Top Of The Table – Five Amazing New Dice Games You Should Try
A significant proportion of tabletop games mix strategic or calculated choices with an element of chance, and one of the best ways to do that is through a roll of the dice. Dice are inextricably tied into the history of games, but modern games have often found surprising ways to implement dice rolling into broader themes. Today, I wanted to highlight five of my recent favorite dice games.
To be clear, when I talk about dice games, I don’t just mean a game that uses a die roll to resolve one or more situations in-game. Instead, these are titles that use dice as the central conceit around which the rest of the game revolves. It’s an arena of games that has provided a lot of fun over the years. I’m a fan of titles like Escape: The Curse of the Temple, Elder Sign, Quarriors, Trains and Stations, Quantum, Roll for the Galaxy, and King of Tokyo, among many others. If you’re looking for some more established entries in the genre, those are all great places to start. However, I think the last couple of years have given us several exciting new entries, and I wanted to highlight what they bring to the table.
Publisher: Floodgate Games
Longtime readers of this column know that I’m a sucker for unusual concepts in my board gaming, and Sagrada immediately snagged my attention with its unique theme. Players compete to build the most stunning stained-glass window they can manage. To do so, players pull dice from a huge bag of ninety translucent colored dice, then go around the table, drafting the dice they want to add to their window board, and then slotting those dice into particular spots on the window. Each player board has different demands – you might need a “five” in one spot and a “blue” in a different spot, but dice of the same shade can’t ever sit side-by-side. Players juggle their own secret personal objectives with broader public goals, and additional tools come into play to let you change the established rules or placement. Collecting sets, establishing patterns, and paying attention to multiple victory conditions all help snag victory.
Sagrada has that intriguing combination of accessibility and depth that is so hard to nail. It also has a wonderful solo variant of the rules so a new owner can learn the game before sharing with friends. Playable with up to four players in under an hour, Sagrada’s vibrant visual flair is matched by smart mechanics and play.
Star Wars: Destiny
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Few fictional settings get us more excited than a return trip to that galaxy far, far away. On the cusp of another movie in the Star Wars saga, I can’t help but recommend Star Wars: Destiny as a great dice game to dive into. I’ve already written more extensively on the game in a dedicated post, but here’s the short version: This two-person dueling game sees opponents collecting a set of dice and their connected cards to bring to the competition. Cards show off iconic characters, weapons, and settings from the Star Wars universe, and each die correlates with a card, reflecting results (within the rules of the game) that mirror the card’s idea – like “Let the Wookiee Win,” where you must either take damage or remove dice to step away from the conflict. Players roll dice to add randomness, but then make strategic choices of how to deploy those dice results into play to diminish their opponent’s health. The combination of quick single-action turns, stellar Star Wars-themed art, and custom dice adds up to a lot of fun.
Star Wars: Destiny is a collectible game with the option to buy new blind packs of dice and cards over time, a warning that I always like to make clear with a game like this. But it’s also a fun way to live out some Star Wars fantasies with an innovative set of rules and lots of customization. If you are looking for the next collection-based game to embrace, but with a twist away from the familiar collectible-card-game format, this one might be for you.
WizKids has a ton of fun dice games under its publishing banner, making it hard to pick which ones to include. One of the two that makes this list is a simple battling game for 2-4 players, in which players control towering robots in explosive arena battles. Everybody rolls “parts dice” into a shared pool, and then in a frantic free-for-all, grabs and places those dice onto the body parts of their respective robots. Afterward, players use weapons cards in their hand (powered by the dice they’ve placed on their robot) to attempt to blow up the opposing robots.
DiceBot Megafun could hardly be a much lighter game in its mechanics. The fun dynamic of robots using bombs, lasers, uzis, and antimatter shields to throw down against each other is satisfying and aggressive, but the colorful style and non-living combatants keep it from being grim or macabre.
Publisher: Libellud, Asmodee
The gods are intrigued by you and some of your mortal fellows, but only one of you can ascend to the status of demigodhood. To do so, you must gather glory to impress these capricious deities. Dice Forge has a fun concept, but it’s the innovative approach to dice play that is especially engaging. Players roll dice to gain gold and other rewards, all in pursuit of completing heroic activities and gaining the glory points to win the game. Along the way, you can upgrade your dice through removable faces on those dice. The old die sides come off and are “reforged” with better numbers and special effects, which are then used to complete desirable actions in your march toward apotheosis.
Dice Forge is one of the most unusual dice game of recent years, but it’s also one of the most original. I love the backdrop of mythological art and stories that grounds the game in a story idea, but the constantly improving dice are especially appealing, providing some of the same excitement that other games provide through character leveling. 2-4 players can enjoy a game of Dice Forge in about an hour, and setup is fast thanks to a well-appointed box with spots for all the small components.
The second WizKids dice game to make its way onto this list, Dice Stars is an abstract game of dice selection loosely themed around falling stars. Players roll dice into a shared pool, and then select either all the dice of the same value, color, or all that show a star. The selected dice are then marked (with a pen or pencil) on a dedicated paper scoring grid sheet. Colors and values contribute numbers onto your score sheet that are added together, while selecting all the star dice offers a chance to multiply your score. Careful management of your score sheet is key to winning.
Dice Stars is a perfect filler or starter game for an evening of gaming. It plays very fast in around 15 to 30 minutes, and there’s an interesting element of risk management as you choose which dice to pull and score into limited spaces on your score sheet. It’s an ideal fit for gaming groups in which outlandish themes might not go over well – the nearly pure focus on numbers and multipliers is appealing to almost anyone. Dice Stars is normally played with 2-4 players, but a handy solo variant also lets you hone your skills.
While some dice-focused games offer more expansive and lengthy experiences, many (including those I’ve mentioned here) are good options for gaming groups looking for something a little more manageable in terms of time. More importantly, I’ve found over the years that there’s just no replacement for the fun of the physical act of dice rolling – feeling them in your hand, hearing them clack across the table, and the anticipation of seeing what results pop up. They may not offer the deepest or most determinative gameplay out there, but I sometimes enjoy a good dice game simply for the ease and lightness of play.
Even if you choose to try out one or more of these recommendations, it’s likely your group isn’t looking to survive on dice games alone. For other suggestions, click on the banner below and visit the Top of the Table hub for a bunch of fun games to enjoy with your family and friends. The holidays are an ideal time to get together and enjoy a game around the table; I can’t overstate how much a good game night can work as a bonding experience. As always, if you’d like some personalized recommendations, or even gift recommendations for that special someone in your life, drop me a line via email or Twitter from the links below; if there’s a game concept you’re curious about, there’s a good bet that there’s something out there that fits the bill.