Marvel Dice Masters – collectible dice building game for two
In Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men and Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-Men you play a mastermind controlling a team of Marvel characters. Your goal is to use your team of superheroes and villains to take out your adversary, another mastermind team leader. Reduce his hit points to zero and you win!
As in most deckbuilding games, each player starts with the same thing. In this case, it’s eight Sidekick dice in a bag. You and your opponent also each get a number of Hero cards on your side of the table (each with 1-4 dice on them), and share 3 to 4 Action Cards placed in the center of the table with three dice on each of them.
On your turn, draw four dice from your bag and roll them along with any dice left in your Prep Area from the previous turn (see Tutorial Playmat diagram right). After rolling your dice, you can reroll (once) any you don’t like. Possible die results include: Energy, Characters, and Actions. You can use any Energy you roll to recruit Hero Dice or Action Dice. All dice spent or purchased then go into your Used Pile. If you roll characters, you can use Energy to field them (move them into your Field Zone), making them ready to attack or defend on the current turn or in the future. Any Actions rolled can be used immediately or saved for use before your next turn.
After deploying or saving your dice, you can attack with any Character dice you’ve fielded, while your opponent defends, if desired, by blocking with his own Characters. Resolve damage as follows:
- Each Character that took damage greater than or equal to its defense is Knocked Out! Move it to your Prep Area.
- Attacking Characters that were unblocked, deal damage to the defending Mastermind (player). Deduct the damage on the player’s life counter and place the unblocked attacking Characters in your Used Pile.
- Characters that blocked, but were not knocked out return to your Field Zone.
If your opponent Mastermind’s life reaches zero, Congratulations! You Win. Otherwise, do a little cleanup and now it’s your adversary’s turn to try and take you down.
The Character dice (below right) and cards (left) are what make Marvel Dice Masters special, exciting and collectible. Each Character die has different character levels on three of its sides and one to two Energy on the other three sides. All dice for a particular character are the same. Each character card has a unique special ability. There are four differently named cards for each character in the Starter Kit, three of which come in the kit, the fourth is an uncommon you can acquire via a booster pack. The rest of the characters in the Avengers vs. X-Men set have three named cards each. Character cards are either Common (brown rarity stripe), Uncommon (green), Rare (yellow) or Super Rare (red).
Here, for example, are the special abilities of the Rogue cards, by name:
- Anna Raven (common) – When fielded, you may capture an opposing die in the used pile (return it at the end of the turn). Spin it to level 1. Rogue copies that die’s stats.
- Anna Marie (uncommon) – When fielded, capture an opposing action die from the used pile or reserve pool. When Rogue attacks, you may use that action for free (with no bursts). Return it to the used pile after the attack step.
- Can’t Touch This (rare) – When fielded, capture an opposing fielded character (until the end of the turn). Rogue copies that character’s stats and abilities.
Each character (die and card) has its own unique custom icon and utilizes one of five types of energy: Fist (melee), Bolt (blasts), Mask (wits), or Shield (toughness). You’ll need at least one of that specific type of energy to recruit the character’s dice (for example, you need at least one Mask to recruit Rogue, at least one Fist for Black Widow and at least one Bolt for Phoenix. (Apparently, none of the female characters are tough.) Most of the characters are also associated with a particular team: Avengers, Fantastic Four, Villains or X-Men.
Sidekick Dice feature one of each Energy type on four their sides, a question mark (?) representing Wildcard Energy (which can become any energy) on one side, and a pawn Character on the final side.
The Action Dice and Action Cards add variety to the game, as each game you’ll only choose three or four to use. Three sides of each Action Die depict a circled 2, representing 2 Generic Energy (generic energy cannot pay a specific type of energy cost); the other three sides depict exclamation points (!) which represent actions (the specific action is determined by its matching Action Card) with 0, 1 or 2 bursts (*). Bursts typically enhance the Action: the more bursts the better. For example: The Smash Basic Action Card allows you to “Knock out a target level 1 character” when you roll a 0- or 1-burst action (!) or “Knock out a level 2 or lower character instead” when you roll a 2-burst action (! with **).
Marvel Dice Masters is simpler than the intimidating 24-page rulebook in tiny print might at first have you believe. I downloaded the rulebook and printed it on letter-size paper to ease my old eyes. A closer look, will show that the rules are covered in just 10 1/2 pages, the rest provide examples of play and combat and discuss powers and abilities in detail.
By no means do you have to acquire the entire set to have fun playing Marvel Dice Masters. With a few Characters and the Action cards, there’s plenty to keep the game fresh, interesting and different every time. In fact, having all of the cards to choose from at once feels a bit overwhelming. How do you even begin to choose which characters and actions to play?
I think you can get a lot of enjoyment out of the game by playing a few characters in various combinations for awhile, then getting a few more boosters and experimenting with the new options those provide, then add a few more, etc. This is not a game where it’s absolutely necessary, or perhaps even desired, to have everything all at once – unless, of course, you’re a completist or collector at heart.
Marvel Dice Masters supports 2 players ages 14 and up and plays in about 15 to 30 minutes. Starter Kits cost $14.99 and have everything you need to get started. Booster Packs each contain two character cards and two character dice and cost $1 each.
Copyright © 2014-2015 by Tina G. McDuffie. All rights reserved.
Photo rights retained by their respective copyright holders.