Kickstarter Spotlight: Civicus Dice Game

Civicus Dice Game is an ambitious dice game requiring high strategy. Euro game fans will clearly see the inspiration that classics such as Catan and Carcassone have provided. This hex-based, civilisation themed dice game is all about garnering influence and building well balanced nations. Settlements, trade, technology, and theology all must be concentrated upon in order to win a game of Civicus Dice Game, and this multitude of considerations will keep you on your toes throughout the game.

The base game is intended for two players, with plans to expand to four, and consists of six rounds. Turns have three phases – camp placement, movement or removal; resource extraction; and building/upgrading. Civicus Dice Game features three different types of settlements:

* Camps, which project 1 influence over 2 domains (hexes) and are worth 0 points

* Villages, which project 3 influence over 3 domains and are worth 1 point, and

* Cities, which give their owner absolute control over the adjacent regions and are worth 3 points.

Screenshot-Civicus (1)

In phase one, players have three options: place a new camp for free, move an existing camp, or remove (‘pull’) a camp from the board. Camps are placed between 2 domains, while village and city upgrades are placed at the meeting point of three. Certain domains grant certain benefits. Some may grant the player a farm, market, or temple, while others grant players extraction dice, which they roll in phase two to generate resources. Having influence over extraction dice domains is particularly important during early rounds. Unlike games such as Catan and Stone Age, players do not get to keep resources they generate between rounds – if they cannot be used in the building/upgrading phase of the player’s turn, they are considered lost. There are five resources – wood, stone, clay, metal, and ‘exotic’. All function normally except exotics, which can be used as a kind of ‘wild card’ resource, as they can be traded 1:1 for any other resource. Aside from being used to upgrade your settlements, resources may also be used to improve your technology level. Influence determines which player is able to roll the extraction dice of a certain domain, or control a farm, market, or temple, making settlement placement a crucial consideration in Civicus Dice Game.

The term ‘dice game’ implies a kind of simplicity that Civicus Dice Game does not possess. As I am a fan of Euro and strategy games, this is not a problem, but it was a little discordant when it came to playing my first game – put simply, this game was far more complex than I had expected. Persisting with the rules felt worth it though, and by the time I played my second and third games, I was enjoying myself. Many of the current limitations of Civicus Dice Game are a result of the incomplete ‘print and play’ version of the game, which is what I experienced for the purposes of this preview. The rulebook is a little unclear at the moment, but is constantly being iterated upon as backers make suggestions for clarity and helpfulness. The board feels a little cluttered and hard-to-read, and the A5 size of the printed board makes finding playing pieces small enough to use with the print-out something of a challenge. All that being said, all the elements of a good high strategy civilisation game are certainly present, and I hold faith that the final product will be far more user friendly than the printable version.

Screenshot-Civicus (4)

The turn order of Civicus Dice Game is unconventional. Instead of the standard P1-P2-P1-P2 order of play, in Civicus Dice Game P1 has a turn, then P2 has a turn, ending round one. Then, P2 has ANOTHER turn, followed by P1. This format continues until the end of game, which basically equates to the players each having two turns in a row for the majority of the game. The intention behind this seems to be to balance out the advantage that P1 will always have as they get to place their initial camp first. However, it was a little confusing trying to remember all this. Fortunately, a turn-order tracker is printed on the board to help out with this issue.

The mechanics of most dice games follow this format: First, roll the dice; second, make strategic decisions using dice results. Civicus Dice Game’s complexity is evident in the fact that it does not follow this format, instead having three phases of play: First, make strategic decision; second, roll dice; third, make further strategic decisions. This, compounded with the unconventional turn order, makes planning ahead really important in Civicus Dice Game. During play, some of the mechanics felt needlessly complex – for instance, I couldn’t understand why such a small, short game had 5 different resources – especially seeing as the resources don’t carry over between rounds, the large number of them (compared to what you can make with them) can make rolling what you need really tough. The ‘wild card’ quality of exotics somewhat balances out this issue, but it still seemed unnecessary. I later discovered that Civicus Dice Game is actually the dice game version of a much bigger and more complex work in progress game simply titled ‘Civicus’. Civicus Dice Game aims to introduce players to the mechanics of Civicus without overloading them with information. In this light, I came to understand why Civicus Dice Game is so complex compared to other dice games on the market, and although the game’s playtime is quite long compared to other dice games, it is quite short compared to traditional Euro games (1-2 hours), meaning it may fill a niche between the two.

Civicus Dice Game looks, and feels, a little more like a board game than a dice game. Although its core mechanic is dice rolling, it also possesses enough strategy elements and peripheral rules that it dances very close to being a board game. While the core game was enjoyable, it took a few games before my understanding of the rules was solid enough that I could truly appreciate the strategy. Fans of the genre will certainly appreciate this new face in the field. To learn more about Civicus Dice Game, check out their Kickstarter page, where a pledge as little as $1 will grant you access to the current ‘print and play’ version of the game.

Since first travelling to Japan at the age of fifteen, most of my life has revolved around trying to learn Japanese, and unravel the mysteries of the country’s culture. Gaming ranks just behind this obsession. I enjoy video games – particularly RPGs and Strategy – but my main interest is in tabletop role playing games and board games. Writing ranks third – luckily I get plenty of opportunities to write about Japan and games, so it all works out.

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