Regular readers of Geeky Hobbies probably know that we have looked at a lot of dice games in the past. When you think about it that is not that surprising as dice games are one of the most popular board game genres. Generally I would say that I am a fan of the genre but the genre has some serious problems. Rarely do dice games do something original so most end up feeling like the exact same game. Due to this fact I will admit that I didn’t have particularly high expectations when it came to Take It or Leave It. I thought it was just going to be another solid but unspectacular dice game. Take It or Leave it ended up being a pleasant surprise as it actually has some unique ideas which makes it one of the best pure dice rolling games that I have played in a long time.
How to Play Take It or Leave It
- Separate the combo and action cards and shuffle each deck separately.
- Each player is dealt four combo cards and one action card. Players keep these cards in their hands.
- Put the dice tray in the middle of the table and place dice in it based on the number of players:
- 2 Players: 6 orange, 6 blue, 1 red
- 3 Players: 7 orange, 7 blue, 2 red
- 4 Players: 8 orange, 8 blue, 2 red
- 5 Players: 9 orange, 9 blue, 2 red
- The player who has had the most recent streak of good luck gets to start the game.
Playing the Game
Take It or Leave It is played in rounds. The player who starts each round will rotate after each round. The number of rounds you play is dependent on the number of players:
- 2 or 3 Players: Each player will start three rounds.
- 4 Players: Each player will start two rounds.
- 5 Players: Each player will start one round.
Each round begins with the starting player rolling all of the dice into the dice tray. Starting with the first player the players take turns taking one die at a time from the tray. When a player takes a dice it stays on the side that was rolled. The red dice are wild and can be used as either a blue or orange dice. When choosing a die a player looks for one that works with one or more of their combo cards.
There are several different types of combo cards that players can be dealt in the game. Here are some examples:
Before a player takes a die they can choose to use their action card. When a player plays an action card they follow the instructions on the card and then discard it.
Instead of taking a die a player can choose to pass their turn. Once a player has passed they can take no more dice during the round.
Once all of the players have passed or all of the dice have been taken, the round ends and the players move onto scoring. For the scoring phase each player looks through their combo cards to see which ones they were able to complete. A die can only be used for one combo card. Each completed combo card is placed face down in a player’s score pile. For each die that a player takes that they can’t use to complete a combo card, they will take one penalty token. Each wild dice that a player takes during the round will force the player to take a penalty token.
After scoring is completed each player is able to discard one of the combo or action cards from their hand. The players will then draw cards until they have four combo cards and one action card in their hand. If all of the rounds haven’t been completed, the next round will begin with the next player being the first player.
End of Game
The game ends when all of the rounds have been completed. Players total up all of the points from their completed combo cards and subtract one point for each penalty chip. The player with the most points wins the game.
My Thoughts on Take It or Leave It
Before playing Take It or Leave It I didn’t have high expectations for the game. Take It or Leave It just looked your typical roll and move game. Roll the dice and try to get the numbers you need to complete different combos. Since a lot of dice games use this same formula, I was worried that Take It or Leave It wasn’t going to do anything original. After playing the game though I will say that Take It or Leave It deserves credit for doing something original leading it to being one of the best pure dice rolling games I have played in a long time.
The first original thing that Take It or Leave It does is add a drafting mechanic to a dice rolling game. I have played a lot of dice rolling games and I have yet to play one that has a drafting mechanic. In most dice rolling games each player rolls their own dice. In Take It or Leave It all of the dice are rolled together at the beginning of the round. The players then take turns taking one dice at a time until all of the dice have been taken or all of the players have passed.
This mechanic might sound simple but it actually adds a lot to the game. What I really like about the mechanic is that it forces players into prioritizing which dice are most important to them. There might be a lot of dice that a player wants but the player needs to decide which is most important. Should you choose the dice that you need the most or the dice that is more likely to be taken by one of the other players? While this decision can be obvious at times, it does add some interesting decision making to the game which makes players feel like they have more control over the game.
This drafting mechanic can even lead to some risk/reward decisions. At the beginning of a round it is pretty easy to find a set of dice that you can get that will help you complete one of your combo cards. After completing your first card though things become much more interesting. The risk/reward comes into play as players have to decide whether they are going to try to press their luck to try to complete more combo cards. If the risk pays off the player can finish more combo cards while also taking dice that the other players could have used. If the risk doesn’t pay off a player could end up taking dice they can’t use and thus get some penalty tokens at the end of the round. Choosing when to take and not take risks is key to winning Take It or Leave It.
The second unique mechanic in Take It or Leave It is the idea of the action cards. The action cards basically work as special abilities that you can use to help you acquire the dice that you need to complete your combo cards. Some let you take extra dice, change the face of one of the dice, or even re-roll some or all of the dice. These abilities are pretty simple for the most part but they can have a pretty big impact on the game. The cards do a good job minimizing some of the luck of the roll since the action cards can help you get the dice that you need. Some of the action cards can even give you unintended benefits as you can use a re-roll to try and change the face of other dice you aren’t re-rolling.
I think the thing that I like most about the action cards are that they appear to be pretty balanced. Some of the action cards are better than others but Take It or Leave It comes up with a good way of offsetting the stronger action cards. The most powerful action cards in the game force you to take a penalty token if you want to use them. These action cards will give you a pretty big advantage but they come with their own cost so the cards don’t feel too powerful.
The third unique thing in Take It or Leave It is the idea of the wild dice. Generally I am not a big fan of wilds in games as they are overpowered but I really like the wild dice in Take It or Leave It. The reason I like the wild dice is because they are powerful but they come at a cost. Generally you don’t want to take a wild dice unless you have to since you have to take a penalty token for each wild dice you take. This dissuades players from taking the wild dice unless they really need them. While the penalty hurts, if a wild die is all you can use to finish a combo card it is worth the penalty. The wild dice do what they should do by giving players more options while also avoiding being too powerful.
When you add all of these things together I have to admit that Take It or Leave It really surprised me. The game is not perfect (which I will get to shortly) but the game has a lot more going for it than you would expect. The game has that perfect blend between being accessible and yet still having enough strategy/decision making to remain interesting. Take It or Leave It is a game that anyone can play and yet it feels like you have enough control over your fate that the game remains satisfying. Every so often I will find a game that truly surprises me where I would consider it to be a hidden gem. That describes Take It or Leave It in my opinion.
While Take It or Leave It really surprised me, it still shares one thing with most dice games. While there is a lot more decision making than a lot of dice rolling games, the game still relies pretty heavily on luck. The game relies less on how good you are at rolling the dice and more on the numbers you need being rolled. All of the players share the same dice but since each player will have different combo cards they will be looking for different dice. It is possible that a player won’t get any of the dice they need to finish any of their combo cards. On the other hand a lucky roll could let one player finish three or all four of their combo cards. While players decisions will have an impact on who wins the game, there will still be situations where the luckiest player wins.
Other than luck I would say the other significant problem with the game is its length. If you follow the official rules you end up playing too long with three or four players. With three players you will play nine rounds and you will play eight rounds with four players. In my opinion that is too many rounds. After five or so rounds the game does start to get a little repetitive and long. After five or so rounds one or two players are likely pretty far in the lead so the other players don’t have much of a chance of catching up. While it would be really easy to alter how many rounds you play, that does present some problems due to the fact that turn order plays a big role in the game.
Being a drafting game turn order can be critical in a round. The player that gets to take a die first in a round has a pretty big advantage. First they might be able to take the only available option for a particular color number combination. The other reason turn order is important is that the players earlier in the turn order have a better opportunity to finish more combo cards. In a four or five player game the last player will likely only be able to get enough dice to complete one of their combo cards. Meanwhile the first and second player to take dice will likely be able to finish at least two combo cards. As each player will get to start the same number of rounds, the turn order doesn’t significantly hurt the game. You really need to take advantage of the rounds where you pick early though or you are going to have a hard time winning the game.
The final problem that I had with Take It or Leave It is that I don’t think all of the combo cards were created equally. When I looked at some of the combo cards they just seemed either too hard or too easy based on how many points they were worth. I think the biggest culprits are the one point cards. I personally did not like the one point cards because for the most part they felt like a waste of time. The one point cards are easy to complete but they force you to waste dice that you could have otherwise used on more valuable cards. Unless you are able to finish them with some of the last dice you take or use dice that otherwise would have lead to penalty points, there really is no reason to actively pursue completing them. Your turns are better spent trying to complete more valuable cards. Usually this isn’t a big deal as you can just discard one of them at the end of your turn but it becomes a problem when you get several of them in your hand because they are taking up one of your cards that could have otherwise been a more valuable card.
Generally Gamewright does a good job with their component quality and there is no exception with Take It or Leave It. The game includes 20 dice which are of a pretty high quality. The game also includes 30 tokens which are thicker plastic than they needed to be. I was actually surprised by how many cards the game includes. With 110 cards you will rarely if ever have to shuffle the cards after setup. The artwork on the cards is not flashy but it gets the job done and is direct and to the point.
Should You Buy Take It or Leave It?
While my first impressions of board games are usually pretty accurate, there are the occasional games that actually surprise me. When I first saw Take It or Leave It I thought it was going to be another very generic dice rolling game. After playing it though I have to say that Take It or Leave It is a hidden gem and one of the best pure dice rolling games that I have ever played. What I really appreciated about Take It or Leave It is that it actually does something original for a dice rolling game. The drafting mechanic is really interesting as it leads to some difficult decisions as you decide which die you should take each turn. I also really liked the action cards as they give some control back to the players if the dice roll didn’t go their way. The wild dice also do a good job of creating a balance between giving players options while avoiding becoming too powerful. Honestly the only two problems that I had with Take It or Leave It is that it relies a little too much on luck and takes a little too long.
If you hate dice rolling games Take It or Leave It will probably still not be for you. If you have never liked the dice rolling genre though because all of the games feel the same, I think you should consider looking into Take It or Leave It because it plays a lot different than your typical dice rolling games. If you like dice rolling games I think you will love Take It or Leave It. I know I wasn’t disappointed in picking up Take It or Leave It.