The dice-chucking duelling game Dice Throne, released early in 2018, was successful enough that designers Nate Chatellier and Manny Trembley have had another go with a second season. The Kickstarter wrapped up in spring 2018 with an impressive final total of just under £550,000 and began shipping in late November 2018.
I was one of the backers that got on board with this project and took a bit of a risk; I hadn’t played season one (and still haven’t) so I was coming completely fresh to the franchise. Dice Throne: Season Two looked enticing enough to convince me to make it the only game I’ve ever backed on Kickstarter, but has it lived up to my expectations?
Dice Throne Gameplay
If you’ve already played Season One, you can skip this section. As far as I can tell, nothing has changed in the game’s mechanics and both seasons are completely cross-compatible.
Dice Throne’s creators bill it as a cross between King of Tokyo and Magic: The Gathering. I see where they’re coming from, but the game feels very different to both. However, it shares the Yahtzee mechanic with King of Tokyo: during their turn, players will roll five six-sided dice up to three times and take an action based on the result.
All dice are numbered one to six and have either three or four symbols. For most characters, numbers one to three have one symbol, four and five have another, and six has one more. Most actions can be chosen with a combination of these symbols, but a couple of them require large or small straits or get stronger by rolling three or four-of-a-kind, so you can’t ignore the number completely.
The goal of the game is to knock your opponent from 50 health to zero. To do this, you make an attack each turn. The attack you choose is based on your rolls. When you attack, your opponent usually has a chance to defend. Every one of Dice Throne: Season Two’s eight characters has completely unique attacks and defences and no two characters share the same kinds of dice.
While rolling your character’s dice is the central mechanic, each character also has a unique deck of 36 cards. Players can spend combat points to use these at various points in each other's turn and they have a range of effects. Some upgrade your actions; others change dice and others manipulate the various resources in the game.
Another unique feature for each character is their combination of status tokens. These mark effects that can be applied by attacks and cards throughout the game. They can be positive or negative and can be manipulated by cards. There’s somewhere in the region of 20-25 different status tokens in the game, so remembering what they all do is a bit of a challenge, it has to be said.
Is Dice Throne: Season 2 actually good?
I want to start this section by saying that my wife and I have both really enjoyed the games we’ve played so far. I didn’t want to buy just another card game and Dice Throne Season Two isn’t that - it feels like a unique game of dice combat and supporting card play. It’s the first game for a long time we’ve sat down together and played three times in a row in one sitting. I don’t care about much else - that says to me that this is a great game.
However, it’s not perfect, so let’s get the negatives out of the way. The first is pretty much guaranteed to be a negative for anyone; the second is subjective. The first negative is that some rules just aren’t that clear. The rulebook is fine, but it doesn’t explain every card (nor would I expect it to) and some of the wording on the cards isn’t overly helpful. I’m still not confident on some of the rulings my wife and I made on some of the ‘may’ cards.
Card timing is also a little woolly, and it’s unclear at which points you can activate certain effects - particularly those that resolve around the roll phases. My wife and I choose the simplest, most lenient interpretation of the wording whenever we got confused, but I’m not sure that we get them all correct. It’s not game-breaking, but it’s annoying and noticeable.
The second main negative I could see someone raising is the high level of randomness. In reality, if you buy a game called ‘Dice Throne’ you have to expect some level of variance, but I know some people won’t like it. In one game, I threw five sixes on my first roll one turn, triggering my ultimate attack. My wife had a way to change my dice, but if she hadn’t that would have been a hugely unlikely event (odds of one in thousands) that could have swung the game completely. Moments like that will happen in a game like this and to enjoy it you have to be able to embrace them, not moan about them.
I had to mention those negatives but the positives far outweigh them, in my opinion. That same randomness that some players might not like leads to fantastic tension across multiple turns, with many actions that will leave one player cheering and the other groaning. Every turn feels exciting and engaging for both players, as they both have the chance to roll dice, play cards and affect the game.
The length of the game is also spot on. My wife and I play it in around 30-40 minutes, which is a great length for a duelling game, allowing you to have multiple rematches if you so choose. It will be longer at higher player counts, but the fact that there are rules variants to account for three to six players is a bonus in itself. I’m yet to try it with more than two, so I can’t yet say how good those versions are.
The fast, engaging gameplay is backed up by excellent production. The eight character packs - a number that lends itself to fantastic replay-ability with some 28 possible match ups - feature stunning full art player boards, unique decks of 36 beautifully-illustrated cards and a unique set of custom dice (I love custom dice). I got some extras with the Kickstarter (like character-themed card sleeves and some promo cards) but the basic game alone contains stunning components. If you want to try the game without committing to the whole lot, you can buy duelling packs of two characters to give it a go.
Even writing this review makes me want to go and play the game again. Dice Throne: Season Two has been a revelation for me. I have no regrets about backing it on Kickstarter. I would recommend it without hesitation to people who want a good two-player game or those who enjoy dice-rolling goodness. I’ve already got my eye on Season 1, and I plan on looking out for Season 3’s Kickstarter early next year, which I’ve heard will include a co-op mode. Watch this space - the team at Roxley Games are doing some brilliant work.
You Might Like
- Close, fast-placed gameplay.
- High tension leading to exciting, game-changing moments.
- Very little downtime with plenty to do on every player's turn.
You Might Not Like
- Lots of fiddly rules on cards and status tokens.
- Rulebook doesn't help you resolve all questions.
- High level of randomness in the dice rolling mechanic.
You Might Like
Close, fast-placed gameplay.
High tension leading to exciting, game-changing moments.
Very little downtime with plenty to do on every player's turn.
You Might Not Like
Lots of fiddly rules on cards and status tokens.
Rulebook doesn't help you resolve all questions.
High level of randomness in the dice rolling mechanic.