Dice Box Puzzles

Posted on by Gabriel | 6 comments
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After a few months of hiatus, I'm back with more puzzle reviews... And there's nothing better than return with a great set of puzzles, the Dice Box Series.

This is a collection of six Assembly puzzles designed and produced by MI-Toys, which is based in China and founded in 1992. The design of the puzzles is very elegant, with six polished wooden boxes, each depicting a real dotted dice. Each box has its own corresponding number with silver dots from 1 to 6 on the lid, so you'll know what puzzle's inside.

They range in difficulty from * - one star (easy) to **** - four stars (genius). Oddly, none of the six puzzles has a difficulty of one star, leaving only three possible levels: three boxes have ** - Difficult; two boxes have *** - Unbelievable and there's only one with **** - Genius.

Let's start by Dice Box #1 - Polyominoes

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This puzzle has nine identical pieces, all with an area of 2x2 squares. The goal is similar to the classic Soma Cube, which is to take out all the pieces inside the box, scramble them up and form a cube so that they fit inside the box, allowing the lid to close. 

The difficulty for this one is ** - Difficult, although "Difficult" might be a bit of a stretch, since the puzzle is rather easy to solve. Given the fact that all the pieces are identical, there's no added twist for placing a piece with the wrong orientation or position, since they're all the same. Nevertheless, it's an ideal one to start with, preparing you for the other ones ahead...

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Dice Box #2 - Cubes with Holes & Pins

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Also with difficulty **, I think this one should've been classified with * - Easy, as I found it to be the easiest one in the series. You have eight cubes that when correctly connected, they form a large cube. Each little cube has three adjacent faces that can have pins or holes and the other three faces are all flat. They can be divided into four groups of two pieces with the same configuration: two with three pins; two pins and one hole; one pin and two holes and finally two pieces with three adjacent holes. With the pieces all carefully separated into these four groups,  you can easily solve it, always bearing in mind that the three flat adjacent faces point outwards, thus making a perfect cube.

A nice way to make this puzzle harder could be, to have a 3x3 cube with nine pieces, instead of a 2x2 one. Probably the resulting pieces would've been too small and hard to manipulate, judging by the size of the box (7x7x7 cm). Perhaps an idea to consider by a craftsman, for some other puzzle.

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Dice Box #3 - Holes & Balls

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This is the third and last Dice Box with a difficulty of **, although I consider this one the hardest of the three. You're given twelve rectangular pieces, each having a combination of two out of three possibilities: a semi-sphere, a hole or an indentation, giving you a total of eight different configurations. Some pieces can have one or two of the same possibilities, adding some level of complexity.

Solving the puzzle might seem a bit hard at first, but if you separate the pieces into groups, it gets easier. You can start by excluding the two pieces that have a semi-sphere on each side and knowing also that orientation-wise, you can't place at the bottom a semi-sphere or a two-indentation piece facing down, you're left with fewer options. The rest might be solvable with a bit of trial and error, but do this by phases, meaning that if you can't fit the last three or four pieces, don't start over from the bottom, but instead replace a couple of pieces from the middle layers and work your way up from there.

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Dice Box #4 - Stacked Sticks

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Now, it gets a bit trickier. The fourth box is a level *** - Unbelievable, but if you managed to solve the previous three, it shouldn't be that hard. There's a total of sixteen sticks making a 4x4 cube, but the twist is that they're glued together in five different pieces with very odd shapes made with three sticks each, plus one loose stick. I recommend saving the single stick for last, because if you try to use it earlier it will only add complexity instead of simplifying the puzzle. The difficulty in the puzzle lies in the many different possibilities you have to connect the pieces, due to their shapes. 

One tip you can use for solving is that, since the finished cube has to fit in a 4x4 area, two connected pieces that have a length of 5 or more squares won't do, thus leaving less possible combinations. As this situation will occur several times, you just need to experiment a little with the pieces and you'll eventually solve it. I'm not 100% certain, but given the unique configuration of the solved puzzle and the way that each piece connects to an exact orientation of the other, I believe this one has only one solution...

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Dice Box #5 - Rod by Rod

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The Rod by Rod Box is also the same difficulty as the previous one, but like the first three, I think there's a slight higher level of complexity, mainly because of the number of pieces involved. Actually, from the six puzzles, this box is the one with most pieces, with a total of eighteen. They're divided into six groups with three identical rods each, and every single one is carved with two or three indentations that can be on the top or bottom.

Solving the puzzle is like building a raft with logs. You need to match perfectly every rod into the indentations of the other ones below, in a six layer cube with three pieces each. Sounds tough, right? That's because it is... Starting isn't hard, all you need to do is to put on the box three rods to make the first layer. For that you need three pieces that don't have indentations on the bottom, so that it doesn't leave gaps. Knowing that only half of the pieces meet that criteria, you can put the other half aside for now. After that, you just need to continue building your "raft", always taking into account what pieces you have left, because they will determine how you place them on the box. 

As previously noted in the Holes & Balls description, if you get stuck in the last couple of layers of the puzzle, don't start from the beginning again, just remove a few rods and replace them by other pieces, as most of the times, half of the puzzle is already solved.

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Dice Box #6 - Half Cubes

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As we got from puzzle box 1 to 6, the difficulty was also increasing, so as you can imagine this is the hardest one, with ****.

The puzzle has eleven pieces, all different from each other and with the exception of one piece, they're possible combinations of three smaller unit right triangles. The other piece has just an area of two unit triangles. The goal, as the other ones, is to rearrange all the pieces so that they form a cube. It can also be related to the Soma Cube, except the Soma Cube is made from only seven different pieces, and I believe it is also easier because of that, as less pieces means less possible combinations.

Honestly, I don't know why they called the puzzle Half Cubes... If they're referring to the unit triangles, then they should've called it "Half Squares", because two right triangles make a square, not a cube, but I guess that's for another discussion...

Solving this one was a pain. The pieces have all these strange configurations and manage to connect them can be a bit frustrating. There's four flat pieces and the rest are glued in the other shapes, so I recommend to start with the last ones and leave the flats to the final stage of assembly. It took me a while to solve it, but on the last try I made it in around 5 minutes. The trick is nothing of extraordinary... When you see yourself taking more than half an hour with no results, leave the puzzle for a few hours or maybe a day or two, and when you return, you're going to have a fresher perspective on how to tackle the problem. This also applies to every other difficult puzzle you're having trouble with, because the mind always thinks clearer when it have rested.

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Closing Comments:

After solving the six Dice Boxes, I can highly recommend them to anyone, especially to the puzzle collectors. The set is a great addition to any collection, even if you're not that into Assembly puzzles, because its appearance and presentation stands out for the designers originality and creativity in creating something unique.

I think that the difficulty rating should've been made differently, though. If I had to order them from the easiest to the hardest, I'd say (in box numbers): 2-1-3-4-5-6 or actually use a rating system from * to *****, to better differentiate the puzzles, as three levels seems not enough. In this way I'd classify them as (from #1 to #6) *, **, ***, ***, ****, *****.

If you're interested in purchase the set or just one, there are a few places you can get them. Unless you want to buy them as wholesale, the MI-Toys website isn't an option. If you search on eBay for "Dice Box" and select the subcategory "Jigsaws & Puzzles", there's currently a couple of sellers that have them in stock, although just one of them has the complete set. You can also take a look at Amazon or SeriousPuzzles, both of them have the complete set also. PuzzleMaster has a few available as well. If you're like me and live in Portugal, you can order them from the "Papagaio sem Penas" store.


Anonymous said...

Re "Dice Box #5 - Rod by Rod"
Alright. What's the bloody solution, it's driving me mad?

Gabriel said...

Sorry to tell you, but seems I've misplaced the solution for this. I know it came with the puzzle in a small paper, but I can't find it. Leave an e-mail and I'll try to photograph each layer for you, to see how it's packed and send it to you.

Alucard said...

I am thinking that puzzles arranged correctly in terms of difficulty. No swap needed.

Unknown said...

could you send me the solutions for # 6 cannot solve it

Unknown said...

I have the number six but I lost the solution, could you send it to me if possible, I lend the dice and I think there are missing parts :) y appreciate your page, it is very interesting, and it is a pleassure to share this hobby iq.pacolopez@hotmail.com

Gabriel said...

Hi, not only do I seem to misplaced the solution for this, but finding the puzzle itself among my big collection is another difficult task. I'll see if I can find it.

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