Baron Voodoo...Have you seen those lovely dice!? But wait a dice game, with *almost* no dice rolling, colour me intrigued.
Baron Voodoo is an abstract game, in which you are a Loa (Voodoo God) trying to become the new God of Death in the place of Baron Samedi. To do so you must collect the most Souls by obtaining sets of dice. It’s a wonderfully colourful, strategic game. It really surprised me with the number of different ways there were to go about winning.
Enjoy the Roll!
Baron Voodoo offers four Loa God characters for you to choose from, each with their own unique power. Each power is valuable during the gameplay, although some are slightly more tricky to plan a strategy for, so choose wisely! (Or perhaps give the easier to understand abilities to younger/less experienced players).
Once you’ve selected your Loa, you’ll need that player board, a small white cube to mark your point progress, your Loa’s Protection token, and three Offering tokens. Place the rest of the Offering tokens, the +20 points tokens and Baron Samedi nearby.
Finally, the lovely dice. Place the main game board in the centre of the play area and choose your dice set-up. There are three set-up modes suggested in the rulebook: the balanced, the chaotic, and (my favourite) the-big-ole-dice-roll. As this is a dice game with no actual dice-rolling, you have to take your rolls where you can!
If going for the big roll, make sure you place the dice into their coloured spaces without too much thought. This should not be used as an opportunity to sneakily place dice to your benefit unless each player takes turns to strategically place dice.
Once all of the dice have been placed onto the board, you’re ready to claim some souls.
Jump and Claim
Turns in Baron Voodoo are fairly simple, which I love. Each turn, you may use your power, if you choose to, and can do so either before or after you claim a die. (You may also use any of the other player's powers for the price of one Offering token.)
Every turn, you must claim one die. To claim a die, you must jump over it using one of your coloured dice (the colour that matches your Loa) by following the rules about dice movement and stacking. Once a die is claimed, you move it to the Capture Zone on your player board and action the die.
After the dice movement/jumping part of your turn, you may then decide if you wish to move any collected sets of dice into your Spirit World.
Play then moves to the next person, unless you wish to cash in two of your Offering tokens, which will give you an extra turn. When played at the right moment, this can come in extremely handy!
The end of the game is triggered once one player reaches a certain number of points. This is dependent on player count. After this, everyone gets another turn until all players have had equal turns. They then all have one final opportunity to convert dice from the Capture Zone to the Spirit World for points. After this, dice remaining in the Capture Zone may be moved to the Spirit World for the end of game scoring, but won’t receive the points for the set.
The end of the game can also be triggered when one player can no longer capture a die on their turn.
Dicing with Death
In Baron Voodoo, each die has 6 unique faces which give certain powers to the player who claims them.
Offering - This gives you an extra offering token. These can be spent on using another player’s ability or saved up to spend on an extra turn.
Victory Point - Gives you one point when collected.
Steal - This allows you to steal one die from another player's Spirit World
Switch - This allows you to swap any two dice between players. You can swap one of your own with another player, or you can swap two dice belonging to other players. All dice must be in the Capture Zone
Face Change - This allows you to change the face of one of your dice to another. (You do not collect the benefit of the face you change to).
Protection - You flip your protection token to the colourful side. This means, until the start of your next turn, you cannot be the target of any player steals/swaps and your dice on the main board cannot be captured.
As well as the dice in the four player colours, there are also 8 white dice. These dice give benefits in the same way as other dice when claimed but are wild (in colour) when it comes to moving dice from your Capture Zone to your Spirit World.
The player with the most white dice in their Spirit World gains the Baron Samedi token and places it over their Loa. They now have the power to use any player ability during their turn for free!
However, to be in control of Baron Samedi, you must have the most white dice, this means if another player equals your amount of white dice, you must sacrifice the Baron. White dice are also not counted during the end of game scoring for most dice of a certain colour.
Player powers are asymmetrical, and some have more obvious benefits than others. The power of your Loa is free to use once during your turn. However, other players' powers may be used for the price of one Offering token. Mamy Wata has the ability to gather all dice from one row or column and move them towards one edge of the game board (something that sounds way more complex than it is in practice).
Gran Bwa has the opportunity to redistribute dice that are in a stack to other locations on the board.
Papa Legba can move a single die to any empty space on the same row.
Erzulie Freda can switch two isolated dice on the board.
The use of these powers is where some serious strategy can come into play. At times, there can be so many options that analysis-paralysis can happen. However, these choices give you such a rich experience that I didn’t really mind. Plus, the only way to use another player’s power is to pay the offering cost. So, not every option will be available to you every turn.
Of course, if you’re the Baron Samedi, you no longer need to pay to use the powers of your fellow players, which can come in extremely handy once you’ve figured out the best power to use!
Claiming your Souls
Players can score points throughout the game in a few different ways.
The first way that you’ll likely score points is by claiming a point die. These are worth one point and you’ll move your marker on your player tracker to indicate this.
You will also score a point if you claim a die of your colour.
Each time you move souls from your Capture Zone to your Spirit World, you must adhere to certain patterns or colours. So you’ll need 2-4 dice of the same colour with different faces showing. Or, you’ll need 2-4 different coloured dice with the same face showing. Depending on how many dice you have collected and are moving to the Spirit World, you’ll gain points.
The final scoring is then done once the game has ended. Each player will count how many dice they have in each colour. The player with the most of each colour will gain three points. If players tie and have equal amounts of one colour, then they each earn one point.
Life as a Loa
One of the things that struck me early on with Baron Voodoo is how many roads to potential victory there are.
For a relatively light game, the options are plentiful. You can go for straight-up points, go for sabotage, or aim for acquiring extra turns, all of which can help you claim the most souls for your Spirit World.
Though there’s a racing element to the game, it doesn’t feel unbalanced, as there are ways to score points at the end of the game too.
The components are great and the colours really appeal to me - who doesn’t want 48 vibrantly coloured Soul dice in a game?
This game is most definitely one of my favourite recent acquisitions and I really recommend it; I am a sucker for a beautiful, abstract strategy game!
If you enjoy dice-collection games but don't like rolling, this is the game for you!
If dice-collection is your thing, but you’re hungry for rolls, Sushi Roll could be a great game for you. It’s easier to understand and might spark a fire for dice-set-collection. Alternatively, if the abstract strategy is what you yearn for, the classic dice placement game Sagrada might be where it’s at for you. Already own it? Spice it up with my favourite expansion Sagrada Life!