When it comes to dueling games, players definitely have no shortage of options. Magic: The Gathering has been around since 1993 and is probably the first game people think of in this genre. Yet there are a variety of reasons why that might not be the game for you (cost, randomized boosters, keeping up with the Meta. etc…). So, what’s a player to do?
That’s where Dice Thrones comes in. This is a dueling game that not only looks great but has the gameplay to match. If that’s true, I’m all in. Today we are going to take a look at Dice Throne Season 2, a stand-alone expansion to the Dice Throne lineup that adds six new characters and gives the game a visual upgrade.
In Dice Thrones Season 2 (simply Dice Throne from here on out), each player controls a unique character in this duel for supremacy. Players alternate taking turns upgrading their powers and attacking their opponents. Turns start with an upkeep and income phase—draw a card and gain a Combat Point (CP), the currency of the game.
During their Main Phase, a player spends their CP to play cards from their hand. Some of these will upgrade powers on a player’s board, while others will be action cards that effect the game in various ways.
Once a player is ready to attack, they roll their five dice up to three times. Dice are numbered 1-6 and also have 3 symbols on them (3 of 1 symbol, 2 of the second, 1 of the third). After rolling, the player can use their dice results to activate a power on their player board. These will usually be attacks against their opponent. When attacked, most players also have a defensive power that will be activated automatically to try and mitigate some of the damage.
After attacking and dealing damage, the player gets a second main phase to play any cards they wish for CP. Then the next player takes their turn.
Players alternate back and forth like this until one player is reduced to zero life and loses.
The first thing to know about Dice Throne is that the production values are nothing short of outstanding. Roxly Games won the BGQ award last year for Best Production Values with Brass: Birmingham and I can easily see Dice Throne: Season 2 being a serious contender for this award. Each character is excellently illustrated, and the graphic design of the game matches that quality. Every character is also housed in its own Game Trayz container in a dedicated slot in the box. I am struggling to even think of a complaint with the production values of this game.
But all that bling is useless if the gameplay doesn’t hold up, and fortunately, it does! From my first game I became enamored with this title. Combat starts up quickly and there is rarely a turn where nothing happens. This isn’t a game where you need a slow buildup of powers before the serious attack begin. Players get to jump into the action right away.
And that’s done through your character, 6 in total, each of which feels wholly unique. From the custom dice to the special abilities and deck of cards, Roxly Games did a great job of bringing the theme home with each character. The Samurai will be gaining honor and inflicting shame, while the Tactician is using his tactical advantage tokens to give him a lot of flexibility. This is a game that’s going to make you want to play it again and again to not only try out each of the characters, but face off against them as well.
I also found that the gameplay in dice throne is really smooth. Turns go by quickly with minimal downtime. The one thing to keep in mind is that at its core, this is a dice game, so luck will definitely be a factor. I’ve seen a player activate their ultimate ability on turn one with a lucky dice roll (basically all 6s on 5 dice). While that is rare, it can happen. Fortunately, the game does give players a lot of way to manipulate the results via their hero cards. As players become more experienced with their characters, they will know when to push their luck, and what powers to focus on.
Each of the six characters has a complexity rating to help new players decide which ones to use. This was really helpful to make sure players aren’t overwhelmed in their first game. Yet even though each character is different from one another, I’ve found the game to be really well balanced. I’ve seen every character win a match, and rarely is there a runaway leader in a game. Usually, when one character dies, the other only had a few hit points left as well.
Finally, when it comes to player scaling, I’ve found that Dice Throne is at its best when it’s played 1v1. There are rules for team play and free-for-alls, but I’ve had the most fun with this title as a straight-up duel. The game length feels just about right (30 mins) at that player count and there is almost no downtime.
Dice Throne: Season 2 was a game that wasn’t even on my radar until I demoed it at a convention this year. After doing so, I immediately had to play it again and it only got better with each play. Each character has a half dozen or so unique powers to actuate on any given turn, so even bad rolls can still be useful. With a host of thematic and colorful characters, this is one you are going to want to play again and again to see all it has to offer. If you are looking for a great dueling game to fill that hole any your collection (or just a fan of the genre), then look no further than Dice Throne: Season 2.
Final Score: 4.5 Stars – A standout dueling game with amazing production values and the gameplay to back it up.
• Plays best at 1v1