Don’t ever let someone tell you Yahtzee is an innocent, casual game. Yahtzee is simple, yes—mostly luck, with a dash of skill and math in how you score your rolls—but it is also brutal. Almost every single time you play, this game forces you to inflict a grievous wound to your own morale and ego. The likelihood that you’ll have to fill in the little box on your scoresheet for your “Yahtzee” roll with a zero is high. You hold off as long as you can, hoping to roll that rare five-of-a-kind to score a magnificent 50 points, but once you’ve used up your Chance and settled for a meager three-out-of-five sixes, it’s time to face reality.
You will not roll a Yahtzee. There is no room left for hope. All that’s left is waiting for the end.
Anyway, that’s what I was thinking about when an undead snake started tearing through the village I’d spent the last three hours building in Luckitown, a dice-based tower defense game that hit Steam last week. A great roll is exhilarating here as it is in Yahtzee: in one memorable turn earlier in the game I rolled every resource I needed to build a powerful castle, which could both fire arrows and spit out well-armored knights. It was like rolling a full house in one go. Yahtzee’s randomness can be cruel, but it can also be exhilarating when it goes your way (or at least as exhilarating as rolling a few dice and doing basic math can get).
I’d managed to defeat Luckitown’s first two bosses by making the best of the RNG, but the third one simply slithered over the defensive walls I’d meticulously built up in front of my arrow towers, bulldozing the squishy houses behind them. For every building it destroyed it spawned another vertebra on its bony body, which was frankly insulting. Luckitown didn’t force me to pencil in a zero, but I knew hope was dead just the same.
It hurt, because Luckitown is a really cute game. Like most games by the Sokpop Collective, it’s intentionally lo-fi, a simple concept spun out into a $5 game that you’ll probably be satisfied with after a few hours. The pitch here grabbed me immediately: a tower defense game where your dice rolls determine what you build, forcing tricky choices between banking dice for what you want to build, or using them immediately to plug a gap.
Clearly I have strong feelings about Yahtzee.
Luckitown starts you with a small dice pool with resources like lumber and stone that lets you build cheap basic structures. Houses “power” farms and barracks and arrow towers. Farms and workshops and magic totems expand your dice pool and award you special materials to build fancier stuff like cannons, trebuchets, and crypts, which turn the souls of your own fallen soldiers into magic missiles. There’s some typical but still satisfying tower defense strategy to work with here, like dealing with both flying and skittering enemies and using special towers to trap or slow enemies as they march towards your castle.
The graphics for your little cottages and tiny knights are cute and remind me of ’80s RPGs like Ultima, which is why I took it so hard when that damn snake came in and trampled my whole village. I’d also spent an unusually long time devoted to that build: most tower defense games I’ve played are divided into missions, but Luckitown just tasks you with surviving the whole game in one go, which will take 2-3 hours. Fail or finish and it’s back to the beginning.
I don’t think the Sokpop Collective typically make sequels, but I hope Luckitown proves to be an exception. I think Sokpop has a great concept here that it could expand on with some shorter missions and maps that let you take advantage of the environment rather than expanding across a big open field. The 2D building grid could also use some refining: it can be hard to tell how buildings align, which left me fiddling with my tower placement far too often. But I’m already thinking about what I’d do differently next time and plotting what towers I’ll use to kill that bone serpent—at least, if the dice go my way.