Dice & Dragons (2018) review
It doesn't take much to make a board game. Some card, some dice and some players. But in this day and age, our board game hobby requires miniatures and tokens and glossy reference sheets to say the least. In fact, the more material that a publisher producers and fills their box with, the happier we are as consumers because we feel that we have a super game in our hands. Although that is not always the case. Dungeons and Dragons was purely paper pencils and Dice, and the magic of the game is in the imaginations of the players. Golden Egg Games have tried to produce some of that traditional magic in their latest game game Dice & Dragons.
1-5 players will be building up the heroic courage to take out all the troubling dragons in the land of Aqedia. In classic style, much like the aforementioned Gary Gygax game, each player will have a different role from Warrior, Ranger, Cleric, Rouge to Wizard. But all will be doing the same thing over and over again. Roll dice, Yahtzee style. Are you bored yet? Well you shouldn't be, as beneath the dull exterior of the box and the sheets of paper that are in the game, there is something addictive in this tweaked version of the 1950s dice rolling game.
To start with, this is a kind of roll and write campaign game with it’s own campaign book and accompanying story, players will be going from dragon to dragon, trying to eliminate them before they are eliminated themselves. First trying to take out a weak but bothersome dragon who is wreaking havoc in a nearby Village. Weaved into the book is an interesting story adventure that leads you on between kills. And with every dead dragon there is always a village with a store that you can buy items and upgrades. Plus level up at a tavern, just like in Dungeons and Dragons. It's this campaign that will keep you addicted if you can hack and slash this old style of game.
The bulk of the game is around the combat. Each player has a character sheet with a list of different attacks that they can perform. But to perform these attacks, the player has to roll a combination of results much like in Yahtzee. But instead of rolling three “1’s” or getting two pairs, the dice have icons designated to each of the five classes in the game. There are no colours on these dice, like to say that for the Wizard = purple or the Warrior = red. No. Just monochromatic black and white dice. Some of the icons are easy to identify, like the crossbow which belongs to the Ranger character. But before you lay your first dragon to rest, you would have already adapted to the icons and they became second nature from then on.
All the characters have the same I'm kind of results needed to do damage to the Dragon, i.e. 2 of their own icons to do 4 damage or 3 of their own icons to do 7 damage. But each have one attack that is slightly different to everybody else's. These can vary from I'm having two of your own icons plus 3 totally different ones, to having two of your icons and two of one other player's icons. On your turn you're going to be trying to produce these results to do damage the same way as most games with dice. With three rolls. Save the results that you want and reroll the rest. This can be a kind of a no-brainer sometimes as you will roll successfully sometimes. Other times you will have to rely on the probability of chance when deciding to save all or none of them. At the end, you'll see if you've managed to pull off one of your attacks and if so, you’ll cover it over with one of your tokens, meaning you will not be able to perform that attack again this round. Before passing the dice to the next player who will do the same. This sounds simple enough until you cannot perform one of your actions because you didn't get the results you need or you had the results of an attack that you've already exhausted. This is a miss. And to add insult to humiliation, you will still have to cover over one of your actions as if it were performed. This leans towards a bit of humour from the other players and also a bit of thinking from yourself as to which action you don't think you are going to fulfill next turn.
Now I mentioned 5 of the sides of the dice but not 6th. And no, it is not a joker that you can use as any class of character, but it is actually the Dragon. And this is where the game stands a little head and shoulders above its older brother. If at the end of your third roll there are any Dragons revealed on the dice, this will produce a counter attack from your target. So yes, you may hit the Dragon but the Dragon may hit you back. And depending on the number of Dragons visible determines how hard they Dragon clocks you one. Another nice touch is at the end of your turn, the next player can save immediately one of your unused dice results. This adds a touch of strategy to the dice that you save and the actions that you try to accomplish. Because if you know that the Warrior is the next player and on your first role you have a bunch of their icons, should you save one for them? Another pause for thought.
Each player will have 3 tokens, so in effect everyone will have three potshots at the Dragon before it turns its attention to you (unless you've been unlucky to be counter attacked). Any player can take all of the 5 dice and roll them. Any dragon symbols are placed to the side while the rest of the dice are rolled again. After the third roll of the dice, all players will take damage from the Dragon depending on how many Dragon faces have been accumulated by the unnamed player. And these attacks are quite powerful, as the damage is not distributed between the players. It's just everybody takes the full whack of damage. If any of our heroes are alive, they collect their tokens and have another three potshots at the Dragon. Play continues until the Dragon is dead, at which point you'll go to the campaign and read the continuing story, visit the tavern and local store. Players can also run away if they feel that the dice have not been fair to them. Is basically resets their hit points as well as the Dragons, and you start again.
The fun of the game comes from developing your character. As simple as they are, it lends a pleasure that is suitable to this genre of game. You may pick up some positions that will restore hit points. Or level up your character giving them more hit points and a special ability. It may simply make one of your attacks do extra damage or you can learn a new attack and draw on your character sheet. Which is kind of hard as these icons are quite intricate to doodle, so you’ll make up your own. Yes, your character will become stronger and more powerful as the campaign evolves. As do the Dragons. They don't just get more hit points themselves, they also have different abilities, like being able to poison your character, regenerate their health, or even have an armour class. Choosing how to spend your experience points and your gold wisely is part of the problem solving that is required in the game. And in that regard it feels balanced. This is a light luck checking dice fest, but it's also an addictive one as you level grind together.
The game comes with some nice weighty dice and a couple of pencils with inadequate rubbers (or erasers for those of a dirty mind). Two well written books, one with the rules and the other with the campaign. Listed in the book is the items you can buy from each shop and a table for leveling up, which should have been either on the back of the book for easy reference or on it’s own card. The paper sheets that you will doodle the Dragon and your own stats on are very limited. But there is an online version to print and play with. And limited is the feeling you will have when looking at all these bits. There is not much, not even a second campaign, with another adventure and creatures to fight. That is the only thing that is missing, a choose your own adventure to accompany this fun combat dice system. And with more players, there is a slight advantage, as you’ll be collectively having more jabs at your opponent or opponents...
Technical Score 8/10
Limited components, but everything functions well inside the game. Again, limited art, but that lends itself to the D&D cloning. And limited gameplay, like climbing a tree to see how high you can get up, fall down and start again.
My BGG Score 6/10
(Ok- will play if in the mood)
I did have fun playing and leveling up my character, as did my daughter. The “push you luck” element is the only thing that kept us gripped, as well as the nice additions of the counterattack and saving a die for the next player. The system itself should be used in a ‘choose your own adventure” way. It makes combat really interesting, having goals to achieve to obtain hits. But that is all it is… A die combat system. A good one, by dry on it’s own.
Combined Score 7/10
And now it’s over to you...