Since the holidays have just finished, we’re in a month were people often feel pinched wallets. I’m therefore going to concentrate on something budget-friendly this month and next by discussing games that are either technically in the public domain (and thus can be assembled fairly cheaply) or else in the library’s collection. This month we look at Liar’s Dice, which was featured in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and requires 5 or 6 ordinary six-sided dice per player and a way for everybody to hide their dice from everybody else. I’ve played this at home with my kids once or twice, using kids’ cups left from trips to Za’s to hide dice and pulling dice from other games we own. Commercial versions exist, usually going by the names of Liar’s Dice, Call My Bluff, or Perudo.
The bullet points:
image credit: boardgamegeek user laiernie
If you’ve ever played the kids’ card game I Doubt It (also known by a name I won’t repeat here), the rules for Liars’ Dice will be pretty familiar. Players all start by rolling their dice, either under a cup or behind a screen. They then take turns bidding the results of their dice, such as “1 four” or “2 threes.” Each successive bid must increase the value of the identical dice, the number of identical dice, or both. At any point, you can instead challenge the bid, forcing the last player to reveal their dice. If the challenged player does not have dice to match the bid, they lose a die. If the bid can be matched, the challenging player loses a die. Everybody then rerolls any dice they have left, bidding starts over with the next player, and play continues. Lose all your dice and you’re out. The last person with any dice remaining wins. You can also play such that people are bidding on the totals for everybody’s dice, so that bids like “8 fours” become legal — just be clear which way you’re playing before you start.
Liar’s Dice plays quickly, and can easily be handicapped by varying each player’s starting number of dice. It’s a good game for teaching both how to deal with hidden information (a useful skill if your family enjoys traditional card games like Hearts or Crazy Eights) and how to read body language. It’s also a great introduction to the entire genre of bluffing games, which arguably would include the second-most popular card game I know of: poker.
One last quick note: On Saturday, January 18, three local game-related organizations are hosting a morning of demonstrations at Lincoln Square. Armored Gopher Games, Dr. G’s Brainworks, and the Champaign-Urbana Design Organization will be showing off a variety of games for all ages from 9 AM to noon. Because CUDO has been sponsoring a year-long game design contest, this might even include prototypes of games that haven’t been published yet, although I can’t swear to that last point. I intend to be there with both kids — come play a game with us!
Jeff Dougan is a science educator, husband, lifelong gamer, and father to the Grasshopper (age 6) and the Munchkin (age 2). He’ll happily teach or learn a new game just about anytime.