I prefer it with four, as the more table talk you get the better, but it’s still fun with two or three and game length is close to the same regardless.
This is a very light game, listed for ages six and up, and I’m confident you could teach it to absolutely anyone – gamer or not.
Ominoes has very little in the way of components: 26 custom dice, four score markers and a board. The version I’ve been playing is a hybrid ‘deluxe edition’ and ‘press copy’, so I’m not sure exactly what a finished product looks like. But the custom dice are nice and the board (which is oddly mouse mat material) is perfectly functional and clear (although art on the scoreboard is a little weak).
All that’s currently available to buy is the Deluxe Edition, which is retailing for £25 and comes in a smart silver tin. RRP for the standard version (available in October) is undecided, but will probably be around £20. Either is a reasonable price for a bunch of custom dice – and I think good value for the amount of family fun you get in the box.
Games don’t get much easier to teach than Ominoes. On your turn you will roll a dice; (probably) manipulate a dice already on the board; then add the dice you rolled to the board (and possibly score points).
The dice (which are all identical) have six different symbols: one in each of the four player colours, plus two wild sides that have different powers.
If you roll a player colour, you move a dice of that colour three spaces on the board (there are no diagonals in the game – for moving or scoring); then place the dice you rolled anywhere on the board. If there wasn’t a dice of that colour on the board already, you simply skip the movement phase. The wilds are also simple: a Ra lets you move any one dice, before placing it; the Serpent lets you reroll any one dice on the board (returning it to its original spot) before placing the Serpent.
If, after placing, you have a group of four of your colour (including any wilds) you immediately remove all those dice from the board and score a point per dice removed (usually four, but five or more is also possible). Play continues clockwise until someone meets a certain score (dependent on player count).
Ominoes has a very clever way of dealing with less than four players. Colours not chosen by any player still play out in exactly the same way – but can be scored by any player. On first reading this in the rules I thought, no way – it can’t work out that simply and play well. But amazingly it does.
The four sides
- The writer: With so many board games out there – and at a time when hundreds of dice games have been flooding onto the market – it’s hard to believe something this simple hasn’t been done before. But that’s the hallmark of great design: making things as simple as possible while keeping the essence of what makes a great gaming experience. Ominoes does just that.
- The thinker: There’s not much here for the thinkers amongst us, as the size of the board means there’s usually a right decision in where to place your dice. But luck dictates that no matter what you do, you can still get screwed over. I’ve seen incredibly intelligent gamers come out of a four-player game of Ominoes with zero points and a bemused look on their face. But the look on the 10-year-old’s face that just beat them is probably worth it – especially after a 20-minute gaming experience.
- The trasher: It’s hard for me not to like a game where every move is either benefiting you, or trying to screw over your opponents! But what makes this stand out is that you are so often forced to help your opponents as you roll there colour – or when you roll a wild but know you can’t score from it that turn; meaning you have to leave it on the board for everyone else. This is often agonising, but it’s also what makes Ominoes work – and for me that makes it a great little fun filler game.
- The dabbler: This game is bright, colourful, simple and accessible – but best of all it creates an almost immediate atmosphere around the table (as long as you’re playing with the right group of course!). The game is super swingy and it only takes a couple of rounds around the table before people are taking on their rolls as villains, the put-upon, the mega unlucky etc. But when a game is over and you go again, that can all change as the luck of the dice reverses those roles. I think a good player will win more often than a bad one, but not often enough that the game can’t be equally enjoyed by kids and new gamers.
There’s a lot of luck in Ominoes – which should hardly come as a surprise when all you do on a turn is roll one dice, with no way of mitigating the result! Whether this is acceptable to you is purely a matter of taste.
Importantly for me there are decisions to make; there are right and wrong choices and mistakes can lead to your opponents taking advantage. No, this is not really a strategic game – but there’s plenty of tactical fun to be had. For something more strategic, I’d suggest the recently re-released The Rose King (formerly Rosenkonig) from Kosmos.
And yes, of course, the theme is totally pasted on – this is 100% an abstract game. But the symbols and colours are vibrant and fun, the board does its job and the Egyptian motif is well used throughout. For the target audience (families and non-gamers, or those looking for a fun filler) the colourful nature of Ominoes works a treat.
I should also mention the mouse mat game board. While it’s totally functional, it also feels kinda cheap. I think this is just a snobby thing – I like a proper board! And with all those custom dice, saving cost is a wise idea. I just don’t know if it’s an idea your average gamer will get behind and it would be a shame if people were put off of the game due to a production decision – especially when it’s off-theme (I want my Ominoes board carved into a piece of sandstone!). Any opinions are welcomed below.
I really like Ominoes. It’s not big, but it is clever. In two of my games a player has scored zero points, which has been hilarious – including in my last three-player game when that player was me! It was just as much fun being hosed as it was when I was in contention.
I also love that the game is still genuinely fun with any of the player counts – while still taking about the same amount of time. This is a rare feat to pull off and I think the game will slide into a lot of gamers’ convention or game night bags because of it – plus the fact that it packs down to almost nothing. A resounding thumbs up from me.
* I would like to thank Yay Games for providing a copy of the game for review.