It’s always risky to buy a game from an unproven developer on Steam, or in my case, choose to review one. The description might make it sound like it’s right up your alley, right until you actually play it. Dicetiny, an Early Access title from developer Fakedice, sounded perfect for me based on the description. And indeed, once I got past all of the initial problems, I found a genuinely fun game buried beneath. I just had to dig.
Dicetiny bills itself as a combined card game, board game, and RPG, with inspiration from tabletop RPGs and chock full of references and parodies. All of that is true, but it was definitely not the celebration of geek culture that I was expecting. This is normally where I would go over how the game is played, but there’s something that I need to address before I get to that: there are no instructions or tutorials in Dicetiny. You’re dropped right in and expected to know what you’re doing. And because this is a rather unique game (and I mostly mean that in a good way), it’s not particularly intuitive. To get instructions, you need to seek out the manual on Steam. I recognize that Dicetiny is still in Early Access and that a tutorial is probably coming, but that seems like a prerequisite for making the game available to the public.
In any case, I did read the manual, and soon I was able to actually get started. Dicetiny follows a plot, but the gameplay takes the form of a bunch of individual battles laid out on a map. Once you select one, a brief scene will play that introduces your enemy for the stage. Your character and your enemy are then placed on a square game board where the battle takes place. Your goal is to reduce your opponent’s health to zero, as with games like Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone.
Really, the overall gameplay is immensely similar to those games, except that battles and use of spells is based on positions on the game board. You roll the dice each turn, and follow the effect on the space you land on. You might be fighting a creature, buying cards at a shop, or getting some random effect. You can also draw cards to and play cards from your hand during your turn; these may be creatures that you can place on the board to fight opponents, abilities you can use against enemies, or equipment to increase your stats.
All of this sounds very complicated – and it is – but it mostly works when you get the hang of it. Again, Dicetiny drops you in without a tutorial, so the functions of each card and aspect of the board are not immediately clear. At first, I was ready to dismiss the game right away as too confusing and unpolished to be worth playing. In the name of journalistic integrity, though, I felt I needed to give it a proper chance. And you know something, I actually found myself enjoying it.
I’m still not 100% clear on how everything works, but I read enough of the manual to at least get through the game. It’s not the most exciting thing I’ve played this week, but the mechanics are more or less sound and it is definitely a unique style of game play. It’s not for everyone, but if you like trading card games, there’s some fun to be had here.
If you do decide to play Dicetiny, do yourself a favor and skip straight to the actual gameplay. There is a plot, and it is full of jokes and references, but nearly all of it falls flat. The game references everything from Lord of the Rings to Street Fighter to obscure Internet memes, but none of these are particularly clever or funny. For example, the game opens with a Star Wars-style crawl. Why? What’s the joke? Is it that they’re referencing Star Wars in a game with a primarily medieval fantasy based theme? That’s not really enough, in my opinion. A lot of the jokes are cliché, and while Dicetiny bills itself as an RPG, there’s absolutely nothing compelling about its story, jokes or not.
My recommendation? Hold off on Dicetiny for now. The Early Access version is missing some important things, like a tutorial, and hopefully the writing will improve as well. Fans of Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone should definitely check it out, but I’d wait to see how they update things before buying it. Dicetiny is not the terrible game I thought it was when I first booted it up, but while the core gameplay is pretty fun, there is still a lot that needs to be done.