So with the combination of several melee and magical attacks that were achieved on the back of a rather lucky dice roll I removed the last of Ciara’s Hit Points. I raised my arms in a V and cheered out loud, so those gathered around in the hall would have no doubt that I achieved a fantastic victory. I’m a hell of a sore winner, gloater and the type of person who believes that there is nothing better in victory than reminding your opponent that you did indeed win. Especially when it is one of the architects of the game itself. And where better than in front of a crowd?
That however is not the reason that I like Dice Summoners. One of the things that struck me was the simplicity and purity of the core mechanics, so that when Simon from Tabletop Scotland asked me what I thought of the game, I wasn’t only able to give him a grin and exclaim once again I had won, but I was able to in a period of less than five minutes explain to them how to play the game. That to me is a GOOD THING.
For those who weren’t round to see the decimation, you should be aware of a couple of things before you read on, the first being that I had Eoin on the podcast in the last month, and that we got on very well, and that when I know that Dice Summoners was going to be at Tabletop Scotland, it went on my list as something that I need to do. So in the interests of non collusion and complete transparency, I played the game with the knowledge that I liked these folks from Decking Awesome Games. You can then run off into the conspiracy theory side of your mind, but at the end of the day, I want them to succeed at their campaign because they were nice people and so I sat at the table for the first time hoping and wishing that I wasn’t going to have to fake smile at the end of the experience. The short story is that I took away a preview copy of the game to try to get over some internal questions that I had.
The main question about Dice Summoners is – THIS IS LIKE ASHES, RISE OF THE PHOENIX BORNE ISN’T IT? To which the main answer is going to be that there are some similarities which stand out. That you have die with symbols that equate in currency that you can either use to purchase spells or allies to help you defeat your foe. Except that in Dice Summoners, your pool of die will increase over the period of the battle as you collect more powerful red dice to use instead of the normal blue. So as the game goes on and you roll out more and more devastating attacks, you also need to balance up the amount of defence you have gathered through additional shield tokens that you allocate to units to protect them and therefore yourself. It creates a need for you to plan out potential next moves in advance, and to have secondary plans in case the die don’t roll to your liking. But before you scream out about the randomness of dice, bear in mind that you’re rolling dice that knows about its randomness, and so it has some symbols on it that are wildcards that can mean anything. You are rolling sooo many dice that you never really feel that you’re left with nothing to do that can’t shore up an advantage or press you on to chip away some more at your enemies health.
Also note that everyone is picking their allies from the same central pool, so you are deciding your strategy rather than dealing with your dealt hand, and therefore you don’t get the horrific being out of the game that you can sometimes get in Pokemon or even Magic within the first move. If anything I’m reminded more of a chess type situation, where you’re building slowly on your power but knowing that your opponent is going to be doing the same thing. This is when the potential randomness of the dice comes into play, as those who are used to firing certain strategies from the hip in other card games might need to think on their feet.
Dice Summoners doesn’t overstay its welcome either. Games will reach a natural conclusion in a little as 25 minutes and the set up and take down is relatively easy as you lay your cards out in front of you as opposed to playing from a hand. No need to go searching to set up the starting tableau which again is something that will appeal to those who want to spend their time playing than wasting it.
I have a few concerns, but they are more niggles than straight up gripes. I would like to see the main starter deck with a slightly different colour to assist with restarting the game. I also hope that colour blindness has been taken into consideration for the dice colours on the cards as at present the only reference is the colour cube. I wonder if even a R or B would be helpful. As with all card games, the true picture of balance and strategy is going to come out on the 25th and 100th play of the game, but I’m optimistic that the dice will help to keep that fresh and alive for those who play. What is interesting is the potential for future expansions, with different powers and creatures and that will depend in part to how Dice Summoners does in the immediate Kickstarter campaign.
You could argue that Dice Summoners isn’t doing anything new in its approach. That rolling dice for power is too random. You could argue other games might even be prettier.
What you can’t argue with is the person sat at the table, who picked up a game they had never played before, understood the basics within minutes and then was able to start planning how to win within ten minutes. That level of pick up and play in a world busting to the seams with bloat mechanics and rules and exceptions to rules and blah blah blah is very refreshing indeed and it’s why you should consider checking out more on Kickstarter when Dice Summoners launch.
Decking Awesome Games provided us with a preview copy of Dice Summoners. As with all Preview Games, the final appearance may differ from the photographs above.