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Dragon Dice

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:

GAME DEVELOPER:Interplay

GAME PUBLISHER:Interplay

Copyright 1997, TSR

Dragon Dice is a competent PC version of TSR’s fantasy dice game of the same name. Interplay did their best to make the game as faithful to the original dice game – and that is ultimately the problem, because the original Dragon Dice is a relatively clunky game with convoluted combat rules that make it a far cry from TSR’s sophisticated fantasy RPG rules. Barak Engel says it all about this underdog that is only as good as the lackluster license in his review for Games Domain:

“There are 4 races fighting for control of the earth, two good (Coral elves and Dwarves) and two bad (Goblins and Lava elves). Each of the good ones are “made” of two of the 4 elements, which are- anyone doesn’t know? Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The bad races are made of one of these together with Death, a fifth “element”. There are also Dragons, which represent the requisite wildcard in this type of game.

An army is composed of units of soldiers. Each unit has a number of health points, and may be from any of the races. The units are represented by 6 sided dice, while Dragons are represented by 12-sided dice. Each die has a specific meaning attached to each of its faces, so when you roll it in combat, the roll will have a pre determined effect as shown by the rolled number, or markings on the rolled face. These effects represent all sorts of actions, like movement, missile fire, melee combat, and spells. The basic idea behind Dragon Dice is rolling the right result at the right time, and then making good use of it. For instance, a successful maneuver would need you to roll a better overall maneuver roll with your participating units than the opposing army’s roll. Since each die has specific statistical advantages and disadvantages, a good army design (or mix of dice) can lead to better overall results. The object of the game is to either kill everyone else, or capture terrain. Terrain is represented by 8-sided dice, and “capturing” means turning it to its 8th face. Turning a terrain die is accomplished by successful maneuvers by your army. Gaining control of terrain means extra strategic benefits for the controlling army. Capturing two terrains is enough to win.

When you recreate a tabletop game on a PC, the most important part is a good presentation. Assuming that you adhere to the rules, the PC’s advantage is in saving the usual clutter made when playing a game- dice don’t get lost, the cat doesn’t suddenly ruin the battlefield… It makes things more comfortable. In theory, a PC can give you all the fun of the game without the usual headache of handling game gear. This requires a good interface, too, so as not to create a different type of headache, and avoid boredom. Monopoly did it right.

Dragon Dice, I am afraid, does not. No, it isn’t horrific. It is rather above average. Much the same as the manual, which tries to jam too many details into the reader in a very unsorted way, the game itself tries to do too much, eventually tripping and falling. An online help system, easily accessible while playing, is a necessity in such a complex environment. It simply takes too much time to grasp all the game mechanics. X-Com3 got it right. Dragon Dice tries to do something similar through the campaign mode, but it simply is not good enough.

TSR missed with the original Dragon Dice. It was a failure. It never had the magic quality of Magic: The Gathering. Interplay took an already bad product, and transformed it into computer form. It’s good if you love Dragon Dice, but are missing the dice. Honestly, Interplay didn’t do a bad job- not brilliant, by any means, but certainly not bad. And yet, this creation is best forgotten quickly. Maybe if they add the extra expansion packs (for free, Interplay, for free), Dragon Dice would become good enough. Maybe.” If you enjoy the original game, you’ll probably find this PC version a lot of fun. But if you have never heard of the game, there’s nothing here that will attract you to the mythos. For more details on the dice game, visit the official site of SFR, current publisher who bought the rights from TSR after the latter was sold to Wizard of the Coast.



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