Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Zero Kelvin falls short of classic

In what sometimes feels like a never-ending journey through Roll and Writes (Pretty sure I haven’t crossed the line into obsessive compulsion), I have found that some games whole point is to be an alternative to Yahtzee. In fact, I think Gaiko no Saikoro actually has that in its design statement.

Zero Kelvin certainly seems to fit that bill. Despite the name, it’s a themeless collection of dice games. The name only comes into play because you are ‘freezing’ die rolls.

As I mentioned before, it’s a collection of micro dice games. Five of them, in fact. Each one uses six dice and each one involves rolling those dice and freezing at least one of them after each roll. The games are (inhale): HiLo has you roll two sets of three dice and subtract the smaller one from the big one; Threes has you aiming for a low number with threes equaling zero; 1,4 requires you to freeze a one and four to score the other dice; Knockout has you roll each die one at a time but ones knock out the highest die; Odds has you just score odd but if you ever roll all evens you get zero points. (Whew!)

(I have to note that I found the rules annoyingly vague, which is bad such a simple game. They are formatted to fit on the back of the player sheet, which is the size of a two index cards. Still, they really could be better)

I’ve seen most of these ideas before in other games (Cinq-O, Fistful of Penguins, etc) And I’d have e to say that every game that is built around just one or two of these ideas usually does a better job of it. That said, I don’t dislike any of the micro games except Knockout (and that’s because you don’t actually make any decisions) On a whole, Zero Kelvin is a perfectly serviceable dice game.

Would I rather play Zero Kelvin than Yahtzee? Actually, yes.  But a better question is: would I rather play it  than Knizia’s Decathlon? No, I like the Decathlon a lot much more.  Comparing those two games is a much fairer comparison and Knizia’s little gem is the clear winner.

I think that making a game that is basically just bog standard dice is a noble goal and there are some genuinely brilliant games that do just that. I’ve already mentioned Knizia’s Decathlon and I’d also add in Qwixx and That’s Pretty Clever, just off the top of my head. The list can definitely keep going. Zero Kelvin is _far_ from the worst I’ve tried but it doesn’t reach those hights.

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