Build a Tower of Dice in ‘Sutakku’

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Sutakku cover

How far will you push your luck? The higher you stack the dice, the more points you’ll score—but if you don’t roll high enough, it all comes crashing down.

What Is Sutakku?

Sutakku is a press-your-luck game for 1 or more players, all ages, and takes about 15 minutes to play. It retailed for $14.95, but unfortunately is out of print now; you can still find copies online, or you might get lucky and find it at a game store. (And, hey, if you can’t find a copy, you could actually play with regular 6-sided dice.) Despite the fact that it’s a game about stacking dice, it’s actually not a dexterity game—you could just as easily line up the dice in a row instead if you prefer. A note about the age rating: the box says “14+” but the rulesheet says “all ages,” so I’m guessing the box rating is simply for legal safety reasons: you can’t put lower ages unless it’s been through all the various safety testing. Suffice to say, the game is fairly simple to learn, so as long as your kid isn’t going to eat the dice, they could probably play.

Sutakku components
Sutakku components. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Sutakku Components

Here’s what comes in the box:

  • 12 dice
  • Stacking board
  • Scorepad
  • Cloth bag
  • 10 Smirky’s Challenge cards (with rule card)
Sutakku dice
Here are the dice in numerical order. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The dice are very nice: they’re 3/4″ six-sided dice with rounded corners, and they’re chunky and heavy. The dice have kanji numbers on them instead of Arabic numerals, and are engraved and painted so they won’t wear off.

The stacking board is a two-piece board that fits together like a puzzle. It’s mostly there to provide a reminder of the numerals for those who don’t read Japanese/Chinese, but I’ve also been using it just as a smoother stacking surface since I have a squishy playmat on my gaming table.

The Smirky’s Challenge cards are optional, if you want to throw in a little more “take that” (which Smirk & Dagger Games is known for). The cards themselves are pretty rudimentary: they’re glossy on one side and matte on the other and don’t have rounded corners; the back has a nice image on it, but the cards themselves are just some simple text with a thematic title.

Sutakku bag
The pocket-sized bag holds almost everything. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The cloth bag can hold all the dice and the cards comfortably. The stacking board fits inside as well, but the pieces are just long enough that you can’t quite close the bag. Depending on where you’re playing (and once everyone can read the numbers), you could leave the board and just bring the dice and cards. You’ll have to provide your own way of keeping score, though, since the score sheet is too big for the bag, too.

You could actually play the core game with any set of a dozen six-sided dice, and it would be pretty fun. The bigger dice make it easier to stack them, and of course if you don’t have the Smirky’s Challenge cards, then you’ll be missing that little bit of backstabbing.

How to Play Sutakku

The Goal

The goal of the game is to score the most points over five rounds.

Setup

There’s not really much setup except to put the stacking board on the table and pick a first player.

Gameplay

On your turn, you can keep rolling and stacking dice until you choose to stop or you bust. Then you score your points for the round, clear the stack, and the next player takes their turn.

When you roll, you roll three dice at a time, and then you must place two of them onto the stack. A die may only be added if it is the same or higher value than the die below it. If you can’t add a two dice after a roll, then you bust and score nothing.

Mulligan: Once per round, you may take a mulligan to re-roll, but you only get to roll 2 dice. If you can’t place both of them, then you bust.

Doubles: If you roll doubles of a value that’s higher than the third die, you may place all three dice, as long as they’re all legal placements. If the doubles are lower than the third die, you just place two dice as usual.

Triples: If you roll triples and it’s legal to place them, you may place all three. If the triples can’t be placed legally, you get a free re-roll of all three dice.

Sutakku stacked dice
This stack would score 25 points. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Scoring

If you don’t bust and decide to stop, you score points. Your score is the value of the highest die multiplied by the number of dice in the stack. There are also some possible bonuses.

The Rule of 5: If you push your luck and roll again when a 5 is on top and succeed, you earn a bonus 50 points.

The Rule of 6: If you push your luck and roll again when a 6 is on top and succeed, you earn a bonus 100 points.

(You may only score each bonus once per round, even if you successfully push your luck twice with the same number.)

A Tower of 12: If you manage to stack all 12 dice, then you get 200 bonus points. Note that you’ll be rolling fewer than 3 dice for your last turn. If you’re down to 1 die, you may roll it and attempt to add it—you don’t bust because you were only able to add 1 die, since it’s the last one left.

Game End

The game ends after five rounds. The highest score wins.

Sutakku: Smirky's Challenge cards
Smirky’s Challenge cards. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Smirky’s Challenge

To throw in the Smirky’s Challenge cards, you first roll off to see who goes first; the highest roller goes first and draws a card from the deck. Anyone who busts when they were trying to stack on a tower of only 2 or 3 dice also gets to draw a card. There’s no hand limit.

Only one card may be played on a player during a round. Most cards are “Pre-Roll Challenges” and must be played before a player starts, and they make it harder—but there are bonus points if they succeed. In some cases, you may play cards on yourself to try to get the bonus points.

If you run out of cards, shuffle the discard pile to form a new deck. If you need to draw a card and there are none left, you get to steal one at random from another player—so don’t hoard cards!

Why You Should Play Sutakku

I’m generally trying to keep up with reviews of new games, particularly with the stream of Kickstarter campaigns, which means that once a game gets past a certain age, it tends to drop off my radar. And, unfortunately, that means that some gems get missed, no matter how hard I try to keep up with everything. Sutakku was published back in 2011, but I actually never managed to get it to the table until just recently, and I was pleasantly surprised.

First, a note about the theme: the game is loosely based on the old folktale about the stonecutter. You can read a longer version here, but the gist is that the stonecutter (who had been happy with his life) became dissatisfied when he saw a rich man, and he wished to be like the rich man—and his wish was granted. But he kept seeing somebody or something else that seemed even more powerful, so he became a prince, then the sun, then a cloud, then a mountain—and eventually a stonecutter again, where he was finally satisfied. There’s not a huge reason this game needs a theme at all, but this one seems about as good as any, and gives an excuse for using custom kanji dice instead of dice with regular pips.

The gameplay (without the cards) is pretty classic press-your-luck. In this case, it gets harder and harder to add to the stack because you have to roll higher and higher numbers. What you really want is to have a lot of low numbers so that it’s easy to build up the stack, and then end with a 6 so that you get a bigger multiplier at the end.

One tricky decision is when to use your mulligan. If you roll high numbers on your first roll, do you go ahead and stack them (and maybe hope for a Rule of 5 bonus), or do you take a mulligan, hoping for lower numbers so that you can stack a bit higher first? Do you intentionally add a 5 or 6 to your stack instead of a lower die, just to chase that potential bonus?

The Rule of 5 and Rule of 6 also tempt you to keep pushing beyond the point of “safety.” You have pretty good odds of stacking on top of a 4, but the odds drop significantly if you need to roll high enough to stack on a 5 or 6. But then you think to yourself: 50 points! That’s pretty good, right? And if you busted the previous round, you’re even more tempted to take some risks because the other players may be farther ahead and it’s your only chance of catching up.

Sutakku stack
Stacking all 12 dice scores a huge bonus, but it’s very hard to succeed. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

So far the highest I’ve ever managed is 160 points in a single round—I started with a lot of low numbers and built up to 8 dice, at which point I had a 6 on top. I pushed, and managed to roll two 6s. That put me at 10 dice, so I got 60 points for the stack, and 100 bonus points for the Rule of 6. Of course, the other players encouraged me to go for the 200 bonus points, but I figured my luck was already stretched to the breaking point by then. The worst I’ve ever done is 0 points … for the entire game. Sometimes, Lady Luck just doesn’t care.

The Smirky’s Challenge cards throw some fun wrenches into the game—since you get to draw them if you bust on a low stack (essentially, on your second roll), it mitigates the luck just a little bit, because it gives players with the worst luck a smidge of control. They can make things harder for another player, or decide to take a bigger risk themselves in an attempt to catch up with the bonus points.

If Curt Covert (of Smirk & Dagger Games) is reading this, I’m sorry it took me so long to give this one a try. I’ve had a blast, and it’s been a great game to break out when I’ve had two games going at game night and one group finishes before the other—or when we’re looking for something to play while we wait for everyone to arrive. I think it’s one that will probably find its way into my travel games rotation for sure.

As I said before—Sutakku is now out of print, but if you’re lucky enough to find a copy somewhere, it’s worth picking up! And if not, you can always play it using a regular set of dice.


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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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