Friday, 15 September 2017

Dice Forge

Plays: 3Px1.

The Game

The main selling point of Dice Forge is the fact that you get to modify your dice as you play. Everyone has two dice, and at the start of the game they are all the same. During play, you may spend gold to upgrade your die faces to better versions. Players' dice will gradually diverge. This is a little like deck-building games. Players start on equal footing but gradually augment their individual abilities.

This is the player board. You use it for recording your resource levels. The yellow row is for gold, the red row for sun shards and the blue row for moon shards. Your storage space is limited for each resource type. If it is full you can't collect more. You may expand your storage during the game. The green rows are for score keeping. Highest scorer after the last round wins the game.

The game is played over a fixed number of rounds, depending on the number of players. At the start of each player's turn, everyone including the active player rolls his dice and collects resources accordingly. The die faces mostly depict various resources in different quantities. Some die faces let you pick from two or more resource types. Some die faces grant special abilities, e.g. tripling the production of the other die.

The main board consists of seven islands floating in the sky. Each island has 2 or 3 small piles of cards. On your turn, one of your two options is to visit an island to buy a card (in the game this is called performing a heroic feat), paying sun shards or moon shards. Some cards give you special abilities, some give you points, and some give both. The number of cards available depends on the number of players. Sometimes you need to compete if others want the same cards. If you visit an island which is currently occupied, you bump the incumbent away. This costs you nothing, but the player being bumped gets a free die roll, i.e. he will gain some resources.

The other option on your turn is to visit the temple to make an offering to the gods, i.e. to upgrade your dice. You pay gold to make one or more upgrades to your die faces. The quantities of upgrades are limited, so sometimes you will need to compete too.

The game is beautifully illustrated and the production value is top notch.

The costs of cards are listed on the cards themselves as well as on the board. The game comes with variants. You can mix and match the cards available as well as the die upgrades available.

Some card powers are single-use while others are permanent. These here are all single-use. The card on the left gives me two extra rolls. The card in the middle lets me change one die face to "x3". The card on the right expands my resource storage capacity.

The Play

The gameplay is simple and smooth. You roll dice, collect resources, upgrade your dice, and ultimately your goal is to score points. The early game is mostly about upgrading your dice, and the late game is all about scoring as many points as you can before time runs out. The tricky part is balancing the transition from improving your scoring ability to using that ability to actually score points. If you only think of upgrading your dice, you will miss out on actual scoring, which is what matters in the end. If you start focusing on scoring too early, you will likely be doing it less efficiently because you have not built up your strength.

The die upgrades and the cards do have some synergy. There are combos you can make, which can help you create something which is greater than the sum of its parts.

Sun and moon shards behave a little differently - the kind of cards they let you buy are different in nature. You may spend two sun shards to take an extra action. This can be valuable in the early game. The earlier you improve your abilities, the more you will get to utilise them throughout the game.

The Thoughts

Dice Forge didn't work for me. It felt soulless. I only see the unique selling point - that you get to change your die faces. The rest of the game are common mechanisms pieced together to flesh out the game which is built around this single selling point. I can't say there is any major flaw or imbalance. I have only played one game. I do see there is some strategy in picking die upgrades and cards, and in finding synergies. I can't feel the story and the emotions. I only see an exercise in making upgrades and scoring points efficiently.

Player interaction exists but is limited. Die upgrades and cards are limited, so you may need to rush before some of them run out. If you can anticipate where your opponents want to go, getting there just before they do will give you a bonus because you force them to bump you off. Most of the time you are focused on upgrading your own dice efficiently, and then using them efficiently to score points.

One possible problem is your die upgrades may not always give you good returns. Even if you upgrade a die face to an exceptionally good one, there is only a 1 in 6 chance of activating that face. If you are unlucky, you never activate it, thus wasting your gold and your effort. Bad luck is very real. The fact that you get to roll dice on everyone's turn somewhat mitigates this. Since you do roll dice a lot, luck somewhat evens out.

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