Dice, as a game mechanic, have been around for a long time. The earliest known dice were discovered as part of a 5000-year old backgammon set. Yet, even over the last 5000 years we haven’t uncovered all possible uses for dice. Today’s top 10 list is of games that rely heavily on dice. The games on this list are diverse in theme, mechanics, and use of dice. But anyone who plays them is going to get to sling some dice. As always, this list is limited to games that are readily available and in print.
Top 10 Dice Games
In Blueprints, there are dice of four colors, representing different building materials. Orange is wood, black is stone, clear represents glass, and green for recycled goods. Each round, dice are drawn randomly from a bag to determine which materials are available. Players have a blueprint they are attempting to create and score the most points. Each material scores in a different way, allowing players to attempt to take different routes to victory in this game.
One of the easiest ways to tell if a game is a “Euro” or “Ameritrash” has always been to count the number of dice in the box. Euro games and dice often do not mix. Panamax, however, is a fantastic heavy Euro with a lot of dice scattered all over the board. Dice represent both the actions available and the goods you are shipping across the world. As there isn’t a lot of dice rolling here, luck is certainly minimized, but Panamax is a great example of taking dice just a little bit outside their normal comfort zone.
8. Qwixx (review)
My family has always been “gamers”. Unfortunately, that often meant nights of Yahtzee and Rack-O. While I haven’t convinced them all to sit down for a 3-hour session of Panamax, Qwixx has largely replaced Yahtzee among my family. Downtime is all but removed as you can use the results from your opponent’s rolls as well as yours. Qwixx is a very light filler game, but a lot of fun and a deserving nominee of the Spiel des Jahres in 2013.
7. Bang! The Dice Game
Dice game with hidden roles? Seriously? Is there anything dice can’t do? Apparently not. Bang! The Dice Game simplifies the “long version” of Bang! into a quick 30 minute game of deduction. The setup is similar, the Sheriff and Deputies against the Outlaws with the Renegade out there on his own trying to be the last man standing. It works beautifully as it can be challenging to tell where loyalties lie when the dice are determining which actions you have to take.
6. Liar’s Dice
Liar’s Dice is a fantastic bluffing game for 2 or more players. Bluffing games normally work best with more people, but Liar’s Dice really works great with any count. It’s a quick game that can be explained in 5 minutes and played in less than 20. While there is player elimination, which I often don’t care for in party games, it quick enough that it’s often not a big concern. The best part of Liar’s Dice is going from a loud, fun 6-player game to only having two players left. The room falls quiet. Mind games are being played. The tension rises to find the ultimate Liar’s Dice champion.
5. Formula D
The use of dice in Formula D may be one of my favorite ever. The game comes with various dice, four-sided, six-sided, even a 30-sided die for each player. The numbering isn’t strictly “normal,” for instance the D20 will always roll between 11-20. This is crucial to the gameplay as the risk of not shifting down into a corner can pretty easily be calculated, but allows players to decide how close to the edge they are comfortable with, and zoom along accordingly.
4. Marvel Dice Masters (review)
Dice Masters Avengers vs. X-men, Uncanny X-Men and upcoming varieties play in a similar way. You construct your team before the game, and then use your dice to buy additional, more powerful dice to add to your bag. WizKids, as always, is taking full advantage of the licenses, giving superheroes awesome and thematic special powers. Now that we are moving on from initial shortages, and awesome booster packs with 2 dice and cards in each pack can be found at every FLGS (for just about a dollar!) I have a hard time believing the Dice Masters is going to cool off anytime soon.
3. Pandemic: The Cure (review)
As far as cooperative games go, Pandemic has pretty much always led the way. It’s available not only in every FLGS, but also at many big-box retailers. While the theme may be a little disturbing, it’s interesting, and something people are drawn to. Personally, the game was never among my favorites. There were too many cubes to mess with, too much housekeeping between turns. Pandemic: The Cure takes away some of that bit of accounting and replaces action selection with dice rolling. Which actions you can take depend on your die rolls, which makes it harder to plan out 3 or 4 turns in advance. That somewhat keeps the quarterbacking to a minimum and leads to a better experience. All in all, I can’t see myself wanting to play regular Pandemic over the dice version again.
2. King of Tokyo (review)
I’ve introduced a handful of people to modern board gaming. With only a couple exceptions, the first game has always been King of Tokyo. It’s a quick, simple game for the entire family. It’s great for all ages and I’ve had a good time with King of Tokyo with players as young as six years old. The huge custom dice look awesome and are fun to roll. There is enough strategy and push-your-luck element for it still to be enjoyable, despite playing it dozens of times. The power-up expansion is great and adds just a bit more depth.
1. Roll for the Galaxy
Now, let me preface this a bit. Yes, Roll for the Galaxy is brand new. It’s hard to put a brand new game I’ve only owned for a few weeks at the top of any list. But, without a doubt, Roll for the Galaxy deserves to be here. First – the custom dice and custom dice cups are awesome. The presentation of the game entirely is top-notch. Mechanically, choosing which dice to use to activate a phase is never a simple decision. You can make sure the phase you want to happen takes place. Or you can gamble that another player will activate that phase and you can activate something else. It’s often a risky proposition and knowing when to play it safe is key. Developing technology will give you special abilities that help you manipulate your die rolls or each you extra points. Settling new worlds will often give you additional dice to use on later turns. However, without enough money to buy your dice back, it’s not going to matter much, so you better have a plan for income as well. Playing Roll for the Galaxy is a tough balance between earning money, scoring points, or developing technology and settling world. Walking the tight rope correctly is often a challenge, in part because dice sometimes don’t roll at all how you want them to. Roll for the Galaxy is a great game that I look forward to playing for many years to come.
So there you have it, My Top 10 Dice Games. There are many great games out there if you just want to sling some dice around the table. Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.