Today, Gameosity is throwing down with Dice Masters. Specifically Yu-Gi-Oh Dice Masters, from designers Eric M. Lang and Mike Elliot, and Wizkids.
It’s an interesting approach to a collectible two-player dueling game that calls to mind both Quarriors and a little of Magic The Gathering. Whether or not that’s a winning combination depends a lot on how much you enjoy playing either one of them.
Now I don’t want anybody to think that Dice Masters is a ripoff of Quarriors or anything like that. I mean it is pretty much a streamlined version of the game that’s been tailored for two players, but it’s from the same designers and publisher so I’d consider it more of a spin-off or adaptation. That said, if you’re familiar with one then you’ll have a good idea of what to expect with the other. This also means that I’ll be drawing comparisons throughout the entire review; you’ve been warned.
Dice Masters is what many refer to as a “dice building game.” It’s kind of like a deck building game where you use cards in your deck to help you acquire more powerful cards as you progress, only here you’re using dice instead of cards. And you’re rolling said dice once you draw them from your bag, so even if you end up with a powerful creature there’s no guarantee you’ll get to use it right away.
Whereas Quarriors is a game meant for larger groups of players and has everyone buying dice from a central pool of spells and creatures, Dice Masters is more about strategically utilizing fewer resources taken from your own personal arsenal. You and one other player will take turns throwing monsters at each other until somebody runs out of health – which is a marked improvement over the tedious slog that is Quarriors’ race for points.
Each game requires both players to use their own sets of cards and dice. There’s enough for two in a starter set, but booster packs are also available and the game really encourages branching out to create a more personal collection. Thankfully there are rules in place that try to keep things relatively balanced between stock and custom decks.
What’s clever about the dice/card system is that the cards are what determine dice abilities. Each card can be associated with a specific style of dice, and whenever you want to know what your rolls mean you can just refer to the card. The same applies to the three to four universal abilities that are open for both players to purchase during a game. These special dice are each associated with a specific color and come with their own colored marker cards you can use to keep track of what does what. It allows for a fair bit of accessibility and makes setting up fairly simple – and as a bonus, it’s really easy to switch out new powers from game to game.
Several other adjustments have been made to the Quarriors formula as well, and they’re all fairly refreshing to someone who’s a bit burned out on the points grind. For starters, when you attack with a monster and it isn’t blocked, that monster gets discarded. This prevents players from relying on getting monsters out as quickly as possible and just picking away at their opponent, which isn’t a particularly fun strategy in the first place. It also adds a totally different strategy to the game where the defending player can opt to let the attackers through in order to leave their opponent with fewer defensive options during their turn.
Another interesting adjustment is that defeated monsters aren’t immediately discarded. Instead, their dice can be rerolled on your next turn. This means that sacrificing your monsters for defense won’t set you back terribly far, as you can possibly summon them back on your following turn or roll them for more energy so you can buy more stuff. It’s a neat little trade-off.
All this back-and-forth is also made much more interesting due to the fact that there are only two players. You have to think a lot more tactically if you want to leave your opponent open for an attack, because you won’t be able to rely on another player wearing them down so you can swoop in before your target can rebuild. You’ll need to focus more on special abilities to give you the edge.
Yu-Gi-Oh! fans should note that, aside from the images and flavor text on the cards, Dice Masters doesn’t really invoke much of that “heart of the cards” business. It’s a one-on-one duel, certainly, but you won’t have trap cards or anything like that. Granted I know about as much about Yu-Gi-Oh! as I do about changing a tire (i.e. enough to fake it in an emergency), but I’m pretty sure it won’t work as a stand-in for fans of the popular card game.
It’s also important to note that the Yu-Gi-Oh! theme in Dice Masters isn’t particularly well presented. It’s just some blown-out, low resolution screen captures of the cartoon and a few familiar names. You could swap it out for just about anything else and it would feel exactly the same. I imagine that’s kind of the point because they want to spread the Dice Masters brand around a bit to hit more demographics, but that knowledge doesn’t make it feel any less out of place.
Interchangeable ‘everything-that-isn’t-a-gameplay-mechanic’ aside, Dice Masters is actually a pretty solid two player game. It might feel overly simple to some, and a bit shallow to others, but it’s quite fun for a quick bout or two.