Top 10 Cooperative Dice Placement Games

dp

One of the cooperative mechanics that seemed to stand out this last year was the “Cooperative Dice Placement” mechanic. Quite a number of cooperative games in our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021 use Cooperative Dice Placement as a main mechanic! Note that this is a little different from our Top 10 Cooperative Dice Games: those are “generic” games with dice as the main component. The games on this list (cooperative dice placement games) use dice as “workers” to perform actions, acquire resources, or fulfill missions. Players work together and place dice to get stuff done! (Note that some games from our Top 10 Cooperative Dice Games “kind of” fit this description: we chose to not consider real-time games and ones that aren’t quite dice placement).

Interestingly, Board Game Geek doesn’t have a “Dice Placement” Category for games: the closest category is “Worker Placement With Dice Workers”, but that’s a more limited view of Dice Placement.

10. Assault on Doomrock

ad1

Assault on Doomrock is a cooperative adventure game about fighting and leveling up adventurers.  The dice placement is used for combat (a main part of the game).  This is an adventure game with lots of exploration and leveling up, but it’s not purely a cooperative dice placement game.  The cooperative dice placement is used as the combat mechanism: dice are placed to activate abilities. See below.

dp2

I have only played the edition above (I believe that is the second edition): it was a bit long and a bit random, but I still enjoyed it.

ad3

At the time of this writing, the Ultimate Edition is on Gamefound and I am currently backing this new edition! I am hopeful it will fix some of the problems and move this further up the list!

9. Star Trek: 5-Year Mission

s1

This is a really light game.  The component quality wasn’t great, but the game was simple and fun.  Dice are placed to fulfill missions:

s2

This felt like a game we could play with gamers and non-gamers.   We enjoyed it enough and would pull it out for non-gamers.  But the component quality and simplicity keep it down near the bottom of this list.

8. One Deck Dungeon

o1

One Deck Dungeon is a cooperative game for 1-2 players.  Dice placement is used to defeat the monsters in the dungeon. See below.

o2

This is fairly light and simple game which has had a lot of expansions and additions.  It’s pretty fun!

7. Deep Space D6: Armada

ds1

Deep Space D6: Armada is a cooperative dice placement game set in an “almost Star Trek, but legally distinct from Star Trek” universe.  The game has great components and looks fantastic on the table.

ds2

Dice are rolled and placed to activate abilities and regions on your ship.

ds3

It’s a bit of a table hog! The game has some minor problems, but with a few house rules, this game really shines!  See our review of Deep Space D6: Armada here to see if this is right for you.

6. Dice Throne Adventures

dd1

Dice Throne Adventures is an expansion for the original one vs. one Dice Throne game.  The expansion adds in the ability for  a party of adventurers work together to explore and fight monsters on the way to the big bad boss.

dd2

Players use dice to activate special abilities for attacks and defenses: strictly speaking, you don’t “place the dice” on a specified space, but you can only use each die once and you still need to “place the dice” to notate it has been used.  So, we’re going to call this Dice Placement: Come at me.

dd3

Take a look at our review here to see if Dice Throne Adventures is right for you. 

5. Endangered

e1

Endangered has a very tumultuous history in my game group.  Some people love Endangered, and some people hate it!  The people who love it point to the amazing production, gameplay, components, rulebook, and game presence! See below.

e2

The people who don’t like it get too involved in the game and say “there’s something depressing about failing as the creatures die!  And the game can be too random!”.

e3

Take a look at our initial review of Endangered to see if this is something you might like.  The production is amazing and the game looks good, but the randomness might scare you away.  This was originally higher on our list, but got pushed down by the next entry.

4. Automated Alice

aa

Automated Alice is a curious game, on so many levels!  Me and my group struggled to learn the rules (the rule book isn’t great), but once we did, the game seemed much more fun than expected.  This game was actually a lot lower on this list originally, but the quick game play and simple play style (once you know the rules) elevated this light-weight dice placement game:  my group has taken a bit of a shine to it.

aa2

Players place dice to try to fulfill missions on cards: once a mission is done, a card has a special ability which can be used later.

aa3

Take a look at our review of Automated Alice here to see if this is something you would enjoy.

3. Intrepid

i1

Intrepid was a Kickstarter game that I found really fascinating: it’s uses Dice Placement mechanics to run a space station.  The game was surprising cheap, considering how great the components are:

i2

The solo game needs some work to fix, but the game really shined as a cooperative experience. It also took up an entire table!  It’s huge on the board!

i3

I liked this a lot more than my friends, which is why it’s only #3, but take a look at our review of Intrepid to see if it’s something you would like.  It also made our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021!

2. Roll Camera!

rc1

Roll Camera! was a bit of a surprise that it was so good!  The game has a great rulebook, a great sense of humor!  It also worked really well as a solo game.  Take a look at our review of Roll Camera! to see it’s something you would like.

rc2

All of my groups embraced this game: it was surprising how universal it was.  The idea of making a movie seemed to engage everyone, and the dice placement mechanics were interesting.

rc3

The game looks great, plays great, has a great rulebook, and just seemed to engage all my playgroups.  It also made our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021!

1. Roll Player Adventures

rpa

In our original review of Roll Player Adventures, I couldn’t recommend this for a solo game, as there weren’t enough dice mitigation mechanics.  But after playing the cooperative group game, there was no question what dice placement game would be #1! My group and I have been enjoying this game thoroughly: so much so that it made our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021!   The story is engaging, the components are fabulous, and the art is gorgeous. 

rpa2

I might call this a storybook game with a dice placement mechanic, so this could also make our next Top 10 Cooperative Storybook Games list.  

rpa3

A Review of X-Men: Marvel United Days of Future Past

IMG_1101
The expansion (not stand-alone) Days of Future Past

X-Men: Marvel United Days of Future Past is an expansion that requires Marvel United or X-Men: Marvel United to play. See below: one of the games in the bottom row is required to play Days of Future Past (you probably want the X-Men version). It probably also makes sense to have characters from the X-Men: Marvel United expansion (top left) for more thematic characters.

IMG_1168
Bottom row is required to play top row

This was an expansion to the gob-smackingly large set of Marvel United expansion games that appeared at my door step about 3 weeks ago. See our previous blog entry on this here. Two weeks ago we reviewed The Fantastic Four Expansion and really liked that. Let’s take a look at this one.

Unboxing

In some ways, this is a very light expansion. It only comes with one new hero, Logan, and one new Master Plan villain, Nimrod.

IMG_1119
Logan’s Hero deck
IMG_1120
Nimrod’s villan deck and Thread Deck

In other ways, it’s also a very heavy expansion: it comes with the giant sentinels and rules for them.

IMG_1116 (1)

The game feels pretty minimal:

IMG_1103

The rulebook for this a 4 page leaflet describing all the new rules.

IMG_1104

There’s also a very scenario specific matte:

IMG_1111

The insert is pretty great and holds the amazing minis.

IMG_1116

There’s some extra challenge cards and a few extra tokens.

IMG_1112
Token identify the sentinels: each one os distinct and numbered

Overall, this looks nice and consistent with the original Marvel United.

IMG_1118

Interestingly, this feels both underwhelming and overwhelming at the same time: only 1 new hero and 1 new villain, but the sentinels are so large and daunting!

The Minis and Maxis

IMG_1124

When are miniatures mini and when are they maxi? The miniatures in this game are pretty phenomenal. Those Sentinels are pretty daunting on the table, especially in front of Logan!

IMG_1129

The Hero Logan s just a “future” version of Wolverine who’s not “old”, but “battle-hardened”. (He takes one less damage when he takes damage).

IMG_1128

Nimrod is the “more sophisticated” Sentinel/Bad Guy that you have to take out to win.

IMG_1125

The Sentinels themselves are just amazing minis? maxis?

If you look closely, you’ll see that each one is numbered: they are distinct and can have distinct abilities in challenge mode.

IMG_1110
Each Sentinel has different abilities in Challenge mode

One of the things we discovered is that Sentinels were made to pick up the heroes!! Take a look at the rule for Sentinel III (see above) and the picture below! That’s so cool!

IMG_1133

These Sentinel minis/maxis are just great.

Days of Future Past

During the early 1980s, Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Terry Austin were producing some amazing content for the X-Men. A few issues earlier, we had seen arguably the best X-Men story ever: The Dark Phoenix Saga. A few issues later, they introduced us to Days of Future Past in issue #141. See above. Although a lot of people associate this title with the 2014 film of the same name, issue #141 was where this was introduced.

IMG_1173
Days of Future Past Part

In this two part story, Claremont/Byrne/Austin brought us to the past, as Kitty Pryde inhabits her future self’s body (Kate Pryde) to see the devastation the Sentinels have wrought in the future. The Sentinels are a huge part of this story as they (spoiler) destroy the future X-Men. See above for the two issues.

IMG_1201

Interestingly, Nimrod (the more sophisticated Sentinel) doesn’t make his appearance until 1985 in issue #191 at the very end.

IMG_1125

So, even though The Days of Future Past doesn’t strictly include Nimrod, it still makes thematic sense. Logan is the future battle-hardened self, the Sentinels are the imposing Bad Guys that you must defeat before Nimrod comes out, but Nimrod is the final Sentinel you must defeat to win.

Solo Play

IMG_1177

For solo play, I decided to play as a two player game playing two Heroes. (as I’ve discussed many times: the solo mode for Marvel United is not as simple as it could be, so it’s better to just play two Heroes). From a story sense, it seemed to make sense to play Logan (from this expansion set) and Shadowcat/Kitty Pryde (from the Marvel X-Men expansion).

IMG_1114
scenario specific mat

If you look at the set-up from the player mat, you’ll see you can play 2 Heroes and the game scales down to that: this just means we’ll have one less Sentinel (we won’t have all 3 out).

Here’s Logan and Kitty’s cards:

IMG_1189

All set-up, my solo game looked like this:

IMG_1191

Although not 100% thematic to Days of Future Past, Kitty also has Lockheed with her (as there was no “Kate Pryde” hero to play). Lockheed allows extra actions away from Kitty, as an independently controlled figure that can’t be harmed (I think).

IMG_1184

The solo game plays, in many ways, like the main game: you have to defeat all the Sentinels before Nimrod can come out.

IMG_1193

Up until Nimrod comes out, there are no Master Plans coming out, just the Heroes with the Sentinels having their own special rules. Once Nimrod comes out, then the standard Master Plan starts.

IMG_1195

In the finale, Logan and Kitty took down Nimrod on the same place they took out the Sentinels! You can still see the Sentinels corpses on the location!

IMG_1197

You’ll notice the story board looks a little weird until Nimrod actually comes out.

IMG_1194

Overall, the solo game was very satisfying and seemed well-balanced (which will talk about in a second).

Strategy vs Tactics

IMG_1174

The base game of Marvel United tends to be more tactical, as you have to make decisions based on random events as they come up during play. Some villains offer more strategy as you have to think in advance, but Days of Future Past adds some very interesting strategic decisions.

IMG_1123

First of all, the Sentinels actions are based on the last two Hero cards! See above! There is no randomness when activating the Sentinels! They just use the same actions you did (in order on the cards). In other words, when you act, you give the Sentinels their turn as well! There’s no randomness there! They do what you do (well, see the summary card above).

For example, if these were the two cards up so far to the storyboard, then the Sentinel attached to Kitty would move twice: one for Logan’s move symbol, one more for Kitty’s move symbol. Then (because the last card has a special ability), Nimrod’s Villainous plot goes up one!

IMG_1191

What tends to happen is that the Sentinels start following you around! When you move two, they can move two and follow you! It’s like a game of chess trying to figure out what you should do so as to minimize what the Sentinels can do! The main difference is that you can execute the symbols in any order, but the Sentinels are constrained to using the symbols in the order they appear.

IMG_1187

Somehow, this seems so thematic! The Sentinels are just robots that tend to copy what you do … but as a mutant, you can try to out-think them! This mechanic is so interesting, thematic, and surprisingly difficult! Sometimes, it feels like all a Sentinel does is undo your turn! So, every choice you make is strategic: what you do sets-up not only your comrade but your opponent.

IMG_1198
A Winning game!

Another strategic element is when to bring out Nimrod: if you bring him out too early, his Villainous Plot chart advances more quickly and that can cause you to lose unexpectedly! But, if you bring Nimrod out too late, the heroes won’t have enough turns to defeat him! So, you have to balance when you kill the last Sentinel vs bring out Nimrod!

IMG_1122

And don’t forget the Threats! Sometimes, your long-term decisions will change based on which Threats you can take out!

IMG_1170

Overall, Days of Future Past adds more elements of strategy than I have seen in Marvel United so far: the fact that your choices are used by the Sentinels against you is such an interesting, thematic, and strategic element!

Cooperative Play

The cooperative game worked really well .. but it did seem harder than the solo (as 2 heroes) play. Having said that, the amount of communication in cooperative play was very important: since my heroes symbols dictated what the Sentinels would do, we have had to chat a lot more about our actions. At least for my group, this did not seem to grind anything to a halt: there wasn’t an Analysis Paralysis. What we saw in our games is that we chatted and strategized about what to play.

IMG_1136

One of the things that really made the game shine was how we seemed to really used our special powers to make stuff happen. Logan would often end in a Location with a Sentinel just so he could take the damage (since he just ignores the first damage) for another player. Cooperation! Perhaps our best choice was using Dr. Strange (with his time gem)! We were able to keep Nimrod’s Master Plan under control because Dr. Strange could see the next Master Plan card, and this would help us figure out what to do! Again, more strategy!

IMG_1140

In the end, we won, but it was close. See the picture above, where you can see the points where we take out a Sentinel. Overall, this was a challenging but fun battle.

Nature of this Expansion

IMG_1139

This is not a “add more content” expansion: the Days of Future Past expansion fundamentally changes the way the game is played. We no longer have a control panel or missions: we completely skip that aspect of the game and the Sentinels start the game in play and you can immediately damage them. The randomness of the Master Plan is deferred until later, as you deal with set mechanics of the Sentinels: they do what you do! Gone is the “okay, let’s deal with threats and slowly wait until we can beat up the bad guy“. Nope! You immediately make important choices: do I get rid of Sentinels ASAP? Do I deal with threats so the Sentinels aren’t as bad? And when do I kill the last Sentinel to force Nimrod out?

IMG_1134

This expansion changes the nature of Marvel United: it can’t really be applied outside of this set (but see below). When you play with this set, you are playing a different game. Days of Future Past makes Marvel United into a more strategic game, a longer game, a more complex game, and a more challenging game. I probably wouldn’t recommend this expansion until you were pretty comfortable with the base game. To re-emphasize, these changes are limited to only this one scenario: fighting Nimrod and the Sentinels.

Sentinels Challenge

IMG_1121
Sentinels challenge cards

You can, if you really want to, add Sentinels to any game of Marvel United.

IMG_1110
Each Sentinel has different abilities in Challenge mode

The rules seem to imply that you take any base game and can add all three Sentinels, using the rules (above or on the cards above) to activate them. There seems to be a lot of questions around this, and it seems like it would make the game too hard? I frequently barely win my Marvel United games, so adding three Sentinels seems a bit much. I don’t know: you can add these to any game according to the rules, but it just seems like a prescription for too much challenge and complexity. So, I haven’t done it yet, and frankly I have no desire to.

Conclusion

IMG_1170

X-Men: Marvel United Days of Future Past is currently my favorite way to play Marvel United. This expansion takes a fairly tactical game and makes it more strategic, challenging, longer, and more complex … all in a good way! The original Marvel United game is arguably too light for a lot of gamers, but I think the addition of Days of Future Past would interest a lot of hard-code gamers. The fact that that Sentinels actions are not random, but based on what the players do is both thematic and interesting! I would argue this mechanism is probably the best addition to the game.

I strongly recommend Days of Future Past.