Mashing up Divinare with Liar's Dice

liar's dice
I had the good fortune of playing Divinare last weekend. ("Fortune." Get it?) It's about old-timey psychics competing to prove who's the real deal. It's a clever little deduction game with an element of take-that and push-your-luck in one elegant package. As much as I love Cards-with-Numbers, I'm especially fascinated with cards that only feature art and no other game information. I'll do a post on that soon.

Check out Tom Vasel's review of Divinare for details of how to play. The experience reminds me a lot of playing the classic game Liar's Dice. If you haven't played that, you should too. Here are the basic rules as I play them at home. Note that there are numerous variants, I just happen to like this one.

Each player has five standard dice and dice cups for concealment.

Each round, each player rolls their dice under their cups. Each player looks at their results in secret. The first player guesses out loud a quantity and a face. This is called a "bid." The quantity is how many of the chosen face have been rolled in total on the table.

For example, "Five threes," means "I think there are at least five threes on the table."

Then the next player has three choices:

  • Raise: Increase the quantity. For example, "I think there are at least six threes on the table."
  • Challenge: You think the current bid is wrong. All players then reveal their dice. If the bid is correct, you lose one of your dice. If the bid is wrong, the bidder loses one of her dice.
  • Approve: You think the current bid is exactly correct. If the bid is correct, all other players lose a die. If the bid is wrong, you lose a die.

When you run out of dice, you're out of the game. The last player with dice remaining wins.
So, a fairly simple game of bluffing and deduction, with lots of on-the-spot permutations. One nice thing Divinare provides is four boards that visually show the likelihood of each suit in the deck, thus making it fairly obvious how rare it is. There are probability charts for Liar's Dice, like the spreadsheet here, but you don't get that tight sense of area-control like you do in Divinare. I see two options for hacking.

Area Control Boards
There is a board showing a grid of numbers and ranges. Columns represent faces, the rows represent quantities. Each player has two meeples that begin on the 0,0 corner. Instead of a bid, you have to reveal one of the dice in your hand. Upon doing so, you move your meeples along either axis of the board, landing on either a column or a row. Play continues until all dice are revealed. You can always move a meeple back to the 0,0 corner or to another space, but you cannot occupy a space with another player's meeple. In the end, players are awarded points for accuracy of their placement on the board. Correct column? x points. Correct row? y points. Exact correct? z points.

Colored Dice
This option is the same as the above, with an additional layer of deduction. Each player has nine dice: Two blue, three white, four red. When you reveal your die, you can only move the meeples on the board matching the color of that die. So, you only get two guesses on the blue board, three guesses on the white, four on the red. Blue: Triple points, White: Double points, Red: Normal points.

How about you? Any deduction games you particularly enjoy? Share your thoughts in the comments!


  1. Hey Daniel!

    This is all good stuff and very intriguing, but I am struggling a little to picture how the boards would look and work. What result or ranges of result would each spot represent? In Liar's Dice the play pushes the players toward the single, most-valuable bid possible, and there comes a time when a single bid is reckoned. With a population of dice, how would my single position on the board relate to that complete population, once it is revealed. If I end up on (say) five '3's, do final the number of '1's, '2's, '4's, '5's and '6's change my score. Or perhaps (and this is the bit I am unclear about) each spot on the board represents a range of results, in some way — some metric that measures the overall distribution, not just one part of it.

    One curiosity: although the comparison is completely valid, it had never occurred to me while I was working on the game that Divinare had anything to do at all with Liar's Dice. (I had also never seen or heard of Knizia's Members Only to which it has also been compared — and definitely has more in common with!)

    I mentioned in a tweet that I had also worked on a dice-based Divinare-inspired game — and it really is nothing at all like your suggestion! It replaces the cards with dice and attempts to create a game in which the revelation of the final distribution is something that happens much more often. The final reckoning in each round of Divinare is my favourite part, so I wanted to create something where there's lots more of that, and less of the stuff inbetween, if you see my meaning. It's interesting to see how different a game the same premise — add dice to [game X] — can inspire!

    Best, Brett

  2. Hi Brett! Okay, I've refined this idea a little bit to be more minimal. Here's a visual aide:

    Basically, you play Liar's Dice as normal with the following Divinare-style tweaks. When you make a bid, reveal one of your dice matching that face and move your meeple to the space corresponding with your bid. You may also place your meeple on a corner of that space. Two meeples may not occupy the same space or corner. When all dice are revealed, score points based on your accuracy as shown in the diagram.

    If you're exactly correct, score n points. If you're on the same column or row as the correct bid, score n points, minus the number of spaces' difference. If you placed your meeple on a corner, that's a hedged bet. You only score half-points, rounded down.

    I suppose this is sort of a casino game, eh?


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