Press-your-luck dice games have never looked as sophisticated as they do in Sutakku. But all of that pretty conceals a nasty streak in the Smirky’s Challenge variant, where press-your-luck meets “take that”.
The game board in Sutakku is more ornamental than functional – there is a circle for dice-stacking and a quick-reference comparison of western alphabet numbers to the Japanese figures that appear on the dice. Necessary or not, this two-piece board is snapped together and set in the middle of the table.
The game’s 12 dice will be set in the middle of the play area. Grab a pen and keep the score pad handy.
If you are playing with the “Smirky’s Challenge” variant there is a deck of 11 cards to shuffle and keep nearby. And you’re done.
On your turn you will roll three dice and place two of them in a stack on the board, with the lowest value on the bottom and greater or equal values appearing as you ascend.
After you’ve placed two dice you will roll three more and repeat. After each roll and placement you can choose to continue rolling or call it a day and total your score for the round.
If you don’t have two legal placements among the three dice rolled you bust, scoring nothing for the round and ending your turn. For example, if you’ve already placed (in order) 1-1-2-3 and your current roll is 1-2-4, there is only one legal placement – the 4 (since you must place dice of greater-than-or-equal value onto the previously placed die) – and you’ve pushed your luck too far.
Each round you get one mulligan and can choose two of the three dice to re-roll. Note you get this once per turn, not once per roll… using it wisely is the key to winning.
If you roll doubles that can be legally placed along with a 3rd value that can be legally placed you are allowed to place all three dice. If you roll legally-placeable triples you may place all three dice… and if you can’t place them, you may re-roll them for free.
When you choose to end your turn you score points based on the size of your stack and the top value of the stack. If you have a 6-die stack with a 5 on top, you multiply the 6 by the 5 and score 30 points for the round.
There are three large bonuses awarded for pulling off particularly daring feats during your rolls. If you successfully stack on a 5-value die you score 50 bonus points in addition to the regular value of your stack. If you successfully stack on a 6, you’ll score 100 bonus points. Finally, if you successfully place all twelve dice on the stack you’ll score 200 bonus points. You could theoretically earn all three of these bonuses in a single turn, but it won’t happen often.
The Smirky’s Challenge variant allows you to play potentially nasty cards on your opponent right before they roll (and you thought this didn’t sound like a typical Smirk & Dagger game?) These cards will force your opponent to pull off something extra difficult on their turn if they want to score any points. However, if they successfully pull it off the Smirky’s Challenge card may award them extra points. When desperate you can play these on yourself.
Sutakku is very easy to learn, and even easier to teach. But unlike other press-your-luck dice games, there’s a bit more to mastering it than simply knowing when probability should tell you to stop rolling. This is due to the mulligan and the Smirky’s Challenge cards.
In the case of the mulligan, learning when to best wield this weapon takes a lot of trial and error. And with Smirky’s Challenge cards, sometimes your best bet is playing them on yourself. Learning when and where to do that takes practice.
Who would enjoy this game?
Sutakku appears to be a bit of an oddball in the Smirk & Dagger family – unless you use the variant there is absolutely no “take that” or backstabbing. But even without those elements it’s a great game.
Of course, to get people interested in your push-your-luck dice game you’ve got to get them excited about the dice. And while there’s no cute thematic illustrations on them, they’re beautiful. They’re much larger than normal dice (3/4 inches) in order to stack easily. And the Japanese figures make them unique and classy.
There are all sorts of different-themed push-your-luck dice games, and while Sutakku skipped the trends that carried others (zombie, aliens, etc.), it’s got deeper gameplay than its brethren. And replayability abounds, as improving on a previous best score – or chasing that elusive 12-die stack – can keep you re-rolling for hours.
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