No matter whether it’s paganic Forefathers Eve, an All Saints Day, Halloween or Samhain – many cultures celebrate the dead, whether these are their closest ones, some long gone ancestors or even animals.
Naming a favourite among all these days would be hard (and well… a bit wrong) but the Mexican Dia de Muertos has always fascinated us at KA. To the point of whining about why so few games use this fantastic theme. But now, the tides seem to finally have changed. A colorful, fast paced and highly thematic Die of the Dead is almost here! Let’s check it out.
A pretty new, but without doubt incredibly creative designers at Radical 8 Games have been playing board games for ages as well as had some attempts at designing their own. To create Die of the Dead, Radical 8 Games contacted various specialists knowledgeable about Mexican culture.
They worked with a consultant and a Mexican artist to bring all these vibrant colours and shapes coming from centuries of tradition. This way the game would be as faithful to the original celebration as possible and avoid any mistakes. And yes: it’s a looker. With all colorful caskets, a stairway, the Oferenda tokens, player and city boards – it’s almost impossible to look away from the game.
Let’s Prepare for Celebrations
Die of the Dead was designed for 2-5 players and can be easily characterized as a fast paced dice game. One session shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes. The goal may sound simple: as a friendly spirit you have to guide lost souls up the marigold stairway to the land of the living. Whoever succeeds at this first: becomes the winner.
First players set 4 caskets below the stairs, open them and add corresponding boards below them. Next you add Token Boards related to various Oferenda (offerings for the dead): Candles, Incense, Flowers and Bread. The City of the Dead board should stay somewhere in the middle so that anyone can reach it.
Every player picks a Player Board with a color corresponding to the set of dice that they will be using. When you look at your dice you’ll notice that some of them have skulls instead of certain numbers. The manual calls them the “Power Dice”. Place these in the City of the Dead and keep the rest near your own player board. Rolling one of your Soul Dice and comparing it with other players determines who starts the game.
Finally: players add their souls to open caskets or player boards one die by one, taking turns until everyone has used all of their soul dice.
Time to Take Action
Every turn each player will select a casket and perform actions described on a card placed in the front of it. These actions always come in pairs and both need to be undertaken. All of them are related to souls wandering through the afterlife.
Casket instructions may tell you to transfer various amounts of souls from your board or from elsewhere to the stairs. Secondary actions may make you shake a casket, and thus reroll whatever’s inside to wreck some chaos or hope for special dice combinations. It’s also possible to get precious Oferenda tokens by using the actions.
Candles, Flowers, Incense and Bread
All 4 types of tokens are pretty powerful but you can only have 2 at the same time. Candles can move caskets, or exchange their positions to bring some confusion to the game. Marigold Flowers can remove dice from caskets and give them back to their owners or add to your own player board. Incense allows adjusting number values visible on souls or shaking the casket when ending the turn. Finally: Bread, which can be played during other players’ turns, lets you add dice to certain caskets.
Stairway to Mortal Realm
When one of your dice lands at the very top of the stairway, you manage to lead a soul to the world of mortals and you… become the winner. The game also has some alternative variants where you don’t close the caskets or use Side-B’s of player boards which make the game a lot different, thus providing additional layers of replayability.
Die of The Dead on Kickstarter
Die of the Dead is a perfect marriage of top tier theme with great, engaging mechanics that keep you wanting to play the game more and more. Even if it may feel abstract at first, the whole idea of wandering souls is presented perfectly and gives that unique vibe that many tabletop games are missing. A must play by the end of every October and honestly, during other months too