Monday, November 17, 2014

Marvel Dice Masters: Initial Impressions

Recently, my local FLGS jumped onto the Marvel Dice Masters bandwagon after a generous customer donated a large number of cards and dice to the store for people to learn how to play. Being a comic book fan and a lover of dice-based games, I found myself tempted by the new shiny. Eventually, the temptation broke through and I decided to give it a whirl.

Designed by Mike Elliot and Eric Lang, Marvel Dice Masters is a collectible dice building game. Its very similar to Elliot and Lang's previous outing Quarriors, but obviously switches out the fantasy theme for a super hero one. Some of you might be asking a perfectly legitimate question: "What's a dice building game?" Well, I'll tell you. A dice building game is similar to a deck building game, but players purchase and draft dice instead of cards.

At the beginning of the game, each player will be given a bag containing eight white dice inside it. These dice are known as your "Sidekicks" and can be used to bolster your offensive & defensive capabilities or purchase better dice later in the game. On your turn, you will reach into your bag and pull out four dice. You may roll these dice no more than twice each turn. After rolling your dice, you can field any dice showing characters, spend energy to purchase other dice, or use any other ability you possess. After spending your dice, you place them in the used pile and place them back into your bag once its empty. That's pretty much the basic mechanic.

However, Marvel Dice Masters does possess a decent amount of depth to it. Like a deck building game, you have to decide which dice your going to purchase, how many of those dice will you get, and when should you pick them up. There's also the decision of which heroes or villains to bring into the game with you and how they interact with each other. For example, you might decide to bring Angel & Falcon with you to the table because they both enhance your sidekicks and work well with each other. You might also throw Psylocke in there too to knock out your opponents characters, preventing them from attacking or defending on their next turn.

Combat also adds another layer of strategy to the game. During your turn, you can attack or defend with any sidekick or character you have fielded. If you block a character and never character dies, they return to the field zone. If they did die, they are KO'ed and move to the prep zone where you get to roll them with your four dice next turn. If the character slips through your opponent's defenses and deals damage to your opponent's life total (either 20 or 15), they are moved to the used pile. The first person to knock their opponent to 0 life wins the game. Sounds easy enough, but you have to think about your actions. Do you swing all out, dealing a devastating blow to your opponent's life total, but leave yourself open to an equally devastating attack? Maybe you hold back some of your characters, dealing less damage but keeping yourself better protected. Which characters do you attack with and which do you leave behind to defend? Decisions, decisions.

Hopefully you've picked up on it by now, but I absolutely love Marvel Dice Masters. I love how simple it simple the rules are, but still possess some tactical depth. I love the cool looking dice and the art on the cards looks awesome. Finally, the theme really does come out while you're playing the game. I love constructing a team of superheroes, seeing how they work together and all the different powers fit each character they're assigned to. My only real complaint is the bags packaged with the starter set are atrocious and I'd advise picking up a cheap dice bag with your purchase. You might want to pick up one of the player mats as well, just so you remember where everything is supposed to be on the table and it makes keeping your life total much easier.

I also don't mind the collectible element either. I know some people avoid collectible games like the plague, seeing them as nothing more than a money sink. I understand that sentiment and I'm sympathetic towards it. Hell, its one of the reasons why I stopped playing Magic: The Gathering years ago (although I recently got back into it). However, the starter sets give you enough to play some smaller games of it and the booster packs are only 99 cents. If that isn't a deal, I don't know what is.

Marvel Dice Masters definitely has my seal of approval. If you like dice games, super heroes, and were a big fan of Quarriors, you will most likely dig this game. If you're looking for a game with some easy to learn rules but some strategic depth, you'll like it too. The starter sets are about $15 and I feel they're definitely worth it.

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