Posted by: gschloesser | August 5, 2011

Lucky Loop

Design by:  Karsten Hartwin & Wolfgang Panning
Published by:  Queen Games
3 – 6 Players, 30 minutes
Reviewed by:  Greg J. Schloesser 

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This review first appeared in Counter Magazine #23 

On my first day at the Spiele Faire, I was drooling … er, intrigued … by dozens of new games, including the two new Queen GamesIndustria and Lucky Loop.  I had heard some advance positive buzz about Industria, the latest design from Michael Schacht, so I purchased it without first having had the opportunity to play it.   Lucky Loop, however – that one I knew nothing about.  A glance at the rear of the box gave me the impression that it was likely a dice-rolling affair with the theme of air shows.  Honestly, it didn’t intrigue me very much. 

Later, however, I heard a few positive comments from folks who played it, so my interest was piqued.  The price was right (around 17 euros), so I purchased a copy.  I had the opportunity to play it later during the week and found it to be light, dice-rolling fun.  Even though it was heavy on the luck side, it was not devoid of decisions, which were on the order of those found in Can’t Stop

The idea is that each player is a stunt pilot participating in air shows.  The pilots must successfully complete four shows, each consisting of three different stunts.  Each stunt has a difficulty value ranging from 3 – 12, and the idea is to roll up to three dice and attempt to match or exceed the number using as few dice as possible.  Matching the number yields greater points, so is the target.  Victory goes to the player with the most cumulative points.

The central board depicts the four shows in which players compete as well as the types of stunts that are required for each show.  The possible stunts are turns, loops, dives and rolls and are represented by cards in four suits.  The deck is separated into two sections, one containing red & blue cards (loops & turns) and the other containing yellow & green cards (rolls & dives).  Each player receives six cards to begin the game, along with four scoring tokens and a special highlight token. 

On each turn, a player may establish or replace a flight plan by laying three entirely new cards beside the board and discard any previously laid cards.  The cards played to the board to form or upgrade a program must match the requirements of that show as depicted on the board.  For example, the Red Rooster show requires a turn, dive and loop, while the Rubber Duck show requires a roll, dive and turn.  The rules are NOT clear as to whether the newly laid cards must be of a higher value than the three previously laid cards.  Alternatively, a player may elect to replace ONE card from a previous flight plan with one from his hand.  However, the new card must be of the same color AND possess a higher value as the card being replaced.  

Alternatively, he can draw three more cards into his hand, discarding down to six.  This allows the player to vary the types and values of the cards in his hand.  The rules seem to indicate that a player MUST take one of these actions.  That is, he cannot elect to NOT trade cards and NOT play any cards to a flight plan.  

After trading cards or filing a flight plan, the player attempts to complete a flight.  Again, the rules are NOT clear as to whether the player must attempt to complete the show where he just laid cards, or is free to choose any show.  The player has a total of six dice with which to successfully perform each stunt required by the show.  Three dice are rolled, and the player assigns one or more of these dice to a stunt.  He must equal or exceed the number required by each stunt.  As mentioned, matching a number exactly yields more points, with exceeding it yielding a few less.  The actual dice used are placed onto the card.  The player then rolls again, bringing his total dice up to three, if possible.  This process is repeated three times unless a player fails to match or exceed a required stunt.  In this case, the player’s turn is over and no points are scored.  If, however, he did manage to complete two the three required stunts, he receives a bonus chip, which can be used on subsequent turns to either re-roll a set of dice or add an additional die to the number being rolled. 

If a player successfully completes all three stunts, he scores the points indicated on the three cards, as well as one point for each die he did not use in completing the stunts.  The player marks his total on the score chart located by that show, as well as on the master scoring track located on the center of the board.  If the player is the first to meet or exceed 12 points on a particular show, he receives a bonus token. A token is also earned if the player achieves the highest score in a show. 

On subsequent turns, a player can either attempt to complete a different show, or improve upon his score in a show that he has already completed.  This is why a player might want to upgrade the stunts required in a show – to score even more points.  Yes, it is more difficult to successfully complete the show with tougher stunts, but the additional points earned may ultimately prove to be the difference in victory or defeat. 

When a player successfully completes all four shows, he must then arrange for a private show.  A private show consists of 3 – 6 cards with a total difficulty value of at least 25 points.  That player must then exclusively perform in that show and is no longer allowed to attempt to increase his score in the other four shows.  The player marks one of the stunts in this show with his “highlight” chip.  If he successfully completes the show and matches that stunt’s difficulty number exactly, he earns double points for that stunt.  When a player completes this show, the value of this show is added to his total score.  However, he then must subtract the value of his lowest-value show he had previously completed.  These private shows are usually more difficult to complete, but can yield significant numbers of points.  It is important to make sure you have a good combination of cards in your hand in preparation for this final show. 

When one player completes all four shows and begins his private show, the pressure raises precipitously for the remaining players.  Why?  Well, once a player completes his special show, the game will go one more round and then end, with the player with the most cumulative points being victorious.  Thus, the players who have yet to complete their four shows will be forced to rush to complete their fourth show before a player completes his special show.  Once that final round begins, it is very important for players to be in a position to complete their special show or at least finish their fourth show. 

Another important tip is to enter your special show with several bonus tokens.  This will allow the player to re-roll or add an additional die to his rolls and make completing that final show considerably easier.  

Although there is no escaping that this is a dice-rolling game and therefore highly dependent upon luck, there are some decisions to be made.  When playing cards to form shows, do you start with easier stunts so points can be earned quickly, or go for a tougher show early, in case you don’t have time to improve your scores?  Do you spend time improving your score on previous shows, or try to quickly complete all four shows and move on to your special show?  How do you allocate your dice?  I’ve found that it is usually wise to use just a single die to complete a stunt, but it could also be smart to use higher numbers to complete a particularly difficult stunt, even if you don’t match it exactly.  No, these decisions aren’t the types that cause severe anguish, but they still elevate the game beyond an exercise in repeated dice rolling. 

Lucky Loop should fill the same niche as such games as Can’t Stop, Liar’s Dice (Bluff) or Fill or Bust.  Only time will tell if it will have the staying power of these games, but for now, it is an enjoyable respite.

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Responses

  1. Lucky Loop is a glossy dice-roller with almost no strategic capability at all, even for dice. The scoring system, which allows for follow-up attempts on the same series of 3 stunts, is the sole spark of creativity in what appears to be a game engine produced by committee. The beautiful art desperately attempts to conceal the game: pick a number, try to hit it with a dice roll. Repeat forever. (3/10)


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