My daughter and I recently explored the 2017 game King of the Dice to prepare for the most recent addition to this game’s family, King of the Dice: The Board Game (2021, HABA). The first game is enjoyable, essentially a reskin of Yahtzee with better artwork and ways to take on negative point cards.
The second game is a surprising miss. It is both longer and less interesting than the original game, and it badly overstays its welcome thanks to an area control element that takes too long to fulfill. It’s also a meaner game than the original, which is going to lead to an interesting problem—most children that I have met, including my own, don’t love having their things taken away from them.
Do you want to play a game like that with your eight-year-old?
“This Is a LOT More Complicated, Daddy”
This quote, from my daughter as we were covering the rules for King of the Dice: The Board Game, really resonated with me because we started these plays AFTER we already knew the rules for the base game.
And that’s not because this newer game is complicated. In fact, I believe there are less icons here than on the cards in the base game. You are playing the same tableau builder from the original, and then mixing it with an area control mechanic that takes a while to fill.
In King of the Dice: The Board Game, players roll six dice to match up colors, sums, and pips with cards in the market, that allows a player to take a card into their tableau. These cards have an instant power—sometimes, this means you’ll draw tiles to decide which one to place on a large map along with one of your player control markers. Other times, you’ll steal a card or a gem from another player; gems are worth points at the end of the game, and can be acquired from the map when covering a gem with a new tile.
Sometimes, you’ll add a piece of dragon fire to your stash. Whoever has the most dragon fire at the end of play will score a four-point bonus (incredibly minor in the scheme of scoring, so this immediately becomes an unviable path to victory). One of the instant bonuses is to switch out another player’s control marker for your own. At the end of the game, you’ll score three points for each of your connected tiles in the largest section of territory you control.
The Base Game Wins
While not overwhelming, I think these end-game scoring processes are emblematic of the complications involved in this game. There’s a little too much to think about for a 7- or 8-year-old. But I don’t think there’s enough here to warrant adult-only plays, since there are better choices out there for Yahtzee-style dice games.
King of the Dice: The Board Game has one flaw, but it’s a dealbreaker: my 2-player games with my daughter took about 45 minutes each. Anyone who has young children knows that getting them to patiently sit at a table for that long playing ANY game is a challenge, but especially one where there is nothing to do in-between their turns. (Well, I guess there is one thing to do: watch as they get robbed of either tile ownership, gems or cards!!)
But King of the Dice: The Board Game takes too long to play for the target audience, and the area control element is not that interesting. Now, trying to roll six green dice, or two sets of three-of-a-kind? That is still interesting, but that’s already included in a better format with the base game. That’s what we will be sticking to moving forward.