H.I.D.E., or in full Hidden Identity Dice Espionage, is the brand-new spy themed dice deduction game from designer Keewoong Kim. The game is for 3-5 players and takes around the advertised time of 30 minutes, with minor disparity depending on the player count. In this world players take up the roles of secret agents starting out at the lowest rank but aiming to become legendary. However, to become an equal of the likes of James Bond players must obtain valuable intel, deduce what other agents are after and assassinate the competition. However, is the mixture of deduction and dice a winning combination? Let’s find out.
Setup is extremely quick and easy. So much so that you can comfortably use the same time to explain the rules, taking in total with a group of brand new players only 5 minutes. Each player takes a board with a screen, which will house their identity die when the time comes. A specific number of each colour dice are added into the dice bag depending on the player count. At the start of each round new intel cards are placed on the four locations, denoted by the icons; Helmet, Satellite, Submarine and Power Station. In later rounds a new intel card is placed even if the old card wasn’t claimed, making the location more lucrative. Each player is also awarded a single rank card at the offset of each round. This rank card is worth $2,000 if kept until the end of the game. This is much less than intel but they can build up over time.
The dice bag is passed around to each player. Starting with player 1 everyone secretly pulls out a single die from the bag. They choose one of the four matching icons with the four locations as their target. Each player now has their identity die, which is placed behind their screen, made up of two components: colour and an icon. Player 1 then takes from the bag X+1 dice, where X is the number of remaining players. These are then rolled and in order players pick a dice to use.
If either the colour or icon of their selected dice matches their identity die they must put it on top of their screen. While this gives information away to their opponents it also triggers an assassination attempt. Deduction now enters the game. The player whom triggered the assassination attempt chooses another player and tries to guess their identity die’s combination of colour and icon. If both are correctly guessed the assassination is successful and that player is removed from the round. Any rank cards from the victim are given to the succeeding agent and play then continues. If the combination is not 100% perfect the targeted player gets away with it and play continues.
If neither the colour, nor icon match the player’s identity die they can put it on their player mat. While you don’t get an assassination attempt, you may also be giving less information away about your identity die. Players may also once per round spend their gadget to change the icon on the dice to the icon on their gadget. They then may be able to use it as an assassination dice.
There is a special case that can occur statistically 33% of the time. Each dice has the four location icons and two gun symbols. These can effectively be treated as wildcard and can be changed to whatever icon the player wants it to be. This rolling and choosing dice process continues until each player has in total four dice in front of them, combining both dice on the screen and on the player mat.
Players that have not been assassinated now get a chance to take the valuable intel cards from the location matching their identity die. If only one player has an individual location icon chosen, they get to take the intel. If more than one agents have selected the same icon, they must participate in a showdown! Here players take the dice from their screen and the identity die and simultaneously roll a die each. If anyone rolls a gun symbol anyone that didn’t also get a gun loses a die. This continues until only one agent is left with dice, whom claims the intel. After three rounds, players count the value of their intel and rank cards. The agent with the most value wins. There is an additional victory condition of if any one agent obtains 7 rank cards they instantly win. However, this seems rather rare. Mostly due to whenever someone gets close they became the prime target for assassinations.
With the selecting dice, rolling dice and choosing dice some players will may get a bit mixed up with the rules. Thankfully, even those most muddled after a single round were up to speed and the game is short enough that no one can really begrudge losing the first time. This isn’t to say that those whom fall behind in the first rounds are guaranteed losers as H.I.D.E. has a great comeback mechanic, built into its very core. When you assassinate another player, you take their on-show rank cards worth $2,000 a card. The first one goes onto your rank pile while the rest are banked in your intel pile. If you manage to kill off the leading player you could be rocketed forward in the rankings, giving those trailing a way back into the game. This has the additional benefit of stopping players constantly going after the same player, helping to maintain the fun nature of the game. Nothing can destroy player’s experience than feeling like they are constantly targeted.
There is an aspect of luck of the dice but with the ability to alter guns, and as everyone has a gadget card, the odds are in players’ favour. Unless you’re last to pick in a 5-player game, with the other players attempting to screw you over, you can often utilize the dice to some extent. I must admit at being surprised how little the randomness of the dice effects the gameplay, something that leaves the game to hinge more on player bluffing than luck.
The artwork is very fitting keeping the pleasurable theme running though the cards with a smooth cartoon style. Be it a bright yellow hazmat suit gadget for the nuclear power plant, all the way to the simplistic intel images of items such as film roll or a USB stick, the style is preserved. This awesome art style even cascades down onto the player mats which feature bits and pieces you’d expect on a secret agent’s desk: top secret files, blueprints and multiple passports. Everything ties together with excellent design.
The 3-player variant of H.I.D.E. doesn’t drastically alter the game but instead adds an interesting blocker to one of the locations. I feel that this could have been utilized in a similar way for games with additional players to block off locations allowing the intel cards to build up. Potentially a longer game than three rounds would be needed for this but when experienced players are involved the time wouldn’t be massively over the 30-minute mark. This may just be that one thing that could have taken what is a good quick game to the next level.
The biggest issue I have with H.I.D.E. is the sizing of the screens. The player mats that they sit on have ample room to fit the collected intel cards, rank cards and the gadget card without any overlap. Alas, while the screen does its job at shielding the identity die getting it behind the screen is a bit of a trust exercise with the other players. This is especially the case when sat along two sides of a table with players having to angle their screens to make sure others don’t get a sneaky peak at their die. A slightly larger screen would have just taken away some of the awkwardness of getting the dice discreetly behind the screen.
H.I.D.E. is a rather light game which enables it to be brought to the table with any sort of gamer. While the rulebook may not be the best for readability, the rules of the game are kept simple, so within minutes the game can be out of the box and being played. The game revolves around the assassination attempts which sees plenty of bluffing and misinformation. On top of driving player interactions, the choosing of dice also drives player choice. Do I choose that blue dice and give away the colour of my identity die? It is it a risk vs. reward situation where you can try to take an opponent out but if you fail they have more information to counter the attempt. With the right group, ready to shout out at each other while guessing, H.I.D.E is incredibly fun to play. It won’t be staying at the table for hours at a time but it will undoubtedly hit the table from time to time.
[Editor’s Note: H.I.D.E. was provided to us by Sweet Lemon Publishing for review purposes.]