If you’re like me, your days of board gaming are pretty much over. Christmas may be an exception if enough of the clan are gathered, but these days board games take up a lot of space in my sub-basement. At any rate, if and when I manage to get my favorites Risk, Totopoly, Subbuteo and Wembley out, there are always lots of tiny pieces that are so easy to lose. I’m still a bit of a Luddite vis-a-vis books and I have to give full credit to my wife for removing some of the clutter in the house via her Kindle. Computer games have, thus far, not fulfilled that tactile longing satisfied by chess and Monopoly pieces, yet. So when I heard about Dice+, I was happy to check it out.
Dice+ is the brainchild of Gaming Technologies of Poznan, Poland. It’s a brand-new Bluetooth-enabled die that solves that in-between-y tactile satisfaction urge between firm grip and touch and the light skipping way one interacts with digital board games. Plus there’s no muss and therefore no fuss. It’s in no way revolutionary, but it is fun, especially for kids because it has numbers that shift colors and an accelerometer that turns it into a motion controller. At US$39.99 it’s not cheap, but I’ll see what bang I get for my buck.
Dice+ is a simple six-sided die that connects with ease to your iPad or Android tablet via Bluetooth. Each side features a rubbery surface meant for rolling on smooth surfaces. Unlike old-fashioned wood dice, you don’t get any anxiety about the die sliding around too much. It’s light in your palm and comfy-feeling and features a conveniently hidden Micro USB port for charging the battery. What you need to get used to is that the Dice+ starts out completely blank. Inside, however, are LED lights that illuminate the numbers once the die is switched on. When you’re not using it, the numbers flash and go through a galvanized cycle of flashing color. A number of built-in games use this cycle, like Heroes, which features some really precious boogeying robots. Players pick a color and a sequence is set in motion where the die will always flash in the color of whoever happens to be the current player.
Open the box up and you’ll find the die bundled with a free app: Board Games! Included are five free games to get you started. Unfortunately, beyond these five, any new games have to be purchased and placed on the app. There’s a neon-glitter dominated game of backgammon, which is probably better than I’m making it sound. You get a couple of simple, toddler-oriented counting games, a finger ‘match’ game where speed counting is your objective. I really liked Rumble Stumble a lot. Easily the best in the set, Ii’s a touchscreen version of Twister, where you hold your fingers in an awkward position until it’s your opponent’s time to take charge. Quick thinking is of the essence when you roll. Players have to pay attention to both the number and the color. Rolling a red four, for example, forces you to place a finger on five different red places on the board simultaneously. It’s a fun time killer, although I would think, the thrill won’t last too long.
More titles are, of course, available for purchase off the iTunes App Store or Google Play. As of right now there are only about a dozen available, although I was informed at the CES that soon there will be scores more. I saw but didn’t play an interesting-looking, pirate-themed card game, and enjoyed Dice+ Heroes. More interesting concept-wise, is a flight game Pilot, where you use the die to control an airplane. You tilt the Dice+ in order to steer the aircraft, tapping with your thumbnail to fire bullets.
Now, naturally, having been brought up by a depraved gambler of a father, I learned to shoot craps. Dice+ can be used in this manner, although, in the end, you’ve still got to do the basic gaming arithmetic with a good old school pencil and pad.
The $39.99 price really is a bit of a fur-ball to choke on, but those future games I referred to really are due. One I look forward to is Talisman from the Warhammer creator Games Workshop. The well-liked games designer Renier Knizia is also about to release a new strategy game called Supremacy. A role-playing game called Dice+Adventures will also be released next Christmas.