Bocce Dice Game Review (prepublished version)

Please Take Note: This is a review of the game’s final prototype. The art, game bits, and the rules discussed are all subject to change. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review!


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The Basics:

  • For ages 3 and up
  • For 2 to 6 players
  • Approximately 15 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Hand/Eye Coordination & Dexterity
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Visuospatial Skills
  • Cooperative & Team Play

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • None

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek mixed!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Sophocles once said, “The dice of Zeus always fall luckily.” That might very well be true for the Greek god of the sky and thunder, but hardly a common occurrence for us earthbound mortals. Luck is an invisible but ever-present force that gamers know all too well. One moment you’ll be the lead dog and the next moment you’ll be behind the pack. In this game of fickle dice and dexterity, you can make your own luck…and bitter rivalries! But it’s all in fun.

Bocce Dice, a self-published game by Kevin McCarthy, will reportedly be comprised of 12 standard six-sided dice, 2 score-keeping tokens, and 1 playing mat (11″ x 17″). All the game components fit nicely into a small tube for easy travel to and from your geeky gatherings. As this is a review of a prepublished game, we will not comment on the game component quality.

Getting Ready to Roll

Note: Bocce Dice requires the players to toss the dice onto the playing mat. As a result, the dice will be flying all over the place. We suggest you play the game on a solid playing surface that won’t get dented from falling dice. It will also help if the floor below the playing surface is carpeted so as to stop dice from bouncing around if the playing mat is missed or the dice are knocked off.

The following set up is for the standard 2-player game. See the “Game Variants” section for additional options.

To set up the game, first unroll the playing mat. Position the mat so that the players are on opposite ends and facing each other.

Second, give each player 4 dice of the same color. Each player should have a set of different colored dice.

Third, place the score-keeping tokens on the “Zero” position on the score track located on the playing mat.

That’s it for game set up! Determine who will go first and begin!

Dice Domination

The standard Bocce Dice game is played in turns and rounds. A single game round will have at least 4 turns per player. A single game round is broken down into three phases which is summarized here.

Phase 1: The Rolls

During this phase of the round, each player will roll one die at a time to the playing mat on their turn. A player is welcome to roll or toss their dice using any technique they can imagine. The game rules provide a few helpful techniques and suggestions. Players should feel free to establish any throwing guidelines before starting this phase of the game. There are two important objectives during this phase.

The first is to roll the dice so they land on specific rows referred to as the player’s “Score Zone”. The Score Zone will provide bonus point values of +0, +5, or +10. The playing mat has two Scoring Zones. The zone furthest from the player is their target Score Zone. To make it easy to remember which of the two Score Zones belong to the player, the numbers will be facing the right direction from the player’s standing or sitting position at the end of the playing mat.

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The second is to knock out of position their opponent’s dice. Since the opponent’s Score Zone is directly in front of the player, impacting the position of the opponent’s dice is the simplest action to take, but the player’s dice do not count as points when they come to rest in their opponent’s Score Zone.

Any dice that roll or are knocked off the playing mat are considered “dead” and are out for the duration of the round.

Phase 2: The Adjustments

After all the dice have been rolled once, each player will continue to take turns. On the player’s turn, they decide to take 1 of 2 possible actions.

  • Re-toss a die with a rolled value of “1” that is still on the playing mat. The player takes the die in hand and rolls or tosses it in the same manner as they did in the round’s first phase.
  • Pass and take no further actions for the round either by choice or no dice are currently in play with a rolled value of “1”.

Phase 3: The Score

After both players have passed, each player’s score is calculated for the round. Only dice that belong to the player in their target Score Zone are counted. A player’s total score for the round is the sum of all the dice values rolled in the player’s target Score Zone and the row value the dice are located on. For example, a die value of “5” located in the +5 row will be worth 10 points. If a die comes to rest on a line that divides two rows, the row that provides the most points is used.

The player with the most points for the round advances their score-keeping token by +1 and a new round now begins if the game has not yet been won.

Winning the Game

The game continues until one of the two players has won a total of 10 rounds. However, a player must win by at least 2 rounds to claim victory. This means if the player wins their 10th round, but their opponent has won 9, the game continues.

Game Variants

The game rules are purposely short and slightly ambiguous to keep the learning curve exceedingly easy and to provide easy insertion of House Rules. A few game variants are provided with the game rules and online from the game’s official website, but the expectation is that players will share their House Rules with the larger game playing population making Bocce Dice a more social experience. Here are three “official” game variant examples.

  • Three Player Game: This game variant allows 1 player to compete against a team of 2 players. This is a great way to introduce and teach the game at the same time to a new player.
  • Four or Six Player Game: This game variant splits the players into teams of 2. The players on the team divide their dice up evenly and then take turns are normal, but each team member must toss their dice at the same time. The tossing of the dice must be done in unison. Failure to do so results in one of the team members losing one of their dice for the duration of the round.
  • Tournament Style Play: Bocce Dice allows for easy tournament play and elimination. Players can easily adjust the number of rounds necessary to win the game and include any House Rules as required.

House Rules

The current version of the game rules are a bit vague at times or do not address some areas of game play. Our review groups created a few House Rules to address these gaps and added a few game play variants just for fun. Feel free to use or ignore them.

  • Legal Throws: The rules do not state how the dice should be thrown or tossed. Perfectly fine when playing with Child Geeks, but our Parent and Gamer Geeks wanted one standard to go by. It was agreed that the correct way to toss the die was to hold it in the palm of the hand and then roll it in a forward motion towards the Score Zone. The die could be tossed at any height, but must leave the palm of the hand before passing over the player’s score track.
  • C-C-Combo Die: If a player is able to successfully remove an opponent’s die by hitting it with one of their own, the player can throw the same die one more time this turn even if it rolled off the mat. The removed opponent’s die is considered “dead” and cannot be rolled for the duration of the round.
  • Blow Out: If a player is able to roll the same value on all 4 dice AND they all remain in the correct Score Zone by the end of the round, the player automatically wins the round.

To learn more about Bocce Dice, visit the game’s official website or Kickstarter campaign.

Prediction

Bocce Dice is a simple to learn action/dexterity game where players’ must use their physical reflexes and coordination instead of complex strategies and tactics. Since anyone can toss or roll a die, the game is immediately accessible to the most inexperienced and youngest of players. This should make it a delight for the Child Geeks and a fun casual game for the Parent Geeks. For the Gamer Geeks, Bocce Dice might not have much in the way of staying power. If the game is found to be too simple, the gaming elitists will quickly lose interest.

Where Bocce Dice will shine best, I think, is during social play. The game can easily be transported to a pub, a friend’s house for a party, or thrown in the back of a vehicle when traveling to a family reunion. This is not a game that requires its players to concentrate or deeply think through their moves. Rather, Bocce Dice is best played with a crowd of cheering spectators in a loud environment.

Teaching the game is as simple or as complex as you want to make it. The basic rules can be taught with a simple demonstration of rolling the die and counting its point value. From there, players can add additional complexity by introducing House Rules and game variants. Like the traditional pub game of Darts, the only wrong way to play it is based on what the players state before the game is started. For Parent Geeks, this allows them the flexibility of slowly introducing new rules and invites the Child Geeks to create new ones, as well. For the Gamer Geeks, they can make the game as casual or as bloodthirsty as they like right from the start.

After teaching the game to my 3 little geeks, I asked them their thoughts on Bocce Dice so far.

“A simple game of tossing dice and kicking butt. I won’t have any problem owning you, Dad.” ~ Liam (age 8)

“I can totally win, Dad!” ~ Nyhus (age 6)

“I can be on your team, Daddy? Yeah!” ~ Ronan (age 3)

While my 3-year-old will not be able to do much other than roll the dice, that is really all there is to the game to begin with. I won’t be expecting much in the way of trick shots from him, but he has a solid grasp of throwing things and knocking them down, as the dents in my house walls clearly show. Let’s play the game and see if we can’t roll up some fun!

Final Word

The Child Geeks enjoyed their time with Bocce Dice and found it to be a fun exercise in smashing dice, shouting smack talk, and shaking their fists in frustration when their dice were bumped from the playing mat. Our youngest player at age 3 demonstrated a clear understanding of the games intent, but never once complied with his father’s plea to stop throwing the dice so hard. Older Child Geeks quickly found that brute force was not the best means to a successful end. Like mini Wayne Gretzkys, they replaced strength with finesse, demonstrating sneaky hits and runs with their dice tosses. The simple math and ease of game play made Bocce Dice a game all the Child Geeks could play and enjoy. As a result, all the Child Geeks gave Bocce Dice their enthusiastic approval. It wasn’t long until they brought to the table their own House Rules, too, that included Pokémon cards.

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The two younger little geeks wait for their big brother to make his move!

The Parent Geeks also thought Bocce Dice was a good time and enjoyed it in equal measure with their Child Geeks and their peers. The game is very casual and can be played in a room with screaming kids without upsetting the necessary focus to play the game well. This should not suggest that the game was played on auto-pilot, however. The Parent Geeks were able to use as little or as much focus as they deemed necessary to play and have fun with the game. Lots of laughter, muttered curses, and high-fives from the adults. Other than 30-somethings looking silly high-fiving each other and their wives rolling their eyes, everyone at the table had a great time. The same amount of fun was found at the family gaming table, as well, which lead the Parent Geeks to fully approve Bocce Dice.

The Gamer Geeks were not as enamoured as the Child Geeks or the Parent Geeks. As expected, the Gamer Geeks quickly discovered that Bocce Dice had little in the way of depth, strategy, or tactics. Some of the Gamer Geeks thought the game played well enough to be a suitable distraction at the gaming table as a quick filler. These Gamer Geeks believed that the game itself provided enough fun and focus to warrant their thumbs up. Some of the Gamer Geeks completely disagreed and found Bocce Dice to be a complete waste of their time. According to one of the Gamer Geeks who liked Bocce Dice, “This is a simple game that grows more complicated and entertaining the longer you play it. I think it’s an excellent game for quick plays or meeting up with friends at the bar.” According to one of the Gamer Geeks who disliked Bocce Dice, “This game is shallow, hollow, meaningless, and is nothing more than rolling dice. Yahtzee and Farkle have more depth than this.” Clearly, the Gamer Geek approval all depends on the individual. The Gamer Geeks were unable to come to a consensus and the end result was a mixed approval vote for the game.

Personally, I could take or leave Bocce Dice. It’s as fun as you make it and that often requires you to have an opponent who wants to make the game fun, too. I had no problem enjoying myself when playing it with my little geeks, but found my attention and interest quickly waning when playing it with adults. Part of my disinterest comes from the repetitive nature inherent to the game. I tried several of the game variants and even created a House Rule or two, but it did little to improve my overall feelings towards the game itself. Its simplistic nature and design allows for a great deal of customization, but the base game never changes. I liken it to having a bowl of vanilla ice cream with different toppings. No matter what you put on it, it’s still just vanilla ice cream.

But that in itself was more than enough for our Child and Parent Geeks. Turns out that several of our Gamer Geeks were enthusiastic for the game, too. There is fun to be had with Bocce Dice, to be certain. How much fun an individual finds is going to be based on their overall interest in action/dexterity games and their willingness to let the game’s appeal rest more on the shoulders of player interaction rather than game play. Do take a further look at Bocce Dice if you are in the mood for an easy to learn and easy to play game of dice tossing that the entire family can enjoy.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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