In an ever more crowded market place it’s always a treat to see a new game with a fresh theme. Die Of The Dead certainly stands out in terms of theme. Die Of The Dead supports two to five players and is designed by James Allen and Mark Stockton-Pitt. Based on the Mexican tradition of Dia de Muertos (the Day of the Dead), Die Of The Dead (get it?) challenges players to be the first to guide their souls (dice) to the realm of the living.
Just how do these cubed souls get to the land of the breathing? Up the stairs of course. Die Of The Dead is a race to get your flock of dice to the ninth and highest level of the rather striking staircase which sits proudly at the centre of the table. The first player to get a die to the top step is crowned winner.
Play centres around four gorgeous caskets sitting at the base of the staircase, the first of which always sits open while the remainder conceal the dice inside. On their turn players choose a casket and perform the two associated actions. This might involve placing dice inside, shaking the casket before lifting the lid and seeing who comes up trumps, placing a die on the next step or claiming one of the four types of bonus tokens.
The game really starts to come alive when the caskets begin to move, which is often triggered by any dice showing a one after the contents of a casket are shaken as well as when particular caskets are chosen. The caskets always slide one position to the right, with number four moving to position one. This creates a fun and slightly chaotic memory aspect to the game.
Remember only the casket in position one is lidless with its contents revealed, so players must try and recall which of the ever shifting coffins contains the most of their dice to tilt the odds in their favour. Except the casket in position three of course, which can punish those with too many dice. When selected this casket is shaken (really tactile and great fun) before the lid is cracked open and all players lose their dice showing duplicate numbers which can really thin out a crowd of souls. After the cull, the casket moves into the crucial fourth position, the only one which allows you to place dice on the stairs.
As well as the bonus tokens which allow you to do things such as peek inside a casket and remove a rival die or trigger yet another casket move to thwart others, each player can also gain access to three power souls. These nifty little dice have two wild sides with a skull design (of course) that you can designate as any value every time they are rolled which can save you in a pinch, by avoiding duplicates say or trumping an opponents roll.
Die Of The Dead is great fun, we really enjoyed the lightning fast turns and accessible gameplay. There are great moments of frustration and schadenfreude when players are surprised by the contents of a casket following a memory lapse. There is a high degree of luck of course but for the thirty minutes or so playtime that’s not a problem. I would recommend playing with four or five players wherever possible to maximise the interaction and frantic nature of the game. It does play with two but it feels more of a too and from rather than the delightful free for all you get at higher player counts.
Die Of The Dead is quick to teach and learn, has a quirky and unique theme, fantastic table presence and satisfying tactile elements. Once you have mastered the basic game, there are alternative benefits for the tokens to try as well as variable player powers. Beyond that there are expansions which can really mix up the gameplay. There is also the option to play with all the caskets revealed if you fancy a more direct tactical challenge without the memory element.
Die Of The Dead is staying on my list over the holidays, it’s relatively small box travels well, it’s unique theme intrigues newcomers and it doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of components if you are trying to get the family to give it ago. Once they see the stairs hit the table, they might even be dying to play.
Die of the Dead can be purchased on Amazon.