If you have been following us on Twitter (you should be), you know that Terrible Gamers has finally gotten together a play test of Fantasy Flight Games’ new Star Wars RPGs–Age of Rebellion and Edge of The Empire (we actually did something!) And if you were paying attention to our first impressions of the Star Wars RPG system (here), you know that both of Fantasy Flight’s new games are built around a proprietary dice system composed of specialized six (d6), eight (d8), and twelve (d12) sided dice. So while players do not technically have to use these specialized dice to play either Edge of The Empire or Age of Rebellion–you could check a conversion chart for 4 to 6 dice every time you roll–those who want the full Star Wars RPG experience probably will.
Unfortunately, this means many Star Wars RPG players will need to spend more money than the $59.99 they plopped down for either Edge of The Empire’s or Age of Rebellion’s core rulebooks. This is because Star Wars Dice are not included with the purchase of either game. This leaves players three options for playing the Star Wars RPGs: using a conversion chart with “regular” dice, purchasing Star Wars Dice separately ($14.95 on Fantasy Flight’s website), or downloading Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars: Dice App for iOS and Android devices ($4.99 in the iTunes App Store). Terrible Gamers thinks that the vast majority of Edge of The Empire and Age of Rebellion players will opt for one of the two Star Wars Dice products offered by Fantasy Flight Games.
In light of these facts, we at Terrible Gamers thinks that Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars Dice deserve review of their own. What you will find in the article that follows is a review of Star Wars Dice only. We are not going to comment on the merits of the dice system itself (we are saving that for our full review of Fantasy Flight’s new Star Wars RPG system, although you can find our initial take here). So if you want to know whether or not Terrible Gamers likes the way that Fantasy Flight’s new proprietary Star Wars Dice System plays, then you are out of luck for the moment; however, if you want to know what we think of the Star Wars Dice themselves, or you are interested in our opinion of Fantasy Flight’s business practices when it comes to Star Wars Dice, then read on.
Star Wars Dice:
What you get:
- 4 reversible “destiny point” markers
- 3 green d8 “ability” dice
- 3 purple d8 “difficulty” dice
- 2 yellow d12 “proficiency”
- 2 blue d6 “boost” dice
- 2 black d6 “setback” dice
- 1 red d12 “challenge” die
- 1 white d12 “force” die
Star Wars Dice contains almost (more on that later) everything you need to play Edge of The Empire or Age of Rebellion. During our early play tests of both games, Terrible Gamers has been using two sets of Star Wars Dice. The first set we acquired at the same time we got our hands on the Age of Rebellion BETA during Gen Con 2013 (you can download the Age of Rebellion BETA for $29.95 on Fantasy Flight’s website–here). After attempting to play through a mock combat encounter, we quickly realized that one set of Star Wars Dice was just not enough. After taking a quick trip to a local San Diego games retailer–Game Empire (we support local retailers when we can afford to)–and spending $14.95 in the process we were set and ready to go.
What players get with their purchase of each Star Wars Dice package is a set of “destiny point” tokens and the different types of specialized dice used while playing both Edge of The Empire and Age of Rebellion. Players do not get all of the dice they need to play these games, which is an important consideration, and you do not get enough of what is included to assemble all of the dice pools players will encounter during their Star Wars adventures. More on this later.
As we told you earlier each Star Wars Dice package includes 4 reversible “destiny point” tokens, which are used to keep an accurate account of “destiny point” usage while playing the Star Wars RPGs. “Destiny Points” are a very important aspect of game play in both Edge of The Empire and Age of Rebellion, and are used by both players and GMs to do things like augment skill checks and nudge the narrative direction of the story. When players and GMs can use these points is dependent on whether or not Destiny is currently favoring the light or dark side of the force–players can use light side destiny points and GMs dark side destiny points. And since destiny points do not go away when used, they merely change sides, the ebb and flow of Destiny around the table is central to both Edge of The Empire and Age of Rebellion.
Because “destiny points” are so important to the actual playing of either of Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars RPGs, Terrible Gamers is glad that “destiny point” tokens were included in Star Wars Dice. The tokens do help keep track of how “destiny points” are spent, and limit the problem we have encountered while playing other games where GM and player records of things like “action points” or “fate points” do not match. Unfortunately, we were not impressed with the quality of the actually tokens provided for a number of reasons
The 4 reversible tokens are printed on cheap and flimsy cardboard stock and need to be punched out by the players themselves. The art work representing both the light and dark side of the force was uninspired and heavily pixilated. In fact, when it came to the dark side portion of the tokens on one of our token sets, the dark side image was misprinted and barely made it onto the right edge of the token. To make matters worse, the “destiny point” tokens are very small–about what we would expect to find in a “toy money” set we bought at a $1 store. Terrible Gamers ended up losing 2 of them in as many play test sessions and abandoned them entirely.
Rather than go into detail about each die, or set of dice, included in the Star Wars Dice package we decided to review the dice as a set. As we pointed out earlier, the Star Wars Dice used in Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion have been built specifically for use with Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars dice pool mechanics. This means that none of the included dice (d6, d8, and d12) have the standard numbered layout that most gamers are familiar with. Instead, each die has a set of faces that vary by the set function of that die. These include symbols that represent the force, success, failure, triumph, despair, advantage, and threat.
Terrible Gamers thinks that the new die faces are intuitive and easy to read once a player is familiar with Fantasy Flight’s central Star Wars dice pool mechanic. We are also impressed with the quality of the dice, particularly given the state of the “destiny point” tokens . The dice appear to be made of high quality plastic, and the color scheme makes each set of dice stand apart easily. This is very important when dealing with dice pool systems that use more than one type of dice to represent different things. In addition, each specialized die faced was well machined and inked–there was absolutely no fading on any of the Star Wars Dice we used. And the dice held up well after spending nearly a month in a dice bag with at least 50 other dice. And most important for Terrible Gamers is the fact that the dice roll well, despite their rounded corners (why isn’t everyone using Lou Zocchi’s precision dice yet? You can buy some of those here!)
The pros of buying Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars Dice are pretty straight forward. Even though it is possible to run either Edge of The Empire or Age of Rebellion with a standard set of numbered gaming dice, it is difficult to do so. The chart provided by Fantasy Flight in each of the core rulebooks is difficult to use and time consuming. This is because the chart does not appear on the character sheets (that would would have been great) and every roll needs to be compared with a chart. In fact, when Terrible Gamers tried using the chart, we had to keep track of the resulting scores on paper to be sure we were getting it right.
Adding to the difficulty is the fact that each d8, d12, or d6 represents something different in Star Wars RPG skill checks. That means that players need to be particularly vigilant when rolling their own dice just so that which die is supposed to represent which element of a roll–ability, proficiency, difficulty, challenge, boost, or threat–does not become confused.
These two problems are completely absent when using Star Wars Dice to run your Edge of The Empire or Age of Rebellion campaign. What is more, the dice that players receive in each package of Star Wars Dice are pretty high quality. Using them to play either game really speeds up the system and adds to emersion. And if you are anything like us and carry your dice to random places other gamers hang out, Star Wars Dice are great conversation starters!
If you did not guess already, our opinion of the “destiny point” tokens is much more guarded. In fact, it would be more appropriate to say that Terrible Gamers thinka these tokens suck. They are printed on cheap cardboard, and easily lost or damaged. We applaud Fantasy Flight for including something given how “destiny points” are featured prominently in the Star Wars RPG game mechanics, but we think they could of done better. We have stopped using the tokens from Star Wars Dice altogether in favor of GameScience d3s and it would be very easy for players to use anything else they had on hand–quarters, poker chips, other dice, etc.
Our biggest complaint (and it is a big one) about Star Wars Dice is this: a single set of Star Wars Dice is not enough to run a game of either Edge of the Empire or Age of Rebellion. And we aren’t just saying that a single set of dice is not enough for everyone at the table–though this is true as well. Rather we mean to tell you that a single set of Star Wars Dice do not provide enough dice for a single player to build all of the dice pools that she will encounter during her first Star Wars adventure.
Let us give you a few examples of how Fantasy Flight’s failure to provide adequate “stuff” can affect players and GMs. First let’s look at the “destiny point” tokens.
Okay, complaining about the “destiny point” tokens feels a bit like the Woody Allen Joke from Annie Hall. Nonetheless Terrible Gamers thinks that this is a problem indicative of the entire Star Wars Dice set.
Two older women are leaving a restaurant and are complaining about the food. Finally one says, “that was the worst food I have ever eaten!” To which her friend replies, “I agree! And what was with the small portions?”
At the beginning of every game session of Edge of The Empire and Age of Rebellion players determine the total number of “destiny points” for that day’s session by having all of the players roll a force die (d12). Players then count the number of pips, and the force alignment of each pip, which tells them how many “destiny points” there will be, and what alignment those “destiny points” will have during play. The maximum total of force pips that appear on each specialized Star Wars Dice d12 is 2. This means that a game consisting of two players and a GM can easily end up with a “destiny point” total of 4.
Since Star Wars Dice only provide four “destiny point” tokens per package, a single set of dice is only adequate for Edge of The Empire and Age of Rebellion games with 3 players counting the GM. If a game were to have 4 players–3 players and a GM–generating 5 or 6 starting “destiny points” at the start of play would be common. This leaves the players short on tokens.
Worse than this is the fact that each package of Star Wars Dice gives a player fewer dice than are necessary to roll many basic skill and combat checks in either Star Wars RPG. If a character has a primary attribute score of 4, which is easy to accomplish during character creation, she may need 4 green “ability” dice for a basic skill check. Fantasy Flight only includes 3 green “ability” dice in each Star Wars Dice package. This problem repeats itself with the 3 purple “difficult” dice included with Star Wars Dice. Any skill or combat check whose difficult falls in the top two difficulty tiers of the game–daunting or formidable–can require 4 or more difficulty dice. If a character has skill over with a score over 3 they need 3 yellow proficiency dice to make rolls using that skill. Star Wars Dice provide 2 yellow proficiency dice per package. Many uses of the specialized boost and threat d6s mentioned in both Edge of The Empire and Age of Rebellion require 3 of either die. Star Wars Dice provides 2 boost and 2 threat dice per package.
You get the picture. Star Wars Dice lacks the number of dice needed to make basic rolls for every set of dice that appear in the game. And it gets worse.
At the cost of $14.95, Terrible Gamers expected Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars Dice to include at least one of every type of dice needed to run a game of Edge of The Empire or Age of Rebellion. This is even more important with games built on IPs of great cultural significance like Star Wars. Such games often attract new players to the role playing hobby–new players who do not have their own set of gaming dice. Unfortunately, Fantasy Flight Games failed to deliver in this regard by choosing not to provide standard ten sided dice, which are used to determine the results of critical hits, duty checks, and obligation checks.
Overall Score: C-
Terrible Gamers overall score for Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars Dice should not be read as a critique of the actual dice pool systems used in either Edge of The Empire or Age of Rebellion. As we said earlier in this review, we are holding our final thoughts on that for our review of the game system itself–we confess our opinion of the Star Wars RPGs has changed little since we published our initial thoughts about the system (here). Neither should our score in this review be taken to be an assault on the “quality” of what each package of Star Wars Dice provides. While we feel that “destiny point” tokens in each Star Wars Dice package are pretty terrible, the dice themselves are not.
In fact, while we would prefer everyone to work with GameScience and Lou Zocchi to make precision dice (are you listening game makers!), we actually like the specialized Star Wars Dice a lot. They are well made, look nice, and really add to our sense of emersion playing the game! We cannot imagine playing either Edge of The Empire or Age of Rebellion without using these dice. However, where Star Wars Dice succeed is also where their failure begins.
Our overall score is primarily the result of the fact that, even at the additional cost to the player of $14.95, Star Wars Dice do not provide players with enough dice to play either of the Star Wars RPGs. And it is not just a case of there being “not enough dice to go around.” The Star Wars Dice package does not include enough dice to assemble basic dice pools for individual players. We also find it difficult to accept that an almost essential product for a game built on an IP as important as Star Wars does not actually contain everything you need to play the game. Any new players enticed to give role playing a go based on excitement for Star Wars will be extremely disappointed when their Edge of The Empire rulebook and their Star Wars Dice arrive. This is because Star Wars Dice do not include one die that is essential to running either Star Wars RPG–the d10.
Players not new to our hobby will also be disappointed by the fact that running either of Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars RPGs requires at a minimum 2 d10s and at least 1 set of Star Wars Dice. If players want to have enough dice, without having to reroll the ones they have, to make basic skill checks they will need two sets Star Wars Dice. In fact, Terrible Gamers suspects that 3 sets of Star Wars Dice is the magic number players will need to have enough dice to cover every possible roll they will be asked to make while playing either Edge of The Empire or Age of Rebellion.
As we said earlier, to be fair to Fantasy Flight Games, we should point out that it is possible to play their Star Wars RPGs without buying any Star Wars Dice. A chart that allows you to convert standard numerical six, eight, and twelve sided dice results into Star Wars Dice results is included in both Edge of The Empire and Age of Rebellion. However, these charts are extremely inconvenient to actual play and do not appear on the parts of the book most likely to be easily accessible to all of the players sitting at the table–their character sheets. What is more, using the charts and standard gaming dice, inserts a level of confusion that really hampers game play.
Terrible Gamers really cannot shake the feeling that something is wrong in Denmark. While we think that Fantasy Flight Games is one of the best game makers in the entire gaming industryt, when we find products like Star Wars Dice we feel like we are being used. Maybe we are wrong, but the fact that Fantasy Flight chose not to include enough of any of the dice you might need for a single Star Wars RPG dice pool with their Star Wars Dice accessory seems to indicate that the entire product was designed around not giving players enough. That way Fantasy Flight can maximize profit by double and triple dipping each of their fans who just want to have enough dice to play Star Wars: Edge of The Empire or Star Wars: Age of Rebellion.
Overall Score: C-
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(c) Terrible Gamers & Scott Mills 2013