If you’ve been following my blog over this year then you probably have a good idea of the elements that make up a game that will grab my attention. Dice serve as the tool for randomization, like in Disco Elysium or Citizen Sleeper. The game’s structure is roguelike, with runs doable in a single session but plenty of meta-progression to enjoy such as in Monster Train or Paper Mario: Black Pit. And of course strategy is key – creating unique builds for each playthrough like Wildermyth or featuring combat where each turn is like a puzzle to solve, similar to Into the Breach. Last weekend I got my first taste of a game that brings all of this together into an experience that felt so custom-tailored to me that I had to stream the game as soon as I finished my first run – by all appearances, it was the quintessential Adventure Rules game. That game is Slice & Dice.
The premise of Slice & Dice is simple enough. A group of five heroes set out to battle against a series of monsters. In classic mode, you have twenty encounters. Win those twenty encounters and you win the run. Easy! There’s no fanfare and there’s no sweeping narrative arc taking place with this game; the emphasis is all on the mechanics. This is true even to the point that there is no background music in the game – your only companion is the satisfying sound of rolling dice and locking them into place. The dice are truly the stars of Slice & Dice.
Every monster and player class in the game has a custom six-sided dice block that represents their suite of abilities. At the beginning of a round of combat, the monsters roll their dice and lock in their moves. You can clearly see how much damage they are going to do and to whom, and whether there will be any side effects of their attacks. This combat forecast is the tragedy you want to prevent; your turn will be spent rolling the dice for your characters and choosing how to use the moves those dice give you in order to prevent the damage that the monsters are going to deal. During the player phase, all your characters roll their dice and you get to see the results. You can keep the results you like and reroll the ones you don’t, with a maximum of two rerolls per round. Once you’ve locked in all your dice, you choose who to target with each ability and watch the round resolve. Enemies and allies take damage accordingly, and a new round begins.
The crew of heroes you start with have simple dice that adhere pretty nicely to a typical RPG party structure. The thief is damage-focused with a chance for a ranged attack that can hit foes on the back line, the fighter has small defense dice and big damage dice while the opposite is true for the defender, the healer can build your mana pool or restore health, and the mage is solely focused on providing mana to cast spells. These roles get more complicated and nuanced as you progress. Every other battle you are rewarded with a class change when you defeat the enemies, and these class changes make your characters more capable while also adding new mechanics and possibilities to their dice. The classes that you get offered are random and there’s a sizeable selection; 4 tier one heroes, 8 tier two heroes, and 8 tier three heroes for each archetype, for a total of 100 different classes that each have their own custom dice block to roll. And that’s to say nothing of the different combinations that are possible depending on which sets of classes you have together on the field.
Here’s a practical example. The thief’s dice has three sides which deal damage, one of which is a ranged attack. The other three sides are blanks. I’ve tried out two tier two classes: the rogue and the dabbler. The rogue has a weak poison attack, the ability to completely avoid damage with a dodge, two weak attacks with cantrip (the ability activates when you roll it and when you play it), and a cruel attack that does double damage to foes already under half health. The dabbler is like a JRPG red mage with a very balanced die: two sides for damage, two sides for shields, a side for healing, and a side for mana. These are two very different approaches that both evolved from the same character, and during any run you’re dealing with transformations in this style for five different characters, twice over the course of the run. How you use the combinations that evolve from that will define how successful you are in combat.
One mechanic I’ve mentioned but not described in detail yet is mana. Certain characters have dice that add mana to your pool, and magical classes like the healer and mage add spells to the list of spells you can possibly cast. Spells have a mana cost to activate; for example, with 2 mana you can use the basic spell Burst, which either does 2 damage or gives 2 shields depending on whether you target a foe or an ally. As much as three mana can be stored between turns – any more than that will dissipate, so if you’ve managed to build up more than three you want to go ahead and spend it on that turn lest it goes to waste. Spells can deal damage, heal allies, power up or weaken dice, and just like dice abilities they have a wide variety of tags that you can strategize around. A particularly fun healing spell I had during my second run was Strand, which is very expensive (4 mana) but refunds its full cost if using it saves a hero’s life. Choosing magical classes then is not just about the abilities their dice bring but also the spells that you’ll unlock.
The other tool in your arsenal that you earn for winning battles is your inventory, a collection of items that adds tags or whole new abilities to the dice your characters wield. Each character can carry up to two items and their functions vary widely. Some items replace the blank sides on dice, such as Powdered Mana, which makes every blank a +1 mana instead. Other items add a status to your character, such as a pair of boots that give every roll +1 but remove the ability to reroll for that character. Items can combo in interesting ways; during my first run I had an item that granted 2 shields to a hero at the start of each turn along with an amulet that doubled the value of incoming shields, making it so they got 4 shields at the beginning of every single turn. And the right item on the right character can unlock some truly busted combinations. In my second run I had a class called the Collector whose rightmost side was an attack which did double damage when targeting the same enemy as the previous dice. I gave this character a Ducky, which gave that attack the echo tag. Echo copies the value of the previous action. This made it so I could use a big attack with another character and then the Collector could do double that huge amount of damage against the same foe. Choosing items that compliment your class dice to create combinations like this is deeply satisfying. It’s also necessary, because the foes you face in battle are nasty.
Slice & Dice has quite the menagerie of deadly foes to face. Just like your characters, each monster has a custom dice block with moves to roll, potentially with powerful combos or unpleasant side effects to deal with. In addition to poison, which slowly kills your character over time, there are effects like weaken (which reduce the effects of your dice) or petrify (which turns functional sides of your dice into blanks). Some foes also have statuses that they enter battle with that factors into their strategy. The basilisk, for example, inflicts petrify on one side of your dice every time it does damage. Other monsters have health thresholds, and reaching a threshold causes them to resolve an effect. Slimers make slimelets after taking a certain amount of damage, ghosts become intangible for the rest of the turn, and demons deal six damage to the source of the damage that brought them to their threshold. Some monsters have statuses you can use to your advantage. Zombies with rotten can be killed by dealing at least 4 damage to them. Enemies with the mercenary tag can be driven away from combat by overkilling adjacent foes by at least two HP. Or consider the hydra, which automatically dies if it takes damage five times in a single turn. Having dice that allow you to take advantage of these weaknesses is really satisfying; there’s nothing quite like pulling off a powerful combo or having just the right move for chasing off an enemy without depleting their full health bar.
Sometimes, overcoming such terrible monsters will require some sacrifice. Regardless of what you do, you cannot quite manage to save a hero from doom. The good thing is that death in this game is only permanent when the whole party gets wiped out; if a character dies but the party as a whole still wins the match, that character will return in the next match. However, they are penalized 1 maximum health for the rest of the run, as well as starting the next battle with only half of their health restored. As mentioned earlier with the Strand spell, there are dice abilities and spells that interact with the moment a character is about to die, getting bonuses when used to save someone. There are also dice abilities that kill your characters; these are often decently powerful but the cost is one you can’t afford to pay every single battle. Regardless of whatever consequences you might face in a single run, when you start the next one you’ll be back to a basic crew of tier one heroes along with no items to speak of. Like most roguelikes, your true meta progression takes place in the form of achievements, each of which unlocks something for your game. These unlocks can be as simple as a new item or as complex as a whole new game mode to play.
I’ve only played two runs of Slice & Dice so far and I am deeply excited to play more. I love discovering all the different class dice and experimenting with combinations of abilities and items to discover the most effective tools the game has to offer. It feels great when a character gives you just the right tools to deal with a particular enemy and the strategy they bring to bear. Each turn is a little puzzle to solve, and rolling your dice hoping for just the right face to turn up to give you the solution is an exciting sensation. I’ve got so many games modes and heroes to discover and I can’t wait to jump back into my next run. If your curiosity is piqued by this article, there’s a few things you can do to check it out in more detail:
- If you’d like to watch me play the game and see my reactions to discovering some of the combinations I mentioned in this article, you can check out the stream VOD on Twitch.
- If you’re not ready to commit financially but you do want to try the game for yourself, Slice & Dice has a free demo on itch.io you can download and play.
- If you’re like me and already know this is a game you’ll love, you can purchase it on itch.io to get both the PC and mobile versions of the game. It’s only $7, which I personally consider to be a steal.
This likely won’t be the last you hear of Slice & Dice on Adventure Rules, as I am eager to jump back in. It satisfies so many of the things that I enjoy and look for in games. If it sounds like something you would enjoy as well, I hope you’ll check it out!