I love modern board games but there’s one element of game design that I’ve never enjoyed all that much: Rolling dice.
Leaving the fate of your game — and, importantly, whether you’ll win — up to the random chance of a dice roll can drain the fun out of a game when you keep rolling snake eyes while everyone else is on a hot streak (I might be a bit of a sore loser).
It’s with that in mind that I approached “Dicey Dungeons,” a charmingly animated dungeon crawler for Mac and PC, with a bit of apprehension. It’s a game where dice rolling is the point — it’s in the name after all.
“Dicey Dungeons” fits into an emerging genre of video games that mix traditional video game genres with ideas brought over from the physical board game space into a new mix that can only be accomplished in the digital space. Where other games have mixed in card games or board games, “Dicey Dungeons” brings over the six-sided dice.
You’ll assume the role of one of six different playable characters that draw on long-standing roleplaying classes in dice form: the warrior, the thief, the witch, the jester, the inventor and the robot. Each has their own unique twist and escalating difficulty with the warrior being the easiest to pick up.
At the start of your turn you’ll roll a set of dice that can be spent to activate your abilities and equipment to attack the enemy, defend or heal your character. Some abilities do extra things when you use a six while other abilities can increase the value of dice while others allow you to reroll, split or combine dice.
Each gameplay session is set out in a multi-stage run with a final boss at the end. In the video game tradition, you’ll find new abilities and equipment along the way while gaining experience points to level up, adding hit points and additional dice to your pool.
If your hit points reach zero, you’ll die, and your run will be over. And you’ll die plenty.
Many of my complaints about dice in physical board games still carry over to “Dicey Dungeons.” There are plenty of times where the luck seemed totally against me: Where I couldn’t seem to roll anything above a three while the enemy rolled nothing but sixes and finished off a good run in three turns.
But that’s where the variety in the different characters and each characters’ six different episodes that add additional twists on the game that come to the rescue. There’s a lot of interesting ideas at play here, and it’s easy to switch between them.
I particularly like the robot character that has a push-your-luck mechanic. Instead of having a set amount of dice, the robot allows you to keep rolling additional dice until you hit a blackjack-style limit that increases as you level up. If you hit the limit, you’ll hit the jackpot and it’ll give you additional abilities but if you bust then all your abilities are grayed out and it’s the end of the turn.
“Dicey Dungeons” taps into that “just one more try” loop that’s easy to dump plenty of hours into and reaching the end of any of the characters’ missions requires a fair amount of luck mixed with careful strategy.
While I can’t say that it’s entirely changed my mind about dice, it’s certainly shown me that there’s fun to be had with chance.
Matt Buxton is a freelance writer and gamer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Play
Game: Dicey Dungeons
Platforms: PC and Mac
Internet usage: 700 MB
Release Date: August .13, 2019