A new game in town: Siberian Dice aka 37.6

Lame Heron has released a wonderful board game — embarrassingly simple albeit tremendously rich in strategies. This is an ancient game played by some indigenous tribes of Siberia isolated from the rest of the world for millennia. This marvelous game remained undiscovered until recently. Being invented and developed in nearly complete cultural isolation this game employs mechanisms very alien to a player of «western» origin. Although the mathematical and physical substance of the game is not from the parallel universe — it is still cubical dice and a hexagonal board well known to everybody — the dice are used in a very unorthodox manner, they are randomizers and the moving pieces at the same time. The goal of the game is also surprising, it does not fall in any usual category, it is not a «capture» goal, nor a «advance to» goal, neither is it a «connect» goal, not even a «dominate», yet it is a very simple condition clearly followed from the rules and easily readable on the board.

This game is played by two players with 24 «regular» dice on an equilateral hexagonal grid consisting of 37 hexes. Each player owns 12 dice of a distinct colour. The game begins on an empty board. Players take alternating turns. A player rolls one die from his hand and places it on any vacant spot on the board, keeping the upper face of the die up. Instead of taking dice from the hand a player is allowed to take any die he owns off the board then roll it and place back on the board as usual. These are the game's proceedings, nothing else happens, a child can learn how to play in mere minutes. Albeit the value of these simple moves is far from being childish…

As the board is getting filled some dice achieve a special state, we call it «perfection», when the number of pips on the die's face equals the number of dice neighboring the die. The goal of the game is to make six or more of your dice «perfect» before your opponent does the same to their dice. The perfection status is not permanent, in fact it is very fragile, since the «perfection» disregards dice ownership, your dice experience an alteration of the state upon your opponent's moves. This trivial fact creates an intense conflict on the board.

Simple as it is, the given ruleset generates a tremendously complex strategy, that captivates many bright and ordinary minds. The game is played by many people for centuries (we actually do not know for how long), Siberian folks compose stories about the game, and the famous players are regarded as Olympic champions in ancient Greece (measured by local standards, of course). A sheer accident of being invented somewhere in a small remote hunting encampment in Siberian woods has kept this game unknown for the board gaming society of the world. Fortunately, this game is now available worldwide, as a mobile application, and a web-application, and a multiplayer server, and a print-and-play leaflet (you still need some dice, though).

The original name of the game remains unknown and is certainly lost, or, perhaps, never existed. Some folklore stories refer to it as «the game». Modern day Siberian dwellers call it «37.6» which is rather odd name for «civilized» people, so we decided to give it a comprehensive name «Siberian Dice» which respects the origin of the game and distinguish it from the rest.

In the next post I will tell you the story of the game, for now, please give it a try:

Play it in the browser  Get it on Google Play

get the print&play leaflet


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