Wednesday 13 September 2017

Cardboard - Dice Forge board game review

With all the games on display at the UK Games Expo this year, new titles had to work super-hard to get themselves noticed. From the tiny wooden ladders of Catch the Moon to the novelty bed and sleep-mask in When I Dream, fancy components played a big part in the fight for attention, and one game doing a particularly great job in this respect was Dice Forge from Libellud. Upgradeable dice with interchangeable faces, striking box art and a beautiful board packed with a rainbow of colours all help the game to scream novelty - but is there any substance under all that chunky cartoon style? We've done deck building. We've done bag building. Time to try some dice building!

Dice Forge - box art - Random Nerdery review

In Dice Forge, players work to upgrade their two starting dice by slowly replacing the removable faces with better ones, gaining and using currencies of gold, sun shards and moon shards to make further upgrades and ultimately gain the most Glory (or victory) Points.

But what are we doing with the dice in the first place? Well, it turns out that we are Heroes, competing for the gods' entertainment in a tournament where the winner will become the next demigod. Epic stakes! As the gods don't play dice you'll be doing it for them, improving your dice and taking on heroic challenges along the way, all in the hope of beating out the opposition over the course of up to nine rounds. And here was me thinking I was just going to roll some awesome-looking dice and move pretty cubes about!

Dice Forge - dice - Random Nerdery review

The play area consists of a Temple (or Sanctuary, or Temple Gardens, depending on where you look in the rules...) filled with lovely little replacement die faces and the Islands board which forms the arena for your tournament and a convenient base in which to set up the 'Heroic Feat' cards that you'll use during the game.

Dice Forge setup

A valiant attempt to thread some theme through the rulebook has rendered it a bit cumbersome to read - 'all players simultaneously receive divine blessings' sends you off looking for what 'divine blessings' means, when explaining that 'all players simultaneously roll both of their dice and resolve the results' without the fancy title might have been a bit clearer. Perhaps I'm being a grumpy old lady, but I'd rather have clear rules than try to remember what particular phrase has been made up for 'roll the dice'!

Dice Forge currency tracker

Once you've waded your way through the rules, however, the game-play is actually quite straightforward:

  • Everyone rolls their dice simultaneously and resolves the result, usually gaining currency or victory points but sometimes applying special effects gained from upgraded faces.
  • The active player then chooses whether to use any available powers on their collected Heroic Feat cards
  • The active player can then buy a new die face from the Temple (makes an 'offering to the gods' to 'forge' their die) or travel to an island portal on the Islands Board to buy a card (or 'perform a Heroic Feat'... See what I mean about the theme thing?)
  • The active player can spend two Sun Shards to take another action if the want/can afford to (once per turn)

Dice Forge - Island board and pawns

A new round starts when each player has taken a turn at being the active player, and play continues for a fixed number of rounds depending on player count. The player with the most Glory Points at the end of the game is the winner.

Most of the die faces are pretty self-explanatory and tend to make you more stuff. If you can't work out any particular piece of iconography there's a handy guide included in the box to let you know what your shiny new power is, as well as clearing up any ambiguities on the Heroic Feat cards.

Dice Forge - Island board and pawns - heroic feat cards

Heroic Feat cards are a great way to build up victory points and they often come with extra effects that add some variety to the game, giving you things like extra rolls, an inventory expansion or a little mini-game track to use up your gold when you don't want to spent it on new die faces. The game includes a basic set of cards for your first few games and an additional set to swap in when you want to change things up a bit.

Dice Forge - heroic feat cards

Dice Forge is super light and fluffy, making it easy to teach and quick to play. The light weight of the game-play might mean that it's not for everyone, and you may have gleaned that I'm not in love with the rulebook, but overall we really enjoyed the game. It's had good replay value in our house so far, especially with the interchangeable Heroic Feat cards, and I look forward to seeing what Libellud do with respect to future expansions.

Dice Forge - Heroic Feat cards

One of the best things about the game is how well it includes all the players on every turn. There is practically no down-time, provided you don't have someone who's particularly choosy about their purchases (or who fires a die face across the room while trying to change it). Having all players roll dice on the active player's turn keeps everyone involved and it feels great to move your little cubes up towards the top of your tracker even when it's not really your go.

Dice Forge - Box insert

The production quality of the game is great and the box insert is amazing, keeping everything snugly in place between plays - essential when a big part of your set up is a tray of tiny die faces. Make sure to leave some set-up time when you first open the box though; there are a lot of little bits to sort out before you're properly organised!

Dice Forge - pile of die faces

The novelty hasn't worn off for us yet and Dice Forge has become a firm favourite. If you're into heavier games, big decisions and depth of gameplay, you might want to pass this one by. If you're looking for something fun, light and relatively quick though, this could make a great addition to your collection.

Dice Forge

Designer: Régis Bonnessée
Publisher: Libellud
Players: 2-4
Age: 10+
Cost: RRP £34.99 [Find your friendly local brick-and-mortar retailer in Europe]

Thanks to Esdevium for sending me a copy to take a look at. If you enjoyed this post perhaps you could take a look at my Facebook page and leave a like or come and say hello on my Twitter or Instagram feeds!