There is something highly satisfying about playing a game with a handful of dice, when the roll of those dice plays a limited role in whether you win or lose.
Some people love the randomness of dice in a game. I tend to look at the rolling of dice as a crutch to enable people to get lucky and win over skill. Or, it might be simply that dice hate me.
RioMino though is an abstract strategy game which does afford each player perfect information, in as much as they know what the opponent has to work with.
The six-sided dice are the playing pieces for RioMino, which is really the game Tashkent Dice renamed. Tashkent Dice were the creation of Kris Burm, the genius behind the outstanding gipf series of games, so there is pedigree here. Burm created the dice game in 1997, envisioning it as something played on a 3X3 grid. Professional Tashkent expanded the play area to 5X5 and upped the dice pool to 25.
With RioMino from Smart Games, you actually get a range of ‘board’ options.
So let’s start with the dice in the Smart Games edition. They look great. They have good size, and are black. The pips are yellow, red, or blue, with each face split into two, so you get a one/black, one/two, one/three, two/blank, two/one etc.
Smart Games has created a sort of tiered learning system for the game.
The starter level has each player working with only six dice, junior you get eight, expert nine, and master 10.
Each game comes with a corresponding board, with a different lay out.
The two players roll their assigned dice, and whatever they get as a result are the play pieces for that game.
A single additional die is rolled by the starting player, who sets it in the middle of the board. You then take turns playing pieces adjacent to those already in play. If you can do so within the confines of the board grid, you lose.
It is essentially a tile laying game, using dice.
Ultimately, you even throw out the boards. All 25 dice are used at the so-called wizard level. Each player gets 12, with the 25th dice rolled and placed to start the game. The difference is the first dice played no longer has to be the centre piece. In Wizard the play area is allowed to build differently with each game, the only constraint is no column or row can extend beyond five dice.
With the five play area options, and the difference created each game by the initial roll of the dice, RioMino has solid replay value.
The game is also extremely fast, even at the wizard level, so the draw to play ‘just one more’ is pretty high.
Players are going to gravitate to the wizard level rather quickly, so the portability factor is another huge plus. The dice go in a drawstring bag, and away you go.
Add the sharp looking dice, and a rule set you can impart on a new player in a matter of minutes, and you find RioMino is pretty much a clear cut hit.
This is an easy to play, quick, nice looking, portable game, which requites skill to win, but doesn’t bog down a casual player with too much thinking.
Overall, a great solid little game.
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov. 4, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada