Designer: Masaki Suga (須賀 正樹)
Artist: Saori Shibata (柴田 沙央里)
Publisher: analog lunchbox (アナログランチボックス)
Playing Time: 45-60 minutes
Times Played: 4 with a purchased copy
DAZZLING DICELINE is a dice drafting worker placement game that asks questions about priorities: unlocking end game scoring opportunities or achieving the structures needed to utilize the scoring enablement? If a few locations appear to be disproportionately beneficial, do you throw all your dice at pulling something off to maximize those locations or can you find an alternate strategy that will be competitive? If the game orbits just a spot or two, is that a detriment to the game, or is figuring out how to maximally access those actions the whole point?
The action locations in DAZZLING DICELINE are limited by the color of the die you choose to use: gray, green, and red –with each specializing in a different department of the game’s levers.
Much of the actions I’ll discuss center around “bonus tiles”. These are square brown tiles that you’ll place in a 3×3 grid on your player board. On the front, they will show a bonus they can grant you, and on the back, they show nothing, but it indicates that it currently is exhausted.
By default, you can gain points at the end of the game for complete rows, columns, and diagonals of bonus tiles on your board: 1 point each. Any additional end game points, must be unlocked during the game with red dice. Each player starts the game with two discs in their color that can be used to mark which additional opportunities they have unlocked, and can gain more by advancing in turn order.
The red actions are most open to you with lower value dice: a 1 can activate any space, a 2 all but one, a 3 all but two, etc. A red 6 can only be used in a single space. The red actions can grant 1 pt per bonus tile, 2 additional pts for each completed row or column of bonus tiles, 3 additional pts for complete diagonals, pts for discs of yours on the red action board, etc.
Each player also starts the game with a purple layout tile which can grant points during the game for bonus tiles in a certain arrangement on your board, with more points being granted for achieving it sooner. Red actions are also available to gain additional layout tiles or to grant additional points at the end of the game for completed layout tiles.
How do you get the bonus tiles? You’ll start with one during setup, but the green dice are used to obtain more. The bonus tile market always has 4 available tiles, but the value of the green die determines where on your player board the tile can be placed.
Gray dice do their best to help you out, enabling die modifiers, hue shifts, turn order advancement, and bonus tile shifts. There is also one gray spot which grants 2 pts, and the gray options advantage the higher valued dice, with a 6 being able to activate any space, a 5 all but one, a 4 all but two, and a 1 can only be used on a single space.
The game is short and tight. It’s over in 5 rounds, and players have 4 actions per round. In a three player game, there are 18 action spaces available and only 2 more in a four player game.
At times it is as much a puzzle of how to use your own dice as it is a game with the other players. As best I can tell, the game centers around obtaining the bonus tiles: their inherit in-game abilities, their organizational basis for layout points, and their structural basis for end-game points.
There are 4 types of bonus tiles: bonus points; tile shifts; die adjustment; and turn order. Some of these vary in their powerfulness depending upon how many you can flip face down at the same time. The bonus point tile is always 1 pt. The tile shift and turn order tiles allow 1/3/5 of the corresponding action for flipping over 1/2/3 of the tile. The die adjustment tile can be used for a single pip up or down; any chosen value; or any chosen color –depending upon how many are flipped over. Using any of these bonus actions can happen at any time during your turn in addition to your die placement.
You will get to use the bonus tiles any number of times, as there are several ways to return them to a face up state: certain end of turn configurations, advancements on the turn order track, and discarding a die rather than using it to activate a location.
Each round a player will get 2 gray, 1 green, and 1 red die. The start player rolls a number of dice such that each player will be able to get a set, but also 1 extra set. The dice are arranged in columns by color, in ascending order, with 2 columns for gray. This system ensures that the valuable low-pip red dice and the valuable high-pip gray dice are rarely in the same row. Oh yeah, I didn’t say it yet, but when the players draft sets in a moment, they’ll take an entire row.
But first, the start player chooses any one row to line item veto. Then, the players each take a row in reverse turn order.
As best I can tell, you look at the dice board and ask yourself how you’ll get more than 1 bonus tile this round. There are 6 green actions available each turn, and each green die value can only be used once to take a tile. Layout tiles require 5 bonus tiles, and grant 6 points in turns 1-3, 4 in turn 4, and 2 in turn 5. The bonus tiles also, of course and again, have their own ability which can help. They’ll also be the basis of your end game scoring.
You’ll only be getting one green die, so how are you going to get 2 green actions? There is one location on the gray board, only receptive to a gray-6, which can change the color of one of your die, with the catch being that you may only ever have a maximum of 1 red, 1 green, and 2 gray dice on your player board, so if you have not placed your green die yet this turn, you may not change the color of another die to green. You can also change the color of a dice by flipping face-down 3 of the pip adjustment bonus tiles. This obviously requires that you’ve first obtained these tiles, but also doesn’t require that you use an action to change the color of the dice. It’s a sneak attack on the other player’s. A straight ambush.
The question I asked myself after my first play was: is there a way to win if you don’t get more than 1 bonus tile in each of the first few turns? I mean, there are only 5 turns, so maybe mandatory in turns 1 and 2? My conclusion is that I think so, but things will still come down to getting bonus tiles.
There are a non-negligible amount of points to be had by focusing on the 1 pt bonus tiles and the 2 pt gray action space.
If you are not focusing on those extra green dice in the first few turns, you can build the end-game preparations of red scoring opportunities by claiming the limited locations and unlocking additional discs.
Pushing all-in to obtain multiple bonus tiles the first few turns means less dice available for turn order pushes, 2 pts, and other extracurriculars. 10,000 hrs vs a well-rounded resume.
Is it an issue regardless? How is the game to be viewed? Looking at the actions as equals makes a few things seem unbalanced. Viewing the game as a competition to obtain the most bonus tiles, makes it the focus of the game, rather than only a minor part. Potato potato.
The spaces are tight. In a three player game, with each action only available once, it is easy to get locked out of what you want to do. It is easy to lock yourself out of what you want to do and it is not always easy to determine the right order to use your dice in: the gray adjustment actions many times can’t be placed in the turn sequence where you need them. You’re fighting yourself and the maddening crowds on the board.
If I rated each play of the game, it would be a downhill slide. The first game and part of the second were an interesting puzzle as we explored the game’s mechanisms and how the different pieces interact. There are several interesting things happening. With only 5 turns in the game, I didn’t notice it, but there’s not much of an arc to the game: turn 5 isn’t too different from turn 1. That was fine, as I appreciate the compactness of the experience (and components). When I noticed it was turns 16-20, as there’s also not much of an arc from turn 5, to 10, to 15, to 20. The interesting puzzle of 1.5 games didn’t make a compelling experience for the next 2.5.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it!
I like it.
Neutral. James Nathan
Not for me…