I was bought a copy of Liar’s Dice as a Christmas present by a well-meaning friend. My love of board games is well known amongst my social circle (to the end that I ended up speaking with a couple I had never met before down the pub this weekend, thanks to my friend pointing out that the board game shelf there was ‘up your street’). So it was with the best will in the world that I unwrapped the cylindrical container and pulled out a fresh copy of the game. And as it was Christmas, we naturally played the game the same day. And the results …
I think I need to interject here with a disclaimer. You will have come here expecting me to discuss a horrible mess of a game. And some of you probably consider Liar’s Dice to be that. And I sympathise. But this game is on my list of those to avoid for one simple reason.
I am absolutely dreadful at this game.
Liar’s Dice as the names suggests , is all about deception – so I am immediately at a disadvantage with my inglorious history at bluffing games. Each player starts with a cup filled with five standard six sided dice and are required to roll the dice under their cup, keeping the results concealed from the other players. Players are then required to guess how many dice from all the cups are showing a particular value (so you could declare that there are a minimum of four dice with a 3 showing). The next player either has to increase the value of the dice facing; the total number of dice or challenge the previous player’s call. If an increase occurs, the choice falls to the next player until a challenge occurs.
Upon a challenge all dice are revealed. If the player making the claim on the dice was lying, they lose a dice from their pool. If the challenger incorrectly called the player a liar, they lose a dice. The game carried on until players have lost all their dice, by which point they are out. The winner is the player with dice remaining.
I can tell what are thinking right now – ‘You appear to be describing an accessible game that pretty much anyone can understand.’ Or you are thinking, ‘I’m certain they played that in one of the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies.’ Well you would be correct on both counts. Both my sons will happily play Liar’s Dice and in many ways this is part of the problem. And I want to make it perfectly clear, it is my problem …
When you are playing a game of Liar’s Dice and your seven year old son is shaking a cup full of dice, whilst your measly one rattles around in an empty mocking fashion, you know that something has gone horribly wrong. Perhaps if it was only on the odd occasion, it would be manageable. ‘He just got lucky,’ you can say to yourself. But after the third or fourth time in a row, you have to accept where the problem truly lies. So I suck it up, take the higher road and immediately ground him for having the audacity to beat me.
It’s called parenting.
Obviously, I did not actually do this. I can only put my problems with the game down to this, sometimes you get an absolute mental block with a game that you cannot seem to shake. Yes – I am very poor at bluffing games. Whatever my tells are, they are clearly shining beacons to my friends and family. But Liar’s Dice is also a game of educated guesswork and probability, which I am normally really good at. Statistics and odds are actually one of my strong points in gaming (which is probably why dice are so hateful to me most of time – just to prove my rationality wrong). And yet – Liar’s Dice laughs in the face of my logic and careful planning every single time.
There are other parts to the game that I am less than fond on than my complete lack of skill. The game does suffer from player elimination and with a run of bad luck someone can be forced to sit out from an early stage, which is particularly painful in a six player game. The late game does have issues when players may only hold one or two dice each and you can get stuck in a situation where there is no good choice. You either have to make an obviously false bid or challenge on something you know to be true. I am not keen on these situations where there is not an obvious out for a player – it’s always good to have a choice.
One of the other problems I have with Liar’s Dice that it is a game of educated guesswork. Not that I have a problem with this style of game, but that Wits & Wagers exists. Because Wits & Wagers takes this theme and runs with it – quite simply if I want to try and make logical bets on the information I am provided, I cannot see a single situation where I would take Liar’s Dice over that.
Having said that, Prepare For Boarding has always been about my opinions and experiences. And I have been pretty clear that you may find that enjoyment in something that leave me cold. It is worth remembering that Liar’s Dice is a previous winner of the 1993 Spiels Des Jahres for a version known as Bluff. There is clearly an audience for this game and unlike previous games in this series, I would not actively look to discourage you from trying this game. However, if I want to make leaps of logic or if I want to bluff with my friends, there are places I would much rather go that to a game where I can be regularly humiliated by my kids …