Let the dice guide you towards filling in your board in this point chasing roll-and-write
Android & iOS
# of Players
Noch Mal! is a roll-and-write game brought to digital by Outline Development. Players use die rolls to fill out their multicolored playing boards, earning bonuses and avoiding penalties, in an effort to reach as high of a score as possible. A solo game lasts 30 rounds and takes about five minutes to play.
Noch Mal, the physical game, is played with one to six players. The digital version supports solo play and a local two player game. The rules are almost entirely the same between all player counts, but just to be clear I will be describing the game in solo mode. The differences in the two player game will be mentioned later.
Noch Mal is played around a 15x7 board, each box being one of five colors. Points are earned primarily by completing an entire column of boxes or by completing all boxes of the same color. To start each turn, four dice are rolled. Two are labeled with one of each of the five colors, the sixth side being a black wild (or, ‘joker’) spot. The other two dice are labeled one through five, with the sixth side being a question mark, denoting a wild as well. The player chooses which color and number to use and fills in boxes on their board. There are a few restrictions on what can be filled in, however. The first box filled in on any given turn must be adjacent (not diagonally) to an already completed box. All subsequent boxes filled in on one turn must be adjacent to a box that was filled in this turn. The number of boxes filled in must exactly match the die, no more or less may be filled in on a given turn. For the first turn of the game, players must start on the middle column on their board. Play continues for 30 rounds, at which point your point total (which isn’t a surprise, as it is being kept on screen at all times) is finalized and that is your score for the game.
A couple of wrinkles come into play as well. At the start of the game, fifteen boxes have stars on them. Each uncovered star results in a loss of two points. Also, there is a limit of eight on the number of combined wilds (color and number) you may use in a game. Any unused wilds are worth one point. These two things combine to have you starting out each game as -22 points; -30 for the stars and +8 for the unused wilds. That’s really about all there is to Noch Mal.
This is an extremely relaxing roll-and-write in my book. The game flows really quickly and peacefully. There is always some aspect of “I didn’t quite get to finish what I wanted to do”, but that’s not a driving force in this game for me. It’s more of a calm, “let’s see what I can do this time” feel. I can’t help by contrasting this to Clever <LINK TO REVIEW> which has a more tense feel to me.
The game has a few cracks, as there are times when you will be left with no valid plays. These are expected late in the game as the board fills and the available spaces dwindle, but they are a bit frustrating early in the game when you roll matching fives and two of the same color, but you haven’t reached a space big enough to use them on. Some tweak to allow an occasional reroll might go a long way to ending the frustration. Of course, this is less of an issue in non-solo games as there are more dice available, but having played almost exclusively solo, it became a little bothersome.
Noch Mal was a game I found myself enjoying more and more with each play. The subtle strategy options of heading to the edges of the board and targeting specific colors to chase those bonuses gained importance to me as I got more plays under my belt. My initial first instinct of “take the highest number and fill in as many as possible on every turn” was slowly refined into more strategic approaches, and it was a rewarding process to see my scores improve over time.
Barrier to Entry
Noch Mal! is a really simple game once you understand the rules, but there are definitely a lot of small details which can be missed on first pass. The app teaches the game with a set of text rules, no tutorial. The text rules are pulled from the physical game with emphasis on playing with multiple players, the solo rules are only briefly mentioned at the end. Most of the rules are the same, so this isn’t a big deal. I read the rules ones, started playing and was thoroughly confused but managed to understand most of it by the end of that first game. There are a handful of small rules about valid markout spots that it seems inevitable that you will miss one the first time through. For me, it was that you couldn’t use and more or less spaces than the die number you used (it was the “or less” part that got me). For you, it will probably be something else.
The app doesn’t go to great lengths to teach the game, but that’s not a huge deal here, a game or three in and you’ll have everything down and won’t look back.
New game board
Reading the rules
Look and Feel
The game looks great. The bright colors shine throughout and everything looks clean. The actual game features almost no text, everything is colors, numbers, and symbols, and they all look great. Controls are simple as well, you select the dice you want to use and start marking boxes, easy enough. The game will auto-select your number die based on how boxes you check, a small feature but notable as it will save you some time over the course of dozens of games. The only real complaint here is that there aren't any hints about why you can’t perform a certain action. This would have been incredibly valuable on those first few games where I was still learning all of the rules. Everything here looks and controls great, but there was probably some room to do a little bit more to help new players.
The app doesn’t feature online multiplayer. Local, two-player only pass-and-play is available although the physical game supports up to 6. It’s worth noting that the Board Game Geek community has recommended the game at 2 players only, so that might have played a role in limiting the app to two players. In this pass-and-play mode, the screen is actually split with both boards showing at once. Things are a little crowded, but are playable on a large phone. It should work out quite well on a tablet sitting between two players, no need to actually pass the device around. For two player games three dice of each type are used instead of two, with the second player getting to choose from whichever dice the first player doesn’t use, and the game continues until one player has received two color bonuses rather than using a 30 turn limit.
The rules explained earlier are the solo rules, specifically the use of two dice of each kind instead of three and the 30 turn limit. The game keeps a local scoreboard with what appear to be some pre-populated high scores to shoot for. That Laura sure is a Noch Mal! savant…
The game offers four different boards to play with, each providing a different layout and challenge. Some have more solo spaces while others have larger contiguous areas. The boards won’t drastically change the game, but do provide some different strategic elements.
End of game board
End of game board
Not much to discuss here.
The Wrap Up
Noch Mal is a really fun, relaxing roll-and-write that lets you chase points five minutes at a time, then do it all over again. The game mechanics are familiar as the color block matching is one of the oldest game tricks, but uses them in new, unique ways. Rather than trying to play to match the colors, they are all static in Noch Mal and you have to use them wisely with the die rolls you get.
The very small number of downsides in the app start with no online multiplayer. I find the game highly enjoyable solo, chasing that elusive high score, but others might prefer the game with more players and the app doesn’t allow that outside of the well done local two player mode. You have to be willing to accept being at the mercy of the dice, more than one or two wasted turns will seriously tank your chances of a high score and that is bound to happen occasionally.
Noch Mal is a good game that has been given a near perfect digital port by Outline Development. If you want a solo, point-chasing app, or a well implemented local two player game, Noch Mal is a great choice.