Published in 2017
Created by Regis Bonnessee
Published by Libellud
No. of Players: 2 – 4
Playtime: 30 – 45 minutes
I think I’ve said on this blog a few times that I’ve always liked dice. When Quarriors came out, I was excited at the opportunity to own that many dice. I’ve loved the game Champions of Midgard as this was a game that mixed worker placement with dice. Sagrada is beautiful mix of dice and sudoku. Heck, I even love simple games like Can’t Stop, Farkle, or even Yahtzee because of the dice. I’ve always been a fan of the “push-your-luck” element. I’ve loved how a game can sometimes come down to a simple roll.
I also know that there are others who hate that side of games. That, despite the amount of work that they’ve put in, the game all comes down to whether or not they get the rolls they want. Sometimes it even disappoints me that at the end of a game, players start saying, “well I could’ve won, but the dice just never came out the way I wanted them to.”
I don’t know if you can ever alleviate this problem when playing a dice game. Designers have tried by producing games that allow luck to be altered, whether it be with a worker placement mechanic, a drafting mechanic, or even abilities where the roll can be changed. But one game I recently purchased and wanted to try allows you to completely change the dice that you have in an attempt to guide luck in your direction.
Dice Forge is a dice-crafting game created by Regis Bonnessee and is published by Libellud. In this game you are trying to earn victory points by altering two dice that you currently own, and going on heroic quests with resources earned through the dice rolls. The player who earns the most victory points after a set number of rounds wins.
Setup is tedious in your first play because you will be putting all the starting die faces into their correct places, but after that things will run smoother. Assuming everything was crafted properly, place the game board and temple on the center of the table, ensuring that all the dice faces are in the correct pools. Then place the cards into their corresponding spots on the game board. The game recommends that you play with the cards that have the blue dot first, but afterwards you can start playing with the slightly complex cards without the blue dot. Next, give each player a player board, board markers and two dice, one with a sun shard face and the rest gold faces and one with two victory points, a moon shard, and the rest gold faces. Place the pawns on their starting portals and determine the first player who will then receive the starting player marker.
Dice Forge consists of eight or nine rounds, with each player having the opportunity to be the active player. There are four steps in a turn of Dice Forge:
- All players receive a divine blessing. It just means roll the dice. Regardless of whether you are the active player or not, you will roll the two dice and earn whatever was rolled. This is indicated usually by moving the player markers on the player board. Players can earn gold, sun and moon shards, or use special abilities indicated on the reference sheet.
- The active player may call for reinforcements. If you had purchased cards that have a gear on it, you may activate these cards in whatever order you like. These cards provide additional benefits to the active player.
- The active player may perform one action. There are two actions that can be performed. First, you can make an offering to the gods by paying any gold that you have on your player mat and purchasing new dice faces that immediately need to be forged onto your dice. You may purchase any number of dice faces from the dice pools provided that they are different from each other. The other action you can take is to perform a heroic feat. This requires the player to move their pawn onto one of the seven available portals and use the sun or moon shards earned to purchase one of the cards at the location they are at. These cards allow players to earn points as well as provide them with a number of abilities, either one-time or permanent in the game. If a player moves their pawn onto a space where there was already a pawn, the ousted player moves back onto the starting portal and receives a divine blessing.
- The active player may perform an extra action. This is done by spending an additional two sun shards and then performing one of the actions listed in the previous step.
Once all steps are complete, the next player becomes the new active player and performs the same four steps. A round is complete when all players have had an opportunity to be the active player and the round marker moves one space. After eight or nine rounds (depending on the number of players), tally up all the points earned from the cards and add that to any points earned during the game through dice rolls. The player with the most points wins.
I want to first make a comment on the physical design of Dice Forge, because this has to be one of the most intricate and well-designed games I’ve seen. From the actual dice faces and dice, to the insert in which the components go in, it is noticeable that steps have been taken to provide a clean and enjoyable experience for players. After the initial setup, it was simple to take the components out and start a new game. Setup was cumbersome at first, but takes a few seconds afterwards. The artwork looked pretty cool as well. I did enjoy the cartoony look that the characters and heroic feat cards took on. Dice Forge is meant to be a light game, and the artwork complements this.
The biggest hook that Dice Forge provides is the notion that you can craft dice. You get to alter your luck by changing the faces of the dice, so you can manipulate them in how you want resources allocated to you. One strategy I used was to craft a die filled with sun shards first, so that way I can get those cards faster. One of my friends focused on putting all the gold faces on one die, so that he can consistently earn money to buy more die faces. There are tons of combinations that you can work with that will help earn you resources. My only minor complaint is the sticking of the faces onto the die. The game says that you use one of the faces you earned as a lever to get the old face out. I often popped the faces clumsily and they usually went on the floor or on the other end of the table. It felt like taking two stuck pieces of thin Lego apart, which fans of Lego would know is frustrating. They’re sturdy dice that secure the faces pretty well. It’s just sometimes a challenge to take the faces off.
As for the gameplay, Dice Forge was alright. It was easy to get through; it didn’t feel taxing when making decisions in this game. It felt like every decision you made was essentially a good one, although there were moments where I felt I should have taken cards and abilities when I had the chance. I had often said that I should’ve purchased certain cards because my resources have been maxed out and are being wasted. To win at this game, you need to be efficient at producing and spending resources so that extra resources aren’t lost. You also need to be careful with your timing as other players are vying for the same stuff as you.
There are three issues I have with this game. One is the lack of player conflict. I felt that players were really working on their own stuff, and trying to find methods that will maximize their points. There weren’t many ways to interfere with other players. Although there are some cards where you can destroy other players’ resources, or even change a player’s die face, the only real conflict I saw was whether or not I took a dice face first, in which you get scoffed at by an opponent because they were looking to make the same purchase. They also have the ousting mechanic where in the event a player is forced off a portal they get an immediate roll of the dice. I think this was done to prevent players from all going onto the same place, but it didn’t really deter me from going there. If I had the resources, I would go to that portal regardless of if there was a player already there or not.
The second issue I had was the lack of variability within the game. Nine of the card slots in Dice Forge either have a beginner dot version, or a non-dotted version. To mix up the game, you can randomly decide which of these two cards you wanted to pick from, but even with that shake up, it didn’t really change the gameplay that much. I genuinely hope that there is some sort of expansion to this game, because I feel that more could be done with such an interesting concept of crafting dice.
Finally, I found that Dice Forge works well for three or four players, but lacks when playing a two-player game. The setup becomes worse for two players because you now have to randomly select die faces from each pool to take out of the game. Also, although you are given two rolls each turn to earn more resources, the game still finishes way too fast. My friend and I when we played a two-player game often said, “that’s it?” as we are now tabulating points.
Dice Forge is a good game. I see this as being a great family game, or a game that works well with casual or first-time gamers. It even works well as a gateway game for those players who a new to the hobby and want to try something unique. However, this may be a bit boring for the avid gamer or someone who needs a bit of a challenge. I loved the notion of crafting dice, but I wish more was done with that. This could include incorporating more cards or die faces to mix up the gameplay. Dice Forge essentially is a very simple dice rolling game where you get resources and spend them to get better stuff. Unless you have players who are extremely excited about rolling dice like a group of people standing at a hot craps table at a casino, this game will be kind of dry. Don’t get me wrong though, the gimmick of changing the dice and trying new combinations of cards might be enough to entertain gamers in a casual gaming night and is definitely a game worth trying out.
- Cool and unique dice-crafting gimmick.
- Beautiful artwork and design and well-constructed insert for pieces.
- Simple and easy to play.
- Decisions don’t feel taxing. You feel like you’re always getting a good deal.
- Basic game; very little depth.
- Lack of player conflict.
- Needs more variability within the game.
- Scales poorly (especially when playing two-player games).