Dice Masters by Wizkids was first released in 2014 with the Avengers vs X-Men Marvel set. It has since gone on to include licenses such as DC, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dungeons and Dragons, Yu-Gi-Oh! and now Warhammer 40,000 (Warhammer 40K or just 40K). For those unfamiliar with Warhammer 40,000, it's a tabletop wargame by Games Workshop. We run a Start Collecting series that you can find more details about the game and setting. Warhammer 40,000 Dice Masters starts with the Battle for Ultramar Campaign Box. This box features forces from two famous Warhammer 40K factions, the Ultramarines and the Death Guard.
The Campaign box contents are fixed, as are the team pack expansion packs. This is a change from how Dice Masters started, with fixed starter packs and then random collectible booster packs and it means that you only need to buy the packs you want in order to play. The Warhammer 40,000 Dice Masters set is fully compatible with all other Dice Masters sets, but we'll be looking at it by itself, with no interaction from other sets.
In Dice Masters, players start the game with 8 basic dice. Each dice has four types of energy on its faces (fist, lightning bolt, shield and mask) along with a wild energy (which can be used for any energy type) and a Sidekick (the pawn symbol). Each turn players randomly draw 4 dice from their bag and roll them. Using the dice results rolled, players can buy dice from their cards on the table, or from a pool of central actions cards. Any dice purchased are added to their bag and can be drawn in later rounds. Purchased cards or the Sidekick side of the basic dice can be used to attack your opponent. Players start on 20 life and the game ends when one player is reduced to 0 life.
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Players create their team from the cards provided. Teams are made up of 8 cards and 20 dice (plus the 8 basic dice players start with) and each player also brings 2 action cards which go into a central pool either player can buy from.
In the Warhammer 40,000 Dice Masters Battle for Ultramar Campaign Box, both the Ultramarines and Death Guard have three copies of eight different characters. If players are just using the Campaign Box, one of each of the cards must be used. In the images above, you can see examples of two characters from both forces. The Ultramarines have the Primaris Intercessor's, and the three options are Favored of Guilliman, Versatile and And They Shall Know No Fear. One of those must be selected, along with one of each of the other seven characters.
The bottom of each card shows the 6 dice faces that come on that characters dice. The dice on each character card are the same, the only difference between the cards is the ability and the cost to buy one of the dice during the game.
The campaign box gives 3 dice for each character and platers have to use at least one from each of their 8 characters and a maximum of the number listed above the dice faces on the card (in the examples above, they all read Max: 4). Players bring 20 dice each and the combination of dice can depend on the type of 'deck' they're using. You might want to bring lots of low cost dice in order to bring them all out quickly, or find a balance of low and high cost, or simply field the maximum number you can of a dice that you rely on for combinations.
The dice brought into the game are placed on the character card and aren't available until after they're purchased during the game.
In a fixed rarity box, we would have like to have seen a maximum number of each dice provided. Having to buy another box, only to throw 66% of it away because you only need one dice extra for each card (or find two other players to split the box three ways) just feels odd, especially when it's over 16 total extra dice for the full set. You get enough basic action dice and action card dice for two players, so even if the box is split three ways, those dice, as well as the packaging are wasted.
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Character and dice number selection during deck creation is a huge part of Dice Masters. Finding the right balance of dice and character cards that combo together well is key.
During a player's turn, they draw 4 dice randomly selected from their dice bag and roll them into the Reserve Pool area. These dice can either be spent to buy dice from their character card, or from the four basic action cards. If a Sidekick symbol is rolled on the basic dice, or the Custom Icon on a character dice (which has the stats of the dice on), they can be moved to the Field Zone after paying any relevant costs.
Buying a dice from your characters in Dice Masters requires you to pay the cost of it. In the top left hand corner of the character cards is a number and energy symbol. In the example above, the Primaris Redemptor Dreadnought Bonecrusher costs 5 Energy, and one of those must be a Shield. The cost can be paid in a variety of ways and in the image above, we pay it with five different energy types, including one shield and one wild energy, and also with one wild energy and four generic energy from action card dice.
Buying a character dice puts the dice into your used pile, and when your dice bag is empty, all dice from your used pile are moved into your bag to be drawn again as required. So buying a dice means there could be a delay before you get it onto the table as you have to empty your bag first. There's also the random draw nature of the bag, and adding your first dice into your 8 starting basic dice means that if you're unlucky, it could even be three turns before you draw it. So getting dice into your bag early, but also keeping a stable draw of energy rolls is essential.
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At the start of the game, each player picks two Basic Action Cards to add to the play area. These are then placed on the four colored cards with their matching dice. Either player can purchase dice from these basic action cards. These cards give you generic energy, that can be used to pay for cards, but don't have an energy type so they must be used alongside another dice. They also allow players to use the ability on the card if they roll the ! symbol with a bonus upgrade if the dice face includes * as well.
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When character dice rolled into the play area, along with their energy sides, they also have a Custom Icon side that lists stats that can be used to attack our opponent. The number in the top left of the dice is the energy cost to bring them into play from the rolled pool, which can be energy from any type. The top right value is the attack value and the bottom right is the defense value.
After the rolled dice have been used to buy dice and field character dice, the player who's turn it is attacks with their character dice and any Sidekicks they have. The opposing player then declares blockers with their character dice and sidekick dice. Unblocked dice deal their attack value to your opponent's life points and attackers and blockers deal damage to each other. If any attack value exceeds a dice's defense vale, it is moved into the Used pile and any who survive are moved back into the Field Zone and can be used in future rounds.
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Warhammer 40,000 Dice Masters introduces two new abilities into Dicemasters, Range and Frag. Range gives character dice with the Range ability a bonus shooting round before combat begins as the two forces battle with their ranged weapons before closing in close combat. Frag allows character dice with this ability to damage your opponent's dice that did not block this turn, possibly clearing out sidekicks left for future rounds or if combined with other Frag abilities, to take out larger units.
Both of these abilities add to the theme of Warhammer 40K in Dice Masters, especially Range which is where a lot of the tabletop action happens. Range allows you to pick off your opponent's dice before blockers are declared, but be aware that your opponent will also be able to deal range damage back if they have active units with this ability.
Games of Warhammer 40,000 Dice Masters are quite fast and feel very punchy. They usually take around 25-40 mins to complete depending on the combination of cards and dice chosen. There is a lot of depth to the game in terms of juggling the random balance of the dice rolls and odds of drawing dice from the bags.
The two forces in the Battle for Ultramar Campaign Box do feel thematic, like they should on the tabletop to a degree, but it is hard to capture the swarm and resilience factor that the Death Guard bring to the tabletop wargame across in Dice Masters.
Games are enjoyable, but the current limited card pool does feel restrictive. As a player of the tabletop wargame, I'm hesitant about combining the 40K Dice Masters cards/dice with those of other Dice Masters sets, but veteran Dice Masters players now have a lot of options an combinations to add to their games.
The Campaign Box is a great set, even as a standalone product and it will be interesting to see how the game develops as future packs are added. There are currently two Team Packs available, the Space Wolves and the Orks, both of which come with three different versions of eight character cards and two dice for each. forcing you to buy multiple packs for access to the full compilation of dice. Some of the cards are Max 2 dice, so future purchases of those are wasted, most are Max 4 and there are a couple of Max 5, meaning that three copies of the Team Pack would be required, with the third copy only giving you two dice, the rest being ultimately thrown away as duplicates.
Obviously the buy-in for these fixed rarity packs of 40K Dice Masters is still low when compared to the collectible game business model, but the forced waste just feels off. With a collectible game, there is a chance of trading cards, but even with splitting the packs with another player so you both get full sets, there is a high percentage of waste.
We'll cover both of these packs in more detail in a future article, we just wanted to highlight this.
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The Bottom Line:
We have some issues with the fixed component model of Warhammer 40,000 Dice Masters, but the product itself is great and the Battle for Ultramar Campaign Box is well produced and plays well. There are a few variations of 'decks' that you can play out of the box, but they're not infinite and if you're looking for longevity in the game, purchase of the Team Packs will be needed to add extra options. Games are fast and fun and the random drawing of dice from the bag, combined with the random roll element keep the games interesting. Wizkids have done a great job of keeping theme important, and both factions in the Campaign Box do feel like the forces they represent, though not perfectly, but within the constraints of the Dice Masters system.
The box itself is a great product and helps to keep everything you need to play packed up tightly, showing the Wizkids have thought beyond the system to players transport needs.
Get this game if:
You're a Dice Masters player who wants access to the Range and Frag abilities.
You're a Warhammer 40K fan looking for another way to play.
You're a fan of mixed card and dice games.
Avoid this game if:
You don't like mixed card/dice games.
You want to exactly replicate the tabletop war game with a card game.
This copy of Warhammer 40,000 Dice Masters was provided by Wizkids.
Have you played Dice Masters? What do you think of the addition of the Range and Frag abilities? Are you a Warhammer 40K player who hasn't played Dice Masters? How well do you think it represents the tabletop wargame? What factions would you like to see next in Team Packs? Let us know in the comments below.
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