Board Game Bites for New Gamers: Dice Drafting

by Mrs. Saint

The other week, we covered the worker placement game mechanic. For this week’s Board Game Bites, we’re going to talk about dice drafting. Dice drafting was one of those mechanics that for me at first wasn’t completely clear what type of mechanic it was by name alone. I didn’t fully understand what Dice Drafting was until we added Roll Player by Thunderworks Games  to our collection (see our review here). 

We will talk about Dice Drafting in Roll Player to illustrate how the mechanic works. For Roll Player, a number of dice are drawn from a bag (number of dice varies depending on number of players). The starting player draws dice from the bag and rolls them. The dice are then lined up on Initiative Cards (the numbers indicating player turn order for the Market Phase) that are numbered from lowest to highest. The starting player then chooses which of the dice they want, deciding between the importance of the dice’s value and their position in the Market Phase. 

Dice are chosen in turn order until everyone has selected their die for that round. Players then choose where on their character board they’re going to place the die they just selected. After dice are all placed, play continues with the next Market Phase purchase order dictated by the dice drafting that just took place. 

It wasn’t until the first round of play of Roll Player, that it finally clicked for me that the term dice drafting is like kickball in elementary school.  Only instead of trying to pick the best players to help your team gain an advantage in kickball, you’re selecting (aka: drafting) the best die/dice to help you with your current turn or as part of a longer game strategy to win. 

Dice drafting is often used in games with other mechanics. Take two of the games we mentioned last week in the worker placement article: Dinosaur Island and Dice Hospital.   Dinosaur Island uses dice drafting as part of the Research Phase. In Dinosaur Island, you’re drafting (if you choose to draft) dice to give you resources but it’s only one mechanism in what’s otherwise considered a worker placement game.  Dice Hospital’s first phase of play is also dice drafting, even though it’s a worker placement game. You draft your ambulance with patients/dice. The ambulance you decide to choose impacts turn order for the next phase and round of play. 

As simple as dice drafting may sound, your choices during the draft each turn can have long term implications on your strategy. For Roll Player, giving up that face value of six to take a lower value die just to get another piece of armor may cost you more Reputation Stars (point scoring system for Roll Player) if you do not meet one of your Attribute Scores at the end of the game than the piece of Armor actually gives you. For Dice Hospital, you may choose the lower Ambulance to get first pick for upgrades but then not get as many patients discharged that round as your opponents. 

There are multiple games that use dice drafting and different ways they use the dice drafting mechanic, these are just a few examples. What are some of your favorite games that use the dice drafting mechanic? 

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