Cartoon Heroes – Marvel Dice Masters Review, Part 2!

MDM Box

With two of the writers on LMDS having checked out Marvel Dice Masters already – and the opinion not being too hot (or in Michael’s case, pretty negative) we thought it only fair for Stuart to give his Judge-ly view as well. Take it away, champ!

I am conflicted.  So much of the new Board Game Geek hotness – Marvel Dice Masters : Avengers vs X-Men should leave me cold.  Firstly, its based on Quarriors (and designed by the same team), which is OK I suppose, but not exactly anything that excites me.  Secondarily – luck plays a major part in winning or losing, to the point that almost regardless of how carefully and skillfully developed and executed your plan may be, if the dice fail you then you’re probably going to lose.  Thirdly, the game adopts the blind purchase / collectable model – something I have, for many years, been vocally against – particularly in Magic: The Gathering – decrying the system as nothing more than a money-sink for the weak of mind and heavy of pocket.

So tell me (and hopefully this review will aid me in resolving this conflict) why is Marvel Dice Masters the last thing I think of at night, the first thing in the morning, and is currently dominating many of my waking hours struggling with possible teams, combos and strategies?  (Sorry Netty! my long suffering girlfriend – I do think about you too…)

Marvel Dice Masters is an game that combines the deck building with dice from Quarriors (and before that Dominion) with MTG style duels.  Players draw and roll dice from a bag to generate power which they spend to recruit super heroes (represented via other dice) which go into the bag for drawing later.  Those heroes are fielded (or summoned) and can then be sent out to attack, either to be blocked by other super heroes / super villians or do damage directly to the controller.  If that players’ life reaches zero, then they are defeated!  Sounds simple?  Well, frankly it is.  The fun and nuance comes in the details and the theming.

Cards on the table (PUN OF THE DAY!): I’m a modern Marvel fan, triggered by the movies rather than any love of graphic novels.  That said, many of the characters here will be familiar to fans of the last 15 years of Marvel cinema.  Only a few required a bit of wiki-googling to get a grip on their back story and unique powers – and its those powers that are thematically rendered into the different characters’ make up.  For instance, Wolverine (represented by a classy yellow dice with familiar three bladed insignia) has special abilities when attacking alone – a lone wolf indeed.  Mr Fantastic, the stretchy one from the Fantastic Four for the uninitiated, can expand himself to block several attackers at once.  All very nice, clean and (most importantly) thematic.

So, lets explore my biases that should drive me from this game / lifestyle choice like Spiderman from a rolled up newspaper.

* This is just Quarriors?  Well, yes and (perhaps most importantly) no.  In MDM you bring your own set of heroes to the table that only you can purchase – providing a customisation that the original game lacks.  Also, the combat system is much more satisfying and creates a strong sense of commanding your own destiny whereas whether your creatures lived or died in Quarriors seemed almost arbitrary.

* Are you feeling lucky?  Yes, this is a niggle at the back of my mind.  I have been dice screwed before and my perfect plan was foiled by my Green Goblin rolling poorly right at the end, but somehow I’m having enough fun, and the playtime (10-15 minutes once up to speed) is so fast and breezy that the wild swings of luck don’t bother me as much as other, deeper and most importantly, longer games.

* Blind purchase model?  Are you mad?  Well….. perhaps.  The low price of entry to the boosters – just £1 for two cards and two dice – is just at the right level for me not to mind getting the odd duplicate (swapsies anyone?) and instead revels in all the fun that we had as kids opening pack after pack of Panini stickers looking for Bryan Robson…  Damn him and his elusive curly mop-top!  Anyway… I totally understand this being a turn-off for some people, but the fact that you only the cards have a rareness (Common / Uncommon / Rare / Ultra Rare) and you only need 1 card to field that character (and typically up to 4 dice – but those are evenly distributed throughout the boosters) in addition to access to the secondary market to fill out the collections, this feels like it takes the fun of opening a pack and not knowing what you’ll get, without the grind and huge money sink needed to ‘catch ’em all.’

So, I’ve fallen pretty hard, right down this rabbit hole.  I’ve had play mats printed, special dice bags delivered, and several ‘Hobbycraft’ bead boxes to store all my dice.  You don’t need to follow me on this path.  A £13 investment gets you everything you need for two people to play the base game.  Now, it may be the drugs talking, but I ask you to put aside the reservations and biases that you may have formed about this game from the hype and just try it.  So much thematic, fast, dice rolling fun – with enough depth to warrant multiple plays means that MDM has found itself a place on my shelf, in my heart, and throughout my upper cortex…

Now… would Human Torch combo with Hulk?

Never let it be said that Little Metal Dog isn’t fair! That seems to be a whole range of opinions on Marvel Dice Masters, which is meant to be available now – however, it’s VERY hard to find a copy and it’ll be a while until it’s here in the UK in numbers. The base set will cost you around £13 (if you can find it at RRP) while boosters – as mentioned by The Judge – are a single quid.  

 

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