‘Dicey Goblins’: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Dicey Goblins cover

Harvesting dragon eggs is a risky business—you might even say it’s a little dicey. But these goblins are up to the task—just keep an eye out for that dragon!

At a glance: Dicey Goblins is a press-your-luck game by Steve Ellis and Tyler Tinsley for 3 to 6 players, ages 10 and up, and takes about 15–30 minutes to play. It retails for $25 and should be available in stores and online this week. The game is suitable for younger players, too—there’s nothing too challenging or inappropriate (though, of course, responsible parents will tell their kids that stealing dragon eggs is a dangerous occupation). The primary mechanic is deciding whether to stay or run away before each roll of the dice.

Dicey Goblins
Dicey Goblins components. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Components

  • 12 dice:
    • 1 Red
    • 4 Bronze
    • 4 Silver
    • 3 Gold
  • 20 gold coins
  • 30 silver coins
  • 6 Goblin tokens
  • 1 board
  • 1 dice bag

The cardboard components are nice quality but not super exciting: the gold and silver coins are fine, with a dragon egg icon on one side and a smiling goblin silhouette on the other. The small board has fun artwork on it, with a dragon chasing goblins out of its cave—three icons show where you place dice depending on what faces were rolled—but the board isn’t strictly necessary, either, because dice are grouped by what you rolled anyway.

Dicey Goblins
Custom goblin dice come in 4 colors. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The custom dice are excellent: engraved and painted. The dice have different colors, representing the relative number of eggs and likelihood of rolling a skull. The red die is a special “stealing” die. The dice bag is a heavy fabric with an embroidered logo, plus the drawstring actually cinches the opening shut (unlike some bags, in which the opening is too stiff or there isn’t enough friction in the drawstring).

How to play

The goal of the game is to have the most coins at the end of six rounds by collecting dragon eggs.

Give each player one goblin token. Put all the dice in the bag, the board in the center of the table, and all the coins to one side.

Dicey Goblins
At the start of the round, there’s one die in the nest and two in the explore area. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Start the round by pulling one die out of the bag and placing it in the nest (the area on the board with the egg icon) with the lowest egg count showing. A round will last until all players are out of the dragon’s lair—either because they ran away or were caught by the dragon.

Each turn in the round is as follows:

The active player draws 2 dice and puts them in the “explore” section of the board (on the goblins, with the foot icon).

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Dicey Goblins
The goblin token has “Dare to Raid” on one side and “Run Away” on the other. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

All players secretly choose whether to “Dare to Raid” or “Run Away,” turning their goblin token to the side chosen. All goblin tokens are revealed simultaneously. Players who run away will get to take a die or a coin and are then out for the rest of the round.

  • If you’re the only one who ran this turn, you may pick any one die and set it in front of you.
  • If more than one player runs, each player takes one die as long as all of the dice taken have the same number of eggs; if there aren’t enough dice with the same number, everyone who ran gets 1 coin instead. Note that you may not take the red die if other people ran at the same time as you.
  • If you’re the last person in the round and you run, you may take two dice.

If anyone is still left to raid, roll all of the dice in the “explore” area: eggs go on the nest, skulls go on the flame, and feet go on the goblins.

If the round has not ended, a new turn begins.

Dicey Goblins
Everyone selects their choice … and then reveals. Looks like everyone is staying this turn. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The round ends if any of the following happen:

  • There are three or more skulls in the flame area.
  • Everyone has chosen to run.
  • There are no more dice left to roll. (Anyone left will get to take up to 3 dice, according to the rules above.)

Once the round is over, players get to score. First, if you have bronze, silver, or gold dice, you get coins equal to the number of eggs on the dice (dice color doesn’t matter). Then, if you have the red die, you may steal coins from the player with the most coins. (If tied, take from all tied players as evenly as possible.)

The game ends either at the end of six rounds, or when any player has collected 18 or more coins.

The Verdict

Dicey Goblins made an appearance at Gen Con this year at the Renegade Games booth, though its official release is October 16 at the Spiel gaming convention in Essen, Germany. The press-your-luck elements remind me a little of Zombie Dice and a little of Incan Gold (one of my favorites). Like Zombie Dice, players will roll dice, hoping for dragon eggs and “busting” if three skulls appear. But like Incan Gold, players choose simultaneously whether to stay or leave, with the best rewards going to the player who goes alone—and each die roll affects all the players left in the lair, rather than just the player rolling the dice.

In fact, because of the way the game works, you don’t really have to pass the dice bag at all: you could let the same player grab dice and roll them, in a similar way that Incan Gold just relies on one player to flip over a card each turn. Rolling dice is fun, though, so passing the bag gives everyone a chance to feel that they have a hand in their fortune, or better or for worse.

The game is pretty simple to teach, though divvying up the dice when you leave can be a little confusing at first. Players who leave together only get to take dice if there’s enough to share evenly—and the red die doesn’t count if anyone is with you. Once you get the hang of it, though, the turns go very quickly, and players can focus on the decision at the heart of the game: should I stay or should I go? Just try not to, uh, clash with anyone else.

Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes it actually can be to your advantage to leave at the same time as somebody else, but it’s purely a defensive move, like grabbing the same donut as somebody else in Go Nuts for Donuts. If there’s a red die in the nest and you have a lot of coins, it may make sense to leave at the same time as somebody else simply to prevent them from getting the red die. In that sense, the ability to read other players is as important as the luck of the roll.

Dicey Goblins
Even my three-year-old got in on the fun. (And a shout-out to my good friend Tim, who moved to Australia recently—we miss you!) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

It is a dice game, so luck does play a large factor, of course. The different colors of dice give you an indication of how valuable the eggs are and how likely it is that somebody will roll skulls on them. The gold dice have the best chances to roll 4 eggs on a single face—but also have the most skulls. You can judge your level of risk based on the dice on the board: are there skulls there already? How many dice will be rolled? Every time the “feet” icon are rolled, those dice will be included with the two new dice, so it’s possible to roll quite a few dice all at once, and go from zero to three skulls in a single turn.

When my three-year-old wanted to play, we let her join in a game, figuring she’d be a bit of a wild card as far as staying or leaving. She actually announced her intentions ahead of time nearly every turn… and still managed to tie for the lead. (One strategic move she made was getting the red die and stealing coins from dear ol’ dad.) So you don’t have to be really experienced to win, but it takes a mixture of luck and knowing when to take a risk.

Dicey Goblins is a fun, casual game that would be good for kicking off a game night even though it’s not heavy enough to be the main course for players who are looking for something a bit more strategy-based. It’s good for both kids and adults, and the luck factor means that kids and adults both have the opportunity to win. If you like press-your-luck games and simultaneous choices, Dicey Goblins may be worth a little exploration.

Dicey Goblins is available from Amazon, or check at your favorite game store!

Disclosure: Review copy provided by Renegade Games.

Jonathan H. Liu is a stay-at-home dad in Portland, Oregon, who loves to read, is always up for a board game, and has a bit of a Kickstarter habit.