Tepiiku


TepiikuArtbegottiIt's not often you come across a dice game that isn't like anything you've played before, and as such, you keep the deep "unlike anything you've seen before" movie trailer voice tucked away in the desk drawer. Tepiiku, a game by Alex Weldon, is one game that happens to deserve this sound bite, featuring a unique challenge of strategy, risk evaluation, and since we're dealing with dice, luck.

A round of Tepiiku is played in two halves. In the first half, players roll their six dice to determine their score. After your initial roll, you have the option to check or raise the stake. If your score is pretty high, you might want to raise the stake, as you could get more coins coming your way. The stake starts at 1 and increases for every player who raises (for a maximum of 4). To determine your score, it might help to think of these picture dice in terms of regular, "spotty" dice. Here's how you could break it down:

Tepiiku1: Ingot - Worth 1 point.
2: Gem - Worth 2 points.
3: Fire - Worth 3 points, but is canceled by water.
4: Water - Worth 4 points, but is canceled by fire.
5: Person - Each person is worth the total number of people rolled. Thus, one person is worth 1 point, two people is worth 4 points (2+2), three people is worth 9 points (3+3+3), and so on.
6: Skull - Worth -2 points.

The more complex decisions begin in the second half of the round. Each of your opponents' hands is revealed, with the highest-scoring player called the "hook", and the lowest-scoring player declared the "fish". The fish now has a decision to make: Re-roll some dice to try to make a higher score (and escape the role of fish) or pay the current stake to the hook. If you decide to re-roll and successfully raise your score enough to pass your opponents, the stake doubles, and you're in the clear (for now). Re-rolling and increasing but not beating an opponent raises the stake by one. If you re-roll and tie or drop from your previous score, the round immediately ends, and you forfeit double the stake to the hook. If you tie another player's score, they are forced to re-roll some of their dice to break the tie and determine the new hook or fish.

Analysis: As the author claims, Tepiiku is a "completely original game... not based on any existing dice games, commercial or otherwise." So far as our extensive research goes (ie, browsing Wikipedia's list of dice games), this statement is true. As such, the rules may take a bit of playing to get used to, but an in-game tutorial explains a lot of the facets of the game.

Once you get the rules down, Tepiiku provides some interesting strategic tactics for you to consider. Water is worth the most points by itself, but since it could be instantly negated by fire, could it be worth it to re-roll them to shoot for more people, which grow exponentially in value? How far behind the next player do you have to be before you decide it's not worth risking re-rolling and just paying the stake? Or, is there a stake that's not worth paying and always worth re-rolling for?

If there's one annoyance to be marked, it's a slight flaw in how the stake affects play. Occasionally, you'll get a round where two or three players go back and forth playing as the fish, and the stake doubles with each pass. Once the stake is large enough, a player might not have enough chips to equal double the stake (to pay in case of a loss), so the player is forced to immediately pay up. If the game were to continue after a player lost all of his/her chips, this would be somewhat fair, as the potential winner of the round could miss out on a lot of chips they could have earned. However, the game ends immediately when someone goes out, declaring the chip leader as first place, so having such a restriction is unnecessary, and makes coming back from a bad round difficult.

This nitpick aside, Tepiiku is a cleverly designed game that makes you think a bit before you make your move. While the basic gameplay remains the same throughout, you can choose between three modes that change the length of play. Tournament style throws you into several matches in a row, while the Single Match mode gets you, well, a single match. Survival mode adds in the extra hitch of losing an increasing amount of coins with each round that passes, forcing you to win rounds to stay alive. Tepiiku's genuinely unique gameplay makes this little gem worth a visit. So pull up a chair, start shaking, and see if you can conquer the table.

Play Tepiiku

23 Comments

Mmm-hmmm. Just like I thought.

Just like every other dice and card game in existence, apparently, once you get out of the practice round, it's absolutely nothing but consistent crap for you, and perfect hands/rolls for all AI players, every single hand.

No thanks. How about at least faking some random fairness for once, developers? Maybe?

Wow, this is a very interesting and unique game! I've only played one round, but I won with a 36 coin profit. Could do with some sound effects, but I still like it.

wait a minute, my volume's not working :P
(oh, and also the facebook connect is weird...)

It's a cute game, but the structure seems flawed. If the players have 100, 40, and 10 coins, there's not much the player with 40 coins can do to win the round. As soon as the player with 10 coins busts, the player with 100 coins wins. With the fish being the only person who gets to make decisions, you don't have enough opportunity to influence what happens.

@JIGuest
I definitely didn't see consistent crap for me and perfect rolls for the AI players. Why would the developers even bother coding the game so that it was unfairly weighted towards the AI players?

Ugh, the forced payment is more than just a *slight* flaw. I began a round with 31 chips and was the hook after the dice were revealed. I watched as my opponents traded the fish back and forth with both eventually surpassing me. Unfortunately, the stake then doubled to 16 just as I became the fish, leaving me one short and forcing me to pay up without ever having a chance to improve my own hand (which was definitely possible).

Doubling the stake when the fish changes players is too extreme, and forcing players to pay the stake when they can't afford that doubling puts players who lose money early at a HUGE disadvantage.

Other than that, I like the game a lot -- the dice scoring system is very cool, and bidding system is good, though it could use some tweaks.

It is really a very original game. I like that. For a new concept game it also has very well developed graphics as well the tutorial was done great!

I agree with artbegotti, an "all in"-mechanic like in poker would be preferable, so that you don't have to pay anymore once you are fully in, but lose out if you lose this round.

IMHO there is great potential to be an even better game:
* It be a good idea to interlink the sets more, so why not have the value of humans be te number of total humans on the desk (of all players), similar for skulls, so rerolling also might change the value of others sets. Fire/Water could be changed, so only the one side counts who has more dice on the table.

* As I see it, in basic the mechanics would work for N players. However, the idea the loser has to pay it all could be changed. With it in place its likely to have been implemented with 3 players. So how about this idea, the winner takes it all, everyone can reroll as much as s/he wants, but each round costs more / per dice. So 1st round free, 2nd round, add 1 per die you roll to the stake, 3rd round add 2 per die you roll to the stake, etc. If you are all-in, you cannot reroll anymore.

Anyway, great game, and I hope to see more and the quest for improved ideas in this direction.

The concept is good, but the forced payment wasn't properly explained and ruins gameplay for me. Once you get in a hole, it's pretty much impossible to get out since it's simple enough for your opponents to force you to pay.

First glance, confusing.
After three minutes, fun.
After tutorial, excited to begin playing.
After ten minutes, boring and the same thing over and over.

Two computers who constantly continue to raise each other until magically you're the fish with not enough coins, even though you had way more than them.

It's a good idea, but it's just not thought out perfectly. 4/5

OK, the forced payment is a little less of a problem if you start with 100 or 250 chips.

Nitpick: the way you've described it, the value of people increases quadratically (x^2), not exponentially (2^x).

@Chipmunk:

My question, exactly.

I'm enjoying it, it's good brainless fun. However, I don't like it when the two AIs are the hook and the fish and I have nothing to do but sit there and watch them duke it out. Maybe I'm selfish, but I'm the only human playing a game, I wanna actually play.

Hi everyone, I'm the guy who made the game... first off, I'd like to thank artbegotti for reviewing it, and all of you for your comments! There were just a couple of things I wanted to say:

1) To the first commenter: I assure you that the game is fair and random. In any game of chance, it's natural to have lucky and unlucky streaks, and it's not uncommon to feel like the dice/cards/whatever are "out to get you." Maybe I'll release the source code at some point to prove that the game is fair, but I'm not a great programmer and am a bit embarrassed to show the world how sloppy my code is.

2) Very useful feedback re: the forced payment being no fun. When you get consistent complaints across the board about something like this, you know to take it seriously! I did it that way because rerolling is always supposed to be a risk... if the stakes end up being such that you're going to go broke if you pay up, then you'd just always want to reroll, and wouldn't be risking anything extra to do so. However, I see how it can be frustrating. Similarly, the difficulty in coming back in a tournament is a problem.

Essentially, the problem is that I originally conceived the game as a "cash game," like non-tournament, limit poker... but I felt that for a Flash game, it needed a clear goal, so I tried to adapt it for match play, but there are these obvious problems with that.

Anyway, I've learned a lot and hopefully my next game will be better!

@xopods:

No, seriously, it's broken. Out of curiosity's sake (and because the AI players keep changing -- it would be nice to be able to pick them), I've kept trying now and again, and I get the same results each time.

Rerolls improving a Player score is so rare I almost doubt I've ever seen it. I bust 9 out of 10 times I attempt a reroll. Never anything but Skulls and (if and only if you have Water or Fire showing), a negating tile, guaranteeing your score will be lower (assuming you reroll Ingots, like most people would).

I also only ever see People in numbers greater than 1 in AI rolls. That can't be kosher, either.

Yet the AI players routinely get EXACTLY what they need to turn "-2" into "22", and Bust so IN-frequently that I doubt just as strongly my very faint memories of seeing it even once.

The game IS fun, until about the third or fourth hand (meaning the third or fourth all-but guaranteed bust), when you really start to feel cheated, resulting in ragequit.

The AI is (routinely and consistently) lucky enough to spend 14 or 15 rerolls if they need to beat a (hyper-rare) decent Player starting score, leaving you with the virtually-guaranteed auto-bust when you need to beat them, even if you only need to improve by 1 and are rerolling a Skull -- and because they spent so many "magically" bust-free rolls running up the Stake, you're now all but broke. Repeat.

I like the originality and all, but whatever probability mechanisms you are using are egregiously bad/weighted against the player in the extreme. I don't accuse you of intending it to be that way, but I can't deny what I'm seeing.

Interesting, but I was disappointed a the lack of variability. I know there are three game 'modes', but they all feel the same. Also, a cumulative stats page would be nice.

In any case it's an interesting game.

@JIGuest:
I'm sorry, but it's completely impossible that what you're saying is true. I don't know if you know anything about OOP, but anyway, each die is a separate object, and knows nothing about what the other dice are showing (except in the case of Fire and Water, which ask the container object whether others of the opposite type are showing, and then only after they've been rolled, in order to determine whether to show the red or blue image). The code to determine the outcome of a die roll doesn't do anything fancy, it just generates an integer from 0 to 5, displays the correct image, and reports back to the container object so that it can calculate the total score. Both the player and AIs use the same TepiikuDice object.

If the AIs are consistently improving their rolls more often than you, perhaps you're just not doing a very good job of choosing which dice to reroll. It's either that, or you've just been very unlucky.

Sorry, I shouldn't say "completely impossible." I suppose there's a remote chance that your computer itself is actually sentient, and hates you. That would explain why you experience this effect in all games with an element of luck, and not just Tepiiku. :-)

I'm not sure why I even bother to try to explain anymore; nobody ever listens when the message is critical of their work. I guess I can understand that, but it's still disappointing.

What I'm saying is that rolls simply (almost) never improve for players, and almost always improve for AIs. Period. That tells me some force is at work making it so.

Reroll a skull? Get a skull again, or a Fire or Water if you've got the opposite showing.

Reroll an ingot? Get a skull.

Reroll a singleton person? Get a skull.

Reroll your lone Water when you have 3 Fires? Get a skull, or a Water again. Never anything else...

Repeat. Over and over and over...

Seriously, as a player, it seems impossible to improve tiles with any freuqency above 1 in 20 or 1 in 40. The rest of the time, it's CONSISTENTLY worse. The AIs seem to have the exact opposite effect working for them. And, of course, when they do bust on that 20th reroll on the 40th hand, they do so to the other AI, never to you.

I understand what you say about risk. But it's not RISKY to reroll, it's all-but-guaranteed Bust for you, all-but-guaranteed improvement for them, every time I try it. NOBODY is that unlucky. I have to cross 4 or 5 streets to get home; I'd be dead within the week if I were that unlucky.

All I can tell you is what I'm seeing. If you don't believe me, there's no more I can do about it. I'm having trouble believing this page isn't lit up with people saying the same thing, quite frankly.

It's not lit up with people saying the same thing because you're alone in the throes of what is called "confirmation bias". The alternative is that the game's code is designed specially to respond in this way to you and to you alone, and the game's programmer has cause to lie about this.
Between this, or you experiencing a subjective logical fallacy when you've already stated you're the sort to "ragequit", which is honestly likelier?
At least provide some hard math rather than vague complaints.

@JIGuest

Actually, I seem to be able to improve my hand on a pretty regular basis. When I'm playing conservatively I hardly ever bust.

So, assuming that your strategy is decent, you must be experiencing a bug that is particular to something on your machine. Browser? OS? Could be anything, but the possibility shouldn't be discounted.

My chief complaint would be lack of interactivity. Since the winner is mainly predicated on who loses and when, there are wayyyyyyy too many situations one has absolutely no control over or say in. Same goes for the hook/fish system, which leaves a third player out completely.

@JIGuest #1 (since now there's a second one): I won't argue any more, since others have already made the points I was going to, and I'm kind of starting to think you're just trolling.

However, I'm offended that you accuse me of not listening to criticism. Aside from your paranoid theories, there have been two consistent messages I've gotten from this:

1) It sucks that the player can "lose" (in the sense of failing to take 1st, or failing to advance in a tournament) without going broke, if they're stuck in second while an incompetent AI is donking off all his money to a better AI. The player feels like a bystander in these cases, not an active party.

2) It's frustrating when you have an easily-improvable set of dice, but can't reroll because it gets doubled up a few times before you end up in the Fish position, and you don't have sufficient funds to be allowed to do so.

This is great feedback, I'm very receptive to it, and although I don't have plans to release a new version of Tepiiku, I'll keep it in mind when designing other games. Please don't try to make me out as a pig-headed designer who doesn't care what others think.

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