Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Second try writing about Cosmic Wimpout

Okay, let's try this again.

Cosmic Wimpout. The last time I tried to write about Cosmic Wimpout, I ended up talking about how dice games have their own cultural spot in games but this time, I'm going to try and really focus on Cosmic Wimpout. 

Cosmic Wimpout is a game and experience that is bigger than its parts. Because, fundamentally, it's just a variant of the old dice game Ten Thousand. But the visually distinct dice, the tweaks in the rules and it's place in Grateful Dead culture has given Cosmic Wimpout a unique identity.

The game consists of five dice. Four white dice and one black did that has a wild face instead of a three. Two thirds of the numbers have been replaced with astrological symbols but they are still really just the numbers. You know, two moons for two and six stars for six, that sort of thing. You could easily play the game with regular dice, just marking up one of the threes. But why would you want to? The dice are neat looking and fun.

The game itself is basically a variant on Ten Thousand. You roll the dice and lock scoring combinations. Keep rolling until you can stop and keep the points or not have any dice you can work and lose all the points from your turn.

One of the major differences between Cosmic Wimpout and Ten Thousand is that there are multiple rules that force you to keep on rolling. This can lead do to really high scoring turns or really big blowouts.

Normally, the game playing me would be a big mark against it. But the roller coaster ride Cosmic Wimpout can take you wan and the speed that you play it is enough for me to somehow not mind. 

Another major difference is that one wild side. Just having one out of the thirty-six sides being wild is enough to make a real difference in how the probabilities crunch out. Even if you are just playing with your gut, which is how most of us would anyway, it makes a difference.

Cosmic Wimpout also has the Guiding Light, which is basically just permission to use House rules. Seriously, you don't need official permission to use house rules but the fact that the game gives you it indicates the kind of philosophy the designers had.

The last and possibly most interesting part of Cosmic Wimpout is its
place in Grateful Dead fandom and other counter cultures. The funny thing is that I've never actually seen it in that environment. I don't know how much it hype and how much is legitimate.

But it is definitely part of its identity and its reputation. That is going to affect who you are going to get to play and what the experience of the game is going to be like. And frankly, I can't think of another game with this identity. 

Cosmic Wimpout isn't one of my favorite games, not even among light dice games. But it was a very acquisition, before I really started collecting games. And, there is no denying that it is fun and it's own experience.

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