I know that some people, perhaps a lot of people, don't really like to play solo games, or dice games, or print-and-play games. I understand that those are particularly niche kind of things that don't appeal to everyone, perhaps especially in that particular combination. But inasmuch as anyone can appreciate truly great games, and can look beyond the genre and the player number and whether the components come in a fancy box or slide out of a printer, then I would urge them to take the 20 minutes and two sheets of paper needed to print, learn and play D-Day Dice. D-Day Dice, designed by Emmanuel Aquin, is an outstanding example of each of those labels (i.e. solo, dice game, print-and-play), and while it has elements of Eurogame efficiency and resource management and wargame/AT theme and tactics, I believe it also transcends all of those labels to be more than the sum of its parts.
The objective of D-Day Dice is to lead your squad across increasingly dangerous sectors on one of the beaches of Normandy and into the German bunker. We all know how that turned out, historically speaking, but of course there were a great many American casualties taken during that assault, and it will prove particularly difficult for any particular squad to survive in this game. It is a tremendous challenge, no doubt, but though luck may be a factor, your choices along the way will have a greater impact on whether you succeed or not.
On each turn, you will roll 6 dice; two red, two white and two blue. Normally, I would say that you could substitute the colors of the dice as needed, but in this case, you probably shouldn't, ya know? It really is a nice touch to the production, and it also factors importantly into the gameplay, as during each turn, if you have the same result on a red, white and blue die, you will gain a particular bonus. As with many dice games, you will have a total of three rolls for all of the dice before they must all be locked, and in this case, at least two dice must be locked after the first roll, forcing a difficult decision and a potential direction for each turn right off the bat.
What makes D-Day Dice a great design is the tight balance required for success. Resources must be acquired, managed and spent with some tactical planning in mind, or you won't have a chance, no matter how "good" you roll. Of utmost importance are soldiers, who will be lost in increasing numbers every turn. You can anticipate how many soldiers will be lost in some sectors at the end of every turn, but there will also be some additional random losses from machine gun fire and landmines. One Soldier is gained by rolling a 3, and two are gained for each 4 rolled. One small criticism I have of the game is that for the sake of simple association to the specific numbers they represent, I would have liked for the Soldiers to be represented by the 1 and 2 of the dice.
Time is also a big factor in the game, as you only have, at the most, three turns to stay in any particular sector before you must move on, either sideways or forward, and you can never return to a sector where you've been before, so before long you must move forward into the breach. Each sector is a little different, and some require certain Specialists, a certain amount of Courage to advance, or they will have a certain affect while your squad is there. Specialists, who count as Soldiers and grant ongoing special abilities (e.g. the Medic lets you save one Soldier per turn) are gained through the rolls of Stars (or 2's) on the dice, and Courage through the rolls of Medals (or 5's).
Special Items can also be found or brought into use by spending Item Points, which are gained from rolling Tools (6's), with increasing points gained per the number of Tool dice rolled (1 Tool = 1 Item Point, 2 Tools = 3 Item Points, 3 Tools = 6 Item Points, etc.). Items are one-time use only, but they have some powerful effects that may be absolutely necessary to survive at certain points. For example, when you have only 9 Soldiers remaining, and the sector you're in will require a loss of 10, it's time to break out the Flamethrower, which costs 20 Item Points but reduces the sector casualty loss for that turn by 10.
The only dice side I haven't mentioned yet is the 1, which is a Skull. If any Skulls remain at the end of your three rolls, they will each cancel out one of your other dice. That can be devastating, so you have to be careful about how many dice you're willing to re-roll on that third roll, and you may want to pick up the Sharpshooter early on, as he eliminates one Skull roll per turn.
While the main focus and intent of the game seems to be intended for solo play, and that's the only way I've played it so far, the game also supports up to 4 players, who can play together simultaneously and have the opportunity to trade dice and leave their Items behind for the others when they die.
A session of D-Day Dice plays in about 15-20 minutes (or less if you lose early), and is very easy to learn. There are now four different maps, each with a few different wrinkles in the sectors and some different Items and Specialists available. Emmanuel has also released a "training" mission, which is intentionally easier to complete for new players or players (like me) who have a really difficult time winning. Actually, as great as the design of D-Day Dice is, I must admit that I enjoy playing it slightly less than other solo dice games like Delve, The d6 Shooters and Dice of the Living Dead, because while those are also challenging and thematic, they feel quite a bit lighter. D-Day Dice is tense and taxing and requires an intensity of focus with every choice that is more demanding of my energy than I'm willing to give on some days.
Regardless of that intensity, or perhaps because of it, many people have taken a big shine to the game, and it has quickly risen in the ranks of Print-and-Play games and is currently ranked 1728 overall on BGG (and climbing), which is very high for a solo print-and-play dice game. Emmanuel has supported the game very well, providing Artscow notepads and a set of custom dice for the game, as well as a strategy guide and FAQ. There is also a Vassal version available, and a fan of the game has made a nice multiple map board for the game (see below). I really think that publishers should take a look at this and consider selling a similar production of the game, as I think it would have some potential for success if the price was right. Whether you want to pimp it out or not, considering how often we talk about the high cost of games these days and their relative value, you really can't beat the price of D-Day Dice for the gameplay you get out of it.
Grudunza is a member of Fortress:Ameritrash