Skip to Content

[Review] Combo King

No replies
Joined: 03/23/2011

Occasionally, there is a game that I like, and I just can’t put my finger on the exact reason. They may be full of things that I don’t like, such as excessive luck or no theme, but sometimes a game just manages to tickle my fancy in such a way that I’m glad to play it – at least every once in a while. Combo King (Gamewright, 2006 – Tony Richardson) is one such game, a sort of Yahtzee clone that has a smidgen of strategy, a huge amount of luck but also that most important ingredient, “fun”.

One thing that Combo King has going for it is a swift playing time, which keeps the game on my shelf as a “party card filler.” It has variety, causes laughter (mostly at others’ bad rolls), and will feel like a familiar tune to those who are fans of Yahtzee or other dice rolling games. Combo King is easy for families – all will quickly grasp the rules, and the cards are laid out in a nice, orderly fashion. This isn’t your complicated, strategy filled game, yet I found it slightly compelling nonetheless.

Each player (up to four) is dealt a certain amount of cards from a face down deck, depending on the number of players. A pile of poker style chips are placed in the middle of the table, and one is given to each player. Eight six-sided dice are also placed within reach of all players, and one player is chosen to go first.

On a player’s turn, they simply play one of the cards from their hand and attempt to roll the combo on the card listed. Each card has a different set of statistics, which tell the player these things:
- How many dice they must roll (up to eight).
- If any other players are involved.
- How many rerolls, if any, a player may take.
- If the player can put dice aside after each roll.
- The amount of chips won if the card is completed.
The player then attempts the roll, and if successful, discards the cards and collects the chips won.

Examples of possible cards are…
- All players roll one die as fast as they can. The first player to roll a "6" gets a chip.
- The player rolls five dice, with three re-rolls, trying to get two "2"s, and two "5"s.
- The player rolls eight dice, with three re-rolls, trying to get four different pairs.
- The player rolls five dice one time and must roll no sixes.
- The player rolls four dice and sums the total, then rolls them again, rolling a higher sum, and finally rolls them a third time, with an even higher sum.
- The player rolls five dice three times (keeping none), and must roll three of a kind.
- The player rolls two dice, attempting to get a seven (three chances).
- The player rolls six dice, with three re-rolls, attempting to get a "straight".

A player who does not successfully roll their goal cannot discard their card but must take it back into their hand. The harder a player's goal, the more chips it is worth. Chips can then be used to do a variety of things.
- One chip can be spent to re-roll the dice once.
- Three chips can be spent to take another turn.
- Five chips can be spent to force an opponent to draw another card.
- Five chips can be spent to swap a card with an opponent.
- Seven chips can be spent to swap a card for any discarded card.
- Nine chips can be spent to eliminate a card from your hand, without having to roll for it.

Players can also skip their entire turn to get rid of one card from their hand, exchanging it with the top card from the draw pile. They may only do this if they have attempted that particular card two times unsuccessfully. Gameplay passes around the table until one player is out of cards - at which point they win the game.

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: The game comes with some large, casino-style, red six-sided dice that roll extremely well (although some players are convinced that they are loaded). The cards are very well designed, using a hand with fingers showing (to indicate amount of re-rolls) a green or red circle (keep dice or not) and a pictorial depiction of exactly what the player is attempting to roll. Everything is of the highest quality, especially the large chunky yellow and blue poker chips; and all fits nicely inside a felt (!) insert in a rather decent sized box.

2.) Rules: The rules are very self-explanatory, almost making the two-sided page included with the game superfluous. The game is VERY easy to teach and learn - I've had almost no problems teaching the game to anyone. The text on the cards is quite simple and very easy to understand - as long as one can read. (Youngest age is probably eight years old).

3.) Combos: I like the variety of cards that one can draw, and how the number of chips matches how difficult the card is to accomplish. Some of the combos are similar to the popular rolls in Yahtzee (such as the "straight", or "full house"), while others expand on these concepts - such as "Chip Bonanza" - in which a player rolls eight dice (with three re-rolls allowed), and they must get five of a kind. However, every extra die they roll (such as six of a kind), gives the player a bonus two chips. Every game a player has new cards, so each game feels different - a good thing.

4.) Luck and Fun Factor: Okay, a game about rolling dice is going to have lots of luck - surprise, surprise. You might argue that there is some strategy in the game; and indeed it's important to know when to use your chips, but it's mostly luck. Fun, simple luck, however - and I don't mind it, because it's quick. And if a card is kicking your butt (I've seen someone fail a card six times in a row), you can always discard it and get a new one. The game is fun to play, but the winner is decided by the dice.

5.) Time and Players: The game is very quick, with most games lasting only twenty minutes or so. The rules allow for up to four players, and the game even supports more (I've done it successfully with five); but it's best with two players as a quick game of diversion. I've played dice rolling games by myself before, such as Yahtzee - and Combo King is no exception - a game which is simply a fun way to spend fifteen or twenty minutes.

If you hate Yahtzee, Combo King isn't going to set your world on fire - nay, you'll probably dislike it just as much. There may even be less strategy, although it's probably about the same. But Combo King has one thing most other dice games don't have - and that's diversity. With sixty different cards, each game offers a different set of goals and objectives and manages to stay interesting in the meanwhile. Again, looking over the rules of the game, I realize that it really shouldn't be my kind of game - not one that I would go steady with, anyway. But I enjoy my flings with it enough to keep it on the shelves.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"

Syndicate content

forum | by Dr. Radut