Game Review – Too Many Bones

IMG_3485It’s time to take down a tyrant! Too Many Bones is a cooperative, dice-based, adventure role-playing game (RPG) that will test a team of Gearlocs with deadly monsters and games of skill on their quest to defeat a tyrant threatening the lands. With seven unique tyrants to defeat, the Gearlocs have quite a challenge in front of them.

Designer: Adam Carlson & Josh J. Carlson
Chip Theory Games
Genre: Cooperative, RPG
Players: 1-4
Play Time: 120-210 minutes
Number of Logged Plays: 4

Skip ahead to find out:
Game Overview
Game Play
What He Said
What She Said
Our Pros and Cons
The Verdict

Game Overview

IMG_3737First, players must select a tyrant to defeat. Setup the encounter deck and baddie stacks based on that Tyrant’s requirements. Each player will then select a Gearloc to play as and collect their respective player mat, chip, skill dice, initiative dice, and character reference sheet. Players will then choose what difficulty they’d like to play on and gain any bonuses that difficulty grants them.

Throughout the game, players will encounter swarms of baddies, get roped into a game of Deadly Darts, or even hunt down some squirrels for food. The RPG part of the game is done through the 16 Gearloc specific dice that are used to represent skills and attributes. With a limited number of rounds per Tyrant, players will have to make tough decisions on where to allocate their training points. If the Gearlocs can defeat the Tyrant before the time limit, the mission is a success. If the Tyrant gets the best of the Gearlocs, he/she will flee and the Gearlocs must compose themselves to pursue that Tyrant on a different adventure.

Game Play

Too Many Bones is played over a series of rounds represented by days. During each day, the Gearlocs will go through the following phases:

  1. IMG_3499New Day
    Each adventure has a time limit that is represented by a number of days on the Tyrant’s card. At the beginning of each round, players will increase the day counter by one. If the day exceeds the number on the Tyrant card, the Tyrant has escaped and the Gearlocs have failed their mission.
  2. Encounter Phase
    Players progress the adventure by flipping an event card over and seeing what the day has in store for them. Some events may result in a hard-fought battle that will give players’ training points to upgrade their character or reward them with precious loot. The main purpose of progressing through this deck is to gain progress points, which are added together and compared to the Tyrant’s progress point requirement. Once the party has progress points equal to the Tyrant’s value, they can choose to attempt to defeat the Tyrant as their encounter for the day. The following steps are taken in this phase:

    • The top card of the encounter deck is drawn and read aloud. Typically, players will be given a choice between a riskier option with greater rewards and a safer option that has a higher chance of success, but a smaller reward.
    • Battles will be a success if the Gearlocs are able to defeat all of the baddies before being defeated.
    • Successful encounters will result in rewards for players in the next phase.
    • Failed encounters will result in the players skipping the reward phase and going immediately into the Recovery phase.
    • IMG_3496Battles
      • The Baddie Queue (BQ) will determine the number and difficulty of baddies the Gearlocs must defeat during this encounter. The BQ will be calculated by multiplying the number of players by the current day. Baddies are then drawn from the 1, 5, and 20 stacks to equal this number. When possible, the highest number will be chosen when pulling baddies from the stacks.
      • The baddies will then be stacked into a single pile, with the highest values at the top and placed in their corresponding lane (1-4) on the battle mat in the order drawn (Top baddie = Lane 1, second baddie = Lane 2, etc.)
      • Once all baddies are placed on the battle mat, the baddie # dice will be placed on the initiative track to determine turn order. The Gearlocs will roll their initiative dice to determine where turn order. Any ties on initiative dice will go to the Gearlocs.
      • On a Gearloc’s turn, players can move their Gearloc by using one of their dexterity points and/or attack a target with any combination of attack/skill/defense dice equal to the number unused dexterity points for this turn. Any rolled dice that Gearlocs don’t use on this turn can be saved for later by placing it in an active slot on their player mat. Any dice in the active slots do count against your total pool of attack/defense dice.
      • IMG_3509Attack/defense dice can be rolled every round of battle, as long they aren’t being saved in the active slot. Typically any skill dice used in combat will be exhausted, which means they can only be used once per battle. There are some exceptions to this rule as indicated on the Gearloc’s reference sheet. (example: Picket’s Captain Dice)
      • If any bones are rolled they can be placed on the Backup Plan area of the player mat. Players utilize one skill a turn from the Backup Plan by spending the number of bones required for the skill.
      • On a baddie’s turn, a target is chosen and the baddie moves toward them to attack, if they aren’t already in range. Any special skills that a baddie has are then activated, if applicable. Lastly, they will attack by rolling all of their attack/defense dice shown on their chip.
      • Defense dice can be placed in the active slot and used to block damage from baddies. This also applies for baddies who have defense dice on them when a Gearloc attacks.
      • If the baddies defeat all of the Gearlocs by depleting all of their health, they have failed the encounter. But if the Gearlocs defeat all of the baddies, they are successful.
  3. Reward Phase
    During this phase, players will gain any rewards from a successful encounter. The rewards players can gain are listed below:

    • IMG_3735Loot: Each Gearloc can only carry four pieces of loot at one time. These cards will range from permanent upgrades, like armor, to one-time consumable items, like health potions. There are even some cards that weigh so much that it will take up three loot slots.
    • Trove Loot: These cards represent a chest containing loot that will require the Gearlocs to pick all the locks on the chest to get the loot inside. These items are usually a lot stronger than the standard loot, due to the additional steps required to gain the item. Lockpicking can be attempted during the recovery phase.
    • Training Points: These are points that players can use to upgrade their attributes or gain new skills.
      Attributes: Gearlocs can spend one training point to increase their health or dexterity by one. They can also use a one training point to attempt to increase their attack or defense, with the only catch being that they must perform a check against their current attack/defense dice pool. If they roll any bones icons, they have failed the skill upgrade attempt.
      Skills: The skill tree on each Gearloc’s player mat will have skills that have a star icon around them. These are skills that can be acquired by spending a skill point and do not require any prerequisite skills. Any skills that don’t have a star icon, must have the prerequisite skill(s). Skills are represented by dice that Gearlocs will add to their player mat for battles in the future.
  4. Recovery Phase
    Players rest after their encounters, and can perform the following actions:

    • Trade loot with anyone in your party
    • Each Gearloc can make a lockpicking attempt on a trove loot. The trove loot can belong to anyone in the party.
    • One option from below:
      • Rest and Recover: Heal to full HP
      • Search for Better Loot: Discard one loot and roll six attack dice. Each bone icon rolled allows you to draw one loot card. You may keep one of the cards that you draw.
      • Scout the Area: Roll a D6 (# rolled determines baddie stack) and reveal the top baddie from one of the three stacks. If the players aren’t afraid of the baddie they reveal, they can leave it on top of the stack. More intimidating baddies revealed this way can be placed onto the bottom of their respective stack.

The game will continue until either the day limit is reached or the Gearlocs defeat the Tyrant. Can your band of adventurers overcome the obstacles in the lands of Daelore to rid the land of the dastardly Tyrant?

He Said

Over the past year, we started playing a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with our friends, loaded with character skill development and rolling handfuls of dice to defeat monsters attempting to stop you from completing your quest. My favorite thing about Dungeons and Dragons is character building and the battles, which is where Too Many Bones excels in with its branching skill trees and fun combat. There are a ton of things to like about Too Many Bones, especially if you aren’t a huge fan of the role-playing aspect of an RPG, but that’s not to say that it’s a perfect game because there were some things in it that didn’t work too well for our game group.


Steak Sauce Components
The first thing that you’ll notice when you crack open the box to Too Many Bones is that no expense was spared for the components. Every component is extremely impressive – from the dice face images being heat transferred so that the dice are guaranteed to last a long time to the plastic indestructible cards that can survive any number of accidentally spilled drinks. You can really tell that Chip Theory Games takes a lot of pride in providing premium components for their games, and it really does pay off. The components have that wow factor that draws new people into the game.

The battle mat and character sheets are also made of neoprene and have cutouts in them to place your dice, which is an awesome feature. Some games we’ve played in the past could benefit from a feature like this since it’s a pain to remember where things go if someone accidentally bumps the table and shifts all the pieces around. All the dice are stored in their own storage containers and are easily distributed to players. Each character in the game also gets their own reference sheet describing basic builds and a description of their abilities that give players an idea of a Gearloc’s strengths and weaknesses.

IMG_3483The only issue that I had with any of the components was the content on the specific Gearloc reference sheets, especially with the abilities portion of the sheet. Each Gearloc has different categories of skills that are described in a sentence or two, which is great, but you don’t actually know what icons are on the dice and what they do from that description. To actually learn what the skill does, you’re going to have to pick up the dice and look at each side of it and cross reference it with the dice legend on the reference sheet. This leads to a lot of questions and the eventual advice of just looking at the dice instead of the flavor text describing the skill.

However, I did see that there will be a greatly improved reference sheet that omits the flavor text and will show all the faces of each skill die so it can easily be referenced from the character sheet.

The Harder the Conflict, the More Glorious the Triumph
The first thing you should warn new players about this game is that it’s not going to be a walk in the park. Our current record is 1-3 with our losses being fairly rough as we got stomped by the Tyrant in the final battle. I felt like the difficulty level of the game has a pretty brutal scale with two players, feeling almost impossible as the number of monsters ramps up throughout the game. Starting battles off with a low initiative could be disastrous because there’s a good chance the baddies could kill off a player before they even get an opportunity to take a turn. This has happened a couple times to Mandee and me, and it really makes an unfavorable battle worse as one person has to just sit and watch the battle unfold helplessly. But I have a feeling some of our failures were from not choosing the best combination of characters for a given adventure and inexperience on how to best use our character’s skills.

IMG_3497On the other hand, in our four player games, the battles were a lot smoother because the number of Gearlocs were generally equal to or greater than the number of active baddies. Bigger threats were a lot easier to deal with because the Gearlocs could focus on a specific baddie and then clean up the weaker enemies afterward. The loot was a bit more bountiful as well with four players drawing from the deck, and being able to exchange them with other party members during a recovery phase. This isn’t to say that a four player game is “easy” because we still only barely skimmed by for our first win against Drellen with four players.

Regardless of player count, the victories felt well earned. The first time we beat Drellen, I felt pretty ecstatic since I felt like we had finally come up with a winning strategy paired up with a little bit of luck that went our way. But the losses felt brutal, as we would lose after investing 2-3 hours getting to the Tyrant and being unable to defeat them before time ran out.

Playing Too Many Bones reminds me of when I used to raid in World of Warcraft, where we would just have to keep making attempt after attempt with slight variations in strategy until we finally took down the boss. You need to come into Too Many Bones with that kind of mindset because each Tyrant brings a whole different set of challenges that will require players to react correctly with their skill/attribute choices to win.

After every loss, I wanted to try again using a different combination of Gearlocs or different skills that would have been better for defeating the Tyrant. This can be a difficult endeavor though as each adventure can run between 2-3 hours, which might be a bit much for some game groups.

Tyrant of the Week
Just like the components, the Gearlocs, Tyrants, and encounters have a lot of variety and provide a unique play experience each time. Each of the Gearlocs has a unique play style – from Boomer’s long range explosives causing a massive amount of damage to Picket leaping in front of enemy attacks to save his squishier Gearloc companions.

IMG_3734 (2)So far I’ve played as Picket, Tantrum, and Ghillie (expansion character), and there is a bit of a learning curve to each of them, but that’s one of the exciting things about picking up a new character and learning how to use them. It gave me that same feeling I had in World of Warcraft when I would try out a class for the first time. This is where multiple plays become a big factor to the enjoyment of the game because it’s going to take more than just a couple of games to get a good understanding of a Gearloc’s abilities. I think a good strategy to focus on is raising your attributes to increase your dice limit and pool of attack and defense dice that can potentially be used every turn. They can also generate bones to apply to your backup plan to unlock powerful single use abilities. That’s not to say that skills aren’t that great, but being a little more selective could go a long way further down the road.

The dexterity attribute being utilized as both the number of dice that can be rolled on a turn and points for movement creates interesting decisions. Do you try to relocate yourself into a more ideal spot and then attack or go all in and attempt to place the final blow on an enemy? The checks for gaining attack and defense dice was also a nice twist, so characters can’t just solely focus on raising one of those attributes every turn without some chance of failure.

The encounters have a lot of variety in them, including mini-games that have you hunting squirrels to temporarily boost your health and intense games of Dangerous Darts.  I was pretty surprised by the variety of encounters because I was just expecting most of them to result in combat. Each encounter is also very well written with a lot of fun story elements and interesting decisions for the party to make. The only thing that remains static with every adventure is the first three cards of the encounter deck that has players departing Obendar and the first two encounters after that. I’m hoping that there might be some new cards added in the future to tweak the beginning of the adventure a little.

The two Tyrants we played against so far (Drellen & Nom) had a unique theme with the baddies that were encounters and a Tyrant specific encounter that changed things up quite a bit. Drellen being protected by other bog type creates has players scrambling around to eliminate his minions to give them a small window of opportunity to damage him. Nom, on the other hand, eliminates your strength in numbers by forcing the Gearlocs into combat one at a time, which was surprising. You may think that once you figure out a good character combination and skill combo that you’d be set for defeating them consistently, but with the randomization of baddies and your initiative roll, things could go in quite a different direction. With a total of seven Tyrants to encounter there is a ton of replayability in this box.

Final Thoughts
Overall, I’ve enjoyed every game of Too Many Bones that I’ve played so far. Each game has me thinking about what I could have done differently or how to best optimize the party to defeat the Tyrant. However, it is a big time commitment to play one adventure of Too Many Bones, which could be a negative for some people. The difficulty could also be off-putting for newer players if they aren’t made aware of it. It’s not fun being the one person that gets KO’d before you even get a turn.

If you really enjoy the combat portion of an RPG game like I do, this would be a good game for you to try out since there isn’t as much of an emphasis on the role-playing. As long as you’re able to get in multiple games, you’ll find a deep game with a lot of different options to try out. I wish I was able to get this to the table more and I may be able to once I give the solo mode a whirl since Mandee wasn’t a huge fan of the game length. With that said, if you aren’t able to get the game to the table often I would probably lean more towards passing on Too Many Bones because it won’t be able to live up to its full potential.

She Said

IMG_3498About a year ago, I was finally talked into playing the most popular RPG in existence, Dungeons and Dragons. And while I found it mildly entertaining, I recognized that this type of game does not fit my personality. I am incapable of suspending my disbelief and fully engrossing myself in a character. However, in Too Many Bones, it eliminates my least favorite part of RPGs – acting. So I had high hopes, but I don’t think it quite lived up to my expectations.

Grade-A Quality
IMG_3727I would say that Too Many Bones may have some of the highest quality components in any board game we own. The components are so good that I’d consider the game worth buying just for that feature – the player mats, the poker chips and the dice are all fantastic.

In addition, the concept of the game is really cool. It’s a game where you choose a player and then build it up however you want. You choose what skills you want to utilize and how you want to use them. That’s a cool concept to me, especially because it adds in that RPG element without having to really immerse yourself in the character and pretend to be someone you aren’t. A skill I do not possess.

However, because it is a co-op game, you do run the risk of someone dominating someone’s decisions. It hasn’t happened in any game we played, but I know it does happen in co-op games.

Keep it Simple
IMG_3738 (2)Although I really do like this game, my main problem with it is that it’s just too complicated. It really is not a game for new gamers or people who have little to no experience with complicated games. It’s not an easy pick-up game. Once you understand it, it is relatively simple. But to get to that point, can take some work and it’s likely you’ll lose the interest of any casual gamers.

The player reference sheets are not very helpful and have WAY too much unnecessary text. They also don’t include very clear direction on how you complete a skill. You have to match the symbols on the reference card with the symbols on the dice, which is not very user-friendly. I don’t need to know details about the skills – just show me how to do it. However, I had heard that they are redoing the player reference cards to simplify them.


We had one friend who really does not enjoy complicated games play this, and she liked the idea because it’s similar to D&D, but it was too complicated. And I get that because even me, someone who does enjoy the occasional complicated game, found this just a tad too complex. It could be simplified by eliminating a few unnecessary details. For example, there is no need for trove loot – the unlocking feature just adds an unnecessary complication.

Player Counts
We first played this as a two player game, and we found it almost impossible. We have never won a two player game. Maybe that’s our fault for not picking the right character combos, but we did choose character suggested for new players to get the hang of the game. So you’d think that it’d be a bit easier to get close to winning.

However, we then played this a four player game, and managed to win one round. It’s still ridiculously hard, but I know that’s the intention. I would suggest that this game always be played with more than two players. I think it should at least be possible to win a game at all player counts.

IMG_3739Final Thoughts
Although I did enjoy this game, it does run a little too long for me. I typically like games that go for a max of 1.5 hours. Anything more than that I begin to question life choices – like why am I still awake playing this game? As I said, the components are fantastic and it’s a really nice game to look at. But it’s a bit unbalanced and seems overly complicated for what you get out of it. Overall, I like the concept, but the execution needs work and simplification.

Pros and Cons

– Great components
– Unique take on an RPG with all dice based skill system
– Good replayability
– Challenging gameplay
– Wide variety of encounters
– Combat is fun with a good amount of options
– Has a different set of encounter cards for solo play


– Big learning curve that can be intimidating for new players
– Games can drag on a little too long, depending on the type of encounters drawn
– Player reference & some rules could use clarification (will be improved in second print run)
– Large differences in difficulty at different player counts
– There’s a possibility of being eliminated from a battle before even getting a turn

The Verdict

He gives this game out of 8 Baddie Points 10.

She gives this game 6 Training Points out of 10.

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