Dice Settlers is a board game for 1 to 4 players designed by Dávid Turczi and published by NSKN Games (nowadays Board&Dice). In Dice Settlers you take on the role of a leader of pioneers and settlers who are out to explore and settle new land, by force if necessary, and learn new technologies while doing so. The leader who does the best job by gaining the most victory points will be the best Dice Settler.
During setup each player gains a player board, a cloth bag and all markers in the chosen color. The players start with 6 tents of their color and a starting set of 3 white, 1 green and 1 yellow die in their cloth bag. The first player is randomly chosen and he draws three of the starting map tiles and chooses one of them. The next player draws one to add to the remaining two and chooses one of them. This continues until every player has a starting map tile, the rest of the starting map tiles are returned to the box. Now starting with the first player each player places their starting tile and one tent on top of it on the playing area making sure it touches as many other tiles as possible. Now form the map stack according to the number of players by shuffling them and placing them face down in a central area. Place a number of victory point tokens in the general supply according to the number of players together with all the resource tokens. Now depending on the number of players some dice might be removed from each color except for the remaining white ones which are returned to the game box. The last thing to do is form the technology row. This is done by selecting a certain amount of technology cards of various types. The game provides a set to start with and some other sets that work well together but you are free to experiment with these. Now we are ready to start playing the game.
Each round you will go through three phases: roll phase, action phase and clean-up phase. The roll phase can be done simultaneously by all the players or in player order depending on your preference. The first thing you do during the roll phase is check your dice quota and adjust it on the tracker. (We found it easier to simply adjust it every time it changed during the game because it has no impact on the rest of the game). Next you draw a number of dice equal to your quota and roll them. If the draw bag is empty and you still have not reached your quota, you may place all your dice from the spent dice pool into your bag and keep on drawing until you have met your quota. Very important to note is that this is the only time that you can place your spent dice into your bag. After rolling you can reroll, place a die on any face and/or draw more dice by spending pioneer icons or resource icons. An icon can be a die depicting that icon, a token, a technology card or a map tile that you control (having the (joint) most tents or house on that tile) that provides the icon. After all players are done with rerolling and changing their dice it is time to start the action phase.
In the action phase each player must perform one main action in player order. Afterwards each player has the option of doing a second action but this is not mandatory. The different actions players can perform are Recruit, Explore, Settle, Raid, Harvest, Trade or Research. Besides these action there are also two free actions which are using a Factory or governing a map tile. The Recruit action lets you acquire new dice. Depending on the number of recruit icons you spend you can get one to three dice. You may only recruit dice of a color if you have presence (have a tent or house on that tile) on that color of map tile. The explore phase is where you explore the land and expand the map layout. You may draw a number of tiles equal to the number of explore icons spent. From these you choose one tile and place it next to a tile where you have presence and that is adjacent to at least two tiles. After placing you may immediately place a tent from the general supply on this tile. When this is done each player who has presence adjacent to the new tile has the option of placing one tent from their personal supply on the tile. If one player used this opportunity to place a tent you may add another tent but this time from your personal supply to make sure that you start in control of that tile.
The next action you can choose from is Settle. For each settle icon you spend you can either add a tent from the general supply to your personal supply, place a tent from your personal supply on tile where you already have presence or next to a tile where you have presence or remove any number of tents from the map tiles back to your personal supply. The Raid action is as the word says the more aggressive action of the bunch. This lets you replace tents from an opponent with your tents from your personal supply on one tile. The tents you removed in this manner return to the opponent’s personal supply. The Harvest action simply converts the resources you rolled into tokens for later use. Trading allows you to convert your resources or dice into victory points. Each icon you spend gives you one of the following options: return three identical resource tokens for six victory points, return three different resource tokens for five points, return any two resource tokens for two points or remove one die from your spent or active area from the game for three points. Gold resources are wild and can be used as any other resource token.
The last normal action you can choose from is the Research action. Each Technology card has a certain cost which comprises of a combination of the following: research icons, resources and/or terrain presence requirements. After all conditions and costs are met you can place your token active side up on the card to show that you have learned it and get its ability to start using and points at the end of the game. One of the free actions you can perform during your turn is the Factory. This gives you an immediate bonus ability by returning a tent from that map tile to your personal supply. You may use each Factory only once per round. The other free action you can perform is the Govern action. This lets you place a House on a tile where you have three more tents than any other player on that tile by removing three of your tents to the general supply. From that moment on you control that tile.
After all players have had a chance to perform their second action it is time to move on to the clean-up phase. Each player may keep one of their unused dice in the active pool and move the rest to their spent pile. All player markers on the Technology cards are turned to their active side. Pas the first player token to the player on your left and start the next round. This continues until one or more of the following conditions have been met at the end of a round: at least one player has placed all its five houses on the map, the vp tokens in the general supply have run out, the stack of map tiles is empty or the general supply has dice of two or fewer colors remaining.
When any of these conditions has been fulfilled the game is over and it is time to see who has scored the most victory points. Luckily there is a score pad included to be used for final scoring. Each player will score for the following: map tiles they control or have the joined most presence, Technology cards they have researched, three points for every two dice they own, points for the number of houses they have built and the victory point tokens they have gained over the course of the game. The player with the most points is the best Dice Settler or in case of a tie they all win.
First things first, it is a mere coincidence that this game has the same name as our review team. We are in no way connected to this game except for its extraordinary beautiful name. Speaking of beautiful, the artwork by “The Mico” (Mihajlo Dimitrievski) is stunning as always and immediately recognizable on the player boards and cards. The player boards are functional and display the complete round structure with all its actions which is a great help when playing the game. The one thing, which is a small nitpick, I have found and have to remind players of is the omission on the player boards of the fact that you cannot turn two pioneer icons into one gold. The fact that the game relies on dice might make for a luck fest but this is not the case at all. Since there are so many ways to manipulate your dice you are always able to do one of the things you want to do during that round. This does not mean that it would be the optimal thing to do at that point because of the high cost by spending your other dice but you have the option. It are these choices that make this a really fun and engaging game. After you have rolled your dice you start thinking of what you can do with them and what you want to do. For instance when you have rolled a lot of research but you did not want to research this turn. Are you going to spend dice to reroll or turn them into other icons, or am I going to keep them so I can do something else during my turn. It would not be the first time that a player had used so many dice to make sure that he could do a specific action that he had nothing left for a second action so you are constantly questioning yourself what the best thing to do is. I strongly advice to do the roll phase simultaneously as this speeds up the game considerably. Managing your tents is very important because you do not want to run out of tents when an opponent finds a nice piece of the land and you have no tents to get presence on that tile. The tiles themselves give various abilities and the best abilities are worth the least points and vice versa. These abilities range from increasing your dice quota, getting an extra action or resource to getting extra icons when you perform a certain action. Keeping this in mind, the control and presence of the tiles at the right times is very important because of these abilities and the points they might give at the end of the game. You are always looking at the board state and how close to the end of the game you are because it might sneak up on you. The technology cards are varied and might give you certain icons, abilities and points to work for. This brings me to the included add-on of Explosive Technology. You can add one of these cards to the technology cards that you can research like any other technology. When you have researched it you can use it during your turn by taking of your player marker from the card. This means that afterwards you can research it again to use it again. Also bear in mind that these also give victory points at the end of the game but only if you have your player marker on them. The one thing I also have to mention is the bags unfortunately. They are just on the small side so your hand will not fit in. Before I forget, for those interested there is also a single player mode included in the game that even has a variant included. All in all this is a great game that offers a lot of interesting choices combined with a bit of luck and lots of fun gameplay. This quickly became one of our favorites and we cannot wait to get our hands on the Western Sea expansion.
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