With tabletop gaming such a booming industry, it’s not every day that a game comes along that feels like something truly original. The designer of the very excellent Seasons, Régis Bonnessée, has achieved that with the utterly charismatic Dice Forge, published by Libellud – which was one of my most anticipated games for 2017.
The uniqueness at the heart of this game is a dice crafting mechanic that has to my knowledge only ever been seen once before in Rio Grande Games Rattlebones from 2014. However Dice Forge has perfected to much greater effect, fine tuning the innovative mechanic into a game Rattlebones wish it was. While it may not be the origin of the concept, this implementation is without question the benchmark.
For 2-4 players, Dice Forge is by all accounts a deck building and hand management game with modifiable dice replacing the card deck. Enshrouded in a Greek mythology theme of battling demigods, players take it in it in turns to roll their two dice in order to earn sun and moon shards, gold or victory points that they use in various combination to upgrade their dice faces with alternative faces or to purchase heroic feat cards from different locations on the game board. Naturally the more powerful dice faces and cards cost more resources. Depending on the player count, the game is played over 9-10 rounds with the winner being the player with the highest victory points at the end. Playing in little over half an hour, this game is incredibly easy to pick up once you get over the daunting prospect of the amount of components.
Which upon unboxing is the first thing that will strike you! There is a lot physically to Dice Forge; so much so that my initial question the light family game tag advertised. As well as the game board, we also have character boards and extensions, card decks, pawns, cubes, tokens and of course the dice and the many interchangeable faces.; it is a long contents list you would expect from a heavy hitting Euro game.
The second thing you will notice is the absolutely stellar quality of boxes contents, most notably an insert that has to be one of the best I have ever seen. The dice feel perfect, and the switchable faces work really well, seamless clipping together in a manner similar to two LEGO blocks that anyone of any age should have no problem managing. Not only is it very simple and extremely well made, it is also a lot more fun than you might expect.
As has become the norm for Libellud, the artwork is wonderfully vibrant. While the theme is neither here nor there for me as essential to the game, there is no denying it facilitates such a rainbow in a box and will appeal to younger players who would maybe not embrace a sci-fi or fantasy presentation quite as much. It’s bright, it’s bold and it is genuinely beautiful. Not only is it god damn lovely to look at, it’s has the component quality to back it up. From the clever “temple” board that holds all the dice faces not in use – which is stored in a hassle free sleeve between games – to the intricate player boards with extensions, the attention to detail is first class. Bundled all together, Dice Forge is as aesthetically pleasing as you can get for a family game. When you add in the fact that it can be bought right now for under £30, it is real bang for your buck and quite outstanding value for money.
Strategically the game is very light. Sure, there are multiple paths to victory and a good deal of decisions to be made, but it’s hardly deep. For me though there is definitely enough meat on the bone to engage and entertain all, specifically with the swift play time. While by no means a purely luck based game, it is prevalent enough to create a level playing field for players of all ages; where a six year old kid is more than capable of besting an older hardened gamer.
It could be argued that Dice Forge designers have purposely toned down the strategy for this very reason, ensuring the game has broader appeal. There is a heroic deed card of each type in the deck for all players to earn one, whereas had they limited these then a greater element of strategy could have been introduced. While I personally would welcome some more strategy, I think Bonnessée and Libellud have created a wonderfully balanced accessible game that has focussed more on being just great fun to play. This is thanks in part to the wonderful production and even more so the customisable dice.
And talking of the key selling point of Dice Forge, the dice crafting works exceptionally well in my opinion. It’s something that feels genuinely fresh and exciting. There is absolutely no reason why this mechanic can’t be applied to heavier hand management or deck building games, and in time I fully expect to see more games utilise this to varying effects. Even further still, while playing through Dice Forge I was actually drawn to thinking about Risk of all games, and how an old classic could be reborn into something really radical by implementing an element of dice crafting. Essentially, any game involving dice could be modified with evolving dice – the possibilities really are endless.
To many it may sound a bit of an extreme over reaction, but playing Dice Forge with this great new mechanic has echoes of the first time I played a legacy game. If its starts to be adopted in other games, it could be a massively intriguing revolution that could have a long lasting impact on the industry.
Here at Tabletop Tales I’m a massive champion of the fun-for-all games. As I have said countless times before, part of the strength and allure of board games is that they can be shared and enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds, providing a fantastic social platform to bring people together. And make no mistake, Dice Forge ticks all the boxes and may be one of my favourite family-friendly games I have ever played. Not only that, but this also works as a great gateway game to recruit more people into the hobby.
Not that I’m saying it’s perfect. I really think a trick has been missed with a lack of variation on the heroic deeds card, and they are the one aspect that did let me down a little in that they are a little underwhelming. Playing this you can easily think of numerous different types of heroic deed cards that could be added to create a more complete experience. However, this is only a very minor gripe and something an expansion could rectify down the line, and I hopefully we will see a few expansions down the road.
Back in my 2017 preview, I gave Dice Forge a top mark score for anticipation. Now I’ve got hands on, I’m reassured that I got that call spot on. It is a wonderful, charismatic and incredibly cool game that is a whole tonne of fun to play in any group. For me it’s a little more, it feels like it could be a spring board for something truly intriguing in the industry thanks to such a imaginative and deliciously deployed mechanic. Yet again, Libellud has further enhanced their reputation with a another utterly outstanding production, and Bonnessée has designed a really special game.
Simple put, it’s fantastic. So go and buy it!
Kickstarter Campaign of the Week
This week’s KSotW is quite fantastic!!
Introducing Unstable Unicorns from first time designer Ramy Bardie, labelled as “a strategic card game that will destroy your friendships…but in a good way.” This is a unicorn-love fest of a hand management game, playing in 30-45mins for 3-8 players. The object is to build up an army of seven unique unicorns by drawing and playing cards from a deck. The imagination and art of this little game is fantastic, and almost 7000 backers have pledged over $310,000in only five days – kinda humiliating the $10,000 target with 24 days to spare – ensuring this game will be successfully funded with fulfilment expected before year end. With pledges starting at $15, this game just looks far to much unhinged fun to miss out on! Plus, who doesn’t love unicorns?! Check out the campaign page for all the biz!
NEXT WEEK: I take a look at what happens when you turn a very funny parody twitter account into a card game…