Liar’s Dice Addendum

My math-minded brother has some additional thoughts to add to the Liar’s Dice Strategy. I’ve asked him to guest blog about them.

If you want to get nerdy you can add the following when calculating a bid:

Most players use probability when they play: the number and 1’s = 2 options out of six = 1/3 on average for any number. This would suggest if there are 15 dice in play, there should be around 5 of each number.

What some people don’t take into account accurately is their own dice that they already know. With this knowledge, you can use conditional probabilities to calculate a “riskier” bid while still being relatively safe. Essentially, you use the information you already have to calculate how many potential dice there are.

Say there are 3 players, 5 dice each (15 total) anyone should feel pretty safe calling 4 or 5 of any number. However, you know 5 of the dice already, so you should adjust your math! You only don’t know 10 dice, so use the 1/3 estimate on those dice and add in your own. If you have 4 sixes (combination of 1’s and 6’s), then estimate 2-4 sixes under the other players’ cups and add your own 4. That way you can pretty safely bid 6-8 sixes (I’d probably go 7 myself to be a tiny bit safer), which seems like half of the dice.

When someone does the math quickly, 7/15 ~ 50%, a red flag goes off in their brain. They will likely call Dudo. With your 4, it isn’t too hard to get the 7 you need, since each player will likely have 1-2.

Sometimes, you have to take the defensive. Listen to what other players are bidding. If they’re only bidding fives, and all you have is sixes, this may be a good round to take it to ones. Or, use your knowledge of the 5 dice you know (0 fives), and estimate based on the other players’ bids. There can’t be more than 10 fives if you don’t have any, and there are probably more like 7 if they both seem really confident.

This method isn’t foolproof, due to variability and other people having knowledge of their own dice, but you can get the people around you to lose a lot more dice, or at least make them really uncomfortable raising the number, which is where the real fun comes into play.

Be aware, when you are calling your bids, that there is more variability the fewer dice there are (which is how probabilities work: small N, larger variability), so if your dad says “Oh man! Holy moley!” and starts giggling, you should probably just guess he has at least 4 of whatever he’s laughing about and go from there.

Thanks Nathan, great tips.

Dixit Strategy

Dixit is one of my favorite party games. Everyone can quickly learn and play, but there are subtle strategies that will lead to victory.

Here is my strategy:

  1. Use stories or phrases that target one or two people
  2. Play the card that fit into the stories of others
  3. Bluff when cards are revealed
  4. Think through other players thought processes, and watch their reactions


When it is your turn to suggest a story or phrase, think very carefully about what to say. Consider your audience. You want at least one person, but not everyone to guess your card. You most likely have experiences with the other players. Use those experiences to make a clue that only they could guess.

To prevent people from teaming up on you and accusing you of cheating, change around who your target player is each time. Make the clue sufficiently vague, but clear to that one player.

Playing Cards

This part of the strategy is super simple. Whatever clue they give, find the card that fits the story or phrase the closest. After submitting your card, here is where the fun part comes in.


Dixit is the kind of game that you can get a significant lead, but then people will start trying to not guess for you just to stop you from winning. The key to overcoming this is to bluff.

When cards are revealed, don’t do anything that would reveal which card is yours. If you aren’t great at keeping a straight face, make exaggerated gestures and comments on all of them.Say things like “There are so many good options.” “Ooh, this one is good.” and laugh if the card is funny, (even if it is yours.) Act genuinely surprised by all the cards revealed.


When it comes time to guess, watch the storyteller closely. They often will reveal their card just by their reactions to the cards revealed. If not, think about what you know about the person and how their thought processes work. This can be pretty difficult if you don’t know them well but do your best here.

Often you can eliminate cards that you know can’t be it, and then just guess on the ones left over. You know your own, and you other players may accidently reveal their card by not being surprised, or making subtle comments.

You won’t get them all right, but you will get it right more often than others, leading to a sound victory.


Perudo: Liar’s Dice

Perudo is the original version of Liar’s Dice. The game was reinvigorated by its appearance in Pirates of the Caribbean where the stakes are undead service to Davy Jones.

Image result for liars dice pirates of the caribbean

My family plays this game whenever we get together because you can play with as many players as you have. It works just as well with 10 players as it does with 5. (We don’t play for undead service, just for glory).

The original rules are slightly different than the Pirates version. Each player rolls their dice inside their cup. You can look at your own dice, but not others. A player starts by saying how many dice of a type are under all the cups. (1s are wild.) For example, I would start and say 3 fives. The next player has to either increase the amount of dice or the number of the dice. He could say 4 fives, or 3 sixes, or anything higher than those.

If the next player doesn’t think that there are as many dice as the player just stated, they say “Dudo” which means, “I doubt”. Then if there is the stated amount, the doubter loses a dice. If not, the doubtee loses a dice.

You keep going until someone has one dice, and the rules change slightly. At that point, the person with 1 dice always starts the round, and no one else is allowed to change the type of dice, only the amount of dice. (once multiple players have 1 die, they can change it, but no one else can.)


Here is the strategy:

  1. Play the probabilities
  2. Play safe, but bluff
  3. Force situations 2 away from you
  4. When down to 1, bluff, but control the game


Play the Probabilities

You have some information about the game based on what you have rolled. Think about how many dice there are in play (suppose 20 for the example). Suppose you rolled two sixes. There are 15 dice you don’t know the result of, but on average, there should be 1/6 X 15 other sixes, plus 1/6 X 15 other ones (wild). This means there should be 5 other sixes on average. So you can guess up to 7 sixes.


Play Safe

Now, you know there should be about 7 sixes. There may not be, but you want someone else to get out, so play a little safe and call 5 sixes. The next person should probably say 6 sixes, and the person after says 7 sixes. At that point, the next player has a tough decision. There should be 7 sixes, but are there really? You have set them up so that someone will call it when it is not next to you.

You could probably even say 6 sixes and be safe, especially if you take into account how the other players react to you saying 5 sixes. If people are surprised, you may need to back down your number. Read people’s faces when you call things and try to figure out what they have.

Down to 1

Once you are down to 1, you don’t have much of a chance of winning, but you can send a lot of other players down to Davy Jones locker with you. If there are a lot of other dice in play, say 2 or 3 of the dice that you have. If not, just say exactly what you have. You don’t want to get out because you bluffed when you didn’t need to.

Once the other players have whittled down their dice, you will be facing other players at 1 dice. It becomes a luck game on who rolls the highest dice. If you roll a six, and they roll a 3, you say 1 six, and they have to say 2 of something. If you role something really low, there may be a benefit to saying a higher number and try to guess what they rolled, but it is a 1/5 chance of getting it.


Good luck!

Pandemic Strategy (Guest Blog)

I’ve invited my brother-in-law Joseph Erickson to post his thoughts around Pandemic strategy. Cooperative board games are great to play with kids because you can lead them along. One of the best is Pandemic. Joseph discusses it below, but I want to add that one of the keys to cooperative games is to let people play. Don’t dominate the game on your own, allow everyone to participate, even if it means a sub-optimal move. You can give suggestions, but if you are the game controller, people will leave with a bad taste in their mouth. Now to Joseph.


Do you always seem to win at board games? Or perhaps you feel you are consistently on the losing side when you play? Maybe board games often result in fighting. If you’ve had any of these issues, then I would recommend playing a cooperative board game. Your friends become your teammates and your foe becomes the game itself. High on the list of great cooperative games is Pandemic.

When I think of possible outcomes for Pandemic, one “blonde” joke comes to mind. There was a redhead, a brunette, and a blonde on an island. They decided they would take their chances and swim the 50 miles back to the mainland. The redhead swam 20 miles and couldn’t go any farther and drowned. The brunette swam 30 miles, but met the same fate. The blonde swam 49 miles and decided she was too tired, so she swam all the way back to the island. Pandemic can be just like this. Either you will die trying to win, or you will spend a lot of energy “swimming” but forget what the actual goal is.

Pandemic is about saving the world. There are 4 different diseases that are spreading each turn. Your job is to find the cures before time runs out. There are many ways to find the cures, but there are also many ways where the board game beats you.

This brings me to the first key to the game – remember what it takes to win. Every time someone has a turn it is a good idea to ask, “Is this helping us get a cure?” Four cures is all you have to do to beat the game. There can still be many disease pieces on the game board.  You can have several outbreaks. While it is important to keep tabs on the many ways you can lose to the board game, focusing on getting the cures give you the best chance to win.

The next key is to maximize. This game is a good lesson in basic economics because every turn has trade-offs. You can choose to remove disease pieces or trade city cards or move to another city. While most of the time doing anything is helpful, there is usually a better choice to stay on track for the win. As often as possible use all 4 moves that you are given. Perhaps remove a disease piece before moving the three times to your intended city.

Another key to Pandemic is to understand and utilize all special powers. Each player will be given a role card that has a particular power. Use this power often. It is a valuable advantage. There are also event cards. Don’t forget about these after they’ve been drawn. These cards have kept me alive or made a big difference in winning many times. All these powers are there to give you an advantage because the game can be pretty impossible without them.

The final key or strategy for Pandemic is communication. This is a cooperative game, so work together. Ask each other for ideas and openly discuss what should be done every turn. Not only will this bring out the best ideas, but it will also make the game more fun.

King of Tokyo Strategy

This is a top 3 game for my 8-year-old girl. She loves taking a big handful of dice and shaking them out. She also loves the giant monsters and the powers you can gain.

Here is the strategy:

  1. Get in Tokyo early
  2. Collect energy in early turns
  3. Choose a winning strategy and focus on it
    1. Kill everyone
    2. Risky Tokyo points
    3. Extra turns
    4. Sneaky slow ramp up with a quick ending.

Get in Tokyo

Anytime throughout the game, when your points are higher than 7 or 8, you want to get into Tokyo. Early in the game, this is very useful because opponents have not acquired high attacking powers and they are often trying to get energy. You can usually get 5-7 free points before you have to make a retreat.

Depending on the other players’ upgrades, you want to exit Tokyo when your points drop below 4. Anything less than that can lead you to an early demise.


To win the game you really need to upgrade your skills. Collect energy in early turns to prepare you for the future. If you are getting the points from being in Tokyo, you can spend the rest of your dice trying to get energy.

Win Strategies

Choosing your winning strategy depends on the available cards to purchase. You really won’t know what you will be able to do until you see what is available.

Killing everyone

This is my favorite strategy because it ends before people know what hit them. Stay middle of the pack, attacking here and there and collecting energy and cards, but purchase the upgrades that give you extra attacks and multiple player attacks.

Once the game gets going and you have enough offensive upgrades, attack relentlessly against the players with the least life. The other advantage of the attacking strategy is that you will often get extra points by being in Tokyo, so if you need to back away from the attacking strategy, you could still win on points

Risky Tokyo points

Another strategy that can sometimes work is to try to stay in Tokyo as long as possible. You can squeeze just a few more points out of Tokyo and exit around 2 life points.

Collect upgrades that give you advantages in Tokyo: healing, extra attacks, defense, etc.

This strategy can pay off well but often leaves you vulnerable to the killing strategy.

Extra Turns

You can also win just by having a bunch of extra turns. Target the cards that give you extra turns for your roles. Play as normal, but take advantage of the extra turns to take the lead.

Sneaky Strike

All your strategies should employ some elements of the sneaky strike. If you get ahead in the game to0 quickly early on, the other players will collude to eliminate you. You need to be in the middle of the pack, slowly collecting points and upgrades until you are ready to make your move.

Collect a lot of energy and stay alive in the game. Purchase cards that will increase your chances of getting points later in the game. Cards that increase the value of your rolls, give you more dice to roll or change your roll scoring conditions are all great cards for the sneaky strike.

Then, when you feel you are close, buy up any victory point cards and hope for the right roles.

In all of these strategies, you need to keep the target off of your back by staying close to the pack, but preparing for the end.


What other strategies have you used?




Party Game Strategy

Married couples often get together for game nights. When we get an invitation, I get super excited. Sometimes, usually in the fine print, it says, “bring your favorite party game.” This used to fill me with dread. Why would anyone have a game night and not play strategy games?

Fortunately, I have learned how to appreciate the strategy of the party game. I’m going to share it with you so that you can be successful in all your game endeavors.

  1. Figure out how to actually “Win”
  2. Have a positive attitude
  3. Pick good games
  4. Make it fun for others
  5. Use it as an opportunity to plan a strategy game night

Winning Party Games

There can be satisfaction from guessing the word right before the buzzer in Catchphrase, or snagging the final card in Dixit, but often it feels like randomness and luck. (It feels that way, because it usually is.)

In one of my kids’ favorite books, Elephant asks Piggie if he knows the secret to throwing a ball. Piggy says, “Have fun!” Elephant is skeptical, but in the end *spoiler alert* Elephant learns to just have fun.

You win at party games by having fun! But wait…that sounds ridiculous. Who am I winning against? Well, you win the night if people leave saying, “Wow, that Brandon was really funny/fun/creative/witty. I’d like to spend time with them again.”

For the ultra-competitive, like me, you can even keep track in your mind how funny/fun/creative/witty you are in comparison to other people, and figure out where you fall in the line-up. For party game people, this won’t make any sense, but for strategy gamers, we get satisfaction from knowing who actually won.

Positive Attitude

No one likes to play games with people who have a bad attitude. Compliment people, joke with people, and play the game to the best of your abilities.

Pick the right game

Good party games include:

  1. Dixit
  2. Telestrations
  3. Luck of the Draw
  4. Codenames
  5. One Night, ultimate werewolf

Make it fun for others

Part of winning the party game is making it fun for others. Some ideas for this include:

  1. Compliment others when they are funny
  2. Keep your humor light
  3. Engage in witty banter as if the game wasn’t actually luck
  4. Smile
  5. Engage those that aren’t as comfortable

Plan for the future

If you are successful in your strategy, you should leave the game night with a good gauge of who is fun to play with and who you want to spend more time with. As you are leaving, grab people individually and suggest a strategy game night, or follow-up the next day.

Lastly, thank your host for the fun evening.

Do you have any other ideas for making party game night fun? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

What to do if People know your Strategy

You’ve put together a great strategy, and it has worked multiple times. Eventually, people start to figure out what you are doing and try to stop it. What should you do then? Well, a lot of it depends on the type of game, but below are some general strategies. They aren’t in order, so it is a bulleted list, instead of a numbered list.

  • Think through what you would do to combat your strategy, then figure out how to stop that
  • Don’t gloat over your victories
  • Change up your strategy
  • Change games

Beating yourself

Think carefully about your strategy. Where are its weak points? How would you go about beating it? Once you figure that out, you can expect your opponents to figure it out too. So, how do you beat that strategy?

This could be an infinitely iterative process as you and he keep figuring out how to beat the next strategy, but that is part of the fun. Unless there is a strictly dominant strategy, there is always something else you can try.


Victory Dances

When I was home from college with my siblings, I got into the bad habit of singing a victory song after I won. It would change, but it was usually something from Star Wars or Super Smash Bros

This was really annoying. I apologize if you had to live through those days. I received payback for this when we played Pit. Everyone kept trading me the bear and holding onto cards I needed. When you are a bad winner, it comes back to haunt you. (Side note, the only strategy you can do when it gets like this, is to let people cool down. It just takes time.)

Change up your Strategy

Another method that can help is to adjust your strategy. You may love to play the same way each time, but if you change up just a little, it can keep people from figuring out exactly what you are going to do.

Change Games

Often, it helps to just change games. Playing different games will also help you so that people don’t get tired of playing games with you. I often like to play people’s favorite games, that way, they have fun and I get to match wits in the game they are most competent at.

What else have you done that helps when people figure out your strategy?

Why We Play Games

On my first date with my wife, we played games together. It was just me and her, and the competition was fierce. Afterward, I went back to my roommates and told them how awesome the date was and how I really wanted to take her out again. Mallory went back to her roommates and said, “Well, we didn’t really talk very much.”

According to the American Psychological Association, there are three intrinsic needs that drive behavior; Competency, Autonomy, and Relatedness. People play games because games meet these needs in multiple ways. Here are my thoughts, please share if you have others.


  1. To develop our minds
  2. To learn new things
  3. To feel a sense of accomplishment


  1. To make choices without lasting consequences
  2. To feel a sense of ownership
  3. To participate in creating.


  1. To build relationships
  2. To establish dominance
  3. To match wits

And lastly, FOR FUN!


All of us have a need to feel like we are competent in something. Games are a very quick way to feel competence. When I play games, I can engage my mind in something that is interesting to think about. I’m able to draw connections between things that I hadn’t seen before.

I learn things while I play, and I feel a sense of accomplishment when I finish that last route or get rid of my last card. Think about the game you like best. Does it give you a sense of accomplishment, or develop your mind?


You have the capacity to accomplish great things. Your choices have lasting consequences, for good or ill. Playing games gives you a place where you can try things out, make choices, with immediate consequences. You are the only person that gets to make the choice, but if it doesn’t go well, it isn’t permanent; you are able to try again, immediately.

Games give you a sense of ownership. You become the character in your game, or you feel ownership of the properties and things that you build. In Carcassonne, you lay your tile and place your guy in the city, and you own it. It is yours to do with as you wish. This is also the reason why people get so mad when you sneak into their city.

Some games, (eg: Blokus) allow you to create. You feel empowered as you lay your pieces and create your world. This is also why Lego’s are so successful. You are creating something new that no one else has created before.


The last intrinsic need that games meet is the desire to feel connections with other people. Psychologists call this relatedness. Games are great for building relationships. You feel closer to people when you spend time doing fun things together.

The fun part of competition is matching wits with like-minded people. Losing and winning, make me feel closer to the other people. If I won every time, I wouldn’t feel like I was being challenged, and would try to play with someone who can match wits with me. (That is one reason why my wife is so great. She beats me all the time.)


In the end, playing games is fun. How have games helped you to meet your intrinsic needs?

Playing Games for Christmas

Games are a great present for Christmas. A brand new game can bring energy to the house, and will create great memories. When I was about eight, my family got Hero Quest for Christmas. (Super nerdy, I know. Check out the classic early nineties design).


Every day, right after lunch, my brothers and I sat around the table with our dad and played one quest. I still remember the quest when an invincible ghost appeared. It could only be defeated by a certain sword. I had it! As an eight year old, I loved the feeling of working together to a common goal: defeating our dad.

How do you create these moments in your home? Here is what you should do.

  1. Pick the right game
    1. Fits your Christmas crew
    2. Long enough
    3. Replayability
    4. Full participation
  2. Plan time
  3. Prevent fights with food

Picking the right game

Choosing the right game can really help. I recommend checking out this Holiday Gift Guide from the BoardGameFamily. Trent lists out 11 different categories that will help you pick something that fits your Christmas crew perfectly.

You’ll need to pick something that gets people together. The game should be longer than 30 minutes, but not so long that people aren’t interested in playing again.

Replay-ability is also key. Some games are really fun, but you don’t really want to play them again right away. Hero Quest was fun because each quest was different. Dominion is another great one. Each play is almost a completely different game. The key here is finding a fun game, that takes long enough, that can be played lots of times over the holiday.

Lastly, it needs to be a game that doesn’t have long turns and that everyone can play through the whole game. (Risk is very fun, but once you are out, you are just sitting around)

Plan time

I can’t stress enough how important it is to set aside specific time every day during the holidays. We did it every day after lunch. It also works well to play to play every night after cleaning up dinner.

The kids (and those of us who are kids at heart) will appreciate looking forward to the time.

Prevent fights with food

Games add a lot to our lives, but they also can add some tense moments. When someone clobbers you in Blokus, (LINK), or eliminates you early in Bang, you have to have a positive attitude, and it really helps if there are snacks around.

What other ideas do you have to make game playing a part of the holidays?

Gaming with children

My church is launching a Light the World program for the month of December. The idea is to serve in 25 ways over 25 days during the month of December. In following that theme, I encourage you to serve a child by playing a game with them.

Think back on your childhood. Where did your love of playing games come from? It probably started with your parents playing with you. If not them, was it a sibling or a friend that introduced you to board games?

My dad often played games with us, but I remember the first time I ever got to attend one of his real game nights. A bunch of the youth from church came over to play an intense game of Risk. I had played once or twice before, but never a serious game. I went into the game pretty nervous.

My dad was my partner, and he guided me through the play. I wasn’t the first one eliminated, but I definitely didn’t win. This was a great memory. If I was going to be like all those wise teenagers, I would have to learn how to play games well.

This leads me to the strategy for playing with children, regardless of the game. Your purpose as the adult is to help guide them through the game process in such a way that the following things occur:

  1. They learn how to play
  2. They feel loved by spending time with you.
  3. They have fun.
  4. They gain a love for board games.

Notice how I didn’t say anything about you winning? Of course you can beat them in games. You are the dad, and they know you are awesome. The important thing here is raising children that will want to play games with you when they are older and can actually beat you. Here are a few strategies that help without letting them win. (No one wants to realize that they only won because you weren’t trying.)

  1. Change the rules to give them an advantage.
  2. Play on their team against another sibling.
  3. Play games that are mostly luck.
  4. Stack the deck against you.

Change the rules

When I was growing up, we had the Stoker Olympics (situps, pushups, stepups). We made the competition fair by giving the younger kids a handicap. It ended up being a competition of who improved most. This is what you do with games.

Some games lend themselves well to changing the rules. You could let them draw two cards instead of 1. You can let them roll twice and take the better of two roles. You can give them extra money, or let them see your cards, but don’t look at theirs.

The options here are limitless, and it allows them to know that you are trying your hardest, but giving them a slight advantage.

Team play

Being a kids teammate is great for meeting three of the four criteria, but some kids don’t feel like they have as much fun when you are coaching them along. Watch for this. If this is happening in your family, it may be time for you to back out and just let them play.

Play luck games

Some of the best games for kids have no skill at all. These are perfect for kids because they can legitimately win! Candyland is one of my kids favorites. It is pretty painful to play. “You are just moving along, and then you draw plumpy”. We adapted it so that you never have to go backwards. If you draw plumpy, your character goes back and has a “snack”, then moves right back to where they were. This really helps everyone to have fun.

Stack the deck

Sometimes you just have to stack the deck. It is actually quite fun to try to win after setting up your children to get most of the good cards. You can even play up the discrepancy by saying things like, “Awe man, I got the 2 again. That’s the 3rd time in a row!” They love it. and laugh and laugh.

Your competition of tomorrow are your children today. So play a game with a child, and make it great.

Please comment and let me know how it went.