Here at Ready To Role, whenever we have a social gathering with drinking involved, inevitably we all end up wanting to play one game as the party winds down. Sitting around a table, beverage in hand, engaged in conversation with friends- subtly we’re also bluffing our ways through trying to hold onto our gems. Of course, I’m talking about Dead Man’s Chest From Eagle-Gryphon Games!
Dead Man’s Chest is a fairly simple, luck based game with bluffing. Every player starts with 5 gems (or less with more players) that are removed from play throughout the game. Starting with one player, each person shakes the dice in the wooden box, see what they rolled, state the number (or lie), and pass it on. When the die is passed on, the next player has the chance to challenge and potentially call the previous player’s bluff, or roll and hope to get higher. Each time that you are caught bluffing or call someone out for bluffing when they aren’t, you lose a gem. The last person with gems is the winner!
Set up is simple; the entire game is contained within a fairly small wooden box. All you have to do is distribute the gems amongst those playing (oddly, the game doesn’t give you enough gems, so we keep pennies around as well), give each person one of the rule cards as reference, and choose someone to go first! As a note, the rules cards are doubled-sided; on one side are the dice values in ascending value so you can see where a given role is in the hierarchy, and the side spells out the rules over all 8 cards.
Once everyone has their gems, choose someone to go first. There’s no specific way to do this; we usually just pick someone at random, or whoever grabs the dice first.
The way the dice work, is you state them as a two digit number, with the higher number always going first- meaning a roll of 5 and 2 will always be stated as 52, not 25. The lowest number you can roll is 31, going up to 65, followed by doubles (11, 22… 66) and finally, 21, which rather than being the lowest is instead called a Dead Man.
Once you’re ready to play, with the two dice in the box, the first player shakes it, and looks inside at what they rolled. From here they state a number, and pass it on to the next player. The number they state can be the number they rolled, higher, or lower.
Once the next player gets it, they can either:
Whenever you are given the chest from another player, the number you state must be higher than theirs. So if you roll a 42, the next player must roll at least a 43 or higher.
This continues around until someone challenges, resulting in them or the player before them losing a gem. When a call is challenged, the dice must be lower than the stated number in order for the player being challenged to lose a gem. This means you can state a lower number than your dice and be safe; you can roll a 65 but say 61, and if you’re challenged you’re still ok. Why a player would do this isn’t always clear, but we use it to bypass the person directly next to us if we want someone else at the table to lose gems. Also, after any given challenge, the player who lost a gem on the last round starts off the next round and rolls first.
If someone rolls, or claims a Dead Man, the rules change slightly. The player receiving the supposed Dead Man now only has two options: Challenge, or pass it on to the next player. If they challenge, it works as normal- anything lower than a Dead Man and the player who rolled loses a gem, and if it is Dead Man, the challenger loses a gem. However, if they decide to pass, the next player must challenge. This means that by passing it, you truly believe that they rolled a Dead Man since you’re now placing your own faith in it. Being the player who is passed a Dead Man second can be aggravating, especially because you can only challenge, but more often than not people are afraid to pass a Dead Man on.
Once only one player has any gems left, they win! It’s time to refill your glass and start a new round.
For a small game, the quality is fairly obvious. The wooden chest is great, and while lightweight it seems sturdy enough. It has held up to being dropped, tossed, and smacked quite well, and the writing on it hasn’t faded at all. The cards, small as they may be, are also nice with a decent texture that’s easy to hold and to read. The gems are plastic and there aren’t enough (the game comes with 24, you need up to 32 to play the game with 8 players and the required gems), but otherwise they’re a nice asymmetrical design that I find refreshing in a board game. Finally, the two skull and crossbones dice are standard dice quality and keep the pirate aesthetic going strong.
If you’re looking for a simple game to bust out at parties while the action winds down and people want to talk and drink while playing, you can’t go wrong with Dead Man’s Chest. If you use whatever coins or tokens you have around the house, you could play with an unlimited number of players provided they know the roll hierarchy or can share the mini rules cards. The first game with someone who hasn’t played will take a few rounds for it to become second nature, but by the time you start the second game they’ll be bluffing like a pro.
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