I know how to play a "deck-building game", how do I play a "dice-building game"?
by, 08-02-2015 at 09:49 PM (747 Views)
That's an excellent question, hypothetical person! Let me see if I can help you out there!
First of all, in a normal Deck-Building Game (DBG), everyone starts with the same deck of (mostly sub-par) cards. You then use those cards to acquire more and more "powerful" cards, that go into your deck but you usually won't get to use them right away until they gradually filter into your hand. In Dice Masters, the starting "cards" are your Sidekick dice (in D&D Dice Masters, they are called "NPC" dice, but they are functionally the same). Each player starts with 8 of them, and unlike many DBGs there is no way to get rid of them (or get more of them). Since you can't really shuffle dice into a pile, instead each player uses a dice bag to randomize their draws. Each turn the player will draw 4 dice out of their bag, and like a DBG the bag is refilled from the Used/Discard pile when it empties.
(Note: The game doesn't actually use this imagery for the Sidekick dice, it's entirely of my own design)
One of the key differences between Dice Masters and most DBGs is that players don't have equal opportunity to purchase cards. Most DBGs have a central pool of cards that both players are purchasing from. It may be pre-set from the beginning (like Dominion and Thunderstone) or refilling as people acquire cards (like Ascension), but what one person doesn't get the other player will usually have the ability to acquire. In Dice Masters, each player brings their own supply of dice that only they can purchase. The standard (tournament) rules allow up to 20 dice, divided up among up to 8 cards (representing different characters or items). Each player will also bring 2 "Basic Action" cards with 3 dice each that go into a common pool that both players can purchase from. So both players can purchase any of the 12 Basic Action Dice (3 dice per card, 2 cards per player, 2 players: 3x2x2 = 12), but aside from those the majority of cards/dice are exclusive to the player that brought them.
So there is some advance planning in deciding which 8 cards you are going to bring, and how many dice for each card. In a tournament setting, you won't have the ability to change out cards or dice in between rounds, so you will need to try to plan for many different opponents and be as adaptable as possible during play.
On each turn you will draw 4 dice out of your bag (refilling if needed) and roll them. In order to mitigate the randomness of the dice somewhat, you have one opportunity to re-roll any/all of your dice, keeping your second roll as final. All dice have a combination of "energy" faces (your in-game currency) and character or action faces (which let you "do" things). Most of the core gameplay involves getting characters rolled and out into the field, and "attacking" your opponent with them. The energy comes in 4 different currencies, and different characters and actions require specific currencies to acquire. Other uses for energy include paying to "field" your characters (move them from your rolled area out into the Field, where they remain for turn after turn and are available to attack your opponent and/or help defend you from your opponent's attacking characters). You can also use specific energy on "Global Abilities", which show up on various cards and are available for use by either player during specific parts of the turn.
After buying characters from your cards (and putting them in the Used Pile to filter into your bag later), fielding characters that you rolled, and/or using Actions that you rolled, you can then choose to attack your opponent with any characters you have in the Field. Your opponent can then choose to block any of your attackers with any of his characters in the Field. Each character has an attack and defense value, and unblocked characters directly deal all of their attack value to your opponent's life/health. Blocked characters simultaneously deal their respective attack values to each other, and if the attack exceeds that character's defense value then the character is "Knocked Out". It is entirely possible for two characters engaged with each other to simultaneously knock each other out.
The benefit to being Knocked Out is that on your next turn, in addition to the 4 dice you draw, you get to add any dice that were KO'd to your roll (and re-roll). So getting a bunch of your dice KO'd can cause you to have a really nice next turn, potentially rolling double (or more) the number of dice you normally would.
So what lessons from DBGs can you apply to Dice Masters? First, you have a lot of control over the dice you will have available for purchase. It will take some time to "build up" to the more expensive, potentially game-winning cards. Be sure to include some cards that cost less, that are easier to acquire, to help you build up towards those big cards. Secondly, be careful not to dilute your "deck". Just because you can buy a die doesn't mean that you should buy a die. Know what will help you build towards your goal, and what will just get in your way. Every turn you will be drawing 4 dice, make them good ones. And the more dice you have, the longer it will take before you can re-use the "good" ones. Thirdly, even though you can't get rid of your initial Sidekick dice, if you can manage to get them out onto the Field but not attack with them, you will thin them out of your bag and make it more likely your 4 dice drawn will be "good" ones.
The different areas you can have dice in.
Hopefully this will help you transition from deck-building to dice-building, and you'll have some fun along the way!