D-Day Dice Pocket – Dicier Than the Original

D-Day Dice Pocket comes in a small box that advertises “two complete and epic games [with] basic and advanced rules” and the opportunity to conquer the beaches of Normandy in a few minutes. The box also includes rules that let you use some of the content as an expansion for the recently released D-Day Dice : Second Edition, a game that me and the cats are enjoying quite a lot. One of the games included in the pocket version is called D-Day Dice Express! and can be played solo.

This is a review of D-Day Dice Express! as a solitaire game and of MGF Dice, the mini expansion for D-Day Dice : Second Edition. I have not looked at the other game included in D-Day Dice Pocket, the party game D-Day Dice Battle!

Designer:Emmanuel Aquin
Publisher:Word Forge Games
Artist:Dominik Kasprzycki
Rules:Link will be added in due time.
Solo facilitation:One of the included games is cooperative (1-4 players).
How I obtained my copy of the game:Purchased.

Background

D-Day Dice Pocket (just Pocket from now on) is a small game based on D-Day Dice. D-Day Dice is a war-themed, cooperative game about the Allied invasion of the beaches of Normandie in German occupied France. It was released in 2012 and it’s been a popular solitaire game since then. A second edition was recently released through Kickstarter along with a slew of expansions and extras, among them Pocket. The base game and a few of the expansions are now available in retail. To simply say that Pocket is a light, quick version of the original game could be misleading; ordinary D-Day Dice is certainly neither heavy nor long. It’s good, however, and that’s why I decided to have a look at Pocket.

Contents

The box contains two games and one expansion but just 14 dice, 13 cards, a cloth bag and a rules sheet. This feat of minimalism has been accomplished through multi-use components.

Many of the cards are double-sided. I know, all cards are, but hear me out! One side is used when playing D-Day Dice Express! and one side is for the party game D-Day Dice Battle! One card explains how the six grey Axis dice can be used as an expansion for D-Day Dice: Second Edition.

The same components are used whether you play Express! or Battle! This means that you get two games and one expansion, but only one of these at a time.

All components are of high quality and look good.

D-Day Dice Express!

Of the two games in the box, Express! is without doubt the one that’s closest to the original, but in simplifying it a lot has been removed. You have no resources to keep track of, and without resources there’s less long-term planning. The spatial element is completely gone as well, and with it the tactical decisions between different routes through different types of terrain.

What remains is the core of the Yahtzee-like dice mechanism from D-Day Dice, along with the symbology, terminology and aesthetics from the second edition. The narrative framework is also the same: your mission is to advance from the landing to the bunker, and if you manage to take out the bunker you win.

The game has six stages. The first is the landing, the last is the bunker. At the start of each turn, you roll a number of grey Axis dice equal to the current stage. You then roll your six Allied dice. These are the same as the Axis dice, except yours are red, white and blue. The goal is to match the faces of your dice to the faces rolled with the Axis dice. You may re-roll any or all of your dice up to two times before tallying the results. If you fail to match all of the Axis dice you lose, if you succeed you move on to the next stage. Also, any sets of three of the same symbol in red, white and blue, gets you the corresponding specialist card. Specialists allow you to mitigate your rolls, re-roll and even clear stages without rolling. Three of a kind in red white and blue is called RWB.

Once you’ve cleared stage six, the bunker, you win the game. A game can be lost in as little as 15 seconds. Winning is done in under five minutes with a few rare exceptions.

There are six different beaches to land on. In the basic variant of the game, all stages on all beaches are the same, except for the fourth stage which is unique to each beach. On Utah Beach, for example, no specialist can be rallied during this step, and on Omaha Beach you only get to roll five of your dice.

When playing with the advanced rules, each beach has a special rule for each stage. The six beaches are numbered and get consecutively more difficult.

D-Day Dice is a rather abstract game to start with, and Express! even more so. Although die-rolling often is dramatic in itself, the connection between theme and mechanisms is not strong. In the original game, many important decisions revolve around the map. While planning your movement through sectors with different terrain, defense lines, mines and so on, you are reminded of what the game is about. When playing a game with mechanisms as highly abstracted as in D-Day Dice, that constant reminder is welcome. In Express! you’re without a map to pore over; the narrative, the sense of progression, and the sense of place are gone.

This is a game about pushing your luck, and I would probably have enjoyed it more if it weren’t for the fact that you can easily become a runaway leader of sorts very early in the game. If you’re lucky enough to gain one of the better specialists during the landing stage, this can lead to a cascade of RWBs and a very quick win without any tension whatsoever.

The fast-paced, swingy and rather tense feeling of D-Day Dice Express! is fun for a little while, but once the snowballing effect mentioned above has occured a few times, it starts feeling like I’m just along for the ride and not as active a participant as I would have liked to be. This doesn’t mean that the game is easy to win, though. Losses on stage five or even six are not uncommon, and that’s a saving grace.

MGF Dice Mini Expansion

The grey Axis dice from Pocket can be used to replace the ordinary D-6 that’s rolled for machine gun fire in D-Day Dice: Second Edition. When this is done, instead of simply losing between one and six soldiers, you’ll lose one item corresponding to the face you’ve rolled, or six soldiers if you roll the skull.

So far, it seems to me that this makes the game easier. Sure, you usually have more soldiers than courage points, for example, but the most common way of losing the game is by having your soldiers killed. I would say that although the game perhaps becomes a tiny bit easier, it also becomes more random and less predictable.

Is it worth getting D-Day Dice Pocket as a standalone game for solo players?

That certainly depends. For me, no. Express! is way too simple to stay engaging in the long run. Sure, rolling dice is fun, and so is pushing your luck, but after learning the basics, the game requires little attention. It almost feels like a physical exercise rather than a mental one.

I usually want a healthy amount of randomness in my games, but the “runaway leader problem” I addressed above just makes it too much.

But if you enjoy a quick, tense dice game with a significant amount of randomness, give it a try.

Is D-Day Dice Express! as epic as it’s advertised to be?

Calling ordinary D-Day Dice epic would be a stretch. In fact, to get anywhere near epic, you’d need to add an expansion or two and play by the campaign rules from the Overlord expansion. So what about D-Day Dice Express!? Nope. Of course it isn’t epic.

I don’t have enough space or time to get ordinary D-Day Dice to the table. Would D-Day Dice Pocket be a good substitute for a solo gamer?

While everything you need to play D-Day Dice Express! fits in the included bag and the ordinary version of D-Day Dice comes in a box that would fit 12 copies of Pocket, it’s important to know that when soloing the ordinary game, you don’t really need more space than an airplane tray. You can keep most of the cards stacked and the battle boards are not big.

As far as gameplay is concerned, Express! is a VERY light game, even when compared to the rather lightweight ordinary D-Day Dice. Chance is a HUGE factor. Although the two games share some basic dice mechanisms, Express! is simplified to the point where most of D-Day Dice has been lost. Without the maps, the connection between the historical war theme and the game mechanisms is almost non-existent.

I’m a fan of ordinary D-Day Dice. Should I get D-Day Dice Pocket as an expansion?

I suggest that you replace the ordinary D-6 with one of the red, white or blue dice included in the base game when rolling for machine gun fire. After that you can decide for yourself if it’s worth buying D-Day Dice Pocket to get to roll a grey die instead. Personally, I’m not too fond of the variant since it seems to make the game easier. If you want an easier game, though…

Summary

D-Day Dice Pocket is cute and looks promising but it doesn’t deliver, neither as an expansion for the original game nor as a solo game in itself. If you happen to enjoy party games, though, the other game in the box, D-Day Dice Battle!, might make the package a worthwhile investment. In the end, what I like the most is the bag. I’ll use it for the dice in my copy of D-Day Dice: Second Edition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment