2 players, Competitive, Dice Building/Drafting
Designers: Mike Elliott, Eric M. Lang
Overview of Gameplay
This is a “Dice Masters” game which is a line of games using the same game mechanics of dice drafting and battle. There are multiple different themes in this line but in this review we will be discussing the Warhammer 40k version. The gist is simple, draw dice out of a bag and utilize them to either buy more dice for the bag or do damage to your opponent. The first player to successfully deplete the other player’s life to zero wins!
So to go into a bit more detail about all this, what players will need to do starting out is actually choose their team. The campaign box that I will be discussing comes packed with enough cards for two players to choose up to 8 different team members each, one side for the chaos lord Nurgle and the other for the UltraMarines. There are three different cards for each of the eight total team members so you do have some variety in how you set up your team. Once those are selected and the cards and corresponding dice laid down in front of the respective players you will place a couple Base Set cards in the middle of the playing field. These also have some dice which are neutral and either side can get. Now each card has an ability on it that you can use once you purchase the dice for your bag and it gets drawn. Some dice/card abilities will work in conjunction with others so keep an eye open for those synergetic combos.
From this point each player will have 8 standard base dice that are all the same in their draw bag. Players will take turns drawing four dice from their bag and manipulating them. They get one free re-roll for any of the four drawn and then have to choose what to do with them. Depending on what they roll they can choose to use them as energy and buy more dice from the team cards that are laid out or they can use them for attack or defense from attack or not do anything and just leave the excess energy to dissipate. The thing here is that those used dice don’t immediately go back in your bag. They go off to the side and only after your bag empties do all the dice get added back, basically just like a deck building card game.
And that’s pretty much it. Players will take turns doing this over and over until one players is reduced to zero health (from 20) and the player that survives is the winner!
I hate starting out with a negative but when I opened the box for this game I was super perplexed at what I was seeing. I cannot for the life of me understand what line of thinking was happening with the game makers when they produced this game. There really are not THAT many components here to discuss, just the dice and the cards which is why this is even more perplexing. Ok so first off let me say that the dice are FANTASTIC. Each set is unique with interesting symbols to differentiate them from the next and completely different colors. And there are A LOT of them as well which is awesome, so you have a ton to choose from when forming your teams. They also have a very solid, premium feel to them when rolled. So thankfully the main thing you will be playing with is superb.
The card quality is not as nice as the dice but honestly they are not THAT bad. I mean you won’t be shuffling them or even holding them. They are meant to be laid out to reference when you acquire or use their corresponding dice. The artwork is really nice on them as well, so no complaints on them either.
This unfortunately is where I have to veer to the negative zone. There are two tiny little player mats that come with the game which are printed on little more than toilet paper. Now these mats WOULD be super helpful to have as it shows the exact process of how to manipulate your dice and keep them organized but they are so small once you have added any dice to your bag they become useless. Not only that but a slight exhale from your mouth will blow the things off your table they are so flimsy.
The dice bags where you will be drawing all your dice from are made out of a super thin paper material as well. I remember pulling these out of the box at first so confused to what they were for. They were folded up like a secret note you would pass in grade school. I opened them up and granted they do have some nice shiny artwork on each of them to differentiate one from the other but that’s the only good thing I can say about them. They are so thin and weak! Not only that but drawing dice from a small paper sack just feels so, unexciting. Those nice premium dice deserve better than this.
Another thing that really bugged me was the lack of a way to track your health. This game just begs for some kind of player mat with all these features built in. Anyway, expect to get a piece of paper or something to track each player’s health. Oh, and do yourself a favor and login to their website to pull up a picture of the tiny little player mats, expand those things to full page size and print out a couple. I bet you your printer paper will be thicker and the image will be big enough to actually utilize the mats.
One more thing! For some reason unknown to me they decided to include three dice for each card that can be bought during play. However each card specifically says on it the max dice you can purchase from it is four……..Now this isn’t such a huge deal to me during casual play but man I could see some strategies seriously suffering from the lack of this extra die for each card. I mean just a cursory glance over the different cards powers I saw one of the Chaos cards had an ability that said something along the lines of, “For each of this die played, the attack is increased by 1”. So obviously you would want to MAXIMIZE the amount of this die in particular. Now as it stands in order to do that you will want to purchase TWO of these sets JUST for that one extra die you need for each. ?!?!?!?!
Overall the best word I can think of to describe the entire set is, “Lacking”. The game is still playable, which is what I’m guessing they were going for here, but it’s so laughable what they did with some of the components here that it seriously perplexes me.
I didn’t have any trouble with the box and storage solution honestly and I actually really like it. There is a solid insert included that holds all the dice and cards nice and secure with a topper. On top of that the box is actually really thin so you can easily slide it in your shelf with ease. If there is one thing about the game they got right at least, it’s the storage solution.
Visual Appeal /Theme
The theme is what originally drew me to the game as I really love the Warhammer universe and more than that, Nurgle of the Chaos gods. They did a great job with the artwork on all the cards and the dice all look outstanding. I mentioned this already but this game is from a long line of Dice Masters games, each one having a unique theme to it. So even if this theme doesn’t interest you but the gameplay sounds like something you might like then you might find another theme in this line that you would prefer. However if you like Warhammer 40k then I would highly recommend this one.
I wouldn’t even call the thing that came with this game a rulebook. It reminds me more of a gas station pamphlet that you would flip through to see the local sights. There is no component list that explains what you are getting and what it all means. Instead there is a full sized printer paper page that has a card list with the names of the cards……but this will make zero sense to anyone new to the game. The setup page is literally the worst game setup section I have ever laid eyes out of over 200 rulebooks read as of this writing. There is this tiny picture and it just says above it to, “setup game like pictured”. I had to get online to find the rule pamphlet and use my computer to zoom in on the picture to see the name of the cards to use. One of which apparently is not included in the set, I looked everywhere for it and couldn’t even find it on the card list page that is included. Looking back I could have used ANY cards for the setup but being a new player, you literally have NO IDEA what the cards even mean or do at this point. And that’s it for setup, there is no explanation or anything. Now I don’t know if the people writing this booklet are just bored and expect people to know how to play already since there are multiple dice masters games out. But coming into ANY game you should expect to explain it to players as if they were TOTALLY NEW to the game. This tiny little setup excerpt is unacceptable.
The rules after that jump right into a quick playthrough rundown of a turn, which were not as bad as I was expecting after that horrendous setup experience. That said because the setup was so weird I had already flipped through the pamphlet trying to figure out what the cards even did or what they were used for and noticed the rest of the booklet was just long explanations of each turn with a mishmash of random pictures thrown in. I mean this thing is bad. The ONLY good thing I can say about this booklet is the very back has a turn summary. These are super useful and considering the entire booklet is about the size of a standard playing card in diameter, a little taller, it is easy to keep next to you to reference.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
Luckily the game does redeem itself here. The player interaction is nonstop as you battle back and forth building up a dice army and plotting out ways to utilize your dice to maximum effect against your opponent. I also really love the thrill of drawing dice out of the bag and the on-the-spot decisions of how you are going to manipulate them. Add to that the interesting card mechanics of whatever team you choose to use that game and you get a really thrilling dice battle game that, personally, I prefer over Dice Throne.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
Two players is the only way to play this one so I would say that is optimal. You can of course set it up solo to test out the different cards abilities and hone your skills playing as both sides. The replayability is actually pretty considerable since each side has so many different cards with abilities to choose from for their team. Plus since you are only allowed a maximum of 20 dice in your bag there will possibly be dice you don’t even use in a game. This will keep the game fresh for a long while, and of course the randomness of the dice draw to keep players on their toes.
The Fuzzy Llama Silver Seal of Distinction
Positive Final Thoughts
As far as gameplay goes this is one of my favorite dice building games, if not my favorite. The dice building is superb and combined with the interesting card abilities AND the fact that there are so many different combinations that you can pull out makes this a very interesting and engaging game to play. The combat is simple and yet strategic and the dice are very premium and match each sides colors perfectly. Overall super high marks for these points, kudos to the designers.
Negative Final Thoughts
BUT everything else from the rules pamphlet to the dice paper bags to the tiny unusable player mats over to the strange lack of a full dice set for each card just left me scratching my head. Who made these decisions? Bottom line, buy the game for the gameplay alone as these random component choices will turn you off for sure. If you can find the game on sale then I would for sure pick it up as I am already planning to spend more money to customize/upgrade the game to save it from these horrible component decisions.