Square Shooters: The Dice Game!

Square Shooters Logo
8 Overall Score
Approachability: 9/10
Game Play: 8/10
Art Style: 7/10

Flexible | Easy to Learn | Great for parties | Can support multiple levels of play simultaneously.

Great breadth, but not a lot of depth for two people | Puzzling implementation decisions in the iOS App.

Written by on May 13, 2013 in [, , ]

My wife and I were pretty tired from a long day but we wanted to play something together. I didn’t feel like booting a console up, and despite my love for cerebral tabletop games I just couldn’t muster the brainpower for a rousing game of Puerto Rico. I needed something simple, something short, and something fun. I turned to Square Shooters.

Square Shooters is a dice game that spawned from brilliant ideas and clever observation:

The idea for Square Shooters® occurred to Carmelyn late one night when she had the simple thought that 9 dice have 54 total surfaces – a perfect match to a standard deck of cards. her next thought was that to be marketable as a deck of cards on dice, the dice must be able to achieve all of the hands needed to play poker, rummy, and most other card games.

Before the sun came up the next day she had answered the question: YES you can! With Square Shooters®, you can roll any straight flush, royal flush, and 4-of-a-kind! Carmelyn’s husband James woke up to find his wife sound asleep, his miter-saw on the kitchen counter, saw dust everywhere, and some wooden dice with hand-drawn cardfaces lying about.

The core Square Shooters game is simple – There is a deck of cards to draw from and each card presents you with two options: with three rolls or less you can try to either get an exact match to the dice combination on the card or get whatever the poker hand is those dice represent (two pair, full house, straight, flush, etcetera). Like Yahtzee, you only pick up the dice you want to re-roll. The two options yield different chip rewards with the exact match being more. The game continues through eight rounds and the player with the most chips wins.

Square Shooters being played

Other than my penchant for Wil Wheaton-esque abysmal rolling, I had a blast. The game was fast moving and as my wife’s chip total began to more than double my own, I found myself playing the role of the risk taker – eschewing the common hand in hopes of getting the exact dice necessary to double my chip winnings (I should note this almost never happened). After a few sessions of the standard game we started experimenting with some of the alternate rules.

Within the construct of the core game there are plenty of variations that can be had. If, for example, you are playing with younger players, allowing them to take the full chip value on cards where they achieve the common goal evens out the playing field remarkably quickly. There are also “shootouts” – trying to get the same target die combination in less rolls than your opponent. There are many suggestions listed within the rulebook, and people are encouraged to try their own.

You may have noticed there are two faces unaccounted for – 9 six-sided dice makes for 54 faces, not 52. These two extra faces are Jokers, one red, one black. Yet another alteration to the rules could be changing the jokers so that instead of them being used as truly wild cards, they can be limited to only being wild within their color.

Already, this nine die set offers a ton of flexibility. Beyond this, there are completely different games that can be played – a version of Yahtzee with card based dice is sure to offer some interesting possibilities. Heartland Consumer Products, the distributor of Square Shooters, actively encourages creativity in games played with the dice. You can even check out their Community Forums for a ton of different games you can play with the base set.

Dice and Playing Cards have both existed for a thousand of years. It is remarkable nobody has ever thought to combine the two until now. What comes from that combination is a fun, light-hearted, easy to understand game that almost anyone can play. The purchase of one set of dice opens the doors wide open for countless gaming possibilities.

If you’re curious how the game works but you don’t want to wait to order a set yourself, you can check out the game, Square Shooters, in the iOS App Store. The game is free, but has ads for the physical game within it. The iOS game isn’t as robust, as it only allows you to play with the standard rule set, but it does sport asynchronous multiplayer and Facebook integration. You can either invite particular people to play, play against yourself, or have the game go out and find a “random cowboy” for you to play against.

The Square Shooters iOS menu

The iOS implementation is fairly solid but has some puzzling design decisions. Despite its asynchronous nature, it seems to require an internet connection of some sort – I played in an area with a spotty connection and the game threw ad banners up at a high frequency – presumably when regaining connectivity after a blip in the stream. The game itself also seemed a little choppy if my reception wasn’t great. I’ve had no problems when the phone is on my wireless in my house, though. After speaking with the folks at Heartland, it’s clear the iOS game is a core piece of their strategy going forward and they plan on enhancing it over time. I expect some of these minor issues will work themselves out and the game will gradually become as smooth as the tabletop version.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Square Shooters, including some interesting information about the philosophy of the game itself, I was privileged to have the opportunity to sit down with Tom Donelan, the CEO of Heartland Consumer Products. You can listen to that interview right here.

As if the intriguing base game with incredible flexibility wasn’t already an appetizing prospect at less than $15 bucks, Heartland is also giving back to the community: 5% of all of their online sales are donated to the charity “Autism Speaks.”

You can pick up your copy of Square Shooters here.


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Author: Andrew Smith View all posts by

One Comment on "Square Shooters: The Dice Game!"

  1. Carmelyn Calvert May 18, 2013 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Thanks Andrew for the great review! What’s happening with Square Shooters is exactly what I had hoped for. Creative gamers making up their own games! I’m glad you recognized the endless possibilities for games to play!

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