Bookworm: The Dice Game is a face paced, semi real-time, word game designed by Michael Palm and Lukas Zach. Following on from Bookworm: The Card Game, also published by Pegasus Spiele, this version sees players roll dice and try to match words to letters and categories before being counted out by other players
A round of Bookworm: The Dice Game begins with one player, the Bookworm, rolling seven dice that will act as a letter display. The Bookworm then reveals a Category card and selects one category from a choice of three.
The dice faces show starting letters that players, one at a time, use to say a word that matches the category.
For example, if the category is: ‘Things at a Buffet’ the player can say ‘Cheese’ only if one of the dice shows the letter ‘C’.
If the player correctly names a relevant word, they take the die used for the starting letter and place it in front of them.
As the dice display begins to dwindle, players may find that the available starting letters are not useful, so the active player may ‘steal’ a die from another player.
They do this by saying an applicable word using the letter on the die they wish to steal, and if successful, placing the stolen die in front of them.
The player whose die has been stolen is compensated by being given a ‘Bookworm’ card. There are six Bookworm cards available and once all six have been used, players can no longer steal dice from another player.
The round ends in one of two ways:
• When the last die has been taken from the display
• Or if a player fails to say a word before being ‘timed out’ by the other players
When a round ends, points are awarded based on the ‘pips’ shown on the dice in front of each player plus Bookworm cards. Failing to say a word results in a -2 points penalty.
If no-one has won the game, a new round begins with the next player in the turn order acting as the Bookworm.
The first player to gain 21 points wins the game.
There is a more advanced variant that uses a ‘Special Die’. The faces on this ‘Special Die’ indicate variable additional rules that are applicable to the round being played. These additional rules may, for example, limited which player dice can be stolen or provide a benefit to the player with the ‘Special Die’ at the end of the round.
Bookworm: The Dice Game is a simple game with simple components – just eight custom dice and a card deck. These components, however, are functional and suit the game well.
The wooden dice themselves are chunky with clear, easy to read iconography. The cards too, are clear with the categories colour coded, traffic light fashion, to display relative difficultly.
The artwork, such as it is, could be seen as dull and repetitive. The same Bookworm character image repeated adds nauseum on the cards, on the rule sheet and the box.
Despite some categories perhaps aimed at generating laughs among a more mature audience (‘Men are…’), Bookworm is game aimed for, and plays best with, families. Kids seem to take great joy in counting out their adults as they flounder to name a single Disney character with a name beginning with either of the letter’s ‘Z’ or ‘K’.
The rules are open to a degree of interpretation as to how long each player is given to think before a countdown begins. This allows, of course, for those same kids to have far longer thinking time than their already struggling adult.
This semi real-time aspect provides a much-needed tension to the game. The rules even state that the game work best when played ‘fast’. Experienced players can have tremendous fun beginning a countdown almost immediately after a player begins their turn.
The categories available are sufficiently varied to provide most players with a chance of success. Although, as with many word games, players with good general knowledge may have more success than those without. Meanwhile, certain categories: ‘Dwarven Things’, ‘Things in The Walking Dead’, ‘Things in The Legend of Zelda’, are likely to suit some players more than others.
Unfortunately, for all the variety offered in the Category selection, you will have seen virtually everything the basic game offers within the first 2 plays. This is where that ‘Special Die’ comes in. The round to round rule variations adding much needed variety to the game for all but the youngest of players. Experienced gamers will undoubtedly want to use this more advanced variant from the first play.
Whichever variant is used, Bookworm does not outstay its welcome. Even at the higher player counts, this is a short game intended to be played on rainy afternoons. It is, however, a game that works best at those higher play counts. The experience at the lower player counts, particularly the 2-player count, is simply not in the same league as that of the 4-5 player experience.
Overall, Bookworm: The Dice Game is a fun, quick to play, family level, filler perfect for wet afternoons. It’s unlikely to set anyone’s game collection alight with its originality, art design, or depth of gameplay. However, it will entertain families that enjoy laughing at each other as they struggle to name: ‘Plants ending with the letter E’.
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