Articles Reviews D-Day Dice: A Solo PnP Dice Game Masterpiece
 

D-Day Dice: A Solo PnP Dice Game Masterpiece D-Day Dice: A Solo PnP Dice Game Masterpiece Hot

ddaydice

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.

D-Day 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.

D-Day Dice

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

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Comments (29)
  • avatarMattDP

    Although I support a lot of the positive things you point out about this game, I ultimately just found it too hard to be worth it. Solo games walk a very fine line between being too easy and getting boring fast, and being too hard and encouraging players to give up and D-Day dice falls on the wrong side of the latter line in my opinion. Even making quality choices the whole time you'll still fall short in the majority of plays.

    That said, it does do an impressive job of working randomness into a framework that rewards good decision making.

    One thing I didn't like was the absurd level of carnage in the game. Omaha Beach was a bloodbath, but the number of soldiers who get slaughtered during a session of D-Day dice is just ridiculous - to portray it in such a throwaway manner borders on the disrespectful IMO.

  • avatarGrudunza

    Matt, I can agree with your first part... though if it wasn't enough of a challenge it wouldn't be interesting, either.

    Quote:
    One thing I didn't like was the absurd level of carnage in the game. Omaha Beach was a bloodbath, but the number of soldiers who get slaughtered during a session of D-Day dice is just ridiculous - to portray it in such a throwaway manner borders on the disrespectful IMO.

    How is that different than any wargame depicting a particularly deadly battle? In this game, you'll probably expect 60-70 soldiers to be killed, if you make it all the way. Is that really absurd compared to the 2-4 thousand Allies that died that day?

  • avatarBlack Barney

    what a great way to honour our troops!

  • avatarBlack Barney

    I'm honestly with MattDP on this and I think it's cuz they actually use the word D-Day in the game title. D-Day Dice just sounds wicked disrespectful in my opinion. I think if they named it Amphibious Assault Dice or whatever, that would have been fine.

    I don't find videogames depicting D-Day to be disrespectful tho so maybe I'm being a hypocrite

  • avatarSagrilarus


    I took a good look at this one and opted for Valor & Victory instead. You play both sides alternately in V&V, and for me that's a more intriguing play. Haven't ruled this one out yet, but for the moment I've held off.

    I'm not too concerned about the thematic issues. It's a game about war. Setting aside the death would be more of a disservice.

    S.


  • avatarGary Sax

    D-Day dice is offensive? Wha?

  • avatarSouthernman

    I had better burn my A&A:D-Day :o ... seriously, I'm a bit mystified with the problem (?).

  • avatarSouthernman

    Stoopid smilies screwing up my post >:(

  • avatarGrudunza
    Quote:
    I had better burn my A&A-Day ... seriously, I'm a bit mystified with the problem (?).

    Yeah, and Frontline: D-Day and D-Day at Omaha Beach, among others...

    I think some of y'all just need to start some kind of argument in these article threads, no matter how pointless. :P

  • avatarjeb

    This looks pretty sweet. Thanks, Grudunza for the heads up and nice review.It looks like there's an "Exercise Tiger" map that has been added recently as a tutorial. Maybe that could address some of the NOT CRAZY concerns noted above.

  • avatarJason Lutes

    Great review, the game looks awesome, and those custom die rock.

    "Disrespectful?" Really? Give me a fucking break. Yes, Barney, you are a hypocrite. Smiley.

  • avatarMattDP
    Quote:
    How is that different than any wargame depicting a particularly deadly battle?

    Okay, looks like I better justify my comment.

    I think what bothers me about this as opposed to a wargame is the passive nature of it. Your soldiers aren't attacking, or defending, or even just taking cover and cowering in a foxhole. They just die. You move, and they just die without having contributed anything to the war effort except to act as ballast against a semi-random death toll that's imposed on you each turn. They have no chance to defend themselves, no detail about how or why they bit the dust. It turns people directly into numbers without adding any meaning or value to the process.

    Does that make sense? Maybe "disrespectful" was too strong a word to use, after all I played the game quite a few times before the difficulty curve put me off. But I did find the passive and anonymous nature of inflicting casualties in the game a bit offputting. Perhaps distasteful is a better word.

  • avatarBlack Barney

    Nah, they're still get pissed off if you say distasteful. I think a better post would simply to put up a big passive-aggressive "Thanks for respecting our viewpoints! What a great website!" post and that's that.

  • avatarSouthernman

    Matt said:

    Quote:
    Your soldiers aren't attacking, or defending, or even just taking cover and cowering in a foxhole. They just die. You move, and they just die without having contributed anything to the war effort except to act as ballast against a semi-random death toll that's imposed on you each turn. They have no chance to defend themselves, no detail about how or why they bit the dust. It turns people directly into numbers without adding any meaning or value to the process.


    I understand your point but that is exactly what happened at Omaha beach, which was why they stuck fearless 19 year olds in the first wave instead of combat vets - so perhaps it is a sobering reminder about what a wargame is actually simulating. So maybe extra brownie points for getting you to think about the subject ?

  • avatarMattDP
    Quote:
    I understand your point but that is exactly what happened at Omaha beach, which was why they stuck fearless 19 year olds in the first wave instead of combat vets - so perhaps it is a sobering reminder about what a wargame is actually simulating. So maybe extra brownie points for getting you to think about the subject ?

    Yeah, this kind of occurred to me whilst I was typing out the post. But then I thought about it some more and realised that even bearing this in mind, the poor guys who got killed at Omaha did not, for the most part, arbitrarily just die. Most of them did something, no matter how feeble, to try and survive. D-Day Dice seems to deny them even that opportunity.

  • avatarBlack Barney

    I'll say this, in other D-Day scenarios, the Omaha beach level is ALWAYS the toughest and it actually makes me think about the allies sometimes.

    Like in Call of Duty 2, the D-Day level on Veteran difficulty is the hardest part of the game and in playing it I thought to myself twice, "jesus, this is tough. How the hell did they do it"

    and even in playing something innocent like Panzer general: Allied Assault, the d-day level is SUPER hard. You just keep pushing troops and pushign troops and taking a ton of casualties and you feel the losses tearing into your reserves. It's tough.


    D-Day Dice... I dunno. It just doesn't give integrity to the difficulty of the mission the way that wargames do.

    That's all.

    Maybe I'm just over-sensitive to it cuz I just saw Restrepo

  • avatarGrudunza
    Quote:
    D-Day Dice... I dunno. It just doesn't give integrity to the difficulty of the mission the way that wargames do.

    Have you played it? It's friggin' difficult.

    Matt, your clarification is more understandable, no doubt. But let's not forget that it is still a relatively simple dice game after all... It does a good job within a very simple framework, limited to dice, of depicting the difficulty of advancing through a very hostile war situation. It is abstracting much the loss on the Allies side, but certainly the same loss is occurring for the Germans... you just don't see it. Those soldiers are having an effect or you wouldn't advance. But it's happening.

    It is a criticism of mine that the soldier losses are specifically known in many sectors (ones that add machine guns and landmines make it more uncertain). I probably would have preferred some kind of random number that would change from sector to sector (e.g. d6+2 for early sectors, 2d6+2 for later sectors). But that is one of the gamey aspects of this, where you are able to make some planning and go for specific things based on the losses you know you'll be facing. And I think it makes it better from a game design standpoint, tactically speaking, to know those specific casualty numbers, but yes, it's also less realistic and seemingly more cold and calculated. Considering it's (verrrrrry loosely) meant to be a simulation of a historical event, where you are replaying it in some small way, you can anticipate what some of the losses will be based on what happened. Of course, this is not meant to be depicting anything specific, but you can think of it that way, at least.

  • avatarBlack Barney

    Where are you getting the 'verrrrryy loosely' part? It has "D-DAY" in the name, no? Seems like it's a dice game meant to depict the Normandy beach invasions. It seems clear to me.

    But that's cool if it's at the very least super difficult for the allies to win. Is it possible for the allies to win with almost no casualties?

  • avatarGrudunza
    Quote:
    Where are you getting the 'verrrrryy loosely' part? It has "D-DAY" in the name, no? Seems like it's a dice game meant to depict the Normandy beach invasions. It seems clear to me.

    I mean that it's not a simulation specifying actual forces, with terrain that matches the actual site and all that, like a more detailed wargame would depict.

    Quote:
    But that's cool if it's at the very least super difficult for the allies to win.

    Well, keep in mind, the Allies will still win, presumably... You are just portraying one particular squadron and trying to make it all the way through.

    Quote:
    Is it possible for the allies to win with almost no casualties?

    No, there are always casualties. It is possible to win with several soldiers left alive, which is the best-case scenario, of course. But you will take consistent losses throughout, which is as expected.

  • avatarBlack Barney

    ok cool. That sounds like a decent simulation then! It's not as fluffy as the box cover would lead you to believe.

    My only point is if you're going to do ANYTHING regarding D-Day where so many people lost their lives, you have to show some respect and this game sounds like it does that which is great. The box cover had me worried. If it takes into account terrain or not is unimportant in my view. It's more that it's clearly depicting the D-Day invasion so it better give an idea of how dangerous and hard it was to accomplish what was accomplished on that day.

    Riddle me this: If this game used figures to represent forces and used sheep dressed up in military garb to represent the Allies and wolves dressed in German army uniforms, that would be disrespectful, yes?

  • avatarJason Lutes

    Matt, I totally get what you're saying and respect your point of view on that issue. I just think that pretty much any game that takes war as its subject kind of trivializes it by turning it into a game, so I personally don't have an issue with the way it's apparently handled here.

    Barney, if you're going to take the "you have to show respect" line on D-Day, where else do you draw that line? How do you feel about Spielberg's 1941, Hogan's Heroes, or the rampant cartoonification of Nazis that we see in games like Tannhauser? Are sexy dominatrix Nazis disrespectful to the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, or are they just good pulpy fun?

    I would argue that, in fact, judging from Grudunza's description, that D-Day Dice is more honest about the brutal reality of war than most wargames that reduce entire companies of real flesh-and-blood men to cardboard chits with abstract symbols printed on them. Apparently in this game you're confronted directly with the horrible, nearly-senseless loss of life that occurred during the invasion.

    I'm not immune to feeling uneasy about certain games myself, I should add. Games about any current conflict, and to a lesser degree Viet Nam tend to rub me the wrong way, but simply because they've been made into games at all.

  • avatarBlack Barney

    I don't know anything about Spielberg's 1941, Hogan's Heroes or Tannhauser. D-Day is one specific event where tons of soliders lost their lives. It must always be respected and not diminished.

    I don't care about sexy dominatrix nazis got I don't care if Nazis are disrespected. In fact, I think they should be. If they put a bunch of prisoner garb-wearing jews into sexy dominatrix outfits, that would be offensive I'm guessing.

    Like I said, D-Day Dice as a nice and box cover doesn't sit right but it sounds like the game format is fine

  • avatarGary Sax

    Everyone has to set their own ethical guidelines. Sounds like you're somebody who won't play any historical wargame. That's fine.

  • avatarGary Sax

    Hmmm, I just read your above comment that you are fine with most wargames... I personally don't know how you square your opinion away on that, but whatever works.

  • avatarBlack Barney

    Nah, historical wargames are great cuz they obviously greatly respect the event at hand (there's always a lengthy historical write up at the end of the rulebook and they carefully try to capture as many elements from the battle as possible.

  • avatarBlack Barney

    I don't think you'll ever understand my point if you can look at the cover of D-Day Dice and not think there is some small issue there.

    And it's no big deal if you don't.

  • avatarsisteray

    Am I the only one that sees the chocolate starfish?

  • avatarjeb

    I'm pretty sure confusing an Czech hedgehogs with anuses is disrespectful, but I'll wait for Black Barney to weigh in and tell me what to think.

  • avatarBlack Barney

    /sustains passive aggressive critical hit

    OUCH

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