Dice Masters is a game that has been around for about 2 years, with new sets of cards and dice coming out at a rapid rate: Dice Masters Civil War is the 5th Marvel set, the 8th comic-Book set, and the 11th overall, with each set being playable by itself, or integrated with previous waves.
I’m new to Dice Masters, how does it play?
Dice Masters is a two-player, head-to-head dice-building game. You start off with 8 “sidekicks”; generic dice that roll faces signifying a variety of energy types, or a single low-level character. On your turn you draw and roll 4 dice, then field characters into the combat zone, or use energy to buy dice that can roll for more powerful character faces. When your bag is empty, all the dice you have spent, along with the ones you have bought go back into the bag, and you go round again.
You buy dice from a team you built before the game: you have 8 cards, with up to twenty dice between them, and abilities designated by the cards.
Characters you field have an attack and defence strength, and on your turn, you can use your fielded characters to attack your opponent. Your opponent has the chance to use their own characters to block, with any unblocked characters damaging them directly. Any time a character has taken damage equal to or greater than its defence, it goes to the KO pile, where it will be added to the 4 dice that players draws and rolls on their next turn. Any unblocked character goes to “used” along with spent energy and newly-purchased dice. Each player starts on 20 life, and the object of the game is to reduce your opponent to zero life, either through attacks or game effects.
He Was My Friend
In the wake of the recent Captain America film, Dice Masters Civil War was an obvious choice for this set, and there are various characters included this time around who you’ll recognise from the cinema. That said, this set does seem to be more inspired by the Comic-Book crossover event from 10 years ago (and the new event coming this summer) than by the recent film.
Cap and Iron Man are both present, as you’d expect, and you can also call on the services of Falcon and Black Widow. The other characters in this starter set may be less familiar from the film, including Rocket Raccoon (seen in Guardians of the Galaxy), Wasp (coming in Ant-Man 2, sort of…), and Scarlet Spider and She-Hulk, neither of whom have made it to the big-screen yet.
The Dice Masters Civil War starter set gives you all you need to play a limited game of Dice Masters – 3 cards and 2 dice for each of the 8 characters, along with enough generic dice for 2 players.
Is there anything here for the veterans? Yes!
If you’ve been playing Dice Masters for a while, there’s always the question of how much value you’re going to get out of a new set: it’s very unlikely that a well-established player is going to be buying Dice Masters Civil War just so that they can get some more sidekicks or basic action dice.
There’s definitely still some cards in Dice Masters Civil War worth looking at: I’m a big fan of thematic builds in my Dice Masters teams, and the She-Hulk from this set not only has really good efficiency and a nice ability, but also comes with the Avengers Affiliation, and generally feels like a definite step-up from the previous version of the character we saw in the Uncanny X-Men set.
For other characters, there are so many versions around now, that these ones might have to fight a bit harder for inclusion: I prefer the Avengers vs X-Men Iron Man, and think the Age of Ultron Captain America is probably the safest option, although the “anti-Reg” version from this set. The new Black Widow still isn’t as good as the Super-Rare “Tsarina” from the first set, but it’s unlikely we’ll see anything on that power-level again. Fortunately, the set has enough new characters, along with effects from the new Resistance and Enlistment keywords, and the return of “Fast” from the last DC set, so there are definitely plenty of reasons to get this.
Whose Side are you on? The side of good?
Characters in Dice Masters can be given affiliations which allow them to power each other up through various synergistic effects. Dice Masters Civil War sees the return of some well-established team affiliations like “Avengers” and “Villains,” limited support with some more fringe-teams like S.H.I.E.L.D, Spider-Friends of Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as 2 brand-new affiliations: Thunderbolts and New Warriors.
Gameplay wise, these affiliations don’t offer a great-deal: New Warriors does nothing, which is a bit of a disappointment. However, teams can give you a fun direction to take things in, and provide a more thematic basis for team-building than just “what looks like the most powerful option?”
The confusion of Civil War is also nicely reflected in that Dice Masters Civil War is one of the few times we have seen affiliations shared between Villains and non-Villians. This is refreshing as, up until now, Villain sub-themes had always been fairly pointless – anything they did could be done better by drawing upon the synergy of “villains” as a whole.
A team like Thunderbolts combines some of the folk you’d associate with side of good with some nasties, and allows you to blur the lines a little. Sadly though, whilst they’ve created a great opportunity to explore some interesting new design-space, they haven’t really delivered on it: there is only 1 card in the entire set that interacts with the Thunderbolts affiliation at all, and that isn’t a starter card. Still, it was nice to see them moving in a fresh direction, and hopefully this is something we’ll see expanded in the future.
Ready for some action? Basic Actions
Whilst the characters you build your team from will be determined before the game starts, as you put together a market of 8 characters containing up to 20 dice, Dice Masters players also need to think carefully about Basic Action Dice.
Like characters, Basic Actions are chosen by players when planning. Unlike characters however, there are always 3 dice for each Basic Action, and they can be bought by either player.
For this reason, Basic Actions need a bit of thought – you don’t want to bring a weapon too powerful that ends up being used against you.
Dice Masters Civil War comes with 10 new Basic Action cards, spread over a wide cost range from 2 to 5. The 5-costers are very powerful, but probably too expensive to get bought much: The Front Line turns 1 big attack into an even bigger attack, whilst Long Live the Resistance winds things back by gaining you 4 life.
Lower down the cost curve, Dice Masters Civil War offers some options to manipulate stats, with Suffering and Satisfaction lowering one character’s attack by two to boost a teammate’s by 2, or you can manipulate dice location with a card like Escape Incarceration to move dice from the Used pile (you’re not getting this back until you need to re-fill your back) to the Prep area (roll this next turn, on top of the 4 you draw).
Figuring out which Basic Action dice to bring, and then to buy is one of the most intriguing elements of the game, requiring a fair amount of skill, and Dice Masters Civil War certainly offers a lot of options here.
Whatever characters or actions you and your opponent bring, it’s always worth keeping your eye out for globals. A Global Ability is one printed on a card in red that either player can trigger, throughout the game (and bears no relation to whether the corresponding dice have purchased or are in play). Although there are rules around priority and initiative, the fact that globals are basically always available means you need to think about them carefully, and Dice Masters Civil War gives you some new options to worry about. Globals in this set can force characters to block, stop them from blocking, damage them directly or prevent damage to them, or even gain life back for a player who loses a character. As with basic actions, you need to be carefully about arming your opponent, but there’s certainly plenty of food for thought here.
Where next? Time for a boost!
As I mentioned earlier on, a starter set allows for a limited game, and Dice Masters Civil War is no exception. For a team to be ‘tournament legal’ – and more importantly to get the fun of a full game experience, each player wants a team of 8 characters and 20 dice, something you can’t do with a single starter. Obviously, you could go out and get a second starter, to give yourself 4 dice per character, but a lot of the fun comes from the collectible aspect of this game, i.e. buying boosters.
There are 32 other characters in this set, along with additional versions of the 8 starter characters, and they can be found in randomised boosters, which each contain 2 cards and the matching dice. This is where you’ll be able to round out your team with key characters from the film like Winter Solider, Ant-Man, Spider-Man or Zemo, or follow the comic-book angle with Goliath, Hercules, Maria Hill and The Punisher. At £1 a booster, with deals to be found if you buy in bulk, there are a wide range of options available to you as you expand and customise your team. Who knows, maybe you’ll be lucky and pull one of the hard-to-come by and rather powerful Super-Rare cards!
Dice Masters Civil War – The Verdict
Overall, I think Dice Masters Civil War is a good set. This box does its job as a starter set, and is a good way in to the game for new players, but it has also has things to offer existing Dice Masters fans – As I mentioned earlier, I’m a big fan of the new She-Hulk, and if you can get your hands on the Super-Rare Thor Black Widow, she looks truly destructive (all of the alternate Universe Super-rares from this set look cool, sadly I’ve not drawn any yet…)
The designers of Dice Masters Civil War seem to know their audience too: there’s a good spread of Civil War comic characters, along with familiar faces from the Cinematic Universe. If you like Marvel and you like Dice, there’s no reason not to get it. For the next set, we’ll be back to DC comics for Green Arrow and The Flash, which seems to be pushing the TV-show angle fairly hard based on early spoilers – we look forward to see what’s to come!
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I'm an avid board and card-gamer, still trying to figure out where Board Gaming fits in my new life as a dad.
I enjoy thematic games (Fantasy, Cthulhu, etc) and play a lot of cooperative games, along with a bit of competitive gaming (currently Dice Masters and Destiny) when I can make it out of the house.Competitively. When not playing games, I can be found doing a mundane office job, or working on my own Blog, Fistful of Meeples.