Welcome to Tumble Town, population: you. Gather up some building plans and start construction on Main Street, and see who can build the best town from scratch!
What Is Tumble Town?
Tumble Town is a dice game for 1 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 45 minutes to play. It is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, and a pledge of $29 will get you a copy of the game. (There are other tiers available, depending on whether you want just the Print and Play files, or if you’d like to add a deluxe playmat.) It’s designed by Kevin Russ (also the designer of Calico) and published by Weird Giraffe Games. The game is pretty straightforward and requires only a little bit of addition, so 8 and up seems about right, though it has a fun puzzle element that makes it entertaining for adults, too.
New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer.
Tumble Town Components
Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality. For instance, the first player token will probably be a meeple and not a cactus eraser puzzle. The illustrations and graphic design will also be updated (see note below).
Here’s what comes in the box:
- 4 Player Aid cards
- 4 Icon Reference cards
- 4 Horse cards
- 4 Storehouse cards
- 8 Main Street cards (2 per player)
- 28 Brown dice
- 24 Grey dice
- 24 Black dice
- 24 Gold dice
- 1 Game Setup card
- 52 Building Plan cards
- 3 Plan End cards
- 10 Dice Value tokens
- 10 Penalty tokens
- First Player marker
- Score Pad (not included in prototype)
The building plan cards show various configurations of blocks, which you’ll reproduce using dice of the matching colors. Each building has a little sign on top that indicates the values of dice you’ll need: between 1 and 3, two different pairs, all different dice, etc. The little features like barrels, cacti, and windmills aren’t just decorative: some cards will score bonus points based on those as well.
The illustrations and graphic design in the prototype are pretty simple, but they’ll be getting reworked for the final version. The image above from the Kickstarter page shows an example of what the background will look like in the final version, and I think you’ll agree that it’s a huge step up from the simple MS Paint look of the prototype. The rest of the features will get an update too—the tricky thing will be balancing a more realistic look (perhaps like the cover illustration) with easy readability for the game. Hopefully the various features like cacti and barrels will still be easy enough to spot. The main street cards are functional and show the various requirements for placing buildings, but it’ll be nice if they turn out looking a little more like a bird’s-eye view of a street rather than just plain white space.
How to Play Tumble Town
The goal of the game is to score the most points by building valuable buildings and placing them onto your Main Street.
The market consists of three rows of building plan cards. Separate the three plan decks (1, 2, or 3 cactus icons on the back) and shuffle each deck separately. Place the Plan End cards in a column, and then put the indicated number of plan cards on top of them (based on the player count). The rest of the plan cards are returned to the box. Reveal the top 4 cards of each deck.
Set the dice nearby as a supply. Depending on the player count, you will remove some dice from the game.
Each player starts with a pair of main street cards, a storehouse, and a horse. The main street cards are placed side-by-side to form the street, either on the “easy” side or the “hard” side. The horse is placed to the right of your storehouse, with the “+1/-1” icon showing. Each player will also take some dice to start, based on player order. Roll your starting dice and place them on your storehouse.
Choose a starting player and give them the first player marker.
On your turn, you take a card from the market and place it to the left of your storehouse—these are plans that you haven’t built yet. Then, take three dice as shown on the top of the plan deck. (The first row gives you two brown dice and then your choice of brown, grey, or black. The second row has either a grey or black, and then a choice of two more not including gold. The third row allows you to take a gold die, and then a choice of two more including gold.) Roll the new dice.
Refill the market from the deck.
Now you may build any of the buildings in your storehouse by arranging the dice as shown on the plan card. The dice must match the color shown on the card, and the values of the dice must meet the requirements shown on the little sign at the top of the building illustration. For instance, to build the Saloon shown above, you need 3 brown dice stacked in a pyramid, and each of them must have an even value. You may construct a building using dice that do not meet the requirement, but you take a -2 penalty token for each die that doesn’t belong.
Each building (and your horse) has an effect printed at the bottom. Grey effects are one-time, immediate effects that happen as soon as you build the building. Brown effects may be used once per turn. Gold effects are end-game scoring bonuses. You may use these abilities during the construction phase of your turn to manipulate the dice.
Note that the “Gold Pan” (printed on your storehouse card) indicates that you can always trade two of the same color dice (brown, grey, or black) for one die of any color, two dice with the same value for one die of any color, or one gold die for one brown, grey, or black die.
When you’ve constructed a building, move the plan card to the right of your storehouse. Then place your building on your main street. Each space on main street has an icon: if the building placed there matches the icon, you’ll score bonus points at the end of the game. (Buildings do not have to match to be placed on main street.)
At the end of your turn, any unused dice must be placed into your storehouse, and any that don’t fit are returned to the supply.
When any two dice colors have two or fewer dice remaining, you finish the round so that all players have had an equal number of turns, and then the game ends.
Each building that you’ve built scores points as indicated by the star at the top left corner of the card.
Flip your horse card over to reveal the icon. For each icon in your town that matches your horse, you score a point.
Gold buildings also reward bonus points for various features, from the birds and various cacti seen in the backgrounds on the cards, to buildings of a certain height or width, to leftover dice in your storehouse.
To score your main street, look at each space and see if the building placed there matches the requirement. If so, you score a point. Some spaces require the base to be a particular color, and some require that part of the building to be a certain height. For buildings that have a die stacked between two dice, you can count it as either height. (For example, the Saloon at the top left in the photo above scores for both spaces: 1 point for having a brown die on the left, and 1 point for being a 2-height building on the right.)
In addition, you also score for alleys between buildings: if there is only a single space between two buildings, you score a point. My main street above has 5 alleys, so I score 5 points. (Gaps of 2 spaces or more do not score points.)
Add up all your points—the highest score wins!
Although there is a solo variant, I did not try it myself. You play against an automated outlaw, which rolls three dice each round and then uses the results to collect dice or building cards. At the end of the game, you compare your score against the buildings collected by the outlaw.
Why You Should Play Tumble Town
Tumble Town is a slick little game that combines card drafting, dice-rolling, and just a touch of puzzle-building, and it’s a lot of fun.
Every turn you’re taking one card and three dice, but some of the buildings (particularly the more valuable ones) require more than three dice to build, which means that sometimes you’ll end up with plans that never get finished. Or, you might have all the correct dice colors you need, but you don’t roll the right numbers for them. You can just wait until next time, of course, and hope that the new dice you collect will roll better. Or you can just take the 2 point penalty to use the incorrect die.
Eventually, of course, you’ll have access to other abilities to manipulate those dice. I like that even at the start you have your trusty steed, which lets you increase or decrease a die by 1, plus your gold pan that lets you trade some dice around. But as you choose buildings, you’ll have to make some decisions about going for the most valuable building you can get, or collecting the icons on your horse card, or amassing various features for bonus points. Even though the horse cards are hidden, in all the games I’ve played so far it becomes obvious pretty soon which icon everyone is looking for. But that’s okay: generally, you probably still don’t want to hate draft those cards because you want your own icons anyway. There are a few cards that have multiple icons on them, and those can be a little more sought after, but they’re also usually not worth as many points anyway.
The mix of one-time use abilities and once-per-turn abilities is nice. The gold buildings in the most expensive deck can be worth a lot of points, but it’s can be hard to get enough dice to build several of those. Plus, they usually score for features in your other buildings, so I’m not sure that just going for the gold is your best bet.
The main street cards present another fun puzzle aspect, where you’re trying to figure out the best arrangement for your buildings so you can score the most points. The alleyways aren’t totally intuitive, but they’re valuable, and if you can leave one space between each of your buildings, you’ll score more than if you try to fill every space. (So far, in each game I’ve played, nobody has built that many buildings before the game ends.)
The easy side includes requirements about the base die or height of a building, and there are two freebie spaces that will score no matter what’s placed there. On the hard side, though, there are no freebies, and some buildings require a particular color on the second level. The rules also offer a simpler option: omit the main street entirely and just score for buildings and your horse. But I really like the main street part of the game, and would recommend using it as soon as everyone is comfortable with the gameplay.
The 3-cacti cards, which always require gold dice, will usually take you two turns to get enough dice to build them, so most players don’t go for them early because those gold dice will be taking up precious storehouse space until they’re used. You’d want to start with some buildings that give you some abilities first. And while they’re worth more points, the real value in the gold buildings is from the bonus points. Do you gamble and build a gold building first, and risk other players drafting the plans you need for bonus points? Or do you build cheaper buildings first, but risk other players taking a gold building that’s worth a lot to you?
The only interaction between players is in the card drafting, and whether you take a card that another player wants. As I said earlier, because of the horse bonus points, most players will gravitate toward cards with their own icons anyway except for the gold bonus buildings, so there’s not a lot of intentional hate-drafting. At least, that’s the case with my group. We were all more interested in constructing our own towns than trying to interfere with each other, and usually if somebody took a card that another player wanted, it wasn’t out of spite.
Tumble Town plays pretty quickly, and sometimes ends before you’re ready, but a lot depends on which building cards (and thus which dice) are being taken. If everyone goes for the 1-cactus cards because they’re easier to build, then you’ll run out of the brown dice quickly. But if several players go after the gold buildings first, you might run out the dice supply before people have had a chance to make their gold buildings more valuable.
The theme of building a western town is cute, though the gameplay itself isn’t particularly integrated and it could easily have been any number of things. In the prototype, at least, it’s not clear what the different colored dice are supposed to be: brown is certainly wood, but then the others are… stone? Metal? Surely you’re not building with gold? And there’s not really a connection between the building names and the dice requirements on them—it’s just more of a numbers game, with harder combinations worth more points.
That said, stacking dice is always entertaining, even when it’s not actually part of a game, so it’s pretty satisfying to stack up your dice along Main Street and see your town take shape. If you like dice games and a little bit of spatial puzzling, roll on over to Tumble Town!
For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Tumble Town Kickstarter page!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a prototype of this game for review purposes.