This post is part of the Game Night Blog Carnival. If you’d like to see what board games the other members of the carnival are reviewing this month, check the link at the end of the article. If you’re an RPG blogger who would like to participate, check the FAQ.
My college had a semester every year called “J Term.” It only spanned one month (January), but packed an entire semester’s worth of one course into that time frame. Class was four hours a day. If you were smart, you picked an easy class with little homework. That left the rest of the month for goofing off. I got smart my second year – so did one of my roommates. For that January, we killed lots of hours (lots) on the fighting game Soul Calibur. So began a love affair with fighting games. I have fond memories of Soul Calibur (for the Sega Dreamcast!) and the Tekken family (Playstation). While I don’t have the time I used to for video gaming in general, I still enjoy a good fighting video game. (No, not Smash Bros. I said “good” fighting game.)
But can such a game translate to the tabletop? It’s easy to assume “no,” but Dicefighter proves otherwise. This is a really fun game that’s free, and only requires a fistful of d6’s. It’s best if the d6’s are three different colors. (Playmats are optional, but help organize your dice and remember the rules. There’s one for download at the end of the article.)
The object of the game is reduce your opponent to 0 health. It begins by players assigning dice “types” to their dice pool. These dice do not change throughout the game. Players get (in the basic game) 10 dice to assign to Chain, Trick, and Smash attacks. Each type of attack is “strong” (gets a bonus) against one other type of attack, and also has a special ability. There are also “Combo” abilities for rolling three successful attack dice of the same type. So players need to decide what combination of attack dice will work best against their opponent.
Then the fight starts – each player assigns each of their Chain, Trick, and Smash dice to either attacking or defense. The first player attacks by rolling all his attack dice, and the defending player rolls all her defense dice. Then, the two players compare results. The attacker “matches” his dice to the defender’s dice that he can beat, and invokes any special dice abilities. Health is subtracted, and then it’s the defender’s turn to attack.
The game is just that simple – and yet really really complex. And wait, it gets better: once you’ve mastered the basic game, you can add “characters.” If assigning and rolling the dice mimics the basic mechanics of a fighthing game (using different types of attacks to outmaneuver your opponent), then picking characters mimics the different fighters present in any fighting video game. Characters add another layer of ability and complexity to the game. They have their own special abilities that interact with the dice, as well as a pre-assigned dice pool and health total. When you start picking characters to fight with, the game really starts to feel a lot like a fighting video game.
A lot of the theory behind the game can be found at the Thoughtcrime Games website in the article entitled Paper, Rock, Dice. The name hints at the game’s basic engine – Roshambo. Don’t be fooled, however. While good old Rock, Paper, Scissors relies on quite a bit of luck, Dicefighter adds nuance and strategy to the mix. Just maybe not quite the strategy you’re used to in a Euro game; it’s more like the strategy involved in Poker. That’s right: one of the things that’s interesting about this game is the type of “intelligence” the game tests.
What do I mean by that? While many games test how well you know the rules or “right” strategy of the game (logical intelligence), Dicefighter tests how well you know your opponent (social intelligence). Will they weight their dice pool to attack or defense? Will they weight towards one attack type? Which one? There is no “right” answer according to the mechanics. The mechanics are simple, and get out of the way of the real aim of the game: testing your ability to read another person.
I have to say, the comparison to Poker is apt. There is a certain amount of calculation you can do in playing the game (e.g. How many Smash dice does my opponent have? Can I exploit that?), but what separates the good players from the great players will be their ability to read their opponents, not the dice pools. And I think that’s what really sets this game apart.
Dicefighter is free, but it’s not “officially” done yet. (We’d like to see a Kickstarter for a set of custom character playmats, dice, and rulebook…) If you’re interested in helping out with the playtest, you can contact Quinn via Twitter, or just email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if you don’t want to do something formal, I encourage anyone who tries the game to give even a little feedback.
If you’d like to use a play mat to help arrange your dice and remind you of the rules, you can download the play mat here.
- Game: Dicefighter
- Players: Two (or more, best with two)
- Time: 15-30 minutes
- Type: Dice; Alternative Strategy