Do you like dice? Some people don’t. I like dice on certain occasions. Sharp Shooters is one of those “occasions”.
The game of Sharp Shooters includes lots of dice, but you only get to roll 5 of them.
It never feels like enough.
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How To Play Sharp Shooters
Sharp Shooters is a game for 2 to 6 players. Depending on the number of players, you will start with a total varying from 16 to 5 dice, but you will only roll (at most) 5 of them at a time.
You also start with 100 points in chips. the directions suggest 1 red 50-point chip and 5 white 10-point chips, but you could just as well start with 1 black 100-point chip and be done with it. You can always make change from the “bank”, the supply of chips, whenever you need to.
Above you can see all the bits included in the game. The bank and directions sheet are at the upper left. The green felt dice rolling area is at the right. The dice placement area is at the lower left.
On your turn, you roll up to 5 dice into the green area of the board, making sure that at least one die touches the curved black backboard. This is to help ensure that no one is trying to manipulate their dice roll. If no dice touch the backboard, you roll them all again.
You then take at least one die and place it in one of the squares on the clear plastic scorecard cover. This covering has ridges around each square that help keep the dice in place.
Your goal at this point is to be the player to finish one or more of the 6 rows on the scorecard that has a positive value. If you do finish a row, you get the designated value in chips. If you finish a black negative row, you must pay the bank the number of chips specified.
So there’s some press your luck at work here.
You can roll as often as you want, but you must place at least 1 die (if possible) after each roll. If you place all your dice or you can’t place any legally or you simply choose not to roll again, your turn ends. If you get another turn this round (that is, the current scorecard hasn’t been filled yet), you start rolling again with the full complement of 5 dice (or as many as you still have in your supply).
The scorecard rows show arrangements of dice much like those you try to get in the game of Yahtzee. The card above doesn’t happen to show any, but there are straights in some rows. These must be filled from left to right consecutively.
There are 12 double-sided scorecards in the game. A normal game uses 6 sides, but you can use as many as you like.
The rows with stars indicate wild spaces. The first player to place a die in an area with stars determines what number the rest of that row must be. In the case of a Full House star row (see row 5 above), you must complete the first 3 spaces with the same number and then the last 2 spaces each with the same number (which could be the same number as the first 3 but don’t have to be).
When a scorecard is full, you remove it from play and continue the next round with the new card that appears. After the designated number of rounds, the player with the highest total value of chips is the winner. (There is no tie breaker.)
Is There a Winning Strategy in Sharp Shooters?
As I mentioned earlier, there is some press your luck in Sharp Shooters. Knowing how many spaces are left on the board and in a particular row and how many you have in hand and in your supply, you have to decide whether or not to roll again this turn or wait until next turn – if you even get another turn this round!
There are rows that are just 1 die long. If such a row is still open on your turn, you obviously want to try to complete it (unless it’s negative points).
Deciding how much of a row to complete can be a challenge. Should you leave just 2 spaces open or try to fill them yourself? Do you even have enough dice? How many other players have enough dice? And how lucky will they be?
Taking a big negative row can be quite a setback. Taking a smaller negative might not be so bad, if it lets you continue your turn and score a fair amount in a positive row.
There may not be any consistent winning strategy to Sharp Shooters. It’s usually more of a tactical; that is, situational game. You roll or refrain from rolling depending on what you see on the board and on what other players are doing.
I enjoy Sharp Shooters, even if we don’t play it much. Kids could easily learn to play. In fact, our children were fairly young when we first got this game.
It was the GAMES magazine Game of the Year for 1995, which may say something about other games available that year and about the way the magazine determines its awards.
Sharp Shooters should take no more than half an hour to play, even if there are one or two players who take too long on their turns.