Monday, December 5, 2022

Darkhouse - simple but not easy

Darkhouse is a Roll and Write game from the 2017 GenCan’t Roll and Write contest. Which means I’ve actually had it in my files for a while, occasionally looking at it when I’ve been going through Roll and Write games.

As I’ve mentioned before (so many times regular readers are probably sick of it), that contest was a watershed event for me as far as Roll and Write games are concerned. Even though I’d played Roll and Write games that weren’t Yahtzee in funny clothes, I still thought of them that way. The contest opened my eyes to what you could do with the medium.

The theme of Darkhouse is being a gnome engineer who is trying to power up an underground version of a lighthouse. The actual game itself is trying to fill up six interconnected grids, ideally with the same number in each grid.

The game consists of ten rounds. Each round, you roll a die to see which box you’re working with. You then roll six dice with two rerolls. (Yahtzee does make an appearance.) The dice you end up with are the dice you use to fill in that grid.

BUT the grids have connections with a die box in each can place a die in those boxes so you can move the dice around to different grids. (I am not certain if you need to pay an extra die to move a die or if the die you place in the connection box is all you need)

AND there’s a catch! Ones are useless, if you roll a one for picking a grid at the start of a round, you have to reroll it. You can’t use ones to fill in grids. You can’t use ones to make connections. And there is a designated number ine grid so you have to use the connections to fill it.

On top of that, after you roll a grid number on the turn counter, you have a limited time to fill that grid up. Failing to do that will make you fill up the empty boxes with Xs high are worth negative points.

After ten rounds, add up the values of each grid. If a grid is complete and you’d used the same number in every box, double that number. If it’s that tricky one box, triple the score if you fill it with the same number. Bonuses for getting no Xs and filling in the entire board before ten rounds. Three plays is a game and you are trying to beat 1,100 as a score.

For some reason, when I looked at Darkhouse back in 2017 (wow, that was five years ago! Roll and Writes make time fly), I didn’t grok that was I was actually move the dice physically over the sheet before writing anything down. The fact that I often use a digital die roller didn’t help. (What can I say, a clip board, a writing utensil and a die roller mean I can play Roll and Writes without a table)

Going back to it after years of Roll and Write experience (I’m scared to figure out how many Roll and Write games I’ve learned over the last five years), Darkhouse now seems pretty simple and obvious. 

That said, I do like the mechanic of actually moving the die around. (And, yes, I could try to track in all my head but it’s simpler to use physical dice) Even with the rerolls, luck can have a big impact.

I haven’t figured out a way to break the game. On top of that, between the 1,100 scoring goal and time limits within the game, Darkhouse can be a very tight play with a very limited margin for error. Those are all good points.

I don’t know if Darkhouse is an evergreen but I do think it has some fun mechanics and isn’t easy to win. For a free game, that’s a win.

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