The 2012 comic book battle between Avengers and X-Men rages on in Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men. In this two-player collectible dice and card game, players act as masterminds, recruiting an assortment of Marvel’s finest characters to fight on their side. The player who is able to deplete all of their opponent’s health wins.
With the starter set only costing $15 (if you can find it at retail price, as the game is currently in short supply) and booster packs coming in at a measly $1 for two cards and two dice, this game is aggressively priced to sell. While price alone makes this a tantalizing offer, it’s also aided by the fact that the game is pretty good.
Inside the starter set, you will get an assortment of dice and cards. Let’s start with the dice first, as they’re the coolest and most pivotal part of the package. There are 44 dice in the starter set, including 16 sidekick dice, 12 basic action dice and 16 character dice. All of the dice are very well crafted, as each has been custom engraved with the appropriate symbols. The character dice in particular make a great impression, as each features the appropriate colours and symbology to represent them.
As for the cards, they’re made from a good stock and house the abilities mapped to certain dice. The only downside here is that the 24 character cards doesn’t actually mean you’re getting 24 unique characters. Instead, you get eight unique characters that have three unique cards each. The important thing is that you’re getting 24 unique cards in terms of how they impact the game, but I wish there were a few more than eight characters in the base set. Then again, the set is only $15, so maybe I’m being too harsh.
Before the action begins, players agree on a set of generic action dice and cards that either player can draft from. Then, each player chooses characters to fill out their team. Only the player that chose that character can draft its associated dice and reap the corresponding rewards, so choose wisely. Finally, both players will place their sidekick dice in their bags.
Based on what I’ve seen and read, Marvel Dice Masters is a lot like a mix between Magic: The Gathering and Quarriors. I have not played either of these, so that comparison means nothing to me. Drawing from my own experience, this plays a lot like a deck-building game, such as Dominion. Players start out with the same generic hand of dice, which they’ll use to gain better dice that they’ll use to gain energy faster, attack their opponent, defend against their opponent’s attacks or trigger other special effects. The big difference here is the element of chance introduced by the dice. At times, you may feel anguish of a series of bad rolls that lead to wasted potential. However, the tables will likely turn eventually, as the odds of you getting just the right sequence of dice is bound to happen sooner or later, right?
Not everything is left to chance, as you’re going to have to make a lot of decisions throughout. Winning requires you to manage a number of different variables at play, such as available energy, available re-rolls, characters in the field, characters in your bag and much more. For a dice game, there’s actually a fair amount of strategy involved at each decision point. In our first set of games against each other, Steff didn’t beat me every single time because she had the hot hand. Instead, she won every single time by managing her resources much better than I did.
For a dice game, the initial learning curve is weirdly steep. Most of this comes from the different states your dice can be in at any given time. The manual has a guide for how to position your dice on the table to indicate what state your dice are in, though two removable sheets with the zones would have worked much better. The manual isn’t bad, though I struggled to follow the latter half of it and resorted to the handy video tutorial instead. Once you get past that hump though, the rest is fairly smooth sailing. After a few games, Steff and I were able to start and complete a match within 20-30 minutes.
The starter set may be a bit light in terms of unique characters, but the core gameplay is fun enough that you’ll want to play it again and again. Also adding to the game’s lasting appeal is the fact that the eight unique characters each have three unique character cards you can choose from. This lets you explore different ways to play that specific character, as well different team combinations to bring into battle.
Furthermore, expanding your set through booster packs is crazy cheap. Each booster contains two cards and two dice for only $1, which I think is more than fair for what you’re getting. These cards offer up new characters or variations of existing characters, as well as new dice that are just as good in quality as those in the base set. Of course, there are different rarity levels for the each, so you’ll likely endure the pain of doubles before feeling the triumph of getting a rare. Granted, it’s the price of each booster that is cheap. I can already see how someone would blow a lot of money on boosters, as the urge to collect these once you start is very high.
Up until this point, I’ve never indulged in Magic: The Gathering or any other sort of collectible card game. Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men makes for a great introduction to the genre. Once you get past the initial hurdle of understanding the different turn phases and dice states, this is actually not that hard of a game to learn and it’s a lot of fun battling with dice that represent your favourite Marvel Comics characters. I do wish the game came with two removable player sheets that can be used to track health and dice states. I also wish the dice bags that came with it were a bit better in terms of build quality, though both were clearly choices made in order to keep the price at its current level. Even if you don’t augment the game with booster packs, you’re getting a solid two-player dice game for under $20.