I was browsing Waterstones one day, not long after my brother had introduced me to some modern board games (Dixit and Concept if you were wondering), when I saw it. I'd never seen anything like it. I went home and grabbed some video games to sell so I could have it. The game was King of Tokyo, and I haven't looked back since.
King of Tokyo took Yahtzee, which I was very familiar with, and some how transformed it into huge monsters laying waste to Tokyo and each other. It's a game that is nearly always put forward as a gateway game - one that is a good starting place for the hobby. Dice Throne takes the core mechanic and makes it simpler and more complicated at the same time, but will either of those things make for a better game?
The first of many awesome things Dice Throne does is to provide individual inserts for the components a character needs. The dice, counters, tokens and cards are all stored neatly in an insert that can be taken out and used straight away. This saves on set-up time and gets you ready to game from the off. Simply grab the matching player board and crib sheet and you are away.
There are a total of six characters in the box and they are all completely different in terms of play style. There is a guide for how easy they are to play, but if you are use to terms like 'debuff' you'll be fine. The rule book and steps of play are more convoluted than they need to be and could benefit from some streamlining.
Essentially you'll be performing some up keep, rolling and assigning your dice to an action and then clean up. The player you are attacking has a chance to roll defence directly after your attack. Then swap roles and go again until one of you runs out of health.
So far, so straight forward. What makes Dice Throne stand out is the options. From up keep to clean up you have a variety of things to choose from. You can spend combat points on upgrades or cards that help at certain times. Most of them are useful and if they don't suit your strategy you can 'sell' them to the discard pile for one CP a piece!
The dice show symbols and numbers, and you are attempting to roll various poker inspired combinations. Per usual Yahtzee rules you can re-roll your dice twice more after your initial roll. Harder to get combos lead to more powerful attacks or effects. Right from the start you have a number of options on your player mat, but these are only increased by your upgrades.
Some characters focus on straight damage, some evasion, some apply various buffs or debuffs. All this makes the game a lot more strategic than you would initially think. The lesser powers are fairly easy to roll, but you are always tempted to push your luck to that next level, or attempt to heal, or that action you really need.
A lot of this will depend on your character - and they vary wildly. All the games I played ended up being fairly close affairs which was surprising as it was welcome. The game shines with 1v1 or team v team, but rules are included for free for all melees.
Here's one of my few negative points - to target in a free for all you roll a dice. I appreciate this avoids players picking on someone, but I would still like to make the choice. We've recently seen games like Gekido come up with elegant targeting systems, and something like that here would have been the cherry on top.
Worthy of the Throne?
While we are nitpicking there is one strange art decision to mention. The artwork is mostly superb, the player boards, the box, rules, the life and CP counters all look great. Then you play an upgrade card and it's just orange with text. It's no doubt a small thing but it is instantly noticeable.
Dice Throne is a great game of battling, so much so that after the successful Kickstarter the game has been picked up by Roxley Games, who have strongly hinted that both these things will be improved upon in Season 2, which is due imminently on Kickstarter.
So Dice Throne may not be the deepest game on the block, it may have the luck of the dice roll to mitigate, but it also gives me some of the most pound for pound fun I have had in a game. It's smart, elegant and some of the best work I've seen in the 'Yahtzee' mechanic sub genre. If you wanted a bit more fighting in King of Tokyo, then Dice Throne might just be the game you have been waiting for.