Sumo Gnomes Kickstarter Review

Sumo Gnomes Kickstarter Review

A game called Sumo Gnome should immediately conjure certain images to mind, primarily, that of a sumo wrestlers who also happen to be gnomes.  Obviously.  It should also bring some gaming assumptions along too.  This game is super small, super light and delivers a quick slap of dice based gaming combat.

Two sumo gnomes square off on a tree stump, one gnome in the blue mawashi and the other in red (each stylised on a six sided die), the goal is simple; push your opponent off the stump.

Your actions and attacks are decided upon by four dice, only two of which are used in each round putting the remaining dice in reserve for the following turn.  You'll choose your two actions, which include moving, grabbing, tricking, switching, and slamming.  Moving along the designated paths, you and your opponent will begin—what I like to think of as—the Dance of E Honda.    

Sumo Gnomes Kickstarter Review - In Play The Dice


Of these results, ‘Grab’ is arguably the most powerful as not only can it be combined with other results to form a very basic combo; a Grab + Switch allows you to throw your opponent around a bit more and when used with a movement the result becomes a Slam.  However, a game can be won just as easily with Grab as without it.  ‘Switch’ can get you out of a tight spot and a ‘Trick’ can move your opponent into just the right position for your attack.

Whatever you roll, your turn consists of two simple choices, what results do you keep for the next turn and what order do you pull of your moves on this one.  Once you are into your second turn you’ll only roll the previously used dice, so at least you know what half of your options are.  Equally, you know what your opponent can do too. 

Sumo Gnomes Kickstarter Review - In Play Grab


Sumo Gnomes forces players into conflict.  There is no blocking, no dodging, no subtle maneuvering, it a straight-up brawl.  Yet, it isn’t a mindless dice chucking affair, you are not solely at the mercy of the dice, and matching pair can be used as a Flurry to move you or attack your opponent.  Rolling four of a kind allows for a punishing assault.  Yet, some thought is required to string these results together for the best effect, holding back some moves for later rounds, paying attention to what your opponent can do, or rather, what they can get out of.

I’m actually rather charmed by the dice combat here, it’s simple and intuitive and even though the brevity of the game and footprint make up a key part of this game’s appeal and purpose, I’d quite like to see more of it.  I’d be keen to see some asymmetry with fighters, perhaps additional dice that hold the possibility of a special attack, or unique or powerful combos.  But that would make this a different game. 

Sumo Gnomes Kickstarter Review - In Play On the Edge


The key with Sumo Gnomes is its shortness and I really can’t stress enough how quick a game can be.  I’ve played games where the end came about too suddenly, where the game was over before it had a chance to figuratively start (admittedly this was down to carelessness).  On other occasions the short play time has meant that I’ve been able to play game after game after game in a best of three, best of five, best of seven matches.  

If ever there was a game that does what it says on the tin, it is Sumo Gnomes.  Everything about this game clamours small, light, quick and fun, and it delivers on each of these with ruthless aplomb.  It is very, very quick and it is very, very light but each game maintains a sense of pace and still requires some consideration.

Sumo Gnomes Kickstarter Review - In Play Long Shot


If you like micro games, travel games, games that you can play with young children (provided they are old enough to understand that you don’t put dice in your mouth) or games that you can play while you are waiting for a kettle to boil Sumo Gnomes is worth your consideration.


This Kickstarter preview is based on a prototype version of the game provided by the publisher; the final product may look, play or smell different to that used in this preview.
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