Full disclosure: A review copy of Dice Throne: Season 1 was provided by Roxley.
Whew, this box is a doozy. You can imagine my surprise when this arrived; it’s just large. Photographing it takes work, et cetera. I hope y’all appreciate how small my photography table is; I will probably have to think of an entirely different way to light this box, given how large it is. But that’s a problem for future Eric, I assume. Future Eric has a lot more time for that kind of thing. Present Eric, on the other hand, is spending an unrealistic amount of time playing Sea, Salt, & Paper with my coworker while I try to write reviews. I’m not playing a particularly good round, this time, because my focus is split, but it’s not your fault. This is what happens to multitaskers. Anyways, Dice Throne: Season 1 Rerolled is a fully redone version of the first season of Dice Throne, I assume to bring it up to consistency with Season 2 (and the now-present and exciting Marvel Dice Throne, which I’ll get to later). It adds some new characters, to boot. Let’s get into it!
In Dice Throne, players are vying for the throne! As you might expect. The Mad King holds a tournament every year, and a pretty diverse group of champions is coming together to throw down. It’s a no-holds-barred combat tournament, so you’ll have to really do your best if you want to hold your own. You’ve got your skills and your abilities and a bit of luck on your side, hopefully; will it be enough?
Not a ton! Each player should choose a character, from the ones available:
Each character comes with their own dice, tokens, board, and deck:
Shuffle your deck, draw 3 cards. Set your Combat Points (CP) to 2, and set your Health to 50:
You should be ready to start! Have each player roll a die and the higher number goes first:
Note: Given that the rulebook also treats more than two players as a variant, I’ll talk about three- and four-player rules later.
In Dice Throne, you’re fighting 1v1 to determine who will survive! Each turn you’ll go through a few phases to gain cards, Combat Points, and abilities, and then you’ll use those abilities to try and take your opponent’s Health to 0! Each character has a unique focus:
- Barbarian: The Barbarian isn’t terribly complicated. He hits hard and hits a lot. He hits opponents so hard that sometimes they forget to draw a card or leave themselves open to attack twice! This is one of the lower-complexity heroes, so a great place to start, as well.
- Moon Elf: The Moon Elf is more on the tricksy side of things. She’s much harder to hit, and her status effects can get rid of your rerolls, increase the damage you take, or sometimes get rid of your Offensive Roll phase altogether!
- Pyromancer: The Pyromancer won’t last long, but her goal is to burn you to cinders with their limited time. She’s all offense, and they’re quite the powerhouse. Her Fire Mastery will boost her damage, the Burn she can inflict will linger, and if she hits with you Stun or Knockdown, you run the risk of letting her hit twice in a row! Even her Defensive Ability is offensive. Careful!
- Shadow Thief: The Shadow Thief is a nasty piece of work, as he uses poison to do the work for him. Once you’re poisoned, you’ll take a little bit of damage every turn. Also, his roguish talents lend themselves to Sneak Attacks, which can boost the damage you take in a big way, if he can get lucky. Finally, he can leverage the Shadows to avoid damage, making him hard to take down if you’re not careful.
- Monk: The Monk is as balanced as you’d expect, perfectly between offense and defense. Is Chi for absorbing damage? Yes. Is it for dealing damage? Also yes. As with other fighters, he can use Knockdown to potentially cost you an Offensive Roll Phase and Evasive to dodge your attacks, but he also can calm his mind and use Cleanse to rid himself of pesky status effects of yours. Watch out for this one!
- Paladin: The Paladin is, as you might guess, a tank. Where plenty of characters are all offense, the Paladin shoots for the more defensive route, using Protect to cut damage by half or Retribution to reflect damage dealt back to the attacker. Rumor has it that the Blessing of Divinity can even raise the Paladin from the dead! This isn’t to say that he’s got no attacks; his Accuracy can make attacks undefendable and the occasional Crit can make these attacks even harder. The best offense is a good defense, but having a good offense too doesn’t hurt.
- Ninja: The Ninja is a bit of a nasty fighter, too. She can hit you with a delayed poison that hurts you at the end of your turn, and she can disappear from sight, avoiding attack damage! That said, the status effects you inflict still get through, so that might be how you take her down.
- Treant: The Treant is a creature of the forest, and as such, can grow Spirits to perform various effects. As they age from seedlings to saplings to Dryads, their powers grow and change, so be careful! The Treant also has access to healing abilities and some nasty barbed vines that can punish you when you reroll!
You’ll need to leverage their skills, specific dice, and unique cards if you want to win. Let’s walk through how that works.
Essentially, the Upkeep Phase is just for things that activate during the Upkeep Phase. That’s a bit circular, granted, but you may take damage, heal, or experience other status effects that happen during this phase, so resolve them before moving on, if any are present.
During the Income Phase, you gain 1 Combat Point and draw one card from your deck, adding it to your hand. If you’re out of cards in your deck, shuffle your Discard Pile; that’s your new deck.
Main Phase 1
Each turn, you get two Main Phases: one before you attack and one after you attack. Both play the same:
- Sell any cards: You can discard cards from your hand to gain 1 Combat Point per discarded card. You may do this as many times as you want.
- Play Main Phase Action Cards: You may play cards that have a “Main Phase Action” bar on the side. Spend the indicated number of Combat Points to activate them, and then resolve their effect, discarding them afterwards.
- Play Hero Upgrades: You may upgrade your abilities by playing a Hero Upgrade card from your hand and paying the required number of Combat Points. If upgrading from Level II to Level III, you only need to pay the difference.
Offensive Roll Phase
Here, you can attack an opponent! You can also play Roll Phase Action cards, if you want, spending Combat Points as needed. But now you do a few things.
First, perform up to three “Roll Attempts”. This means rolling your five dice and then rerolling any of them that you want. You may then reroll again (even rerolling dice you previously set aside).
Then, you choose which Offensive Ability you’d like to activate. Your opponent should be given an opportunity to modify your dice with card or character effects (or just say they’ll allow the ability to activate). You may, if you want, not activate an Offensive Ability at all. If any player modifies your dice, you may announce a different ability or use any unused rerolls before continuing.
Finally, activate the Offensive Ability if you chose one. This includes resolving its effects and gaining / placing any tokens.
Targeting Roll Phase
This isn’t really used in two-player games. Or three-player games, for that matter.
Defensive Roll Phase
After the Offensive Roll Phase resolves, if an Offensive Ability was activated and resulted in damage that was defendable (there are Undefendable attacks), your opponent may defend by making a single Roll Attempt with their Defensive Ability (choosing one, if they have multiple). These dice results may activate both damage and non-damage effects.
Players may have one last shot to play status effects or cards, and then all damage and effects are accumulated and resolve! If this results in one player reaching 0 Health, the other player wins! If this results in both players reaching 0 Health, the game is a draw!
Main Phase 2
This phase is identical to Main Phase 1.
If you have more than six cards in hand, you must sell cards until you have six or fewer cards in hand. Then, if both players still have more than 0 Health, the game continues with your opponent’s turn!
Three Player Rules
This one’s mostly the same as 1v1; it’s just 1v1v1. To make that easier, there are a few rules changes:
- Start with 35 Health, not 50.
- Players may target either of their two opponents, but if they target the Leader (the player[s] with the most remaining Health), they may draw a card immediately after they choose their target.
- If you are the Leader, you do not draw a card for targeting another player (unless they’re tied with you for the Leader position).
Other than that, play normally!
Four Player Rules
Four players is a bit trickier. Here, you play on two teams of two players. Each team gets a turn (so, if you divide the teams into A and B, A1 goes, then B1 goes, then A2 goes, and B2 goes). Teams also share a Health Dial at 50 Health, so any damage done to them is shared. Notably, however, if both teammates are hit by an attack, they lose the combined total. This matters for some characters.
Teammates still have their own Combat Point dials, and generally cannot intervene to prevent damage to their teammate or alter dice rolls without a card saying they can. Note language like “A chosen player” rather than “You”.
One last fun thing: there are special rules about Targeting. Remember that Targeting Roll Phase that I said didn’t matter in 1v1 or 1v1v1 games? It matters now. You roll a die, which can be modified unless your attack was an Ultimate, and then based on your roll, you target a player:
- Target the opponent to your left.
- Target the opponent to your left.
- Target the opponent to your right.
- Target the opponent to your right.
- Your opponents collectively choose which of them you target.
- You may choose which opponent you target.
You otherwise attack as normal. Oh, also, teammates should sit next to each other, look at each others’ hands, and strategize together!
You can play Dice Throne with five or six players, but even the rulebook is like “don’t do this unless you’re very experienced”. That one’s available online.
Player Count Differences
I mean, personally, I tend to play a lot of 1v1 games, and as a result, Dice Throne meets my two-player needs quite nicely. I’m never really a fan of three-player King of the Hill-style games, just because it almost always leads to two players dogpiling one player (which, as a result, tends to be me, which I hate). It’s not my preferred style of play; I’d rather focus on one player than split my attention, and I think the game lends itself nicely to that. Plus, more players in an asymmetrical game forces you, the player, to take on more cognitive load. You need to know what their abilities are, what dice they have, what the odds of certain attacks are, and what the various status effects they can inflict do. Learning that for yourself and your opponent is already difficult, but trying to learn multiple in an early game can be daunting for new players (which, incidentally, is why they explicitly recommend against teaching new players a six-player game). I think Dice Throne does best when it’s aiming for a quick skirmish game (similar to the mental space of Unmatched, but with more dice).
- Naturally, lean into your character’s ability. Each character is pretty different, so figuring out what your character excels in and can shoot for as far as status effects and related abilities can help you win out over your opponent. If you’re just playing the same style with every character, you’re likely not going to have too much luck unless you’re getting consistently better rolls.
- Given how many characters can hit you pretty hard with their Defensive Ability, try to make your damage Undefendable, if possible. A lot of characters can hit back when you hit them, so, making your damage Undefendable negates their ability to make a Defensive roll. A few different character abilities / cards / effects can upgrade your damage to Undefendable, which is nice. Your Ultimate is not only Undefendable, but also cannot be prevented or modified, which hits even harder.
- An early-game Ultimate can really swing things in your favor, if you manage to land it, so it might be worth spending some Combat Points to get there. They usually do upwards of 10 damage and inflict essentially every status ability that you can dump on your opponent, which is a great combo. It’s usually worth using a couple cards to modify your own dice to improve your chances of hitting an Ultimate. That said, if you happen to roll one on your own, just take it.
- Similarly, spending some Combat Points to force your opponent to reroll a die and hopefully miss their Ultimate is pretty clutch. As good as an Ultimate is, it’s not particularly something you want to get hit by. Once it’s in place, you cannot block or prevent it, so your only shot for getting out of an Ultimate is modifying your opponent’s dice before they’re locked in. It can sometimes work, and hey, better to get hit with a lesser attack than a full Ultimate, so try and change things up while you can.
- Don’t gamble too much! This is a bit too tight of a game for missing an Offensive Turn to be worth it. It’s nice to go for an Ultimate or a big combo move, but you don’t want to split your rerolls such that you get stuck with nothing useful. You and your opponent are going back and forth pretty aggressively, so missing an entire Offensive Roll Phase is pretty rough. This, incidentally, makes status effects like Knockdown pretty good.
- Keeping a few Combat Points in reserve to bail yourself out can be pretty clutch. There are a bunch of Instant Actions that you can play with a few Combat Points which can do all sorts of things. Having some to change dice or upgrade abilities or transfer status effects can be pretty handy. Given that Knockdown requires 2 Combat Points or you lose your Offensive Roll Phase, if you’re playing with an opponent that can inflict it, you may want to keep a couple around.
- Check out which abilities you can upgrade right out of the gate; some will give you new attack types, which will help improve the likelihood of you landing a good hit on your opponent. Unlocking new moves is a great way to give yourself new options with your dice. Generally speaking, upgrading is a pretty good path forward anyways. It improves your damage output, can add to the status effects you inflict, or even just provide additional benefits. More damage is always better anyways.
- Sometimes you just need to leave it all on the table; winning with 1 Health remaining is still a win. It’s relatively unlikely that you’ll survive a turn if you have 3 or 4 Health left, so rather than heal up or try to buff yourself, just go for it. Take your opponent out and you’ll win! Just be careful of one thing — your opponent can still drop you on their Defensive Roll Phase, if your attack isn’t Undefendable. Do your best!
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Always have a soft spot for custom dice. I just like them a lot! Custom sculpts and icons, which is great. Plus, they have a nice range of colors, as well. It’s definitely not a hard requirement for a game like this, but it’s certainly nice.
- I really like the art style! It’s a bit cartoony without looking goofy. It’s also, like the dice, got a nice mix of colors. It’s a good-looking game, though the box is a bit dark.
- I also like the character spread; there are a lot of different characters, archetypes, and playstyles in this set. Eight is a great number of different characters for a 1v1 game; it means you can make a pretty solid number of combinations and game types. I also really like how different every character feels, even though the die combinations you want are usually the same. It’s a nice way to let players grow familiarity and strategy.
- I appreciate that the characters have different playstyles, but the core gameplay is the same; that’s my preferred form of asymmetric gameplay. There are a few games that do this well, but I’d count Dice Throne among them. I really like that the core gameplay loop is pretty much roll some dice, strive for some combinations, and then see how you can attack your opponent. The nitty-gritty of how your character does damage / heals / avoids attacks is something you can learn along the way, but they don’t typically change your core loop.
- I like that you can upgrade your Hero Abilities and that going from Level II -> Level III only costs the difference. Upgrading Hero Abilities is a lot of fun! I like that it sometimes gives new attacks or encourages you to go after certain dice combinations. The upgrade discount is a nice touch, as well. I wouldn’t say that it makes the game feel different every time I try things out with the same character, but, you know, it keeps things a bit fresh, which is nice.
- The Defensive abilities of characters are interesting, especially given how they roll different numbers of dice and have wildly different effects. Some characters are just defense == offense, and others can heal themselves on a Defensive Roll, and some are regular defensive characters. There’s a lot of variety!
- I like that Dice Throne S1 is compatible with S2 and Marvel Dice Throne. It’s both a very nice touch and, I imagine, an impressive bit of compatibility testing and balancing. I’m looking forward to playing through all the sets and then figuring out what character combinations I like and just using those for subsequent Dice Throne things. I’ll probably stick with Miles Morales and Black Panther, but I did enjoy Moon Elf.
- Weirdly, I actually like that not all of the abilities are unique, either; it’s nice seeing a character using Evasive when you already know how Evasive works from a different character; it’s a nice way to ground yourself. I think it gives a nice sense of consistency to the game at large? Plus, it means as you’re exploring new characters, you don’t necessarily have to learn everything from scratch. Speeds up character comprehension a bit and you can have similar strategies if you see points of overlap (or learn new ways to execute based on new combinations of skills).
- This is an extremely pedantic complaint, but for some reason, the “Vegas, Baby” card breaks my immersion, slightly? I’m being stupid, here, I know, but my immediate reaction to the card was “wait, do they have a Vegas?”. It’s not that big of a deal, granted; just odd.
- It’s kind of an expensive box, but they do sell individual 1v1 packs, which I appreciate; you can get a taste for the system before you buy the more intense sets. It’s around $100, which, I mean, for eight different characters makes sense, to some degree, but this is a large commitment if you’re not quite sure if you want to try Dice Throne or not. It’s the kind of thing you should play at a con or at a friend’s place or something before committing to everything. The nice thing is that they do sell 1v1 sets, so if you want to try it at a smaller scale, that’s also an option.
- I may put some labels on the sides of the trays so I can pick characters from top-down without having to look at the sides. It works great if you have the trays in the right spots, but I don’t always game with folks who are as type-A about putting things away as I am.
- Yeah, the box is … enormous. Makes transport and play difficult, which is challenging for a best-at-two game. It’s simplified somewhat by the fact that you can just grab all the characters you want and throw them into some sort of transport device (or maybe try to combine two into one tray?), but the Battle Chest is large. My particular woe is storage, now, but that’s a problem for a later instance of me to figure out.
Overall: 8.5 / 10
Overall, I had an absolute blast with Dice Throne! I see why other people like it so much. It’s very up my alley. Colorful characters, exciting abilities, and big rolls that pay off big-time? I love that kind of stuff. It’s honestly to the point that when I play, I’m helping my opponent and we’re trying to see what they can get. If I get hit with an Ultimate? Well, that’s the way the dice go, sometimes. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. And I find that whole thing thrilling. For games like this, I might prefer dice slightly to cards specifically because of the luck factor; I find it all very fun. But I also like the Dice Throne system! It’s asymmetric gameplay, granted, but they do a nice job making the core gameplay loop straightforward enough that the characters are fairly plug-and-play (with their own challenges and complexities and hiccups). I love that form of asymmetry; I’ve seen it in games like Unmatched or Imperium, and it lands really well for me. It means that I can understand that I’m doing something entirely different than my opponent, but I’m not necessarily playing an entirely different game (which can be much more challenging to learn). I appreciate the approachability of Dice Throne, as a result, and I respect the level of effort that must have gone into ensuring its forwards compatibility with Season 2 and Marvel Dice Throne. Plus, the production value is incredible. Character-specific trays? Custom dice? Folding boards? It’s a game that looks as good as it plays, which is always quite nice to see from a player standpoint. I’m looking forward to diving into Season 2 and Marvel Dice Throne to see how they compare! If you’re a fan of dice games, light combat, or colorful asymmetry, you might find Dice Throne appealing! I’d certainly recommend it, myself.
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