The Twinkle board game is a light dice-chucker that takes 20-30 minutes to play. It’s listed for ages 8+, which feels about right. It’s a 1-4 player game, which plays well across all player counts.
There’s no real theme here, although you do lay your dice out in what looks like a constellation – so the name makes sense. Essentially you’re building a small network of coloured dice, trying to best meet a variety of public scoring conditions.
I really don’t like the cover art, but that’s a personal thing. I’m never keen on art that tries to blend the actual components with their fictional setting. In the box you’ll find a small board, 30 dice, 32 wooden pieces and 31 cards. Everything is good quality and the artwork is functional. Importantly the dice are decent, although the four-siders are a bit small and my red dice were a bit washed out colour-wise. Looking at comparison site Board Game Prices, you can find it for around £20 – but will have to pay £10 or so shipping on top to get it to the UK. I think you’d have to want it pretty bad to pay such high shipping – but £20 is good value for the game itself.
Teaching the Twinkle board game
Each game of Twinkle starts with choosing a set of scoring cards you’ll use for that game. These also determine the colours of dice you’ll be using. Each colour has five associated dice (4,6,8,10,12) and the amount of colours you use is determined by player count (all six colours in a four-player game). Any eight-sided dice are rolled and placed on the central board, with the other dice put to one side. Each player also takes seven wooden sticks.
On your turn, you have one of two choices. You can take an 8-sided dice and add it straight into your constellation without rolling it. Otherwise, you choose any three dice (including eight-siders) and roll them, then taking one of those. If you can’t place one, you’ll get an extra turn at the end of the game to try again. so you should all end up with the same amount of dice, but later turns will leave you with less dice choice.
Each player has two (blank) starting stars, each of which can have two sticks leaving them. Any dice can emanate from your star spaces. And each of those dice can also have two sticks leaving them. However, beyond those dice, any dice placed have to have a lower number. So if you were the unluckiest person alive, and rolled six ones in your first two rolls, it would be game over. Otherwise, you keep taking it in turns until everyone has placed seven dice at the end of their seven sticks (which has always happened in my plays).
Each dice colour scores in a different way. for example, yellows simply score for having lots of them. While a purple dice wants as many connections to it as possible. Greens want lots of the same shape dice in your constellation. While black dice want their total score to be a certain amount. In addition you always have the ‘twinkle’ card, which gives you bonus points for any larger dice that’s further from the start point (so has a lower number) than those along its route. Highest score wins.
There are another 20 ‘mission’ scoring cards in the box. Once you’ve played a good few times, and you think your brain can handle it, you can throw some of these in too. They give you a whole heap of other ways to score in pretty much any way you could think of. Everything from scoring points for having both connected dice from one point having the same number; to getting a bonus for using the least number of dice shapes.
There are also four solo game cards in the box. This simple mechanism works really well, giving a list of increasingly difficult challenges based around the 20 mission cards. Each challenge lists the dice colours you can have in your pool, plus the mission cards required. But while in multiplayer these ‘missions’ are just optional ways to get points, here they need to be achieved. Get 20 points, including this objective, to move onto the next challenge.
This is smart, adding no real extra rules while creating a challenging sliding scale of difficulty. And there are 40 challenges on the cards, which should keep avid solo players quiet for a good while. I’m admittedly rubbish at the game. But it took me a couple of attempts just to get past level one. And, while obviously variations on a them, the solo challenges do feel different.
The four sides
These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.
- The writer: It took me a play or two to really get to grips how short this game is. Seven rolls each, and you’re done. And there’s a lot of luck going on. The question is, does the depth of thinking you need to do to work out all the scoring match up? Because you can agonise over what to do, only for the dice to totally screw you over. Best laid plans, and all that. But hey – it’s 20 minutes! Just go again. Personally, I really enjoy the challenge.
- The thinker: There’s the kernel of a good strategic game idea here, but Twinkle has too much luck for me. Having the eight-sided dice available without rolling can be a godsend. And if you get some lucky rolls early, you can form a plan and maybe even carry it out. But if not, you’re left squirming around making the best of a random lot. Not for me.
- The trasher: Well, this is an interesting one. In terms of indirect conflict, the Twinkle board game has it in spades. There are only five dice in each colour. And some need several of the same colour to score well. While others are looking for the right shape of dice, giving you plenty of opportunities to mess with each other. And because other need things such as odd/even, or just placing bigger dice later, you can often try to do what you need while screwing our opponents. For a game of this length, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. You just have to embrace the chaos!
- The dabbler: I do like a quick dice-chucker. But getting your head around all the ways to score makes this a bit of a chore at first. There are five or six things to get into your head, even in the simplest version. But after a few plays, it starts to come a bit easier. It’s a shame the artwork and dice aren’t cooler though. It’s such a missed opportunity. I want sparkly dice! A pretty board! The components are OK, but this could have been super cute. But now I’m used to it, I really like it. For me it has a fun mix or random and push-your-luck. and the short play time means that a bad game is funny, rather than a way to spoil your evening.
This is quite a low key release, so there isn’t too much out there about the game yet. But – as you may have gathered – yes, the luck element can be high. If your group isn’t happy with a game which suggests building a strategy, but envelopes it in chance, move along. Yes, you can mitigate it to a degree by taking simpler options. But unlike some more sophisticated releases, the difference that makes doesn’t really translate that well here.
I’ve also found some more casual gamers can go a bit glass-eyed when trying to process all the scoring options. In a basic four-player game there are seven ways to score. Plus three opponents to keep an eye on. Which is probably a bit much for younger (and some much older) children, as well as your non-gamer neighbours. A few of my friends have surprisingly taken against it quite strongly. But those that dig it really do. So it’s perhaps not recommended at either end of the heavy/casual gamer scale.
All this is particularly brutal in a four-player game. You’re playing with 30 dice and taking seven each. So on their last turn, the last player literally has no choice in dice to roll – they get the last three, and pick one. I’d have liked to see a few more dice thrown in so it wasn’t quite so bad at the end. House rules could make a big difference here. Give everyone a mulligan once per game where they get to reroll. Or play it snake-draft style. Just because the game came a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to play it exactly that way.
Conclusion: Twinkle board game
I didn’t envision Twinkle being a marmite game when I picked it up. As it’s not often a 20-minute dice game has people actually refusing to play a second time. But that’s what happened. However, personally, I really like it and will be keeping it in my collection. I enjoy the challenge of the solo experience, and that the low scoring nearly always makes for tight multiplayer games. While, with the right people, it generates those brilliant ‘everyone is watching the roll’ moments where you all scream or moan. Which makes it a winner for me.