Thinking about getting into the greatest dice game on earth, but not sure where to start? Just bought a campaign box and need some help figuring it out? Or want to teach your friends how to play and looking for supporting materials? You are in the right place!
Dice Masters (by Wizkids) is a fantastic game full of your favourite heroes, villains, monsters and adventurers, but there is certainly a little bit of a learning curve. This article is the first in a series aimed at flattening that curve, and helping new players to get up to speed more quickly. Together with the videos I started making with the wonderful Zack Pope, and continue to craft alone, the series will help take beginners from absolute zero to DM hero. Or villain. Or monster.
Each article will look at a bite-sized chunk of the rules, and will be accompanied by one or more videos that show the theory put into practice. This first one is about getting started and some basic game concepts, and future instalments will look at things like Combat, Global Abilities, Action Dice, and Priority. So, without further ado, from the beginning…
What is the aim of the game?
Basically, you and your opponent construct small armies of cool characters and those armies then do battle with each other. Through a variety of means, you use your army to inflict damage upon your opponent. If you manage to reduce their life total from 20 to zero, before they do the same to you, you’ve won!
What do you need to play?
For each of two players, you will need:
- 8 black and white Sidekick Dice
- a team of cards – a full team consists of 2 Basic Action Cards (BACs) and 8 Character and/or Action Cards (we’ll come to the differences between these 3 types of card later). But you can play a mini-game with fewer than this, as we do in the first video
- 3 Basic Action Dice for each of your BACs. The dice for each BAC (yours and your opponent’s) should be of different colours.
- at least 1 die for each of your Character or Action Cards (up to the maximum specified on the card – usually 4, but not always). Your total number of such dice (so not including Basic Action Dice or Sidekick Dice) may not exceed 20
- a dice bag
- recommended but not totally essential is a playmat. You can copy a simple one from Wizkids’ website.
Basically, a Starter Pack (like Superman/Wonder Woman) or one of the Campaign Boxes (like Justice, shown above) will provide everything two players need to get started. The main difference is that Starters have 8 unique characters, which is enough to build two four-card mini-teams. Campaign Boxes offer 16 or more unique characters and actions, which means you can build two full-size teams.
And, of course, you don’t have to build the same 2 teams each time – you can swap things up and see which characters work well together. Add in the fact that each product gives you 10 different BACs, and that most characters come in 3 different versions, and you have a recipe for replayability! And that’s just from one box – imagine what you could do with more…
OK, so how do you play?
At this point, I think it’s best if you watch the first How To video, as I could write an awful lot of words explaining what is easier to see in action. The video will explain a little bit about cards and dice, show you what the setup looks like, and go through the first few turns of a game. After you watch, I’ll revise and expand a little. You might then want to watch the game play part of the video again from 03:50. By the time we finish, you will hopefully have a decent idea of how to start building your army, and be itching to read/watch the next part, which will be about attacking 😀
Looks awesome, right? Loads of lovely little dice! And we haven’t even started fighting yet! If you’re feeling a little overloaded with new information at this point, just skip to the ‘Where to Get Help’ paragraph at the end, then take a break and go for a walk. If the cliff hanger is frustrating you, and you’re keen to see some games played out, there’s a pretty solid selection for you on our YouTube channel. BUT, if you are still thirsting for more information and a slightly deeper insight (not to mention a couple of gorgeous tables), read on…
More about Cards
In this section and the next, I’m going to give an overview of the different types of dice and cards you will come across in DM. It’s not absolutely essential knowledge for a beginner, but if you’re anything like me, it will give you a much-needed mental framework which you can flesh out as you learn more.
According to the rulebook, there are two types of card in DM – Characters and Actions. Each one explains the powers of its corresponding dice in the text box, and shows each possible face of the dice in the die face reference along the bottom. The big number in the top left-hand corner of each card shows its cost – the amount of energy you must pay to purchase one of its dice.
The colour of the rarity stripe (beneath the text box) shows the relative rarity of the card – grey for Common, Green for Uncommon, yellow for Rare, and red for Super Rare. Cards in Starter Sets, Team Packs and Campaign Boxes are all grey stripes: the other colours are only found in Boosters and Draft Packs. In the sets that have them, rarities often serves as shorthand for the card’s name – Gold Dragon: Paragon Dragon is usually just called Rare Gold Dragon, for example.
Character Cards (e.g. Gold Dragon: Paragon Dragon) are the ones whose dice will form your army (together with sidekicks). They often come in several versions, distinguished by their unique subtitles (Lesser and Greater Gold Dragons also exist). As well as a cost, they always have an energy type (masks/fists/shields/bolts) – to buy a Gold Dragon die, you’d need to pay 6 energy, including at least one fist (or wild). They may also have an affiliation (e.g. Justice League, Monsters) and, for D&D cards, an alignment (Good/Neutral/Evil) – Gold Dragon is a Good Monster, for example. They can have any number of dice up to ‘Max’, and those dice can only be bought by the card’s owner.
Actions represent objects or events. They almost never have an affiliation (6 very old ones do) – but D&D actions do have an alignment. There are actually two sub-species of Action. As mentioned earlier, each player brings 2 Basic Action Cards (BACs). They might (and might not) also have regular, non-basic Action Cards as part of their 8-card team.
Basic Action Cards (e.g. Jerry Lawler) are clearly marked as such in their subtitle, their dice do not require a specific energy type to purchase, and those dice may be purchased by either player. There must be three dice for each BAC at the start of the game, and the BACs cannot form part of your 8-card team. When building your team, you actively select your two BACs from all those available (10 in a Starter Pack/Campaign Box), so they are very much a part of your extended, 10-card team – it’s just that you have to share them with your opponent (as they do theirs).
(Non-basic) Action Cards (e.g. Atlantis: Wealthy Kingdom), just like Character Cards, have unique subtitles and their dice generally do require a specific energy type to purchase (except for a few older ones) – one Atlantis would cost you 2 energy, including at least one shield/wild. They, too, can have any number of dice up to ‘Max’ and those dice can only be bought by the card’s owner. And, like Character Cards, each one takes up one of your 8 spaces. In fact, their main similarity to BACs is in the type of dice they are associated with, which we’ll come to next.
Dice, Faces and Energy Types
Finally, we come to the heart of Dice Masters – sharks! I mean dice! Buried near the end of all recent rulebooks (except WWE) is a section which might be a bit opaque right now, but if we can get to grips with it, it should save us some confusion later. It’s been removed from the slimmed down WWE book, and replaced with a note referring us to a yet-to-be-updated rules page, but here is the version from page 29 of the 2020 Trouble in Waterdeep rulebook (I’ve slightly amended the order of the sentences):
Basically, there are three (and a half) types of unrolled die in your Prep Area, Used Pile, and bag: Character Dice, Sidekick Dice and Action Dice (Basic and non-Basic). And there are three slightly different types of rolled die, in your Field Zone or Reserve Pool, corresponding to the possible faces the dice are showing: Character Dice, Energy Dice and Action Dice.
Also, just to confuse you, different sets use slightly different wording for ‘character’ and ‘sidekick’:
- NPC (D&D) = Sidekick
- Superstar (WWE) = Monster (Yu-gi-oh! not D&D) = Creature (old D&D) = Character
Regardless of the above terminology, only Character Dice and Sidekick Dice have Character Faces. A Character Die like Gold Dragon has three Character Faces and these represent its different levels – from left to right in the table (and on its card), these are levels 1 (the dragon at its weakest), 2 and 3 (its strongest). Some levels/faces may have one or two burst symbols (*) in the bottom left-hand corner. These signify special abilities, if any are listed on the card (Gold Dragon has none). A Sidekick die has just one (weak) character face, with no burst. This is regarded as its level 1.
When Character Dice and Sidekick Dice are rolled to (one of) their Character Faces, they can be fielded (added to your army). To do so, you must pay the fielding cost (top left) – Gold Dragon costs a hefty 3 energy to field (fielding does not require any particular energy type), while Sidekicks are free to field (zero fielding cost). The other numbers on the character faces are the attack (top right) and defence (bottom right) – more on those next time. Note that when Sidekick Dice are on their Character Face in your Reserve Pool or Field, they are (Sidekick) Character Dice.
Instead of Character Faces, Action Dice (predictably) have Action Faces. The three Action Faces on each die have zero, one and two burst symbols. As before, if these have any meaning (and they often don’t), it will be made clear on the card. The Action Faces do not, however, have any fielding, attack and defence stats, and do not have levels.
All dice also have Energy Faces. This is the energy you use to buy dice from your cards (or your opponent’s BACs) and to field Character Dice (as you saw in the video), and also to pay for other things (such as Global Abilities), which we’ll come to later. At the start of the game, you’ll be relying on energy from Sidekick Dice, each of which offers Bolt, Fist, Shield, Mask energy faces, plus a Wild (?) face, which can be spent as any of the other types.
Unlike Sidekick Dice, Character Dice and (non-basic) Action Dice have both single and double Energy Faces. The double shield face of the Atlantis provides 2 shields, which can be spent separately – you spend the first by spinning the die down to its single energy face. Basic Action Dice have only one type of Energy Face – double generic energy. This provides 2 energy of no particular type – you can use it as part of the purchase cost of a Character Die, for example, but you will still require another energy which matches that character’s energy type. Double generic energy can be spent on two things simultaneously, or can be partially spent, in which case the unused portion is kept as ‘virtual energy’ for a limited time (see Parts 2&3).
Where to Get Help
Right, that’s definitely enough for now 🙂 If anything is unclear, feel free to ask in the comments. And remember, there really is no such thing as a stupid question. When I first started (in Summer 2015), I had to watch Rodney’s videos about 10 times before I felt I had it vaguely straight in my head. Meanwhile, my 6-year-old daughter was saying ‘Yes, Daddy, come on, I know how to play now. No, we don’t need to watch the video again’. Take it at your own pace and ask lots of questions. And if you’re on Facebook, I would very much encourage you to join the Dice Masters: Unlimited group; if Discord is more your thing, join us here. The DM community is, on the whole, super friendly and helpful, and very welcoming to new players. We want you to love the game!
Next time on How to Play Dice Masters
In the next video, Zack and I will finally be attacking each other, and here I’ll be taking a more detailed look at the different steps of a turn, and at how dice move between your bag and the different parts of your playmat. Till then, I’ll leave you with a little teaser – behold, the Die Cycle!