Whenever you roll dice with a game you temp the fates. Sometimes they smile upon you, and more often, at least it tends to feel that way, they laugh at your feeble attempts to win a game, and dash your hopes with truly lousy rolls.
So, dice aren't always a prized component of a game for many.
They certainly don't have a place in an abstract strategy game where the element of imposed luck is not supposed to exist.
Or, do they have a place after all?
Grab a copy of the game Chase, and you quickly see that when an innovative approach is taken to incorporating dice into an abstract strategy game it can work like a charm.
Chase was first released in 1986. Created by Tom Kruszewski, the game was published by TSR (Tactical Studies Rules). It is a game which incorporates dice as playing pieces, but those dice are never randomly rolled.
Instead, each player starts the game with nine dice along their home row, with the top dice faces in a particular sequential order. The total of the nine faces is 25.
A piece moves as many hexagonal spaces as the dice face shows. The idea, like many abstracts is to land on a hex with an opponent's piece which is then captured, and removed from the game.
However, in this unique game, more takes place than a simple capture. The number on the captured piece must then be distributed among that players remaining dice. For a simple example, one of your dice showing a two is captured. You can then flip another of your dice to compensate for the lost piece. So you can roll a dice showing a three, to now have a five.
A player loses the game if at anytime they do not have 25 points worth of dice in play.
In another unique twist a player may enter the central hex on the board and split the dice that entered, So a six can be converted to two dice, giving you more of a chance to keep 25 points in play.
As pieces move around the board a couple of other interesting features come into play. When a piece comes up against the board's edge behind the players starting positions, it does not end its move, but instead ricochets off in a new direction continuing to move until its total movement is used up. So in your move you have a six two hexes away from the edge. You move it the two, then it bounces off and moves its remaining four spaces of alloted movement.
If a piece moves to a side edge, it doesn't ricochet, but instead follows through coming onto the board on the opposite edge, effectively moving as if the board were a cylinder.
The way the dice move in accordance with the board edges adds a huge layer of strategy to this game.
The components of the game are quite simple, two sets of six-sided dice in two colours, one for each player. A player actually has 10 dice, nine on the board,. And a 10th in reserve to facilitate when a player uses the central chamber.
When you combine the unique use of dice, the changing ability of movement depending on captures and visits to the central chamber, and the interaction with the board edges, Chase is both fun, and deeply strategic. One of the best games out there.
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 17, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada