Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 18 December 2018

Don't Settle for Less:- Dice Settlers

Game: Dice Settlers

Publisher: NSKN Games

Designer: Dávid Turczi

Year: 2018

Dice Settlers is a 1-4 player bag-building dice game with area control and exploration elements. As you play you will use your dice to upgrade your dice pool, settle new lands, research new technology and fight for control of the new lands with the highest value.

Each turn consists of a rolling phase and an action phase. During the rolling phase you will draw a number of dice from your bag, the exact number can vary depending on territory you control and research you have done. You then roll these dice and decide if you want to spend any dice faces for re-rolls or drawing extra dice from your bag. Once you have settled on your final results then you move on to the action phase. During the action phase players take turns performing 1 action by spending sets of dice with the same face. You only get 2 actions a turn through so it's important to try and manipulate your dice to be as potent as possible.

There is a whole host of actions that you can perform, including settling (adding new tents to your supply, or from your supply to the board), conquering (remove an opponent's cube and replace it with one of your own) and exploring (add a new map hex and place tents on it. You'll be using these actions to try and wrest control of the map tiles. There are end game points for controlling most of the tiles in the game, but also in game bonuses, such as drawing an extra dice on your turn. If you want to play nice then tying with someone allows you both to gain the advantage, but at some point you may want to exceed your opponents by 3 tents in order to build a house, houses giver you permanent, indisputable control, so are well worth going after.

Beyond these area control mechanics you may also be using actions to add dice to your bag or gain resources. Both dice and resources can be traded away with another action for points, as well as trimming down your bag. Every colour of dice has it's own unique combination of action symbols so you really do have to potential to customise your bag. Though in my experience the ability to do a bit of everything was highly sought after. Finally you can research new technologies, these often require certain terrains in your empire or resources to be spent, but can pay dividends with powerful in-game and game end rewards.

Dice rolling, area control was never going to be the easiest sell for me, but Dice Settlers does manage to pull those elements together into a coherent whole. The area control is ever present, but most of the time your tents are so limited in number that it's hard to really crush someone on that front. Since tied players get all of the (non end game) benefits of a tile it's often a case of uneasy alliances of convenience because if 2 players start fighting the others are likely to pull ahead. Combine this with houses letting your permanently claim a territory and you have some area control that doesn't degenerate in someone feeling victimised.

The amount of dice manipulation is wonderful, firstly you can customise your bag to only include the dice you want, so if you never plan on using iron simply don't pick up dice that gain that resource! Secondly a common symbol yon your starting dice can be paired up to use as 1 of any other symbol, or spent to re-roll 3 dice *or* turn any one dice over to another face of your choice. But wait, there's more! Spend your resource dice to draw 2 more dice out of the bag and roll them too allowing for even bigger turns. Even if you get a massive advantage though you will still be limited to two actions, so you generally want to use those manipulations to focus down onto having lots of 2 symbols.

So then is Dice Settlers a wonderful game? Well not exactly, the dice aren't as focused as I might like so even when you have fully sorted your dice bag you don't feel as specialised as you would like. One bad roll can still result in a terrible turn since most of the manipulation and re-rolls is based on you rolling the symbols that let you re-roll! So whether you suffer with dice luck is dependent on... more dice luck!? I do appreciate the different ways to end the game (running out of land to explore, gaining all the points in the pool and building all your houses) and the game is very much a point salad where you get rewards for almost anything you might choose to do. Overall I feel like Dice Settlers is trying to be a few too many things and results in being a watered-down experience. Perfectly enjoyable, but you end up with just a small taste of the game and mechnisms you actually wanted.


Dice Settlers was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £54.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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