Dice Forge Review
Dice Forge is a new innovative dice building / dice rolling game from Regis Bonnessee, a French game designer that came up with Seasons and Lords of Xidit. I found Seasons to be amazing, played it several times back in the day and I really love the dice. Though the dice present the game with resource generated drafting mechanic that visually popped up among other components, Seasons is a game of tableau building, there are many card chains and combos within it that players can explore exponentially once they knew the basic. I found the cards have high interaction and pretty much take-that. I am not a fan of the later, Lords of Xidit which focuses more on the programming aspect, I found it to be painful or I must say brain basher to figure out what your next moves are. Dice Forge is kinda bit evolved from Seasons to say the least. The dice are truly the essential components where players will improve their dice throughout the game in order to get points in several ways.
There’s no strong theme in here, though as French games usually do, they get help from the visual department. You can see it oozes with theme and flavor with their beautiful illustrations. In Dice Forge, players take the role of champions who will compete to be the best among them, to earn glory and rewards by the Gods. They will visit temples to get blessings for their adventures, finishing quests or tasks (cards) by defeating monsters and such from one floating island to another, gaining Glory points from the Gods. Well it is have better theme than games with city name and doing something there to get points (theme wise).
There is no doubt, beautiful illustrations are presented in the game throughout the cards by a French artist, Biboun. Oh I know what you think, it’s not Naiad. There are many many great artists from France and their works are peerless among them. I must admit that the box cover is one of the best cover in board games. Thank goodness it’s changed from the original version, which more look like the cover for Loony Quest. The cover is so simple, clean and elegant. Yet in details, it conveys the important element that supports the theme. You can check it out from the reflection on the red ruby (kind of) image in the center of the cover. And let’s get into the cards, there are many many interesting characters decorating the cards. Though most of them lack their backstory, they’re still amazingly illustrated.
Now this is the best among the physical parts of the game. The artworks are good, but the components are better than good (if not great). The first components on the list are the dice. Aside from being big-chunky plastic dice, the dice can be customized. Yes, you can change faces of the die with different faces. The general idea of the game is that players can improve their dice for better roll results. In order to accomplish this, they need dice that can be customized, broken apart its faces and change to another one. They did it pretty well, applying the idea from a previous game called Rattlebones. Unlike Dice Forge, the game has several customized dice as a smaller part of much more bigger mechanic combinations. It is there but not really stand out. Dice Forge changed this and came up with a very interesting way to pop up the dice customization element. At first there were some concerns among the dice performance. Considering the material, would the dice durable enough to stand through time and uses? They turned out okay I guess. Now there are some cases showed difficult process to change the faces and I was quite aware of this. The next part is the game board, which has a pretty much unique shape unlike common traditional square / rectangle boards found in other games. The boards have several die cut shapes to hold the cards around it. Its totally cosmetics, but still add attractive value to the public eyes. The player boards are simple, a single board with die cut holes to hold the cubes, sadly most of them came up bowing / not flatly lie on the table surface, perhaps because of the storage solution. Speaking of storage, the pre-built plastic tray really works well with the game components. They let you organize the components neatly without a fuss of spilling all the bits out of it’s place. A good job from the publisher.
The Game Play
Dice Forge is playable from 2-4 players, within 45-60 minutes. It’s played rather quite fast due the continuous rolls from the players. The game lasts for 9-10 rounds, but each round played very quickly. Roll dice, activate cards, and take an action(s). Players take turns in clockwise order. In a player’s turn, all players roll their dice in Major Blessing phase, and then the active player take his turn to activate their cards, then take one or two actions. Major Blessing is players rolling their 2 dice to generate income in the form of Sun and Moon shards, gold and Glory points. In this phase all players take the Blessings, regardless who’s the active player is, this give players constant interactions even it’s not their turn yet. Then the active player may activate one or more of His cards before taking an action. The active player action is simple, He need to choose one of the two available actions, whether to upgrade their dice or buy a card.
Players upgrade their dice by spending Golds in the Temple. They can buy more than one die face, as long as it’s not the same ones and they have enough Gold to spend. They must immediately forge the newly purchased die face(s) to their dice, placing aside the replaced ones beside their player board.
Cards are acquired by spending Moon and Sun shards based on the card cost. They can only buy one card at most during their turn, but they can have more than one card of the same type. Once bought, they place the cards face down in front of them, resolving any immediate effects of the card. Players also may at most spend 2 Sun shards per turn to get an extra action, in which they can use it either to buy a card or upgrade their dice. This extra action works the same as their regular action. When buying a card, they move their player marker into the related spot, if there’s another player marker in that spot, they got kicked out and return back to its original spot and get to perform Major Blessings (re-roll their two dice and gain the results).
Cards have different effects, immediate one-time effect, once per turn activation and also end game Glory points. The game comes with 2 different sets of cards, basic and advance sets. For first play it’s recommended to use basic set, but don’t let that stop you to use the advance set from the beginning if you and your group are frequent gamers. The basic set cards have more simple and straight-forward game, while the advance offers more fluid and interaction between players. There are some die faces that can be acquired only by purchasing cards. After the game ends, players tally up their Glory points from cards and Glory track. Player with the most points, wins the game.
Being a fast-paced and simple game, it leans to the fact that the replay value might probably goes down the drain after several plays. There are some things you can explore though, there are some strategies on it, what kind of cards you get, upgrade your dice in different focus also make a difference. First, the basic and advance set surely give you different plays, and you can also try to mix the cards between sets to give more different plays. But among all of the above, it’s still a dice rolling game, you cannot mitigate the luck aside from increase your dice probability with better die faces. It’s a 30-45 minutes game, so you can play back to back and explore your strategies. I found the game to be very simple, though luck plays a great role in the end.
It is undoubtedly one of the best medium (of not light) Euro games with dice rolling mechanism that plays very fast and constantly engaging to all players. Not to mention the components are beyond standard and really attract people to look over. The illustrations are great but also offers clean design with its white dominant background. Luck plays a great role but for a 30 minutes game, I wouldn’t mind. Plus, rolling the dice are so fun, even if you roll bad (I found this experience to be particularly different for each person), you always wanting to roll again and again. There are some meat in the game despite the easy and simple game in the surface where the aim is to build your dice as effective as you can and get the right cards to build your engine and grab huge points along the way. It is very suitable for both casual and gamers alike. The only issue I have with the dice is the fact that I found it kinda hard to remove its side with my bare fingers (its a fact that I have injured my fingers trying to remove its faces during play). From my experiences, sometimes it’s hard to change the die faces, you can use your nails but beware, you might hurt yourself. They suggest to use the corner of the die face to remove the die face. Its doable but I found it still difficult to do. Luckily I have a component from custom dice promo from Rattlebones that has the sole purpose to remove the die face, and it works pretty well. Sadly I only have one, so need to pass it on to other players during the game. I recommend this game, it’s fun, it’s great and plays fast!