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!
  • Can You Survive on the High Seas? A Review of 7 Wonders Armada

    The new Armada expansion to 7 Wonders has been released! Now you can take your empire building to the high seas. Armada promises to increase the strategic nature of your 7 Wonders games while also adding more fun.

    Does Armada live up to the hype? We gave Armada a spin, so read on my faithful followers and find out what we thought about it!

    What Does Armada Add?

    Armada adds a brand near board for each player that tracks their naval accomplishments. True to 7 Wonders game play, the new naval board tracks a player’s fleet in the four areas of development: military (red), commerce (yellow), diplomacy (blue) and science/exploration (green).

    — the new naval board. Note the four columns, each devoted to progress in a different color.

    Each time a player plays a card, they can in addition pay the cost on the naval board–in the same color as the card played (ie play a yellow card, you can pay the next cost in the yellow naval column)–in order to move the corresponding boat up one space. In the photo above, all boats start on the bottom space of each column. If the player plays a yellow card, they can in addition to paying for the card, pay one wood to move the yellow boat to the next space up the yellow column. Also, each board has one column that has a pyramid symbol. When the player builds a stage of their wonder, they can also build in the column with the pyramid.

    — in this photo, the player has advanced three boats one space, and the yellow boat two spaces

    As the boats advance, the player gets a bonus. Red advancement gains naval shields (which work like land warfare but are a separate naval warfare at the end of each Age). Yellow gains coins. Blue gains victory points. Green leads to exploration of islands, which produce bonuses (eg resources) on special island cards.

    The basic idea is that players can choose to use resources as they build normal cards to also advance their naval fleets. As such, the Armada expansion adds a second “play” each turn, if a player has the resources to pay for it. The naval board goes next to the player’s Wonder so that it is easy for each player to see what naval advancements are available.

    — the naval board next to my wonder

    Another twist is that at the end of each Age, there is naval combat. The naval board generates naval shields. Combat is global, so players are ranked from strongest to weakest. The weakest player gets a marker with negative victory points, and the stronger players get positive victory points based on order and Age (ie the strongest player gets more points, points are greater as the Ages move from I to II to III).

    Armada also includes cards for each age that are themed to the new Armada expansion. This increases the fun as players must now contend with new and different cards with some unique twists (I won’t give any of it away, you need to buy Armada to find out).

    Game Play

    The Armada expansion significantly lengthens game play. Each turn, players can effectively make two “plays”: a card and naval advancement. The effect of this is multiple-fold (is that a real word? I don’t know, but I will use it anyway): 1) each turn takes almost twice as long, 2) players will be buying more resources from each other, and 3) you gotta watch each other because honest mistakes (or dishonest ones) are much more likely to happen (especially in Age III).

    — here is what the table looked like at the end of our game!

    More ships, more strategies!

    We discovered that the Armada naval boards now allowed for more strategies. In the game in the photo above, I went for naval shields and domination of both ground/naval warfare (I am in the bottom left); Lee (top right) went for a Boston Harbour (his term for it) strategy of advancing all his boats; Stew (bottom right) went for scientific achievement and advancing his green boat to explore; and Bob (top left) went for diplomatic/governmental victory points.

    These differing strategies led to all of us scoring lots and lots of points.

    — the score sheet at the end of the game. I won by 6 points!

    The Verdict

    Armada turns 7 Wonders from a quick, simple game into a much longer highly strategic contest. We had a good time with it and would play it again. The downside is that the game was twice as long and man, we needed Bob’s entire dining room table PLUS the extra leaf we put into the table!

    As such, this expansion seems like a welcome addition to those who want more complexity and a longer, more strategic game. If you are looking for a short, enjoyable game of 7 Wonders, Armada might not be for you.

    Oh….and Armada is much, much better than Babel. We played the Babel expansion about a dozen times and nobody ever really liked it. I can tell you hands down that Armada is way better than Babel. The naval boards, plastic ships, naval combat, and island exploration both add a good deal of strategy and also are themed very well. It does feel like you are sailing ships and building ships. Armada fits the 7 Wonders theme very well in a way that Babel never did. In fact, I am thinking of listing Babel on Boardgamegeek to get rid of it.

    Okay you landlubbers, get out your sailors and set sail!

    Scythe: The Rise of Fenris — Episode 3: A Plea from Vesna

    Coming off of Episode 2A, we were wondering where the campaign was going to go. As we started to set up Episode 3, we quickly found out.

    Set-up

    We decided on our Mech mods (purchased at the end of Episode 2A). Saxony added Camaraderie (no popularity loss from running off workers), Togawa took Stealth (move through enemy hexes without stopping) and Rusviet took Armor (enemy attackers lose a combat card and give Rusviet Power). Albion chose not to deploy any mod.

    Then the rules told us to find Box A, flip it over and grab the Vesna card taped to the bottom!

    — The Vesna card

    The rules said to shuffle the Vesna card, plus 4 more Factory cards, into the Factory cards selected for the game. The goal of the Episode became to find Vesna (although victory would still be determined normally).

    We each then selected and paid for perks and continued the set-up as normal. Based on random board draw, the turn order would be:

    Saxony – Neal

    Albion – Bob

    Rusviet – Stew

    Togawa – Lee

    Game Play

    Rusviet started lively by quickly deploying a Mech with Speed, jumping his character around to look for good Encounter cards. We had shuffled in the new encounter cards, and they looked to be game-changing in terms of their effects.

    Case in point: Saxony found an encounter card that allowed his character to jump straight to the Factory! The Episode had a special Factory rule: 1) take an Influence token each time you enter the Factory, 2) draw Factory cards equal to your Influence tokens, and 3) if you find Vesna you have to take that card or if you don’t you may take a Factory card (or not if you don’t like what you got).

    Saxony didn’t like its first draw. Already having Speed, Saxony left and returned…and found Vesna. As Saxony was looking for a good Factory card, they returned a third time. Rusviet took advantage of Saxony’s character being in the Factory alone and successfully attacked and won.

    Rusviet completed an Objective and was quickly putting stars on the Triumph Track. Togawa eventually got to the Factory too while Albion spread out, gaining territory.

    — the position late in the game with Togawa on the Factory

    Rusviet got 5 stars on the Triumph Track and was trying to find a way to get its final star. But then Saxony struck, completing the last upgrade and fulfilling two objectives in one turn to place his last 3 stars to end the game.

    — Saxony at the end of the game

    Scoring

    Scores were tallied and Rusviet beat Saxony 72 to 68! It was the second Episode in a row where Saxony lost despite placing all 6 stars. The difference was that Rusviet was the only faction to reach the top tier on the Popularity Track.

    Episode Rewards

    Each player could now select a Setup Bonus for each 2 Influence tokens (rounded up). Saxony got 2 bonuses and every other faction got 1.

    The rules now stipulated that Saxony would now become the Vesna faction! The Saxony player would keep everything on their Campaign Log but would now play the Vesna faction using pieces from the Rise of Fenris expansion (from a punchboard and Box A).

    — Vesna faction

    — Box A – Vesna pieces inside

    — the Vesna pieces inside Box A

    But there was another twist: players could now also change factions! Starting with the faction with the least Wealth, a player could grab any unused faction. Albion decided not to change, Togawa switched to Crimean, and Rusviet chose not to change.

    We finished by purchasing more Mech Mods.

    The Verdict

    Episode 3 was much more fun than Episode 2A. Also, the Mech Mods gave faction’s the ability to break the stalemate that we saw in the last Episode. The new Encounter cards (sold separately from Rise of a Fenris) also helped enliven the game

    New Year’s Day 2019 Lineup

    Here is the lineup of games for New Year’s Day 2019 tomorrow:

    7 Wonders with Armada expansion

    Scythe: Rise of Fenris–Episode 3 plus the new Encounter cards

    Maximum Apocalypse with the Gothic Horrors expansion

    It’s going to be a good time, I bet you wish you were invited!

    Peace out and Happy New Year!

    Raiders of the North Sea: Fields of Fame

    — Fields of Fame expansion for Raiders of the North Sea

    Fields of Fame

    I am sure that you have heard of the worker placement game Raiders of the North Sea. It’s a pretty good game, but it can get stale after many plays. So…how about adding an expansion?

    Fields of Fame adds a new board so that there are more places to raid. It also adds Jarls! At the start of the game you mix Jarl tokens into the plunder bag. Each time you sack a settlement and take a Jarl token, your crew has to face a Jarl. You can choose to 1) kill the Jarl, gaining Fame that will produce victory points, 2) subdue the Jarl and add it to your crew, or 3) flee the Jarl. Each Jarl card has fighting 5 or 6, so they are beefcakes–tough to kill or subdue, but great in your crew.

    Play through

    We got in a game with the new expansion…and it was super fun!

    — the board with the new expansion components (the new board is attached on the right). Jarl tokens are light blue.

    Facing a Jarl always wounds your crew members, but subduing a Jarl and adding it to your crew is a big bonus. And the VP gained from Jarl Fame adds a new way to get victory points, which adds to the strategic depth of the game.

    Our game was quite spirited with Lee subduing Jarls early and often. Stew went for sacking settlements. Bob and I tried a mixed strategy of getting victory points from many different areas of the game (e.g. I was maxed on Armor).

    In the end, Stew won by a single VP over me!

    — Stew (yellow) with 43 VP, and me (red) with 42

    Verdict

    Fields of Fame is a must for any serious fans of Raiders of the North Sea. It extends the game by about 15 minutes, adds more strategy, and continues the basic ideas of the main game (do I sacrifice crew to kill/subdue a Jarl? Do I avoid Jarls and give up the VP to other players? etc). Get it…you are going to like it.