Dice Miner Review: Misty Mountain Yahtzee

Confused about the new review format? Check out the new way I review games.

Interested in a video version of this review? Check it out on YouTube!

Overview

Dice Miner casts players in to the role of dwarves mining through a set of three dragon-infested mountains. The dwarf with the highest score at the end of three rounds wins.

Dice Miner is a relatively abstract game where everything the dwarves mine is represented by many different kinds of custom dice. The dice range from basic numbers, shiny gems, and treacherous landslides.

A front view of Dice Miner's mountain

Players take turns drafting dice from the mountain to build their hoard. They can even use magic to reroll them, ideally into something better. The six different playable characters add an additional variable to the mix, and Dice Miner also has a distinct solo mode that plays differently from the main game if you feel the urge to grab a pick axe on your own.

Components

While Dice Miner doesn’t have tons of different components, there’s still a trove of Dwarven goodies in the box. To start with, much like the dwarves they represent, the six-character tiles are stout, thick, and durable.

There’s a ton of custom dice of various colors and symbols, even the basic numerical white dice have a special beer symbol where the six would normally be. The dice are weighty, satisfying to roll, and the symbols are unique and easy to identify.

A full spread of everything that comes with Dice Miner

You get a pack of double-sided scoring sheets, one side for multiplayer, and the other solo play. While not a necessity, it is a nice touch since the sheets clearly divide the rounds and scoring methods.

The dice bag that comes with the game looks great, but unfortunately, it has an unfinished seam around the top. This means the fabric will continue to unravel and the stitching could come undone at some point.

The star of the show is undoubtedly the cardboard mountain. It assembles easily within seconds and forms the actual play area. I was shocked at how well the dice slide right into play simply by gently pouring the bag onto it.

Despite being small, the mountain gives Dice Miner a great table presence once it’s filled up, thanks to its vertical nature and colorful dice. You do have to take the mountain apart to put it away, however, which is a bit of a bummer.

A picture of the unfinished seam of the dice bag

You can technically fit it back in the box, but the lid won’t close all the way as the back tip protrudes into it. If you placed a board game on top of it, you could damage the mountain. It’s best to just take the extra second to remove the back piece.

At $34 I’m not entirely comfortable with the components you get. Most of Dice Miner’s price is undoubtedly sunk on the 60 custom dice. But it doesn’t truly feel like you are getting much in the way of components. The dice are undeniably cool, however, and the mountain is far more than a mere gimmick. It’s the centerpiece on which the game is played. Plus, the game can be set up and put away in under two minutes, a speed you usually only see in pocket games.

Diggy Diggy Hole

Dice Miner has a very accessible learning curve, I would bet most players could learn to play it within just a few minutes. Players simply take turns drafting dice over three rounds, but it’s the little things that really make Dice Miner shine.

I’ve only played Dice Miner alone and with my partner, but I’m pretty confident in my predictions of how it works at higher player counts. With two players, Dice Miner is a tactical duel of luck mitigation.

You can only draft dice from the top of the mountain. At the beginning of the game that’s just two dice, but as they get mined out, more and more become available. This forces you to carefully weigh the dice you want, against the dice you don’t want the other player to have. If you take a dice, you could uncover an even better choice for your opponent. Likewise, if you are crafty, you could force them to take hazard dice.

Dice Miner's hazard dice

While luck is always present, there really is a decent degree of strategy in drafting and counter drafting due to the nature of different dice. Common tunnel dice only score in sequences of 1 through 5. Meaning if you have a 1, 2, and 3, you would score 6.

Treasure dice on the other hand, simply grant flat points for the number of gems on its face. But the real kicker is you get double if you have more gems than the other players.

Magic dice allow you to reroll dice after the excavation phase is done, which is incredibly important. Tool Dice on the other hand, can turn negative hazards in your favor.

Normally landslides and dragons deduct points from you. But they actually give you points if you have the right tool, a pickax, or shield respectively. Additionally, having multiple tools of the same type multiplies the effect and can really turn a bad situation around for you.

When taken together, you have a lot of variable choice in your approach to victory. You might really want that treasure dice showing three gems, but is it worth it when it would allow your opponent to grab the five that she needs to complete a sequence? Yet, if you take a different dice, she can claim the gems for herself.

Then there’s the wild card in the form of the beer symbol. It’s present on one side of every dice. It’s called Cheers and allows you to bend the rules, but it too comes with a risk. By rolling it, you’re not only allowed to choose two dice to draft in one turn, you may also take dice from the sides of the mountain.

Dice Miner's tunnel dice

The catch is, you have to give an opponent the dice you rolled. You always have to weigh that risk. It might seem like a no-brainer to throw a hazard dice into another player’s lap, but if they have the right tool, it can blow up in your face.

In a 1v1 situation, Dice Miner a light dueling game. While it doesn’t have the depth of a game like 7 Wonders Duel, It’s satisfying all the same.

Adding additional players to the mix would have advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, you would have more choice in who you could give your dice to when using the Cheers effect.

On the flip side. The mountain would not only empty faster, but it would aslo be nearly impossible to counter draft when a minimum of three dice would disappear before your next turn. More if someone used a Cheers dice. There just isn’t a lot of space on the mountain.

I think you would be subjected to a much higher degree of RNG with less player interaction than what the game thrives on with 2 players. That’s theoretical based on my judgment and experience, however. The game plays very well at 2 though, I’d stake my beard and a mug of ale on it!

Rolling Stones

Dice Miner has 6 playable characters, and while they undeniably have a strong effect on the game, they are a bit underwhelming. Each one has a few icons that correspond to die faces. Essentially, playing as that character grants the effects of those icons as if they were dice.

The Dragonslayer, for example, always grants a shield. This means from the beginning of the game dragons are a net positive for you rather than a hazard to be avoided. Potent, to be sure, but also a little boring.

The Dragon slayer character

I’m a big fan of variable player powers, but the characters in Dice Miner are just a bit too dry to be interesting. I feel like this was a missed opportunity to add a bit more depth to the game without tampering with its lightweight nature.

On the other hand, Dice Miner features one more mechanic that really shakes things up. At the end of each round before you refill the mountain and start drafting again. You keep all your dice into the next round, but must you also reroll them.

First of all, everyone loves rolling dice. There is nothing quite as satisfying as scooping up a hoard of them and dumping it all on the table. Secondly, doing this gives you a potential blueprint of paths to chase going into the next round. It’s a potential boost, but also forces you to adapt.

Lastly, but equally important, it adds more strategical value due to another die face I haven’t mentioned yet, Chests. These wonderful vaults of shiny trinkets allow you to bank some of your dice instead of rerolling them, and that can be the key to obtaining a high score.

Dice Miner's tool dice

The Dragonslayer, for example, could bank dragons to ensure that the hazards aren’t re-rolled into landslides. You could bank a bunch of gems to guarantee you get the double bonus for having the most, or simply bank some magic dice to ensure you have options next round. It’s a small mechanic with a profound and enjoyable impact on the game.

I’ll Have My Axe! (Solo mode)

The solo mode in Dice Miner uses a completely different ruleset than the standard game. That’s usually a pet peeve of mine. I don’t want two different games at separate player counts. I will admit, that the way it’s implemented works well. It’s also hard to imagine a satisfying way to translate the standard rules into solo anyway, so I appreciate its existence at all.

The solo mode functions very much like a puzzle. You want to obtain a high score, while also not locking yourself out of moves. You can no longer freely draft dice. To draft a 2, for example, you must already have a 1 in your collection.

Hazards can only be drafted if you have the tool for it, and the tool is consumed in the process. Treasure dice can be freely drafted, but grant double points if cached in a chest. Magic dice no longer offer rerolls, but instead allow you to remove dice from the mountain, placing them back in the bag.

A spread of all 6 characters in Dice Miner

Magic dice are very important since they can save you from dead ends where you can’t draft anything due to the solo mode restrictions. The Beer symbol becomes a true wild card allowing you to change it to the face of your choice.

It’s definitely a fun brain teaser, and attempting to land higher and higher scores is addicting. Yet, to some degree it feels tacked on. You don’t use characters in solo at all, and you don’t get the satisfaction of rolling a pile of dice. Regardless, the fact that Dice Miner is so quick and easy to set up and put away makes it an attractive option for solo play when you don’t have the time or energy to dig out something bigger.

Verdict

Dice Miner’s fast setup, quick tear down, and accessible mechanics make it a great gateway game. That’s especially true for those already familiar with classic dice games such as Yahtzee. It would be incredibly easy to pull out and teach within minutes and would undoubtedly hook even casual fans of dice games.

The quality of the components is great with the exception of the hem on the dice bag. It may be compact, but its table presence could easily hog the spotlight from bigger games thanks to its attractive colorful dice and unique standing mountain board.

A titled shot of the mountain in Dice Miner

With two players it’s a cutthroat duel, and it’s a brain-teasing puzzle in solo. More people might add to the chaos, but it’s still nice that it has viability at all player counts.

The dice are heavy, but the game is not. Yet, respect and care must still be given unless you fancy a bronze bottom from the dwarven whoop-ass a crafty player may unleash on you

Dice Miner is very much a game for dice lovers, and that’s okay. The allure of adding dice to your hoard and cheerfully rolling a giant pile of them definitely fits the theme of a treasure-hunting dwarf happily swimming in gold like a stocky bearded Scrooge McDuck.

My Perspective

Dice Miner is certainly too light a game for my tastes. I love the mountain board and its table presence, but Dice Miner just lacks the depth or variety to truly captivate my attention. I’ve also never used gateway games. My mantra has always been go big or go home. Thankfully so far, no one has gone home. But Dice Miner has undeniable value as a gateway game and, I’d easily recommend it to people for that purpose.

Dice Miner's treasure dice

Despite our incompatible natures, I’ve still found myself pulling it out more than once for solo play, simply because of how quick and easy it is to unbox or put away. Beyond games that fit in my pocket, Dice Miner has the fastest setup of any game in my collection. Though I’d never recommend it specifically for the solo mode

Regardless I appreciate a lot about the game. It may not be my personal choice for game night. But if someone grabs it off my shelf, I’d still be happy to sit down and play a round or two, just not all night. The great thing about Dice Miner is, it wouldn’t need to be!

A copy of the game was provided me for review purposes.