Sunday, 28 September 2014

Marvel Dice Masters - First Encounter

The other night I had the chance to play a couple of games of Marvel Dice Masters. It was described to me as Dominion with Dice, now I don't know Dominion but I have played a couple of games of Trains, and I can kind of see what my friend was getting at.

This post isn't really a review, I don't think that I got deep enough it to do that fairly, but more my initial thoughts on the game and how I saw it working, and they may not be entirely accurate...

The game is a dice building game, you start off with a pool of fairly limited dice and then you buy other dice to add to your pool. It seems to take several dice to buy another die, and the die you buy will typically be more powerful than than those that were used to buy it. The die that you have bought and the dice you used to buy it will all eventually end up in the pool you can draw from. Therefore as the game progress you ramp up in terms of the quantity and power of your dice pool.

In a bit more detail you actually have several pools of dice and the dice flow between them as you perform various actions. You have a bag full of dice to draw from, a pool of used dice (that will be used to refill the bag when it is empty), a pool of dice representing "knocked out" characters (a "prep area" is what the game calls it, so it might have uses other than I saw), a pool of dice representing characters you have fielded and a pool of dice that you have just rolled (the "reserve").

You start the game with a number of characters on your team (two in the case of our starting game) and each of those will have a number of dice that you can buy that represent them (I think that they come with two dice each). There are also some cards in the middle for generic upgrades that either player can buy.

Each turn you draw four dice from your draw pool add any that were in the "knocked out" (prep) pool and roll them into your "reserve". The dice have lots of different symbols on them that do different things. The uses that I can recall are:
  • If it represents a character then you can pay energy to bring them into play (move them into your "fielded" pool).
  • Provide energy that you can spend to buy new dice or field a character. There are a number of different energy types and also wildcards. To buy a die you need to have at least one die that provides the energy type that they require and the numbers must add up to the number printed on the card/die.
  • Provide an effect that boosts attacks.
Once you've used the dice that you have rolled you can then attack your opponent, you push forward some or all of the dice from your play area and your opponent can then react by assigning characters from their own play area to fight back. Your characters have damage and defence statistics and both attacker and defenders will attempt to damage each other. The outcomes seem to be:
  • If an attacker takes more damage than their defence they are moved to the pool.
  • If an attacker takes less damage than their defence they are moved back to the "play" area.
  • If an attacker does not have a blocker than their damage is applied to the opponent, you have a certain number of "hit points" and loose the game when you take them all.
There are a few implications to this...
  • Having a knocked out attacker or defender isn't necessarily a bad thing, they go into your "knocked out" pool and you'll add them to your roll in the next round. So you can roll a load of dice, which you can use to buy loads of things.
  • You don't seem to ever actually loose a character, their die will be somewhere in your pool, your pool is only ever going to get bigger
  • If a blocker is assigned to an attacker then none of the damage will get through to the opponent. So if you have one low level mook defending against a low level mook and the Incredible Hulk then you're better off blocking the Hulk. The Hulk would do far more damage to you than the mook will if he's not given a blocker.
The second game...
This photo shows my situation just before the game ended (the matt isn't included in the starter set, but it seems very helpful). What you can see:
  • I chose Thor and Iron Man as my two characters for the game. They come with two dice, I've managed to buy one of each.
  • I've managed to get a Thor and an Iron Man die into my field zone.
  • I've rolled more than four dice, the previous turn I had some low level mooks that I used to block some attacks. They got knocked out to my "Prep Area" and I therefore rerolled them alongside the four I drew from my dice bag.
My next step is to attack, I attack with both Thor and Iron Man (this itself is free) the two characters from my "Field Zone". My opponent had just a Hulk to oppose them... But characters have special abilities, and Thor's is that characters of Hulk's type (bashing?) can't block his attacks. So my opponent couldn't block Thor's attack, and Thor's attack was big (characters can have levels, I'd rolled the highest level Thor and paid a lot to have him ready to use). Therefore all of Thor's attack was applied to my opponents hit points and he was knocked out of the game.

  • We played the games in about half an hour or so each, which included me learning it from scratch and some rules look ups. I think that "proper" games involve more characters and more hit points per side so might take longer
  • It seemed pretty abstract at the time, but typing this up has helped me think about it and it does all make a kind of sense.
  • Things escalate quite quickly, one you buy more dice you can then buy even more next time around.
  • Timing your attacks is crucial. If my opponent had even one low level mook available then none of Thor's attack would have made it through to his hit points.

So, would I play it again? Yes I would. It does seem quite fiddly but once you've played through it and are able to just follow each step while also having a bit of knowledge about what you need to do for the future then it clicks together.

I'd really recommend the play mat though, not only does it look quite nice but it also really helps to understand how the game flows.

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