There's a temptation to look at games with dice in them and go 'EW! Randomness!'. I'm aware of that because it's sometimes my instinctive reaction, even though I know better: dice can be a fantastic driver for Interesting Decisions, and Terry Cavanagh's latest project proves it. He's been working on Dicey Dungeons for the past 3 months, though it was only this week that he confirmed it'll be his next commercial release. It's a roguelike with more than a pinch of Slay the Spire to it, despite swapping out deckbuilding for... dice equipment management?
There are three more classes planned for the full release, but at the moment you can start each run as a Warrior, Thief or Inventor. There's a top level map which you're free to wander around, until you pick a fight with a monster. That whisks you into a dicey duel where you assign D6's to your equipment each turn, and your opponent does the same.
It sounds simple, and it absolutely is - except for the way you start with a mere two dice and far more options. Playing as the Warrior, do you roll with what you've got - or risk getting a poorer result with your re-roll ability just in case you get the exact number you need? As the Thief, you can either stab people with your reusable knives, or turn your opponent's equipment against them. The Inventor, meanwhile, can't resist tearing up his equipment and throwing together a new gadget at the end of every fight, meaning you're forced to constantly mix-up your strategy.
That's smart, but things get smarter still. Your options blossom as you gain levels and equipment, and on one of my runs so far I collected more tools than I could use at any one time. By that point, I'd learned a little about my enemies - so when I encountered a Snowman fond of freezing me for one damage (and locking up my dice), I equipped some armour that reduced all damage by one so long as I popped a five into it.
It's satisfying in an uncannily similar way to Slay the Spire, through building plans around equipment choices rather than cards. It also tickles my brain in much the same way as a cracking board game called Space Base which I picked up last week (think Machi Koro in space, board game pals).
Cavanagh did a mini-interview with himself on his latest blog post, where he explains his plans for the game. He mentions that they'll be six classes in total, and that "you can also expect the final build to have a LOT more polish, much better balance and a lot more content. Once I have the six final classes, my focus will be on making those as good as they can be." He adds that he's "expecting the project to take another three months or so, so you can expect the final version later this year!"
He also says that he'll be collaborating with a musician and an artist, and that he'll probably keep releasing free builds until all six classes are in there.
I reckon Dicey Dungeons is going to be a frighteningly compelling evening-devourer by the time it comes out, but the current free prototype is absolutely worth checking out. If you're anything like me, you'll struggle with the temptation to play it too much before it's properly done.