of brains and a more traditional sci-fi theme, our gamers feel more immersed in Martian Dice than they do in other similar games.

Extra materials needed: Pen and paper, or score-keeping app.

The manufacturer suggests ages 8+, but I am confident that kids can play as young as five. There’s no reading or higher math skills, but you will need to judge your kid’s ability for yourself. Bonus: As a dice game, Martian Dice is easy to clean, and hard to destroy. If someone forgets to wash their hands, no biggie. Just wipe the dice off with a bleach wipe or equivalent.

The manufacturer suggests 2-99 players, which is totally appropriate, technically. I suggest between 2 and 6 players. If you have too many players, gameplay dissolves into chatter, and people forget to keep track of the game. Distracted players (especially young ones) will feel cheated, because they didn’t know they were going to lose.

Martian Dice costs $14.99 on Amazon. I’m already planning on getting extra copies to give to friends and game groups. It’s an affordable gift, and is fairly indestructible.

Disclaimer: Tasty Minstrel Games provided a unit for review.

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Rory is a newly appointed stepparent to two awesome geeklings. He also writes for mental health awareness at Terminally Intelligent.