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Baron Voodoo

Strategically move dice around the board, capture the ones you need to create combos, and steal dice from your opponents in this abstract strategy game of competing to be the Loa of the Dead for a year.

Originally published in France last year, and now in English for the first time from Lucky Duck Games, Baron Voodoo is both beautiful and clever.

Gameplay

Each player selects a character, or as they’re called in the game, a loa, to play. Each loa has its own color and its own special movement ability. All the dice are then rolled and placed on the game board. The dice come in five different colors: the four loa colors and white, which is wild.

At the start of your turn you may use your loa’s movement ability or spend one offering token to use any other loa’s ability. These movement abilities include things such as swapping two dice on the board or moving all dice in a line down towards the edge of the game board. If you do not use an ability at the start of your turn, you may instead choose to use it at the end of your turn or skip it.

You must then capture a die. You capture a die by jumping one die of your loa’s color over another die. In order to be able to make a jump, the die must land on either an empty space or on another die of your color. You then take the die that was jumped over and place it in the captured zone of your player board. If you jumped over a stack of dice, you only take the top die in the stack.

Next, you earn an offering token if the die you captured was your color, you may spend an offering token to change the face of the die you capture, you may apply the captured die’s face result, you may spend two offering tokens in order to take another turn (you may only do this once on your turn), and you may earn victory points by moving captured dice into the spirit world area of your character board.

Dice have six possible results. They can earn you an offering token, they can earn you a victory point, they can allow you to change the face of one die in your captured zone, protect you from having your dice stolen until your next turn, allow you to steal a die from an opponent’s spirit world, or allow you to swap any two dice between any two players’ captured zones.

When moving dice into your spirit world, you group them together and they must either all be different colors showing the same dice result or all the same color showing different results. You earn more victory points for more dice in the group.

Whenever a player manages to get more white dice in their spirit world than any opponent, they take the baron token. This allows them to use any loa’s movement ability on their turn without paying an offering token.

The game ends once a player reaches a certain number of points and everyone has taken the same number of turns. The game also ends if a player cannot capture a die on his turn, even with the use of a loa's movement abilitiy. Players then move any dice still in their captured zone down into the spirit world. You may score one dice combo while doing so. Everyone then counts up how many dice they have of each of the four main loa colors. If you have the most of a color, you earn three points. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Baron Voodoo Components

Review

Baron Voodoo blends a randomized setup with intriguing movement choices. The scoring system works well with the game as you manipulate the board, not only to line up opportunities to capture dice, but to capture dice that will fit in well with those you have already collected.

There are a lot of different elements to take into account on your turn, with considering how each loa movement would affect the board, which die face is showing on the dice you can jump, and what state you’ll be leaving the board in for the next person. All of this makes it an intriguing game that sucks you in, but can also increase the downtime at higher player counts, as people think through their turns.

You can’t plan too many turns ahead as the board is always changing, particularly in a three-to-four player game, and even your already captured dice can be captured out from under you. This keeps gameplay unpredictable and tense.

The game itself looks gorgeous, with a unique aesthetic for the artwork that is also bold and colorful. The components are well made, and the dice, while lightweight, are pleasant to handle. There is a lot of iconography in the game, and not all of it is intuitive, and as there are not individual player aid cards. While learning the game we were frequently consulting the rulebook for reminders.

Baron Voodoo is an excellent fit for players who enjoy abstract strategic games. Outside of the setup, there is no luck or rolling of the dice. Each turn you’re considering multiple options, considering your opponent’s position, and making tough calls.

Pros: Components and artwork, dice movement abilities, scoring mechanic

Cons: Iconography is not all intuitive, downtime can occur at higher player counts due to think time

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.