28 September 2022
Let the good times roll
The deck builder has settled in something of an old standard. Everyone knows the mechanic, and it crops up in all sorts of games as a light and interesting way of giving players a sense of growing power and deepened long term strategy. Dice Realms does something far too clever and unbelievably well implemented with the classic formula of deckbuilders, and frankly it’s stunning.
Instead of a deck of cards and a standard market of cards in front of you, players are handed a set of dice with pop-outable faces. Each face does something like ‘gain gold and two wheat’ or ‘gain one upgrade point’ or ‘defend against an attack’ or even ‘get some points’. Players roll their dice, decide if they want to spend their free reroll or their reroll tokens, and then take the actions. Much of this will be in response to the fate dice, which will either make things better, or worse, or take one of your dice away if winter rolls around.
Simple enough, but to the side of the play area is the big box of tokens available to buy and upgrade your dice with. Oh, and a bag of a million more (or so it seems) for when you want the real game to begin. Each of these tokens can be leveraged out of the dice using the reassuring ample supply of little plastic levers.
As you’d expect, the game is simple enough: upgrade your dice like you would your hand and deck in something like Dominion and then hope to get the most points in the long run. The trick here is in the translation from cards to dice. Drawing cards is the dice roll, building your deck is changing the faces on the dice. You can buy additional dice, which when rolled is sort of like drawing more cards, but at the same time also gaining access to an entirely new deck. Because you can make subtle changes to a single dice – for example, making it your ‘upgrade dice’ or your ‘money dice’ it’s more similar to having multiple decks of cards to build, or playing with three hands. This little puzzle makes for an interesting bit of engine building in a way that is surprisingly more consistent than many deck builders – especially as you can remind yourself what’s in your ‘deck’ at any time.
And it’s really good – there’s a great casual flow to the game which sees everyone rolling, taking their rewards and then popping faces off dice and upgrading them. It’s got a tactile element that gives it a rhythm that anyone can fall into, it’s got a similar feeling to picking up a snack after your move and it’s thoroughly satisfying. The game ending trigger is also as simple – any time one of the token piles needs a 10 token adding to it to make change, that’s the last round. You have nothing to remember.
Dice Realms was a kind of respite of satisfying gameplay, perfect flow, and accessibility. It can slip into your life like you’ve always had it on yourself. It feels dependable and you can entrust it with your time (because of the huge amount of depth and replayability that promises many returns to the table). This is a roll of the dice you can be sure comes up in your favour.
CHRISTOPER JOHN EGGETT
PLAY IT? MUST-PLAY
A modern classic that takes everything we love about deckbuilding games and makes it more tactile, lighter and strategic – all at once. Dice Realms is a game that will reward you for many years to come.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED DOMINION…
If you like the low-theme high-customisation of Dominion then Dice Realms will give you that and more with a shake of a dice.
Designer: Thomas Lehman
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Time: 30-60 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 18 Customizable dice
- 668 Plug-in dice faces
- 3 Trays with locking lids
- 24 Dice-face removing tools
- 35 Randomizer tiles
- 48 grain pieces
- 128 Die-cut counters
- 4 Treasury tiles
- 4 Upgrade discs
- 2 Reference sheets
- Summary tile
- Cloth bag
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