Review: Smart Box Design Farkle

Farkle titleA couple days ago I saw a post on Tiltsite.com where Farkle was mentioned. I remembered this name from the Astraware website so I checked that out, and discovered that it was developed by Smart Box Design so I hopped over to their website.

Farkle is about rolling 6 dice, “holding” some dice that will improve your score, and roll the others again if you want. The fact that only some combinations will give you points, and the strategic decisions you need to make, make this game quite original! (At least, I’m not familiar with this game in real life, it vaguely looks like Yathzee but it’s defenitely different)


Trial info

In the trial version, you can only play 15 games before you will have to register. To register, find the User Name in Game – Purchase info in the menu. Of course you always want a trial to last as long as possible, but at some point the game will have to quit and try to push you into purchasing a full copy. Farkle certainly gives you enough time to try and see if you like it. You’ll have gameplay under control in the first game, so then you’ve got enough games left to try and start appreciating the gameplay and strategical choices you have to make with every roll.

Menu screens

I’m looking forward to talk about the gameplay, so let’s quickly walk through the menu screens and settings, and then get going!

From left to right, you see the statistics, preferences, game setup, and players pages.
On the Statistics screen, you see the score for all the players invoved. This includes the AI, and your real life opponents (you can also play against your friends). You can see the amount of games played, won, the percentage, and your best turn.
On the Preferences page you can set the sound settings and toggle the arrows above the dice that can give you points, and optional hint messages. An example of a hint message is a popup informing you that rolling again with one or two dice left is a serious risk, so that passing might be a smarter move. You can also set the animation speed.
The Game setup defines your gameplay. You can set a “Break In” score, which means that you need to at least score 350, 500, 750 or 1000 points in order to enter the game. It’s like Ludo where you can agree that you have to roll 6 before you can place your first piece on the board. The “Play to” setting defines the goal score of the game: as soon as one player reached this score, the others get another turn, and the player with the highest score after that wins. The next settings lets you add “three pairs” (for example two 1’s, two 3’s and two 6’s) to combinations that earns you points, and finally you can check the option that disabled the Pass button if you have collected all six dice after rolling them. This seriously changes the game, since normally you would try to get as many scoring dice as possible. However with this options selected, you need to roll again if you take all 6 dice, risking everything you earned in that round!
Finally there are Player settings, where you can pick your opponents from a list of AI players, or you can enter the name of one or more friends or family members and play against them. Farkle will keep track of all their statistics!

Farkle Stats Farkle Preferences Farkle Game setup Farkle Players

The Help file consists of three pages: info on How to play (including descriptions of the settings), info on scoring, and some strategy info. This helpfile will help you getting used to the gameplay, and can always be accessed during the game so you can review the scoring list, or check how changing a setting will change your gameplay.

Farkle Help 1 Farkle Help 2

The game

You start with an empty table with two places for six dice (above and below the line), and the scoring panel. Start by tapping Roll. You will then see the 6 dice you rolled. You will have to collect one’s, five’s, three of a kind’s (three dice with the same value), three pairs, or a six dice straight (one to six) in order to earn points. If you rolled something that gives you a score, you will have to at least select one die to keep by tapping on it. It will then move down to indicate that you selected it. You can select any number of dice that give you a score, and then decide to Pass and take the points that these dice give you, or Roll the remaining dice again. If you roll dice that will increase your score, you can add them and roll again/pass, but if you don’t roll any new scoring dice, you will lose your previously selected dice and score. This is called a Farkle, and getting three Farkles in a row takes away 1000 points!

Let take a look at an in-game example. Please open the images below. Right there I rolled a one, three fours, and two fives. The three of a kind (fours) is worth 400 points, so I select that. I now have a one left (worth 100 points, please see the scoring table here) and two fives (50 points each). I can keep those as well and pass, taking 600 points. Or I can roll these again and try to get an even better score. This is a serious risk, because if I don’t roll a one, five, or three of a kind, I lose my 400 points and it’s the next player’s turn. So I take the other three dice as well, and play safe by tapping Pass.

Farkle Roll 1 Farkle keep 1 Farkle Keep 2

Then the other players roll their dice. This process is slow enough to keep track of what they’re doing, but it’s too fast to take good screenshots of all the steps of the process. In this case, Nervous Nell passed after taking a Three of a kind with fours, and Steady Stan first kept two ones, and then rolled the other dice again. He added a five to his two ones and took the 250 points. You can see these scores in the next screenshots, which will cover my turn again.

I first rolled two ones and a five. I take those (remember that you don’t have to, you can also just take the ones and roll again with four dice, for example, but you have to take at least one scoring die) for 100 + 100 + 50 = 250 points, and roll again. I now get another one and five. If I would have gotten the three ones all in one turn, it would have been a three of a kind, but every roll is counted seperately (also see the yellow line between the dice in the bottom row, indicating in which roll the dice were rolled). So I don’t get the wonderful 1000 points score for three ones in a turn, my one will just count for 100 points now. Nonetheless, I add the one and five for an additional 100 + 50 points. Now I have one die left, and only rolling a one or five will give me a score, any other roll will take away the 400 points I collected and my turn will go to the next player. Also, if I roll 2 more Farkles (in the next turns) I get 1000 points taken away from my score. So normally I would pass here, but now I will roll again.

Farkle Roll 2 Farkle Keep 3 Farkle Roll 3 Farkle Keep 4

It’s a one. I add that one, and now I can Pass to keep my dice. However, the Roll button is still available. If you have all dice below the line and decide to roll again, you re-roll all six dice! I get a five and one, take them, and roll again. Two ones, I move those below the line. Now I reroll and I get two threes! This results in a Farkle, since the threes don’t give me any score. I don’t get any points for this turn, get an F behind my name (remember – three F’s and 1000 points go *poof*), and it’s the next player’s turn. This goes pretty quickly, too fast to take screenshots. The first next screen (my new roll) shows that the second player also rolled a Farkle, and the other player added 400 points to his score.
This keeps going until one of the players reaches 5000 or 1000 (depends on the settings), then the other players get one more turn to get their score as high as possible, and then the game is over. In this last turn, you can take all the risk since you MUST top the score of the player reaching 1000, otherwise you lose. So anything below that, and you can reroll. Of course if it’s not realistic that you will win, you can pass and surrender. In this case, I reached 5300 and the other players were at 4400 and 4150. So they defenitely had the possibility to beat me (twice a three of a kind with 1’s would be 1000 + 1000 = 2000 points, taking them over the 2000 points mark). They tried, but got Farkled in the process, so I won!

Farkle Roll 4 Farkle Roll 5 Farkle Roll 6 Farkle Won

Conclusion

Farkle is a really cool dice game that I had never seen before. Get to know the rules and scoring, and then you will have a gambling/strategic game that’s easy to pick up – and it all fits on one screen! No need to scroll, change views, or anything like that, all can be done with just a few taps. Also the dice can easily be tapped with a finger, but this is a bit harder for the Pass and Roll buttons. Farkle was released before the finger-friendly-hype, so if there would be an update, this might be taken into account, along with the bottom bar which is WM 2003 oriented. Otherwise, I didn’t find bugs or issues with this game – it’s great entertainment and certainly will keep you awake if you start playing just before going to bed. And what’s defenitely a very big Pro for these kind of games – there is no limited amount of levels/stages that can be completed, so the game can be won, but then you just start again and it’s completely different again!

Name: Farkle
Version: 1.30
By: Smart Box Design
Platforms/OS: PPC and Palm. For PPC, PPC 2003 and WM 5/6 are supported.
Resolutions: Square (240*240), QVGA (240*320) and VGA (480*640)
Price: $ 14.95
Download a trial or purchase!

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