Before receiving this package from WizKids, I had never played their Dice Masters line before. In fact, I didn’t even really understand the draw of it. Now, however, I get the appeal and have begun collecting more of the set so I can play against people at my local comic shops.
Before I get into the Spider-Man set specifically, a little bit about Dice Masters for those who haven’t been initiated. Based on Quarriors!, this game takes the collectible style of Heroclix and the dice-based combat of its previous success, and successfully fuses them into a game that is both fun to play and instills the desire to collect that is central to any successful game of this kind.
In the game, you choose up to eight characters for your team and, through rolling dice and carefully allocating resources, buy characters to add to your dice bag and eventually bring into battle against an opponent. This play style, fusing the inherent luck of dice rolling with the resource strategy of both energy management and dice purchasing, is easy to learn but gives more than enough complication to interest even the veteran gamer.
This set, “The Amazing Spider-Man,” introduces 132 new characters and several unique card abilities that may or may not be seen again outside of this set. Most notably are the “underdog” and “ally” abilities. Underdog is an ability that only happens if the opposing player has more fielded characters than you do, usually abilities designed to help even the odds. “Ally”, potentially, can be even more game-changing. These characters, traditionally the sideline characters in a franchise, count as sidekicks when in the field but often have card abilities like non-sidekick characters. This leads to the possibility of characters that can double-dip in teams that buff sidekicks.
In addition to what’s available via the boosters, this set like all others offers a starter pack with 10 more basic action cards and 25 characters not available in the boosters. This mechanic, specific to Dice Masters, is one I particularly enjoy as a new player. When I used to play Magic, starter packs didn’t really serve a purpose unless someone was trying to get into the game. All of the cards were relatively common and available in the boosters. While this mechanic is ingenious, assuring that players will buy every new starter pack to get the basic action cards (if nothing else), it also makes the starters something other than a “newbie tax” charging players for deciding if they want to invest in the game.
Included with the boosters and starter pack that WizKids provided for this review was the Amazing Spider-Man playmat. These mats are sort of a necessary evil of the game. While high quality and attractive, it’s almost impossible to play the game without the center-section of the mat, diagraming where dice go during different “states” of play. My only wish, again thinking about new players who may invest in just a starter pack to try the game out, would be for WizKids to provide a pair of lesser quality mats in the starter pack (perhaps made of the same material as their HeroClix mats), so that the starter packs can be played without any other materials needed.
Aside from that, I’m really impressed with the Spider-Man set as well as Dice Masters in general. I think I’ve found my new collectable game and, with booster packs at only $0.99, it’s cheaper than any of them I’ve invested in before.