In 2017, Libellud (creators of beautifully designed games with a certain Gallic charm) released Dice Forge. Designed by Regis Bonnassee, I kind of got a little besotted with it. (Though, to be honest, I get a little besotted with any game I demo - I am a serial mono-gamer.)
Dice Forge introduced the relatively new dynamic of customisable dice that were chunky, pretty and eminently desirable and… hey, wait a minute, I love deck-builders, I love dice – this is DICE BUILDING! Or dice forging because… that’s what it’s called.
Not only that, but it also came in the most beautifully designed, ergonomically terrific box where everything had its place and there was a place for everything. It all fit together so beautifully that my slightly obsessive personality purred with delight and said: “This; all of this; now.” So, I got, I played, and I came to the decision that many players of Dice Forge came, that it was nice, beautiful even, but needed… a bit more.
Regis must have been paying attention, because this year has seen the release of the Rebellion Expansion that brings a bit more, and it’s a bit of alright.
God Does Not Play Dice with the Universe, But Gods Might…
To bring you up to speed, Dice Forge is a game in which intrepid Greek heroes (you) engage in tournaments to win the favour of the gods and a place in the Pantheon. To do this, you roll two customisable dice, each gaining you the resources of gold, sun stone, moon stone and victory points (these are the things that get you the win) that you record on your character board with little coloured cubes.
Gold can be used to buy new dice faces that can replace your pitiful starting faces with larger amounts of gold, more sun and moon stone, more victory and sometimes a combination of all four, turning you into a lean, mean dice rolling machine. The faces click in and out (careful you don’t ‘ping’ them out – eyes are easily damaged things) with satisfying sureness and the dice are nicely sizeable and robust.
This is only half the game, as your moon and sun stone can be spent on performing heroic feats like defeating monsters, capturing mythical creatures and obtaining magical items. These cards will give you victory points at the end, but also have their own immediate or recurring effects that can range from storing extra resources to putting even more powerful dice faces on your dice. The game takes either nine or 10 rounds, depending on players, and gives every player a chance to carry out an action (forge or feat) and plenty of chances to roll.
At the end of the game, everyone tots up their points from their cards and victory goes to the one with the most victory points. All good? Now to the new stuff…
Here Comes Trouble...
The Rebellion Expansion is actually three add-ons in one. There are two new game formats and a bunch of new heroic feats that you can mix and match with the base game and new game formats in the expansion – the permutations and combinations are deliciously numerous.
To look at some of the new feats, there are two new spins on the gold foundry from the first game. You have the Blacksmith’s Sceptre, which gives you access to your gold or allows you to convert the gold into moon and sun stone. Then there is the Companion, which moves one along the track each time it gets around to your action and can be cashed in at any point for the amount of sun and moon it is on.
As each action can involve a few events now, there is a new action counter included. This keeps track of who's doing stuff, which is a nice addition to keep turn arguments to a minimum. If you keep your nerve, you can ‘one shot’ a hybrid card with Companion.
Also included are some feats allowing you to power up your dice faces faster, steal your opponent’s victory points and sun and moon stone, mill out gold and victory points and take a whole extra turn for yourself. The two new hybrids are linked to the new game formats, so I will deal with them then. On the whole, these new feats, though less linked to classic myths and legends are a lot more beefy in the benefits department and can really give you an opportunity to overclock your victory points.
Then, there are the new game formats: Labyrinth of the Goddess and Rebellion of the Titans. The former adds a bit of ‘Roll and Stroll’ and Rebellion has a tug of war mechanic, but that’s not all you get with these two.
Labyrinth of the Goddess
Labyrinth introduces the Celestial Dice. This big chunky beast makes up for its lack of customisation with its game changing benefits. These range from maxing out your gold supply to give you five victory points off the bat. Access to this dice is through heroic feats that allow you to give it a roll. Alternatively, access is granted by it appearing as a reward in the labyrinth itself. These dice can also be added to the base game.
To move through the labyrinth, a new face has been added to one of your base dice (moon move replacing moon crystal) that, when it comes up, allows you to move your ‘golem’ one space (only forward, though there are ways of backtracking for missed rewards). There is also a second face (sun move) which can be acquired through a heroic feat. When both faces appear, you get a free roll of the Celestial Dice!
Winning is not determined by getting through the labyrinth, the victor is still the one with the most victory points. However, the addition of an, albeit small, board adds a welcome new dimension to the game.
Rebellion of the Titans
Rebellion has a less complex move format - you’re either loyal or rebellious on a linear scale. However, it introduces a new resource to collect from a new face; shards of the titans. These can be used as either moon or sun stone. However, gaining them results in you moving towards the rebellious/dark side. You can, of course, move in the opposite direction thanks to a new face that makes you loyal.
During the course of the game, loyalty and rebellion will bring you benefits. You receive extra victory points for feats on the rebellion side. For the loyal side, you receive gold and victory points for gold! However, at the end of the game your loyalty/rebellion factor can be a real game changer. You lose points for being on the rebellious side, gain them for being loyal.
Now, it must be said you always know when the end is nigh in Dice Forge, but Rebellion introduces effects that can push your opponents towards the dark side! Yes, we’ve got some conflict here, which has been missing from the original. I mean, it’s not Epic Spell Wars level but… it’s nice to have a pop and stops your opponents from getting too complacent.
Final Thoughts on Dice Forge: Rebellion
When it comes to expansions, I am always in two minds about whether it’s worth getting. Do I like this game enough to enjoy playing more of the same? Also, is there enough newness to warrant taking up more of my finite shelf space?
With Dice Forge: Rebellion I personally feel the answer is yes and yes. I really like the new play dynamics (I’d say Labyrinth was the stronger if pressed) and feel they add to the game experience in a positive way. They do so without being obtrusive or over-complicating the base game’s accessibility. If I compared it to the Cities of Splendor expansion, I’d say this is better by a way.
The production quality remains very high. In fact, the new box becomes part of the original artwork from the base game. This is certainly a game that you can show to less gamey friends and say: "Look at the beautiful thing!" They will have to nod in agreement, without doubt.
True, you can power game the heck out of it with certain nice faces. Also, the Goddess card allows for a lot of abuse. However, there is now enough room for customisation to allow for a complete stomp fest. When everyone can get scores into the hundreds now… who wouldn’t feel godlike?