One of the greater geeky debates is this: Which is more satisfying, drawing cards or rolling dice? I don’t think I could choose, but I do find games with dice to be particularly rewarding. Maybe it’s just the feeling of randomness, or the sound of the dice hitting the table. Something about dice has that “now we’re gaming” feel. So here’s five dice games worth a few rolls of your own. Get out your dice tray and read on…
KING OF TOKYO
The battle of giant Kaiju monsters is represented in this game by a “press your luck” style of dice rolling where players roll a set of dice, keep results they like then roll again repeating the process twice more. After three rolls, the final results indicate what your monster can (and will) do during this turn. Monsters can attack each other, build up energy, heal or score victory points. In some rounds you might have to choose where to focus your monster, which requires you to decide: do you reroll and try for more victory points? Do you keep the energy you rolled thus far? What will your strategy be? Other times you know exactly what results you’ll need on the dice, you just have to hope you can get them in 3 rolls of the dice.
Simple and fun, King of Tokyo (and the slightly more complex sequel King of New York) is a great game to play between larger set-up games or while waiting for a game night to kick off. Its also great for tabletop beginners.
PANDEMIC: THE CURE
This diced up version of the popular “saving the world from 5 diseases at a time” game Pandemic deserves accolades on a number of levels. First, it does a great job of simulating the feel and play style of actual Pandemic, which is pretty amazing. Second, it’s actually fun, fast, and it has a surprisingly high production value. It’s fun to play and it looks nice.
This collaborative game takes the “press your luck” concepts of King of Tokyo and adds a few pools of dice. Each player has a character-specific set of dice which they roll and reroll to determine their actions. The various diseases also have custom dice which are rolled to see where in the world they spread. Collectively the game has you chucking a lot of dice and tracking the various outbreaks on a central ring with vaguely syringe shaped pegs.
For all the randomness and rolling, the actions are still very strategic. Working together is the key to victory. This game is yet another which sets up and plays so amazingly quick you can keep it on standby to kill time waiting for late friends to arrive for the larger game night.
This series of collectible dice games all revolve around a dice pool building mechanic where you roll dice for a variety of results, but most often you roll to buy/draft more dice from a central area onto your side. This is the dice equivalent of a game like Dominion. There are various Marvel and DC comics versions of the game as well as licensed versions from from Yu-Gi-Oh! to Dungeons and Dragons.
The basic gameplay is always the same. Individual dice represent characters (Superman) or weapons (Captain America’s shield) or powers and spells (Magic Missile). The die’s various faces have different thematic effects with some sides representing an ability, while some are currency and some represent a playable character. After rolling a number of dice, you use some to buy other dice, some to attack or defend and the rest are sent back to the pool to be re-rolled on another turn.
The game is actually simple, but like other collectible games (Magic: The Gathering) the various dice can really start adding rules quickly. Don’t expect it to stay simple for long. Once you learn the game, you may find that buying more dice, often in blind booster packs, can be quite addictive.
ROLL FOR THE GALAXY
Space colonization gets deconstructed in this dice game. Players take the reins of a galactic empire and manage its population (the dice) while trying to expand their territory, research technologies and transport goods for space bucks. This is a dice style redux of Race for the Galaxy (which is also fantastic).
While rolling and dice management play a big role here, there’s also a system of simultaneous turns between all players. Each player chooses one major action to take place (from a list of five) and actions not chosen by at least one player are skipped that turn. Then, dice devoted to those actions are wasted. So you have to split your focus between planning how you’ll progress your empire and guessing what your opponent is trying to focus on and, at the same time, playing dice into that pile. Beyond that, the game gives you dozens of options for technologies and planets with various additional dice and benefits.
Sadly, this game is a little hard to teach with slightly confusing iconography and a bit of a learning curve. Once you’ve got a hang of it its really really good but that can be a long journey. Check out our list of game teaching tips for some help!
This collaborative game set in the Cthulhu mythos combines the ever-present dice management with unspeakable horror. The horror mostly consists of how difficult this game can be to win. This, of course, brings an “edge of your seat” tension that can be very rewarding when you finally pull it off. By way of example, check out this episode of Geek & Sundry’s TableTop.
The biggest change between this game and some of the previous ones on this list is that every reroll is done with one less die. That puts players in a losing battle from the first roll on down. The ability to adjust your roll with spells or items is helpful but once things start sliding down the slippery slope of failure, you’re going with it. You have no choice. This promotes a cautious and thoughtful gameplay where the players work to figure out how to risk the least in every action. Nothing builds teamwork like a game that will take any mistake and make you pay for it with horrors from beyond human imagination.
There are tons of other dice games from the simplest (Zombie Dice) to the most complex (Troyes) and they all give you that sweet dice rolling action that’s just so satisfying. Most of these games involve six siders but there are games with all sizes and shapes of dice and millions of mechanics based on them. So head to your local game store and play a few demos, pick up a dice game or 3 (roll a d6?) and add to your collection.
Let us know what dice games you love and why. Tell us about your best single roll. Dispute this list. Do it all in the comments and we look forward to reading them.
Header and Roll for the Galaxy Images Credit: MassDrop.com
Dice Masters Image Credit: WizKids Games
Pandemic: The Cure Image Credit: ZMan Games