The ambulances have arrived, the patients are crashing. Your staff are trained and ready for anything, but do you have the resources to cope with every emergency that comes your way? That’s the challenge players face when they play Dice Hospital.
What is Dice Hospital?
Dice Hospital is a classic worker placement game for 1-4 players, with a medical theme. Players compete over 8 turns to see who can successfully discharge the most patients.
Each player controls a hospital. Every turn, ambulances full of new patients arrive (denoted by dice). Players choose the ambulance they wish to treat and admit its patients. Using a team of nurses and specialists they then administer care to those patients.
The game is a balance of where to put your workers and how to manage your resources. You might want that new immunology lab, but maybe a new cardiac surgeon is what you really need. Make sure you balance things carefully otherwise you may find the bodies piling up in the morgue.
Dice Hospital is a Kickstarter run by Alley Cat games (makers of Lab Wars and Cauldron Master.) This latest project has already funded but there is still plenty of time to jump in on the medical action and crack open a rib cage to get at those stretch goals.
Note: I have played a prototype copy, some changes may have been made to the rules and components shown.
What’s in the Box?
There are several pledge levels, but the basic pledge level (medical student) of £36 ($48) will get you the game and all its stretch goals. The basic game comes with:
- Four Player Boards.
- 63 Dice (D6s) (Handy for us Warhammer players too.)
- 36 Custom Doctor Meeples – these are great!
- 24 Upgrade Room Tiles.
- 24 Specialist Cards.
- 5 Ambulance Cards.
- 8 Event Cards.
- 4 Administrator Cards.
- 1 Scoring Tracker.
- 4 Player Aids.
- 4 Player marker (for the scorer.)
- 12 Fatality Tokens.
- 16 Blood Bag tokens.
- 1 First Player token.
- 1 Dice Bag.
- 12 Medical Report Cards (used in the Solo game.)
There is also a deluxe pledge level (£59, $79) that contains, among other things, extra cards and 3D ambulances.
How do I play Dice Hospital?
The basics of the game are as follows. It takes place over the 8 turns, with a drafting phase, an upgrade phase, a worker placement/resolution phase, and a clean up phase.
Who/What are the patients?
Dice! Each patient is represented with a die. There are three patient colors available, Red, Green, and Yellow. The pip score denotes how healthy they are. One pip is the least healthy and 6 the most. Patients reduced to zero pips die, and those elevated to 7 are discharged and score their player points.
How do patients arrive in hospital?
In an ambulance. Or via several ambulances. This is the main area of the game where players interact with one another. Games use one more ambulance than there are players. Each ambulance has space for three patients (dice.) The ambulances are numbered 1-5.
Fistfuls of dice are then rolled, which is very satisfying.
The number of dice equal to the number of ambulance slots are rolled (i.e number of ambulances x 3.) Rolls of 1 or 6 are rerolled until all the dice show either 2,3,4 or 5. These dice are then placed in ambulance slots with the lowest numbered dice being placed in ambulance 1. The dice are placed sequentially through the other ambulances.
Each player (starting with the person holding the first player token) chooses an ambulance. Remember: Patients with low numbers are closer to death than those with higher numbers.
So why take the lower numbered dice? First, you get a blood bank token (more on that later) and second, you get to pick first when upgrading your hospital.
Note: If your hospital is full you must still take a new influx of patients. You have to free up space by sending existing patients to the morgue. It is vital to ensure your hospital has at least three empty beds at the end of each round.
How do I upgrade my hospital?
There are two types of upgrade available. A new room (e.g.) or a new specialist (e.g.). Some of these are pretty great and enable you to treat several patients at a time. Very useful when the dice start building up and you’re running out of room.
Players take turns to pick an upgrade, starting with the person who took the lowest numbered ambulance. So by taking the sicker patients, you get to build the best hospital.
When picking, there is a trade-off between new rooms and specialists. A new room can give you an extra place to treat people, but a new specialist is an extra pair of hands with which to treat them. Both are vital, but you can only choose a one or the other each turn.
How do I treat my patients?
Each player starts with a hospital and three nurses. Nurses can be placed in any room and will heal patients depending on the rule given in that room. Only one nurse can occupy and use a room on a given turn.
Different rooms do different things, some can heal any color patient, some can only heal a specific color of patient. Those that can heal any patient tend to be restricted by the severity of the patient’s condition. e.g. Only patients with a 1 or 2 pips can be healed in intensive care, whilst only yellow patients (but with any number of pips) can be treated in oncology.
Patients that are treated have their pip score increased by 1. If the score goes from 6 to 7, that patient is discharged and can count to your victory point total. It is possible to heal a patient more than once per turn, but each medical practitioner can only be used once. e.g. A green dice may go to intensive care to heal from 2 pips to 3 pips, but that patient may also be treated by another specialist to go up from 3 to 4.
This is where the balancing act comes in. Healing the same patient twice may lead to another patient being ignored.
What happens if I don’t heal my patients?
Not healing your patients results in neglect. A neglected patient loses one health pip. Patients on 1 die, and go to the morgue. These will score negative points at the end of the game.
What do blood bags do?
Blood bags are handy – they can either be used to heal a patient one pip, or they can temporarily change the color of patient. This is useful when you have a spare green bay but only a red dice to treat.
Blood bags are gained when you take the lowest numbered ambulance or if you discharge the most patients at the end of the round.
Consecutive or simultaneous play?
It’s possible to play the game two ways. You can take it in turns to administer to your patients, each person following the other, with everybody watching. Alternatively, as hospitals don’t impinge on one another during the treatment phase, you can all do them simultaneously, and announce the results at the end. It makes sense for beginners to take turns, but once everybody is familiar with the game’s concepts, simultaneous play is the way to go.
How is the game scored?
At the end of each round players total how many patients they have discharged that round and score accordingly. The more patients you discharge in a round the more effective the scoring is. Discharging 1 patient scores 1 point. Discharging 7 scores 14.
At the end of the 8th round, all the round scores are totaled. Players also lose 2 points for every patient in the morgue.
The person with the highest score is the winner.
Why should I back Dice Hospital?
Because of the meeples. They are extremely fine!
Dice Hospital is a really fun game. Once you know what you’re doing, the rounds fly by in a frenetic flurry of meeple placing.
The game is very finely balanced. You need to expand your hospital to keep treating patients, but you also need extra hands to treat the increasing influx. You need to get patients out the door in order to score points, but in doing so, others will inevitably be neglected.
You want to try and ensure you can discharge as many patients on the same go as possible, but options for doing so are often limited. Failure to do so may see you with a chronically overfilled hospital and your patients dropping like flies.
When picking which ambulances to treat, should you go for common colors or easier numbers? Should you pick up some chronically ill patients to expand your hospital? Doing so will mean patients will be hanging around in your hospital for longer. Will you be able to discharge them in time to gain those all-important victory points?
The game is deliciously stressful as you fight to keep all your patients alive.
Anything that isn’t so good?
If you’re an idiot, like me, you might keep picking up the ambulance dice, without remembering what numbers were on them. I kept saying “I’ll take this one,” and grabbing the dice. This is a small issue and probably only affects people who can’t learn from their mistakes, like the writer of this review.
Whilst playing simultaneously speeds the game up, it isn’t everybody’s idea of what makes a game. There isn’t very much interaction between players. The only time you can directly affect your opponents’ strategy is when picking your ambulance. This can make the game an isolated playing experience and mean you have to be very careful not to make mistakes with nobody watching to keep you honest.
In summary: The TL;DR.
If you’re happy to have some parallel playing Dice Hospital is a fine game. It’s a great themed worker placement with quality components and engaging challenging gameplay.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.