Updated: Sep 15, 2022
WBG Score: 8.5
Player Count: 2-6 (but really 2!)
Dice Throne first came out in 2018. It was billed as a Yahtzee style fighting game. Pitting warriors from different backgrounds in a fight to the death. Or at least, to the end of your hit points. Death seems a bit much in retrospect. Clever card play was added to the dice chucking fun, and a legendary game was born. I was never that attracted to it as the characters all seemed a little too generic for my liking. But then, after the success of Season one and Season two, kickstarter and franchise money came to play and the Marvel version was made! Thor vs Captain Marvel?! Yes please. Let's get it to the table and see how it plays.
The hardest thing in this game is picking who you want to play as! All the characters are so cool, you will want to try them all! You can randomly determine the characters, but where is the fun in that. Sit there, look through each one, pour over all the cool powers, and agonise over who you want to try first. When that is done, grab a drink, perhaps have a comfort break, then go back and change your mind a few more times, then collect the character you have eventually settled on. Change one more time, then open that characters box of treats.
Each character is set up in their own box, with their player mat, health and combat power dials, cards, and dice all neatly stored, ready for you to play with. Open them all up in front of you, and you are ready to go. The simple accessibility to get this game to the table is one of the huge highlights to this game.
How to Play
On your turn, you will roll all of your dice. You can re-roll as many of them as you like up to three times. Each player has their own special abilities, clearly shown on their player boards. Your aim is to match the dice symbols to one of your powers to enact its abilities. This part is very much like Yahtzee where you are looking for straights or groups of the same symbols.
When you have finished rolling and decided what power you want to use, you then announce the Offensive Ability you have chosen. Your opponent can then try and change your roll with their own powers and cards. If they do, you can then change your attack if required, or use any un-used re-rolls. Once the dust is settled, generally what happens here is your opponent will then roll for their own defense against your attack. Each character has a different type of defence, either blocking some damage or giving damage back. Both players will adjust their health accordingly and then the attacking player does it all again! That's right. You get two attacks per turn!
The game will go like this, back-and-forth until one player looses all their health. There are Upkeep phases where players resolve any effects of status tokens played on them, an Income phase where you increase your Combat Points dial by one and draw one new card into your hand. But the bulk of the game comes with the dice. Roll dice. Choose an attack. Enact damage on your opponent. Great fun!
Despite the dice being the obvious star of the show, it is the clever card play that makes this game for me. You start the game with two Combat Points and get one more each round. These are used to play your cards. Each card needs a certain number of Combat Points in order for you to play it. The cards will allow you to manipulate your or your opponents dice, increase the powers available to you on your player board by upgrading them, and as a way to gain your own Status tokens, taking them from your character sheet, and adding them to your player board for later use.
The status tokens are all unique for each character and offer hugely varying selections of abilities. I am a big fan of Spiderman's ability to create Combo's and essentially have extra turns. That feels great. Loki has suitably tricky powers allowing him to foil his opponents attacks with special cards that only he has access too. And I loved Captain Marvels Cosmic Ray, that allows her to add one dice rolls number from two dice, to any attack. Each power felt suitably thematic and accurate to the characters abilities from the comics and movies we have all loved over the years.
The status effects are all very easily explained and used. Each character has their own character sheet which holds the tokens, and details each one very clearly. Everything about this production screams quality and careful planning.
Is it Fun
Getting Marvel Dice throne to the table is so simple. The game trays are so good and useful for a quick set up and put away. Each character feels very different and it will take a while to learn their own particular strengths and abilities. But the game itself is a breeze to learn and teach. Playing Dice Throne feels fast and fun. Sure, it is often luck based due to the dice, but there are so many options for most dice rolls, and a lot of opportunities to manipulate your luck with your cards and powers. There is a lot more strategy to this game than first meets the eye.
As you play, you will become obsessed with rolling what you need for your Ultimate move. Each player has their own unique special move, activated from rolling five sixes. Which, on its own, sounds hard and rare. But with your re-rolls, dice manipulation, and extra powers, it does happen usually once per game. And when it does, oh goodness does it feel good! You just hope you're the first one to roll it.
Do You Feel Lucky?
There is something magical about dice. Throwing dice. And getting cool things from throwing the right dice feels good. Sure, there is a luck involved, but I think that this is where a lot of the joy comes from. No one would cheer as loudly at a Vegas table if someone won big after clever card play. Watch the Poker finals to prove this. I am not saying it isn't absorbing or fun to watch, I am just saying the cheer from winning big from something luck based like Roulette is often bigger than winning something strategy based like Poker. Why? I think this comes from the instant result. Generally, a good move in a board game comes with careful planning over time. Whereas something good happening to you that is luck based happens in a moment. Flip a card. Push your luck. Roll a dice. As these five dice crash and roll around your table (or dice tray) you will be hoping for some luck. And when it comes in, it feels great! You go from zero to hero in a moment. That quick progression and instant success is a spectacle to watch and experience.
Some games can be ruined by this. If you are working hours with clever strategy only to be blighted at the last moment by another playing getting lucky, that does not feel good for anyone. But when a game is built on this mechanism of luck and dice throwing, this frustration is replaced by joy. It wont be for everyone, but if you want a game that involves a bit of luck from throwing dice, than this could be the one for you. It's not all luck, such as a game like Strike, but you cannot avoid the fact that luck plays a big part.
Each player has access to their own special status powers and cards that can affect your luck, and manipulate your fortune to your advantage. Some characters are trickier than others, but they all take a little bit of working out. And this process of studying your character and developing an understanding as to how best use each one is a real joy to me. There is something to be said about working out the best match ups, although I don't think I am quite there yet. But I am enjoying trying to understand each character more, depending on who I am up against.
This game is billed as a 2-6 player game. But for me, this is all about two players going head-to-head in a dice chucking battle. The down time in higher player counts does not work for me. It feels fast and frantic in a two, but tedious and slow in anything higher. I understand why they made this compatible with higher player counts, but I feel it adds very little with more than two, and the game would be better placed to simply market itself as a two-player only game.
The cards are all clearly labeled with a clever colour frame which quickly highlights what type of card it is, and when it can be used. This is displayed on the side of the card too, just under the symbol showing you cost of the card in combat points, and also showing the phase it can be played in.
All the symbology is very user friendly and will become very quickly understood wen you are at the table, with your character board and sheet in front of you. The art used is fantastic, and really brings alive what you are doing, although this does lead to me to my only real complaint with this game.
Will you Like this or Love this?
The theme of this game is fantastic. Marvel characters fighting out using awesome moves activated by clever card play and dice throwing. What's not to love!? However, the theme does feel a little absent as you play. You can forget who you are, and what you are doing, and move into a war of attrition, simply trying to get your opponents health dial to zero before they do the same to you. I think the difference between people liking and loving this game, will come from those who can bring the theme to the table and keep it there. The bright and vibrant art on the cards and character boards will help, but it will rely on you as the player to keep the theme front of mind. Will you be throwing threes, Illusions, or helmets? It's all the same. But how you interpret your dice rolls will affect the immersion into the theme as you play.
The status powers help with the theme and the players being swept up into the Marvel world. They are all thematically chosen and relevant to the characters you are playing as, and if you can add a bit of flavour text and story as you play and use them, it will bring a little more drama to the table. Although I appreciate not everyone will want to, or enjoy doing that. For me, it adds a lot to the game, and helps me enact my lifetime fantasy of being a super-hero just that little bit more.
Which really is what this game is all about. Do you want to get lost in the Marvel universe for half an hour? Pretending you are Loki or Spiderman. Fighting Captain Marvel or Thor. Reenacting scenes from The Avengers movies. If this sounds like fun to you, I would wager you are going to absolutely love this. if you like clever card play linking to a bit of luck from dice throwing, you will enjoy the game but think perhaps it's a little over produced. If you don't enjoy luck based games, this will not be for. But as someone who loves dice chucking games, who is a huge Marvel fan, and is very happy to get lost in the theme of a game by throwing myself into the universe it creates, I love this game.
It will come to the table more due its accessibility. The simple set up provided by the game trays is a huge plus. But this is not something that would last for long if the game wasn't fun. But the game is fun. A lot of fun. The satisfaction that comes from getting the right combination of dice to enact huge damage on your opponents is huge. Achieving this from a combination of luck, clever card play, and the use of your player powers feels great. There are some real highs in every game of Marvel Dice Throne. Addictive highs that will make you come back over and over. Battle after battle.
Learning how each character works in a joy in itself, and will make the first few games with each character a lot of fun. Mastering how to use each one feels great too. Feeling as if you are becoming comfortable with each characters strength and weaknesses and learning how best to use them feels great.
There is a lot to love about Marvel Dice Throne. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the Dice Throne franchise already. Anyone who is a fan of the Marvel universe. Or anyone who likes games with a bit of luck, a bit of strategy, and a lot of high moments. To Battle!