Monday, February 1, 2010

Feb 1 -- There and back again

Unbeknownst to pretty much everyone in the world, there is a war amongst board gamers. Some are solidly in what we'll call the "Euro" camp. Euros are games that focus on mechanics over theme, have short playing times (~30 minutes or less), and have gone a good way towards eliminating overt randomness from play. The other camp is colloquially known as "Ameritrash" or, more properly, "multiplayer conflict games." These tend to have a substantial chunk of randomness (largely dice rolling), are heavily themed, and often feature player elimination--you lose and you're out.

Both camps have adherents, and there is obviously folks that live comfortably in both worlds.  I can play pretty much anything, but man, some Euros are just too boring for words. By and large, I want my games to have little dudes, and my little dudes attack your little dudes. Or we team up our dudes and attack something else. Trying to be satisfied by optimizing clay collection is not something I am enchanted with.

Game of the Day: DRAGON DICE
Firmly, firmly in the Ameritrash family is Dragon Dice. A game so random that even the dudes are dice. Those aren't just play aids in that shot--that's an army in this game*. Each player (up to three) brings a little pile of special d6 or d8 dice to the game--this constitutes their army, which they roll to attack and defend. A player has a home army for defending their home terrain (also defined by a die!) and a roaming army for marauding the countryside.

The number of hit points is determined by the size of the dice--how cool is that? It's a little hard to see in that image, but the orange die on the right is a 1hp die, and the bigger ones are 2hp. The dice have symbols that indicate hits, saves, effects, and so forth. It's totally charming! If you manage to roll up more than 7 points of magic (you are at times compelled to attack using magic) then a dragon appears. These are big d12's that fly over to that terrain and start breathing and eating everyone there--including you. I know, describing it sounds like idiocy, but it is a total blast. And to know that every roll might bring a swath of flaming death on the whole battlefield brings some real excitement. 

Awesome! You're sold! You want to go buy it! Uh, not so fast. The game was first published by TSR (of Dungeons & Dragons fame) in 1995 and they stopped making it when they were sold to Wizards of the Coast in 1997. They made another couple of armies and then decided to dump everything into a German landfill in 2000 or so. Luckily, SFR, Inc. stepped in, which essentially is a couple of guys that wanted to keep playing Dragon Dice. The y bought the rights and have put out some decent product over the last nine years or so. You won't find the game at Toys R Us anymore, but there is a vibrant if small community of players. It's best to track down the game at thrift stores or eBay, that way you can get a decent amount of dice at a good price. 

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

*That's not an army, really, it's just a pile of dice. Usually armies are one color to maximize "racial" abilities.

[Image from MIT Trekkie at en.wikipedia under the GNU FDL.]

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