Dale Yu: Review of Marvel Dice Masters – Age of Ultron

 

Marvel Dice Masters – Age of Ultron

  • Designers: Mike Elliott, Eric Lang
  • Publisher: WizKids
  • Players: 2
  • Ages: 14+
  • Time: ~20 minutes
  • Times played: 5 with introductory set

ultron

Marvel Dice Masters – Age of Ultron is one of the varied Dice Masters versions – all tied in with movie licenses – that have hit the market in the past few years.  Dice Masters is a collectible dice game which is based upon Quarriors.  I was given a starter pack to start to experience what the game is like.  The contents of the starter kit include 44 custom dice as well as 38 cards.

The dice are of varied colors.  There are 2 dice for each of the 8 different character types.  The character dice can be picked out as some of their faces have tiny numbers in the corners of each face.  These numbers tell you the attack, defense and cost of that character.  There are 3 each of 4 different colored basic action dice.  Finally, there’s a bunch of white sidekick dice.  There are cards that match each of the characters in the game.  There are actually 3 versions for each of the 8 characters in the game, each with different characteristics.  There are also 10 basic action cards provided.

In setup, you choose 3 of the action cards and place them in the center of the table.  You next put a color coding card underneath to remind you which color action dice go with which card.  Each player starts with 2 character cards and takes the corresponding dice.  These start off to the side of the player area for now.  Each player takes 8 white Sidekick dice and places them in a dice bag, and each starts with 20 Life Points.

3 action cards and their corresponding dice

3 action cards and their corresponding dice

Each player has an area in front of them for their dice. The attack zone is closest to the opponent.  The field zone behind it.  Dice can be off to the side in the Used pile and dice can be found within the dice bag.

Example of your play area

Example of your play area

Play alternates back and forth, and there are 5 phases to each turn

1 – draw

If you have any dice in your reserve area, move them to your used pile.  Then Draw 4 dice from your bag.  If you don’t have 4, draw what is there, then move your Used pile into your draw pile and continue drawing.

2 – Roll

Roll all the dice that you just drew (as well any set aside for rolling in a previous turn).  You may choose to re-roll any or all of your dice once.  Once you have re-rolled, you are stuck with what you’ve got.

The different character dice in the main set

The different character dice in the main set

3 – Main Step

You now use the rolled dice to do stuff.  You can purchase a die – this can come from one of the action cards in the center of the table or from the two character cards on your side of the table.  In order to buy a die, you must pay its cost in energy (icons on the dice)-  the cost is found on the card, and it will specify a type of energy.  At least ONE of the energy units must match this type.  Any newly purchased die goes to your used pile.  The dice used to pay the cost are placed in the Out of Play area, and they will soon make it to the used pile as well.

If you rolled a character, you could field it – but to do so, you must pay the fielding cost in energy – this cost is found in the upper left corner of the die.  If you have rolled any Action dice, you may be able to use any exclamation points rolled to activate the corresponding actions.

4 – Attack

Once you have used all your dice that you want, you can decide to attack.  You are eligible to use any fielded characters to attack – you simply move them into the Attack Zone to specify who is attacking.  You are not obligated to attack.  For each attacker that you declare, the opponent can decide to block with some of his previously fielded characters.  To show the block, the blocking dice are moved directly in front of the attacking die that they are blocking.  Then, the attack is resolved.  All attacking and blocking dice both attack and defend simultaneously.  Each character die has both an attack and a defense value on the character face.  If a die takes damage equal to or greater than its defense number, that die is knocked out – and it is placed in the Prep area to be rerolled in the next phase #2.  If a character is unblocked, it deals damage directly to the opponent – who subtracts the attack total from his life count.  The unblocked character is moved Out of Play and will be put into the Used pile in a bit.

5 – clean up

Character dice that were knocked out are moved to the Prep Area.  They will be rolled in their owner’s next Phase #2.  Character dice that took damage but were NOT knocked out simply stay in the field zone of their owner.  Unblocked attacking dice that dealt damage to the opponent are placed in the out of play area.  Finally, all dice in the out of play area are moved to the Used Pile.  Your turn is over, and the opponent starts up with his Draw Phase

End of game – the game ends when one player is reduced to zero life – that player loses the game.

My thoughts on the game –

The Dice Masters series of games is a neat take on the Quarriors idea.  There is more than enough in the starter kit to play a full game, but the true beauty of the game will be seen when you’re able to add more dice and cards to the game universe through boosters.  Booster packs each have 2 dice and 2 matching character cards.  There are varying levels of rarity to the Boosters.

Once you have extra dice and cards in your possession, you can use them to pick and choose your characters to use in a particular game.  There are 142 different cards in the Marvel Dice Masters – Age of Ultron universe, so there is plenty of possibility in customization.  There are 4 levels of rarity (common, uncommon, rare, super-rare).  All the cards in the base set are of the common rarity.

List of possible cards/dice

List of possible cards/dice

The first and foremost determinant of your thoughts on a game like this is your tolerance for the collectible nature of the game.  Like most collectible “whatever” games, the player who has the ability to get more “whatever” will have a better chance to excel at the game.  While it’s possible to play with just common cards, the abilities and strengths of the rare cards are almost assuredly greater than the commons.  If you like the chase and excitement of opening up booster packs looking for the next great card, this will certainly be up your alley.  If you’re not into that – or if you’re like me, and you’ve had to swear off Magic: the Gathering because you couldn’t stop getting more cards – you may want to stick to just the starter set.

...and the back side with the rares

…and the back side with the rares

Thus far, we’ve had a lot of fun just playing with the base set, and the actions/characters are pretty well balanced (even if they are only basic commons).  With the 3 different variant cards for each of the 8 character dice, there is already a fair amount of variety in the game.  Your strategy with a given set of dice could most definitely change depending on which character card you have in the game.

The rules are straightforward, and anyone who is familiar with Quarriors, Dominion or many other deckbuilding games should pick up the flow of the game quickly.  The dice are nicely made, and the number of custom dice is quite high for the price point of the starter set.

Because of my desire to stay away from collectible games, I would personally prefer to stick to the fixed universe of Quarriors – but I can see where this could really scratch the itch of constant discovery in a changing universe of dice and cards.  For me, I “like” the game play, but feel “neutral” of the overall package due to the collectible-ness.

Shiny booster packs waiting to be opened

Shiny booster packs waiting to be opened

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Matt C.:   I was able to fiddle around with one of the early X-Men sets but was more interested in the Dungeons and Dragons themed set when it was released.  I obtained a starter set, tried it out, and found it fun.  It seemed quite swing-y from time to time but when I lost badly I could often pinpoint a few poor choices I had made.  There is a bit of rock-scissors-paper going on as some dice have abilities that severely hamper others.  My opponent and I would pick out several cards and “draft” them between us as we really weren’t into building a complete army.  After a number of games with the basic set and just a few boosters I suspect the game does have some good strategic points hidden amongst the randomness of the die rolling, so a skilled player would have the advantage but not a lock on any given game – a good thing for a game of this weight.  Comparisons to Quarriors will be made, and I think the more variety of Dice Masters gives it a less constrained feel.  Quarriors seems like a game was squeezed into the dice-building mold while Dice Masters is a slicker version with its collectibility giving it more of an open feel (for good or ill.)  In the game’s favor, the “theme” of each release of dice is fairly distinct so I have no compulsion to try to get some of the other releases of dice to add to my D&D themed collection.

Some cards from another set

Some cards from another set

A note on “collectibleness”:  Most cards allow 3 or 4 dice in play, and there are 3 rarities (not counting super-rares) for each of the 40 types of dice (which all have the same “rarity”.)  Since most cards allow the placement of 3 or 4 dice maximum, one would need somewhat less than 120 dice (including the 16 in the starter box)  and 160 cards to have a full set.  A friend spent $60 for a box of boosters and got a nearly complete set of dice and cards (minus some ultra-rares.) I went with eBay and for $20 I got two sets of common cards (but also 2 of each type of die.)   I see on eBay $30 will get you a complete set of commons and uncommons (and 2 of each dice.)  So, figure $60ish for everything but super rares and $30ish for more than enough stuff for several people to play around with for quite awhile.  $60 is a decent boardgame price, while $30 is a decent cheaper boardgame price, make of that what you will.

the icons from that set up close

the icons from that set up close

Ooh it's a dice bag

Ooh it’s a dice bag

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I Like it.  Matt C.
  • Neutral. Dale Y
  • Not for me…
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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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3 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of Marvel Dice Masters – Age of Ultron

  1. Pingback: Dale Yu: Review of Marvel Dice Masters – Age of Ultron - eJouer.info eJouer.info

  2. We have a base set and a number of boosters of one of the earlier sets – and we’ve created some house rules to make for slightly longer battles. I think it’s got more actual game than Quarriors – but the two-player-ness and the CCG-model keep it from being a “love” for me.

  3. Pingback: Matt Carlson: Preview of Dice Masters – War of Light | The Opinionated Gamers

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