Thinking about getting into the greatest dice game on earth, but not sure where to start? You’re in the right place! This is the second in a series of articles aimed at helping DM beginners get up to speed as quickly as possible. Each article will look at a bite-sized chunk of the rules, and is accompanied by one or more videos.
Last time, we looked at what you need to play, and at the different types of cards and dice in Dice Masters. This time, we’re going to look at all of the areas and steps involved in one turn of the game. I think we should get right into the video this time. We’re part way through a game, so I would definitely recommend you watch Part 1 first, if you haven’t already. The main focus of this week’s video is combat, but as you’re watching, also try to notice how the dice move around the different parts of the playing area:
Damage, raaargh! OK, if your blood is up, and you’re ready to do battle, just go for it! You probably have enough information to get started – the only vital things we haven’t yet touched on are global abilities, and how to use action dice (we’ll come to those next time). If you’d like to see some example games first, we have a pretty solid selection for you on our YouTube channel. But, if you’re up for some graphics and a more detailed understanding of how the game works, read on!
This is where I record my side of our videos: yes, it’s possible that I should get out more. (Here’s a video of my set-up if you want to see more). I highly recommend playing online, by the way, but that is a topic for another day – right now, we’re going to have a closer look at my playmat. For the first year after I started playing DM, I played on a mat printed out from the rule book, laminated to make it a bit more durable. And that worked just fine! Then, for my birthday, I was given not one, but two neoprene mats (this one is from my daughter, Izzy). This makes rolling dice much more pleasurable, and also opens up the possibility of customization, but at the end of the day, paper mats and neoprene mats have the same few areas:
- The Field Zone, and the Attack Zone, which is actually just a special part of the Field Zone
- The Prep Area – some mats also have ‘KO’: this is just reminder text, not a separate area
- The Reserve Pool
- The Used Pile
- Dice Bag – this is just symbolic – obviously, you’ll need to use an actual bag
There is another important area marked on some mats – Out of Play. This is often referred to by players as ‘Transition’ and is marked on some mats as ’Spent’. These are different names for the same thing – a holding area for dice spent/used on your turn, before they go on to the Used Pile at turn’s end. The point of Out of Play will be explained in a later article; for now, it’s just a good idea to get into the habit of using it. As my mat doesn’t have a dedicated area, I split my Used Pile in two, and use the top half for Out of Play.
What goes around, comes around
Hopefully, you’re beginning to get a feeling for the way the dice move around as you buy stuff, field and attack with characters, and use actions. Below is a stylised version of my playmat with the main dice movements marked on: the Die Cycle. In the following paragraphs, I will outline the various stages of a turn, and identify exactly when all this spending, moving and using happens. This may seem a little finicky now, but will prove essential knowledge as you get more into the game and start to use character abilities.
Each turn consists of the following five steps, which the player must complete in order. Once a step is completed, the player cannot return to it.
(Dice Movements are Summarised in Red)
1. The Clear and Draw Step
At the start of each turn, move any energy still in your Reserve Pool to Used, draw four dice and place them in your Prep Area (on the very first turn, one of these dice is immediately placed in Out of Play, to help offset the advantage that going first would otherwise afford). If there are insufficient dice in your bag, refill it with all the dice in your Used Pile and continue to draw. If you are still unable to draw a total of 4 dice (maybe because you have a lot of dice in the field), you lose one life and gain one virtual generic energy for each die fewer than four that you drew. This life loss is often referred to as ‘bag burn’ and only happens in this step.
Unused Energy ► Used
Drawn Dice ► Prep
2. The Roll and Reroll Step
Roll the four drawn dice together with any others that were placed in Prep before your turn began. This usually means all of them, but would exclude anything added to Prep at the beginning of your turn, or KO’d during Clear and Draw. You may then reroll any number of those dice once (all at once). (You don’t get a second reroll opportunity, even with dice that you did not choose for your first reroll). In theory, dice are rolled in the Prep Area, but in practice, they’ll probably end up all over your mat! After (re)rolling, move the rolled dice to your Reserve Pool, keeping them on the same Character, Action and Energy faces.
Rolled Dice ► Reserve
3. The Main Step
Characters may be fielded by paying their fielding cost (with any type of energy, including generic) and placing them in the Field Zone. If you can’t field a Character (because you don’t have enough energy to pay its fielding cost, for example), or you choose not to, the Character goes to the Used Pile at the end of this step. Actions may be used by moving them to Out of Play (or sometimes to the Field – more on Actions next time).
Energy is used to pay fielding costs, to use Global Abilities or Character Abilities (more on those next time!), or to buy new Character and Action dice (which will be placed in Used). You can purchase any combination of dice you can afford (including those from your opponent’s BACs), but for each die purchased, you must use at least one energy of the type specified on the die’s card (if one is specified).
As mentioned last time, double non-generic energy faces provide 2 energy, which may be partially spent by spinning the die down to a single energy face. For generic energy dice (which only have double energy faces), any unused portion that is not immediately spent is retained as ‘virtual energy’ until you pass priority (as is the virtual energy gained from being unable to draw enough dice). We’ll learn more about passing priority in the next article. You can also pay multiple costs simultaneously to spend a generic die’s energy completely.
Energy spent in any of these ways goes to Out of Play. Note that you can’t choose to spend energy for no reason – unused energy remains in your Reserve Pool until the start of your next turn. Also note that there is no strict order within this step – spending, using and fielding can be done repeatedly, in any order.
Fielded Characters ► Field
Used Actions + Spent Energy ► Out of Play
Unfielded Characters + Purchased Dice ► Used
4. The Attack Step
The following sub-steps should be carried out in strict order:
a) Declare Attackers by moving any or all of your fielded characters into the attack zone (this costs no energy). If you declare no attackers, move immediately to Cleanup, without using globals or actions.
b) Assign Blockers Your opponent may now block with any of their fielded characters, moving these blockers into their attack zone. A single blocker can only block one attacker (unless its ability specifies otherwise), but more than one blocker may be assigned to block a single attacker.
c) Use Actions and Globals We will look at these next time.
d) Assign and Resolve Damage This is a bit more involved, and I’m going to lean a bit more heavily on the language of the rulebook for this sub-section.
Each (blocked) attacking character assigns damage equal to its Attack Value to the character(s) blocking it. If more than one character is blocking an attacking character, the attacker chooses how to divide the damage between the blockers, and can even assign all the damage to one and none to the other(s) (to avoid triggering any “when damaged” effects of the other blocking dice, for example). Likewise, each blocking character assigns damage equal to its full Attack Value to the character it is blocking.
Attacking characters that are unblocked assign damage to the defending player instead of a character, reducing that player’s life total. Such unblocked characters are moved to Out of Play after dealing damage, before any other effects resolve (other than those that would reduce or redirect damage). Note that if an attacking character die was blocked, but the blocker is removed due to some ability/effect, the die is still considered to be “blocked” and will not deal damage to the opponent – ‘once blocked, always blocked’.
Note that all of the damage described above is assigned simultaneously. Once all damage has been assigned, KO each character that took damage greater than or equal to its Defense Value. Damage dealt to a character in excess of its defence has no effect.
Unblocked Characters + Used Actions + Spent Energy ► Out of Play
5. The Cleanup Step
Characters that were KO’d in the Attack Step are sent to the Prep Area, while characters that blocked or were blocked but not KO’d return to the Field Zone. All damage to all dice is cleared and all effects end (except “while active effects” and “effects that occur at the end of turn”). Any Actions you have not yet used should be moved to the Used Pile: only dice showing energy faces can remain in your Reserve Pool after the end of your turn. As your turn ends, move all dice from your Out of Play zone to your Used Pile.
KO’d Characters ► Prep
Dice in Out of Play + Unused Actions ► Used
What a lot of information! Putting it all together gives us the more detailed version of the Die Cycle below. Don’t worry about Sacrificed Characters and Continuous (Cont.) Actions yet. And don’t worry at all if some things are still a bit unclear – that’s absolutely normal! After you’ve had a nice cup of tea, and perhaps a few biscuits, I would highly recommend watching some gameplay videos on our YouTube channel, so that you can see the theory put into practice. But most of all, just get your dice out and start rolling! When questions arise (and they surely will), please don’t hesitate to ask for help – in the comments here or on YouTube, on the Dice Masters: Unlimited Facebook group or in the DM Discord channel.
Next time on How to Play Dice Masters…
In the next video, Zack and I will finally be using Action Dice and Global Abilities, and maybe even some Character Abilities, too! And here we’ll be taking a more detailed look at the mysterious Priority, and how to pass it. Till then, I’ll leave you with another little teaser. You may have noticed in the Complete Die Cycle that dice can move from the Field Zone to Prep at any step in the turn sequence. Have a look at the cards below, and try to figure out in which step each might KO a character. Answers next time!