New Releases from Pair-of-Dice Games

Pair-of-Dice Games is a new small publisher of original strategy games. They recently released several games, all of which are reviewed here. As disclosure, I know the publisher and designers personally, however will try to be fair in my reviews all the same.

Pair-of-Dice has 5 games published currently: The Triangle Game, Knockabout, Warp 6, Pagoda and HexNut. All are fairly abstract games, and are available at a slightly discounted set in one combined tube (more convenient storage) called the Uber-Tube. All of the games have nice components (described in more detail below) with simple (and a bit amatuer) graphic design, and the games themselves are quite good. On with the reviews!

The Triangle Game

This is an abstract 3-player game that plays in about 15 minutes. The components for the game are several nice glass stones in four colors and a attractive bag that folds out into its own board. The physical design of the game is very nice and is the most attractively packaged of the Pair-of-Dice games.

The board is a large triangle which is divided into many smaller triangles, and each player has a "home region" on this board. The goal of the game is to get two points, where a stone (of your color) in your home region is worth a point and and a stone (of your color) elsewhere is worth a negative point. Each player, on their turn, places a stone from their supply and moves one of their own stones (or a neutral stone, if none of their stones are movable). The movement rules are that a stone may move from one point of a triangle to another point, regardless of the size of the triangle, if there are no intervening stones. Further, if a triangle is ever created entirely from one person's pieces (or theirs and neutral pieces), they get an extra action (moving another stone, or in some cases, removing a stone).

Overall, the game is an enjoyable game with some interesting tactics. Forming triangles is obviously key to success in the game, especially if that extra move allows the formation of further triangles, etc. The game's only problem is that it tends to end rather suddenly. One turn, each player will have -2 points, and suddenly one player will form a cascade of triangles, removing obstacle stones and taking extra moves and will rather suddenly win. In the end, it is satisfying, if abrupt. If you aren't as fond of abstract games, the rating might drop to a B-. Overall rating: B


Let me say up front that this is the real big winner of the set. This is an oustanding two player strategy/dice game that plays in about 15 minutes. The board is a hex grid printed on felt, and the pieces are 18 nice polyhedral dice. The game comes in a thin tube with the board rolled up and the dice in the middle.

Each player has an identical set of dice (Four 4's, three 6's, and two 8's) which are placed on the board in specified positions with specified values. The goal of the game is to knock 5 of your opponent's dice into the "gutter". The board is a hexagon of hex-grid with a outer layer of hexes called the gutter. On a players turn, they may move any piece (die), the number of spaces showing on its face. If it would move into a space where another die sits, it stops short and the other die continues its movement. This proceeds until the initial movement has been exhausted. If any die was hit in this process, the last die to be hit is rerolled after its movement has stopped. So, what happens in the course of a game is players jockey for position near the center, while at the same time trying to gently knock their own low numbered pieces such that they will be rerolled into (hopefully) higher values which have more power to send your opponent to the gutter. Similarly, slamming one's opponents high valued dice in order to hopefully weaken them is crucial. Finally, pieces in the gutter are not completely out of the game. In fact, they may still move around, allowing for both blocking of spots in the gutter and ways for a player in an advantageous position to bide their time.

The variety of strategies and tactics available in this game are very satisfying. Generating long lines of collisions, repeatedly colliding with one's own eight-sided dice until you get a high number, and playing extremely defensively are all viable approaches, if done well. Further, the way in which luck is injected into the game is ingenious. Risks taken at the right time can have great payoffs, but careful piece positioning can also prevent an opponent from exploiting bad rolls.

Overall, this is an outstanding game which is easy to teach and learn and extremely entertaining. I'm personally not a big fan of abstract games in general or of games of direct conflict, but this is an exception. Overall rating: A+

Warp 6

Warp 6 is a clever three-player race game that shares the rerolling mechanic used in Knockabout and Pagoda. The game's production is much like Knockabout: a felt board with several dice per player. The game is quick and clever.

Each player is trying to get their ships into the central of a large spiral. The ships themselves are dice of varying types. As in Knockabout, a die moves around the spiral by the number of spaces shown on its face. When such movement would end on another ship, the ship "warps" one spiral circuit inward and lands there, and is then rerolled. This extra progress is key to winning the game, and setting up long inward chains of pieces allows dramatic progress to be made. In addition to moving a piece, though, a player may change the speed of a ship by increasing or decreasing its value by one. This is naturally important for hitting those critical spots which will allow warping deep into the center. A player who doesn't warp inward a lot is doomed to lose, but a column of pieces will rapidly be exploited by one's opponents as well.

This is another quick and satisfying game. Its only flaw is one it shares with many race games; under some circumstances it can degenerate into an annoying counting exercise. In general, though, the reroll rule combined with the ability to change your own speed mitigates this substantially. Toward the end game, some dice can afford to simply accelerate into the center, especially to eliminate a possible warp for their opponents. With some extra dice (sold seperately) or a Knockabout set, this makes an effective two-player game as well. If you especially like race games, raise the rating to A, and if you don't like race games, drop it to a B+. Overall rating: A-


Pagoda is the most strongly themed of the Pair-of-Dice games, and it's pretty abstract at that. Again, the board is printed on felt and the pieces are dice, though the dice are used somewhat differently here.

Each player's pieces are composed of worms (1's), goats (2's and 3's), men (4's and 5's) and buddha's (6's). The board is a mountain and the goal is to have a chain of your pieces going up and down the mountain. Each kind of piece has different capabilities; worms may only move around the mountain at the same level, and may coexist in a space with other pieces. Goats may move only up and down the mountain, and displace other pieces. Men may move anywhere except up and down the very steep pathways. Men kill pieces when they land on them. Finally, buddhas don't sit on the board at all, but exist in all places at once (sort of). By itself, these rules are somewhat interesting, but the real trick lies in the fact that when a man kills another piece, that piece is reincarnated (rerolled) and on the players turn, they may place that piece anywhere, instead of moving a piece already on the board. Due to this reincarnation, there are some interesting approaches, including aggressive positioning of weaker pieces to encourage them to be killed and reincarnated.

The game is very clever, but the use of numbered dice and a mapping of those numbers onto the piece types can be very distracting. Special dice would have been very convenient, though apparently overly expensive to produce. Despite this, after a few games, it's easy enough to remember. Depending on the amount of killing that goes on and what kind of reincarnations occur, the character of the game can be very different from one play to the next. Overall Rating: B+


HexNut is very simply a set of hex nuts in two colors and some rules about placement and moving those hex nuts. The resulting game, in which each player is trying to construct a chain of their color, has a feel very similar to Go. Despite feeling like Go, the similarity really only extends to the fact that both games are heavily about connections. Splitting your opponent's hexnuts into two seperate groups is the path to victory, but of course this is while preventing them from doing the same. A single mistake, even early in the game, can cost you the game however, but fortunately, even a long game of HexNut is likely to last at most 10 minutes meaning you can readily play just one more game, and not make the same mistake again.

Overall, HexNut is a pleasingly portable and involving abstract game that can easily be played on any small flat surface. It's nothing amazingly deep, but it's worth the time. Overall Rating: B

Final comments

Pair-of-dice has created a very nice set of games. Knockabout is the stand out best, but all are solid, enjoyable games. Further, I especially like the fact that they are all under half-an-hour, making them outstanding games to play when you don't have a lot of time, like on a lunch break, or as filler between longer games during a gaming session.

In case the ratings are not self explanatory, here are some other more well known abstract games I would give similar ratings to

A: Go-moku, Dvonn, Billabong, Bluff, Can't Stop. B: Mancala Wari, Nine Mens Morris, Zertz C: Yacht (Yatzee), Checkers, Pachisi (Ludo), Chinese Checkers (Halma)

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