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 9 July 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Dice Hospital: Community Care

Game: Dice Hospital: Community Care

Publisher: Alley Cat Games

Designer:  Mike Nudd

Year: 2019

Dice Hospital was something of a breakout hit for UK-based publisher Alley Cat Games. After a brilliant Kickstarter success back in 2017, a new expansion for the game is coming to Kickstarter in July 2019. Community Care is three expansions in one box. It takes your ambulance out onto the road, introduces mothers and babies and allows you to make improvements to your hospital wards.

If you're not familiar with Dice Hospital, then you've been missing out on a dice drafting and dice manipulation game with a fantastically universal theme. Your dice are patients and their value indicates how bad their ailments are. Each turn you'll use doctors and nurses in the different wards of your hospital to increase the value of your patients until they're healthy enough to go home. If you can't make them better then they deteriorate, and if they deteriorate too far, or you run out of bed space, your patients will unfortunately end up in the morgue. If the stress of the base game wasn't enough, the Community Care expansion is adding more factors into your hospital running experience. Let's take a look at what you'll find in the expansion.

The City Expansion

The City expansion changes up the way you get patient dice, replacing the draft of ambulances at the start of each round. Instead there is a city of varying size base don the player count. Every round 1 die will be placed onto each city block ready for collection. You will drive your ambulance around the edge of the city before sending your paramedic in to retrieve patients. The first 3 dice your paramedic reaches will be placed into your ambulance as your intake for the round. The player who took the lowest total number of pips will be the first player and receive the blood bag as normal. Where things get tricky is that every person left in the city will degrade at the end of the round just like they were in your hospitals! Patients who die in the streets count as deaths for the players in reverse player order, so the person who takes the most serious patients is the least penalised for people dying by the side of the road!

The Maternity Expansion

Maternity introduces new patients to the game: mothers and babies. You will start the game with one of each, but in future rounds mothers are simply another kind of patient die to be added to the pool like any other. Babies are a little different, every time you take a mother die you will also one or two babies which are added to a special maternity ward expansion that gets build in every ward with a mother. Once in your hospital they start behaving quite differently, babies never degrade so you can take your time healing them, and mothers only degrade if they share a ward with other patients (they aren't sick after all). You cannot release a mother without her baby(s) or vice versa. Thanks to the introduction of new pink rooms which focus on helping both mum and baby you should find this a breeze, if it weren't for all those terminally ill patients still demanding your attention!

The Improvements Expansion

The Improvement expansion adds permanent upgrades that you can build in your hospital. A new, shared worker placement area is added to the game which features 4 rooms, each with an upgrade available in it. The rooms are themed - one contains upgrades for red dice, one for yellow, one for green and one for colourless bonuses. After claiming new rooms/workers for the round, players are also given a chance to place one of their workers in the upgrade area to gain an upgrade token. This token must immediately be added to a room in your hospital, with each room having a max of 2. Once built, an upgrade will trigger every time that room is used, giving you permanent gain at the expense of having to have spent a round with 1 less worker. To make up with the stronger hospitals you will be building, more critical patients are introduced in the patient selection phase as the game goes on.

Final Thoughts

Dice Hospital: Community Care is a huge variety box. Each expansion is designed to be played standalone, and the Improvements and City expansion are currently intended to be playable together too. Each of the variants focuses on one aspect of the game. With the City expansion it's a new and much more thematic way to select your dice. With the Maternity expansion you've got more patients in your hospital, but as a result there's a higher potential to discharge lots in one turn. And finally Improvements focuses on the dice manipulation - allowing you to do more in a single turn and also giving you more chance to get all of your ducks in a row for one mega-efficient turn.

All three expansions offer something different and you might favour one over another depending which aspect of the original game you most enjoyed. What we enjoyed in particular is that each expansion gives you the chance to do something bigger and better than you could do in the base game. There's definitely some added complexity that goes alongside this and with the Improvements in particular you might not want to introduce it to new players, but for us, Improvements was a favourite for the same reason.

You Might Like...
  • Each expansion affects a different phase of the game – the dice draft, the dice manipulation and the discharging of dice.
  • The Maternity and the Improvements expansion really offers huge scoring opportunities, which are always a lot of fun to pull off.
  • With three modules in the box, there’s a lot packed into a single expansion.
You Might Not Like...
  • The three modules are not currently designed to play together, so you’ll need to play multiple different games to get all of the experiences out of Community Care.
  • The expansions augment the same options for optimising your strategy, rather than offering new strategies and ways to win.

The Verdict
For us, Dice Hospital was all about the efficiency and building up to discharge swathes of patients in a single turn and the Community Care expansion boosts this element in a host new and interesting ways. With the three modules, Community Care has something new for every aspect of the game and is a must for all fans of the original game.

Dice Hospital: Community Care was a prototype provided for preview purposes. The Kickstarter launches on 9th July 2019. All photos are of prototype components.

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