I can’t say enough good things about this game. I wish I could convince people they are really missing out by not having this game. This is perfect family fun.
Publisher: Petersen Games
Designer: Chris Fernandez
Designer: Tom McGinty
Artist: Rich Fleider
Artist: Daniel Hughes
Game Type: Variable Player Powers
Game Type: Set Collection
Game Type: Dice
Initial Year of Release: 2017
Age Range: 14+
Expected Playtime: 45-90 minutes
Number of Players: 2-4
Theme and What is it?
Dicenstein is the perfect example of a classic Halloween game. It has all the old favorite characters and a spooky graveyard.
The theme is really cute. The dice are the bones in graves and you must dig them up. The bones of different creatures can be put together in different ways to create your own ‘Frankenstein.’
Once you have created a new and unique ‘Dicenstein,’ you are ready to send it off into the graveyard to dig up more and better monster parts.
There are some great mechanisms going on in Dicenstein. This is primarily a game of set collection on top of grid movement and dice combat. However, dice are used for more than just combat. Dice, which represent the bones of monsters, are rolled and used to build Frankenstein style henchmen. What you can build is dependent upon what is face up.
There are also variable player powers in this game. Each time a new monster is built there will be new player powers. This makes your henchmen nicely customizable. A maximum of 4 dice can be used in your creation. Each unique monster part affords a different player power. So, if you use 4 different types of bones you could have 4 different player powers.
When you build a monster out of your dice, you get a custom set of stats. The dice will inform how you set the dials and be the source of your strengths and weaknesses. For instance, you might choose to make a henchman great at digging up bones but without much health or vice versa. There are 4 different characteristics to play with. You must strategize what approach you want to take going into the graveyard.
Once in the graveyard, your character can dig up bones or fight with other monsters. With secret goals, set collection priorities, and rewards for winning fights there is always something interesting to do. Just don’t be too obvious. If another player sniffs out your objectives, they may try to block you.
Ultimately, you want to turn in monster parts for victory points. You need to balance this with keeping some to build good monsters. Because every game is randomized as to which monsters give which victory points and where they are in the graveyard, no two games will be alike. You may end up sacrificing victory points to keep bones of monsters that have variable powers you want to keep using in order to achieve a hidden goal.
My first impression was not so positive. Really it was just bias. I hadn’t heard of the game, so I thought it wasn’t going to be any good. I saw that it wasn’t a new release, and that there were not many reviews on Board Game Geek. I thought something must be wrong.
At the same time, I was excited about the theme and the fact it had so many dice. I was looking for a good old-fashioned Halloween theme. There are so many horror themed board games on the market, but I don’t want that around my little kids. I wanted a fun-spooky board game that wouldn’t be disturbing for them.
This game has great Halloween character favorites. There is a vampire, mummy, and werewolf in the game. There are also Gargoyles, an invisible man, and a giant mantis. I like the humor in the game because they added a clown, robot, and unicorn. Who isn’t afraid of a unicorn?
I also like the components. There were big, easy-to-understand boards. I loved the handfuls of dice with all kinds of interesting images on them. The player boards are interesting because they have stats. I love games that include customization. One of the neatest components in the box are the monster meeples. I love the BIG ones that go into the graveyard.
Finally, the art drew me in. It reminds me of good old-fashioned scary cartoons. They bring me back to the idea of innocent Halloween fun.
Game Build Quality
Dicenstein is a wonderfully built game. First off, I LOVE the 117 dice! There are 9 for each character. They are highly detailed with drawings of heads, hands, torsos, and feet for each of the 12 creatures in the game. In addition, there are stats on each side for health, scavenge ability, movement, mind powers, and attack points.
There are many components in the game and all of them are wonderful. There are cards, 3 boards shared between players, 4 individual player boards, sliding nobs for character stats, 15 tokens, 8 monster meeples, and a dice bag. My favorite is the 4 ginormous monster meeples.
Everything in the game fits in its proper spot. Tokens go right on the proper spots on the board. Dice stack up on grave plots representing bones needing to be dug up.
There are two slightly buggy things about the game. The sliders are not permanently in a track. You have to put them away each time you play. Consequently, they can move if knocked hard enough while playing the game. I have kids, so that is a real thing in my house…getting knocked while playing a game.
The other challenge with the game is getting to excited or fat fingering movement in the graveyard. Those massive meeples can get jittery moving around a creepy cemetery and knock over dice. Well, maybe this is just a personal problem. In any case, there could be a dexterity issue for some. No biggy though. Just set the bones back in their plots and move on.
Like I mentioned before I love the artwork. I would not have liked this as much if it had been realistic creepy drawings. The cartoonish drawings bring a light heartedness to the game I enjoy. Besides, I could never image the artist drawing some great, beautiful, elegant unicorn to stand next to plant man. There is humor in this game and it doesn’t need serious artwork.
The print is small on the dice so that may be a little trouble for some. It has to be small to fit the images of the different monsters. Some hands, feet, and torso of the different monsters were a little difficult to tell apart but the different colored dice helped. It wasn’t a big problem to me, but someone might be fiddly about it.
I really like this game. I love the combination of mechanisms. It brings out the kids in me while having solid adult choices to make.
The theme fits so nicely into this game. You start in your lab building a monster out of bones from different creatures. This determines your stats heading back to the graveyard. Once in the cemetery you can scavenge for bones or fight other monsters. I find it particularly low stress knowing that getting killed in attack means I only have to start over building a new monster rather than taking some terribly brutal penalty.
It is nice chucking so many dice at once and then picking over the pieces to build the optimal creature. You can weigh your design to capitalize your individual player abilities. For every creature piece you include in your creation you may also use that beast’s ability.
Another fun part of the game is running from the AI monster if playing with only two players. It really keeps you on your toes. It has much more health than other characters do and keeps you moving around the board. Or, you may sacrifice your current creature in order to get bones you just really need or want.
The strategy of trying to get the right type of bones is clever. I like how the positions change each game as well. The value of points you earn for set collection of different creatures is going to be different each time you play. Layer on top of that secret hidden goals and this game just totally rocks for me.
Age Range & Weight
Dicenstein is listed as a 14+ game but is easy to teach and learn. I’d say with confidence this is a fine game for younger kids. I wouldn’t go below an 8-year-old based on attention span. I think this is a great family game.
I can’t say enough good things about this game. I wish I could convince people they are really missing out by not having this game. This is a perfect family fun. It is particularly great to play around Halloween.
Everything comes together for me in this game. I like that there is a strategy to think through, but you don’t get too locked into a path. There are various ways you can try to gain points. At the same time, some of your actions are going to reveal your intents to other players and they may try to stop you.
This is a low stress game for me. To me that means I can play it competitively or casually and I will have a good time. The components are so much fun to play with that the experience itself is part of what is so great. I don’t have to win to have a satisfying game.
I’m always drawn to make a better monster. I’m excited to roll the dice and find out my options. I’m excited to send my creation into the cemetery to see what I can accomplish. It’s just so much fun.
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