Published on June 20th, 2014 | by Luke Turpeinen2
Marvel: Days of Future Dice
Marvel Dice Masters Review
I saw the unrelenting hype on Twitter and I told myself I was above the hype. I saw the Marvel brand next to the word “collectible” and thought of it as a cheap cash grab. I saw the repeated art and thought of the sub-par experiences I’ve had with Legendary, a phoned-in Upper Deck product that obviously was never going to be as good as the competing Cryptozoic project. I saw the WizKids logo and assumed none of my friends would play this with me. I was wrong.
Marvel Dice Masters has generated a lot of buzz lately on Twitter, and it has been sold out of brick-and-mortar (as well as online) stores for a while now. It seems to be very popular, which means that we had to check it out ourselves to see if it really lives up to the buzz it’s made. In that vein, we found the last starter box left in Seattle (no, really) and I recruited Nick to play it with me.
So, what is Dice Masters? It’s a 2-player, collectible dice-building game using Marvel franchises. The first set is called “Avengers vs X-Men” and its starter set features some of the big names you know and love, mostly because they’ve all been in movies recently. You buy a starter, which is necessary for play. Each starter comes with eight characters, four from each faction, along with sidekicks, some other dice needed for play and two paper dice bags to “shuffle” the dice with. Boosters each include two cards and two dice, with each die corresponding to one of the cards inside.
The physical quality of the cards is pretty low, to be honest. They bend easily, are usually warped in boosters and have little to no bounce back. The color of the art really shines through, and the quality of the print job is superb. The dice bags included in the starter set were hit-or-miss with our group. I personally thought that they were fine considering the $15 MSRP, and I was happy they included some at all. Nicole thought that their quality was pretty low and wasn’t particularly impressed.
The dice are great quality as long as you consider the fact that churning custom dice out like these can’t be easy or cheap. The molds are not super high quality, and neither is the paint job, but the fact that each character has their own custom die is pretty sweet. Human Torch’s die is translucent orange! Needless to say, the dice were a lot more fun by themselves than I thought they would be.
As far as the art for the game is concerned, I wish that there were more variation involved. It’s not as repetitive as the game Legendary, but it’s not full of unique artwork either. Each character has multiple versions of themselves and though they use the same dice, the cards are different- except for the art. For a license that is just as much about the art of the characters as it is about their story lines, you’d think companies making comic book games would know not to skimp on the art. It’s not like Marvel doesn’t have TOMES of Spider-Man comic art they could just hand over or anything.
If you have ever played Qwarriors then you know how to play Marvel Dice Masters. It is probably most easily comparable to Magic the Gathering, if it were a deck builder. Each player starts with a life total that the other player will be attempting to deplete through units and card effects. Getting a good mix of units and effects that synergize well is part of the strategy involved, and it is important to keep this in mind during drafting as well as during the battle itself.
You start off by drafting character cards with the goal of having four characters per player. Which characters you draft determines which dice you’ll be able to buy during the
deck dice-building part of the game. Set those characters aside and put up to four of that character’s dice on them. You then shuffle the communal “everyone can buy these” cards and place them in the open with some of the generic dice on them.
When it’s your turn you draw, then roll, four of the dice from your bag. At first this will be just the opening “sidekick” dice. You roll your four dice, re-rolling as many as you like once, but you must accept the second result. The ability to re-roll the dice makes the game more than just rolling dice at each other to see who gets the best rolls first. Some of the dice faces are resources and others are units that you can use to attack and block. Sidekick dice give one random resource per face or a unit, the communal dice give two wild resources or an immediate effect, hero dice give either one or two resources of a specific type or a unit.
Units and combat function much as they do in Magic: they have an attack value, a defense value and a cost to bring into play. The main difference is that when you attack with a unit and do damage to the opposing player, that unit goes into your “hand” and is re-rolled during your next turn. Units also have various levels, with higher leveled characters having better stats but also an increased cost to play. There aren’t different dice for these different levels, they are just the different faces on the hero die.
The various hero cards that you get are important because they determine the units’ special abilities regardless of level. These cards also determine how costly purchasing the die (in order to take it off the card and put it in the bag) will be. More powerful powers lead to higher costed character dice, and the varied power levels really help you develop exactly the power curve you want for your set up. This also helps you field your favorite heroes more often, as Spider-Man has both a powerful, high costed version and a less powerful, low costed version.
The only thing that really grated on me about the game is the rule book. Marvel Dice Masters is not a hard game, it’s not even complicated, but the rule book wasn’t my favorite part of playing. Try looking at the game play area diagram in the middle of the book, it seemed to help straighten out turn order for us more than the rules text did.
Over all, I really enjoyed Marvel Dice Masters. It’s not the greatest game I’ve played this year, but it’s solid, especially for the buy in price. It’s definitely not just a cash grab. Marvel Dice Masters is a straight forward, cheap dice/card game with a good theme and fun components.
I feel that if you like the starter pack game and want to burn some extra change you have laying around, you aren’t going to be disappointed with buying the base set and some boosters. I do have a hard time believing that Marvel Dice Masters has any sort of staying power though, and it’ll probably be a flash in the pan like most collectible games end up being. So get out there and play it while it’s hot!