Dice Throne — How a Bad Game Becomes a Good Game

Some time back, I bought the game Dice Throne (Website here) at my local game store (Why Visiting Your Local Game Store is Good — Dice Throne and King of New York/King of Tokyo: King Kong). Basically it’s battle Yahtzee. Each player is a character with special powers. You are dueling other players trying to drive their health down from 50 to 0. Each player has a character specific set of unique dice, which you can roll and then re-roll twice more. You have to manage combat points (in essence, how many cards you can play), improve your player board, manage your cards, and optimize your dice rolls.

— two of the original (and more accessible) characters

Sounds fun, right? However, after playing Dice Throne with the gang, we hated it.

What was wrong with Dice Throne. In no particular order, these were its faults:

  1. The 6 characters provided with the game vary in complexity too much. The Barbarian is easy to play, but some of the others are unsuitable for a first or even a second game.
  2. The starting health was too high and made the game drag on too long.
  3. Too much downtime for inactive players in a 4-player game.
  4. The multiplayer targeting rules were awful. Targets of attacks were determined randomly. Thus, there was no way to beat on strong opponents or eliminate weaker ones. This problem compounded problem #2.
  • — the original version 1.0 rule book. It was written poorly and some rules were awful (such as the random targeting of opponents)
  • How Dice Throne Listened and Got It Right

  • In the intervening time between my gang playing Dice Throne and today, the community of players spoke loudly. They gave a great deal of feedback to Roxley Game Laboratory. In particular, fans demanded the targeting rules be abandoned and the rules re-written.
  • And guess what? Roxley Game Labs listened! They changed the rules!
  • — the new rules!
  • Now players can target whomever they want, health is still suppose to start at 50 but players are encouraged to use whatever starting value they want, new expansion characters are accessible even to beginners, and the rulebook has been rewritten to improve clarity and organization. The rules are more intuitive. The targeting rules now are similar to most multi-player dueling style games. The lag between turns is still there, but with less health and strategic targeting, the downtime is less.
  • Recently, we got in another 4-player game using the new rules…and we loved Dice Throne! I even played a couple games with my two young boys, who loved it too (they of course ganged up on me and eliminated me first, ugh).
  • — two of the expansion characters
  • The Verdict

  • Dice Throne has an elegant and simple idea at its core: Yahtzee meets CCG style dueling. Yet, the original execution of the idea was flawed. The designers listened to feedback and now they have a hit on their hands. The game is simple enough for young kids to play it, but also complex enough for more serious gamers. It also has a fun, random Yahtzee element that lightens it up a bit. I give a big thumbs-up to version 2.0!
  • What Did We Play? King of New York with Power Up! And Monster Packs

    Recently we got in a 4-player game of King of New York. We used the evolution Power Up! Cards plus all three of the Monster Packs! Let’s get ready to rumble!!!!

    Game Summary

    Bob was Anubis and the first player, so he had to claim Manhattan. Stew was Cthulhu and he quickly set the tone for the first few turns: he rolled a bunch of slaps and punished Anubis. The dreaded Pyramid Die was stealing health from whomever had the Scarab…which unfortunately was me. I was Captain Fish (boo! The only guy without a new Monster) and I broke buildings on my turn. Oh, and I couldn’t get rid of the scarab so my health was draining. Lee was King Kong and continued the slap-fest! He knocked Anubis out of Manhattan and moved in himself.

    — The remains of a defeated King Kong as he got knocked out climbing skyscrapers in Manhattan.

    On the second turn Anubis and Cthulhu rolled mainly energy, traded the Superstar card, and slapped the big ape a bit. On my turn I rolled 3 slaps. With my evolution power this would mean not only Kong taking 3 damage, but Anubis and Cthulhu taking 1 each. Bob used his Anubis evolutionary power to deflect it back on me! I was down to 2 health! Fortunately Lee didn’t roll more than 1 slap, so I held on. After the 2nd turn everybody was badly injured–we just weren’t rolling any hearts.

    But King Kong’s time in Manhattan would be short. On turn 3, Bob hit him and then Stew slapped him hard but Lee stayed in Manhattan with three health remaining. Then Kong’s luck run out as I managed to roll 4 slaps and Kong was defeated before Lee got his third turn.

    With only 3 of us left, and me in Manhattan with almost no health, it looked like the game was going to end quick. But then the Curse cards became favorable to the Scarab holder and we rolled bundles of hearts for health.

    — the three remaining players and a game that started to equalize.

    As Captain Fish, I grabbed Stink Attack and scattered units into boroughs to attack Anubis and Cthulhu. Stew used Cthulhu to give Bob and I madness tokens which stopped us from re-rolling some dice. Bob used Anubis’ powers to constantly steal energy from Stew and I so he could buy cards.

    The game went back and forth for about 30 minutes. Bob and I each dropped Stew’s Cthulhu to zero health on separate turns, only to see Cthulhu not die (I hate that “Even Death May Die evolution card). So…slowly but surely Cthulhu wore us down while he gained fame. Stew ended up holding on and won with Fame.

    — all of Cthulhu’s permanent Evolution cards that led to Stew’s victory

    In the end, it was a crazy game that started out fast and furious with King Kong getting shellacked early, then settled into a game of attrition.

    The Verdict

    The Evolution cards are a must for King of New York. Each monster is distinct, which is an improvement over the base game. The new monsters are totally cool and the Anubis Curse Die adds a nice mechanic to the game. A really fun game got even better!

    My Haul at Gen Con

    Gen Con was fun again this year! My bro and I walked for miles searching for both new and classic games. What did we find….inquiring minds want to know! Well my faithful friends, read on, read on for the answer!

    — day one loot!

    In the photo above you can see what I found on day one!

    Smash Up! Oops, You Did It Again — I found this new expansion that I was looking for. Can’t wait to get in some Smash Up Games with these four new factions.

    Scythe: Rise of Fenris — Is this expansion a set of alternate game rules (i.e. modules), a legacy campaign, or both!

    Too Many Bones: Undertow — I kickstarted this game. It looks like a really fun dice builder. The components inside are top-quality. And many thanks to the guys at the booth who switched out the duplicate dice for the omitted dice that were missing from my box.

    Horizons — A 4x space game. I love these sort of games (e.g. Eclipse, Ascending Empires, Eminent Domain)!

    Unlock! — My wife loves these puzzle/escape room games, so I was happy to pick up a few more adventures.

    Call of Cthulhu: Nameless Horrors — Six new adventures for CoC RPG, and it was only $15! Let the sanity checks begin!

    Eminent Domain: Oblivion — Yes, yes, and more yes! Finally that Politics card gets to be a role! I am super-pumped to integrate this expansion into one of my favorite games.

    King of New York: Anubis Monster Pack — A new monster and it even has a Pyramid die!

    Day Two was more about taking in the convention than grabbing Games, but still we found a couple things.

    — day two loot

    Near and Far — This game looks cool…and I got the next to last copy at the booth too! Is it a legacy game, a worker placement game in the vein of Raiders of the North Sea, or an RPG disguised as a board game? Is it all three? Did I mention that the maps are in a spiral-ring notebook? The art is great too!

    Cat Lady — Saw this at the AEG booth and I had to buy it for my wife. She loves cats.

    Star Realms Promos — Yep, picked up some free promos. You want to know why? Well I’m not telling you…at least not tell my next post!

    In Defense of American-Style Games: 3 Good Reasons to Play Ameritrash as Seen by a Grognard

    With the popularity of Settlers of Catan in the 1990s, Eurogames have exploded onto the American gaming landscape. The emphasis of Eurogames on indirect competition, hidden scoring, broad themes, resource-driven game mechanics, and balancing mechanisms to keep all players “in the game” has proven to be popular, particularly with younger players.At the same time, American-style Games, often denigrated as “Ameritrash Games”, have been criticized, panned, and abandoned by many of these newer players. The critique is that Ameritrash games are either based too much on luck (think Talisman), too much on direct competition (e.g. Advanced Squad Leader), too complex (e.g. almost anything by Avalon Hill or SPI), too theme specific as to not be appealing to the average gamer (e.g. Air Assault on Crete), and too long to play (e.g. The Campaign for North Africa).

    Well, as a Grognard (look it up kids if you don’t know what it means), I am here to defend Ameritrash Games with 3 good reasons you should be playing them:

    1 – Direct Competition Can Be More Fun Than Multiplayer Solitaire

    One of my critiques of Eurogames is that often the game is thinly disguised multiplayer solitaire (in other words, each player plays alone and the end-game scoring determines who played solitaire better). Players really cannot directly confront, impede, attack, etc, each other. Thus, each player’s “strategy” is not truly an interactive strategy, but really solitaire. Good examples are Race for the Galaxy by Rio Grande Games or Cities by Z-Man Games. Often a Eurogame adds one element of direct confrontation, such as card drafting (think 7 Wonders), that isn’t really “direct” confrontation as the emphasis is on denying an opponent a resource rather than taking it from them.

    Direct competition in an Ameritrash title is more than just denial, it’s seizure! Take the classic game Dune by Avalon Hill (or the new variant Rex by Fantasy Flight Games). Your units (tokens) will move quicker if they have access to Arrakeen or Carthag. Taking those strongholds gives you an advantage and removes it from an opponent. The battles that I have seen in my 4 decades of gaming in those Dune strongholds are legendary! In a similar vein, Small World by Days of Wonder encourages aggressive acquisition of territory–at another player’s expense (much like Risk). Nothing more fun than making your opponents’ units disappear from the board.

    And if you haven’t played Enemy in Sight by Avalon Hill, you are missing out on how much fun direct competition can be. There is nothing more enjoyable than screaming “Breaking the Line” to the tune of Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law” as you wreck an opponent’s line of ships. I have seen grudges held for years (actually it’s two decades now in one instance) over a well-played Breaking the Line card! Taking the battle to your opponent can be very fun–and memorable!

    — you don’t eat the worm, it eats you!

    And here is the kicker–luck is NOT involved in battle in any of these games! The common criticism that Ameritrash games are full of luck can be untrue.

    2 – Randomness Can Be More Fun than Repetition

    What makes Talisman work? The random discovery of what monsters, treasure, etc, lie in every space! Why do battles in Star Wars Rebellion feel exciting–because you have to chuck dice and live with the results. Let’s face it, many things in life are random, and randomness in games is a good thing not a bad thing. Now, we don’t want so much randomness that we are playing Monopoly, but adding a random element can help make a game less predictable, repetitive, and boring. Even the classic Settlers of Catan has two random mechanisms (dice rolls for resources and random bonus card draw).

    The main problem with Eurogames is that they are so repetitive due to a lack of randomness. And repetition can be boring. Really good games with repetitive play (for example, Lost Cities by KOSMOS) are fantastic (much in the vein of Rummy, Solitaire, Pit, etc) but a good number of Eurogames are not fun when repetitive. In particular, I find Carcassonne to be really boring due to it being the same game over and over.

    — nothing says generic, repetitive play like these components from Carcassonne

    3 – Strong Themes in Ameritrash Games Make for Evocative Gameplay

    Okay, one thing I despise about many Eurogames is that the “theme” seems to be an afterthought. The game is so abstract that literally any number of broad themes could fit. The classic Puerto Rico by Ravensburger or the more recent Terra Mystica by Feuerland could realistically be titled and themed anything. The games are all about the gameplay “engine”, Puerto Rico has nothing at all about it that is truly Puerto Rico–other than the tacked on place names, currency, etc.

    Strong creative or historical themes build evocative gameplay. When I play Dune, I can envision that Sandworm eating my units (even if they are just little round cardboard tokens), I can see the Baron Harkonnen backstabbing me with a traitor, etc. Eclipse by Lautapelit is a rather complicated game, allowing for players to customize their spaceships. Guess what? This detail adds to the space 4X theme and gameplay. Arkham Horror by Fantasy Flight is so thematic that when I play it I can actually feel the Elder Gods returning to Earth.

    — Arkham Horror by Fantasy Flight, a million Cards, chits, tokens, bits, etc, but well worth the hours it takes to set it up and take it down


    So in short, there is a lot to love about American-style gaming, so don’t believe the “Ameritrash” label and get out there and play a dice chucking, card drawing, heavy themed game today!

    Why Visiting Your Local Game Store is Good — Dice Throne and King of New York/King of Tokyo: King Kong

    I am a big fan of buying games from internet sites. I can buy directly from the publisher, I can get a good price from an online retailer like Amazon, I can window shop multiple sites, etc. However, the biggest disadvantage of online shopping is that it is surprisingly easy to miss things. Amazon doesn’t have everything and search results can be more limited than it might appear.

    That’s why I love going to my local game store every week to just see what might be there. For those with more inquiring minds, the closet local store to me is The Toledo Game Room. Those of you who go to GenCon might recognize the owner of the Game Room, Daryl, as “The Bits Guy” who sells all the Warhammer bits. Another good store in town is Checkmate Games. If you are in Fresno, Ca, I recommend Crazy Squirrel Game Store.

    Anyway, going to the local game store turned up two games/game expansions this week.

    First, I found a game that I knew nothing about: Dice Throne

    I have only started reading the rules, but Dice Throne looks like a fun game where you can play 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, or free-for-all. I can’t wait to try it out with my usual suspects.

    Second, sometimes I find something new for a game that I like. This time it was King Kong for King of Tokyo/King of New York.

    I loved the Cthulhu expansion and I am super-pumped to bust out King Kong in my next King of New York game.

    The moral of the story

    So run, don’t walk, to your local game store to find unexpected gems. And do it like voting in Chicago–early and often!

    Excelsior!