Aug 24, 2017

[Games] Dice Crawl + Forbidden Vaults Review


My partner Tobie recently got to attend Gamex in Los Angeles and while there he managed to bring home a good number of games to add to our collection. One of the titles that you're unlikely to find around here is Dice Crawl by Jim Pinto, which is an interesting spin on the roll and allocate game mechanic tied to the classic dungeon crawl mechanic made popular by tabletop RPGs.

Now generally I'm not a big fan of dice games as the luck factor mostly works against me. But something about Dice Crawl just worked and makes for a fun yet reasonably quick gaming experience that oddly satisfy one on many levels.

Dice Crawl is a dice-based, dungeon-crawling game designed by Jim Pinto. The game supports 1-4 players and has one expansion: Forbidden Vaults.

The game has players portraying mercenary captains trying to get their adventurers to the center of the dungeon to defeat the dragon. Your adventurers are represented by the pool of die each player starts with. You also get a unique Race and Class card to represent your unique abilities in the game. To unlock these abilities, you'll need to allocate pairs of dice that match the power you want but you cannot set dice one at a time. Movement in the dungeon is tracked with wooden cubes and you can only lave the tile you're on once you've exposed another tile that you can move to (as tile cards start face down) and you've fully conquered the tile your piece is on.

Each turn you roll at least 5 dice and based on what comes up you allocate dice either to activate your powers or to conquer empty spots on the revealed tiles of the board that match your die result. If you don't have matching numbers, then you can't really do anything unless you have a power that can make use of those dice somehow, which is often the case. Once a player reaches the middle of the board, where the dragon is, the game is over. The player with the most scored points based on die played in the dungeon on conquered tiles (with a tile control mechanic as well) will win the game.

What I Like: The roll and allocate mechanic really works for this game as you try to figure out if you want to score more tiles (and allow adventurers to leave said tiles) or activate your abilities to make later turns somewhat easier. You have a fair amount of dice but the quantity is still limited so you can't try to activate all powers and hope to score all that well. And figuring out that balance is a lot of fun.

The Forbidden Vaults expansion is simple enough as it adds more Race and Class options along with more tile variants to make your dungeon more interesting without over-complicating the rules. The core game play remains a solid experience and that game duration is pretty reasonable even when you max out at four players.

What Could Have Been Better: You can definitely feel some balance issues once you add in the Race and Class cards from Forbidden Vaults as the expansions simply has more interesting  powers with a lot more versatility. Thus as you setup your game, you might instinctively aim to get an expansion combination as opposed to working with the base game cards outside of wanting to challenge yourself.

Production quality for this game wasn't the greatest and it's a shame that the dice - the central element of the game in many respects - are of less than ideal quality. A number of dice in our set have paint splotches that make certain 2's look like 3's or 4's that look like 5's because of paint drops in key places.

TL;DR: Dice Crawl is a fun little adventure game that is easy to learn and quick to get into. We find ourselves playing a round or two of Dice Crawl between more complex games and  it's hard to stop playing with the expansion once you've tried it. Thus the game and its expansion still get a solid 5 crazy Race and Class abilities out of a possible 5.


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