Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cosmic Cubes - "Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men"

So, in my last post I talked a little bit about the genesis of dice-building games...

"Essentially, Quarriors! is two generations removed from Magic: The Gathering and other collectible card games. With CCG's, players can spend hours on the sidelines combining cards together in order to create the perfect killer decks, which they can then pit against an opponent in-game.

"Then Donald X. Vaccarino had the brilliant idea of 'Hey, what if designing your deck was the actually goal of the game itself?' And with that,
Dominion was born. Now, Dominion is great and all but as a completely original game it's essentially just a mechanic. Needless to say it didn't take very long before titles such as Thunderstone and A Few Acres of Snow came along and successfully married this new genre to an appropriate theme.    

"So, based on the theory of (game) evolution, Eric M. Lang eventually pondered to himself 'Hmmmm, people love rolling dice and we've already had collectible dice games in the past....I wonder what would happen if I came up with a dice building game.' And, yea, with that, THE LANG brought forth
Quarriors! into existence and He saw that it was good."

And here's my final word on the subject:

"I'd probably be buying a copy of Quarriors! (right now) if not for the fact that a Marvel-themed spin on the game is due to land sometime around the end of April. I'll be play-testing and reviewing that puppy as soon as I can lay my hot little mitts on it!"   

Soooo, by some minor miracle, I actually managed to score a Starter Set and a few Booster Packs. And by "a few Booster Pack" I mean thirty but, hey, who's counting?

Now before I serve up my session reports, here's the one-sheet splash page on Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men directly from Board Game Geek:

"Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men is a collectible dice-building tabletop game designed by Quarriors! creators Michael Elliott and Eric M. Lang.

"In this game, each player fields one of the superhero teams, with each hero — Captain America, Wolverine, Spider-Man, and more — being represented by custom-tooled dice; each team must be composed of 15 dice, and a player can 'purchase' dice only from his team. Each hero also has one or more character reference cards, which show the special abilities for the characters based on the die rolls. Different versions of these cards will be available in booster packs, allowing for more customization of your team. Players use these dice to collect energy, recruit new heroes, and battle head-to-head. In addition, each player brings two basic action cards to the game, which are placed in the center of the table; both players can purchase these cards. A player wins once the opposing player has been reduced to zero life.

Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men starter set comes with 44 custom dice, 38 cards, two dice bags, and a core rulebook. Booster packs include two dice with two matching character cards."  

Looking to digest the full arc of the storyline? Then clobber the following link right in the kisser to read the full rules omnibus right here.  


Now, due to circumstances beyond my control, I haven't been able to attend our weekly game night for the past three weeks. For ease of record-keeping and to meet my self-imposed end-of-the-month deadline I decided to run the game solo to see how it worked. Here's then is the result:

The Avengers Dice Roster

Black Widow "Natural" x 1
Captain America "American Hero" x 2
Nick Fury "WWII Veteran" x 2 
Hulk "Jade Giant" x 2
Iron Man "Playboy" x 2
Thor "God of Thunder" x 2

Basic Action Cards: "Inner Rage" and "Focus Power"

The X-Men Dice Roster

Colossus "Russian Bear" x 2
Cyclops "If Looks Could Kill" x 4
Gambit "Ace In The Hole" x 1
Professor X "Principal" x 2
Storm "Goddess of the Plains" x 2
Wolverine "Wildboy" x 1

Basic Action Cards: "Gearing Up" and "Power Bolt"

Note: I specifically used the "Tournament" team-building rules which allows for:
  • 20 Life points apiece
  • 2 Basic Action Cards per player
  • Up to 8 different Character Cards
  • Up to 20 Dice, respecting the Dice Maximums as printed on each Character Card


The Avengers rolled up two Bolts, a Question Mark (which can represent any kind of Energy) and a Fist. They bought an Iron Man die by declaring the Question Mark to be a Shield.

The X-Men diced up two Sidekicks and two Bolts. They re-rolled the two Sidekicks and got another Bolt and another Sidekick. The poor, scared Sidekick was then ushered into the Field for free while the other three Energy was used to buy a Gold "Power Bolt" die.

The Avengers conjured up two Question Marks, a Mask and a Shield and buy a Captain America die.

The X-Men rolled the exact same thing this time around: two Sidekicks and two Bolts. Again they re-rolled their Sidekicks and got a Shield and a Bolt, neither of which could fulfill the Mask requirement to pick up Gambit or Storm. Instead they spent all four Energy on securing a Green “Gearing Up” die.

The Avengers dumped all of their Used dice back into the bag and drew four new cubez. They then rolled up a Level 2 Captain America, a Sidekick and two Masks. After paying the 2 Energy needed to Field Cap and the free Sidekick, ol' Winghead and his ersatz Bucky attacked! The X-Men’s Sidekick blocked the Avenger’s Sidekick, resulting in a double Knock Out. Cap got through, however, dealing five points of damage to the X-Men Mastermind before skipping merrily skipped off to the Used Pile.

The X-Men player hucked all of his Used crap back into the bag, drew four new dice and then added the poor K.O.’ed Sidekick convalescing in the Prep area back into the mix. After turning up a single Question Mark, two Bolts, a Shield and a Sidekick they decided to re-roll the Sidekick, getting a Shield. They then used 5 Energy, I.E. a flat of beer and a pack o' cheap cigars to lure a Wolverine die into the Used Pile.

The Avengers randomly pulled four dice from their bag, remembering to add their own K.O.’ed Sidekick. They then proceeded to roll up three Shields, a Bolt and a Question Mark. With a Question Mark and a Bolt they managed to entice Black Widow into their roster and then used the three remaining Shields to pick up a Blue "Focus Power" die.

The X-Men rolled a Fist, a Bolt and both 2 Green and 2 Gold Energy. They then decided to re-roll the Fist and the Bolt, but ended up getting the exact same thing! Just for the sake of set collection, they decided to buy one Red “Inner Rage” die and one Blue "Focus Power" die.

When the Avengers drew the last two remaining dice out of their bag, they tossed all their Used cubes back into their Sack and then pulled out two more. After producing a Level 1 Captain America, a Level 2 Iron Man, a Mask and a Shield they used their two Energy to Field Iron Man and attack! Since the X-Men had no defenders, they were forced to suck up five more points of damage, taking them down to 10 Life Points! Since Iron Man was Unblocked and Cap was Unfielded (Wow, is 'unfielded' even a word?), both were sent packin' off to the Used Pile.

The X-Men drew their one remaining die, bagged their Used flotsam and then dug out three more. They then proceeded to toss one Sidekick, two Masks and a Question Mark. They got a Fist after re-rolling the Sidekick and ended up enlisting a Storm die.

The Avengers got a Question Mark, a Fist, a Mask and a Sidekick. They re-rolled the latter and got another Question Mark. They then used all four Energy to snag a second Iron Man die.

The X-Men rolled two Fists on the Wolverine die, a basic "Focus Power" result, a 2-Burst "Power Bolt" and a Shield. They boldly decided to re-roll all of them. This time they got 2 Blue and 2 Gold Energy, a Level 3 Wolverine (Woot!) and a Sidekick. They decided to spend the three Energy to field Wolverine (D'uh) and the Sidekick, overpaying by one. He then attacked with Wolverine, causing a whopping 8 points of damage while keeping the Sidekick in reserve as a defender.

The Avengers drew their last three dice, enbagified the Used Pile and then pulled out one more. They then rolled a Shield on Cap’s die, a Mask, a Question Mark and 2 Blue Energy. After re-rolling Cap’s die and the Blue Energy, they ended up with a Level 2 Cap and the same Blue result. They then used the Question Mark and the Mask to Field Cap and attack! The X-Men used their, their Sidekick to block, which promptly got K.O.’ed into oblivion. Humming the "Star Spangled Banner" and picking teeth out of his knuckles, Cap cheerily returned to the Field Zone.

The X-Men moved their Sidekick-in-traction over to the Reserve Pool after adding four more dice from their bag. They turned up 2 Red Energy, 2 Bolts, and 2 Question Marks which they then used to buy a Professor X die.

At the start of the Avengers turn, the 2 Blue Energy slid stage left to the Used Pile. They then rolled up a Sidekick, a Fist, a Mask and a Shield on the Iron Man die, which was promptly re-rolled. After the Sidekick was prodded into attack position for free, one Energy was spent to Field the newly-summoned Level 1 Iron Man, leaving one Fist remaining.  All three dice then attacked en masse, causing a total of 10 damage, ending the game!

The Avengers win!


The X-Men began first this time, rolling 2 Question Marks, one Bolt and one Shield, which they used to buy a Storm die.

The Avengers summoned 3 Masks and one Question Mark, which let them pick up an Iron Man die.

In response, the X-Peeps rolled 3 Bolts and 1 Shield. They then re-rolled all of them to settle on a Mask, 2 Fists and a Sidekick, the latter of which was dragged kicking and screaming out into the Field for free. The rest of their Energy was spent on to Gambit's obscene signing bonus.

The Avengers rolled up 2 Shields, a Fist and a Question Mark, allowing them to recruit a Captain America die.

The X-Men re-bagged everything precious and then pulled out four new dice, getting a Level 2 Gambit, a Question Mark, a Fist and a Bolt on the subsequent roll. Using the Bolt and Fist, they got Gambit into the field for 2 Energy. They then took advantage of the Cajun's ability to draw and roll a die, but they ended up getting one lousy Bolt. Gambit then attacked, presumably by hurling all thirty-eight cards contained in a Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men Starter Set at his foe, causing four damage in the process. The Sidekick held back, observing the surreal scene from the comfort of their concrete bunker. 

The Avengers returned all of their dice to the bag and then drew four new ones. On the following toss, they got 2 Shields on the Captain America die, another Shield, a Bolt and a Mask. A re-rolled Cap die downgraded to a single Shield so they just spent all 4 Energy to pick up another Iron Man die. 'Cuz, hey, let's face it, you can't go wrong with another Shell-Head, even when he's all gooned up on martinis. 

The X-player moved the one Question Mark and one Bolt Energy to the Used Pile and then drew the remaining four dice from their sack o' mystery. They then dialed up 2 Question Marks, 1 Sidekick and 2 Masks on the Storm die, which was hastily re-rolled. They were lucky enough to get a Level 0 Storm and pretty soon both the Weather Witch and the Sidekick were chillin' out in the Field fo' free. Both of them attacked, leaving the second Sidekick behind as a guard. The Avenger mastermind (Jarvis?) took three more points of damage and was now feeling decidedly punch-drunk.

The Avengers scored 2 Shields on the Iron Man die plus a Question Mark, a Shield, and a Bolt. They re-chucked the Iron Man die again and once again got an inferior result: a single Shield this time. Next up they snared a Nick Fury die with the one Shield and Bolt and then used the Question Mark (as a Fist) and the remaining Shield to pick up Black Widow. So, how does one go about picking up Black Widow? The answer: very, very carefully.

The X-Men moved their 2 unused Question Mark Energy into the Used Pile and then re-bagged all things Used. They then diced up 2 Bolts, 1 Question Mark and 2 Masks on the Gambit die, which was reduced to a single Mask after a re-roll. With this four Energy they procured another Storm die.

The Avengers drew their two remaining dice and then bagged the rest, pulling out two more to make up a total of four. They then summoned 3 Bolts and a Sidekick which got Fielded for free. With the 3 Bolts they decided to invest in a Gold Power Bolt die.

Meanwhile, the X-Men rolled up a Level 1 Storm, two Sidekicks and a single Question Mark Energy. Immediately all three were Fielded and then attacked. Storm's assault forced the Avenger player to re-roll his Sidekick die, getting a Bolt! Effectively “zapped” by Storm, he was dragged off to the Prep to me marinated in a warm tub filled with Bactine. Between Ororo and her 2 Sidekicks, the X-Bullies dealt out a total of 5 points of damage!

In response, the Avengers rolled a Sidekick, two Bolts, a Question Mark and two Shields on the Captain America die, which was immediately re-cast. The resulting Level 2 Cap die was quickly dispatched to the front line with one Question Mark and one Bolt plus the free Sidekick. In a fateful move, the X-Men decided not to block with the Sidekick, letting Cap through for 5 points of damage.

The X-Men pulled out their last remaining die, bagged up all the Used stuff and then drew three more. They scored a Level 1 Gambit (with a Burst!) a Storm, a Question Mark and some Bolt Energy. They re-rolled the Bolt and got a Mask, giving them just the resources needed to Field both characters! Gambit's power came into play, allowing the X-Men to draw 2 dice, pick one and roll it and return the other to the ol' sacroiliac. This turned out to be pretty inconsequential since they ended up throwing a single Shield. Both Gambit and Storm attacked, forcing the Avengers to re-roll their stalwart Sidekick. It became Mask Energy, so the minion was promptly fricasséed and then set aside in the Prep area! Now, without any Blockers, the Avengers were forced to eat four more points of damage!

The Avengers’s unused Bolt Energy slid away to the Used Pile and the “shocked” die in the Prep Area was placed in Reserve. Next they tossed a Shield, a Level 1 Iron Man, a Level 0 Nick Fury, a single Fist on Black Widow’s die and a Mask. They choose to re-roll the Widow die and Mask Energy, getting a Level 0 Widow and a Question Mark. They then proceeded to Field Iron Man for one Shield and Widow and Fury for the low, low price of free. Widow and Iron Man attacked, prompting the X-Men’s Sidekick to block a repulsor ray with its face. Needless to say it was immediately K.O.'ed and then carted away to the Prep Area. Meanwhile, Black Widow got through for 3 points of damage, getting a +1 damage boost thanks to Nick Fury’s sage advice of "HIT' EM HARDER!!!"

The X-Men moved their unspent Shield Energy in Reserve to the Used Pile and the K.O.’ed Sidekick grudgingly went back into Reserve. This, along with four new die were then rolled: netting two Masks, one Bolt, a Sidekick and a Level 0 Storm. As a consolation prize, a Gold “Power Bolt” was purchased with the three remaining Energy. Sensing impending doom, Storm gambled on an attack, hoping to temporarily stun Iron Man and/or Nick Fury with her special ability. This didn't quite go according to plan since both Iron Man and Fury came up again. Iron Man socked Storm right in her pretty mush, sending her packing off to the K.O. box.

For the Avengers, the unused Question Mark Energy was sent off to the Used Pile. After the last remaining die was "yoinked", everything Used got re-bagged and three more are drawn. They got two Fists on the Black Widow die, two Shields on the Iron Man die plus one Shield and one Question Mark for Energy. Both the Widow and Iron Man dice were re-rolled, scoring the exact same result for Widow but a Level 2 Iron Man! The Iron Man was Fielded right away using the Shield and the Question Mark, setting up a nasty double Iron Man pincer attack. The X-Men Sidekick die blocked the Level 2 Iron Man and got creamed but the Level 1 made it through to deal 4 points of damage, boosted by +1 again thanks to Nick Fury’s wise tutelage: "THAT UNI-BEAM AIN'T A PEACE SYMBOL, MOTHERFUCKER...USE THAT SHIT!!!"

The X-Men drew their last remaining die, Storm and the Sidekick came back to the land of the living and the Used Pile got re-bagged for two more dice. They then rolled two Masks on both Storm dice, plus a Mask, a Fist and a Bolt but re-chucked everything except for the Fist and the Mask. The gambit didn't work (pun not intended) since they ended up with two Masks on both Storm dice again plus another a Mask! Without any blockers, all the X-Peeps could do is purchase a Colossus die and hope that the Avengers crapped out.

Such was not the case. The Avengers moved their two-Fist Black Widow Energy to the Used Pile then drew four new dice, getting two Sidekicks, one Bolt and one Fist. They used this to Field both Sidekicks then attack with them plus good ol' Monsieur Stark, racking up a total of 8 damage.

The X-Men have no defenders and are defeated!



  • The game is a pretty cool fusion of both Quarriors! and Magic: The Gathering. However, thanks to new additions like team customization, Basic Action Cards and dice, player / Mastermind Life Points, re-rolls and CCG-style combat, I think this one is vastly superior to its older, Q-obsessed cousin. One corollary though: as you might be able to tell by the previous examples it's still possible to get hosed somewhat by bad luck.
  • The Marvel license is well-represented. The Characters actually play out like their four-color counterparts. Sorry, but I'll take Sauron any day over a generic, boring ol' Quake Dragon. Assuming, of course, that the Savage Land denizen will one day be made available in an expansion. Oh, who am I trying to kid, of course every single obscure character in the Marvel Universe will eventually be made available. Land and Elliot are gonna run this gravy train into Subterranea.
  • The card art is fantastic and the sheer variety of custom-tooled Character dice is phenomenal. It's amazing how easily-recognizable the Characters are just based on the chosen Icons. Admittedly, some of the dice aren't stamped very well but they're few and far between when you consider how mass-produced they are.
  • Even though the game is "collectible" the rarer versions of a Character don't always trump the common ones. This is great since it gives casual players a fighting chance while completists / collectors / basement dwellers can go toadly apeshit and BUY ALL THE THINGS!!!
  • The Dice Movement Diagram / Play Mat make the game a breeze to teach and play. Thanks to Mike and Eric for delivering a decent rulebook that really strives for clarity.
  • The game plays super-quick. Almost too quick; matches seem to end just as things start heating up. My recommendation: play with 25 or 30 Life Points each.   
  • The Starter Set is about a third of the price of the Quarriors! base game so it's pretty cheap to get into. Well, in theory. In practice, however...   
  • The collective aspect of the game could make this a money pit for some people. The distribution is also a bit wonky; I've gotten about thirty Boosters so far out of the same gravity box and still don't have a common Doctor Doom, Ghost Rider, Hawkeye, Nightcrawler, Nova, or Phoenix. I do have three Professor X "Principal" cards, however, which are about as useful as a tuxedo on Bruce Banner. *Yippie fuckin' skippy*.

  • Didja happen to notice those pretty Dice Movement Diagrams and bad-ass black silk bags in the session report photos above? Yeah, well...I had to print the Play Mats off myself and buy the bags at "Micheal's". Yeah, the game is cheap, but that's because you're essentially paying for a metric shit-ton of dice and a no-frills rulebook. The paper...sorry, tyvek "dice bags" are laughably inept. Personally, I plan to take mine along on my next turbulence-heavy flight. Oh, and I also had to buy a freakin' Plano box to store the dice in since you immediately outgrow the original plastic packaging the game came in just as soon as you buy a few Boosters. Frankly, I think it's lame to be forced to enact your very own Economic Action Plan just to bring a game up to my very low standards. Yes, it's cheap to buy, but there's a reason for it.   

*Ugh*...I shouldn't have eaten all of those dice....HURRK!!!
  • The Boosters are shipped 60 per gravity box. On paper it probably seemed like a good idea to seal two plastic dice up in a CCG collectible card pack with the accompanying cards but it's resulted in a lot of warpage. If your one of those prissy types who agonizes over the condition of everything you buy then do yourself a favor and just walk away right now 'cuz this'll drive you completely and totally nutsen.  



Despite its flaws, Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men is an absolute blast. I can't wait to field an all-Alpha Flight team or a Daredevil-dominated Marvel Knights vigilante gang or a Rogues Gallery collection of all my favorite Spidey-villains. It's fun, quick, easy to teach and a breeze to get into. The gameplay is fast, frantic and offers quite a few interesting decisions.

Just keep an Eye of Agamotto on your wallet.

Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men scores four pips outta six with a tilt w-a-a-a-a-a-y up towards that S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier that's got a bead on ya.

Which reminds me: make sure you check out Captain America The Winter Soldier, kiddies! It's awesome!  


Wanna see what happens when you team Deadpool, Venom, Ghost Rider, the Punisher, the Thing, Loki, Wolverine and Professor X up together? Don't use your imagination like a chump! Click on the following images to pick up a copy of Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men and help this blog get all the way up to Issue #500!

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