Dice Wars: Heroes of Polyhedra is a game by Zach Roth, published by Brybelly. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will take on the role of commander of a fantasy army. They will be trying to defeat their enemies through either strategic wit, overwhelming might or silver-tongued cunning. Of course they will have to devise their tactics on the fly as each army will be completely random. In the end, the player that fulfills one of the 3 victory conditions first will be declared the winner.
To begin, each player will choose a Faction of a particular color. For a 2 player game, each player will choose 2 Factions which will be deployed in opposite ends of the map. They will then take the corresponding dice of that color; 7 unit dice per Faction and 3 numerical dice. Players will then roll all 7 of their unit dice. If the player’s Advanced unit dice match, they must reroll one of them. If two players Hero dice match, then both players must reroll the die. Once all players have completed building their armies, they will then need to find their unit cards in the deck by matching the die face to the corresponding icons on the unit cards that are color coded to their particular Faction’s color. Each player is also given a number of HP cubes to keep track of the health of their Advanced and Hero units. Players should now work together to build the map by placing the 9 map tiles onto the play area. It is recommend for first time players to use the layout provided in the rulebook. Once the map has been setup, players roll their 20 sided die. The player that rolls highest is the first player. Players will now place all of their unit dice onto the map; one die per hex paying attention to any impassible terrain. Each die must be placed in the corner tile closest to the player. Players are free to move and adjust their placement until all players have agreed upon the deployment. Once this is completed, play now begins.
The game is played over a series of Command phases. In each Command phase 2 of a player’s units will take a turn. A unit’s turn consists of movement and an action. At the beginning of a player’s Command phase, all of their conditions that they grant or inflict will be dispelled. Players may use their movement and action in any order. They may even split their movement by moving a number of hexes, taking an action and then completing their movement. When moving, the player moves one of their units a number of hexes based on the stat on their unit’s card. They may even move their units through an allied unit. However certain types of terrain will either slow or block a moving unit. Once the unit has been moved, the player may choose to face their unit in any direction. However if the player ends their turn with an action, the unit is left facing the direction of the action.
Speaking of actions, there are 4 major actions that a player may take. These actions are Weapon Attacks, Using Skills, Capturing Cities and Guarding. First off there are Weapon Attacks. These can be either physical or magic. Physical weapon attacks are rolled with 2 six sided dice, while magic weapon attacks are rolled with a 20 sided die. Physical weapon attacks are modified by the attacker’s Attack and Range stats, as well as the defender’s Defense stat. To attack, the defender must be within the attacker’s range and also they must be able to be targeted. This means that they can’t be obstructed by mountains, walls, forests, or other units. Magic weapon attacks ignore all of the defender’s Defense stat. However they can still be affected by bonuses. When attacking using a physical weapon attack, the attacker rolls their 2 six sided dice, adding their attack stat and any other bonuses to their roll. The defender then rolls their 2 six sided dice and adds their defense stat along with any bonuses to their result. If the attacker rolled higher, the defender takes 1 point of damage. If the defender rolled higher, no damage is dealt. If the roll is tied, then both players reroll until there is no longer a tie. When attacking with a magic weapon attack, the attacker and defender both roll a 20 sided die and add any bonuses.
Using Skills is another action that may be taken. For a player to be able to use one of these, the target must be within the skill’s range and the player using it must make and succeed at a skill check by rolling 2 six sided dice. The result must be equal or greater than the number required to use it. Some skills have a greater result that is an even more powerful skill granted for players that roll high enough on their check. If a player fails to meet the minimum requirement for the skill, nothing happens but the player still loses the action.
Another action that may be taken is Capturing a City. Players are able to capture either unclaimed cities or those that are controlled by their opponent. For unclaimed cities, the player must move onto the the city’s center hex known as the Capital. They will then use this action to draw a random wooden city sigil. The sigil is placed into the city’s capital. The player will then find the city’s matching card and place it face up in front of themself. When capturing a city controlled by an opponent, the player spends this action while on the city’s Capital. They will then take the corresponding city card from their opponent and place it in front of themself. Captured cities give a player and any of their allies a bonus that is shared between any and all cities that they control. Some cities have skills that may be taken by a player. These skills can be used by spending an action for one of the player’s units during the Command phase.
The final action available for a player to take is Guarding. A player uses this action to place one of their units on guard. Once done the guarded unit is granted +1 defense and can’t be safely approached from their three front hexes. If an opposing unit enters one of these front hexes, the unit must immediately attack the guarding unit with either a weapon attack or skill. If the opposing unit does not attack then it will suffer a counter-strike equal to the guarding unit’s attack stat. If it survives the counterstrike, the opponents unit may continue it’s turn.
One thing that should be noted is that some units have traits that do not require an action to be used. Instead these can be used during a player’s phase and are considered always in effect.
The game continues with players taking turns until one of 3 victory conditions have been met. The 3 conditions are Regicide, Domination and Diplomacy. Regicide is met when a player kills an opponent’s hero unit. The player that lands the killing blow is the winner. Domination is met when a player kills an opponent’s last non-hero unit. The player that lands the killing blow on this last non-hero unit is the winner. Domination is met when a player holds 3 captured cities through 3 of their Command phases. When a player captures 3 cities, they will begin to accumulate victory points in the form of a golden crown token. These tokens are given to a player at the beginning of their next phase. Once a player collects 3 of these crown tokens, they win.
This game has some really great looking pieces to it. First off let’s talk about the dice. After all, the game’s called Dice Wars. There are several different types of dice. There’s the normal numerical dice that consist of 2 six sided dice and a 20 sided for all 4 colors; green, red, purple and blue. These are pearlized dice that look really great, much like what you’d use for a normal tabletop rpg. The other dice are absolutely huge. These consist of basic, advanced and hero unit dice for all 4 colors. There are 4 six sided dice, 2 eight sided and a 12 sided. The 12 sided is sparkly and has gold engraved designs on it. The others have white engraved designs on the six sided dice and silver engraved designs on the eight sided ones. These are normal colored with no pearlized or sparkle features. If you’ve seen the dice from any of the Story Time Dice games, you’ll know just how big we’re talking in terms of size here. I mean the six sided dice are like an inch across. There are dice bags in each of the four colors to hold all of the colored dice in. There’s also a 5th colored bag to hold the wooden city sigils. This bag is brown like wood. The bags appear to be double layered and quite sturdy. The sigils are thick and wooden. They are fully painted and have the name of the city on one side and the sigil on the other. These are two toned and look absolutely great. There are also some HP cubes that are made from red plastic that are included with the game. Next there is a bunch of tokens that are included. These are all made of thick cardboard and include the victory point crowns, bonus tokens in several denominations, army banners and map tokens. The bonus tokens are a bit small but they work out quite nicely. The banners look great and are a fun reminder of who controls what color. There are 9 map tiles that come with the game. These are quite large and pretty thick. They have a nice finish to them and the artwork on them is pretty basic fantasy battlefield looking. Finally there are all of the cards. These come inside a very nicely produced tuck box. I have to say that I quite like the tuckbox design. It looks really cool. There are cards for each of the 4 colors that include all of the different units. Each color has the same type of units, just with a different colored outfit for each one. These take care of the basic and advanced units for each color. The hero cards are used for all of the color and there is only 1 card for each face of the hero dice. This is why players have to reroll if they both get the same result. There are also cards for the cities and for the relics, which are used in the advanced game. There’s one final piece remaining and that’s the quick reference quide, which I will discuss in the rulebook section. Let me just say, these are some great looking pieces. I’m very impressed with the overall look and design of the whole game. The dice and cards work well together to help players keep their units separated. All of the pieces are very sturdy and high quality. I don’t think there are many war games or dice games that look quite as good as this one does. This is extremely well done.
9 out of 10
The rulebook for this game is fairly thick. It contains a bunch of information which is well written and well designed. There are lots of pictures and examples throughout the book. The book starts off with a thematic letter that explains the backstory of the game. From there, all of the components are explained in great detail. Every element from the map tiles and cities to the units and unit cards are covered extremely well. The book then starts to delve into the actual rules from setup to how the game is played. Along the way, the book explains things like the different types of terrain and how they work, the different attack types and targeting, as well as explaining the different type of conditions. Everything is easy to read through and easy to understand. As someone who doesn’t play very many war games, this was easy enough that even I could understand it. I don’t think anyone should have any problems either. After all the rules are explained, the book goes into the advanced gameplay variants. These add new layers of tactical depth to the game as well as adding new challenges. There are 7 different challenges that include ancient relics, faction bonuses, shuffling the map, the Hinterlands, alliances and coalitions, tournament deployment and veteran units. I’m not going to go into how each of these work. For now, it’s just something to be aware of. For more information, you can check out the rulebook. Needless to say, these really add a new spin on things and really change up some of the gameplay. I haven’t tried all the different challenges yet, but look forward to trying them out. The other thing to note is the quick reference guide that I mentioned earlier in the components section. This thing is shaped like a huge polyhedral dice and is super thick, like the map tiles. One side has the Dice Wars logo, while the other has all of the pertinent information for playing the game. Everything from the types of terrain and attack types to a step by step walkthrough of the command phase. This could have been printed on a card or two and placed in front of the players, yet this massive piece of coolness was created instead. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with the quick reference guide, as well as the rulebook. Overall I’d say it was a job well done.
9 out of 10
In terms of war games, this is one of the best war games that I’ve played. It’s fairly easy to understand and play. It’s easy enough that even war game novices like myself can play it without any problems. In some ways it feels a bit like an introductory game into the war game genre. The thing is that there are plenty of challenges and strategies to make it fun for even veteran war gamers. The advanced gameplay really opens things up and introduces a lot of different ways to play the game which will really increase the replayability of the game. Another aspect of the game is that it feels more like a skirmish style game than an actual war game. Most war games last 90 minutes to 2 hours, and that’s for an easy game. This one plays in about 45 minutes to an hour. That’s easily half the time of a normal war game. With so many different combinations that can be had from a simple roll of the unit dice, there’s an infinite amount of teams that each player can use to vanquish their foes with. I like that the game doesn’t come down to simply destroying all of a player’s units. The game can be won in 3 different ways, which makes it possible for players to use several different ways to win. They can try to take out a players hero or if the hero is too tough, they can try to wipe out their non hero units. Of course there’s also the diplomatic method, but this can be a bit tough to do. It’s especially hard with more than 1 opponent. Once players see that you’ve captured that 2nd city, they will be all over you making sure that you don’t keep them for long. In any event, I really like this game. It’s not what I was expecting. While the large dice and cool looking artwork drew me in, the gameplay kept me wanting to play it. It kind of reminds me of the game Duel of Ages. The main difference to me though is that this game looks a lot better and is more fun in my opinion. This is a game that is easy enough that the whole family can play together. Even the younger players can participate with just a little help from mom or dad. The advanced game challenges add just enough to make things interesting for more advanced players. Fans of fantasy style war games or games with skirmish modes in them should enjoy this one, especially if they prefer shorter play times. This is a game that I would recommend, especially as an introductory style war/skirmish game. Overall, this is a hidden gem that is a whole lot of fun to play.
8 out of 10
Dice Wars: Heroes of Polyhedra is a fantasy war game with some of the largest dice imaginable. The game isn’t long, especially for a war game. Most game sessions are around 45 minutes to an hour. The components are all great quality. I love the huge dice and the thick map tiles. The artwork is equally good and every piece works well with the theme. The rulebook is also great. There is plenty of information including several challenges for advanced players. I especially like the added quick reference guide that is very thick and sturdy. The game itself is a very fast playing war game lasting less than half the time of most war games. It’s a great introductory game into the genre but it also has plenty of strategic challenges and rules for advanced players. This is a family friendly game that can easily be taught to players of almost any age. Younger players may have a bit of trouble understanding some of the concepts, but for teens and up, it works great. There are plenty of layers of strategy that can accommodate both new and veteran players alike. Fans of fantasy style war games or games with skirmish modes in them should enjoy this one as well. This is a game that I would recommend. It’s especially great as an introductory war/skirmish game. Now if you’ll excuse me…I have a city to capture.
8 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Brybelly at their site.