When it comes to real time board games, I’m hard pressed to find one I like better than Space Cadets: Dice Duel (reviewed here). I was introduced to this gem back in 2013 and instantly fell in love with it. It was frantic, exciting and a stupid amount of fun. My only knock against the game was that it’s player count was from 4-8 players only. I longed for a way to play Dice Duel with only two players.
Well it appears that game designers Geoff and Sydney Engelstein heard my pleas and has gifted upon us an expansion. The Space Cadets Dice Duels: Die Fighter Expansion seeks to expand and improve upon the already stellar Dice Duels game. Did he succeed, or does this expansion need to be regulated to the Highlander 2 category of “please forget me?” Lets find out!
I’ll assume you are already familiar with Space Cadets: Dice Duel. If not go read our full review first and then come back. The Die Fighter expansion is really two expansions in one. The first expansion gives players a pair of fighters to pilot. I immediately noticed that these two fighters look suspiciously like the Vipers from Battlestar Galactica (and that’s just fine with me). Included with them are two cockpit boards and another full set of dice for each player. These new fighters let one payer jump into the cockpit and zip around the board, no longer needing to relay on teammates for energy or help with the ship.
The fighters act a little bit different from their capitol ship cousins. First, a fighter only needs two helm dice to move (instead of 3), so it’s much more maneuverable. Second, it has no tractor beams or shields (they must have stolen the TIE Fighter design plans). It does have three hit points, so it won’t die instantly from a torpedo hit. Finally, the weapons on the fighter work a little different.
Fighters have missiles instead of torpedoes. These aren’t as strong and any capitol ship is treated as having one extra shield from a missile attack. That means that if you hit a ship with 2 shields on your side (which will make it 3 vs the missiles), you aren’t going to do any damage. It also means that all capitol ships will have at least 1 shield up vs your missiles, so you will always be rolling for damage.
But to make up for that, Fighters can also launch pulse bombs. These get dropped in the same square as a capitol ship and completely bypass shields. Players roll a red die and either inflicts 0, 1, or 2 damage. Fighters have to get up close and personal to drop these, but they are very much worth it.
In addition to the fighters mentioned above, the expansion also comes with a deck of “experimental equipment” cards. These let the players break the rules in various ways. At the start of the game, players will draft 2 of these cards and they are then assigned to their ship’s various stations. The cards have a variety of effects such as “Maneuver Jets” that let the ship move with only two helm dice placed instead three. Or the Homing Torpedo that lets you ignore one die of shields on the target ship. There are 27 cards in all, and many use the expansion symbols already on the dice you have, so kudos to Stronghold Games for planning ahead.
Game Experience with the Expansion:
As most regular readers know, I like my game expansions to add to the variety of a game without greatly increasing the complexity. I don’t want to have to feel like I’m learning a new game when I use an expansion. Since Dice Duels was already a fantastically balanced game with just the right amount of complexity, I was a bit apprehensive as to how it could be successfully expanded.
It appears that I really had nothing to worry about as the Die Fighter expansion for Dice Duels is nothing short of amazing! Designers Geoff and Sydney Engelstein knocked this one out of the park and created an expansion that I consider to be nothing short of essential when playing Dice Duels.
To start, the game now has 3 different play modes. If you have 10 people handy, you can go full on 5v5 with 4 people manning the capitol ship as normal, and one player jumping into a fighter. This creates quite an exciting game mode that we had an absolute blast playing. You really need to try this one to appreciate just how much fun it is. It does take a bit of getting used to as your capitol ship will be constantly harried by the much more maneuverable fighter, but once you get used to it, there is no going back. Now, players have to worry about attacks from two different ships, but a well coordinated team can also be quite deadly. This is now my preferred method of play Dice Duels.
If you are looking for a bit of variety, then you can also play the game with 2 fighters vs 1 capitol ship. It’s makes for a nice change and it can be good if you don’t have the 8-10 people needed for the main game option.
Finally, you can now play Dice Duels with only two players. Each player jumps into the cockpit of a fighter for a quick dogfight. The 2 player games are just as frantic as you’d expect and require a lot of attention as you man all the stations on your little ship. While this is not my favorite way to play (8-10 player Dice Duel all the way), I’m glad this option is here. If you only have two players and want your quick Dice Duel fix, this is way to get it. Surprisingly, the game doesn’t lose that much with only two players and is still a good amount of fun.
After being part of one station on the capitol ship, I must say, it’s quite the different experience manning your own fighter. I think any Dice Duel veteran is going to want to check this one out as soon as possible. It’s a ton of fun to be a lone wolf on the battlefield trying to dodge not only the large ship gunning for you but also the other fighter. Even if you are blown to smithereens early on in the game, the capitol ship can launch you out into a new fighter. Teamwork at its finest.
Finally, the experimental equipment cards that come with the expansion were also a nice touch. Instead of being duplicate copies of each other, a team’s ship is now just a little bit different. I’m always a big fan of variable player setup, so I like that each team’s ship will have their own unique strengths that can be taken advantage of. With 27 cards in the deck, this immensely helps to add to the game replay value. Each card has it’s own uses and all of them are very easy to incorporate into the game. While they are different, none immediately felt over powered or unbalanced. To be honest, I can’t wait to try them all!
I honestly don’t have anything to complain about with the Die Fighter expansion for Space Cadets: Dice Duel. Nothing. It addresses some of my concerns with the base game, is very easy to incorporate, and makes a game I already loved that much better. If you are a fan of Space Cadets: Dice Duel, then run, don’t walk to your FLGS and pick this one up. You’ll have no regrets. If you aren’t a fan of Dice Duels, then I suggest seeking some professional help, because this game is awesome. 🙂
We normally rate expansions on a “Buy, Optional or Pass” scale, and this is one of those rare occasions that I wish I had something higher to rate it. Check out the Die Fighter expansion today. It’s well worth the cost and you will probably never want to play Dice Duel with out it.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, it’s about $26
Expansion Score: Buy – Makes an already great game even better. If you own the base game, then this is a must buy!