Dice Throne – Review

Dice Throne is an exciting, fast-paced dice combat game that pits a varied roster of characters against each other.

Split between two seasons (with more planned for release later), the game features 14 characters, each with their own unique play style. You may choose to play as the Moon Elf, who specialises in avoiding damage while placing crippling status effects on her opponent so that she can run rings around them. You could play as the Pyromancer, who has no defensive abilities whatsoever, but can gradually build up her power to unleash devastating blasts of damage. Or you may play as the Samurai, who gains benefits for fighting with honour and being restrained. You can be a Huntress who fights with a Sabre Toothed Tiger companion, a Tactician who is able to call in air strikes and make use of his tactical superiority to turn the tide of battle in his favour. You might be a Shadow Thief, stealing your opponents currency and attacking from the shadows, or a Cursed Pirate, a Vampire Lord, a Gunslinger, a Paladin or an angelic Seraph.

There’s a huge variety in the characters, all of which are fun to play, and that they play so differently is one of the biggest draws of the game. One of my friends, who is better at maths than me, says that there are 91 different 1v1 combinations available with the current 14 characters. That’s a lot of replayability, right there.

The game can be played in a number of modes: 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, Free for All or King of the Hill. I’ve only played it in 1v1 mode, but is so deep and fun that I’ve clocked up 30+ plays since I got hold of Season 1 last year. I’ve gradually been adding to my collection and have just received the final box for Season 2.

There are several things which I think make Dice Throne a fantastic game, I will do my best to tackle them in a sensible order.

1. Accessibility

Firstly on this point, I think the layout of the rules is simply fantastic, with extremely clear explanations, tons of images, clean and obvious iconography and a well delineated turn order. This makes it very easy to pick up and learn in a short time.

While the rules for Season 1 were clear, the rulebook for Season 2 takes this to an entirely other level, and I would say it is among one of the clearest rulebooks I’ve ever used. Clear player aids making following the turn order very simple.

The rulebook is well laid out and easy to follow

As well as being clearly explained, each character (in Season 2, anyway), comes with it’s own Frequently Asked Questions leaflet, where some of the more complex interactions between status effects are explained. This is a brilliant touch, and I wish more games did something like this. (Want to take a look at the rulebook for Season 2 of Dice Throne? Check out this link).

This video gives a good rules explanation for the game:

Though there are some characters who are more complicated than others (represented by a complexity scale between one and six), none of them are difficult to play. Once you’ve played a few games, tackling even the most complicated characters in the game is simple, thanks to the clear rules explanations and graphic design.

As well as being easy to learn, the game also makes setup a breeze, with each hero and their associated player boards, rule sheet, dice and tokens being kept in a separate pack. So if you sit down to play with someone, you simply hand them the character of their choice and they have everything they need to begin playing right away. It’s fantastic.

Not only is the game easy to get to the table and play once it’s there, but it’s also easy to buy. While Season 1 came as a box containing six characters, Season 2 has been split into four smaller boxes, each containing a pair of characters (Gunslinger vs Samurai, Tactician vs Huntress, Cursed Pirate vs Artificer, Seraph vs Vampire Lord). This means that each box comes in at a much lower price point, meaning that it’s easy to buy just one box and give the game a try. (Note: Season 2 was also available as a large box containing all of the characters, though I think this was only available through Kickstarter).

Dice Throne Season 2

2. Presentation

I’ve been a graphic designer for 12 years. I am a visual person. I can’t help but judge a game based on its presentation and I genuinely think that Dice Throne (particularly Season 2) is one of the best looking games out there. Though Season 1 looked great, Season 2 raises the standard to an almost ridiculous degree. Publisher Roxley have done an amazing job.

As mentioned above, the graphic design of the rulebook is clear and easy to follow, with clear iconography. The various cards are colour coded, so you know exactly in which round they can be played.

Not only are the illustrations fantastic, showing each character in a number of poses (giving you a real sense that they are actually a character, much more so than if you only ever see them in one pose), but the actual character design is top notch too, with each one feeling very distinct.

It’s easy to tell, at a glance, which character is which. This is done through clever colour choices and graphic design. There is no chance of mistaking the Vampire Lord with the Seraph or with the Cursed Pirate or with the Moon Elf or the Huntress or the Gunslinger, even though they are all slim women. Their colour palettes and their silhouettes make them instantly distinguishable from each other, and are great examples of how to do character design right.

The card quality is great, the player boards are high quality and clearly laid out, and the tokens are varied and clear with superb iconography.

From the beautiful, chunky custom dice to the high quality and characterful illustrations, the presentation is faultless.

3. Fun Game Play

Each game of Dice Throne sees two or more opponents selecting a character and facing off against each other.

On their turn they’ll primarily be rolling unique dice to activate an ability on their player board, using Combat Points (the currency of the game) to upgrade abilities or to play cards from their hand which might alter dice or add additional effects to an attack. Though there is obviously an element of luck to the game, each dice is multi-purpose containing both a symbol and a number, so they can be used in a number of different ways: three sword symbols and a shield symbol might let you do mighty overhead strike, while a small straight (any 4 consecutive numbers: eg: 3,4,5 and 6) might let you heal yourself or inflict a negative status effect on your opponent, such as causing them to bleed or knocking them down.

Given the number of abilities that you have on your player board (each hero starts with eight or nine, and is able to add more through upgrade cards), and the good level of luck mitigation that can be achieved through card play, you always feel like you have a number of options and tactical decisions to make on your turn. Pulling off a powerful ability feels rewarding and fun, pulling off your Ultimate ability (the equivalent of rolling five 6’s) feels awesome.

The game play is quick, too. With each battle taking perhaps 30 – 45 minutes.

4. A Familiar Feel

Though the game is undoubtedly a tabletop game, relying on dice and cards, I can’t help but be reminded of some of my greatest loves from the world of video games.

The selection of varied characters with their own fighting styles, and then facing off in a head to head battle reminds me strongly of Street Fighter 2 (1991) and Tekken (1994), both of which I was obsessed with when I was younger. (Of course, other fighting games exist, but these two are just the ones that had the most impact on me).

Street Fighter 2 by Capcom

The character design and the feel of the world reminds me heavily of the game Overwatch (2016). The bright and colourful characters and the technology level of the world feels very reminiscent of Blizzard’s successful first person shooter. There is even a cross-over in terminology, with each character having an Ultimate ability, just like the characters in Overwatch. Dice Throne’s Monk’s Ultimate ability is called ‘Transcendence’, the exact same as Overwatch’s (robotic) monk Zenyatta’s Ultimate ability. The Gunslinger has an ability called ‘Fan The Hammer’ just like Overwatch’s cowboy McCree, and so on.

Overwatch by Blizzard Entertainment

I would not be surprised to learn that there was some big Overwatch fans on the Dice Throne team.

I do not mean to imply that these similarities are negatives, of course. I mention them as a way of saying how it seems like Dice Throne has taken inspiration from some of the things that I love the most, and so it has managed to slot very easily into the happy part of my brain.

The Future of Dice Throne

I think it’s worth quickly mentioning what is coming up for Dice Throne. The creators have recently announced an upcoming expansion called Dice Throne Adventures which will change the game considerably (though, of course, its addition is entirely optional).

Dice Throne Adventures preview

It’ll turn Dice Throne from a head-to-head battler into a cooperative game, seeing heroes teaming up to go against a variety of minions, collect loot, level up their abilities and battle dangerous bosses.

As someone who is a big fan of co-op games, I think this is incredibly exciting.

Overwatch has done some similar things to this in the past, releasing events which turn the usually-competitive game into a co-operative dungeon crawler. Ever since Overwatch did this I’ve been desperately hoping for something similar to come to Dice Throne and it seems like my prayers have finally been heard.

Dice Throne Adventures comes to Kickstarter in mid July

In all the years that I’ve been playing games, I am hard pressed to think of one that has bought me more joy than Dice Throne. I absolutely love it, and would highly recommend it to anyone who finds the idea of a quick-paced head-to-head combat game appealing. From the varied roster of characters, to the stunning presentation, to the fun ability-triggering game play, Dice Throne is excellent.

+ Superb presentation
+ Easy to pick up, with well explained rules and quick setup.
+ 14 varied and interesting characters
+ Easy to get started
+ Fun, quick game play
+ Exciting things planned for the future

Want to know more? Check out the Kickstarter page for Dice Throne Season 2.

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