Playing Sagrada has given me a serious craving for more board games. Unfortunately, as we discussed last week, good board games on mobile are a rarity. However, there’s a lot more to offer when you expand your definition of board games to include dice and card games. There is metric tons of it on mobile, some of which are pretty good. Dicey Elementalist is one such great choice for Android.
Drawing inspiration from classic sword and sorcery tabletop RPGs, Dicey Elementalist mixes deck building, random numbering, and rogue-lite dungeon crawling to create an experience that offers just that smells bad from Dungeons & Dragons with a few notable adjustments to streamline 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 the best Android card games.
The setup for Dicey Elementalist is stereotypical sword and sorcery nonsense that amounts to a war between demons and “Elementalists” who are more or less elemental-based wizards. To fight the good fight in this war, choose a character class – like The Fearless, The Stealthy, or The Chanter – that loosely draws on 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 serves as your home base, the hand-drawn maps, and the wild and wacky monster designs, create an environment that’s downright bursting with flavor.
The mechanics of the game itself are very simple, with one-tap-touch controls for every feature at your disposal. After choosing a character, you’ll be dropped into your first dungeon, where you’ll tap 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 their gameplay. As you move through the rooms you’ll have to fight all sorts of villains to advance. Combat is dictated by the six cards you have in your deck, in addition to the dice, which determine what cards you can cast (think of your dice as mana). On your turn during combat, you may cast as many cards from your hand as possible by rolling and rerolling your dice up to three times.
The random elements of combat are mitigated by allowing you to keep selected dice instead of re-rolling them. For example, you might have a card that allows you to gain six armors, but you need 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 fires, but you can then choose to hold those two fire dice and just re-roll the remaining three dice, hoping one of them will be fire, giving you literally enough firepower have to cast your stronger spells.
This is the most basic version of how combat could go, but as you unlock more characters and start learning their unique special abilities, you’ll soon discover new ways to gain the upper hand in these intense one-on-one duels.
And make no mistake, Dicey Elementalist is one of those games where you fully expect to lose. Once you start a given run, you must conquer four dungeons to successfully complete that run. The trick is that once you start a run, your character’s health doesn’t just magically regenerate after a given round of combat.
Instead, you’ll need to craft and bring potions, get lucky and find a shopkeeper in the dungeons, build a deck you can heal with, and use a few other clever strategies to increase your chances of survival. Some enemies are pretty 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.
The entertaining gameplay is supported by a great soundtrack reminiscent of the medieval setting, hand-drawn characters and enemies, and an upgrade system tied to your overall progress. The more you win, the more you can improve your skills and buy new characters or equipment.
However, Dicey Elementalist has some disadvantages. The biggest thing is the ads, which are bloody annoying. Ads pop up fairly frequently, mainly when you die, and come across a magic reward sprite that lets you spin a wheel for prizes, before a boss and after runs. The worst thing about the ads is that they are long and sometimes don’t automatically close when they’re done. If you put your phone down to wait out the 60-second runtime, you still have to come back and end the ad manually. I even had a few ads crashing the game for me!
It’s annoying enough that I now avoid reward ghosts and take paths that allow me to avoid them. The rewards they give are just not worth the 30-60 seconds of pain.
The other downside is that only one character, The Fearless, is available when you first start playing. You can unlock The Stealthy later 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 money, with costs ranging from $1 and $2 lie. 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 do affect what could otherwise be a near-perfect experience. Ads and paywall characters aside, Dicey Elementalist is a well-made game that manages to scratch the itch of playing 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 have a lot of fun here, and since it’s free I’d highly recommend you at least give it a try and see how you like it.