2 Chits, 3 Giggles
I don’t know about you guys, but I’ll usually find out about a new game in advance of its release. That's not just me being big headed, it's just that working in a board games cafe with people passionate about the subject, talk is often (if not always) of games new and old, so if something does come out, there’s a strong chance I’ll have at least heard its name mentioned before. Which makes the fact that new game ‘H.I.D.E’ (a hidden information and logic deduction game involving spies) was completely unknown to me before I stumbled upon it at the recent Essen Spiel event all the more appropriate. A cunning piece of irony, perhaps.
H.I.D.E, or Hidden Identity Dice Espionage, is a game all about spies and secrets. And dice, lots of them. The bulk of the games contents is a large bag containing many dice, all of them identical except their colour. A game begins with each player randomly drawing a die from the bag without showing it to the others, and placing it behind a hidden screen with any side they want facing up. This is your identity die. Four of its sides are symbols related to different locations in the centre of the table (there's the nuclear reactor, the submarine, the army base and the rocket silo). The other two sides show a gun. These weapons are irrelevant for now, so each player will pick a location, letting the current value of intel at each place determine their choice. Going for one with a higher value might net you bigger rewards, but other players might feel the same way, and with only one possible victor per spot, selecting your destination cleverly is the key.
As you've probably guessed, the aim of the game is to get the most valuable collection of intel, though if you successfully gain seven ranks before the game is over you score an instant victory. I’ll cover gaining ranks shortly, but for now let me run you through an example round. Each round has four turns, and each turn somebody rolls the same number of dice as players plus one extra. Then in turn you choose one of these dice, and either place it in front of your screen, thus informing the other players that this new die shares no common factors with your identity die (neither its colour nor its symbol match your own), or place it on top instead, meaning it has at least one common factor with your identity die (so its colour, its symbol or both of those things match). Handily I've included a picture below to help demonstrate.
If you understood all that, firstly well done. Secondly, you might be wondering why giving information about your own die makes any difference to the game. Well, there is a big difference. If you decide to be coy about giving information, you’ll get no power in the game. You can can still survive and if you’re lucky you can win too, but doing so puts you at the mercy of other braver players. That’s because if you place a die on top of your shield, revealing valuable information about your own choice, you’ll get the chance to assassinate someone by guessing their identity die. If you’re correct, you’ll knock them out of the round and claim reward in the form of ranking up and decimating theirs to zero. As well as this, each die on top of your screen at the end of the round counts as an additional life, which is very helpful if two or more of you have gone for the same reward, because that's when a shootout occurs.
These are very simple, and take form in a very quick dice roll-off (though not off the table hopefully). Any players at the same location take one of their dice (that is their identity die and any extra lives) and roll it. If any players roll a gun, any players who didn’t lose a life. No more dice? Then it’s game over for you my friend. If everybody rolls a gun or nobody does, you all roll again. Last player standing gets the shiny blueprint or the recipe to coca cola or whatever it was hidden inside that power plant. It’s a familiar game mechanic but it works, and I like the idea that a chancer can still win even if they played safe. Any dice rolling mechanic always has that immediately satisfying or frustrating moment where you win or lose, and I’m not a big believer in ‘luck’ or having the dice hate you (I’m looking at you, Wil Wheaton!) but it’s still thrilling when you get that perfect roll at the exact right time.
I’ve already spoken on the recent podcast (which you can find here) about how much I loved this game, but it is really fun. It may not introduce anything vastly new to the formula but what it does is package up some familiar game mechanics in a refreshing way and make it engaging. The game also has solid components and aesthetically appealing artwork. It certainly feels like good value for money and depending on it’s European or American price it is surely worth considering.
One criticism of this game I feel is worth mentioning, even though I haven’t yet reached this scenario myself, is that it could have limited replayability. Logic deduction games have a weakness in that sometimes it is possible to solve the game, or come up against a very limited number of strategies, both of which make playing the game multiple times a bore. Now, the good news is that I have played this numerous times and I still very much enjoy it, though it would be silly to ignore the possibility of the above. I haven’t mentioned the gadget cards or the special intel cards that come with the game, which alter the game like changing the face of the central dice or altering the value of the intel, but that’s mainly because in my experience they haven’t come up very much. At the very least they do try to tackle this issue, so for the short term yes, this game is replayable but long term, I'd have to say ‘We’ll see.’ If any of you out there feel differently, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
The most crazy thing about this game though is that, like the dice the players select, there are still games out there that people don't know anything about. Add to this a recent feature about board games on a topical morning show here in the UK, where their top ten list contained all the typical games you might expect like Monopoly and Hungry Hungry Hippos, and it just cements the fact that we still have a long way to go to reach the popularity games deserve. Our job, especially when we tell you about new games we’ve discovered, is just as important now as it's ever been and hopefully we can boost the profile of fun, well made board games like H.I.D.E in the process. Something, something, spy related pun.
Review by Russell Chapman