Thousand-Year Game: Drop-Shy

September 1, 2011

This is an entry for Daniel Solis’ Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge, pulled together in the final couple hours of the contest.

“Shai-zi” (色子) is Chinese slang for dice, which inspired the name Drop-Shy.

This game is played with a bunch of six-sided dice, however many you like, in whatever colors, divided evenly among the players. The dice should be roughly the same size and you will need a single die to serve as the initial starting point, known as the “instigator.”

The players begin by each rolling all their dice in front of them and then pulling the dice back towards themselves with a ruler or other straight edge, so that the results cluster along a line:

Next, roll the “instigator” die and place it in the middle of the table.

Go around the table, with each player attempting to place their next die against the instigator or some other die branching off of it according to the following rules:

  • The current player picks up and attempts to place the die that is (1) the closest to themselves AND/OR (2) the furthest to their right. There is a degree of arbitrariness here that players enjoy quibbling over, but any die that is either the closest to the edge of the table or furthest to the right is a legal choice. [For example, the player in the picture above might attempt to place their dice in the following order: 2, 5, 4, 5, 2, 3, 1, 3, 2, 2, 5, 1, 1, 1.]
  • Each subsequent die must be placed against one or more dice already in play such that it counts one digit up or down from its “neighbors.” A die showing 3, for example, could be placed against a 2 or 4. A die can be placed against multiple dice as long as all the dice it touches are appropriate neighbors. That 3 can never touch a 1, 3, 5, or 6, no matter how solidly it is connected to other appropriate neighbors.
  • If a player’s next die, however determined, cannot be placed, it is re-rolled by the active player and added to the far left of their line of dice.
  • Whether a legal play was made or not, play passes to the next player.

Players are not allowed to hide their remaining dice from the other players. Indeed, knowing what your opponent has coming up next is critical in the endgame.

The first player to connect all their dice to appropriate neighbors wins and the last player to do so loses. The other players get neither great glory nor great shame.

Traditionally, in the next round, the previous winning player rolls the “instigator” die and the previous losing player places first. The latter rule serves as a minor handicap, given the advantage that accrues to the first player.

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