While the Atari 2600 predates my time as a video gamer by a couple of years, I’ve had the great fortune of playing a lot of Space Invaders. Today we are looking at a roll-and-write game that use some interesting mechanics and the Space Invaders license to deliver a simple, quick playing, dice game.
Space Invaders: Dice plays 1-4 players in 10-30 minutes and plays best with 1 player.
Space Invaders: Dice offers a number of different modes. You can play solo or multiplayer. There are also variant multiplayer rules which add a drafting element. Regardless, the gameplay is similar, you roll dice and destroy aliens of the matching colors on your sheet.
However, just like Space Invaders, you have to shoot from the bottom up, so it’s important to get the right colors at the right time. You take damage for any dice you can’t use and try to score points by destroying the most aliens.
Space Invaders comes with a bunch of dice. There are three small laser dice that restrict which columns you can fire at and eight invader dice with different colored aliens on each side. There is also a UFO die that is rolled when you destroy a UFO and will give you between 50 and 300 points.
There is also a double-sided score pad to mark aliens as you pick them off.
How To Play:
On your turn, you first roll two laser dice and temporarily block the column matching their sum. You do that again, and then finally just roll one laser die. Each turn you’ll have three columns that are under incoming laser fire and unavailable. The dice themselves are used on your sheet to show which columns aren’t available. If you are playing with multiple players though, they are just going to have to keep looking at your sheet to remember.
Next, you roll the invader dice. Depending on the colors you roll, you can destroy aliens of the matching color, but you have to shoot from the bottom up. Each column of the score sheet has a UFO on top, then a pink alien, 2 green and 2 blue. To destroy a green alien, for instance, you have to first destroy the blue aliens below it. Once all aliens in a column are destroyed, any color invader die can be used to destroy the UFO. You then roll the UFO die to score bonus points.
If you can’t use any of the dice you rolled, you can either take one damage for each unused die or reroll them. However, if you reroll and still have unusable dice you will take double damage from each die. Damage is tracked by marking off the white boxes around the outside of the score sheet.
In subsequent rounds you will also start rolling fewer invader dice. Players roll one less for every two columns that no longer have aliens in them.
The game ends when all of the open spaces for damage have been marked off or you have destroyed all of the aliens.
Solo and multiplayer games follow the same rules, unless you want to add the variant drafting rules. With this option, you never reduce the number of dice in the pool, but after rolling players in turn order will draft one of the remaining dice. After all dice are selected, they can be played and rerolled as normal.
As a solo game, Space Invaders: Dice plays pretty well. It’s fun enough to chuck some dice around for ten or fifteen minutes and try to fight your way through the onslaught of alien invaders. When it comes down to getting a good score though, the UFO die is pretty much in control. You can score anywhere between 50 and 300 points for taking out a UFO. Considering killing every alien on the sheet gives you 990 points, the difference between rolling a couple of 50’s and a couple of 300’s is massive.
This issue extends into the multiplayer game. Players will likely complete about the same number of columns and roughly the same number of aliens. Even if I’m able to clear ten more aliens than my opponents, that may only be 100-200 points. So one bad die roll on the bonus points negates everything else.
Speaking of multiplayer, there is literally no player interaction in the normal mode. You are essentially both playing the solo game, just taking turns rolling.
The other issue I have with the multiplayer game is the game end conditions. All players play until they are completely destroyed or they have fully cleared the sheet of invaders. This can happen many turns apart, depending on how the game plays out. So you can have one player finished with their score calculated, while they wait on the rest of the group to finish up. It’s generally a very short two or three more rounds, but seems like the game would be cleaner to end at the same time for everyone.
I was hopeful the drafting mechanism would really add a new wrinkle to the roll-and-write genre. Unfortunately, drafting Space Invaders: Dice may be the worst of all the game modes. With four players, you almost definitely need a 2nd copy to have more dice to draft from. With three players, you draft uneven number of dice and it still feels like you aren’t getting enough, especially the rounds where you pick last and only get 2 dice. The problem of the game ending for one player but not all players is exacerbated as the draft portion can wind on for much too long.
When you start digging into the game, it does kind of evoke Space Invaders. You are shooting from the bottom up, you have some columns you can’t shoot into because of incoming fire, etc. However, Space Invaders: Dice just has too many problems to recommend. It plays best as a solo game. The multiplayer rules are exactly multiplayer solitaire, you both play a solo game and see who scores the most points, which basically will come down to who rolled the highest on the bonus point die.
While I was hopeful the draft rules would add something new, they just don’t work. There aren’t enough dice to draft, especially since everyone wants the same dice as the other players 90% of the time.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of Space Invaders: Dice, you can get it for about $15.
Final Score: 1 Star – An OK Solo game for Space Invaders Fans, everyone else should avoid.
• UFO bonus point die is incredibly random and swingy
• No player interaction in multiplayer game
• Draft rules just don’t work
• Game doesn’t end at the same time for everyone