If you want a bit longer tale of what Dragon Dice is, go back and read my previous review from last year. In short, Dragon Dice was the first collectible dice game, originally released in the mid-90’s by TSR before the company was bought out by Wizards of the Coast. WotC eventually mothballed the game and the newly formed SFR Inc. purchased the rights and the remaining stock that was destined for the dump. Flash forward to now. Dragon Dice is still rolling (pun intended) and have just re-released kicker packs of their classic Undead race.
Most races in Dragon Dice are composed of two colours, representing various magical elements. Undead dice are comprised of Black (Death) and Ivory (the lack of any element), as a result they only Black magic or Elemental magic (accessible with any colour). Since most races have access to two colours of magic, you’d think this would be a major disadvantage to the Undead. Technically it is, but Death magic is pretty strong, and the Undead have some pretty awesome racial abilities that also help make up for it. Probably their strongest ability is that when an Undead unit is killed, it can be exchanged for a previously killed unit of lesser health. So when you kill bigger units they just keep swapping out for slightly smaller units, making it very difficult to just completely wipe out an undead army for that type of win.
Since just eradicating them isn’t a great option, their opponent will have to win the traditional way, by taking control of two out of three of the terrain dice in play. Terrain is represented by large, dual coloured, 8-sided dice. On a player’s turn, they may attempt to maneuver the die up or down one digit, and take the action showing on that digit. While each terrain die is different, generally the lowest numbers allow a magic action, mid-numbers a ranged attack action, higher numbers a melee attack action, and the 8th face gives a variety of special abilities depending on the die. When a player maneuvers the die to its 8th face, that player takes control of that terrain.
Undead creatures in general aren’t particularly known for their prowess with ranged weapons, and this holds true in Dragon Dice as well. The Undead don’t have many ranged units, but tend to be extra powerful as they get into melee range. At some point in the past few years, SFR countered this for more advanced games: they brought in Minor Terrains. These smaller 8-sided dice don’t directly affect the regular Terrains, but can be used to bolster or replace weaker actions, add more magic options, or could cause disaster to strike their own player’s army. Adding onto the Undead re-release, SFR has put out a set of new Black and Ivory minor terrains.
Overall, Dragon Dice is a great game, but it’s not without it’s hiccups. Even as rules are clarified and updated, there is still the occasional ambiguity (which they can usually clear up pretty quick with a simple post to their social media). The multi-colour dice are vital to the core of the game, but the reality of manufacturing doesn’t always match up. For example, I’ve mentioned that Undead are “Black and Ivory” but in really the physical dice are black and grey. The other challenge is that some of the engraving on the icons (which are different for each race) is occasionally difficult to read until you are used to it. In the rare occurrence of a defect (such as a bit of missing paint in the engraving), that can be even harder.
Dragon Dice may not be “perfect,” but it has lasted for more than two decades for a reason. It’s a great game. If your FLGS doesn’t carry Dragon Dice, you can order directly from SRF’s website (but if you are outside the United States shipping tends to be prohibitively expensive).
Originality: 4 / 5 (it was the first, after all)
Visual Appeal: 3 / 5
Ease of Play: 3 / 5
Strategic Challenge: 4 / 5
Total expressed as a percentage of the Ultimate Question: 30.9%