Tag Archives: Dice Hospital

24th March 2022

The evening began with Pine arriving first and wondering if he’d got the wrong night as it was gone 7pm before anyone else arrived.  While Blue ate her supper, Pine shared some “worm porn” (a video of a penis fencing flatworm) and Green shared his exploits on Board Game Arena.  Apparently he’d been playing Imhotep and had been doing rather well, rising to thirty-fifth.  After a lot of discussion about which game he was talking about, it turned out that by pure chance, a copy of Imhotep had made it to The Jockey.  In spite of Green’s enthusiastic request for someone to beat him, nobody looked keen to take him up on the offer.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

While the others discussed the options, Purple and Black joined Blue and Pine setting up the “Feature Game“.  This was the Druids expansion for an old favourite, the 2016 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, Isle of Skye.  The base game is a tile laying game similar in nature to the popular gateway game, Carcassonne, but with an auction of tiles and objectives that give points. The auctions are extremely clever:  each player draws three tiles from a bag and privately decide how much two are worth, selecting one to be discarded.  Players use their own money to indicate the value and therefore the cost of the tiles.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

After the values are revealed, each player then takes it in turns to buy one tile.  The clever part is that the money used to indicate the cost of each tile is reserved to pay for it until someone else buys it.  Any tiles that have not been bought after everyone has chosen and paid for one, must be paid for by their owner.  The reason this is clever is because of the effect it has on the amount of money that players have to spend.  For example, the first player in the round must make sure they have sufficient uncommitted funds if they want to be able to buy a tile.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

On the other hand, the player at the end of the round has a different calculation to make:  if their tiles are priced to give good value they should sell at least one which will provide them with liquidity to buy other tiles.  However, being last in the round, their choice will be reduced, and if their tiles don’t sell, the fact the other tiles might be on the expensive side, could leave them unable to make a purchase.  It is not compulsory to buy a tile, but players that don’t have enough tiles are unlikely to score as well.  Thus valuing tiles is key—overvaluing their tiles is costly as nobody will buy them leaving their owner with a big bill and less money in the next round, while undervaluing them gives good tiles to an opponent and will leave their owner with less money and fewer tiles.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the tile auction is complete, players add the tiles to their own personal fiefdom.  At the end of the round, one or more of the objectives are scored.  Similar to Cartographers, there are four scoring objectives.  In the early rounds only one scores, with three scored in later rounds, but each one is scored the same number of times during the game.  Although this is an important source of points, it is not the only one as some tiles feature scrolls that score at the end of the game.  Players receive income at the start of each round, with players getting additional funds for each player that is in front of them, with the amount increasing as the game progresses.  As well as being a catch-up mechanism, this also importantly provides an additional channel for money to enter the game.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the auctions and the objectives, there are other ways Isle of Skye differs from Carcassonne.  There are no meeples, and players have their own maps instead of sharing one central one.  Even the tile placement rules are slightly different as terrain must match, but not roads (though it is generally useful if they do as it can increase players’ income).  Thus, although there is a superficial similarity with Carcassonne, Isle of Skye is distinctly more complex.  Unlike the first, Journeyman expansion (which we have not yet played), the second, Druids expansion doesn’t really increase the complexity.  It adds more strategy options though, with more scoring opportunities and additional ways to spend money (should you have any spare).

Isle of Skye: Druids
– Image by boardGOATS

The Druids expansion adds a second part to the auction phase where players can choose to buy one from the five displayed on the dolmen board.  These are more powerful as they generally include scoring opportunities or special powers, but are correspondingly more expensive.  The end of round scoring tiles gave A) two points for each tile in players’ largest completed lake; B) a point for each cow or sheep on on or adjacent to a tile with a farm; C) two points for each set of four tiles arranged in a square, and D) one point for each row and column containing a Broch.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine took the first player token and Purple’s first draw gave her one of the promo tiles from the Themenplättchen mini expansion which was immediately thrown back for causing too much brain pain to work out what it did.  Pine and Blue took an early lead at the end of the first round scoring for their lakes, but it was only a handful of points and there was a long way to go.  Purple started building her long thin, rectangular kingdom prioritising income.  It wasn’t until the third round that the importance of this shape became apparent to everyone else however:  since tiles could be used to score multiple times for (C), this meant Purple picked up lots of points.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King – Tunnelplättchen
– Image by boardGOATS

There was a bit of a debate about the Tunnelplättchen tiles from the two mini expansions.  Black checked on Board Game Geek and confirmed that tunnels going into the same mountain range connected together.  This helped Pine considerably, as otherwise he was in a bit of a mess.  Blue bought an exciting looking scroll tile that gave lots of points for enclosed pasture, but when Blue noticed that Black had it too, he commented that it was actually really difficult to enclose pasture, Blue took it as a challenge. It was shortly after this, about half way through the game that the group realised that they’d forgotten about the catch-up mechanism.

Isle of Skye: Druids
– Image by boardGOATS

From the third round, during the income phase at the start of the round, players get gold for every player that is ahead of them on the score track.  The amount of gold they get increases as the game progresses, so in the final round players get four gold for every player ahead of them—for the player at the back in the four player game, this comes to twelve gold, and for a player at the back until the start of the last round this comes to a total of thirty gold more than a player at the front.  Unfortunately, the group remembered this a couple of rounds too late, so everyone who wasn’t in the lead (i.e. everyone but Blue) received a nice little windfall that they could use to increase the price of their tiles or spend on the Dolman.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Black was making good use of the Dolman board and had some really juicy scoring scrolls in his tidy little kingdom and looked the one to beat, especially as he had plenty of cash too (helped by his windfall).  Pine, on the other hand was struggling to find anything useful and was resorting to using the alternative Dolman option: draw two tiles from the bag and keep one.  Unfortunately despite trying attempts, he wasn’t getting anything he wanted.  It was at the end of round five that things suddenly changed and Purple, hitherto drifting about in third and and fourth leapt forward, landing just one point behind Blue.

Isle of Skye: Druids
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue, having led throughout, knew she didn’t really have enough end-game points to challenge and was expecting Black to catch and overtake.  In the event, it was extremely tight at the front with Purple finishing with one hundred and two points, six more than Blue who just managed to hold on to second, two points ahead of Black.  All in all though, everyone liked what the Dolman board added to the game, as it gave people larger, more exciting kingdoms with something to spend money on (when they had it).

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, the other group started by discussing what to play.  Imhotep was on the table, but Ivory spotted Dice Hospital in a bag and Green was happy to play that instead; as Lilac was familiar with it too she was happy with the switch, as was Teal, though he had not played it.   The explanation of the rules and game play took a little longer than the game itself would indicate.  The idea is that each play is the owner of a hospital and starts with an administrator which gives them a special power, three nurses, and three patients—dice drawn at random from a bag.  The colour of the dice represents their illness and the number on the its severity six indicates they are healthy but if the number falls below one, the patient dies.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of each round, players take an ambulance with new patients – if there aren’t enough beds available, another patient must make space by moving to the morgue (where each body-bag is a negative point at the end of the game).  Players can then augment their own hospital by adding specialist medics and wards and finally, their medics can visit each patient and improve their health.  Different specialisms can only “heal” certain colours or numbers. Any patients not treated are “neglected” and their health deteriorates with any that fall below one moving to the morgue. In contrast, anyone who exceeded six is discharged at the end of the round, but the more that are discharged at the same time, the more points the player scores.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game progresses, players continue to improve their hospital getting more specialists and acquiring blood bags to help treat their patients.  The game ends after eight rounds and the player with the most points is the winner.  When the group finally got underway it became clearer how to play and what actions were available.  The key to the game is knowing which specialists to get and which ambulance of patients to take – admitting healthier patients gives less choice of ward/doctor (and potentially get something which is of little use) , while curing the sickest patients is more difficult, but gives first dibs specialisms.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

The administrators dealt out at the start of the game can provide players with a direction for their strategy.  Teal and Green had ones that meant that they could leave one patient of a specific colour untreated per round without them declining. Teal was able to use his a few times, but Green found that he just could never seem to get enough red dice to make use of it.  Lilac was trying to get at least two red patients healed each turn as her administrator privilege gave her an extra point if she did; she managed it a few times (which was where the red dice kept going).  Ivory’s administrator would give him an extra point if he healed at least one patient of each colour which he managed to good effect several times.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

After a couple of rounds Green commented that he had found it was best to keep a balance of Ward’s and medics otherwise there either wasn’t enough staff to treat the number of patients, or there weren’t enough usable wards to send the your doctors to. Teal and Lilac were quite good at regularly healing patients, but at one at a time they were scoring only one point per round.  Each subsequent patient healed in a round scored an extra two points each With more than six worth three points extra.  Thus holding on to heal more per round, meant more points.  There was also a five point bonus for completely clearing the hospital, but nobody got close to that, except Ivory in the final round.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

Throughout the game, Teal and Lilac kept healing a steady trickle of patients. Green however was having all sorts of trouble:  he found himself with ward’s he couldn’t use, his hospital filing up rapidly, and started losing patients (minus two points)—his was definitely a Failing Trust!  Ivory, however, was romping away, keeping his hospital from getting over crowded and kept amassing points.  Although his start had been slow start and he didn’t score anything until the third round, he made up for it after that.  In the end Ivory proved to have run the best hospital trust, while Teal’s slow steady trickle worked out quite well as his hospital was the second best with Lilac was a close third.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory left for home, but Isle of Skye had not yet finished and, although there wasn’t time for Imhotep, there was still time for something quick.  So Teal introduced Green and Lilac to a game they’d not played before, called Diamonds.  This is a trick-taking game played with normal suited cards from one to fifteen where players are trying to win diamonds—not the suit, but the gemstones.  When players cannot follow suit they get to do a “Suit Action” based on what suit they actually play.  For example, playing a Diamond card gives one diamond gem from the supply placed into the player’s safe while playing a Heart gives one diamond from the supply to the pile in front of their safe.

Diamonds
– Image by boardGOATS

Similarly, playing a Spade allows the player to move one diamond from outside their safe into it, and on playing a Club the player steals one diamond from outside someone else’s safe and places it in front of their own. Additionally, at the end of the round of ten tricks, the player that won the most tricks in each suit gets to do that Suit Action one more time (in the case of a tie no-one does it).  With the game taking six rounds there is plenty of chances to gain diamonds.  It did not take long for the group to understand the game, although the for first few tricks the group were a little uncertain.

Diamonds
– Image by boardGOATS

Several times players found that although they had won, they couldn’t do anything as either the person they were supposed to steal from did not have any diamonds or, when they could move one diamond into their safe (from in front of it), they didn’t have any.  Plus, several times they found they had to steal from themselves so nothing happened.  The group also found that when they started to win tricks, they got control and were able to lead in suits the others didn’t have and so kept winning.  It proved to be a clever little game, but the group felt it probably plays much better with more people, so we might try it with a larger part of the group in future.  At the end of the game, however, Teal was the master diamond merchant with Green the apprentice.

Diamonds
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A career in diamond trading is not for everyone.