Designer: Reiner Knizia
and Rio Grande Games
2 – 7 Players, 30 minutes
Review By: Greg J. Schloesser
NOTE: This review was first published in Knucklebones magazine
When I first played this Reiner Knizia push-your-luck dice rolling game, I must say
I wasn’t terribly impressed. Several folks tried to convince me that this was due to
the fact that we played with a game maximum of 7 players, which caused the session
to drag on and on. I was willing to play again to test their theory.
Sure enough, playing with four players, the game is much better. It still isn’t
fantastic, but acceptable as a light, fun filler. I do find the game a bit
frustrating, as it is very easy to gather several dominos, only to see them quickly
stolen by your opponents. But, for a game that is by its nature a luck-driven
affair, I guess this is something one must accept.
The game consists of 16 dominos depicting numbers from 21 – 36, as well as 1 – 4
worms each. Worms? Sure! You see, players are ravenous chickens, and their favorite
meal, of course, is barbequed worms! The components are completed with six dice,
each of which has the “6” pip replaced by the graphic of a worm, which bears the
value of “5” in the game.
The dominos are set in numerical order in a row known as the “grill”. Each turn, a
player will roll the six dice, decide which of those dice he will “save”, and which
he will re-roll. A player may save all of the dice depicting a particular number,
but only if he has not already saved dice depicting that number on a previous roll
this turn. He may then re-roll the remaining dice, and repeat this procedure. A
player can continue rolling dice as long as he rolls a number he hasn’t previously
saved, or until he selects a domino.
At any point following a roll wherein a player is able to save a die, the player may
elect to not re-roll and take a domino. A player may take a domino from the row on
the table if the total of his saved dice is greater than or equal to the domino he
takes. However, in order to do this, the player must have saved at least one die
depicting a “worm”. If not, then he must either continue to roll, or end his turn if
he can no longer roll dice.
When a player takes a domino, it is stacked face-up in front of him. Dominos taken
on subsequent turns are stacked on top of previously taken dominos so that only the
most recently acquired tile is exposed. This is the only domino that is at risk of
being stolen by one’s opponents. If the total of a player’s saved dice exactly
matches the exposed domino of an opponent, the player may steal that domino, placing
it atop his stack.
When a player is unsuccessful on a turn – meaning he could not acquire a domino –
the injury is more severe than simply not securing a tile. The player must also
return to the “grill” the top domino from his stack of acquired tiles. The moral
here is that you’d better be successful on your turn, or else it is going to hurt.
Failing on a turn, however, does serve to shorten the duration of the game. Each
time a player is forced to return a tile to the grill, the highest-valued tile in
the grill is inverted and is no longer available for the players to acquire. The
game ends as soon as there are no longer any worms to acquire on the grill.
When the game ends, players tally the number of worms on the tiles they have
acquired. The bird … er, player … with the greatest number of worms gets clucking
Although very high on the luck scale, the game is amusing. There are a few decisions
to be made, predominately centering on which dice to save on each roll, and whether
you should continue to roll or be satisfied with the total you’ve already
accumulated. While causing some occasional angst, these decisions aren’t terribly
taxing, and the consequences generally are not dire. The main decision: push your
luck or not.
So, the final assessment is that Pickomino is a game that is an amusing filler and
one that should be a pleasant diversion. It should also prove popular with folks
outside a regular gaming group, as the rules are easy to learn, the game plays
relatively quickly (so long as you don’t play with 7 players!), and the result is
rather satisfying. Pickomino isn’t going to be a classic that will be around 30
years from now, but it will be enjoyed no matter how long its life span may be.