Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Review: Pickomino

Pickomino is a nice light dice game by Reiner Knizia. This is a simple game for 2-7 players with a "press your luck" feel. It plays in around 20 minutes and it works well as a children's game.

In Pickomino, players are chickens who roll dice in an attempt to score the juiciest worms from off the bar-B-Q. It's an odd and whimsical theme that is enhanced by Doris Matthäus' nice artwork. Like most of Dr. Knizia's games, the theme is rather thinly washed over what is otherwise a rather abstract (albeit simple) game.

Inside the small box you'll find 16 domino-like pieces and 8 dice. The dominos each have a number printed on the top half (ranging from 21 to 36) and a number of worms printed on the bottom half (from 1 to 4). Each worm represents a victory point and the number at the top indicates a cost to claim that domino. The dice are standard dice except that the side which would normally have six pips has a picture of a worm instead.

On your turn, you roll all eight dice and choose a number (or worm). Take all the dice that show that number and set them aside. Now roll the remaining dice and do it again, only you can't take a number that you've already taken. For instance, if on your first roll, you rolled four fives, two threes, a one and a two, you could take the four fives and re-roll the rest. Now you might get two fives and two threes. You would have to take the two threes since you already took fives on the last roll. Continue rolling dice until either you decide to stop or all the dice you've rolled show numbers that you've already taken (in which case the roll is a failure and you have to give up a domino). When you stop rolling, you add up your dice (worms are worth five, the other sides are worth the number of pips shown) and you take the corresponding domino off the "bar-B-Q" and add it to your stack. If your roll exactly matches a domino on the top of one of the other players' stacks then you can steal that domino instead. At the end of the game, players count up the worms on the bottom of their dominos and whoever has the most wins the game.

This is a fun and simple game which can be taught and played in just a few minutes. The primary tension in the game is derived from deciding how far to press your luck. This being a dice game, obviously luck plays a large roll, and yet a good understanding of the odds can definitely mitigate that a bit. For instance, it's almost always better to take a single one, two or three after the first roll if you haven't rolled a lot of fives or worms because that increases your chances of getting lots of fives or worms on your next roll.

I'm not a huge fan of games that rely so heavily on luck, and yet in this case the game is short enough and there is just enough thinking involved that the high amount of luck doesn't really bother me. Pickomino is intended to be a very simple and quick game and I think it delivers. If you're looking for a light filler, something that packs small and can be played just about anywhere and any time, especially with children, then Pickomino is a good choice.


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