Reiner Knizia knows dice games. In fact, he wrote the book on them: Dice Games Properly Explained. (Short review: If you have any interest in games played with traditional six-sided dice, buy it. It is to dice what the various Hoyle collections are to cards.)
Play is simple: there are nine "prizes" up for grabs, each of which lists a specific criteria (Exactly 7, 2 pairs, 3 of a Kind, and so on). Each turn you will try to win one of these prizes by rolling the criteria on four dice. (The dice are six-sided and numbered from 0 to 5.) You start a turn by rolling all four dice and may then make up to three re-rolls with the rule being that if you want to re-roll you must "freeze" at least one die (frozen dice are not re-rolled). If you satisfy the criteria for any of the prizes you place the card in front of you (you may only win one prize on a turn). At the start of the game these prizes are un-owned, in the center of the table but as the game progresses you will be stealing them from the other players. You win the game if, at the start of your turn, you own three prizes. This means that after you actually win your third prize, each player will get a shot at stealing one of yours thus prolonging the game.
Comparisons to Yahtzee are common but I think the two games play very differently. On the one hand, Easy Come Easy Go features interaction (a good thing) but I think there's very little in the way of strategy or long term planning possible—each turn is more or less entirely independent of any other. There's no agony of deciding between attempting to roll a Straight or Exactly 13; for the most part you attempt the one that seems the most likely once you've made your first roll. There are no consequences for future turns should you fail and I think that's one of the better qualities of Yahtzee.
The components are sparse but good quality—four dice, a felt-lined cup and nine "prize" cards. The cards are nice and thick, which makes them easy to pass around (which you'll be doing quite often).
Do not make the mistake I once did and play with five players—with four opponents it will be too easy to steal a prize from a potential winner and the game will go on for far too long. The box says 2-4 players and they mean it! (Actually, I'm not sure that it would work all that well with only two players but I never did try it with that number.)
To be honest, I find it difficult to get worked up one way or the other about Easy Come Easy Go. There's nothing wrong with it but neither is there anything truly exciting. The best dice games seem to engender much anxiety and tension as rolls are made or revealed; Can't Stop and Liar's Dice are two examples that work very well for my group. Cheers and groans are common whenever we play but not so with Easy Come Easy Go. I'm not exactly sure why this is the case. It may be that the rewards for success or failure are altogether too moderate: you either win a single prize or you don't. Some are harder to win than others but there's no grand moment when you roll a particularly difficult or unlikely combination, no possibility of a shocking end to a string of amazing rolls. There are very few highs or lows in this game; it's all too even-tempered, too "polite". Since loud, raucous fun is what I'm looking for when I play a dice-rolling game, it's unlikely that Easy Come Easy Go will be hitting the game table very often.
- Greg Aleknevicus