First Thoughts – Curing Cuboids!

I’ve played Dice Hospital twice so far and felt this was a suitable time to give my first impressions of this medically themed worker placement game.

Dice Hospital

So, players start with their nice shiny new hospital and draft ambulances filled with patients (dice) to fill it. Using their initial nurses and any specialists they may have gained, they ‘heal’ the dice with the outlook of getting them back out on the street, thus earning lots of point That’s it in a very small nutshell!

It certainly came across as very simplistic, at least at the start, but I soon realised that there were some nicely interwoven mechanisms at work here, which presented a pretty puzzle when it came to discharging lots of healthy dice all at the same time.

First up, there was the ambulance draft. The first player takes first pick, but can’t pick ambulance 1, which holds the dice closest to deaths door (the dice are arranged in order, 2 to 5, to be placed in the ambulances). This in itself takes some thought, as your aim is to discharge a high number of patients all in one go to maximise your score, so you need to think how the dice held by the ambulance are going to work with those already in your hospital. The other tasty bit about the ambulance draft was that it also decides who takes over as first player – the person who drafted the lowest number ambulance.

In a 2-player game you have three ambulances to choose from.

After the intake of patients, it’s time to upgrade your hospital, and whoever took the lowest ambulance, and gained the first player token, takes first pick. The choice is any one from a number of specialists and departments and will often be decided by the patients you have already in your hospital, as we shall see.

Some of the specialists you could choose.

The next phase is the hospital activation, and this is done by all players simultaneously, which greatly speeds things up. Here, you place a worker in a department and do the action indicated. If you placed a specialist, then there may be additional actions you can take as indicated on their card. Now here’s the meat of the game, and it gets quite juicy, like an unrested steak. The actions you take will heal a number of dice, depending on the department and worker. Healing a die will increase its number by an amount, and when their value would exceed 6 then they are fully healed and moved to the discharge lounge. There are, and this is the where the puzzling really begins, departments and specialists that heal more than one die at a time, but usually there’s a catch, such as they must be the same number and/or colour, or even consecutive numbers.

My first three patients!

As you can probably guess, this is where the old grey matter starts to overheat as you plot and plan how to get dice of the right colours to the right values in order to treat the most at once – you can heal a die more than once per turn – any untreated dice at the end of this phase, referred to as neglected patients, gets their value downgraded by 1. If they’re reduced to zero, then I’m afraid their time has come, and they get removed from the board – a fatality token is then placed in your mortuary!

Green 3 is feeling a little neglected!

The final phase, shift change, sees the workers reset, as well as the dice returned to the untreated area of the board. New cards are drawn for the development phase of the game and things restart over, up until the end of the 8th round when final scoring is carried out.

Let’s return to that meaty bit. I had a great time here, and in the few games I played, I started to understand the intricacies of using the departments and specialists to heal and, often more importantly, knowing which patients to neglect to reduce them to a usable number for next turn. You must think a turn ahead to make the most of the resources you have. It was a joy when I used a department to heal a couple of dice of the same colour and then used a specialist to heal another colour but bring it to the same value. Then use another department to heal them all – you have to look for the order in things and it can take some working out, which could lead to a bit of analysis paralysis for some, but at least it’s all done simultaneously.

The first game was all about learning these intricacies and seeing how the specialists worked with the departments. The second game took this further, and I started to get a feel for tactics – should I try and lean heavily on bringing in dice of the same colour, or get a spread and develop my hospital to cater for them all? I went for the former and almost doubled the score of my first game, but it will take many more to try the various combinations on offer.

Discharging patients is how you bring in the victory points, and the more you kick out of the door at once the more you score, it isn’t linear, discharge 4 and score 7, 6 gives 11, and discharging a whopping 12 will return 35 points.

Discharging this lot earned me a paltry 5 points!

Administrators can score you additional points for meeting their criteria, such as discharging at least 2 greens or discharging more than everyone else. I need to play more, but my initial feelings about these administrators is one of unbalance. If you have the one that gives an additional point if you discharged at least 2 greens (there are three different colours of dice) then that seems easier than the one that sees you having to discharge at least one of each colour or discharging the most in the round – I’ll have a better idea when I come to review the game.

Here, if at least 2 of my discharged patients are green I score an extra point.

There wasn’t a lot of player interaction, with the ambulance draft and hospital improvement phase being the only real opportunity to influence what others are doing, but even here it was limited in what could be achieved. This isn’t a problem, just an observation as many games suffer the same, and a lot of people don’t mind this at all, myself included. It does give a good indication to what the solo game will be like, though it is the type where you’re just aiming to better your score, not my favourite way to play solo, I’d much prefer trying to beat an AI opponent or advance a storyline, but if the game presents a real challenge, then it could see plenty of play.

There are a few optional rules, such as adding event cards (we’ll use these next play), a hard mode, and a variant called final round collections, which sees you sending out your remaining patients to other hospitals, scoring points for matching numbers and colours in the ambulances.

So, after a couple of plays I think there’s a decent game here and I’m looking forward to exploring it further. I don’t think it’s a particularly deep game, as once you’ve got the gist of it then it’s just a case of using the worker actions in the right order for the particular dice you have, I don’t, however, intend to imply that this will be easy, and it should present a pretty puzzle. I can’t see the number of players making much of a difference to how it plays, other than the first player having a greater choice when it comes to choosing ambulances and development tiles/specialists, and I can’t see it adding much to the game time either, which came in under an hour for both my games.

Dice Hospital
Nurses and specialists hard at work.

I’ll get around to reviewing it at some point in the near future, after several more games, playing the variants, and, of course, a good run at playing solo, but until then, everything seems to be in good health!

13 thoughts on “First Thoughts – Curing Cuboids!

  1. This looks awesome and would be great fun to play with my girlfriend, who’s a nurse LOL! Thanks for this post, I’ll probably get the game at some point!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Mmm… I’m sure she’d appreciate it, be interesting to she how she deals with withholding treatment to make her patients worse in order to get a better score next turn, lol!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re talking about someone who, when doing her nursing degree, wanted to practice giving injections on me LOL! I’m sure she could find a way to accidentally give her dice some crappy treatment 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Injections! I’d have run a mile!

        Like

  2. Plenty of opportunity for black humour here, esp. during covid times. ‘Neglected patients’? Surely not. Is there a ‘corridor’ tile you can add to the hospital?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re dead right there!
      Not a ‘corridor’ tile as such, but it does feel like that’s what you’re doing when you don’t treat the patients… almost like you’re ‘dicing with death’! 🤣

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Great review Justin

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Does sound like it’s more involved than you might think at first glance, with quite a few subtle variations on play! 🙂 Sounds good!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not the deepest of games but certainly makes you think 🤯

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed reading this as I’ve been researching board games to play and have seen quite a few popular worker placement games that are well-liked and recommended. I’ve never played Euro-style board games before because I fear that I won’t enjoy them. I don’t like doing math all that much for example and theme and narrative are king for me. But to hear about how much you’re enjoying this one certainly piques my interest! Who knows, maybe I’ll give one a try in the future.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There are Euro games and there are EURO games. I think if you start out with those that have some theme and are on the light side, such as Dice Hospital or Viticulture, then you’d probably enjoy them. If you hit the ones such as Lisboa or The Gallerist straight off then you may find them overwhelming and that would kill the genre for you.
      As for math… I love Math but I think you can have a good time playing these games without having to resort to working the odds, just play by instinct, it works for my daughter!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for sharing your perspective on this. I will keep those games in mind for the future as well! I’ll talk a bit more about this in my next post so I won’t spoil too much here but I think I might try and dip my toes into some games and genres I’ve never played so we’ll how that goes.

        Liked by 1 person

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