I love me some building games, be it a city building game (hello Foundations of Rome), a theme park (The Grand Carnival), or even some dexterity ones (Rhino Hero!). When Dice Manor dropped on my doorstep, I was pretty excited to check it out. It’s a game where you are building out a fancy manor house, trying to compete with your fellow players for the most prestige.
Is this another great building game from Arcane Wonders or should we take the wrecking ball to it? Let’s find out.
Dice Manor is played over 4 rounds, with a 5th Grand Opening Tour round at the end.
Each round has four phases:
1. Bid: In turn order, each player rolls their dice, and chooses one set of numbers to allocate to either bidding for a blueprint, advertising, or giving a tour. Whatever number you choose, you must place all you have of that number (although they don’t all have to go to the same space). Then the next player takes their turn. When your turn comes back up, you roll your dice and place again. This is repeated until all players are out of dice.
2. Collect: Evaluate each location and whoever placed the most dice at each spot earns the blueprint or advertising bonus. Players who lost the bid gain a reroll token as compensation.
3. Build: Players add the blueprints they bought to their manor.
4. Reset: Prepare for the next round.
After four rounds of this, there is one more round where players use all their dice to give a tour. Players will earn points at the end of the game for color majorities, manor diversity, leftover inspiration, and having the largest manor.
One thing that tripped me up from the start was the dice-rolling mechanic. The rulebook isn’t super intuitive (definitely could have used more examples) and we really weren’t grasping how the general gameplay worked. After watching a video online, I finally figured out that you should be rolling all your dice at the start of each of your placement phases. This definitely made for more interesting turns, although I wish it was a bit more clear in the rulebook that it works that way.
But once you get going, the big decision points are what to do with your dice each round. There are three main areas to spend them: Buying rooms for your manor, advertising (which eventually can earn you two more dice to use) and giving tours. During the game, the first two seemed to be the most impactful. As the end game gives bonuses for having the most colors of each room, (around 12 points for first place), one of each type (15 points if you have all 6 types of room), and 12 points for having the most blueprints, this seemed like the optimal route.
While giving tours is nice, in most turns you will be getting 2-5 points for a tour unless you are really lucky. And since you can only tour each room once per round, your earning potential is capped there. I found myself only using tours if I really had nothing else to do with the dice. This tended to happen later in the game once I unlocked both of my dice via advertising. At that point, there was no reason to go to that space anymore, leaving my options of getting more rooms or tours.
Speaking of rooms, they actually felt bigger than necessary. The plus-shaped rooms take up a lot of space and probably could have been smaller. The rooms also only have doors in certain spots, and you can’t have a wall facing a door, so your placement options will be limited. Overall, we found the tour mechanic to be a tad fiddly. You can only use dice of a matching number each turn, and tours must be placed on a path, so unless you have a lucky roll and rooms with matching numbers lined up, your ability to give tours isn’t going to be very high.
In the last round of the game, there is only a tour. Players roll their dice and use them all to tour. This section is also a tad unclear and we had to read through it a few times to really grasp what was happening. I will say that you can earn some nice points here, but it’s super important to save some dice inspiration tokens for this phase. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how I feel about the gameplay changing up so drastically in the final round. On one hand, it’s nice to use all the rooms you placed, but on the other, it feels a little out of place.
Dice Manor is a game that fellow BGQ reviewer Andrew would most likely say is… Fine. It’s not a bad game, but it’s not great either. The theme is very pasted on, some of the mechanics are both fiddly and not explained well, and the rulebook kind of sucks. Oh, and the publisher has already released a PDF of updated 2 player rules because, as written, the two-player game isn’t very good.
For me, while the dice usage and bidding mechanics was well done and enjoyable, the other aspect of the games (fiddly tours, lack of use in advertising late game) drag the game down for me. I don’t see myself coming back to this one very often either, as you will most likely be doing the same thing every game, so replay value is limited here.
Final Score: 2.5 Stars – An interesting theme and some neat mechanics but held back by some fiddly rules.
• Rulebook could be better
• Tours are fiddly and seem less than optimal
• Rooms are bigger than they need to be