This Sunday (January 31), we’ll be running our third Dice Masters organised play event (which is just a fancy way of saying a Wizkids-supported tournament), and I just realised that I haven’t even mentioned Dice Masters on the blog yet—which isn’t really a big deal except that I’ve actually gotten quite involved in the game: I’ve played Dice Masters more times in the last four weeks than I have any miniatures games in the last two years….from every minis system…combined.
Though I’m playing (what for me is) tons and have certainly bought my fair share of booster packs, I’m not obsessing over this game the way it’s easy to with collecting games (Dice Masters is a collectible cards/dice game), but I am really into it. Though the store started carrying Dice Masters from its initial release, it was only after last summer that my curiosity was piqued; and I only started really playing it shortly before December.
For those not in the know, the game is produced by Wizkids and can be quickly described as combining Magic the Gathering, Quarriors and Dominion. Those are all games I enjoy to a certain extent, but what makes the game for me is that it enables me to take the enjoyment I get from comic books in a different direction.
JUST LIKE MAGIC BUT DIFFERENT
To win in Dice Masters, just as with Magic, you must reduce your opponent’s “life” to zero using your attack pieces to overcome and break through your opponent’s defences.
Heck, you start at twenty Life Points in both games! While in Magic the “Attack Pieces” are all manner of summoned creatures and spells (etc) that dish out damage, in Dice Masters these elements are, for obvious reasons, superheroes and super villains. Just like in Magic, your heroes (or villains!) have an attack and defence value as well as any extra abilities as laid out on the card’s text.
Just as with the cards purchased during turns of Dominion, the cards don’t instantly enter play once purchased; they need to be cycled into play.
In Dominion newly acquired cards are put into your personal discard deck, which you’re constantly drawing from and reshuffling. In Dice Masters, though the cards contain all that hero’s data, it’s not cards you purchase but dice; and the dice bag serves the purpose of the personal discard pile. The longer the game goes on in Dominion, the larger the amount of cards are in play; and Dice masters is no different.
JUST LIKE QUARRIORS BUT DIFF—actually it’s pretty much exactly like Quarriors
Because, really Dice Master’s is rooted in Quarriors (also made by Wizkids); the two games share DNA in that they were both created by Mike Elliott and Eric M Lang.
Quarriors, (itself a deck building–but with dice! game) was sold as a non-collectible game with about half a dozen expansions by the time Dice Masters hit the market. The core mechanics of the two games are essentially identical. The superhero theme of Dice Masters however, overtakes Quarriors rather generic fantasy themes. And though I’m generally not a fan of the blind-draw manner in which you acquire more dice (I’ve always felt a game should let you buy what you want, not make you keep buying until you finally get what you wanted), what I do like is that you can decide the level of investment that’s right for you (and the booster pack’s very low price point makes that even more attractive).
Rather than go into the nitty-gritty of how to play, I thought I’d instead just include this tutorial video that does a better job teaching the basics in a few minutes than I could in a few paragraphs.
List Deck Building: My Achilles Heal
In Magic the Gathering, you have to build a 60-card deck (minimum) that includes attack and defence strategies and enough lands to provide the manna to power them—and in all but the most basic decks, the deck should be creating synergies that make the deck greater than the sum of its components. The amount of cards to choose from is immense (even if you’re just limiting yourself to the last couple years of releases) when building your deck. The amount of choice open to me is so much that I end up suffering from analysis paralysis, and I end up just throwing in cards whose basic power sounds fun, whose art is cool and whose manna costs “won’t break the bank” during game play. In short, my decks suck.
In Dice Masters, your “deck” is four to eight cards –each card is a hero– and up to twenty dice. That’s it. The amount of choices is much much much smaller than in Magic, though you do need to distill that more limited selection down into a much smaller deck that will be your team. This is much more appealing to me….though sadly, with the last three teams I’ve played extensively with, I’ve come to realise after playing against others for a bit that the components of each of my teams are really just cards whose extra powers beyond the dice stats sounds fun, which heroes look cool, and whose purchase and fielding costs won’t “break the bank” during game play. I lose a lot…just like I do with the decks I build for Magic the Gathering.
AND YET. I still love this game. A lot.
I’ve figured out where Dice Masters really resonates for me is the strength of its theme: I’ve been collecting comic books on and off for about thirty years; while my comic knowledge isn’t encyclopaedic, I’ve been around for a lot of important moments in comic books; I’ve read a lot of different books and have enjoyed my fair share of the more esoteric (red: third string) characters and titles. Dice Masters pays some real service to the fans that have done more than just see super-hero movies: there are C-list superheroes and villains present in every set.
Having that spectrum of different characters allows me to build teams made up of the heroes (or villains!) that I’ve always liked—to fly in the face of classic team-ups, favouring team-ups I’d like to see…not that I’ve pushed any kinds of envelopes with the team-ups I’ve made, but I’ve had more fun building teams than I usually do when list building or deck constructing.
Here’s my favourite team-up right now, it’s my “Guy Gardner: Eternal Jackass” team. The deck plays just like how I always remember guy Gardner waay back in the Justice League International series: a bit of a tuff who had real power but always prone to hampering himself by annoying and threatening everyone rather than focusing on being effective.
Here’s how it looks:
My thoughts on this team:
First and foremost, I built this team based on what I had pulled out of booster packs, modified by cool-sounding abilities, cool-looking dice and a wide spectrum of purchase costs. Be aware this build is more something I stumbled into than something premeditated…no matter how much I talk sounding like this was my plan all along.
In Dice Masters, the most dice you can draw per turn is four; what that means, more often than not, is that you’ll have at most four energy to use each turn (to purchase characters or action cards, to field/put into play hero dice or to save for special moves or global actions).
With this in mind, I’ve devoted a certain amount of my team’s focus towards adding dice to the four I draw every turn while simultaneously putting some energy into cards that reduce the costs of my teammates. My choice of Basic Action cards also reflects this.
Sticking to my Guy Gardner theme—that is, he’s a blowhard and a jackass—I focus on harrying my opponent. I have heroes that won’t let my opponent do things, either directly (Sinestro & Kilowog) or indirectly (Captain Cold & Guy Gardner) along with those annoyances, I throw in more annoyances (Shazam makes fielded opponents 1 level weaker and Ranx can always block up to two attackers).
How does it do, you ask? Why, just like in the comics!