Dice Hospital Review

Dice Hospital - Alley Cat Games - Board Game Review

It is said that one must work at a relationship. That you only get out what you put in, which mathematically makes no sense as if you’re making no profit, why bother? I imagine that’s missing the point somewhat, but I am not exactly the sympathetic, caring type. Insensitivity aside, it could be said that have been somewhat lax regarding my relationship with Dice Hospital. You could say we’ve had a tumultuous beginning. Before I go full Claire Rayner on you, let me explain.

Usually at UK Games Expo, I’d bag a spot at a producer’s table of the game they’re touting to get me comfy with the idea that what I’m backing or about to back isn’t utter tosh. Turns out for two years running, Alley Cat were mobbed (nice problem to have) and I didn’t get the chance. So I was operating in the dark; although not a situation with which I am uncomfortable. Ask Steve “Risk Averse” Tudor to do such a thing and he’d be wriggling at the thought.

Dice Hospital - Treatment - Board Game Review

If you remember Theme Hospital from Bullfrog Software in the late 1990s, this might make some sense. I love the idea of Dice Hospital as it reminds me of that. Heal fictitious diseases on a variety of patients in a wonderfully cartoony camp way and if the patients die, so be it. Dice Hospital follows that idea almost to the letter. So I’m on the bandwagon so far and riding shotgun.

Fast forward nine months, I get the game and begin to learn to play. And the wheels start to feel a bit wobbly. The game doesn’t feel like I thought it would. Oh dear. It seems…too simple compared to my expectations and I’m already considering selling it. But, ever-professional, I play with actual humans to see how accurate my initial feelings are.

Dice Hospital - Ambulances - Board Game Review

Turns out, even I can be wrong sometimes.

The player interaction is absolutely where Dice Hospital shines and very brightly indeed. Mechanically, it’s so simple; roll the new batch of patients (dice) and populate the incoming ambulances, upgrade your hospital and treat the patients you gain and already have. Score points for discharge (such a lovely word) and try not to murder…I mean lose them through neglect. The wonderful interaction comes in with the balance of choosing sicker incoming patients which then give you first dibs on the upgrades or play it safe and choose later in the pecking order to be left with the dross other players don’t want. And of course, this opens up the possibility of bagging something that an opponent wants; the all important Cage Dick-MoveTM which we love here at Polyhedron Collider.

Dice Hospital - Incoming Patients - Board Game Review

Actually treating the patients is a solo act so players can do this simultaneously. Thinking ahead so you can plan which facility or expert you need is very much key. You can only choose one per round, so you gradually build an engine through the eight rounds. Choose poorly and your brand spanking new facility may sit languishing gathering dust or that highly paid world expert will sit on his hands drinking coffee in the staff lounge as their skills can’t be utilised. For you see, each upgrade acts in a certain way on certain types of dice (colour and/or value); if you don’t have any or the wrong combination, you’re losing out. 

The balance of incoming patients, correct upgrade and use of your resources each round is chock-full of those meaningful decisions that we so love. You’ll experience frustration, elation, a sense of smug satisfaction when your combo comes off and you discharge nine patients in one round as your opponents struggle to save one and then watch it all fall apart as you have a lovely hospital and no patients to treat next round. 

Dice Hospital - Experts - Board Game Review

It’s all very tight, sleek and well made. The iconography makes sense and is clear, the components are great quality (I love the upgraded ambulances) and there’s nothing there that doesn’t need to be. I could gripe a little about the shade of yellow dice used; to those of us with colour blindness in the wrong light they look quite similar to the green ones, perhaps blue would have been a better choice, but they're not totally indistinguishable. I'd say it’s definitely better to play with four instead of two to make the most of the interaction in the upgrade market and to make your choice of ambulance a little more taxing, but the game is just as balanced for any player count. 

So I’m at the high point of this rollercoaster, screaming to go faster and never wanting to get off despite being hesitant to ride at all. And that's a damn good feeling.

This review is based on a full retail copy of the game purchased through Kickstarter.
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