Dale Yu: Review of Dicium

Dicium

  • Designer: Joachim Thome
  • Publisher: Geek Attitude Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 30-75 minutes
  • Times played: 5, with review copy provided by Geek Attitude

Dicium was a game that caught my eye in my SPIEL 2018 preparations as the blurb promised four different games in a single box that are tied together with a unique dice mechanism.  I am generally a fan of dice placement games, and I have generally leaned towards games that rely upon dice variance – so this was high on my list to try.

All of the games use the eleven special dice – each of which is identical to the rest – which have a combination of backgrounds and pips: green 1, blue 2, yellow 3, red 4, blue 5 and the dicium symbol.  In general, when you roll the dice, you use them either for the background color or the pip count. The Dicium side is a wild for pips and always green in color. As you roll the dice, you are trying to either collect a certain number of colored sides or make a poker combination (pair, 2 pair, three of a kind, full house, straight, etc).

There are some rules which hold true across all the Dicium games.  All turns follow the same 2-2-2 rule – that is, you can roll the dice up to 2 times, you can then perform up to 2 actions and then you can store up to 2 unused dice.

When you roll the dice, you take your allotted amount and roll them.  (You usually start a game with a hand of 3 dice, but you can grow this to as many as 5 dice with the right actions.)  If you have stored a die from a previous turn, you can choose to keep that die (and it’s current result). If you do this, this saved die takes the place of one of the dice that you would have rolled; Roll the dice and then place the saved die in the pool with them.  (If you don’t want the saved die, just pick it up and use it as part of the group that you roll.) You can choose to re-roll any or all of the dice now, but you must accept the result after the second roll.

Then, you may take up to two actions – the possible actions are found on the player board for the particular game that you are playing.  You will use dice either in a color combination or a number combination. You may have special abilities from your player board that add to color combinations.  Dice that are used for actions are discarded.

Finally, if you have any unused dice, you may choose to store up to two of them by placing them on your board – do not change their results.

So – enough of the basic mechanics, let me tell you a bit about the four different games and my thoughts about them…  Again, each of the games uses a specific game board and player boards which outline the possible actions and combinations for that game; there are also a handful of specific pieces/cards used for each game.  Be sure to refer to the manual to ensure that you have the right pieces to place each game!

Crazy Cup – 1-4 players, 45-60 minutes

This is a racing game where players vie with each other to be the first to make a complete lap of the racing circuit.  There is a deck of Cheat cards which is used here – each of these 30 cards has some special rule-breaking action on it which players can use to their advantage.  Each player starts the game with three of these cards, and they can gain more of them through specific actions.

The game also uses some technology tokens which correspond to shortcuts on the race course.  If you have managed to collect the appropriate technology earlier in the race, you can spend it when you get to a shortcut to shave a few spaces off the overall track length.

In general, you roll dice here to move your vehicle forwards.  You can also spend actions to gain cheat cards or technology tokens.  If you roll especially well, you can convert your car into a blimp for a turn and float over all of the obstructions in your way.

My thoughts:  this is a straightforward racing game.  Sometimes, you just want to concentrate on moving your car forward each and every turn while others might try to use the cards to frustrate and thwart their opponents.  The cards are targeted and a little take-thatty, but this sort of mechanism seems popular in racing games, so it doesn’t feel too mean. Of all the games, this is the one that feels like it is mandatory to increase your hand size as soon as possible.  In one game, we had a player who was not able to do so for the first four or five turns, and by the time he was rolling a full hand, he was so far behind everyone else that he couldn’t catch up.

Dungeon – 1-4 players, 40-50 minutes

Dungeon is a small cooperative “dungeon crawl” game where the four adventurers explore the dungeon trying to find the Goblin King’s crown before they run out of time.  The dungeon board is placed on the table and is seeded with treasure chests and goblin tiles. There is a deck of Adventure cards used for this game, and each player gets a deck of cards (composition and number dependent on player count) which they place face down in front of them – never looking at it.  The starting player puts the Goblin King card underneath his deck.

In this game, before each active player’s roll, they flip up the top card of the Adventure deck and resolve it.  It might have a one-time action, a permanent effect (usually positive), a trap or a goblin placement. You then spend your actions to move about the dungeon, trying to find chests or defeat goblins.  The goal of the group is to find the Crown in a treasure chest, and for some reason, open up a certain number of chests. If the group is able to open up 9 chests, and find the crown, they will win.

The number of chests needed to win can be reduced as you defeat goblins.  Each player has their own trophy track, and each time a player defeats a goblin, they cover up a space on the trophy track, and this can reduce the needed number of chests by one, all the way down to 6 chests.  The player who has the lowest shown chest total sets the goal for the group.

If the heroes get the crown and the requisite number of chests, they win immediately.  The timer starts when the start player flips up the Goblin King card at the start of his turn.  The Goblin king is placed in the main hallway – which is 10 spaces long – and now at the start of each turn, a die is rolled and the Goblin King moves either 1 or 2 spaces (and possibly spawns more Goblins).  If the King makes it to his throne at the end of the main hall before the victory conditions are met, then the players lose.

My thoughts: Though I’m not the biggest fan of cooperative games, it is interesting to see how the designer has adapted the die rolling/action mechanism to this.  This is a fairly tense little dungeon exploration scenario. There seem to be no end to the Goblin supply, and you have to work on defeating them or running away from them – all dependent on your die rolls – each game.  We have found it best to try to designate one player as a Goblin killer at the start of the game; getting the number of chests needed down to 6 or 7 seems to be a must for us if we are to have any chance to win the game.

Civilization – 1-4 players, 60 minutes

Civilization puts each of the players at the helm of a competing Greek clan, fighting it out with their neighbors to be the strongest.  The board shows an archipelago of sorts with 10 different islands all separated by water squares. There are also 5 monsters which are found on the board as well.  This game uses some Philosopher cards (which give special actions) and some objective cards (which help you score points).

Each player starts from their starting canoe space, and then will roll their dice and use their actions to move around the board, fight the other players and the monsters, and build tiles (hero, city, temple, wonder) on the land and sea.  The board is split into 9 different regions (think a tic-tac-toe board), and each region is limited to having only one tile of each type within it.

Whenever you build a building, you score points for it: 1 VP per city, 3VP per temple and 4VP per Wonder.  You will also score based on regions at the end of the game, getting 2 VP per region that you have built in.

You can also use actions to gain Philosopher cards which give special actions – and are worth VP at the end of the game if they are not used.  Finally, there are both public and private Objective cards. Any time that you qualify to take a public objective, you announce it, and may the card and you will score points for it at the end of the game.   Alternatively, you can discard the public objective to increase your hand size by one.

My thoughts: This has been the most interesting game of the four to me.  My games have been more about building stuff in the right places and less about the fighting.  Yet, there is enough conflict that I always like to try to save one red die if possible to use as a defense helper in case I’m attacked by someone else (and then, if I am not, I have one red face in the bag if I want to go and try to slay a Monster on my turn).   

Shogun – 2 or 4 players, 30-60 minutes

Shogun is a asymmetrical game where one side controls the Ninja who are trying to come and kidnap the Shogun.  The other side controls the samurai which are trying to stop the Ninja from succeeding. At the start of the game, the Ninja start with a meeple each at the top of the board on the Torii space while the Shogun sits in the center of the palace.  He has his Samurai guards posted nearby.

This game is a little different than the other three in that each role has a slightly different set of actions based on the die rolls.  But, in short, the Ninja are moving around trying to capture the Shogun – they do this by being in the same space as the Shogun and then carrying the Shogun back to a Torii space.  They will fight the Samurai as they come into contact with them; they will also try to bring their team members into the fray if possible to give them more numbers in their quest to capture the Shogun.

The Samurai have to hold out long enough to alert the rest of the troops.  They can also use their dice rolls to control the Shogun – perhaps to move him to a safer location, etc.  There are 5 Alert cards in play at the start of the game, and each time a Ninja is defeated in battle OR when the Samurai are able to light a Brazier – they discard an Alert card.  The Samurai win if they discard the final Alert card before the Shogun is taken from the palace.

My thoughts: I’ve only played this one once, and it was a back-and-forth 2p affair.  It seems like this is the best option of the four for a two player game. If the Ninja are able to get a couple of two pair rolls early on, they really can put the pressure on the Samurai with the extra forces added to the board.  My game had a number of unexpected plays, and this is one that I wouldn’t mind exploring further – though my opportunities to play 2 player games are limited.

My thoughts overall on Dicium:

Dicium provides you with the components to play four completely different styles of game – and on the whole, all of the games are decent to good.  Like many compendium products though, I will admit that none of the games are great. Yet, there’s something to be said for being able to bring along this box and have such a wealth of options.  This would be a perfect sort of thing for a weekend trip – as you could bring one game box and then decide what to play later…

I do enjoy the dice rolling mechanism, and though each game is different – the constancy of the dice rules makes it very easy to pick up the new rules for the scenario.  So far, my favorite game has been Civilization, and my least favorite was the cooperative game (Dungeon).

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it.   Dale Y (overall, all games but Dungeon)
  • Neutral. Dale Y (Dungeon)
  • Not for me…

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.
This entry was posted in Essen 2018, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

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