Episode 223: Strike is Major Fun
Release Date: Feb. 15 , 2016
Designer: Dieter Nüßle
2-5 players ages 8+ MSRP $20
Sometimes the simplest things in life are the most fun, or, in the case of Strike, Major Fun!
Written review continues after the break.
Strike is a game about throwing dice into a box. When I said simple, I really wasn't kidding! I know it sounds a little dippy, but Strike manages to take something as basic as gravity and turn it into an enjoyable, compelling and addictive experience for players of all ages.
The Strike box is the dice arena. Picture a mini Roman colosseum inside the box. Small spectators could sit around the tiered levels, watching dice hurtle down to the battleground, a small oval foam mat (6" long and 4.5" wide). The mat is just rubbery enough to make the dice bounce around more than you'd like.
Strike also comes with 31 custom dice. The dice are 16mm (5/8"); they are black with white ink. Each die has conventional pips 2-3-4-5-6 with one custom face a big white X in place of the 1. The dice are nice and hefty and big enough for even small hands to pick up and throw.
The goal of the game is to be the last player with dice remaining. Setup is super easy. Divide up the dice evenly depending on the number of players and throw one die into the arena. If the starting die comes up on the X face, roll again until you get a number face. Now you're ready to roll your way to victory!
On your turn, you start by pitching one of your dice into the arena. You'll have a great deal of fun learning how best to pitch dice into the arena to get the results you want. Several things can happen after the die leaves your hand.
The die could land in the arena & make a match with one or more numbered dice.
The die could land in the arena & not match any dice.
OR The die could bounce out of the arena.
If the die you roll matches one or more dice already in the arena. Great! You get to remove all the matching number dice and keep them. Your turn is now over.
If the die you roll does not make a match, then you have a choice to make. You can end your turn, letting the next player go OR you can choose to roll another die into the arena. As long as you do not make a match, you can keep throwing dice... as long as you have dice to throw! If you run out, you're out of the game, so there's a nice press-your-luck element to this decision. The more non-matching dice in the arena, the greater your chances of making a match but the more dice you throw, the more dice you risk losing if they don't match.
Remember the name of the game is Strike. It's totally legal to try and strike other dice when you throw your die into the arena to make a different combination of numbers pop up.
Last of all, your die could bounce out of the arena. I know it seems unlikely, but that pesky foam mat is bouncier than you think! If this happens, the die is removed from the game. This is bad, because, remember, you want to be the last player with dice left. The good news is, this doesn't necessarily end your turn. Just like rolling a non matching die, you can choose to throw another die if you want or you can end your turn.
Play continues in this fashion: a player throws a die, makes a match, removes matching dice and ends his or her turn OR a player throws a die, does not make a match and decides to throw another die or ends his or her turn.
What Sets This Game Apart
Two things: the X and The Clean Sweep. Let's talk about the X first.
Remember every die has an X on one face. If you throw a die and it comes up X, you lose the die. It is removed from the game. Same goes for any other dice you might knock around in the arena and flip to the X. They are removed as well. This means every time you pitch a die into the arena you are at risk of losing it! It also means games of Strike go quickly because many dice will be taken out of circulation as Xs come up throughout the course of the game.
Aside from the simple joy of chucking dice, the Clean Sweep is probably my favorite part of Strike. Eventually in most games, you will reach a point where one player rolls and makes a match will all the remaining dice in the arena. This means all the dice will be removed from the arena making it a... Clean Sweep! Instead of rolling a single die like a regular turn, the next player must roll ALL HIS OR HER DICE into the arena. All the normal rules apply. If you make any matches, you get to remove these dice and keep them. Any non matching dice stay. Any Xs are removed from the game.
The Clean Sweep adds an extra level of tension and drama and fun to every game. When one die remains in the arena, the roller will be calling for a Clean Sweep and next player will be rooting for no matches. And when it happens, a cheer (followed by a groan) will almost always rise up from the table. The Clean Sweep is also a great equalizer in the game. Even if you build up a large pile of dice, one Clean Sweep will force you to roll all your dice at once. If many of them come up Xs or without a match, that pile will go away in a hurry!
Strike may be stupid fun, but it's also Major Fun. And I don't mean stupid in an insulting way. By all rights, chucking dice into a box lid should barely qualify as a game, but Strike manages to take this stupidly simple, lovely idea and craft it into an experience that is a joy to play no matter your age. I've introduced Strike to dozens and dozens of players from ages 6 to 66 and the universal reaction has been "Let's play again." This is the cornerstone for any game worthy of the Major Fun Award.
In a day and age where even games for families and children grow increasingly complex, it's a pleasure to find in Strike a game that celebrates simplicity as a basic expression of playfulness and joy.