Marvel Heroes Battle Dice

It seems like forever since the last time I reviewed a toy by Playmates.  I don't do TMNT, and the new Kong line wasn't my thing either.  But when I saw the new Marvel Battle Dice on the peg, I knew I had to check them out.

This game/figure combo enters a very crowded market.  There's Heroclix of course, along with Superhero Showdown, and to a lesser extent, Figure Factory.  All of these involve miniature Marvel figures, and two of the three involve game play with those figures.

There are similarities between the games of course, as there are with games of days gone by that involve six sided dice and battling characters.  But Battle Dice adds a few new twists, with a ton of little figures.

You can find both of the starter sets and the booster sets at Target right now.  Starter sets - which is what I'm reviewing tonight - include six figures, six battle dice, a carrying case and instructions.  They run $10.  The booster sets add three more figures and one battle die, for $7.  Obviously, since this is a game, the format is going to be a little different tonight.

Packaging -  ***
The starter sets show off four of the six included figures, with two 'hidden bonus figures' included inside.  They are always the same figures though, so after reading this review you'll know what you're getting.

The packages are eye catching, but not large or wasteful.  It calls Battle Dice a "Fast action collectible figure game", which is quite a mouthful.

Game Play - **1/2
There are several ways of playing of course, and I'll give you the brief lowdown on each.

No matter what mode of play, there are some general instructions.  Each figure has a set of numbers on the bottom, each for a particular skill.  The usual skills are represented, such as Fighting, Speed, Strength, etc.  These are color coded, but you'll memorize them pretty quickly.

Below these numbers is the characters name, along with a number in the dead center that simply indicates their number in the overall scheme of 60 figures available in the first wave.  Plans are afoot for a total of 190 characters to be developed.  There's also a symbol indicating the 'team' he or she is from, which allows you to look them up on an included sheet.  Obviously there are good guys and bad guys, but they are also broken into more specific character teams like X-men or Fantastic Four.

The only other important information on the bottom of the figure is the Power Symbols.  These powers  are coded to a particular skill, and can enhance that skill in specific ways during battle.  More on that later.

The dice are actually unique as well.  There are 23 different dice in total, always in one of three colors.   Each die has an instruction on the inside lid that can also improve the performance of the character within in certain situations, allowing the player to improve a figure by the placement in a particular die. 

So let's start with 'basic' play.  You buy a starter set, and play one other person in this mode. You secretly place your three figures inside your three die, while the other player does the same.  As you get better at the game, you'll pick particular die for particular characters in an attempt to improve your odds, but it will take a little play time before you have all that figured out.

Then each player selects and rolls one of their die.  The hidden figures will be the two that are actually battling it out.  Whomever rolls a higher number selects the skill that will be used in this particular battle.  For example, Bob rolls a six and Sue rolls a 4.  That mean Sue gets to pick the particular skill that will be the main determining force in this particular battle.  Let's say she picks "Strength".

Now both players pop open their dice to reveal who's fighting who.  The number assigned to their character is added to the number they rolled, and then this is added to or subtracted from based on the Power Symbols on the bottom of each figure.

These symbols are very common in games such as these, and operate on the base score in a very traditional way.  For example, they might have an Invisibility Power Symbol on the base.  If it is blue - the color of the Strength skill selected for this round - then all other players would have to subtract 2 from their current score, improving your odds of winning. 

Now you have a total score - whomever's is bigger, wins.  The other player turns over his figure (just for the purposes of the game, not permanently), and play continues until one player has won three figures from the other.

As you might imagine, this basic version gets pretty damn dull pretty damn quick.  I call that the "PDDPDQ" effect.  Fortunately, that's not really the intended way to play the game long term, but is a good way to get kids indoctrinated into the basic rules.

The "Standard" play format involves buying up booster packs, and having multiple players added to the game.  Rather than characters fighting one on one, it increases to 3 on 3 or more.  Each player has at least 6 figures in his army, not 3, and you can have as many players as you'd like.

Even with the additions to the game though, it's still fairly quick, and tends to lean in favor of the person winning the roll.  Giving the person with the lower score the chance to choose the skill helps offset that somewhat, but in the short time I've played it still tends to lean toward the person with the highest roll.  The only real chance you have is in the power symbols of your character.  There's also the effects of the die, but you have to play for awhile to get the hang of using them effectively.

While writing this out might sound complicated, once you've played it a couple times you'll find that it isn't.  It really is geared for younger kids, I'd say in the 8 - 10 age range, more than older players.  And while it might be quicker for a younger player to catch on, it might also become boring to them a little too soon.  If you find that longer, drawn out, more complicated games tax your attention span, then this might be more suited to your personality.

Characters - ***
These figures are very small, Heroclix size.  We're talking in the 1" range, and in that scale, the sculpt and paint are actually pretty good.

There's a nice large number to collect in this initial wave, and an easy checklist to follow.  There are common, uncommon and rare figures as well of course, but unlike some other games, these aren't merely repaints of existing figures, but entirely different characters.

Scale is one thing that does bug me though.  Not the small scale of the overall line, but the lack of consistent scale within.  Because everyone has to fit within the confines of the die, the general design of the character can mean they end up much smaller or much larger than other characters.

For example, since Magneto's wide stance and arms take up a lot of space, his actual body is much smaller than Spider-man, a character who is in a tighter pose.  This lack of scale in relation to each other will be something that will bug me when I have a whole bunch displayed together.

Ultron and Magneto are the 'hidden' figures inside the package.  My Ultron was jammed up pretty good inside his cube, and has a permanent leg disability because of it.  Hopefully yours will fair better.

These are not articulated btw, and there are no additional accessories outside of the basic game pieces.

Fun Factor - **1/2
Keep in mind that I'm grading this from a perspective of a player in the 12 and up range.  I suspect that it won't have the complexity or longevity for them that it might for younger players.  If I were grading for kids in the 6 - 10 range, I'd bump this up another half star.  Hey, I had to pick an audience to use to judge, and since most of my readers are of the older variety, that made more sense.  However, I wanted to be sure to point out that for younger kids, this would be a better game.

Value - ***
This value is based on the price of the starter pack - if you're talking about the boosters, you need to drop these a bit.

The starter packs have 6 figures, dice, and carrying case, all for about ten bucks.  It's not an amazing deal, but it's certainly better than some of the prices we've seen on both this style of game AND miniature figures in recent times.

The booster packs, at $8 for just three figures, are more in line with the currently inflated prices on similar toys.

Things to watch out for - 
In this category, there's just a note to be careful when putting the figures in the die and then closing it.  You can crush them or damage them if they're not lined up right, but the odds of that are pretty small if you're paying attention.

Overall -  **1/2 
I'm reviewing this game for my readers, who are predominately older.  That's part of the design of the game though - it's pretty clear that they were going for a younger audience here.  The figures are very cool, especially for the scale, but the scale across the line is always going to bug me.  Of course, the same is true at times with Heroclix, their biggest competition. 

Also in the spirit of full disclosure, I want to point out that I've only been able to play the game a couple times at this point, and only in basic mode since I don't know anyone else yet with the starter set or booster packs.

Forbeck is currently working on a DC version of Battle Dice as well, and as you might expect if you know me well enough, I'll have to pick up a few of those once they hit.

Packaging - ***
Game Play -  **1/2
Character Figures - ***
Fun Factor - **1/2
Value - ***
Overall -  **1/2

Where to Buy -
These are popping up at Targets right now, but I suspect stores like Wal-mart and Toys R Us will be getting them soon.  Expect to pay around $10 for the starter set, and $8 for the booster sets.

Related Links:
I don't have any reviews that really make sense, but you should check out the designer's web site, Matt Forbeck. This guy has a very impressive record in the gaming industry, and is working on some very interesting stuff!

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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