By CatLord, 30 January 2019
Dice & Dragons is a game produced by Golden Egg Games. The setting allows a team of up to five players to take up the roles of your typical high fantasy adventurers off to slay dragons for loot and fame.
*The copy of this game used for play testing was provided courtesy Golden Egg Games. Receiving a free copy has no bearing on the review below*
- In the Dice & Dragons box you get the following materials:
- 1 Player’s Guide
- 1 Dragon Guide
- 5 Dragon Dice
- Character sheet pad
- Dragon sheet pad
- 2 Pencils, inscribed with “Dice & Dragons*
- 20 Class Tokens (4 for each of the five classes)
- 9 “Dragon” Tokens
- 4 “Poison” Tokens
- 4 “Blessed” Tokens
- 4 “Pinned” Tokens
Not much from this game carries over to others. The pencils are about the only thing that have utility without very specific circumstances for the tokens. The dice are stylized to the mechanic, and despite the list above the game is very compact. The Character and Dragon record sheets are printed on fairly sturdy paper. While the boxed pencils weren’t used for the sake of preservation, the sheets survived numerous erasing as the rules were interpreted (causing backpedaled turns), healing/damage was dealt, and characters were leveled up. The record sheets are available for download from Golden Egg directly should you still work through these pads.
Everything you can expect fresh out of the box
Components and setup are pretty simple
Setting up D&D (something sounds familiar here, but it is the acronym in the rulebook), each player takes one of the five classes (Wizard, Rogue, Ranger, Cleric, and Warrior) and either jots down the starting stats, or is continuing a character that survived a prior hunt. A new character jots their starting max HP and Armor Class (AC… That sounds familiar, too) based on their class. Then a dragon is selected for one to three players, or two dragons for four to five players. There is a campaign book if you have any form of indecision, but the top sheet of the pad of dragons describes it as “Your First Hunt”.
To play, the players take turn order by the Initiative score on the sheet. The order goes Rogue, Ranger, Wizard, Warrior, then Cleric. The turn itself plays a lot like a turn of Yahtzee. The player in question rolls all five dice, keeps what they like, then can roll again. A player gets three rolls to assemble a combination of symbols on the dice to use one of the abilities their characters possess, most commonly to damage the dragon’s vast pool of HP. The sides of the dice have one facing for each class, and the sixth is for the dragon. Any dice showing dragons are applied to a counterattack from the dragon in question, damaging solely that character. Whichever ability they use, the player places their class token on that move and it is no longer available for the rest of the round. Should a roll result in no ability activated, the player places the token on the ability of their choice, locking it out without using it. The last choice a player gets on their turn is that they can “give” one of their unused dice to another player. When given a die, a player may choose to set it aside and roll the remaining four without wasting one of the rolls for the turn.
While there are four tokens per class, it takes leveling up to get the fourth. So for the beginning, at least, you get three turns to a round before you are out of class tokens. Once every player is out of class tokens, the dragon(s) get a turn. A dragon turn involves rolling three times, keeping any dragon symbols. Each dragon deals damage based on if one, two, or three symbols are rolled (there is nothing special for four or five), and this damage is dealt to every character still alive. The dragon attacks themselves only list damage, but they may have special abilities with varying activation triggers. Whenever a character takes damage, it is reduced by their AC, and if they reach 0, that character is dead and done.
Between dragons, the players factor XP. When they level up, a player rolls the dice three times, trying to keep as many dice showing their class as possible. This is the increase to the maximum HP of the character moving forward. Depending on the level, they may get a new attack, give a +1 to the effect of an attack, or increase their AC. Campaign mode allows them to spend their gold (as indicated by the slain dragons) on one-off effects like healing potions, or letting them treat one of their dice as though it were a certain class. The other players can also pay two gold to resurrect another dead character.
The artwork is scarce, limited only to the dragons which are done in the style of a pencil sketched profile of the dragon’s head. These are well done, so at least the minimal art is done well.
What is probably the strongest advantage to this game is how it is extremely quick to set up and learn. While the rulebook is only twelve pages, half of it is rule clarifications and explanations. The brief version gets most seasoned gamers through the mechanics, but the remainder answers the specific questions that come up.
Turns are fast, even in the early stages of rule checking. You either do or don’t get to launch an attack and pass the dice. Dice & Dragons is set up for for easy expansions of new dragons and campaign books, but anything more than that seamless addition would probably take a new game to handle it since the game has five classes and a dragon on a six sided die.
The campaign books include a brief story describing the town your adventurers are finding the next dragon, and a blurb for victory which adds a little more to the theme than buzzwords.
Dice & Dragons passes the cat test
One glaring disadvantage follows games like Dice & Dragons around: Tedium. Through several plays, one feeling remained constant, which was committing to a finish just to be done – pass or fail. Playing two full hunts back to back was a chore because the flavor on this game went the way of the infamous Zebra Stripe Gum. One round is three to four turns where nothing new or dramatic happens. There is no narrative within game, the characters are disposable so there is no personal investment in their survival beyond numbers, and the tactics do not evolve with the game (even with new moves).
Mechanically speaking this isn’t a high sin, but personally speaking this game is pure luck. You have a one-in-six chance of seeing the die facing you want when picking your combo. For a scant three or so extra damage, you need to keep one die of every player class versus other combinations and you gradually paint yourself into a corner throughout the turn. Consumables help, although they tend to last one roll out of a dozen that happen in the average game.
Above, it was mentioned how the artwork is high quality, but otherwise does not exist. The fonts are all typing fonts, the only pictures you see are the class symbols beyond the dragons. It leads to a bland visual experience, but once again is a low priority issue.
Dice & Dragons is a game for Dungeons & Dragons fans who want a “Quick Play Monster Slay” (should that be trademarked from here out?). The rules are simple, turns can happen in a flash with experienced players, and by its reliance on luck does not favor gamers in a meta sense. Luck becomes the only factor with slim odds to put combos together, and despite a little nudging to be had that is the only true factor. Repetitive turn mechanics with little to no variation leave the game feeling the same at every level, except there is more to keep track of.
As always, the mechanic is essential, but more importantly is the main standard: Is it fun? The answer to that is “at first”. Once the initial thrill of hunting dragons with dice wears off, there isn’t much to the game. Final score for Dice & Dragons sits at two buns.