Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-Men is a two player 'dice-building' combat game from WizKids in which players will be using a team of superheroes and villains from Marvel Comic's Uncanny X-Men to do battle with each other.
Players build their teams using cards for each chosen character. The character cards feature a drawing of each character as well as listing the energy cost of that card's dice, a special ability, maximum number of dice as well as showing all six faces of that character's dice. Each character in the game has up to four different cards that can be chosen, each with different costs and abilities and choosing which single version of a character to use is central to forming a player's strategy.
[caption id="attachment_30932" align="aligncenter" width="932"] While the dice representing a character stay the same, players should choose which card to use based on which special ability and dice cost best suits their needs.[/caption]
In addition to choosing which characters to use, each player will choose two Basic Action cards to use during the game. Like character dice, Basic Action dice can be purchased with energy but rather than providing a hero to field and fight with they provide either additional energy to spend or they trigger the power listed on the Basic Action card. Basic Action cards also differ from character cards in that both players can purchase dice from any of the four Basic Action cards being used in the game.
[caption id="attachment_30934" align="aligncenter" width="443"] Basic Actions have a variety of abilities. Players need to balance how effective a Basic Action will be versus their opponent with how effective it could be in the hands of their opponent when choosing which cards to use.[/caption]
Play begins with each player having only 8 sidekick dice available in their dice bag. On a turn a player draws 4 dice from their bag, rolls them and then uses the faces rolled to decide which actions to take. While sidekick dice can be fielded and used to attack your opponent they are best used for energy to buy other, more powerful dice. As the game progresses and players buy more dice they will be able to draw and field the dice that represent their chosen heroes. Players buy dice, field characters and battle until one player is reduced to zero life.
[caption id="attachment_30936" align="aligncenter" width="558"] The Basic Action dice come in four colors, with each being used to represent one of the chosen Basic Actions. Sidekick dice have a weak sidekick that can be fielded but are most often used for energy to buy more powerful dice.[/caption]
The 'dice building' mechanic in Dice Masters is a ton of fun. Buying more dice and more powerful dice and thus giving yourself more choice in future turns is satisfying. It feels good to draw a hero die from your bag and have even more options available as the game progresses. The characters feel different from one another and the game is surprisingly thematic despite the abstraction of the dice representing them.
Rolling dice and using the results rolled is fun and while you can occasionally have some bad rolls that limit your options, the game never leaves you feeling like you have nothing to do. It manages to avoid the 'mana screw' that some other similar card games can have while simultaneously giving the feeling of constantly building towards something and making progress.
[caption id="attachment_30941" align="aligncenter" width="319"] The character dice are colorful and fun to play with. Most of them are easy to read although a few color combinations are less than ideal.[/caption]
Combat is interesting as well. While it may seem like an obvious strategy to attack constantly, it pays to attack and defend intelligently. Unblocked attacking characters damage your opponent but are also used up and you wont be able to use that die again until it is shuffled back into your bag and drawn on a later turn.
Characters that get 'knocked out' go back to a player's reserve to be re-rolled on their next turn along with the four new dice that they draw. Knocking a few of your opponents characters out can feel satisfying one moment and terrifying the next as they roll a big handful of dice to use against you.
A note on the collectible aspect: Each foil pack of Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-men comes with two additional dice and a matching card for each. The cards themselves have four rarities being Common, Uncommon, Rare and Super Rare. Thankfully the power curve seems to be much more gradual than in other collectible games that I have played and the Super Rare version of a card isn't necessarily going to be a big step up in power over the other versions of that character.
A note on “chrome”: The art on the cards is excellent and the cards themselves are of good quality. Most of the dice are neat looking and easy to read although there are a few that have color combinations or are made of clear plastic that aren't very easy to read. The quality of the dice themselves is okay. Of the 224 dice that I own about a dozen of them are marred, chipped or have other noticeable imperfections.
The dice bags that come with the Starter Set are made of paper and do not hold up very well. I highly recommend getting cloth dice bags to replace them.
The foil packs themselves don't really do a good job of keeping the cards flat and many of the cards that I opened were warped although none that I bought were actually bent. I was able to flatten all of the warped cards simply by placing them under a heavy stack of books for a few days.
The bottom line:
Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-Men is a fun, quick, head to head combat game that offers quite a large variety of options and strategy. There is a full game in the Starter Set making it a worthwhile purchase even for players who have no interest in the collectible aspect of the game.
It's fun to create different teams of heroes and villains and exciting to find potent combinations of cards and dice. The game is easy to teach and plays quickly and offers tournament level play to players who wish to play more seriously.
The game is collectable which will turn some gamers away but the Starter Set has a low price point and the foil packs are cheap. Adding to the appeal for players that enjoy collectible games is the fact that every Dice Masters set is compatible which will add an enormous variety of options for players who wish to combine them as more sets are released.
Get this game if:
You enjoy 1v1 head to head combat games.
You enjoy deck/dice building games.
You enjoy games that are hugely expandable.
Avoid this game if:
You dislike dice based games.
You dislike collectible games.
The Starter Set for Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-Men can be purchased via Amazon here.
Rules for Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-Men as well as a tutorial video can be found here.
For this review a copy of the Starter Set and a 90 count gravity feed foil pack box were purchased by the author.
As a small thank you for reading this review I'm going to give one lucky reader a stack of cards and dice from Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-men. Simply leave a comment below stating who your favorite X-men character is and I will randomly select one commenter on Saturday 2/28/15 to send these dice and cards to. Unfortunately I'm only able to ship within the U.S. and I apologize if that rules anyone out.
[caption id="attachment_31192" align="aligncenter" width="300"] A little thank you to one lucky reader. Note: These dice and cards are not enough to play the game on their own as there are no basic action dice nor sidekick dice. You will need a Dice Masters Core Set to play.[/caption]
Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-men is a really neat 2 player game with a low price-point. Both collectors and non-collectors should give this game a try.