Finished my first solo two-handed session of Dice Throne Adventures earlier tonight. For those who aren’t familiar, Dice Throne itself is a game where you play a fantasy adventurer of some description, competing with the other adventurers for the Mad King’s Throne in combat to the death. This combat is achieved primarily by rolling dice and matching them against abilities on your character board, which can do a variety of things but primarily inflict damage and status effects. You also have a deck of cards - some of which do instant effects (most generic for everyone, affecting die rolls somehow), and some of which permanently upgrade abilities on your character board. The statuses, the abilities, the dice, the upgrades and some instant cards, are all unique to your character. (Or occasionally, mostly unique, for some of the statuses.)
Dice Throne Adventures turns it into a cooperative dungeon crawl campaign. Each player picks one of the previous seasons’ characters (there are sixteen in all, sold in season sets of 8 or packs of 2) and they begin operating almost entirely the same way they do in the original dueling gameplay. The campaign alternates randomized Portal Crawl scenarios, and boss fights. The portal crawls are the really new bit. You get a random scenario card for that scenario, and lay out a series of facedown tiles of various levels, then put certain specified goodies on them. The goal is to gather three portal shards, and summon forth the boss minion from the portal tile. Defeating it wins that scenario. In the meantime, each turn you must either move to a new tile and explore it, receiving any rewards and (often harmful) effects associated with it and usually encountering a minion to battle, move into a tile with an ongoing minion fight, or continue a minion fight you are already engaged in. Importantly, your hand, CP for buying cards with, statuses both positive and negative (unless they expire on their own), current health total, and ability upgrades all persist between turns and indeed fights, right up until the end of the scenario.
Minion fights are, on your end, one turn at a time of regular Dice Throne - you have your standard upkeep, get to play cards, do your offensive roll against the minion, can play cards again, and wrap up. Minions are considered players for any relevant effect, and while they rarely use CP (and never upgrade mid-fight), they do have some in case you have effects that care. Minions are simpler than full characters, though, usually consisting of one offensive ability, one defensive ability, health and CP values, a reward for killing them, a goal they roll towards when you roll for their offensive roll, and maybe a passive ability. I found that for the most part, they went down in a turn or two, but because you start with less health than a regular Dice Throne duel and it lasts between fights, you really want to eliminate them as quickly as possible, ideally before they can inflict damage. (Having built in healing is also strong.) I haven’t fought one yet, but I believe bosses have a bit more going on and it’s closer to a standard duel, except against an AI.
So what about loot, you say? There’s a couple forms: healing salves - you start with some and they heal the character that has them for a scenario-based amount, usable at the start of a turn, the start of a fight, or I believe one other time I forget (I didn’t use it, turn or fight was plenty for me), or can revive another player’s dead character to 1 HP. (No healing salve and someone goes down? Scenario over, you lose.). Gold: it totals up over the scenario on a counter and every player gets that much to spend in a shop at the end. Treasure chests: there’s a table each player rolls a d20 on whenever you get a chest, which is better the higher rarity the treasure chest. This can range from damage buff statuses to CP to healing to gold to unidentified loot cards of different rarities. (You can then identify and gain them properly at the shop, for a modest fee, or buy known cards from a scenario-based random draw per character, potentially selling unidentified items for 5 gold a pop.). And what form do loot cards take? Why, you add them to your deck, of course. Some of them upgrade dice modification cards you already have (replacing them). Some of them do something new. And some of them are gear cards you can pay CP to equip (two slots worth) during scenarios if you’ve drawn them. Any of them might have more powerful loot cards that replace them in higher rarities.
In conclusion: I lost, literally on the finish line. My Paladin was actually over starting HP and had a one time death save (Blessing of Divinity), plus a Crit, Retribution, and a couple damage bonus status effects from treasures. He was fighting a Corrupt Rogue boss minion who had been very sneaky but not managed to land a hit so far. Sadly, while my Ninja fought hard and took down a bunch of minions along the way, she burned not only her two salves for healing, but three of the Paladin’s bringing her back from defeat (you can’t trade salves unless a card specifies, unfortunately), and her final encounter had been with a Vicious Viper that stuck her with ongoing poison that would drop her again every upkeep. So, she killed the Viper and before she could join the Rogue fight, dropped unconscious from the poison. Scenario loss. It was a lucrative loss, though. 55 gold each, and while the Paladin got two Common loots and an Epic during the scenario, the Rogue got an Common, a Rare and an Epic. They both identified the lot (the Paladin got two pretty nice gear pieces, the Rogue just instant cards) and bought a couple extra cards from the shop - the Paladin a rare mule (for trading CP and salves) and a healing potion (for healing the Ninja, but himself in a pinch), the Ninja a couple die modifier card upgrades that made them cheaper. And next time I get to start with five salves instead.
Is it good? So far, fuck yes. Quick, fun bursts of action, nail-biting tension as those HP dwindle, and the siren song of phat lewts. Is it balanced? I dunno. Obviously, a game with this much dicing and this many cards is going to be subject to chance, so some swinginess is inevitable. I do feel like characters with good access to high direct damage, damage prevention tools, or self-healing have an advantage in the bite-sized fight context of the portal crawl, so the Paladin was doing quite well and the Ninja was having real trouble. But there are other factors - e.g. most minions have too much health to regularly kill them before they act, so the character that’s first into a fight is going to get hit more than the character that’s second. Unfortunately the turn order meant I frequently had to lead with the Ninja - remember, exploration is mandatory, as is joining battles if you would have to move through that space to go to an exploration. Secondly, I just wasn’t rolling very well for her, and annoyingly well for the minions. And thirdly, the Ninja is the first time professional printing of a previously print-and-play only character and could just suck in comparison. Anyway. S’neat.
Then played a fairly short introductory game of Maximum Apocalypse with two of my three regulars (the fourth tried it with me last week), doing the first proper scenario of saving the Scientist. It was a bit anticlimactic. We had some trouble fighting the initial monsters as my Surgeon didn’t draw any weapons all game and the Gunslinger took the other ability where she gets a damage buff for the rest of the round instead of the guaranteed gun and then…didn’t draw a gun, while drawing the toughest zombie in the deck (the Stalker). Fortunately the Mechanic had her Blowtorch and torched the other two starting zombies for us. But after getting over that hump, we hit a red supply point (the Hospital) and then our objective (the Police Station) in the first two tiles. Took some wrangling to down the Zombie Horde and the couple more spawns we got before there was a chance to rescue the scientist, but then the Gunslinger rode back to the van on her horse (with some fuel) and the Mechanic and I drained the red deck of fuel and skedaddled as well. Boom. Short and surgical. Everyone had fun though, and we’re probably playing it again on Thursday. (Maximum Apocalypse was on a TTS mod, by the way. It may still be in the workshop.)