Two classic games that most people have played at some point in their lives are Yahtzee and The Game of Life. With those two games being so different from one another it is hard to see what they would have in common. Well today’s game CV takes those two very distinct games and combines them together. Basically CV takes the dice rolling mechanics where you have to roll different combinations from Yahtzee and combines it with the life building theme from The Game of Life. With CV currently standing as one of the top 1,000 board games of all time on Board Game Geek, I was excited to try out the game. CV may be a little long for a dice game but it is arguably one of if not the best dice rolling game that I have ever played.
How to Play CV
- Lay out the gameboard in the middle of the table.
- Sort the cards based on their backs into five different decks and shuffle each deck separately.
- Place the early adulthood, middle age, and old age cards onto their own respective locations on the gameboard.
- Take the top five cards from the early adulthood deck and place them onto the first five spots on the gameboard.
- Deal one card from the life goal deck to each player. Then place life goal cards on the gameboard based on the number of players: 2 players-1 card, 3 players-2 cards, 4 players-3 cards.
- If there are only two or three players find the bicycle card out of the childhood cards. For two players you combine the bicycle card with five other cards. For three players combine the bicycle card with eight other cards. For four players you will use all of the childhood cards. Shuffle the cards and deal three cards to each player.
- Each player looks at their three childhood cards and chooses one card to keep. They pass the other two cards to the player on their left. Each player then chooses one of those two cards to keep and passes the final card to the player on their left. Each player should now have three childhood cards.
- The player who has the bicycle card places it face up in front of them. They will also take the bicycle token in case they lose the card during the game to indicate that they are the first player. This player will start the game.
Symbols and Cards
Before getting into how the game is played here is some information about some of the symbols and cards in the game.
There are six different symbols that players can roll on the dice and use to purchase cards:
Some other symbols used in the game are as follows:
- Victory points
- Wild Symbol: Can either be a health, relationship, knowledge or money symbol.
- Misfortune: Is the same as rolling three bad luck symbols (see below).
- Extra dice: For each symbol the player gets to roll an additional dice along with the four dice they would normally roll.
You can replace symbols on the left side with symbols on the right side or vice versa.
You can replace symbols on the left with the symbols on the right.
Each card in the game has the following layout:
- Card Title
- Card Type Symbol – This symbol along with the color of the title’s background indicates what type of card it is.
- Cost – What symbols a player will have to pay in order to purchase the card.
- Effect – What benefits/costs the card will give to the player when the card is played or is active.
- Card Number – Used to look up specifics about the card in the instructions.
In CV there are seven different types of cards:
- Life Goals – If a player can complete a life goal during the game, they will score bonus points at the end of the game.
- Health – Health cards usually give the player health symbols or help with bad luck.
- Knowledge – Knowledge cards usually give the player knowledge symbols or help the player manipulate the dice they roll.
- Relationship – Relationship cards usually give the player relationship or good luck symbols.
- Work – Work cards usually give the player money symbols and other symbols.
- Possession – Possession cards give players victory points at the end of the game.
- Event – Event cards can only be used once and are kept in a player’s hand. When the card is used for its effect, it is discarded.
If a card has a symbol that is crossed off in the effect area of the card, the card has a cost in order to keep it in play. The player will have to pay the cost with their remaining dice and tokens between the bad luck and add to CV phases. If the player cannot pay the cost, they have to discard the card.
If a card has two different types, the player can choose which of the two types they would like the card to be. They will choose which type when they add it to their CV and can’t change their mind after they make their decision. If the player does not have another card of either type, the player can delay the decision until they acquire another card of either type.
Playing the Game
CV is played in rounds. Each player will go through all five phases and then play passes to the next player clockwise. A round ends when all of the players have finished their turn. On their turn each player will go through five phases:
- Roll Dice
- Select Cards
- Bad Luck
- Add to CV
A player begins their turn by taking the number of dice they are entitled to roll. The players start with four dice and will get to use additional dice if they acquire cards that give them more dice. The player begins by rolling all of their dice. Any bad luck symbols that are rolled have to be set aside. The player can keep whichever dice they want and can re-roll the rest of the dice (that aren’t bad luck symbols) up to two times.
After a player is done rolling their dice they have an opportunity to purchase up to two cards from the gameboard. In order to purchase a card a player has to “spend” the symbols pictured on the top of the card. Players cannot purchase a card if they don’t meet the other requirements listed on the top of the card. Players can use the symbols they rolled, tokens they acquired from the cards in their CV, or event cards to purchase a card. Each symbol can only be used to purchase one card. Any symbols not used in this phase are lost.
If a player ends up with three good luck symbols between their dice and tokens, they can use the symbols to purchase any card no matter what the cost as long as they meet the other conditions.
If a player acquires three bad luck symbols they will suffer a misfortune. The player has to choose one active card (the card currently on top) from their CV and discard it.
Add to CV
The player takes all of the cards they purchased from the gameboard. Any event cards are added to the players hand. The other cards will be added to a player’s CV. Each player will get to create one stack for each type of card. If a player already has a card of a given type and acquires another, only one of the cards can be active. The active card (the card on the top of the stack) is the only one that gives the player a benefit during the game. All work and property cards must be placed on top of their respective piles which makes them the active cards.
For health, relationship, and knowledge cards the player can choose whether they want to make the card they just acquired their active card. The player can place each new card on top of the stack or below any other card in the stack.
If the player purchased any cards during their turn, they will move all of the cards remaining to the left to fill in any empty spaces. They will then draw new cards from the current deck in order to fill the empty spaces at the end of the track. If the current player is the last player to play this round, the card furthest to the left is discarded, all of the cards are slid left, and a new card is added to the end of the track.
When the last card from any of the decks of cards is added to the gameboard, the game briefly pauses. All of the players count up how many cards they have in their CV. If any player has less than half of the cards of the player with the most cards, they are eligible for social assistance. All of the players qualifying for social assistance will get to take one of the cards from the gameboard for free if they meet the other requirements of the card. If there are multiple players qualifying for social assistance, start with the current player and proceed clockwise with each player needing social assistance taking one card. Once all qualifying players have taken a card, move the remaining cards left and draw new cards to fill in the empty spaces.
The player will then update their tokens. They will take one corresponding token for each symbol at the bottom of each of the active cards in their CV. The player does not get to keep tokens they didn’t use this turn.
The next player clockwise then gets to take their turn.
End of Game
The game ends when after filling in any empty spaces in the gameboard there are less cards in the old age deck than the number of players. Players will tally up their points as follows:
For relationship, health, and knowledge cards; count up how many cards you have of each type. Compare the number of cards you have of each type to the following chart to determine how many points you earn for that type of cards:
- 1 – 1 point
- 2 – 3 points
- 3 – 6 points
- 4 – 10 points
- 5 – 15 points
- 6 – 21 points
- 7 – 28 points
- 8 – 36 points
- 9 – 45 points
- 10 – 55 points
Then count up the number of points shown on the possession cards you acquired throughout the game.
Each player reveals their personal life goal and will score points based on if they were successful. If the player completed the goal multiple times, they will score the points shown on the card the number of times they completed the goal.
Finally the players compare how they did on the public life goals. Only the player who best achieved the goal (completed it the most times) gets to score the points from the card. If there are two or more players tied for a goal, all of the tied players score the points.
The player who scores the most points wins the game. If there is a tie, the player with the least cards in their CV wins. If the game is still tied, the players share the victory.
My Thoughts on CV
I began this review talking about how CV feels like what you would get if you combined the gameplay of a game like Yahtzee with the theme of The Game of Life. You wouldn’t think those two games would work that well together and yet it works surprisingly well in CV. CV works so well that it actually succeeds in improving upon both games at the same time.
On the gameplay front I would say that CV plays a lot like an advanced Yahtzee. Basically CV takes the concept of having to roll different dice combinations and adds mechanics that allow you to acquire abilities that make it easier to roll the combinations that you want to roll in future turns. You begin each turn rolling the dice just like in Yahtzee. You have the opportunity to re-roll all or some of the dice up to two times in order to try and get the symbols you still need. This is where Yahtzee ends and CV begins. After you have finished rolling you have an opportunity to use the symbols you rolled in order to purchase cards which will score you points and give you benefits on future turns. These can include getting more dice to roll, changing symbols of one type into another or starting your turn having already acquired some symbols.
One of the biggest problems that I have with most dice games is that they rely a lot on luck. While you can decide which dice to keep and which to re-roll, your success is ultimately going to come down to how well you roll. There might be some strategies to improve your odds of rolling a certain number but rolling the right number usually comes down to just being lucky. While I like dice games, I have never liked how you have little effect over your fate in the game.
This is why I really like these type of dice games which allow you to acquire special abilities. While it doesn’t totally eliminate the luck from the game as you are still rolling dice, you can have more control over your fate in the game. You can develop a strategy and then acquire abilities that increase your odds of getting the symbols you need for a given turn. After a couple rounds you can feel your character getting “stronger” as it becomes easier to get the symbols you need to purchase the cards you want. This creates a situation where the game has a pretty equal balance between relying on luck and strategy. CV is the type of dice game that I really like as it takes what is good about the genre and fixes some of the biggest problems. Honestly it is really hard going back to a game like Yahtzee after playing a game like CV because it is a superior game in almost every way.
In addition to eliminating quite a bit of luck from your typical dice rolling game, I liked that CV actually has a decent amount of strategy for the genre. It is not the most strategic game ever made but your decisions feel like they truly make a difference. I like that CV gives players several different ways to score points. Players can score points by trying to acquire lots of cards of the same type or focus more on completing life goals. This allows players to pursue different strategies each game and also allows them to somewhat customize their strategy based on what they ultimately roll. There is still a decent reliance on luck due to rolling the dice but it feels like a good strategy may be able to offset some bad luck.
Honestly I think there are only two real reasons why people play Yahtzee and other similar games instead of a game like CV. First Yahtzee obviously has a lot more name recognition than CV. CV is quite popular among people who play a lot of board games but most people have probably never heard of the game before. The other reason why people play Yahtzee is they think games like CV are too complicated. I personally wouldn’t say the game is that difficult. You are mostly just rolling dice and acquiring cards to score points. CV does take a while longer to get a hang of than Yahtzee though. I would say the rules take around 10-15 minutes to explain to new players. New players may not know quite what they are supposed to do for their first couple of turns but once you get a hang of the game it is actually quite easy to play. The game may have a recommended age of 13+ but I think kids around ten or so shouldn’t have too many problems playing the game.
While a board game’s theme is generally not one of the most important things for me, I actually thought the theme in CV really helped the game. I was kind of skeptical of a dice game built around living out a person’s life but it actually works really well. The Game of Life revolved around living out a person’s life by moving around the board. Just replace the spinner with dice and the board with cards and you got CV. I actually think CV does a significantly better job with the life building theme than The Game of Life. Instead of just acquiring money, children and property like in The Game of Life, it feels like you are really building a life for your character. Each time you acquire a new card it is like you are adding another piece to your person’s life. Some of the character’s lives can get a little strange (like the temp worker who owned a mansion) but they are still quite interesting.
This is probably not going to work for every group but if you have a creative group I think the theme will shine even more. If your group likes to tell stories I think it would bring something extra to the game if each player told the story of their character. Each time you acquire a card you can further elaborate on what happened in your character’s life. For storytelling groups I think this could add a lot to the game as you could really start feeling for the character you create.
For the components CV might not rival some designer games but it still deserves a lot of credit. I appreciate that the game came with specialized dice. The dice are also engraved which means you don’t have to worry about the symbols fading off. The tokens are kind of on the cheap side but they are mostly used as indicators so that isn’t that big of deal. The game comes with plenty of cards and they are of a decent thickness. While the artwork might be a little odd, I love the game’s artwork style.
While I really enjoyed CV, there are a couple issues with the game which keep it from being perfect.
I think the biggest issue for CV is that it is a little long for a dice game. For the most part dice games are pretty short with most lasting around 30 minutes to an hour at max. At the shortest I would say most games of CV will last at least an hour. Most of the reason why CV takes so long is that there is usually a lot to think about during your turn. There are five different cards you can purchase on your turn. You need to figure out what cards you would like to purchase and then figure out how you can acquire them. You have up to three rolls to get the symbols you need so you have two opportunities to change your decision based on what you roll.
In general I love how many options the game gives you. The game truly lets you craft your own character’s story to score as many points as possible. The problem is that it can lead to some serious analysis paralysis for some players. If you have players that have to maximize every single turn to score as many points as possible, this will lead to a lot of time sitting around just pondering different options. This can be kind of stressful to players as well as they don’t want to make a mistake that will lose them the game. To fully enjoy CV you have to approach it from the point of view where you can spend some time analyzing your decisions but you can’t obsess over finding the ultimate choice as it will annoy both you and the other players. You need to be willing to occasionally make a suboptimal play in order to keep the game going.
CV plays well with four players but I think it might be a game that plays better with less players. I think the optimum number of players for the game may be two. CV may be better with less players because there isn’t a lot of interaction between the players. Outside of players taking cards that other players need, the players could play the game themselves and then compare scores at the end of the game. As there is nothing you can do on another player’s turn, you basically have to just sit around waiting for their turn to finish. With four players this means you have to sit through three turns before you are able to play again. If you play the game with only two players you will significantly reduce the amount of time that you have to sit around waiting for the other players. While the game doesn’t technically support only one player, I would be interested in trying out a solo variant as I could see CV being a pretty good solo game.
Another smaller issue I had with CV is that I don’t think all of the life goals were created equally. It seems easier to score points from some of the goals than others. The players who are dealt a better life goal are given a slight advantage at the beginning of the game. As you can score quite a few points from your life goal, this could be the difference between winning or losing the game. I like giving each player their own life goal as it gives you some direction for your strategy but I wish the different goals were a little more balanced. The inclusion of the shared life goals do somewhat fix these issues since you can focus on them instead of your personal goal. I really like the shared goals as they provide a lot of competition since they are an all or nothing proposition.
I had some mixed feelings about the social assistance mechanic. On the positive side I like that it helps keep players in the game that may have fallen behind due to bad luck. Generally I like close games as a game that comes down to the last round is more enjoyable than a game where it is a forgone conclusion who is ultimately going to win. I think this mechanic is a little too powerful though. Being able to get a card for free is powerful as the player is likely going to pick the most valuable card available.
Finally while I really like CV’s theme, at times it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I kind of question the rewards associated with some of the cards. For example can someone explain to me why having friends from the orchestra is more valuable than getting married? For some reason friends from the orchestra give you more resources than getting married. While this in no way ruins the game, it does occasionally briefly take you out of the experience.
Should You Buy CV?
Making a game that combined elements from Yahtzee and The Game of Life may have been unconventional but the concept works. CV succeeds in improving upon both games. CV might at first seem like a typical dice rolling game but there is much more to the game. By purchasing cards you can remove some of the luck from your typical dice rolling game while adding strategy as you try to maximize your points. This creates a good balance between luck and strategy as it feels like your decisions actually impact the game. The theme in CV excels as well. Each card you acquire builds your character’s life and after a while it feels like you are living through your character’s life. The only significant complaint I have with CV is that it is a little long at times. The game can occasionally suffer from analysis paralysis as you debate every possibility which means you will spend a lot of time waiting for the other players.
After playing a game like CV I have to admit it is hard to go back to playing games like Yahtzee or The Game of Life as it is better than both. If you hate dice rolling games or don’t really care for the game’s concept, CV may not be for you. Otherwise I would highly recommend checking it out as it likely will be one of the best dice rolling games that you will ever play.