I read a review of this in GAMES magazine, and thought it would be a fun game for my 6-year-old nephew. It turns out that it is a light game which is fun for all ages.
To describe the game in one sentence: imagine the fun of Yahtzee without the arithmetic.
Doodle dice comes with 6 dice, a cup to shake them in, and a deck of cards. Each die has one of six different “doodles” on each side: a vertical line (which, of course, becomes horizontal if you rotate it); a diagonal line, a 90-degree circular arc, a large dot, a squiggle (like the vertical line but with a slight “s” bend) and a face.
The deck contains cards with doodles on them, requiring between 1 and 6 dice. For example, the “snake”, requiring four dice, consists of a face followed by three squiggles. “Three men in a tub” requires three faces (the “three men”) and two circular arcs and a horizontal line (the “tub”, when arranged properly). The cards contain different colors as well, and the color scheme is simple: red cards contain 1-die doodles; orange cards contain 2-die doodles; and so on around the color wheel to purple cards, which contain 6-die doodles. The object of the game is to collect a card of each color.
Creating “Three men in a tub”
The game starts with a card of each color in the center of the table.
To earn a card, a player rolls the dice three times (as in Yahtzee). After each roll, the player may keep any, all, or none of the dice and reroll the rest – but after the third roll, what’s on the table is what’s used. At this point, the player tries to arrange the dice to match a doodle in the middle of the table with some or all of the dice. If they match, the player collects that card (no more than one per turn).
Additional features of the game include cards that allow for an extra roll or force another player to skip a turn, and the option to try to steal a card from another player.
Luck/Skill: About 80/20. The strategy involved isn’t particularly deep, and is typically limited to deciding whether to go for a 5-die blue card or 6-die purple card, risking the 3-die yellow card a player managed to luckily roll at first, or figuring out how to best hedge one’s bets by keeping the dice required for a 2-die orange card while still re-rolling, hoping to capture a 4-die green card. Frequently, the player who first earns a 6-die purple card wins the game, for example, and there’s less than a 1 in 5 chance of success for trying to capture any given purple card on a given turn (or less than 1 in 3 if a 4th roll is used).
Learning Curve: Very good. Rules are simple, the game can be played out-of-the-box (i.e. no set-up time is required), and games typically take ten minutes or less.
Production Values: Very good. The pictures and dice have a clever, consistent artistry; I did notice a pair of cards that were “identical” in terms of the doodles required to capture them (although the pictures had different names and used different arrangements), which I personally found annoying, and the dice cup can be quite loud if shaken vigorously (which is either great fun for the youngsters or a real headache for the parents).
Gameplay: Very good. It’s generally easy to determine who is ahead or behind at any one time; however, this can change quickly, so a player who has bad luck at the beginning still has a chance to win.
Pacing: Fast, but turn-based and sequential. Turns don’t take much time, and watching another player take their turn has some appeal simply because a player can decide whether they agree or disagree with a given strategy for capturing cards.
Kid Appeal: I don’t have kids; I’m guessing the answer is high, but I really don’t know. However, my wife (a non-gamer, who plays VERY few games – at all!) liked it, which floored me – I had originally gotten the game for my parents to take back to California, but instead we kept our set and I showed mom how to order it on amazon.com. She ordered TWO sets – one to play with my nephew, and one to give to another relative.
Adult Appeal: This is not a game that requires deep strategy or thought. That said, however, it’s a lot of fun for a “light” game.
Language skills required: Minimal – reading the titles of the cards is about it (I include this because I have friends for whom English is a second language, and it can be more relaxing for them to play a game that requires minimal or no language skills).
Math skills required: Minimal – only if you want to geek out on probabilities. A parent might want to guide a youngster on strategy, but little depth is required.
Skills developed: Probabilistic intuition, spatial relationships (mentally forming the pictures), fine motor skills (arranging the dice), and basic strategic thinking.
Link to basic game on Amazon.
Link to deluxe version on Amazon.