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Subject: Dice City vs. Machi Koro - The Board Game Family review and comparison rss

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Trent Howell
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It’s time to build the best city around!

As the name so aptly describes, Dice City is a game about building your city using dice.

If you've seen our review of Machi Koro, you may be thinking, “Didn’t I just read a review about a city-building dice game?”

While the short answer is “Yes”, the long answer is “We’ve got another game for you to check out – Dice City.”

The premise of Dice City may sound very similar to Machi Koro: Players are competing to build the best city around by rolling dice and acquiring cards to add to their city.

While both dice games are fun family games, Dice City delivers a very different game experience than Machi Koro.

We’ll run through a comparison of these two city-building dice games in just a bit. But first, we’ll give you a run down of how to play Dice City.


How to Play Dice City

Playing Dice City is very straightforward. You’ll roll dice, gain resources, build locations, and hopefully win the game.

Set Up

Each player gets their own city board and 5 colored dice (white, yellow, red, blue, black).

The Lumber Mill, Quarry, Mine, and Regular Army cards are placed in their individual stacks in the center of the table.

The Location cards are shuffled together and 8 are drawn and placed face up next to the basic cards.

In addition, the Bandit cards and Trade Ship cards are also placed in their respective stacks.
All of the tokens (Resources, Pass, Deactivation, and Victory Points) are also set within reach of all players.

Once all the game items are in place, players simultaneously roll their 5 dice and place them on their city boards.

Down the left side of each city board are the 5 colors corresponding to each color of dice. To place their dice, players simply match the color of each die with the corresponding column and row. For example, if a player rolls a White 5, they place that die on the location in the 5th column of the white row.

Then play begins with the starting player.

Taking a Turn

On a player’s turn, they take the following steps:
1. Use Dice
2. Attack
3. Build and Trade
4. End of Turn

1. Use Dice

Since the dice are already on the player’s city board, they now simply use each die by removing it from a location and taking one of the following actions:

* Use the location ability of that spot
* Move another die to an adjacent spot in that die’s own row
* Discard 4 location cards in the market and draw new ones (can only be done once per turn)
* Reactivate a deactivated location anywhere in their city
* Gain a Pass token (can only be done once per turn)

The most common use of the dice will be to use the ability of the location it was on. Perhaps the next most common will be to remove one die to be able to move another die to an adjacent location in its row – so it can take advantage of a better location ability.

In addition to using their dice, players can also spend 2 Pass tokens to either Gain a resource of their choice, Increase their Army strength by 1, or force all other players to reroll one of their dice.
Once all dice are used (and any Pass tokens they choose), the player can Attack.

2. Attack

Some red (Military) locations have a sword icon on them. When a player uses these locations, they add strength to their military for that turn.

Using their total activated strength a player can perform one or more attacks. They can choose to either attack Bandits or Another Player.

To attack a Bandit, the total military strength must be equal to or greater than the defense value on the Bandit card. The player then takes that Bandit card and places it facedown next to their city (to score the victory points on it at the end of the game).

When attacking another player, the active player chooses a location on the opponent’s city board to attack. And similar to a bandit card, they compare their military strength to the defensive strength (shield icon). If the military strength is equal to or greater than the defense, they place a Deactivation on the attacked location. If there is a Victory Point value (star icon) on that location, the attacking player also gains that many victory points.

Locations without a shield icon cannot be attacked.

Another element that can be attacked is an opponent’s stock of resources. A player can steal 1 resource for every 2 military strength they have.

After attacking, if a player has more military strength remaining, they may make another attack.
Military strength is only good for a single turn. Unlike resources, it cannot be stored or accumulated for a future turn.

3. Build and Trade

The active player can now spend their resources to build new locations in their city or use trade ships to export those resources and gain victory points.

The cost of each location is located in the upper-right corner of the card. A player simply returns the required resources to the central supply and takes the location card from the market. They then place it anywhere in their city.

By building a new location in their city, they’ll also be covering up an existing location. The covered location ability is no longer accessible when that number is rolled. Only the visible location ability is used.

In this manner, players essentially upgrade the locations in their city to achieve better abilities.
Players can build as many new locations as they have resources to spend on a turn.

To use a Trade Ship, the active player spends the required resources of a Trade Ship card. The player then takes that card and, like with a Bandit card, places it facedown near their city for scoring at the end of the game.

4. End of Turn

If the active player has any resources remaining, they can store one of each type. Those resources are considered to be in stock (these are the resources other players may steal in an attack). All other unspent resources are returned to the general supply.

Players can keep as many Pass tokens as they would like from turn to turn.

After storing any resources, the player then rolls their 5 dice and assigns them to their appropriate spots on their city board.

Then play continues to the player to the left.

End of Game

The game ends after one of these conditions is met:
* All Bandit cards have been taken
* All cards from any two stacks of Trade Ships have been taken
* The location deck runs out of cards
* Two or more rows in a player’s city have been filled with built locations (and none of them are currently deactivated)

Once that condition is met, play continues until every player has had an equal number of turns. (Thus, the use of the Starting Player token.)

Then players add up their victory points which include:
* Victory Point tokens
* Bandit cards
* Trade Ship cards

All location cards in their city with VP (both active and deactivated)
The player with the most Victory Points is the winner.


Differences Between Dice City and Machi Koro

As we stated at the beginning, the premise Dice City sounds a lot like Machi Koro, which we reviewed last week.

By reading through how to play, we’re sure you’ve already spotted a number of obvious differences between Dice City and Machi Koro (number of dice, player boards, resources, trade ships and bandits).
So although the theme may be similar, both games offer a vastly different game playing experience. And depending on the type of game experience you’re looking for, you may prefer one over the other.
Here we’ll dive into 5 of the main differences.

City Size
In Machi Koro, each player begins with just 2 establishments (Wheat Field and Bakery) and build more establishments through the game. It’s a very simple city to start with and there are only 15 unique establishments to choose from.

In Dice City a player’s starting city is comprised of 30 locations. Although some of those locations are duplicates (not unique), players can upgrade them by building new locations on top of them.

Experience: Machi Koro starts off very simply with players not having a lot of options in their cities. New players won’t be overwhelmed when they first sit down to play. The first couple of turns will feel like a tutorial as they get familiar with the game and slowly build up new establishments in their city. They’ll feel like they’re building a small city into a large one.

On the flip side, in Dice City players immediately can see there are a lot of options. Players will feel like they’ve already got a large city under their control with many options available. Although players can upgrade their locations, the extent of their city won’t expand. They’ll always have 30 locations in their city. In this way the game feels more like a city management game rather than a city-building game.

Use of Dice
In Machi Koro all players share 2 dice and take turns rolling. The outcome of a roll may impact all players in the game. Whether the result impacts only the player rolling or other players (depending on their establishments), the outcome is the same – players will gain (or lose) coins.

In Dice City each player has their own set of 5 dice and rolls them and assigns them to the appropriate spots on their board at the end of each of their turns. The outcome of each die roll depends on the location it activates in the city. Players also have options to use their dice for other actions than just the ability of a location they end up on.

Experience: The use of dice between the two games feels like night and day. In Machi Koro, players roll a die (or two) and immediately get coin rewards. There aren’t any choices to be made from the results. If a card says to get 1 coin, the player gets one coin.

In Dice City, players place their 5 dice in their city and each can be used for distinct actions. Because of this, while other players are taking their turns a player can contemplate how they’ll use those dice on their next turn. With options to move dice to adjacent locations, cycle locations from the market, or claim pass tokens, there’s plenty to evaluate to make optimal use of each die.

Resources
In Machi Koro, there is only one resource to gain and manage – Coins.

In Dice City, there are 4 resources to manage – Wood, Stone, Iron, and Military.

Experience: Although our world seems to revolve around money. Reality says there’s more to building a city than just throwing money at it. However, while playing Machi Koro, coins will take care of all a player’s needs. Having only one resource is a streamlined way to increase the strength of a city.

While playing Dice City, players gain and use wood, stone, and iron to build new locations and ship goods. Additionally, players have a military resource to manage for attacking bandits or other players. Managing multiple resources means more decisions to make.

Establishments and Locations
In both games, the structures in a city (establishments or locations) are represented by cards. For being dice-driven games, both involve a lot of cards.

In Machi Koro, all establishments revolve around money. Since money is the only resource in the game, the only ability an establishment can provide is a way to earn coin.

In Dice City, locations can do all sorts of things. Not only can they provide different resources, but they can also generate re-rolls, move dice, dish out victory points, provide defense, and other sorts of nifty combinations of actions.

Experience: The establishments in Machi Koro don’t offer a lot of variety. Each is just a slightly different spin on the same result. With only one resource to dish out, they only differences are whether a player earns coins on their turn or another player’s turn and whether they get coin from the bank or other players.

The locations in Dice City create more variety in how they interact with each other. But that’s not the only interesting thing about locations in the game. Since players make choices on where they place their new locations, every player’s city will take shape in different ways.

Attacking
In both games, the color Red signifies an attack.

In Machi Koro, the red and purple establishments allow players to take coins from other players (it’s not referred to in the game as an attack).

In Dice City, the red locations generate military strength for attacking.

Experience: In Machi Koro, an “attack” is carried out when the dice results match the number of a red or purple card. Players don’t have any choices in what to do when the result is rolled. It just happens. Bad luck for the person losing their money.

In Dice City, an “attack” is really a methodical outcome. Yes, the luck of the dice rolls will dictate is a red location gets a die placed on it. But it’s still up to that player to use that result for an attack or not. Since players can remove a die to move a different die or claim a pass token, they don’t have to attack. But if they want to, they can choose to target one specific opponent. And since that opponent already has their dice placed on their city locations, the active player can choose to attack one of those locations – thus, forcing the opponent to adjust their use of that die in their coming turn.

In addition, if a player wants to attack, they can build more red locations and distribute them in such a way in their city that their probability and power of attack increases. And even with that, the player may choose to use the military strength to not attack another player, but attack bandits instead.


Which Game to Get?

While there are more than just 5 differences between the two games, those we’ve listed are the major elements that create the distinct play experiences.

So when deciding which game to get, consider the factors above for the type of play experience you’re after.

If you want a game that presents a broad range of decisions, then Dice City is the way to go. Because the game is based on dice rolls, there’s still a healthy element of luck involved in the game. But there are also plenty of ways to manipulate those results to your advantage through the choices you make.

On the other hand, if you’d like your dice-rolling game to be mostly driven by the luck of the die roll and only include a few decisions, then Machi Koro is the way to go.

While we don’t consider Dice City to be a deep, strategic game, it definitely has more depth and requires more thinking than Machi Koro. Machi Koro is clearly the lighter game of the two. Machi Koro also plays in half the time (30 minutes vs. 45-60 minutes).

So which will you choose?

Or will you be like us and add both to your game shelves?

Yep. We’ll be keeping both.

Like we always say, “the best game depends on the situation”. Sometimes we’ll be in the mood for one. And sometimes we’ll be in the mood for the other. With both games, we can choose in the moment.


How does Dice City score on our “Let’s Play Again” game meter?

If our previous paragraph didn’t give it away, we’ll say it straight. Dice City is a game that we anticipate playing many times.

The games we enjoy playing repeatedly are those that have a good mix of strategy and luck.
In Dice City the dice rolls deliver the element of fun luck while the choices in what to do with the results keeps us thinking. That combination means there is still plenty for us to explore with the game.

Thanks AEG for Dice City – a fun family, dice, city-building game.



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Kathy Sheets
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Dice City definitely wins for us. We play it regularly. MK never sees the light of day.
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Kevin Garnica
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TheBoardGameFamily wrote:

In Dice City, there are 3 resources to manage – Wood, Stone, Iron, and Military.


laugh

Good review, though. I used to own both, but have since sold my copy of MK. Dice City for the win!
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Christopher Corrigan
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Thank you for your comparative review.
I very much enjoy Dice City but also have been curious about Machi Koro for sometime. While it is true that I am a bit of a magpie when it comes to boardgames, I think that have my shiny object here.
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Trent Howell
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pacman88k wrote:
TheBoardGameFamily wrote:

In Dice City, there are 3 resources to manage – Wood, Stone, Iron, and Military.


laugh

Good review, though. I used to own both, but have since sold my copy of MK. Dice City for the win!


Great catch. I added Military to that line later and didn't check that number. *Edit done.
 
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A J
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Thanks for the review! I have MK and thinking about Dice City. The biggest advantage for MK is that MK can play up to 5.

How is the downtime for Dice City at 4 players? That's my biggest concern for such a light game.
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Trent Howell
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ayejae wrote:
Thanks for the review! I have MK and thinking about Dice City. The biggest advantage for MK is that MK can play up to 5.

How is the downtime for Dice City at 4 players? That's my biggest concern for such a light game.


With 4 players there is a noticeable wait.
 
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Trevor Taylor
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TheBoardGameFamily wrote:
ayejae wrote:
Thanks for the review! I have MK and thinking about Dice City. The biggest advantage for MK is that MK can play up to 5.

How is the downtime for Dice City at 4 players? That's my biggest concern for such a light game.


With 4 players there is a noticeable wait.


I would've thought that, unless someone royally screws you on their turn, you could pretty much plan your turns while others are taking theirs anyway?
 
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Trent Howell
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negatrev wrote:
TheBoardGameFamily wrote:
ayejae wrote:
Thanks for the review! I have MK and thinking about Dice City. The biggest advantage for MK is that MK can play up to 5.

How is the downtime for Dice City at 4 players? That's my biggest concern for such a light game.


With 4 players there is a noticeable wait.


I would've thought that, unless someone royally screws you on their turn, you could pretty much plan your turns while others are taking theirs anyway?


That's the benefit of rolling the dice and placing at the end of your turn. Doing that definitely allows for planning ahead. However in a 4-player game, things will change while you wait (locations attacked, market cards being taken) - which will lead to needed adjustments.
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Oran Barraclough
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Good comparison, I completely agree. I actually just sold Machi Koro today and bought Dice City
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