Hero Dice is a light-hearted dungeoneering dice rolling game that provides good, no-fuss dungeon exploring fun. Literally everything in the game is done and calculated using dice rolls, appeasing that part of any DnD/tabletop player that just wants the GM to stop explaining and tell the players what to roll. In this way, Hero Dice feels like an excellent excuse to roll a crapload of dice, and it turns out that rolling a crapload of dice can be enormous fun.
Players who have experienced Munchkin will find certain elements of Hero Dice familiar, such as the ease with which you can go from winning to losing, and the screw-your-mates-over-to-get-ahead attitude to play. Each Hero player receives a set of dice, including a d10 race dice, a d6 ability die, a d8 class die, two more d10s – one of which tracks your ‘Fame’ and the other tracks for ‘Infamy’ – and a final two race d10s, which are used to represent companions you may hire during the course of the game. The first three of these are rolled to randomly generate your character – Infamy begins at 2, and Fame begins at the number of players. One player will take on the role of the Infamous Bandit. Their set-up is fairly similar, with just a few small tweaks to suit their roll. After this set-up (which takes all of about 30 seconds), play begins. Your turn in Hero Dice is very simple. The active player rolls the d12 ‘Dungeon’ Die and resolves the event shown.
There are five possible events – gain 1 Fame, gain 1 Infamy, ‘Do Nothing’, fight another Hero, or fight a Bandit. Battling consists of each opponent rolling one d6 – the higher roll wins. If you are facing another Hero, either Hero may spend Fame to add another d6 to their battle pool. When fighting bandits, a Race and Ability die are immediately rolled in order to generate a random bandit. Alternatively, if a Hero is feeling bold, they may choose to fight the Infamous Bandit instead. When facing a random bandit, you may either fight as normal, or spend three Infamy in order to bribe the bandit to become your ‘companion’ – a mercenary of questionable loyalty who will fight alongside you. As ‘companions’ are, at their core, hired bandits, they will not assist in fighting other bandits, only Heroes. In battle, using a companion equates to an extra d6 roll. You may also employ the use of your abilities or ask for assistance from another Hero when battling.
While these base dungeon events functioned well, and enabled a fun game, Hero Dice would benefit from a little more variety. A wider variety in dungeon events, or even different dungeon die with unique events may help change things up, although I can see why the team at Skies of Dice has refrained from doing this. As is, Hero Dice is good, simple fun, and adding layers of variety may make the game more complex than envisioned. However, I do think there is a little room for variety without sacrificing this principle – replacing the ‘Do Nothing’ side of Dungeon Dice with something more interesting could be a good place to start. The other main thing that the game could benefit from is a reference sheet for each player. With the multitude of symbols that must be read every turn throughout the game, the inclusion of player reference sheets could really help improve the flow of the game, although there are many ways to get around this difficulty (photocopying or taking photos of the reference sheet) and I am sure that Skies of Dice will take this into consideration when designing the final release of Hero Dice.
Receiving Hero Dice in the mail was pretty exciting. The preview copy I received contained a sack of 39 oversized Dice. When I first upended the bag onto the table (an act that made me feel very much like a goblin counting their treasure), I felt REALLY excited to start learning what all the symbols meant and start playing. Unlike a lot of new games, where the amount of cards and information can feel overwhelming, Hero Dice felt approachable.
One rule of Hero Dice that I found very strange was the dice ‘bumping’ or ‘hitting’. Then rules state that the only way to change your character race, class, or ability (apart from dying and rolling a new character) is to ‘accidentally’ hit your character dice while rolling other dice. While at first this seemed dumb, it actually turned out to be a really fun feature. Race and class aren’t *that* powerful in Hero Dice, so someone changing their character features in this way doesn’t change gameplay in devastating ways – it is also quite hard to bump dice in this fashion, so things can get quite silly as players roll in the craziest of ways to try and bump their dice.
Investing a bit of roleplay in Hero Dice makes it a lot more enjoyable. Emphasising the idea that the Heroes should behave like Heroes and the Infamous Bandit should act like the villain made Hero Dice feel like a lot more fun than playing it without this flavour. The rules provide many ways in which the Infamous Bandit and Heroes can mess with each other, but unless you get a bit invested in these roles, it’s unlikely that you’ll remember to bother with them. If you play Dungeons and Dragons or other roleplaying games, or if you are playing this game with kids, you’ll probably have a lot more fun. As I mentioned earlier, this is quite a light-hearted game, and approaching it as such makes for a better experience.
Hero Dice has a great core, allowing you to embrace your inner adventurer (or villain!) and jump quickly into a fun dungeoneering experience that can be picked up very quickly, but has enough depth to keep you interested. With a few tweaks and some added variation, the preview of Hero Dice that I experienced could easily be the foundation of a brilliant game. Hero Dice is live on Kickstarter, and their campaign page can be found here.