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Subject: First impressions on the Nations dice game rss

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A. S.
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At Essen I was able to grab a copy of the game from the designer. I have played the game a few times since then. Here are my 2 cents.

Gameplay
The dice game has a lot of similarities to the Nations card game. The game plays in four rounds (ages). In every age you draw the available tiles that you can buy and a card that sets the bonus for this age. Then you roll all your dice. Now you take turns. If it’s your turn you can do one of three things: Buy a tile, use a reroll token, build a wonder. Most often you buy tiles. The interesting twist is that everything you will get from the new tile (chips, dice) you can use in the current age. In case of dice, you roll the dice immediately. By this you can keep your turn going on. For more of the rules you might check the rule book.

The game is not very deep but you have to prepare for some tricky decision. I definitely enjoy the light and faster dice game compared to the heavier and longer Nations card game. It’s really all about what do you want to play and how much time do you want to invest. On top of that rolling the dice is just fun. So for me the dice game is the much better fit. And the strategic options you have for such a short game are interesting enough to make the game, well, interesting.


Components
The dice are marvelous. The icons are engraved and the colors look lively. The tiles as well as the chips are also very nice - thick cardboard. On the downside the scoreboard, playerboards and the board where the available tiles are placed are printed on thin cardboard (just as in Nations). Overall the quality is good.




Replayability
The games will be a bit different every time since you only draw 9 out of 15 tiles per age (12 in the 4 player variant). It can change the nature of the game quite a bit. For example, if not many blue cards show up in the first three ages, the game will be quite different. Also the distribution (color) of the available dice makes a difference. I would have loved to see a B-side of the board, with an asymmetric setup (as done in the Nations card game). I think this is a missed opportunity to increase the replay value. I could think of many nice small features for the different nations (for example, turn a single die once during the game, start with a blue dice and three whites + an extra reroll chip). Maybe the designer wanted to keep things as simple as possible, but since you can decide between both sides I don’t think asymmetric b-sides would complicate things too much.



Artwork
I would say so-so. The iconography is superb. Some of the tiles have nice pictures, some look a bit weird (I look at you Marie Antoinette). Every nation has a different color. Persia (purple) and Rome (red) look quite similar and a hard to distinguish under artificial light.




Solitaire mode
The game also comes with a solitaire mode. I like this mode very much. It misses the turn order aspect of the game completely which makes it even easier to play. For a good score you need quite some luck. But again, rolling the dice is fun!


Theme
The theme makes sense, but I don’t feel much of it during the game. The theme is definitely more present in the card game. As I already said, it makes no difference which nation you play. But then again it comes at the cost of game complexity.


Overall Impression
I like the game for what it is: A short game that is easily accessible. Maybe you could consider it even as a gateway game. Still it contains a few interesting twists. I don’t see such a combination often (I have not played the Roll through the ages games, but I am not so impressed by the score sheets). So I am very happy to have the game in my collection and I looking forward to play it often in the future.


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Mathue Faulkner
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I'm really curious to hear how this compares with VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game which is the best dice game that I've played to date. Obviously the mechanisms differ, but I'd be curious to hear how they compare in terms of depth of play, etc.

Thanks for the quick review....
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Rustan Håkansson
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Thanks for the review!

andreschulz wrote:
Maybe the designer wanted to keep things as simple as possible, but since you can decide between both sides I don’t think asymmetric b-sides would complicate things too much.


Indeed. I worked on variable b-sides and wanted suitable low complexity for the game. The variations I tried did not add enough interesting choices that were not already covered by the game as it is now.
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Ron
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Good review, A.S.!

Having played many games already, I'd say for me it's one of the best dice games out there and also one with a great topic. It doesn't use that worn out Yahtzee mechanism and offers tricky choices and decisions for the players.

Just a word on your paragraph "replayablity":
One criticism of the game's big brother (Nations) is that often the cards you desire won't show up on the progress board - that can happen because of the sheer number of cards in that game. With the reduced number of cards (or in this case, tiles), this won't happen easily in the dice variant. So adding more tiles with more and different powers would increase the chance for, let's call it "unbalanced rounds", but it would also increase the replayabilty (which, in fact, I rate one star higher than you).

Actually, that would be perfect for an expansion set - buy it if you want a wider and less controllable game, or leave it to ensure a more balanced progress board.
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T B
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Quick and great filler game....really makes you wanna bring out the BIG "Nations" and play that!

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