In case you’ve been hiding under a rock the last few years, roll and writes have taken the hobby game world by storm. Yes, the modern day versions of Yahtzee are all grown up and they’re offering clever decisions, thinky gameplay, and in some cases an actual theme. Let’s take a look at Encore! (or Noch Mal as it’s known in German) and see what it brings to the table.
Encore! / Noch Mal Overview
Encore! is a “pure” roll and write game, by which I mean that there’s no theme involved (just like Ganz schön clever). On your turn you’ll roll the 6 dice and set aside — for your own use — one of the 3 white dice with colored Xs and one of the 3 black dice with numbers. The remaining players will make their choices from the shared pool of leftover dice. White dice have Xs in red, blue, green, orange, and yellow (with a “wild” black X), while black dice are numbered 1-5 (with one “wild” white question mark).
After picking a color and number die players will mark the results on their scoring sheets; this is where Encore! starts to get interesting. The white die dictates which color must be marked, while the black die determines exactly how many squares of that color can be marked off. Pick a yellow 3 combination and you must cross off exactly 3 yellow squares, all orthogonally adjacent to each other and to a previously marked X (or start within Column H, the “home row”).
Players score points for completing columns and for filling in all squares of a color. Players lose points for any unmarked squares containing stars.
Encore! / Noch Mal Placement Rules
Like any good roll and write, Encore!’s scoring sheet and rules are the heart of the game. The rules can be tricky at first, but once you’ve played a few times they’ll become second nature.
- Your very first check must be in Column H. Subsequent boxes must either be in Column H or touching a previously marked square.
- All boxes checked on a turn must be adjacent to one previously checked box and be of the same color.
- You must check the exact number of squares indicated on the black die (no more, no less).
- Wilds allow players to pick the color, number, or both (depending on the die rolls). However, players have a limited number of wilds.
- If a player is the first to complete a column they circle the top number value. All other players must cross out this value.
- If a player is the first to complete a color bonus, they circle the leftmost number for that color. All other players must cross out that number.
Play continues clockwise until one player has marked off their second color bonus, at which time the game ends immediately. Players tally up the points from completed columns and color bonuses, subtract any stars that have not been crossed off, and add up any unused wilds. The player with the highest score is the winner.
Thoughts about Encore! / Noch Mal
Encore! is the brainchild of power duo Inka and Markus Brand. They’ve been designing games together since 2006 and have published over 130 titles including favorites like the EXIT series, Village, and The Rise of Queensdale. Encore! has been delighting game fans in Germany and Europe since 2016 but has only recently made its way to North America thanks to Stronghold Games. I first heard about Encore! through the iOS app, which is a delight to play.
While the gameplay itself is easy, placement always presents a thinky challenge. Because the rolls are random, with no way to mitigate bad rolls, you constantly need to think several turns ahead and do your best to leave different sets of potential values available. The first half dozen times I played I had difficulty understanding the limitations placed on you by the rules, but this is probably because I played the digital version first. On one hand it’s “better” because the game literally won’t let you make an illegal placement. On the other hand unless you’re really closely reading the rules it can be easy to skip over the specifics, which can make for a frustrating experience.
First-time players will likely focus on completing rows from the middle outwards, while experienced players might take a different tack and try to quickly rush towards the edges in hopes of marking off all the stars or completing the more valuable columns at either end of the scoring sheet. No matter the strategy you take, be ready to pivot and take a different approach if you’re not getting the rolls you need. Games will usually take between 15 – 30 minutes making Encore! a perfect choice for filling time after dinner, between other longer games, or as a wrap up to a great game night.
If you haven’t played Encore! / Noch Mal yet, give it a try on your device of choice first to see if you like it. I’m betting you might just pick up the physical version as well.