Theme and What is it?
You are a pirate and are rampaging around the treasure islands! What more theme is needed? Assemble your fleet and battle your rival pirates for the right to booty. All the booty. The best captain will need to be fast, witty, and play mind games with opponents to win.
Captain Dice is played in phases. During the first phase, players frantically roll their dice and assign them to treasure cards that accept the values available. There are places the players really want to go for some chance to earn extra treasures. But waiting for the perfect rolls can get them no treasure at all if they are not fast enough. Many captains will come to the conclusion “take what you can; leave the rest.” To end the phase, the fastest player to notice an end trigger condition rings a bell. This gives them priority during battle as well as ending the phase.
In the second phase, captains assign battle cards to the treasure locations they claimed in an attempt to hold onto their bounty and deny their opponents what they most desire. Then everyone reveals the choices they made and in order of ship priority execute their programmed attacks. Any remaining ships claim their treasure. If two ships by the same clever captain make a line, they also claim the treasure between them as a bonus.
This repeats several times until the treasure deck is gone and the one with the most treasure wins.
A bell? I was a little afraid opening the box and finding a bell. It turns out to be okay! Don’t panic! You ring the bell to start the real time dice phase and to end it. That is probably the only bell ringing needed. If you go to play it in a public location such as a con or club, you could substitute bell ringing with “Go!” and “Stop” to not annoy your neighbors over much. It won’t ruin your game either way.
Really, that was my ENTIRE initial impression just trying to figure out if this bell was going to ruin an otherwise alright game. Also, it seems my cat really loves playing with a bell so we ended up with an extra player attracted to the sound.
Game Build Quality
Captain dice has, shockingly, a pile of dice. It also has a deck of treasure cards and personal ship decks. The cards are of a standard quality and the dice are of a simple 6-sided variety. Oh, and there is a bell. In case you missed that earlier. A bell like you would see at the front deck of a business to get someones attention. I have absolutely no complaints about any of the components. I cannot think of any way they could have been improved either.
The artwork is simple and cute. Skeleton pirate figures take ladies hostage, fire cannons that might as well have a text bubble “pow” coming out of them, and claim entire ships with a great squid king attack. It reminds me of a comic book style and fits the style of game great. The game is short and not too serious so the art doesn’t need to be overly complex either.
We are never going to forget our first game of Captain Dice. The first time the bell was wrung it was a tentative little “tit”. By the time we got to the third dice phase, it was ringing loud and clear with a long reverberation. Not that we paid much attention as we were too busy frantically trying to get the perfect dice opportunities. More than once, I had to decide if I wanted to reroll or quickly hit an end condition and claim the bell ring for combat priority. It can be really important to win ties during the combat phase.
All of that was not overly memorable. What made the game so memorable was what happened when we counted the score. There was a tie! So we dove into the rulebook to figure out how to resolve it. First we had to check our duplicate dice value treasures. It was also a tie! So we moved onto the unlikely tie breaker, “the player who was the most delightful bell ringer”. To resolve this, my wife had to mediate an impromptu ring off. I never expected to type that sentence. Ever. And that is why I will never forget Captain Dice.
Age Range & Weight
10+ is totally fair for age range. Younger players are likely to have a blast rolling their dice and frantically placing whatever they can on the board. The complexity of the game is relatively low. There are several phases and specific rules to understand within them. But each piece is quite simple on its own.
Is Captain Dice the best game I have played this year? No. Not by a long shot. But is it a game that should be overlooked just because it is more focused on the chaotic side of fun? No. Also not by a long shot.
Players who want a light experience with heavy theme and loads of “Oh, NO!” moments will find what they want here. It can be very satisfying to go right before your opponent and destroy one of their scariest ships right before they can return the favor. It can also be a real face palm moment when another player gets their hand under yours in a race to ring the bell.