Harvest Dice is a roll-and-write game, a style of game where you roll dice and based on the results, you fill out a paper sheet in front of you, the most obvious examples perhaps being the classic game Yahtzee. The genre appears to have gained a lot of popularity over the last 18 months, with lots of new games and even a Kennerspiel nomination for Ganz Schon Clever, proving that roll and writes can be games for serious gamers.
Harvest Dice, designed by Danny Devine, was one of our first experiences with the genre, and since then we’ve been playing many, many others as the movement had gained more and more momentum. Roll and writes are wonderfully simple and accessible games, and Harvest Dice is definitely standing the test of time for us amongst the crowd of different titles in this genre.
Harvest Dice Gameplay
Harvest Dice is a 2-4 player dice drafting roll-and-write game in which you play as a farmer attempting to make the best field full of crops. It's not as simple as choosing the best vegetable to sow and filling your field, there is a market that changes the value of the crops depending on which dice are taken. Sometimes you won't have a use for any for the dice, in these cases you can always feed one of them to your trusty pig who will reward you with points at the end of the game because bacon reasons.
At the start of the game each player is handed a sheet of paper that depicts their land, their pig and the value of crops in the local market. Each turn, one player will roll all the dice, then one at a time players will choose one of the dice to plant in their field. The position is determined by a grid reference along the top of the field, if you take a green die showing a four you must draw a cabbage in the four column on your playing sheet. At first this is the only restriction, but you must also keep all of your veggies of the same type together, so our hypothetical player could now only take green dice if they were a three, four or five. Players continue drafting dice until only one die is left, the colour of this die dictates which of the three markets (carrot, tomato and cabbage) increases in value this turn.
If you are unable to, or don’t want to, plant a dice you can still take it, but you must feed it to your pig. This is an important move to restrict your opponent’s ability to play, but also every six dice pips that you feed to the pig grants you a pig power. These one use powers allow you to add or subtract one from a die as you take it (or change the die colour in advanced mode).
The game ends when one player finishes all three rows of their field, or when any one market has reached a value of six. At this point you multiply each crop by its market value to get your score. You then add bonuses for completed rows of your field, and bonuses for doing the best for each crop/pig in the advanced mode.
Fiona’s Final Thoughts
Harvest Dice comes with two game modes, i.e. two different versions of the score pad. After our first play, we chose to play on the hard mode, where your options for dice manipulation increase from just adding or subtracting one, to mean that you can instead choose to change the colour of a dice. Additionally, the harder mode is a bit meaner because there is a chance that one vegetable type may score no points at the end of the game.
The game is extremely simple to play and it's easy to think that it's a very basic design, but there is actually quite a lot of interlinked elements that can form part of your decision making. At the start of a turn it's easy to focus on taking the dice you need, however in a two-player game it's pretty effective to see which dice your opponent can even legally play and perhaps 'hate draft' that useful dice into the mouth of the pig! The ‘pig powers’ can be really helpful when the dice rolls don't go your way. Finally, you might be keen to take dice tactically so that the colour of dice remaining when five have been taken is the colour of the vegetable you have planted most of, giving it a higher multiplier for end game scoring.
We love drafting, so the fact that the simple drafting decisions can trigger multiple impacts is really satisfying. I also really enjoy the spatial puzzle of planting your garden optimally to try and keep your options open as long as possible. Bad luck will sometimes get in your way, but we've only had one game where one player only needed to plant low numbers toward the end of the game and the dice just stopped rolling low! Otherwise the game is quite fair as you are all working with the same dice pool each turn.
Harvest Dice was a really pleasant surprise. Most quick light game don't have much staying power in our collection, but Harvest Dice feels like it packs some good meaningful decisions into a 15-minute game. I'm really happy with how it plays for two as well as with more on the frequent occasions where we introduce it to new gamers. It's well produced, has nice colourful artwork and I think I could get almost anyone to play and understand at least the basic version. I’d highly recommend it as one of the best simple roll and writes out there.
Amy’s Final Thoughts
Fiona has overwhelmed me with a lot of roll and write titles in the last 12 months, but we keep coming back to Harvest Dice for a few reasons. It’s a game with a theme, unlike many abstract roll and writes and that theme is pretty cute, with the drawing adding an extra level of engagement. It’s also a game that we can get anyone to play, including my Mum, who is normally extremely resistant to playing any of our games.
Harvest Dice comes with nine small dice, these are good quality with very distinct colours and easy to read pips, though I might have liked them to be a touch bigger to give a more tactile experience. The play sheets themselves are colourful and well designed, giving clear purpose for the different areas, while still keeping an attractive art style. You get a good number of both basic and advanced game sheets so this should keep you gaming for a long time before you have to resort to the photocopier for more.
Harvest Dice is definitely a filler game, but it knows what it is and does a great job as one. It's colourful and cheerful enough to attract the younger end of its audience, while the dice drafting can be vicious enough to keep competitive adults entertained. Harvest Dice is a great choice for when you don't have much time but want to get a game it, or you are simply burnt out from heavier games.