So what is so good about it? I shall explain the game with specific reference to Liars Dice, as this is the version I have. Bluff is essentially the same game, and is available, which is more than can be said for Liars Dice. For your twenty quid you get thirty yellow dice, one red die, six shakers and a small board. Each player is given a shaker, and five of the dice. The shakers are shaken, and turned upside down concealing the numbers rolled. Each player then looks at their own dice. Liars Dice is essentially a game involving bluff and lying (second surprise of the review). The players bid on the numbers beneath the cups in play. If proved wrong they lose some of their own dice, and the winner is the last to have any left.
Each die shows the numbers two to six, with a star replacing the number one. The player making the opening bid places the red die on the board, showing the bid. For example, if Fred opens, and thinks there are at least seven fives around the table, he would indicate this by placing the red die, number five uppermost, in position seven on the board. The next player either challenges this, or increases the bid. No passing is allowed! The bid may be increased by:
If challenged, the dice are revealed and totalled. The player who is incorrect pays the difference in dice into the centre of the board. If the number bid was exactly right all players, other than the bidder, pay one die, thus making the challenger instantly unpopular.
Stars act rather like wild cards, in that they count as whatever is being bid. If for instance Fred bid fives, all fives and stars count as fives; Gladys then bids twos, and all twos and stars would count as twos.
There is one more option, in that a player may elect to re-roll. This involves revealing a number of dice if desired, and re-rolling the remainder, keeping these hidden. I sometimes do this in desperation, where I think the previous bid was about right, and don't have the guts to challenge.
While the basic rules are simple, there are many different bidding tactics used. Tension grows as the bidding rises, and everyone is interested when the results are revealed. The game also changes somewhat when the number of dice in play reduces. After a while you get a feel for the way the other players are bidding -- conservatively, recklessly, or totally lying through their teethly. Unfortunately, such feelings are often proved wrong; there go two more of my dice into the middle.
On a final note, a third version of this game is available as Perudo, from about £15. This is a more traditional version, with leather style cups and no board. I have seen it played as a gambling game. Perudo can be obtained from non-games shops. I found a copy in a gift shop, where needless to say, the assistant had no idea what it was.