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Game Review: Take It or Leave It

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I have long said that a great game comes from a mix of luck and skill, and Take It or Leave It from Gamewright is absolutely that mix. The game consists of a miniature dice table, twenty small blue, orange, and red dice, and two decks of cards, Combo and Action. The dice are rolled, and players attempt to match combinations on their hands of Combo cards for points, while Action cards give them a chance to change up the table. On the one hand, TIoLI is luck when a roll of the dice could leave a player stranded with a bad hand; on the other, it is a game steeped in strategy.

The main strategy of TIoLI comes from the Combo cards, giving a player one to five points for completing a combination of blue and orange dice. Some cards simply ask a total greater than a number, while others can be as specific as calling for an orange one, a blue five, and a six of either color. More difficult combinations give more points, but players draw the dice one at a time, and planning to fulfill a difficult card might prove useless if someone steals that needed blue three. It makes for a tense, edge-of-the-seat game with players constantly calculating, reading opposing players, and re-calculating.

Further strategy stems from the Action cards. Each player receives one Action card per round and may play it to manipulate a die on the table before picking his or her die for the turn. Some cards allow players to reroll multiple dice; others allow for extra dice taken, and others simply, and powerfully, allow the player to change a number on a die up or down. Careful planning and skillful timing could change a loss to a stunning victory. However, opposing players have Action cards of their own, meaning that the table could change at any time, for better or worse.

Luck and yet more strategy come in with the red “wild” dice. Most cards require specifically blue or orange dice, and the red dice act as either color. Players may take a red die, but they also take a red “minus” chip, which gives them a negative one on the final score. This facet of the game provides for yet more calculations as players must determine whether completing a combination is worth the deduction.

The round continues until all dice are taken from the table. Players may choose to pass, but once they have passed, they can no longer pick up dice for that round, even if another player happens to reroll something they need (yet another strategic gamble). When the round is over, players tally up the points from cards they have completed and take deductions for each die picked up but not used in completing a card. It makes for a double whammy when a strategy is broken by another player, leaving no points gained for the card and more lost from now-useless dice.

TIoLI is an intense game. It is rated for players eight and up, and younger players most likely will not enjoy the depth of thinking that makes the game so great for adults. Games usually take about twenty minutes with each round requiring only a few minutes to play, giving TIoLI a fast-paced feeling. The rules have variations on the amount of dice used for two, three, four, and five players, fun for any number of players but a very different game for each. The more players, the more luck required. The fewer players, the more it seems a forehead-rubbing, thought-provoked chess match.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.