I love polyhedral dice. While many games utilize them, the special ones like d4s, d8s and d12s are only rolled a few times in the course of many gaming sessions (such as with tabletop roleplaying games).
Rolling dice is an activity that is enjoyable in and of itself. And the excitement that builds when people try to get a certain number, against all odds, is contagious.
But I also love strategy games. Shields is a dice game I created that combines the joy of probability with the calculation of strategy. It’s quick to set up and easy to play. It’s a two-player game about breaking through your opponent’s shields with your colored attack batteries.
What you’ll need
Shields is played entirely with dice. No cards, no boards, no markers. The following is the list of dice you will need. You can swap colors if that makes it easy to get all the dice (as long as everybody is clear what each color represents).
If you aren’t familiar with dice notation, it’s real easy. The first number in the note represents the quantity of a certain dice; the “d” stands for “dice,” and the second number represents the number of faces on the die. So “3d12” means 3 (quantity) of 12-sided die.
- 6d12 (Translucent green)
- 2d4 (Solid red)
- 2d4 (Solid yellow)
- 2d4 (Solid blue)
- 1d6 (Solid red)
- 1d6 (Solid yellow)
- 1d6 (Solid blue)
- 1d8 (Solid red)
- 1d8 (Solid yellow)
- 1d8 (Solid blue)
- 1d10 (Translucent red)
- 1d10 (Translucent yellow)
- 1d10 (Translucent blue)
- 1d12 (Translucent red)
- 1d12 (Translucent yellow)
- 1d12 (Translucent blue)
- 1d12 (Translucent black)
- 1d20 (Translucent black)
- 1d6 (Solid green)
- 2d8 (Solid green)
- 1d10 (Solid green)
- 1d4 (Solid gray/black)
- 2d6 (Solid gray/black)
- 1d8 (Solid gray/black)
34 dice total, 24 unique die and color sizes.
Where to find these dice
Tracking down so many different kinds of dice is challenging. Local gaming stores probably won’t meet all your needs, unless they have a large variety of single dice for sale (which can get pricy if they charge $1-2 each). The best websites I found for my needs were Dice Game Depot, DnD Dice, and Game Master Dice. While you’re on these pages, why not pick up a handy dice bag to hold everything?
Shields is played one-on-one.
To determine who goes first, each person rolls 3d12 (Translucent green):
Next, set up your batteries. Each person will place 3d12 (Translucent green) in front of them. The translucent green d12s should have the number “12” face up. Behind each d12, put the following, in this order: 1d4 (Solid red), 1d4 (Solid yellow), and 1d4 (Solid blue). The set-up looks like this:
Each person has three batteries: the red battery, the yellow battery, and the blue battery. Red, yellow, and blue solid color dice are attacking dice. The object of the game is to attack your opponent’s batteries with the attacking dice. The first person to destroy two batteries wins.
The colors are important. The game works like Rock-Paper-Scissors. Red batteries attack yellow; yellow attack blue; and blue attack red. Batteries cannot attack their own color (no red attacking red), or their opposing color (no red attacking blue).
On your turn, you will perform two actions, in this order.
First, you will pick up one die from the “pool” (more on that in a moment). Pool dice can augment your attacks, add shields to your batteries, heal your shields, or heal your health.
After picking your die, you attack with one battery. Roll your attacking die; the resulting number is the damage you do to your opponent’s battery (or shield).
The pool features many different dice to augment your set-up. All of them are beneficial, and every time you take something from the pool, you not only benefit yourself, but also hurt your opponent (by denying them that die). To keep the table orderly, I recommend setting up the pool something like this:
The following is an explanation of what these dice represent:
Attacking Dice: The attacking dice are all solid colors: red, yellow, blue. There are two of each color (1d6 and 1d8). These replace your default attacking dice (red, yellow, and blue d4s). The d8s are better than the d6s, and both are better than the default. After drawing an attacking dice, Trash your default one and set the new attacking die in the appropriate battery.
During the course of the game, you can take two of the same color attacking dice (for example, the red d6 and red d8). However, you only keep the highest one (d8) and Trash the d6. While grabbing both attacking dice of the same color doesn’t give you an advantage over having just the d8, it does put your opponent at a disadvantage, as she will be stuck with the default attacking die of that color.
You can use an attacking die the same turn you draw it.
Shields: The translucent dice (red, yellow, blue, and black) are shields that protect your batteries. Shields must be eliminated before the battery itself takes damage (the translucent green dice). There are two shields for each battery color: translucent red, yellow, and blue d10 and d12.
The translucent black dice (d12, d20) are overall shields. You can place them either in front of your colored shields, or behind them. If they are in front, then the black shield must be eliminated before damage is done to the colored shields. If the black shield is behind the colored shields, then the colored shields take damage first.
You can have two of the same shield color (for example, two yellow shields). This will give you an advantage over your opponent, as he will not have that color shield and his battery will be unprotected.
When shields are destroyed, remaining damage does not carry over to the next shield or to the battery’s health. For example, if you have a blue shield on your blue battery with 1 hit point left, and your opponent rolls a 5 (with a yellow attacking die), the blue shield is destroyed, and the remaining 4 damage is lost.
Potions: The four solid green dice (1d6, 2d8, and 1d10) are called potions. These heal your batteries’ health (translucent green d12s). When you use a potion, you do not roll: you get the full allotment of that potion. For example, if the health of your yellow battery is at 6, and you use the solid green d6, you gain 6 hit points back, bringing the health of the yellow battery back up to 12.
If you go over the 12 point cap, the remaining health is lost. For example, if the health of your yellow batter is at 8, and you use the solid green d6, you gain 4 hit points back and lose the remaining 2 from the potion.
You do not have to use potions on the turn that you draw them. If you use a potion, you cannot attack that turn. You can only use one potion per turn. This might put you at a slight disadvantage, as you don’t get to inflict damage on your opponent. However, because the potion dice are always used in full, they are a “guaranteed” maximum roll.
The d10 is the best potion; the d6 is the worst. After using a potion, Trash it.
Polish: The four solid gray/black dice (1d4, 2d6, and 1d8) are called polish. Whereas potions heal the batteries’ health, polish heals shields (translucent red, yellow, blue, or black). Polish works the same way as potions. You never roll polish; you always get the full allotment. You do not have to use polish on the turn that you draw them. If you use polish, it is in lieu of attacking that round. You can only use one polish per turn. If you heal your shields to maximum and the polish hasn’t been exhausted yet, the extra hit points are lost; they don’t carry over to the next shield.
The d8 is the best polish; the d4 is the worst. After using a polish, Trash it.
Off to the side of the play area, put your Trashed dice. Trashed dice include spent potions and polish; attacking dice that are no longer relevant due to augmented attacking dice; destroyed shields; and destroyed batteries (translucent green). Once a die is in the Trash, it cannot be removed.
Play ends when one player has destroyed two of the opponent’s batteries (best two out of three). Once a battery is destroyed, it can no longer attack.
For example, Player 1 first destroys Player 2’s blue battery. Player 2’s blue battery can no longer attack; hence Player 1’s red battery is forever safe (blue attacks red).
Player 2 then uses his red battery to destroy Player 1’s yellow battery (red attacks yellow).
Player 1 now has a red battery and a blue battery. Player 1 can attack Player 2’s yellow battery with his red battery, or can attack Player 2’s red battery with his blue battery.
Player 2 now has a red battery and a yellow battery. Player 2 can attack Player 1’s blue battery with his yellow battery, or can attack Player 1’s blue battery with his red battery.
The game takes 15 minutes to play the first time through, then 10-12 minutes once players are comfortable. To extend the playtime, we often play best 2/3 (entire games).
Opening Move Example
The game begins: the Bottom Player goes first. Bottom Player starts by taking a die from the Pool: the translucent red d12 (shield). The shield is placed in front of his red battery with the 12 facing up.
Next, Bottom Player attacks, using any of the attacking dice (d4s). He uses the solid red d4 to attack Top Player’s yellow battery. He rolls a 1. Top Player turns his yellow battery’s hit marker from 12 to 11.
Top Player’s turn. He grabs the translucent black shield (d20) from the pool and places it in front of his batteries (20-side face up). He then attacks Bottom Player’s red battery with his blue attacking die. He rolls a 2. Bottom Player’s red shield takes 2 damage (changes from 12 to 10).
In the early game, there are many good moves to do. Many people like to grab the black shields, as they provide some protection while players set up the rest of their colored shields. Other good opening moves are to grab the attacking d8s, and attack an opponent’s open battery before she gets a shield set up.
If you get a lucky attack and roll the maximum, you can really derail your opponent’s plans, as he will be forced to decide if he wants to shield that battery, heal it, or press on building up another battery.
It can also be advantageous to grab two of the same color shields, as that ensures that your battery is very well protected, and ensures that opponent’s battery of that color will never get protection beyond the black shields.
By the time the pool is exhausted, both players will likely have all three batteries still in place, albeit with some damage on them.
In this set up, Bottom Player has a red shield and a red attacking die, and has taken some damage to the yellow and blue batteries. Top Player is in a better position with more shields set up and 2d8 attacking dice. Top Player’s batteries have taken almost no damage.
The mid game is about setting yourself up for the end game. You’ll want upgraded attacking die, as many shields as you can, and maybe a few potions or polish.
Once the pool runs out, the game moves much quicker. At this point in the game, it’s all about attacking your opponent as effectively as possible.
Because there is no pool, each player only attacks (or uses a potion or polish in lieu of attacking). This part of the game can be very exciting, as you’ll want to use your best battery to destroy your opponent’s battery before they have a chance to destroy your good batteries.
The mid game is about using strategy to give yourself the best set-up and to deprive your opponent of useful dice. The end game is about calculated luck. The tide of the game can really change. Just because somebody has a d4 attacking dice doesn’t mean they’ll lose against a battery with d8 attacking dice. The person with the d8s might roll 1 or 2 several times in a row, while the person with the d4 might roll three 4s in a row!
I’ve playtested this game with a few people now and so far it’s proven to be a fast, enjoyable game for two. The hardest part about playing this game is gathering the appropriate dice. If you have lots of polyhedral dice, feel free to swap colors around. Maybe you have pink, purple, and white attacking dice instead of red, yellow, and blue.
One important note about the colors is that the solids and transparents are important. I use solid colors to denote positive actions: solid colors for healing, and solid colors for attacking. I use translucent dice for shields and battery health. Finally, your batteries should have a visual relationship with all parts, meaning the attacking dice and shield colors should be congruent.
If you want to gather your dice and play this game, I’d really appreciate your thoughts! If, during the course of play, you find a situation that the rules did not anticipate, let me know and I’ll write a clarification.
If you have thoughts for additional rules, changes to the pool balance, or ideas about other dice to add to the pool, let me know.