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.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Thursday 20 December 2018

Thoughts from The Yellow Meeple:- Dice Settlers

Game: Dice Settlers

Publisher: NSKN Games

Designer: Dávid Turczi

Year: 2018

Dice Settlers originally caught our eye on Kickstarter because it is designed by one of our favourite designers, David Turczi. With our household policy of ‘one Kickstarter per month’, we ultimately didn’t back the game because I didn’t like how the printed dice looked. (A fickle reason but sometimes it’s very hard to limit yourself to just one project per month!) It turns out that the dice look great and whole game’s art and production is really high quality.

Dice Settlers was released at Essen this year, as part of a one-two punch from NSKN games who also released Teotihuacan. Both of these very popular games will now be sold with the Board & Dice logo after a recent merger between the two publishers.

Dice Settlers is a game for 1-4 players, which features bag building, area control and a dice rolling action selection mechanism. You begin the game with a bag of five dice each. On your turn you pull a number of dice from the bag and roll them. Based on the symbols you roll, you’ll take two unique actions which can be powered multiple times if you rolled matching symbols. Actions include; exploring the map; gathering resources; selling resources; obtaining, spreading or returning your tents from the map; gaining additional dice; or building technologies. There are many different ways in which these actions interact to score you end game victory points in a variety of ways. Throughout the game you’ll likely increase the number of dice you can draw from the bag, as well as obtaining different colours of dice which specialise with different action symbols. You can even sell off old dice for victory points if you want your bag to become very focused. 

The other large aspect of the game is the area control on the map. Most map tiles are worth end game victory points for the player with the most and second most presence on the tile. There are also abilities on the tile which may apply to only the player with most presence, might apply to everyone, or might apply only the first time you place a tent on the tile. If you ever get a large majority on a tile you can swap tents for a house which means that you control the tile forever. Growing the map and deciding how to distribute your tents is certainly a larger aspect of the game than I had originally appreciated, and the fight for majority can be fierce with raiding as an option.

On the surface, Dice Settlers appears to promise me a lot of mechanisms I should enjoy, but I really feel like it doesn’t deliver on them. The most enticing is probably bag building - a variant of deck-building and engine building that really gained a lot of favour with me through games like Orleans. Sadly, I have found with Dice Settlers that the game doesn't seem to last long enough for me to effectively curate my bag. I also have frequent turns where I'm simply drawing every dice I have - so what's the point in the bag?!  

Dice rolling in games is generally OK for me, so long as there are plenty of opportunities for luck mitigation. Dice Settlers offers these opportunities in spades! When you roll your dice each turn, there are two different mechanisms that you can use to re-roll, set dice faces or draw and roll additional dice from your bag (if you have any!). However, this ability to mitigate is itself reliant on rolling certain dice faces! I've had too many turns where I roll a 'rainbow' of different dice faces, which means I have to waste a bunch of dice, and have very low powered actions, since I can only take two actions.  
Finally, when I approach a game of Dice Settlers, it looks like the kind of game where I'd like to pick a strategy and run with it. I've tried focusing on technology. I've tried focusing on getting all 5 houses on the board, I've tried focusing on selling goods. Every time I try to focus, it feels like the dice conspire against me. Perhaps I should describe the game as tactical rather than strategic, but my feeling is one of frustration and running around like a headless chicken, trying to make the most of a bad situation!

I have been wondering whether my opinion of Dice Settlers has suffered because I simply don’t like area control, but I don’t think that’s the real reason. In our first couple of games, the area control wasn’t a problem for me – I was rolling the gather symbols and making active choices on which territories I wanted to go after. However in games where I simply couldn’t roll the write dice face, I just wasn’t given that option. When you can’t roll what you need, it can often feel like a double whammy against you, because the area control isn’t just about scoring well at the end of the game, it’s also a mechanism to reduce your access to actions and resources. It can feel like a real grind to play the game if you can’t get good traction on the board, and although there are other routes to victory, there’s a lot at stake, with two end-game conditions which score for this, as well as two different in game mechanisms that stem from your board presence also.

Dice Settlers has unfortunately left me with quite a bitter taste in my mouth. It’s a game I wanted to love, but ultimately got less and less enjoyment out of each game we played. Each game felt like I was given all the tools to have a good time, but I just couldn’t pull it together. I blamed the dice, I blamed Amy and generally just felt like the game was mean to me. Getting so thoroughly and consistently beaten with no particular reason why is an experience I specifically do not enjoy and that’s how Dice Settlers felt.

For the Yellow Meeple, Dice Settlers is a disappointing 5/10. It’s possible that the swings in fate would be lessened by a multi-player game, but the two-player experience is one that I’d certainly avoid on my table in future.

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/.

No comments:

Post a Comment