SneauxBunny was grading some papers the other night, and the multi-colored dice in the Dice Conquest box from WizKids starting singing to me very softly. I had just finished a good book, and had Mistborn waiting for me but didn’t have the energy to start another trilogy. I glanced back at my computer bag, where Dice Conquest was propped up against, and those dice started singing softly again. I had already done an unboxing of the game, and had a vague awareness of what was in store:
That got me even more juiced to play, so I cracked open the box right there on the bedspread.
The rulebook for Dice Conquest was well laid out, and the mechanics themselves are pretty intuitive especially once you see all the cards laid out in front of you. I got the feeling that Dice Conquest could fairly be called Punch Monsters In The Face: The Game just from my first reading of the text on the cards. (I did not know at the time that my experience was going to be more akin to Throat Punch Player: The Solo Game). Let’s face it, the conceit of the game is pretty open– chuck some dice, use the results to put damage on three or more monsters in front of you, wipe them out and rinse / repeat until you face the big bad dragon. Simple, right?
I shuffled up the monster cards, which each have a different baddie on them with different health points, attack points, and gorgeous artwork. I was pleased to see that some of them awarded you a “magic item”, basically a onetime use power on text at the bottom of the card, if you defeated them. And some of them made your journey through the murderer’s row of monsters much more difficult, with special powers that hit you hard when they were revealed randomly from the deck, or persistent powers (like taking away your best die result) that stay until you smash the monster into the ground.
We should stop and talk about who “you” is. The game comes with a nice selection of heroes in all of the usual fantasy tropes. There’s a wizard, of course, and a thief, and every other familiar fantasy occupation under the sun. Each character has two unique traits — each hero will have a special power, like additional rerolls or higher attacks, and each hero will have a ‘critical hit’ number. If the number on the die you choose that turn matches that critical hit number, then your hero will do something very, very cool. The critical hits are one of the coolest elements in the game.
So that’s the “you”, and now we should get to the “how.” The box comes with seven polyhedral dice, ranging from the annoying d4 to the immensely powerful d20. The active player (one to four players can play) rolls all the dice, and then each player in turn order will select a die result and place them gingerly on the appropriate monster. I should tell you that at the start of the game, the deck (minus the big bad dragon) is shuffled up and three monsters are launched onto your tabletop. Playing the right die adds damage to the monster, though some of them will hit back nastily. Put enough dice on a monster, and the monster is defeated, and if it happens to have one of those magic items, the last player to do damage to the monster scarfs up the item for personal use.
Sure, there are a couple little tiny fiddly things to remember…
- each player gets one re-roll of the die they choose
- when the dice run out, it’s time to take damage from any monsters still on the table
- players have to decide whether to re-roll all the dice
- or save some of them on the monsters as current damage
- and then tit’s time to add three more hardy monsters
…but the game engine actually runs very smoothly, all things considered. The game turns are quick, just a quick calculation as to how best to use a dice against a particular monster or whether to re-roll. There’s some good table talk (we played it at three players, and that seems like an ideal count, even though each hero gets a lot less health to start the game) in between turns and especially right after rolling the big set of dice as players team up to attack the monsters.
And that covers the “how”, but we certainly need to talk about the “why.” Why would anyone play a game like this? There’s no map. There’s no character arc. There’s not even a real story to the game.
Because sometimes I just want to chuck dice and get past a bunch of baddies. It’s a story as old as younger BJ playing D&D with his 7th grade buddies in the Parish. We got together on Saturday mornings, with one of brandishing a folder full of “secret maps” and “treasures galore”, and we ran through dungeons smashing monsters. Dice Conquest is easy to set up, super easy to understand, and gets you right to the action of throwing dice at monsters in seconds.
And, I was pleased to see that there’s some interesting lagniappe. I told you that the game comes with a ton of monsters, and a good healthy selection of heroes. But it also comes with another smaller deck of diabolical traps, too. As if beating the game wasn’t hard enough, for an advanced play, you can mix in one or two or three of the pits into the deck, and then be faced to deal with a swinging death sword or a room of fire even while taking out three monsters. That’s just overkill in my opinion, but if you are looking for a challenge, there it is.
I’ve played it five times now; I’ve lost every solo game but won both of my multi-player campaigns (probably says more about my skills than the game). The best thing I can say about Dice Conquest, for anyone on the fence, is that the game is just better than it ever has any right to be. Honestly, this game is going right in my game bag and will be played with my buddies and the school board game club, and I see no reason to leave it on the shelf. It’s a surprise winner for me.
If only I could beat it by myself — just once.
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!
— BJ from Board Game Gumbo