Matt Carlson: GenCon 2015 Mega Rundown – Dice Games

rubiks cubeOnce again I spent a busy two days (Thursday and Friday this year) at GenCon and have come back with a pile of photos and information.  I love the experience of “drinking from the fire-hose” of boardgame rules thrown my way over the two days.  Herein are my regurgitated memories of the games I saw, watched, and probably only partially understood.  Note that the photos will sometimes be blurry, as will be my memories (although I did take copious notes – on two pads of paper no less…)  Figure that any errors I relate are entirely my own fault (not the demo people who have an extremely demanding job during the convention.)  Hopefully something I have written will be interesting to you, the reader, thus justifying my effort of typing all this in.

In order to avoid the 10,000 word mark (or whatever column’s recommended limit), I’ve broken my reports down into five separate columns.  Dice games, Children’s games, Family Games, Euro Games, and Everything Else (RPGs, electronic stuff, interesting photos…)   Not that they will necessarily appear in that order.  Today’s column is “Dice”, mostly because it is the smallest category.  There seemed to be a lot of dice games appearing this year, so I put them all into the same column.  Of course, in order to stretch things out, I went on and added in just about any game that used dice at all.  Moving on…..

AEG          Dice City

dice city

In Dice City (2-4p), players roll five dice (one of each color) and place them on the designated spot on a 5×6 grid (one spot for every possible roll.)  One one’s turn one can then remove dice to accomplish different actions, such as removing a die to activate the ability on that particular location.  Other options include discarding a die to move another die left or right one space, refresh 4 of the 8 central location (building) cards to look for more options, reactivate a closed building, or simply gain a pass token (1/turn limit.)  Two pass tokens can be exchanged for 1 resource, +1 strength (in combat) for a turn, or to force an opponent to reroll one of their dice.  The second phase of the game players can use strength to attack bandits (gain VP), attack other players (to close a location), or attack other players to steal 1 resource.  A player then uses all their resources (1 of each type can be saved)  to build one of the 8 showing locations (which replace one’s default spots on one’s board), or build trade ships (for VP.)  Rinse and repeat until the location deck is spent, one player completes (upgrades) two complete rows on their board, 2 of the trade ship stacks are gone, or all of the bandit stacks are gone.

Bezier Games          Favor of the Pharaoh

favor of the pharaoh

My first thought when I saw Favor of the Pharaoh was a comparison to To Court the King.  However, this game has some nice differences that look like it would make it even more interesting.  Players roll their dice attempting to get favorable rolls to qualify for improvement tokens on the board.  Players keep rolling, as long as they “lock in” (set aside) at least one die before each roll.  Once a player stops (or runs out of available dice) a tile is earned.  For example, a roll of a small straight (ex. 3,4,5) might qualify one for a particular improvement tile. Depending on the type of tile, it may grant additional dice for the future, ongoing benefits – like die manipulation, or a one-time power to be used later (or right now) in the game.  (Yes there is a booby-prize tile if you can’t earn anything else…)    Things I like about the game include multiple types of dice (some are more “powerful” having wild card symbols, etc..), the three styles of tiles (red – actions, blue – modify dice, yellow – grand more dice), and the high variability of starting setup.  Not only are there several options for which tiles to use during a game, the “prices” (what must be rolled) for each level of tiles can be flipped over for yet another way to change the game.  All in all, looks to be a “build-up” dice game with plenty of options (not just “get more dice” are different every game..  It should be out in October.

Grey Fox Games          Champions of Midgard

champions of midgard

In Champions of Midgard, 2-4 players (each with unique starting powers) compete over 8 rounds to earn the most Glory (VP.)  It is a worker placement game that includes several types of dice that represent one’s fighters, used to go out and fight local and “overseas” combats.  (Red dice have a shield side to protect  in combat, black dice have no shield but higher combat value.)  Losses in combat result in the loss of dice, but they are fairly easy to gain back.  Players use their workers to build up improvements (military or economic), gain more dice, and collect resources.  Dice are placed on a monster tableau and are used to fight the shown monster at the end of the round.  Unfought monsters go “overseas” and can be fought later, but at a cost for a boat as well as food for the voyage.  Defeated monsters provide gold as well as victory points.  There is a Troll that invades each round, and if it is not fought the town “blames” the players who get blame tokens.  Fighting off the Troll allows one to ditch a blame token and give a token to another player.  Other aspects of the game include runes that grant one-use powers and destiny cards that determine end-game scoring for everyone.  You start with one destiny card and can draw more in the game, kept secret from the other players. The 8 round game should take about 60-90 minutes.

Hasbro          Monopoly Here & Now (USA/World) and Star Wars Risk

monopoly here and now

When one thinks of Hasbro, the roll-and-move type game may come to mind.  Monopoly (yay!) is coming back in yet another flavor this year.  Monopoly Here and Now (in USA and World editions) has its spaces determined by online voting.  Rather than traditional Monopoly, it will go for the faster play of Monopoly Empire – a slightly more cutthroat version of the game where you race to build your personal tower and can steal properties from the other players.  A more interesting game (to my boys, at least) is the new Star Wars Risk (yes, no subtitle.)  It obviously shares similarities with all the other Risks (although the more modern versions where players have tasks, etc… for more scoring/winning conditions.)  One main feature of the game will be three entirely different combat areas.  One main, central one, but also two “wings” that form the shape of a TIE fighter.  The side boards have various things going on that also need attention.  Obviously, the circular central board (centered on a Death Star) is important but players need to be careful they don’t give away too much in the other  areas.

Mayfair          Catan Traveller Edition and  Star Trek: Five-Year Mission

traveller catan

Barely squeaking into the “dice game” column is the new Catan Traveller Edition.  It is slightly more compact than the Travel Box, this edition comes with a foldable plastic hexagonal case that keeps all the components safely within it.  Pieces and cards fit snugly into the drawers on the side of the hexagon.  (Note that the pieces don’t slip into pegs like the Travel Box, so it doesn’t work as well on bumpy rides.)

five year mission

Clearly you can see the table about to go into warp drive…

The big dice game coming out from Mayfair is Star Trek Five Year Mission.  A 3-7 player co-op game, each player is given a character from Star Trek universe (classic or next gen) with unique powers.  Players draw missions from three decks (easy to hard) and then try to complete them by matching appropriate rolls of their dice.  Failures can damage players, removing one of their dice (which may be healed later.) Some missions are considered “Prime Directives” which have to be completed before any others.  Only 3 missions of each difficulty can be present, if a fourth is drawn it damages the ship (forcing players to pull from the more difficult missions in the future.)  Completing some missions scores points. A wide range of difficulties is available; beginners need to score 10 points (at least one of each color), while those wanting a harder game can play for 19 points (and at least 2 of each color mission.)



Portal Games          Rattle Battle

rattle battle 2

In the pirate themed Rattle Battle, players fight through 5 rounds to collect the most loot.  The game has two main phases, players first roll the dice and then use the values to collect loot and/or fight other players’ ships.  Next players go into port to store their winnings and, more importantly, upgrade their ships.  The best part of the game are the cute little pieces.  It reminded me of the fun of building up my dinosaur in Evo. Each ship upgrade adds to the ship (size, cannons, mast, etc…) and thus one’s ship can get nice and impressive by the end of the game.  Ship upgrades change the dice available as well as combat values, etc…  After five rounds of play, the game ends.

Red Raven Games          Above and Below

above and below

Above and Below from Red Raven Games is so named as players use worker placement mechanics to build up their town above and below ground.  On a turn, players can build (paying money), harvest resources (off built cards), train (gain workers), labor (gain $$), or explore.  Dice serve as the workers, and players can gain various “better” workers later in the game which are represented by difference dice.  To explore, one sends off at least 2 dice into the caves and rolls dice to choose a story paragraph to be read.  The paragraph includes flavor text but also a choice of (at least) two possible challenges (typically an easy and a harder one) which are completed (or not) by rolling your worker dice.  Players may encounter choices which will lower their reputation (worth points at the end) for short term gain.  Exploring is also necessary to open up options of building in the caverns.  The worker upkeep is handled by limited numbers of beds.  The number of beds owned is the number of worker dice that are refreshed at the end of the round (in the late game one might just start ignoring the weaker, beginner dice.)  After 7 rounds, victory points are awarded from the advancement track, reputation, special scoring cards, plus 1 VP per building built.   It looked fairly intriguing, perhaps something akin to a cross between Arabian Nights and Caverna, but nowhere nearly as long to play.

Tactic          Dice Alias

alias dice

Playing off the popular (at least some parts of the world) Alias word-based game, Dice Alias has many similarities to Boggle.  One player rolls all 8 dice in a central cup and players race to figure out words (4 characters or longer) formed from the letters displayed (blanks are wild.) When a word is discovered, the player shouts “alias” and then proceeds to describe the word (no motions) without saying it.  If/when the word is guessed, the guesser and the wordsmith both gain a point.  Anyone can then yell “alias” again and start the process over.  Players who are sick of the shown dice can grab them and reroll them any time between a word is “solved” and a new “alias” is announced.  There are also discs that can be flipped over displaying categories.  Create a word that matches the category and you gain 2 extra points.  The game is scored as a “race” (points = places moved) with the first player to reach the end winning the game.

Upper Deck:          FireFly: Shiny Dice

firefly shiny dice

Fans of the Firefly setting will appreciate the various nods to the show through the game mechanics and very pretty space-asian style art in the game.  The game is primarily consists of rolling one’s dice, where each side of every dice displays a symbol representing a character from the show.  The 7 crew dice (displaying crewmembers from the ship), 3 passenger dice (displaying passengers and cargo), and the three foe dice (Saffron, Niska, and Badger) are placed in their appropriate place on the player mats.  A mission card is then turned over.  If the displayed dice are able to complete the mission the player has the option of ending their turn at the end of this round – even if they were unable to eliminate all the foe dice.  Otherwise, each foe attacks the friendly dice, eliminating dice and putting them in the KO’ed pool.  The player then use their remaining dice (moving them to the spent pile) to remove the foe dice from the field (they are not KO’ed, though.)  Several die symbols are also able to recover KO’ed dice, moving them back to the spent pile.  If a player defeats all the foes, they earn 300 points (cash) plus 100 for any supplies left.  This money is set aside, and a player may reroll all the dice NOT in the KO’ed pile to try to earn more.  Note that this means there will always be 5 Foe dice but fewer and fewer “good” dice each time.  If a player ever fails to eliminate all the Foe dice on their turn, their turn ends and they also lose all the money/points set aside this round.  Play passes to the next player. After three rounds, the game ends and points are totalled up.  As mentioned, the game is rife with references to the series and I think fans will be most likely to enjoy the game.  It is playable with 2-4 players (although only 2 of the handy play-mats come with the game) but its “solitaire” like play makes me wary of a larger game.

And with that shiny game, we end today’s installment… tune in next time to hear me say…. WHAT?  I have to write up HOW many games tomorrow?


About Matt J Carlson

Dad, Gamer, Science Teacher, Youth Pastor... oh and I have green hair. To see me "in action" check out Dr. Carlson's Science Theater up on Youtube...
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2 Responses to Matt Carlson: GenCon 2015 Mega Rundown – Dice Games

  1. Barbasol says:

    Thanks for the report!

  2. Carl Klutzke says:

    I really enjoyed Above and Below (and I utterly dominated that game you photographed). I’d like to have it, but it plays just a bit longer than games I can generally convince my family to play, so I’m on the fence.

    Five Year Mission is great. It was my first purchase of the con.

    It was good seeing you!

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