The Curse of the Black Dice
The Curse of the Black Dice is a semi-cooperative dice game designed by Alexander Lauck and published by Board&Dice. In this game, two to four players take on the role of a pirate on board of the Black Skull going on adventures and collecting treasure. The pirate who collects the most treasure will prove to the other pirates that he is the greatest pirate but beware that your greed does not come in the way of the ship’s survival.
Setting up the game takes no time at all. First off you choose which adventure you want to embark on and place the corresponding quest tile in the center of the table. There are four adventures to choose from: Pirate Island Treasure, Hunt for The Kraken, The Spanish Armada and The Flying Dutchman. These adventures come with their own setup rules stating how much gold will be available and which section of the quest might be blocked at the start of the adventure. Choose a ship to represent the Black Curse and place it to the left of the quest tile. Sometimes the quest asks for a ship to be used for the adventure, place this on the right side of the adventure. All the rum, damage, gold and quest related tokens are placed in an easy to access area. The gold tokens should be placed face down because these have values ranging from three to five. Every player takes five dice of one color of their choosing to represent their dice. Each player starts with two rum tokens. Take five cursed black dice for each player in the game and place them in a central pool. Luckily you are not alone on this voyage. You take a number of crewmates with you equal to the number of players plus one. These are drawn randomly from the pirate tiles and placed in a central area. Now it is time to choose who will start to captain this fine ship by rolling a die and you are ready to start sailing.
Every round has three stages to complete in order. The first stage is where the cursed dice set the games course. Every player takes five black dice from the common pool and they all role their black dice together. The outcome of the dice rolled is placed on top of the quest section corresponding the symbol rolled so that you can clearly see how many dice each section has. If a certain section does not have any dice on it, you place a blockade token on it to show that this section is blocked.
The second stage is where you go on adventure. Starting with the captain and going clockwise around the table you roll your dice and you add all the dice of one type of symbol under the quest tile corresponding the picture. When you roll a symbol of blocked section they can rerolled once for free. You are trying to at least match the number of black dice in a section to complete it. When you are not satisfied with your roll you drink some rum to reroll all your dice. You can also call in the help of your crewmates which do specific things like negate a bad effect of a quest section, change the face of one of your dice, give every player an extra colored dice and so on… You can only activate the crew a certain number of times equal to the amount of rum tokens shown on the crew tile and then it becomes blocked. Luckily these rum tokens can be removed once all crew becomes blocked and this is done by removing one precious gold token from a personal stash to the box. Only one player needs to do this. This stage continues until all players have added all their dice to the quest.
Now it’s time for the third and final stage and see what the west wind brought us. Starting from the left section of the quest tile you check if the number of black dice have been met to complete that part of the quest. If the section of the quest has been completed you get the positive result if any. These effects vary from gaining rum, placing one of your dice used for the quest on a future section, dealing damage to an opposing ship to gaining gold and quest specific events. If you failed the quest the negative effect happens and the excess black dice are rerolled and added to future quest section if their symbols come up thus causing a possible cascade effect. The negative effects are also widely varied and change from quest to quest like adding extra black dice for the next round, losing gold, losing crew, getting damage and so on. At the end of the third stage the new captain and sea wolf are appointed. The player who has the most dice of his color on the right side of the quest tile becomes the sea wolf and gains one gold coin. The captain is the player who has the most dice on the left section. When multiple people get to draw from the gold pool it is the captain who always draws first.
This continues until either the quest goal has been achieved in which the player with the most gold wins the game or until our ship has received three damage and is destroyed or we have lost all our crew thus failing the quest.
This is again one of those games that is real easy to get into. The dice are beautiful and all the other components and artwork are top notch. I also love the mechanic in which the excess dice of a failed quest are rerolled and might affect future rolls. This makes for some tense moments around the table hoping that a certain symbol will not show up. I do think that you have to play the game as it is intended, knowing that there can only be one winner in the end. When you play it as a normal cooperative game you don’t get the full experience and it might become a tad too easy to complete the adventure in my opinion. On the other hand when you play it is as intended you will be having far more interesting choices because every gold coin that you can take can be the road to success. On the other hand every gold coin that you fail to take can mean you losing the game but you still have to keep in mind that you have to fulfill the adventure. This makes for some interesting choices and unforeseen events. Also the discussion when someone needs to discard a gold coin to free up the crew can be a fun one to have because if nobody wants to discard one you cannot use the crew anymore and those abilities are usually key to victory. In our games the scoring usually was very close and sometimes came down to the value of one gold coin difference. The same goes for choosing when to use your rum. It is very valuable in this game and falling without it can be very painful. I only have two small issues with the game. The first one is that the role of the captain is a bit nothing. He is always first to take the gold and in the end scoring he might win the game after the tiebreaker but that’s it. So he is only valuable near the end of the game. The other issue I have are the differences between the quests which are slim. Ok you’ve got one where you need to loot a treasure chest. The other three are more similar with some minor rule changes and other quest events but nothing groundbreaking. Maybe they are keeping these for expansions because I’m really looking forward to more. We have a blast while playing this game and usually we do a couple of sessions back to back because it plays so fluent. In the meanwhile Alexander also has released some variants on boardgamegeek you can use to spice up the game and make the role of the captain more prominent. We have not tried them out yet but they sure look interesting. I can definitely recommend this game if you like dice-rolling, pirates and/or (semi-)cooperation.
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