Star Trekking… Across the Gamer-verse!!
In 2012 Steve Buonocore of Stronghold Games working with designers Geoff, Sydney and Brian Engelstein brought us the team-based hit, Space Cadets.
In 2013 the Engelstein’s struck back with another Space Cadets title, Dice Duel. Now, in 2014, we see the return of the Buonocore with not one, but two, titles! Space Cadets: Dice Duel – Die Fighter and Space Cadets Away Missions!
In a game store… not too far away!!
With the announcement of these two new titles, I felt the need to write a bit about one of the most entertaining team-based games I’ve played in quite a long time; so, I’m going to focus this post on last year’s Space Cadets: Dice Duel release. I got my copy of this great game on the UK day of release. I’d recently played its older brother Space Cadets, and this new addition to the family had me excited from the minute I heard it was being releasing.
It’s probably obvious from the game artwork that Space Cadets, in its various forms, borrows heavily from the Star Trek universe. With that said, let’s take a look at what Dice Duel has to offer…
“Dice Duel: the second frontier. These are the adventures of the starship Engelstein. Its dice rolling mission: to explore strange new gameplay, to seek out new opponents and new space combat, to boldly go where no game has gone before.”
Despite being fun to play, the original Space Cadets game was considered, by some, to run on for too long. Also, being a team-based game, there was no player vs player conflict. However, thankfully, Dice Duel turns this on its head completely. With a playing time of around thirty minutes and team vs team combat, the two games are a whole galaxy apart. That’s not to say that Dice Duels is nothing like the original game, it retains that great starship feel including the different ship stations, but it simply takes out some of the more cumbersome mechanics and adds some competitive tension to the mix.
It’s dice Jim… but not as we know it!!
Two teams of up to four people, become the crew of their very own starship. Armed with 25 dice, each team rolls to power and control a variety of stations around their ship:
- Engineering (6 white dice)
- Helm (3 yellow dice)
- Weapons (6 red dice)
- Shields (3 blue dice)
- Sensors (4 green dice)
- Tractor Beams (3 orange dice and 2 mine tokens)
Depending on the number of players the different stations are assigned to different people. For example for a six player game, with two teams of three, one person takes on the helm, shields and tractor beam stations, the second player takes on the weapons and sensors stations, and the final player becomes head of engineering.
If you have four players on each team the fourth player takes on the role of Captain. This player has no physical station assigned to them, but it’s their responsibility to instruct the team on what to do.
I’m a Doctor not a… Dice-roller!!
The aim of the game is to co-ordinate your team to power, protect and navigate your starship around a star-map whilst tractor-beaming, scanning or firing upon your opponents. You do all this by rolling the myriad of dice that enable you to perform the actions of each of the stations. Let’s take a look at some of these in more detail:
Engineering: The head of engineering has the responsibility of providing power to all of the other stations. The player who has this station must roll six regular dice and when a one shows the number of the station they want to power they pass this dice to that station. As they provide more power to more stations they have less dice to roll. For each energy dice that is passed to a station, the player in control of that station may begin rolling one of their own custom dice.
Helm: The helmsman is in control of piloting the ship; it’s their job to navigate towards the opponent. The dice rolled by the helmsman show arrows representing the different directions the ship can move including straight ahead, left or right turns, or an about-turn. The helm itself has three positions labelled A,B and C. The helmsman rolls the dice and, when happy, places one on each of these positions. When each direction dice is placed on the helm, the helmsman returns an energy dice to Engineering for them to begin rolling again (This is actually done when any station sets a dice, but I won’t keep repeating it here.) A direction dice placed on the helm cannot be moved from one position to another, unless the helmsman removes it from the helm and waits for enough energy to roll it again. When the third and final direction dice is placed on the helm, the helmsman executes the planned manoeuvres on the main board and removes the direction dice from the helm.
Weapons: The weapons officer loads the ships weapons. Each ship can fire a maximum of two missiles at any one time. They can be fired from the fore or aft of the ship. The weapons officer rolls a dice per energy and must roll the three symbols that make up a complete missile. It’s entirely up to them, or the Captain, which direction they will fire them from and as soon as the two missiles are loaded the weapons officer waits for them to be used.
Shields: The player in control of the shields rolls their dice to determine the strength of the ships shields. The stations is split into four quadrants, one for each of the four directions fore, aft, port and starboard. Dice are placed in any of the quadrants that the player wants to provide shields to and can be used when the enemy launches an attack. If the attack comes from a diagonal then the quadrant with the highest shield strength will be used to defend.
Sensors: The sensors station has two sections, one for locking on to a target and the other for jamming your opponent from locking on to you. Without a lock you cannot fire your missiles at your opponent. The dice for this station have symbols for both locking and jamming and the player who controls these must place them on the station in the correct locations.
Tractor Beam: Tractor beams are used to grab things such as other passing starships. The player in control of this stations rolls dice to build tractor-beam strength for later use. There’s a few rules on how the tractor beams work, but I won’t be going into them here, nor will I be explaining the mines that this station can drop. Yes I said mines!
Offence is the best defence… Red alert, shields up!!
All of the stations you’ve just read about, on both ships, are all frantically rolling dice simultaneously. Engineering passes energy around the ship to power the stations, which in turn, return the dice to engineering. With both sides manoeuvring their ships towards each other, it’s up to your helmsman to put your ship in the correct position to fire. When you have your opponent in your sights you shout “Fire 1” or Fire 2” depending on how many missiles you’re firing. At this point all players stop what they’re doing and you resolve the attack. (This is the only time during the game when people get a break from the dice rolling frenzy.)
At this stage it’s down to your sensor operator to have gained a lock on your opponent’s ship, and the weapons controller to have loaded the missiles into the correct tubes. A series of steps are followed to determine whether you hit your opponent and then the frantic dice rolling resumes. One weak link and you’ll miss, leaving you with empty launchers, no sensor locks and an enemy breathing down your neck.
Eventually your opponent will be the one launching the attack. With weapons locked andmissiles loaded, you’d better hope that your shields and jammers have been primed. Otherwise you’ll be in a whole world of pain.
Ultimately, the team that does the most damage wins the game. For each damage that a ship takes the team loses one of its energy dice. If the team ever loses a fourth energy dice then they have failed in their mission.
All Good Things… Room for expansion!!
As I said earlier, there’s an expansion called Die Fighter coming out later in 2014. This great-sounding addition to the series promises to add small single person fighters to the game which can be used as part of a larger game scenario or as a one on one, two player experience. There’s also mention of some experimental equipment which will modify each teams ship in a different way. Watch this space for a review of this as and when I get my hands on a copy.
However, for those who are wondering what else the base game has to offer, there are a number of ways to mix things up a little. For example, the game comes with wormholes which, as you might expect, transport ships across the map from one end to the other. It’s probably best to avoid these on your first few plays, or at least until you’ve got the hang of the basics. You can also use the map tiles from Dice Duels older brother Space Cadets. I’ve not tried this myself but it could definitely spice things up a bit with all of the debris floating around those maps.
Finally, the rules provide guidance on combining two Dice Duel sets and having multiple ships on each side. I can’t imagine how crazy that game would be, but the phrase “as mad as a bag of coat-hangers” springs to mind.
Mission complete captain… take us home number one!!
So with plenty of frantic dice rolling, several options for spicing things up, and the promise of even more expansion material on the horizon; Space Cadets: Dice Duel amounts to a really fun game that gamers of all ages can enjoy. If you haven’t tried it already then I recommend you give it a go sooner rather than later.
If, on the other hand, you’ve already played Dice Duel and enjoyed the dice rolling, the team play, or just the theme, then you might want to give the following a try:
Escape: Curse of the Temple – A fast-paced, fifteen minute game that I absolutely love playing. With the right group of people this gem can be total riot. There’s two expansions out already, Illusions and Quests, both currently available to buy here on GamesQuest.
Space Alert – Another space-themed team game, see how you perform under pressure as you move around the inside of your spaceship, powering up weapons, defending against invaders, shooting down enemy ships, looking out the window and moving the mouse. This game, is again, extremely good fun to play, it piles on the pressure from the word go and will have you laughing for an entire evening. If you manage to master the very difficult base game, then you can even add more to your space adventure with the New Frontier expansion pack.
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Driven Instructional Designer by day, board game fanatic by night! Tom has a long background in eLearning design and is a strong believer that story and narrative are crucial to creating excellent learning and gaming experiences. A passionate blogger, game reviewer and play tester, he enjoys spending his time playing games of all genres.