Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Saturday 11 July 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews: Dice & Ink: Vol. I

Game: Dice & Ink: Vol. I

Publisher: Inkwell Games

Designer:  Toni Catino, Jesse Catron, Robin Gibson, Ryan Hoye, Grance Kendall, Nat Levan, Joe Montgomery, Sarah Reed, Will Reed, Behrooz ' Bez' Shariari, Alexander Shen

Year: 2020

Dice & Ink is an anthology of roll and write games, which successfully funded on Kickstarter. The book contains 10 roll and write games, including pages of rules and tear-out game sheets. Multiple sheets are provided for each game, and you could, of course, laminate or photocopy sheets for the games you find that you'll want to play again and again.

Inkwell games have collected games from 11 different designers, and all you need to do is add dice and pens in order to access this library of games, including options for multiplayer and solo games.

What's in the Book?

Inside the A5 book you will find 10 different Roll and write games, each by a different designer. The book notably doesn't come with the dice that you will need, so for competitions sake you'll need 5 standard dice in one colour, two standard dice in a second colour, one standard dice in a third colour, and one each of a four, eight and ten sided die. Each game has a few pages of rules, then some tear-out pages that serve as the player boards/central boards for the roll and write games.

There are a huge number of roll and write games on the market, but it feels like a genre where there are still lots of things left to explore. In Dice & Ink, you'll find designers experimenting with cooperative games, as well as games where you write on a common central board - both areas that I've been waiting too see more roll and writes cover. There's also three solo games to discover.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

The first taste you have into a game is with your eyes. Typically this comes from the front of the box, but for these games the first thing you really come into contact with is the rules. It's important to note that all of these games are written by different people, so there is a variety in styles. But one thing that really brought the anthology together was their rules. They were unanimously bad.

I play 2-3 new games a week and am typically the rules learner. I work as a games guru in a games cafe, so explaining how to play games concisely and accurately is a part of my daily life. Without fail I struggled to learn these games. They were either explained in a way that made them seem more complex than they were, or simply far too complex in the first place. I actively didn't play one of the games because the rules were near indecipherable and it simply didn't seem worth the effort. The rules for Icy Dice were the rulebook equivalent of being stretched on a rack while listening to an performance of Rick Astly's "Never going to give you" up played on nails on a chalkboard. Not all of them were that bad.

Once you are actually playing the games it's clear that there are some fascinating concepts inside. Flowers over Towers is a really interesting area control game, which is a genre not often seen in roll and writes, while Coral Relief requires an impressive amount of forethought and planning to get the combos that you need to win the game. There are some impressive ideas in this book. But unfortunately they are ideas, blueprints not really ready for the public eye. Not one of these games felt truly fleshed out enough to be a full gaming experience.

The basic idea of Dice & Ink is great. Squeezing a handful of dice, a couple of pens, and a book is possible in all but the most cramped holiday luggage. But for my money I'd rather pack one good game than 10 ones that skirt mediocre at best. What I don't want to do here is put off Inkwell Games from creating a sequel, because the concept is solid. But I ordered a pizza, and you gave me some raw dough with cold tomato sauce and solid cheese on top. Take it back, give it some more time in the oven, then I'll probably be happier.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

What I wanted Dice & Ink to be is something that you might find in a book store or newsagents, next to the book of crossword puzzles, sudoku and dot-to-dots. Something that might be accessible to a broad audience of non-gamers or families, who could experience a range of games that don't feel intimidating. Unfortunately the rules of most of the games in this book are extremely intimidating. Some rules editing could certainly have made things easier to understand, but honestly, some of the games were incredibly fiddly too. We are experienced gamers and we had to skip one of the games in this book because we simply couldn't figure it out!

Dice & Ink feels like an anthology made up of games that were rejected when pitched to other publishers, or games that we're designed as part of a contest to get into the book, with a limited set of contest rules. Many of them feel like a first draft rather than a polished game and the very boring graphic design and poor rules just add to the unfinished feel. I still want a great version of Dice and Ink. Perhaps I should just assemble my current roll and writes into a book, or wait patiently for a better version.

You Might Like...
  • Dice & Ink is a very portable, good value format for roll and write games.
  • Ten different games means you'll likely find one that you like.
  • There are some unique concepts in the book.
You Might Not Like...
  • Very simple, low quality graphic design.
  • Hard to digest rules.
  • Quite a lot of solo-only content, that goes to waste for players like us.

The Verdict
4.5/10 Dice & Ink is a lovely concept - a book format is a great way to put together some roll and write games. Unfortunately we think that this anthology has missed the mark, with rules that are far from accessible and games that just don't quite live up to the quality of roll and write games that you can find at your friendly local game store. Maybe some more development of high quality games will go into Volume 2? 

Dice & Ink: Vol I was a review copy kindly provided to us by Inkwell Games. You can buy a copy on Inkwell Games website from 15th July 2020.

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