27 June 2022
Another day in paradice?
In the high-octane world of Alley Cat Games, dice like to live dangerously. First, they were at death’s door in Dice Hospital, now they are screaming in a good way at Dice Theme Park – possibly because there’s no morgue.
Employing a similar dice-management mechanic as before, the thrill-seeking takes place across five rounds that each contain six phases. This generously affords players time to puzzle together their hexagon-based small, small worlds, all in the aim of creating the most exciting park – wryly tracked on a car-park scoreboard. Along the way is a host of actions and decisions to enjoy, whether it’s acquiring new attractions, upgrading existing ones, hiring mitigating mascots (more on those later) or flogging junk food to afford everything previously listed.
It all begins with a dedicated team of smiley play-and-pass staff cards that determine who will pick dice first. High numbers on any colour dice are (usually) most desirable, as the dice will tick down towards zero when riding attractions come phase four. Which is where things get satisfyingly thinky: “Can the yellow die squeeze in Speedster AND the Ferris Wheel this turn?”, “How can I get two even-numbered dice back onto Pop Shop?” and “Will the darn queue at the entrance ever go down?” are typical conundrums. It is during this phase that Dice Theme Park has the edge over the likes of Funfair, as you get to ‘operate’ attractions as well as build them, giving a more realistic park-management experience.
As with the best rides, there are twists and turns up ahead. Certain objective cards transform low numbers into a positive, meaning favour can swing both up and down. The play-and-pass staff cards are another interesting double-edged sword: you’ll be itching to use your manager’s special skill, but then other players can employ or even keep her… so she may never return for a second shift. Elsewhere, seemingly insignificant details have hidden depth – no more so than in the humdrum duck-pond ride. Its central position gets a lot of footfall, making it ideal for raking in merchandise money. Who doesn’t want a ducky baseball cap or t-shirt to take home?
The game’s difficulty increases along with headcount, so if you can muster together the full complement of four players, do. The more people there are at the table, the more competition there is for both dice and attractions, challenging everyone to find new strategies – sometimes more than once per game. Admittedly kids will need a lot of support to keep up here, preaching to the 14+ age guide, yet younger ones probably won’t be too fussed about coming last as the high scores flatter even losers.
Whilst the variety of mechanics is imaginative, Dice Theme Park’s theming is not. Attraction names derive from the Ronseal school of marketing and are nowhere near as punny as they could and should have been (exception: Soda-licious). The artwork is lollipop bright, but basic at best and has been noticeably copied and pasted with little attempt to conceal the evidence. Then there are the mascots. Hiring them is integral to getting ahead (they offer abilities like permanently changing dice colours, for example), yet they are characterless and lack any meaningful connection to the theme. And that’s a Big Dipper-size downer.
Dice Theme Park is strong on strategy and ups the ante on Dice Hospital, but some style choices leave it unlikely to define the genre. On balance, however, the brain-testing gameplay tips in its favour towards a recommendation. There is more than enough here to spark a third spin-off and, knowing how dramatic those Alley Cat Games dice are, it’s highly unlikely to be Dice Knitting.
PLAY IT? YES
Packed with action and cheaper than a real-life day out, Dice Theme Park offers a dice-management adventure that will release your inner Walt. Just be prepared for the theming to be more teacups than twisters.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED: Dice Hospital
Dice Theme Park builds on its medical predecessor with greater complexity and a happier, healthier subject matter.
Designer: Daryl Andrews & Adrian Adamescu
Publisher: Alley Cat Games
Time: 75- 90 minutes
What’s in the box?
- Round marker
- 4 Park boards
- 63 Dice
- 36 Attraction tiles
- 36 Upgrade tokens
- 32 Map tokens
- 24 Mascots
- 4 Player aid cards
- 24 Staff cards
- 10 Objective cards
- 12 Monorail cards
- 12 Administrator cards
- 30 Skills cards
- 48 Money tokens
- 44 Star tokens
- 4 Turn order markers
- 4 Score markers
- 4 ‘100’/‘200’ Score tiles
- 68 Operate cubes
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This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
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