Full disclosure: A review copy of Sonic: Dice Rush was provided by IDW Games.
I’m a little disappointed that I couldn’t release my reviews of two Sonic the Hedgehog board games as a lead-up to the movie that got delayed, but what can you do. Coming off of Gen Con, I’ve got a few reviews of games that I thankfully wrote up before the convention so I could spend a week playing and buying games, guilt-free. And of course, like a normal person, I felt guilty the entire time. But that’s not a conversation for this review. This review is about the second Sonic the Hedgehog game from IDW — Sonic the Hedgehog: Dice Rush! It’s by Jonathan Ying, who also designed a delightful game I don’t hear enough people talking about: Bargain Quest! I reviewed that one a while back, so let’s launch into Dice Rush.
In Sonic: Dice Rush, you’ve braved the Crash Course but you feel like you gotta go even faster, so what better way to do that than real-time? Assemble your own level, dodge enemies, and make it to the finale if you have any hope of scoring enough points to win. Will you be able to speed past your opponents? Or will you trip up short of the finish line?
Very little. Decide if you’re playing Act 1 or Act 2:
Take the cards for an Act; shuffle them up. Remove 7 from the deck at three players, and 14 from the deck at two players. Next, once that stack is shuffled, add the Final cards to the bottom:
Remove 2nd place at 3 players, and 2nd and 3rd place at 2 players. Have each player choose a character:
Then give them their dice:
Set the Bird Tokens aside, as well:
Once you do that, you should be ready to start!
Sonic: Dice Rush is a real-time dice-rolling game that’s honestly a bit like Speed Yahtzee. During a round, you’ll be rolling to try and match criteria to basically build your own Sonic level as you rush through it. The faster you go, the better your rewards are, and it’s a Sonic game, so you gotta go fast.
Before a round, reveal the top X cards of the deck, where X is the number of players.
Then, to start, all players count and then start rolling at the same time. You may reroll any number of dice any number of times, but once you’re satisfied with your roll, you may place your Character Card on any unclaimed face-up card to claim it. Once all cards are claimed, the last player takes the unclaimed card.
Note that we have a bit of a problem with the way this rule is worded in the rulebook, and have amended it as follows: once you’ve completed a particular card’s criteria with your dice, you may place your Character Card on that card, provided it is unclaimed. It doesn’t really do mistakes very well, but it’s not a perfect system.
Once everyone’s claimed a card, check the dice. If a player has claimed a card that they do not fulfill with their dice, it’s removed from play. Otherwise, the players place the card face-up next to the last card they claimed. If there are enemies on the cards, players may place dice showing a 6 on them, provided they did not use that die to fulfill the card’s criteria. If you do, cover the enemy with a Flicky Bird token; it’ll be worth bonus points later in the game.
After completing the finale, total your points. Each Flicky Bird is a +1 point (as opposed to -1 for an enemy). Once you’ve done that, the player with the most points wins! If you still need to settle it, play the other Act and see who wins that one.
Player Count Differences
This definitely won Most Improved Player in my gaming group. We played it at two and I wanted to like it, but it felt like it wasn’t quite ready for prime time as a two-player game. But then, we tried it at three and wowee it was much more fun. I think it helped that we used the house rule that I mentioned earlier (in that a player cannot claim a card unless it is the last one or they have the dice required on the card), which prevented a lot of just hate drafting, and we had more options since there were more players. Naturally, that makes me think this game is probably best at four, since there are even more options, but I’m super disinclined to try this again at two, as I didn’t really enjoy it. Had a blast at three, though!
- Roll fast. Like most real-time dice games, you have a significant advantage if you can roll quickly and stop your dice quickly. Unlike, say, Blend Off, you have to roll more than one die, though, so it’s a bit harder to control the speed of them. I’d put this one a bit closer to BEEEEES!, in terms of hectic dice rolling. Actually, it’s pretty similar to BEEEEES! overall.
- Don’t be afraid to take some penalties. Sometimes that’s just gonna be how your dice go. Ideally, penalties are just reducing the points you score in a particular round; they’re not an overall negative-scoring card. If you’re getting a bunch of those, that might negatively impact your odds of success in the game, as you’d expect.
- It’s not bad to have a 6 or two around. Those are great ways to cancel some of the enemies that you run into, basically. It’s unfortunate if you do end up trying to use the sixes to make a set, but, that also happens sometimes? It’s usually worth it just to get the high-value card.
- Use your character’s ability. As with most games with variable player powers, using your character’s ability well and at the right times is key to success. Sonic suffers a bit in Act 2 because the extra die ends up hurting him, but overall his extra die is really useful. Knuckles can modify dice, so it gives him a wider range of utility. Amy lets you bail yourself out if you need to quickly go after a specific card or if you get stuck with the last one, and Tails is flexible if you have dice to spare but really need one value. Think about how best to use them to get the cards you need.
- Don’t get stuck with the last card. It’s usually worth negative points, which isn’t awesome.
- In Act 1, you really benefit if you get a bunch of Special Zones. They’re essentially worth the square of how many you have, so get as many as possible. Bonus points if you can hook one of them up to the Double Next Card cards; that’s potentially 8 points, if you do things correctly.
- Watch out for the Double Next Card cards. You really don’t want to take a negative-valued card if you have one of those. It doubles the next card indiscriminately; it doesn’t care if you got a lot of positive points or if you got a bunch of negative points.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I mean, I’m a sucker for Sonic the Hedgehog games. It’s a very specific niche but I’m all about them. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s that I never thought the original video games were that fun; who can say.
- Plays quickly. As you’d both expect and hope from a Sonic the Hedgehog game. Then again, if someone wants to design and release a 2+ hour Sonic-themed Euro, I’d at least try it. Mostly out of some weird sense of self-spite, but, hey, I’m still trying it. Could probably retheme Lorenzo il Magnifico.
- Very easy to learn. You just roll dice until you match a condition on a card and then claim it. Not that complicated.
- The dice are nicely-colored. The pink ones are translucent and generally pleasant to look at. The other ones are opaque but still pretty nice as well. It’s a good set of components.
- Seems really easy to expand. Again, there are a ton of Sonic levels and a ton of Sonic characters. Give me Shadow / Silver / Metal Sonic / Blaze the Cat / Big the Cat / that one crocodile / I think there was also a bee, once? Charmy? Is that a name? / The Biolizard why the heck not / whatever. I’m literally here for all of it.
- The second Act is tough. I respect that. It definitely takes what seems like an easy game and ramps it up. It’s essentially a mini-expansion that’s already included in the base game for the discerning palate.
- Tin games are notoriously hard to store. They just don’t really fit anywhere. And they can get dented. I’m generally pretty anti-tin, though I will admit I like the color choice on this one.
- Having pink and red dice in the same game is an interesting choice. They’re not impossible to tell apart, but they can be a bit challenging at first glance. Just be careful.
- Allowing players to take cards that they know they can’t claim properly can lead to some pretty screwy gameplay, especially at two players. The rules just say claim a card when you’re satisfied, not claim a card once you’ve fulfilled its criteria. This can lead to a situation where it’s better for me to immediately claim a card I can’t score, at two players, since taking a 0 is better than taking the -4, especially if you rolled no 6s. That seems like a weird oversight, though I suppose that this is partially because players might accidentally claim a bad card (since it’s a speed game) and you can’t force them to check in real time without adding additional complexity to the rules. We’ve mostly disallowed this by telling people not to claim cards they can’t score and not playing with the kind of people who would.
- Honestly, the game benefits from having more cards available; I wouldn’t recommend this at two players. We tried it at two and were powerfully underwhelmed, and then we had a blast at three players. It was like night and day. Having the extra person turned up the pressure and gave us more options; it became impossible to focus on other players’ dice and manage your own. Overall, marked improvement. I think this game just gets better the more people you have, which is interesting. Disappointed that it’s not my personal cup of tea at two players, though.
Overall: 7.25 / 10
Overall, I think Sonic: Dice Rush is pretty good! I’ve got to be a bit critical of it since I don’t like it at two players, my most common player count (49% of all plays, this year), but I do enjoy it a fair bit at higher player counts, hence the compromise rating. It’s fast, bright, colorful, and a lot of fun for the kinds of games I like. I think it’s very similar to BEEEEES!, though it eschews the hex-based hive construction for something a bit more linear, and is probably a bit of a mix between that and Yahtzee. If that’s something you’re into, I think this is definitely an upgrade over basic Yahtzee, but also I generally have a strong preference for real-time games (Eco-Links, Lovelace & Babbage, Cosmic Factory), so take that with a certain level of skepticism, as well. It definitely helps that the theme is also something I gel with, as I probably wouldn’t be as high on this if it were a generic theme (which is another reason I enjoy reviewing IDW’s catalog of games; they typically have a bunch of fun thematic options due to their various licenses), but the theme also works, here. It’s a fast, real-time game about speeding through a Sonic level, and like a true side-scroller, you have no idea what’s going to be on the next screen. It keeps things interesting! And I’d certainly call this game interesting, especially since I’m hoping to see an expansion at some point. If that sorta business sounds up your alley, or you personally enjoy inflicting Sonic the Hedgehog-themed games on your friends (as I do), I’d definitely recommend checking out Sonic: Dice Rush! I’ve been very pleasantly surprised playing it.