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Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men | Review

May 14, 2014
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Designer: Mike Elliott and Eric M. Lang | Publisher: WizKids Games, 2014 | Players: 2 | Playing time: 30 mins

Ever wondered who would win in a fight between Ironman and Spiderman? Or maybe Professor X vs. the Punisher? Well…you’ve probably missed the last few years of superheroes games, then. But that’s okay, because here’s another one! The latest hotness to hit the shelves, Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men, is a two-player collectible dice-building game from Mike Elliott and Eric M. Lang. Starting with a core set and then expanding your game with booster packs, you can build your own marvel dream team and pit them against your friends (or foes) in this ultimate Marvel universe royal rumble.

DESIGN

If you’ve dabbled in the designer board game hobby within the last few years, you’ll notice an eerie similarity between Dice Masters and another dice-drafting/building game, Quarriors. This is because the team behind the hit alternative deck-builder has redesigned and re-purposed their original system with a new found emphasis on combat and constructed team-building.

The overall design of the Dice Masters system is roughly the same as Quarriors: players use custom dice representing the different characters and abilities; only this time, the goal is to reduce the opponent’s health to zero. Each die has six custom sides and provides a mix of “energy” (the in-game currency), “characters,” (the heroes and sidekicks that’ll be duking it out), and “actions” (bonus moves and special abilities that will buff your team/debuff your opponent). By buying, drawing and rolling these dice, players will utilize the recycling mechanic from popular deck-builders to keep a constant flow of options available on their turn.

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Regarding component quality, there seems to be a large divide in opinion amongst the board gaming community. The starter set consists of 44 dice, 38 cards, 2 dice bags and a rulebook. Supplemental booster packs consist of 2 cards and a corresponding die for each card. There have been reports of chipped dice, missing paint, bent cards, and subpar paper dice bags. While some complications occur with many games, the perception is that these issues arise at an atypical rate with Dice Masters. Of my personal collection, I currently have one chipped die and a few with paint problems (either missing or off-centered). As for the boosters, the chosen packaging system has resulted in almost every card being warped in some way, just to varying degrees. Depending on your motivations, this could be influential on your purchasing decision.

GAMEPLAY

Marvel Dice Masters begins with team construction. This can be done with effort or randomly, but there are no pre-constructed team lists provided, outside of those recommended for the beginner game. For casual play, teams will be built with up to 6 different characters and 15 total dice. For tournament play, teams can consist of up to 8 different characters and 20 dice.
To build a team, simply select the characters that you’d like to play with and how many of that character’s dice you’d like to bring, respecting their listed limit 8F9A5721(usually four of each character dice) and the maximum dice total for the style of play (casual or tournament). Players will also need to choose 2 “basic action” cards to use, which do not count toward character and dice totals. These dice will make up the pool of dice you have available to purchase and then utilize during play.

SET-UP

Once constructed, each player will set their chosen team, basic actions, and dice out on their side of the play area. I would recommend copying/printing the playmat featured in the rulebook as it provides a cheat sheet on how to play. Eight of the white “sidekick” dice will be placed in each player’s dice bag; these form the generic set of dice that will be used to build a pool of larger dice throughout the game. With that, it’s time to start rolling.

PLAYER’S TURN

Each player’s turn consists of 5 phases:

  1. Clear and Draw: Move any leftover dice from the previous turn to the “used pile” and draw four (4) dice from your dice bag. If you are unable to draw the full amount, draw as many as possible, place your used pile into your dice bag and continue drawing.
  2. Roll and Re-roll: Roll ‘dem bones. Drawn dice are rolled once and then any/all can be re-rolled one time. Any dice that began the turn in your Prep Area will be rolled in addition to the four (4) drawn for the turn.
  3. Main Actions: Players may spend energy to buy new dice from their character cards or from the available basic actions. If the die cost has an associated “energy type,” at least one of the energy spent needs to match that type. These dice will be added directly to the Used Pile. Players may also spend energy to place character dice into the “field,” where they can then be used to attack or defend. Any action dice rolled may also be spent at this time for their associated ability.
  4. Attack: Characters in the field may be declared as attackers. The opposing player may then declare one or more of their own characters in the field as blockers. Blockers are each assigned to specific attackers. Characters then simultaneously deal their attack value to each other, with any unblocked characters dealing their attack value to the opponent’s total life value. Any character that takes damage equal to or greater than their defense is “knocked out” and moved to the controller’s Prep Area. Unblocked characters are moved to their controller’s Used Pile. Survivors are returned to the Field.
  5. Reset: All effects that stop at the end of the turn resolve now and damage is cleared from all remaining character dice (meaning there is no carry-over damage between player turns)

Once completed, turn will pass to the next player. Once one player is reduced to zero (0) health points, the game immediately ends and the survivor is declared the winner!

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OVERALL EXPERIENCE

Marvel Dice Masters is currently receiving a wealth of feedback and response, both positive and negative. On one hand, it’s an affordable and exciting new game featuring a beloved intellectual property and a vetted design team. On the other, it’s a Quarriors reboot that has not handled demand well and is taking flak for perceived subpar quality.

From those League members that have played it, the response has been generally positive, if not completely enthusiastic. Dice Masters manages to be quick to learn, teach, and play, while still providing tactical considerations, especially at the larger team counts. A lot of the challenge and fun comes from developing synergies both in and out of the game. Like many heads-up two-player games, it is as much about reacting to your opponent’s choices as it is about executing your own strategy. Of particular note is the ability to hold characters in the Field across multiple turns and choose when to strike. This design choice creates a nice back-and-forth between the players, akin to a classic Magic the Gathering duel.

When it comes to team building, more characters means more options and variety, which is where the collectible aspect comes into play. WizKids has chosen to follow the same model that has caused many-a-game to flounder, only they made the wise choice of keeping it cheap. Very cheap, in fact, as a booster pack retails for $1 and potentially offers two new characters and a die for each. This means that the average $35 8F9A5694 copyboard game purchase will easily net you a heap of Dice Masters goodies, including a starter set. The trade off here is quality, though quality in this game is a matter of perception and expectation. Low costs mean money was saved somewhere and WizKids made the correct choice by favoring physical and mechanical design over form. Your dice may not be perfect and your cards will likely be warped, but damn they’re pretty and they’re functional. Much of the included art is fantastic and, regarding the packaging decision for boosters, the cards straighten out with some weight applied. It’s valid to personally evaluate how you feel about these flaws, but if you can overlook them, you’ll find there’s so much game to be found here.

Even so, it’s always true that this game may not be good for everyone. Those looking for a deeply tactical strategy game may not find as much here. This is, in the end, still a dice game. It happens to be a very good dice game; one that offers depth in team building and attack-and-defend decision making, but it’s still a dice game. Similarly, those looking for a lighter/party game may find that this won’t deliver either. It’s intended only for two-players (though variants exist) and it’s still meaty enough to potentially scare off some more casual gamers – though I’d say the former is more often the problem.

The contention surrounding this game is partially fanfare and partially justified, so it really comes down to personal preferences (no surprise there…). Before buying into the hype, consider the collectible nature of the game, the quality and price of the product, the chosen theme and – above all else – the fun factor. Worst case, jump on in and test the waters; it’s a low-risk venture in both time and money.

LEAGUE RULING

LoNG_Stars_3_HalfSteebin

With only 1 play under my belt of the basic game, I can say that I see what the hype is all about. I enjoyed the game mechanics and can see where the team building and booster packs can make a big impact. The game seems to be very well balanced. Even if you have the toughest guy in the set, you still need to get the perfect dice roll to utilize him. I am, however, a little turned off by the quality of the components, but it’s not a deal breaker for me. Some decent dice bags and a nicely printed playmat can solve a lot of concerns I have with this game. I’m sure there will be some kind of deluxe set in the works to have an upgrade in starter set components. I am looking forward to picking up a starter set when they become available again.

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Ben

My interest was piqued the moment I heard about this game and with the price-point, I had no choice but to at least give it a shot once it was released. After the basic intro game I was intrigued and immediately played the full version, which was even better and really showed what this game had to offer. Now with several plays, I can say that I really enjoy it a lot. It’s fun, but also brings more strategy than I was expecting. The matches can become very intense at the end with the key to victory being the proper utilization of your available dice. At $15 for a starter and $1 for a booster, I can easily overlook the bent cards and sub-par dice. The component quality does not take away from my enjoyment of the game. Therefore, I think this one is a must buy once you are able to get your hands on it.

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Buns

This game is great. I think it’s fair to just come out and say it. I’ve avoided collectible games since the WoW TCG and for good reason – they’re expensive and tricky to stay on top of. Dice Masters, on the other hand, is still in its infancy and is dirt cheap to hop into. Although I’m taking a slow-burn approach to obtaining and opening booster packs, I’m still having a ton of fun with the small pool of characters I have. I’ve been able to play this with several different people now and only one of them hasn’t enjoyed it, as he prefers more deep strategy Euro-style games. This is most certainly not that; this is a revamped Marvel Quarriors, which is what makes it fantastic to me. Dice + super heroes + two-player dueling + deckbuilding = Fun. A whole lot of it. This game is easily up there with Android: Netrunner as one of my favorite two-player games, and maybe even one of my current Top 5 favorites overall. This game provides enough strategy and decision making to keep you invested, but adds in some luck and risk-management to keep both sides of the table guessing. I think there’s a lot of potential here and I can’t wait for new opponents and organized play.

LoNG_Stars_4Smee’s Two Pence

Having taken Quarriors and tossed it in a BlendTec blender along with several back-issues of X-Men, the Avengers, and a whole truck-load of other Marvel characters, Wizkids delivers this: Marvel Dice Masters. It’s a collectable game, with your usual common / uncommon / rare distribution, along with a fourth ‘Super-Rare’ level, that on average shows up once per booster box.

 

Right, now that we’ve gotten that bad taste out of the way, I’ll say that the $15 for a starter, and a mere dollar for a booster is a pretty attractive price-point. While shortages have marred the initial launch of the game, Wizkids have already ordered two reprints; the first of which will be air-shipped and arrive in the next couple of weeks to sate our desires.

 

While I’m not explicitly a Quarriors fan, they’ve done enough tweaking with the combat system to allow a good bit of strategy and even tactical thinking, which is a huge plus. The deck-building element is also key; as with any comic book a number of ridiculously-powerful characters abound, but hopefully you’ve brought your own super-powered posse to put a stop to any of your opponents shenanigans. I don’t think I have any interest in Tournament play (something about dice and me that never get along), but I’ll happily give MDM a thumb and a half in the Casual category.

LoNG_Stars_4_HalfKelly B!

As soon as I heard about this game, I was fairly excited. I am a big fan of Quarriors, albeit one of few in our beloved circle of gamers. I really enjoyed throwing dice around, then using them to beat up on other people. Anyway, this game is equally as fun, as far as I’m concerned. Dice Masters gives me the chance to play with a whole handful of dice, but to do so while pretending I have control over some of my favorite superhero and villain characters. I’m still getting the hang of my own personal strategy. Each time I build a team, it’s another chance to tweak my game. As I’ve played more and more, and learned the characters, I’ve certainly developed some favorites (Beast, Hawkeye, Nova), but I’m still working on a reactive game. Dice Masters leaves room for strategy and deck-planning, but it keeps the game unpredictable by throwing in the element of luck inherent in drawing and rolling dice, meaning no 2 games are going to be the same, even when you play with the same team over and over.

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Matt H. (Buns)

CONTENT MANAGER/PODCAST HOST : Perpetual consumer of all things board, card and game. Lover of dice, card sleeves, and fancy meeples. Jack-of-all-games, Master of none.

  • Great review folks! I enjoy the separate opinions of the individual members at the end. While I haven’t managed to get my hands on a starter set, we have made to with some printed sheets, generic d6 and some booster packs. It’s a blast to play, and the dice are super cool, even if they are not all perfect.

    • Cheers! I think it’s great that WizKids provided the PDF files to allow fans to proxy the needed cards while the starters are unavailable.

      • Indeed, It’s still not quite the same but at least we can play!