Utara is a dice game that makes a game board from any surface on earth. The game's theme calls to mind constellations and stellar navigation. I imagine it being played by wanderers and sailors with uncanny senses of direction.

» Development Status: Open Beta.
» Inspired by Jorinapeka by Tony Pa.
» Developed from this prototype.
» Special thanks to Joe Mucchiello for suggesting use of cardinal directions.
» Image: "Fishing Boat" CC-BY-NC-SA by Austin King
» Utara (उत्तर) is Malay for "North."
» Russian Translation: Утара — настольная игра

Stuff You Need
Two or more players. This is a great game for a group of friends sitting on the living room floor.

Special dice. Each face says either North, East, South, or West. The fifth face has a Sun and the sixth face is Moon. You can use any number of dice to play, but you should use at least ten dice per player. More dice will allow higher scores, possibly longer games and require more space to play. (See prototype dice right.)

An uncluttered flat floor or table as "the sky." A rug can be handy to keep the noise down when you roll the dice and to note the boundaries of the sky. If you need help being able to move game pieces in straight lines, you may need to put down a gridded board or sheet of paper.

Cardinal directions. If you need a compass, put it down in the center of the sky so all players can see which way is North, East, South and West.

Each player takes ten dice. All players roll their dice on the floor at the same time. This creates the opening positions of the game. Pick a player at random to go first. Turns continue clockwise around the group.

How to Play the Basic Game
On your turn: You are "sailing a path" through the sky, collecting dice along the way. To begin a path, choose any North, East, South or West die on the sky. You may not choose a Moon or Sun to begin a path.

Move your chosen die in a straight line in the direction noted on its top face. So, if you choose a die that says "North," then move that die in a straight line Northward. Continue moving that die in a straight line until it is obvious it wouldn't hit any other dice. Then, collect this die. Your turn is over for now.

A path can change direction if your chosen die (Die 1) hits another die (Die 2). If there is a hit, put Die 1 into your collection and move Die 2 in the direction noted on its top face. So, if you first chose an East die, moved it eastward until it hit a North die, you'd collect the East die and continue your turn by moving the North die. If the North die hit another die, the chain reaction would continue. A path may meander through the sky. As it does so, collect each die along the path. Continue a path until it is obvious the last die wouldn't hit any other dice.

Moons: When you hit a Moon, collect it and continue your path, as if you hadn't hit anything at all.

Suns: When you hit a Sun, collect it and continue your path, as if you hadn't hit anything at all.

Example of Play: The example above shows a full game. (A) Player 1 starts a path with North, which immediately hits an East, then hits another East, and passes through two moons. (B) Next, Player 2 starts a path East, passes through a Sun, hits a South, and passes through another Sun. (C) Player 1 starts a path West and hits another West. (D) Player 2 moves a West. (E) Player 1 moves a South. (F) Player 2 starts a path East and passes through two moons. (G) Player 1 moves a West and passes through one moon. After this point, there are no more dice that can start a path.

Endgame and Scoring: The game ends when no more North, East, South or West dice remain. Each player scores one point for every die in their collection. In the example above, Player 1 collected ten dice and so earned ten points. Player 2 collected eight dice and so earned eight points.

It is best to play a few rounds of Utara, once for each participating player. The player who had the fewest points in the previous round should take the first turn in the next round, so they have an opportunity to catch up. Points are tallied over a series of rounds to determine the winner.

How to Play the Advanced Game
Suns and Moons: When playing the advanced game, there are different styles of how Moons and Suns behave when they are a part of a path. Before rolling, a player or spectator will declare the style of Suns and Moons used in this round. Here are some common styles:

The Moon is Full: Moons behave as described in the basic game.

The Moon is Dark: When you hit a Moon, your path ends and so does your turn. This can create shorter paths and more opportunities for other players to score.

The Moon is Half Full: When you hit a Moon, your path ends, but your turn does not. You may then choose another directional die and begin a new path. This also may create shorter paths, but also allows players to get an early lead.

The Sun is Rising: When you hit a sun, treat it as an East.

The Sun Setting: When you hit a sun, treat it as a West.

The Sun is High: When you hit a sun, treat it as either an East or West.

So when beginning a game, you might say "The Moon is Dark and the Sun is High." That tells the other players that the moons act as blocks and the Suns may direct a path east or west.

Blocks: Each player may bring a small wooden block and place it on the sky before rolling. (I recommend using the blocks from a certain popular tower game.) If your path hits a block, the path ends and so does your turn.

Advanced Scoring: In advanced Utara, you can score bonus points if you collect special sets of dice called Days and Tides.

A Day is a full set of N, S, W and E. Score five points for every Day in your collection. A Sun can be used as a placeholder to complete a Day, but doesn't count towards a Tide. Arrange your Days horizontally.

A Tide is a set of three-of-a-kind of N, S, W or E. Score five points for every Tide in your collection. A Moon can be used to complete a Tide, but it doesn't count towards a Day. Arrange your Tides vertically.

Let's return to the example of scoring above. Player 1 collected ten dice, putting him at 10 points. Player 2 collected eight dice, putting her at 8 points.

First, let's look at the Days. These are easy to see in the horizontal rows. Player 1 has one Day. Player 2 uses a Sun as a North to create one Day for herself, too. Each player collects 5 more points. The current total is Player 1 with 15 points, Player 2 with 13 points.

Now, let's look at the Tides. These are easy to see in the vertical columns. Player 1 has three Tides. The first has one North and two moons acting as Norths. The second has two Easts with a Moon used in place of a third East. Lastly, his third Tide is comprised of three Wests. Player 2 has only one Tide, comprised of two Easts and a Moon. That leaves Player 1 with 30 points and Player 2 with 18 points. Player 1 wins!

There is a distinct first player advantage, since they will likely get the longest path in the whole game. Possible solution may simply be to play once for each player in the group, letting each player take turns being first, then tally the points from both games.

[UPDATE 3/1/11] The endgame now occurs when there are no more directional dice remaining. This greatly reduces the need for a mulligan roll. Also, the rules now assume you'll play several rounds, once for each participating player. The lowest scorer of the previous round taking the first turn in the next round. Also, I added an instruction in advanced scoring to arrange your dice horizontally or vertically, to help you see your Days and Tides better.


  1. Excellent variation on the inspiration. It captures the essence with simple rules making for interesting play. I would play this. I really like all the advanced scoring techniques to vary the basic game.

    Regarding first play advantage, would it be interesting to have the player with the fewest points begin the next round?

  2. Can I translate it in Russian w/ all necessary copyright links?

  3. Thanks very much! I think that's a nice way to mitigate any lead advantage, regardless of turn order.

  4. Yes, feel free to translate this game into Russian. Please tell me if you play it, I'm very interested to see more playtest results outside of my lab. :)

  5. Many thanks! I'll post a link to translation next week. And I'll try to make some kind of AP.

  6. You says in Setup chapter that "Each player takes five dice". Did you mean ten dice?

  7. Yes! Thank you for finding that. It's now corrected.

  8. Also you says "Player 1 has two Tides" in Advance Scoring, but image and example listing three of them.

  9. Thanks again for catching that typo. And for translating the game so quickly!

  10. That was a very speedy translation. Now that you mention it Chronicler, this would make a good game to use within another RPG. I could see adventurers playing it in taverns or for gambling with sailors or travellers.

    I wonder how it would fare as a gambling game, somewhat like Craps but with a more earthy/nautical/astrological feeling. Any thoughts on adding a wager mechanic Daniel?

  11. I was definitely considering wagers as a part of play. My one concern was that any ambiguity of straight lines would create big disputes.

    "Hey, this die wouldn't hit that die!"
    "The hell it wouldn't!"

    And then you have a bar fight. Perhaps that's actually a feature of the game in your fantasy tavern? :)

  12. Random phrasing quibble: the description first says "collect this die and put it beside you until the end of the game". Later, it always uses the phrase "set the die aside". Until the scoring example showed I was wrong, I assumed these were different types of action (i.e. that when you hit a die and your die was "set aside", that meant the die was removed from play entirely, rather than "collected" by the player). Might want to stick with some variation of "collected" throughout the text.

  13. A wise edit, thank you. Can you take a look through the text again to make sure it's clearer now?

  14. Also, it is technically possible (though really unlikely) to build a sky that ends the game before it begins (e.g. when no moon dice come up or where none can be legally hit). What is the mulligan rule? Just re-rolling, I imagine?

  15. Text looks good.

    Thinking about the mulligan. The odds of rolling no moons is actually higher than I thought, at least if I'm doing my math correctly. In that case, each die has five possible choices that are not moons, so 5^20 combinations possible. Total combinations are 6^20, so taking the part over the whole is around 2.6%.

    That would be a killer house advantage in a gambling game where the rule was something like "on a no-moon roll, all players lose, so the house takes all bets".

  16. Yet another opportunity for a bar fight! :P

    But yeah, a mulligan is probably best.

  17. First of all, congratulations for this website and for the games you create (I understand they are all yours, aren't they?).

    One simple question about Utara: do the dices of different players have to be of different colors? I mean, can all the dices be of the same color, or is it important to distinguish dices from each player?

    I guess colors play no roll in the basic version of the game, but I don't know if it can be important in advanced rules version.

    Thank you in advance for your answer.

  18. By the way, I've written a quick review/intro to Utara at my tumbleblog. In case you want to read it, here it is:


  19. Thanks for posting about the game! The colors don't matter, unless you're trying to keep track of which player brought which dice. I'm also writing more variants, which include special bonuses based on colors.

  20. My play report from PLAY Modena, as promised


  21. I really like this game - it looks simple yet gamplay can be very complex. Congrats, Daniel! I intend to try this out with a few bunches of people very soon.

    Have you considered other variants e.g. other types of dice/pawns like Typhoon or Gulls? Had a thought that Typhoon could serve as a wildcard e.g. Player 1 can activate Typhoon the way Advanced Suns and Moons are played. Activating Typhoon could allow Player 1 to (i) relocate some/all of another player's dice (ii) relocate some/all of his own dice etc

  22. Yeah! Actually, Tim Rodriguez and his friends at Game Dojo came up with a variant where under certain circumstances, you could re-roll the remaining dice on the table. That seemed like a good thematic way to represent storms or rough seas.

  23. I really like this game - it looks simple yet gamplay can be very complex. Congrats, Daniel! I intend to try this out with a few bunches of people very soon.

    Have you considered other variants e.g. other types of dice/pawns like Typhoon or Gulls? Had a thought that Typhoon could serve as a wildcard e.g. Player 1 can activate Typhoon the way Advanced Suns and Moons are played. Activating Typhoon could allow Player 1 to (i) relocate some/all of another player's dice (ii) relocate some/all of his own dice etc

  24. I've posted translation at http://studio101.ru/2011/utara/ and made some links within Russian communty. I'm relly love this game. Will try to use it this week as part of some RPG activity.

  25. Hi, my names is Pablo, I'm from Brazil and I really liked your game. Searching the web for dies I found this one: http://www.tabernadodragao.com.br/loja/compass-dice-branco-p-753.html . The manufacturer is Dice & Games. What do you think it would be an Utara game with this much possibility? (the sun and moons could be just tokens, placed randomly on the "board")

  26. You could very easily play Utara with these dice, yes! The addition of diagonal lines would make things a little more complicated, but not too much. Using tokens for suns and moons would work well, too.

  27. yeah... I'm thinking in adding one of those for every player, playing games maximum of four player (one for each direction). I was thinking on setting a 5 point bonus to this dice when captured showing one of the diagonal moves or it could work as a tie breaker maybe. I also though top include some weather dice, but I can't think on the effects of all faces (windy, cloudy, rainy, sunny, snowy and stormy). I thought somethink like skip one player, next player choose a dice blindly, reroll all dices, etc) can you help me and what do you tink about all this variants?

  28. One of the variants I've heard about is called Stormy Seas. Between rounds, the players gather the remaining dice and roll them on the table again. So, each round begins with essentially a new layout.


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