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  Pech-Vogel (Bad Luck Bird) - If it can go wrong it will go wrong

Zoch/Noris Publishers. 2-5 players  8+  20 minutes a game  Designer: Peter Jürgensen  Illustrator: Doris Matthäus

Components: 15 Score tokens - 3 of each, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7  plus One Murphy Bird
Dice:  7 six-sided dice, each with the sides - 3, 4,  5, 6, 7 & One Raven. Ravens and Murphy are the same except that there are no Murphy's on the dice, only Ravens, and only one Murphy amongst the score tokens, got it? 
Frustrations: 13 Grey blocks

Not sure about 'Ravens' as the choice of Birds for Bad Luck as Ravens are only supposed to be 'bad luck' when they leave the Tower of London, whereas Magpies are supposed to bring Sorrow if you see one on its own. However Crows have the real rough end of the stick as they have been thought of as bad luck, omens of death, bringers of sickness and every other form of bad news ever since Apollo's white Crow turned black. It seems that Apollo had a beautiful white bird and a beautiful wife. The bird acted as a messenger, like a carrier pigeon I guess, but when it brought Apollo the news that his wife was having an affair with Ischys, Apollo blew a fuse. He singed the bird's feathers and then burned his wife to death. Since then Crows have always been black, so think of Murphy as a Crow (not a Raven) and you are not only playing a fun family game you are also steeped in mythological history.

The game is played with each player taking turns to roll the the seven dice. When you roll the dice you don't want Ravens, when you score a token you don't want Murphy.

On the first roll you place any Ravens you get into the centre of the small coaster-style board. Then they must choose one of the numbers rolled and put all of the dice showing that number onto the coaster/mat card. For example with a roll of 2 x Ravens 2 x 7s, 2 x 5s and 1 x 3 you would place the 2 Ravens on the card and then choose either the two 7s, the two 5s or the single 3 to place next to the Ravens. You have to choose a number from those you have rolled, you have to put all of the dice showing that number onto the mat, you have to continue to roll until you have reached a safe target or busted and you cannot change you mind on that number even if your next roll brings up better results.

If you can end a roll with 4 of the chosen number on the mat you are successful and you take a score token from either the supply or from an opponent. If you currently hold all three tokens of a number then it is best not to select that number if rolled as it will not be of any use to you and you are putting yourself in danger. Once all Score number tokens are out of the supply the game ends and the players each count the total value of the ones they had minus any penalties, with the higher total winning.

Now if you roll the dice and get three Ravens on the mat then your turn ends immediately and you take a grey block from supply, this is worth -3 points to you. If you end up with three Ravens and four of your chosen number then you still get a grey block but you also get the score token for the number you rolled (eg four 5s will gain you one score token value 5). Now the clever designer has added a neat (and naughty) twist or two or three or more.

First twist. If you end up with more than three Ravens you are deemed to have been greedy so you collect all Frustrations (grey blocks) from the mat, or one from supply if none are on the mat, plus you take Murphy (from wherever he is).
Second twist. If you end up with more than four of the chosen number you are also deemed to have been greedy. You collect the score token as usual, plus you take Murphy (from wherever he is).
Third twist. If you take a score token from an opponent rather than from the supply you have to put one of your other score tokens back into supply.
Fourth twist. You can reroll your last roll (all of the dice rolled on the last roll) and hand a Frustration back to supply, but only once a turn.
Fifth twist. If an opponent doesn't like your last roll they can make you reroll it by putting one of their Frustrations on the mat. One player can start this and others can join in by adding Frustrations to the mat, but only once per turn and not after you have rerolled by spending a Frustration of your own.
Sixth twist. If an opponent or opponent Frustrates you and you roll three or more Ravens you gain all the Frustrations from the mat. However if you are successful in your rolling and get 4 of a number and less than 3 Ravens then they not only take back their Frustrations from the mat, they also get another one from the supply.
Final twist. Having Murphy at the end of the game means any Frustrations you are holding are valued at minus 7 instead of minus 3 (ouch!!)

And so the rolling and frustrating continues until the game ends and a winner is found.

 

The designer sure got it right when he called the Grey Blocks 'Frustrations' they couldn't have been better named. The instructions, in a multi-language booklet, are excellent and the components are nothing special, just lumps of some sort of rubber (the Grey Blocks), some dice, a Coaster and some die-cut counters, all in Black & White, not special but exactly what is needed for a good fun frustrating die-rolling game.

The components colour and practicality is reflected in the price, roughly £16.00/$20.00, which if you counter your cost outlay by value for money as playability then this is a most excellent game at a truly good price. Very amusing and plays in less than half-hour with a full compliment of players. It is also a very fine 2-player game which many 2-5 player games aren't. Fun for train journeys, filler games, end of night silliness etc. All you need is a smallish safe place where dice can be rolled; the blocks and score tokens can be kept in the box and removed as required if you are short on space. You'll probably need a man/hand bag rather than a pocket to carry it around though.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015