December 17, 2014 by brennon
WizKids pretty much seem to have nailed it with Dice Masters, at least in part. I’ve been playing and collecting the Avengers Vs X-Men and Uncanny X-Men sets for a while now and been enjoying every minute of opening up new packs. It’s something I’ve not felt joy about since Pokemon. I still believe in the LCG format more but I can’t help myself with Dice Masters. It also helps that it’s a fun game. It SHOULD be the perfect gateway game and in many ways it is…
Mountains Of Dice Await
Dice Masters has some inherently great strengths that make it perfect for trying to get people interested in the idea of playing tabletop games…
- It’s Cheap – Pure and simple the game is incredibly cheap to play. A Starter Set (for two players I might add) will set you back around £10 to £15 (going to be using sterling for most of this piece foreign true believers). Dice Packs cost £1 – if someone is trying to sell you them for more then go elsewhere. You can even buy very, very nice play mats, dice bags and even more expensive ‘Starter Sets’ for a little extra if you want to splash out on all things Dice Masters.
- Intellectual Property You Know – Since the resurgence of superhero movies and the success of The Avengers, X-Men First Class and of course Guardians of the Galaxy people will instantly recognise the characters. For kids this is great because they get to play with their favourite heroes (and villains) from the films and take them into a ruckus while those more grizzled comic book veterans can revel in seeing their lesser known heroes (and villains, again) take to the stage.
- The Rules Are Simple – Eric M. Lang seems to be able to turn his hand towards the most interesting rules sets and also the simplest. Dice Masters is incredibly simple to learn and play. If you want to read more on the rules you can check out my review of Avengers Vs X-Men HERE or Download the Rulebook and have a look yourself. For kids, once again, they have a great low barrier for entry and those non-gamer adults you know aren’t going to be bombarded with hundreds of rules.
- The Scope is HUGE – While I’ve mentioned the comic book heroes the scope for Dice Masters is huge going forward. It can pretty much pick up any license it wants and run with it. WizKids already have DC Justice League, Yu Gi Oh, Dungeons & Dragons and potentially more versions in the works. All big hitters, all recognisable names, and once again perfect for not only drawing us die hard gamers but also new people familiar with the worlds but maybe just on the brink of giving things a go.
- Got, Got, Need – Something I pointed out in my review is that the spirit of the hobby of Dice Masters and the sharing round of cards and dice you want and/or need is awesome. It’s a great social aspect of the game and something that I think Magic does well too. The economy around the cards and dice is good too with nothing overly expensive if you want to cherry pick from the internet. Quite a cool thing for kids wanting to play with their friends and share a big pool of dice with each other.
…so already I hope you’ll see where I’m going with this.
I’d like to discuss the rules of the game a little more as while they are solid as I said and the strength of the game they could also be it’s weakness. New players getting into tabletop games don’t want to be bombarded with rules for a 100 page manual. If they want to just pick their favourites and run with them, the game works. You might have a little trouble getting the right combinations together but there should be dice enough to run with what you want.
On the flip side if you’re a veteran gamer then the scope for tactics and different more ‘beardy’ (wow haven’t used that word in ages!) combinations is vast. With the amount of heroes out there the synergies can sometimes be terrifying and you’ll be ending a game before you’ve even started sometimes. One Spider-Man (promo)card in particular halves your life immediately if you can get the right combination of symbols. Coming up against that as a new player is probably not ideal.
So, in broad terms the game does have tactical depth and a new player will soon learn to see the synergies that are out there without feeling too snowed under. Just maybe don’t drop someone new into a tournament as you’ll no doubt come up against some of those people who run really beardy decks.
Something else that gives this game an edge over other CCG’s out there is that it’s new. Magic the Gathering has a massive following and rightly so, but it’s been around for a long time. It almost feels like trying to jump into a comic book series four years down the line, or a TV show everyone’s been talking about for weeks, it’s daunting. Dice Masters isn’t and with the recognisable characters, cool artwork and very nice dice (at least now in the Uncanny X-Men range) you’ll have something ‘cool’ to look at as you collect and play.
So What’s Wrong?
The reason that I stress that Dice Masters SHOULD be a perfect gateway game are linked into some of the points above of course. The way some people play their decks in friendly match-ups can be demoralising and some of the rare cards are just stupidly good. If you’ve got more money than someone else then you can afford those rare cards, or entire Gravity Feeds worth of packs and just rake them for something good. It’s the nature of collectable card games (and why overall I prefer the LCG format) and something you’ll learn to live with but it can be a bit of a turn off when your local club might have one or two players who simply don’t know the meaning of ‘fun’.
The other turn off to the game is availability. I’m speaking from my personal experience here and so it might be something that doesn’t effect others, but when you buy a new game like Dice Masters with a collectable element to it you kind of need to be able to collect stuff. Where I live Dice Masters is either abundantly supplied or not at all so it’s hard to say to someone “hey buy this game” when they can get a hold of a Starter Set but then be left with not a single booster pack for miles. Somewhere along the line either local stores have messed up or WizKids underestimated how much people wanted this game.
At launch the problem was rampant with stores running out of stock before it even got on the shelves leaving a lot of people stuck. It’s been sorted, for the most part, in some areas, and Uncanny X-Men is a lot better now than it was a month or so ago, but I can’t help feeling that we’ll hit the same problem when DC, D&D and the other products in the line launch.
The quality of the components isn’t great either. Some of the Dice in the Avengers Vs X-Men launch were terrible and all the detail rubbed off quicker than you can say Quicksilver. You are paying a £1 for these things so it shouldn’t be brilliant but in typical WizKids style some of the time it was just shoddy. Uncanny X-Men has somewhat sorted the problem but there are still a few dice that are pretty messed up after a few uses.
The consistency of the art is also a problem sometimes for me at least. I would have liked to see WizKids keep to a certain style with their work but sometimes you can get very photo-realistic superhero art and other time it’s full on cartoon. I know there’s a lot of artwork out there to choose from but sometimes it would have been nice to see a bit of consistency in terms of where they drew their artwork from.
If you can get past some of the problems with the rules and some utterly demoralising combinations, the lack of availability in some areas, and sometimes the quality of the components then this is a pretty good game to get yourself stuck into. It’s fun, cool to collect stuff, has recognisable characters and themes, plus the scope is massive. New players will get a kick out of just rolling dice and seeing their characters head off for a fight. Maybe consider it as a Christmas present for a hesitant gamer and see where it goes.
I think the reason that Dice Masters ‘could’ be so massive is that it reminds me a lot of HeroScape. A vast collection of things for you, your kids and your friends, monsters, heroes and villains from different times and places, simple rules and days of fun. I love that Dice Masters could potentially draw everything together with the same mechanics and possibly have you playing with a team made of Dragons, Batman, Iron Man and more. It might not be to everyone’s tastes but that sure sounds pretty fun.
I really like the game and the reason behind this piece is pretty much to get more people playing it. I would love to get more games of this in over a weekend. I was not sold at all on the game to begin with and said I’d never even touch the game. A few games later I was caught hook, line and sinker.
Give it a go, see what you think.
Next time I’m going to switch tack and talk LCG with another game worth your attention, Android Netrunner.
What do you think about Dice Masters?
"...possibly have you playing with a team made of Dragons, Batman, Iron Man and more..."
"WizKids already have a DC Justice League, Yu Gi Oh, Dungeons & Dragons and potentially more versions in the works..."