Last night, we were playing Iron Man 2 Uno, and I started thinking about games that have multiple versions based not on revisions to the actual game, but rather versions based on a brand. Monopoly came to my mind immediately, as well as a number of other standard games that people can normally find at a big department store. Games like Operation, Guess Who, Trouble, and Yahtzee are commonly branded with film and television properties. It occurred to me that there was a Spiel des Jahres winner, Liar’s Dice, that has been released in many pop culture themed versions.
Liar’s Dice is based on a much older dice bluffing game, but the version that I have has a rule set that was created by American game designer, Richard Borg, and was published by Milton Bradley. It was republished in Germany a few years later, which is how it was able to win the Spiel des Jahres in 1993. Liar’s Dice will play up to six players, even more really, and it is better with at least six. The rules are very simple and can be played by liars as young as eight years old. The game is fairly short and can be played in less than half an hour.
My vanilla version of Liar’s Dice, which my friend Mark Jackson found at a thrift store, comes with a game board, six dice cups, and 30 specialty dice. The dice are special only because they have a star in the place of a single pip. You know that the dots on the face of a die are called pips, right? Pips are also the little things on the collar of the Star Trek: The Next Generation uniforms that indicate rank. I know this because I am a total geek, and 90% of all of the knowledge stored in my head has no real value in normal life. Yay me! You could play this game with some dice, some cups, and a sheet of paper, which I did before I bought my copy from Mark.
Each player gets a cup and five dice and then shakes them dramatically by slamming the cup down on the table. Everyone looks secretly at their dice, makes a funny face, and then makes a bid. A bid asserts that underneath all of the cups, there is a certain number of dice showing a certain value. The stars, or ones if you are playing with regular dice, are wild, so if a player makes a bid of 5 twos then that would include all of the the starred dice AND all of the twos. Each player in turn must either raise the bid or challenge it. You can raise the bid by bidding a higher number, like 5 threes, for example, or you can increase the number of dice. A bid of 7 twos is higher than a bid of 6 sixes. A player can also bid just on the number of starred dice. The board is used to track the current bid and also to show how many dice are available.
Play continues until someone challenges the bid. At that point, the dice are revealed and if the number of dice is less than the bid then the bidder loses the difference between the bid and the actual amount of dice. If the number of dice is greater than the bid, then the challenger will lose the difference in dice. If the number of dice matches the bid, then everyone except the bidder loses one die. Lost dice go onto the game board. The player who is the last person to have dice remaining wins the game.
Liar’s Dice is a lot of fun at parties or situations where you have a large group of people. It can easily be run as a tournament. It’s a noisy and fun bluffing game. There was a version of the game featured in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, which makes it perfect for a pirate game party. Liar’s Dice gives you a lot of opportunities for swearing and saying, “ARRRH!”
It’s pretty easy to find a copy of Liar’s Dice is one form or another. You might get lucky like my friend, and find a copy at a thrift store. I remember seeing a copy of the game at the mall that was branded with a Simpsons cartoon theme. I’ve also seen it sold as Perudo. Whatever the name or version, it’s a good game. Go play it, and yes, I think Iron Man 2 Uno is better then regular Uno.
This is part of my Spiel des Jahres winner series. If you would like to comment on the 1993 winner, Liar’s Dice, then please do so on this post. If you would like to discuss or comment on the Spiel des Jahres award in general, please do so on the Spiel des Jahres series post.