Table of Contents
|Player Count (recommended)
Perudo is a difficult and interesting game to approach from the perspective of a teardown. Most of us have the components for a Perudo set at home but there are actual versions you can buy with coloured dice and coloured cups. You can even buy ‘perudo dice sets’ that contain the dice without the cups. I’m doing an accessibility analysis on the basis of a home-brew version that is made up of coloured dice I had and whatever cups were in the kitchen. The good news is none of that is going to matter for the accessibility analysis but it’s, I confess, a bit weird. Especially since the rules for Perudo are… well, pretty fluid. All I can do is go by the version I play, which also happens to be the rules as implemented in the excellent Perudo app.
Whatever way you slice it though Perudo is an amazing game as our four and a half star review hopefully communicated. As part of our irregular series of classic game reviews, it’s a worthy entry. Even if it was only for its evocative origin myth it would be worth playing. Who wouldn’t want to try out the games of chance that pirates once played? Whatever our ancestors may have been, they weren’t starved of entertainment with games like this available. That said, pirates are maybe the world’s greatest use-case for an analysis of this nature – peg-legs, hooks for hands, eyepatches… all of ability’s rich tapestry is represented aboard a pirate frigate. Aaaaaaaaar you ready? Let’s SEA what happens.
A standard set of Perudo usually comes with dice of several colours – red, green, yellow, black and white are traditional but other sets may offer others. A Perudo dice set I bought didn’t come with white but gave me orange dice instead. Whatever set you buy, you’ll usually have a range of colours and there will be problems with clashes.
So the first point here is – colour will vary depending on what specific Perudo version you’re using. The second point is – it doesn’t actually matter. The colours have no impact on play. You can very easily play the game with everyone using the same colour if you like and absolutely nothing will be lost. Everyone rolls dice secretly and then bids, abandoning a die as the result of a failed bid or challenge. Lost dice are simply discarded to the centre, and while that does make it easier to tell who has lost dice during play you probably want to honour the rule that says discarded dice should be hidden knowledge. If you want to maintain that information though you can simply have people discard dice somewhere unique to them.
We strongly recommend Perudo in this category.
Perudo is a dice game, and it’s vital that a player be able to identify their rolls covertly without anyone else being able to see. If a player is able to secretly distinguish each die face in front of them, perhaps with an assistive aid, then the game will be fully accessible in this category
Assuming that isn’t possible we have a number of problems although none that are insurmountable, The game makes use of standard six sided dice, although often coloured, and they are traditionally rolled in a cup which is tipped up to view the rolls underneath. Accessible dice tend to be considerably larger than their non-accessible equivalents and a total of five would be needed for each visually impaired player. It’s not possible to roll one die repeatedly here because an audit trail must be retained. An opaque bowl could be used as a substitute for a cup if sufficient dice could be sourced, although rolling dice in a bowl is likely to be considerably less enjoyable from a tactile perspective. In the worst-case scenario, one of the accessible dice roller apps could be used but they’d need to be handled in conjunction with headphones and would need to provide a visual representation of the rolled dice so that challenges can be accurately resolved. Also, the volume on the headphones would need to be sufficiently low that no-one overheard the output. Dice rolls must be secret but it is very important they are auditable.
That’s the only time though that visual accessibility will be a problem in play – it is otherwise a game of bluff, counterbluff and bidding and that’s handled entirely without the need for sight. Obviously there will be a limit on the amount of subtle visual body language that could be accurately interpreted by a visually impaired player but other channels of tells would remain viable.
We’ll recommend Perudo in this category if you can get hold of enough dice or an appropriate digital dice roller.
There’s a lot of numeracy in Perudo – not so much as far as counting and seriation are concerned but in terms of an explicit need for understanding probability. Every die face save for a wild has a one in three chance of qualifying for inclusion in a bid (except for in cases of Palafico) which means there’s an oddly asymmetrical probability that changes with the number of dice in the game. The difference in someone raising one wild versus one standard die face is massive – made more so by the fact that raising the die face in a bid in that circumstance means also doubling the number of dice. From ‘five wilds’ you’d need to raise to ‘ten twos’ at a minimum and that’s a massive leap.
Understanding when to raise and when to dudo is one that is heavily, but not entirely, based on probability. That probability must be assessed in conjunction with historical bidding behaviour. The way a player bids will always leak information, but there’s no guarantee that information is authentic. If I bid five sixes that might suggest I have some sixes, or some wilds. Or it might suggest I don’t have any sixes and I’m hoping that others will raise on the basis that ‘surely he has some sixes that I can add to my own’ . It’s a probabilistic system voiced by an unreliable narrator and the associated decision making is complex as a result.
That said, there’s a lot of value that comes from being the unpredictable random guesser that treats the entropic landscape like an egg to be scrambled. Bidding will never not be fun in those circumstances. You can enjoy Perudo without ever being good at it.
In terms of game flow, there’s a reliability there that is mostly rock solid until such time as someone loses their second last die. At that point they become palafico which has several effects:
- No-one gets to call calza in a palafico round
- The palafico player calls the die face of the bid and that cannot change.
- Except another palafico player can change the bid, even if they are not the current palafico
- Wilds do not count as wilds in a palafico round.
This is for a single round, but it’s an odd special case that might take some players by surprise. The rules for when a calza can be called too are somewhat opaque in the standard rules. The terminology in the game (dudo, calza, palafico and so on) are also likely to be briefly problematic until they have been fully internalised. You could replace those with their translated alternatives (‘I doubt’, ‘it fits’, and ‘it is evident’) but I think you’d lose out on a lot of the ambiance.
When dice are discarded they should be put somewhere secret so players cannot visually track who has what dice. In truth, it’s difficult not to track this information since dice are revealed at the end of every round in any case. What this does though is favour those with good memories, and that can have a massive game effect. Every collection of dice in the game is a dent in the entropy landscape and it’s important that everyone has the same understanding of how big it is. the way you treat me with access to 50% of the information in the game is different to how you should treat me with access to 20% of the information in the game. Those percentages will shift as players regain and discard dice as a result of successful and unsuccessful dudo and calza challenges. It’s an easy fix – have the dice discarded somewhere public so everyone knows how many dice other people have. That doesn’t add new information to the game – it merely normalises the advantage of having a good memory.
We can only very tentatively recommend Perudo in our fluid intelligence category, but we can recommend it for those with memory impairments alone provided discards are treated as public knowledge.
There are a few trigger areas here. The power of information asymmetry in play is sufficiently large that having fewer dice than other people can put you in a position where you are more likely to lose future rounds as a result. A player with one die facing off against a player with five is at such a disadvantage that they realistically cannot win. Not only does the task get more difficult, it also becomes riskier. It’s as if every time you fell down a set of stairs someone came along and added more roller-skates to the steps. It’s the very opposite of a catch-up mechanism, and in a game with player elimination that can be a massive problem. Especially since this is the kind of game that gives people considerable opportunities for gloating.
The calza challenge, if pulled off, is a marvelously neat way of redressing this balance but it’s unreliable and high risk. Often the sense of calling calza is decided by the player downstream of you. If you think that there are five sixes around the table and your opponent calls ‘five sixes’ then you’re golden. If they call out ‘six sixes’ you can dudo but you lost a chance to get a die back. Often in Perudo you’re reacting to the last player rather than performing tactical actions in service of an overall strategy. That can feel very unfair in the worst kind of way – it originates from a player as the proximate cause but they’re not actually to blame.
You can also on occasion be put into a position of being unable to win through weird quirks of the rules. You have three scenarios when the bid comes around – if you think there are more dice around the table than the bid, you can raise. If you think there are fewer than the previous bid, you can challenge. If you think there are exactly that number around the table you can call calza and impress everyone. Under certain circumstances though calza is not an available option and as such the only thing you can do is dudo something you think is wrong. Occasionally this works in your favour but it’s a frustrating element of a game that otherwise gives you full control over your fate.
We’ll tentatively recommend Perudo in this category.
There is a lot of dice rolling in Perudo, and it’s dice rolling in a very special way – it must be covert, the outcome of the roll must be hidden from all other players, and it must be visible to you. Ideally you should be able to check the roll during a round too if necessary to confirm what it was.
Luckily rolling dice is not an activity that requires especially high physical dexterity, but those for whom gross motor control is an issue it may be unrealistically difficult. Verbalisation is an effective strategy for the majority of the game but it would need to be handled very carefully when it comes to dice rolling. The instruction is only ‘roll my dice’ but the covert revealing of dice is likely to be more difficult to conveniently arrange in a way that can generate trust.
However, as with the section on visual accessibility, dice-rollers in conjunction with head-phones would likely be an appropriate solution to the problem provided the rolls are auditable. The dice, as important as they are to Perudo, aren’t where the game resides. The game resides in the conversations between the players at the table.
We’ll recommend Perudo in this category.
Since this isn’t a ‘boxed game’ in the same kind of way as we usually consider it, this section is going to be brief. The new Asmodee version of Perudo makes use of a toucan on the cover. The Paul Lamond version has only dice on the cover. My homebrew version is just kept in a bag. It’s not really a game where this kind of consideration is necessary.
Cost wise, the Asmodee boxed version is £25, the Paul Lamond version is £20, and a set with just cups and dice will set you back £10. A pack of Perudo dice without the cups will be about £8. As the kind of person reading a blog like this, I’m willing to bet you even have enough dice floating around on your shelves to make up a version right now without spending a penny. If you don’t, you certainly have dice roller apps you can download to make it happen. It plays from two players (poorly) all the way up to… you know, whatever player count you want. It does tend to drag on with larger player counts but it basically scales with the number of dice you have available.
We strongly recommend Perudo in this category.
Players are required to indicate their action when their turn comes around, either by giving a new bid (number of dice and number of faces), calling a calza challenge, or calling a dudo challenge. None of this need be communicated audibly or in any particular language. Everything from sign language to knocks on a table will be sufficient for playing this effectively. There’s no time sensitive element to this.
We’ll recommend Perudo in this category.
If communication impairments intersected with a physical impairment it would be necessary to workshop an appropriate regime for indication of bids and challenges. It’s likely that in most circumstances something can be put together that is workable and not onerous but that will depend on the exact nature of the impairments and how they work together.
A physical accessibility impairment combined with a visual impairment may make certain compensation strategies ineffective due to the need for covert revelation of dice that must be close inspected or physically interrogated. However, for a lot of intersectional issues in this area the problem is largely addressed by the spartan nature of the game itself. All you need are between one and five random numbers from between one and six, and to be able to keep those numbers secret until the final reveal. This opens up an awful lot of opportunities for creative problem solving – everything from the apps we’ve discussed to an Excel spreadsheet to having Alexa give you a set of numbers. The dice drive the game but just because that’s the simplest way to get randomness of this flavour. Other randomness solutions are available.
However, in all these solutions we need to consider the difficulties that emerge if a player also has an impairment that would impact on hearing. Voiced apps and text to speech tools are fantastic if they can be used with headphones. If the volume of the headphones is high enough that others around the table can hear though all of this breaks down.
Games of Perudo go quite quickly, but there’s an exponential scaling effect that goes with player count. A two player game will have a a maximum of ten rounds, with each round consisting of maybe six bids. A three-player game will have fifteen, with each round consisting of perhaps ten bids. A four player game will have twenty, with each round consisting of twelve bids. Assume these are rough averages – I haven’t calculated the figures. Suffice to say though that the more dice are in the game the larger the bids can get before anyone makes a challenge. That’s before you take into account the time people spend thinking, calling Calza and so on. A single round of Perudo might take only a couple of minutes, barring accessibility considerations. However, multiply that by the number of players by the number of bids and you can see that it can very well be long enough to be uncomfortable, made even more so by the fact that downtime gets longer the more people are involved.
Yeah, Perudo was something of a weird one here. This isn’t the first teardown we’ve done of a game you can easily construct from components around your house (you can play a very serviceable game of Skull with a pack of cards for example) but it’s the first where we’ve actually reviewed it as a homebrew game. You can buy it if you like, and if you prefer a nice boxed product that would be your best bet. There’s no real accessibility difference though between buying it and just grabbing a few fistfuls of dice from around your house. I think that’s interesting.
It’s nice to see a game like this end up with recommendations across the board – I’ve had a lot of fun playing Perudo with friends, strangers, and anonymous avatars on the android app. Provided people are willing to make a few adjustments here and there, and don’t mind potentially turning to external tools, I’d be inclined to say it could be enjoyably played by almost everyone.
We gave Perudo four and a half stars in our review – I had even debated making it our third ever five star game. In the end though the occasional instances where you know what you want to do but are prohibited are too inelegant and jarring. When taken in combination with the often tortuous downtime that comes along with being eliminated from play, that was enough to knock it down a half star. Make no mistake though – it was almost a five star game and you know we don’t give those out often. If you can play it, and there’s a lot of reason to believe you could, you should make an effort to check it out.
A Disclaimer About Teardowns
Meeple Like Us is engaged in mapping out the accessibility landscape of tabletop games. Teardowns like this are data points. Games are not necessarily bad if they are scored poorly in any given section. They are not necessarily good if they score highly. The rating of a game in terms of its accessibility is not an indication as to its quality as a recreational product. These teardowns though however allow those with physical, cognitive and visual accessibility impairments to make an informed decision as to their ability to play.
Not all sections of this document will be relevant to every person. We consider matters of diversity, representation and inclusion to be important accessibility issues. If this offends you, then this will not be the blog for you. We will not debate with anyone whether these issues are worthy of discussion. You can check out our common response to common objections.
Teardowns are provided under a CC-BY 4.0 license. However, recommendation grades in teardowns are usually subjective and based primarily on heuristic analysis rather than embodied experience. No guarantee is made as to their correctness. Bear that in mind if adopting them.