Noch Mal! (German for Again!) is a dice-rolling game where each player is scoring points by filling in boxes on their scoresheet.
Everyone starts with an identical empty sheet, and during the game – even when it’s not your turn – you’ll be crossing off boxes. Fill a whole column with crosses – points! Fill every box of a matching colour – points! Some boxes have stars in them, which count against you at game end if they are left uncrossed…
There are two catches here. One is that you must begin crossing off boxes in the central column, and any subsequent box crossed off must be adjacent to one already crossed off. Filling columns closer to the edges of your sheet are more rewarding in terms of points, so there’s a balance to be struck between trying to ‘get’ your boxes there, or go for the lesser but more reachable columns. The other is that your choices are limited: on your turn, you roll six dice (three numbered, three coloured) and choose one combination of colour and number to fill in on your pad. You can choose “wilds” – which appear on all dice – to widen your choices, but you can only do this a few times in each game. Having chosen your dice, all the other players can now use a combination of the remaining four dice to fill in boxes themselves. That means when it’s not your turn, other players can see what you’re after and play defensively, taking the dice they know you need and leaving you with chaff that you don’t!
The game ends as soon as a single player has filled all boxes of two colours, and points are counted up for columns, colours, any remaining wilds, minus penalty points for any starred boxes unfilled on your sheet.
Noch Mal! is one of several games with a genre of their own: roll-and-write. Roll dice, fill a score pad, and each game has its own wrinkles or riders to bear in mind. Although they’re not as immersive as many board games, or a strategic challenge in the way some abstract games are, I quite enjoy them. They tend to be short and blend tactical opportunity with luck-pushing. Although to the non-German ear Noch Mal! is not a title that’s as alluring as some others, this is a decent little game.
More than first appears. Nobody can interfere with your sheet, but they can make sure you don't get to fill that column first...
Almost nil. When it's not your turn, you're still involved.
Rules are light; the only brain-burning here is how much do you push your luck? Go for points-heavy columns or short-term gains? Try and expand for maximum rewards, or just go for two colours whenever you can in order to end the game quickly?
Noch Mal! isn't a game drowning in strategic options, but the dice ensure some variety and it's nice and light.