Playing Sagrada has given me a serious hankering for more board games. Unfortunately, as we discussed last week, good board games on mobile are something of a rarity. However, there's a lot more on offer if you expand your definition of what constitutes a board game to include dice and card-based games. There are tons of these on mobile, some of which are quite good. Dicey Elementalist is one such great choice for Android.
Drawing inspiration from classic sword and sorcery tabletop role-playing games, Dicey Elementalist mixes deck-building, random chance, and rogue-lite dungeon crawling to craft an experience that reeks of Dungeons & Dragons with a few notable adjustments to tighten up the experience for bite-sized mobile play sessions.
It's an excellent deck-builder, it's free with ads and in-app purchases, and it's a solid contender for our list of best Android card games.
The setup for Dicey Elementalist is some stereotypical sword and sorcery nonsense that amounts to a war between demons and "Elementalists," who are elementally-based wizards, more or less. To fight the good fight in this war, you choose a character class — like The Fearless, The Stealthy, or The Chanter — that loosely harkens back to tried and true TTRPG classes like Barbarian, Rogue, Bard, and so on.
It's not a one-to-one comparison, but these character classes, combined with the smoky tavern that acts as your home base, the hand-drawn maps, and the wild and wacky monster designs, create a setting that is positively oozing flavor.
The mechanics of the game itself are very simple, with one-tap touch controls for every function available to you. After choosing a character, you are dropped into your first dungeon, where you tap around in different directions to fight monsters, play the occasional mini-game, trade with merchants, and eventually take on the dungeon's boss.
This is where the real meat of the game happens, with each character having different abilities that affect how they play. As you move throughout rooms, you’ll have to fight all manner of baddies to progress. Combat is dictated by the six cards you have in your deck, in addition to dice that determine what cards you’re able to cast (think of your dice as mana). On your turn during combat, you can cast as many cards from your hand as possible by rolling and re-rolling your dice up to three times.
The chance elements in combat are mitigated by how you can choose to hold selected dice rather than re-roll them. For example, you might have a card that allows you to gain six armor, but you need to have two pairs of matching dice to cast it. Or maybe you have a meaty fire spell card, but you need three dice to land on the fire symbol.
Your first roll might only give you two fire, but you can then choose to hold those two fire dice and re-roll only the remaining three dice in the hopes that one of them will be fire, thereby giving you enough literal firepower to cast your more powerful spell.
This is the most basic version of the way combat could play out, but as you unlock more characters and start to learn their unique special abilities, you’ll soon discover new ways to gain the upper hand in these fierce one-on-one duels.
And make no mistake, Dicey Elementalist is one of those games that fully expects you to lose. Once you start any given run, you need to conquer four dungeons to complete that run successfully. The trick is that once you’ve started a run, your character’s health doesn’t just magically restore itself after any given round of combat.
Instead, you’ll have to craft and bring potions with you, get lucky and find a shopkeeper in the dungeons, build a deck that enables you to heal, and a few other clever strategies to increase your odds of survival. Some enemies are quite tough, but they tend to spawn in the same areas of the dungeon over and over again, so you’re expected to learn their moves and come back after failing with a better strategy to beat them.
Supporting the fun gameplay is a great soundtrack that evokes the medieval setting, hand-drawn characters and enemies, and an upgrade system that’s tied to your overall progress. The more you win, the more you can upgrade your abilities and purchase new characters or equipment.
There are, however, a few drawbacks to Dicey Elementalist. The biggest one is the ads, which are pretty gosh darn annoying. Ads pop up fairly frequently, mainly when you die, run into a magical rewards sprite that allows you to spin a wheel to get prizes, before a boss, and after runs. The worst part of the ads is that they’re long and sometimes won’t auto-close when they’re done. If you put your phone down to wait out the 60-second runtime, you’ll still have to come back and manually exit out of the ad. I’ve even had a few ads crash the game on me!
It’s enough of an annoyance that now I avoid reward sprites and will take paths that allow me to go around them. The rewards they give just aren’t worth the 30-60 seconds of pain.
The other con is that only one character, The Fearless, is available when you first start playing. You can later unlock The Stealthy by using the game’s in-app currency (which you can get enough of just by playing), but the other four characters can only be unlocked by paying real cash, with costs ranging between $1-2. This definitely hurts the replay value for players who don’t want to spend money on the game.
That being said, these inconveniences aren’t game-breakers for me, but they impact what could otherwise be a nearly perfect experience. Ads and paywalled characters aside, Dicey Elementalist is a well-made game that manages to scratch the itch to play a tabletop RPG without having a group of live friends to do it with.
I have no doubt that fans of dice and card games like Slay the Spire will find a lot to enjoy here and since it’s free, I would highly recommend that you at least give it a shot and see how you like it.
Dice, dungeons, and deck-building make give this strategy game all the Dungeons & Dragon flare you could ask for...minus the Dungeon Master.
Download from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)
A lifelong gamer, Mogan has had a controller in hand since the PlayStation 1 ruled the world and Neopets seemed eternal. She loves to play new and old games alike, especially if it's something weird and charming. Puzzlers, JRPGs, adventure, and rhythm games are her favorites.
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