Category: Rating


Electric

Look at me being late with this again. I swear, I’m not trying to do this, it just sort of keeps happening. Busy with work. Busy with other stuff.  But I’m here now and I’ve got dice to talk about. These guys are Dice Envy’s Electric set, initially from this January’s subscription box, you can currently get your hands on a set of them at the site. Let’s roll!

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The entire black and yellow electric theming for the Electric dice set is something I enjoy, like it makes me think of Saturday morning cartoon rival characters and comic books and any number of things that are a little silly to associate with this particular set of dice but that make me smile nonetheless. What can I say, some times it doesn’t take much to make me happy.

The little lightning bolts that surround the numbers bring the dice character without making them so busy that they can’t be easily read. Which is helped along by the contrast between the black and yellow. Much more, I feel, on the main set than on the mostly yellow advantage d20 but the contrast is good and most of the set winds up being highly readable from a good distance. The exception here being the d20s and that is mostly down to the size of the numbers for them rather than a pattern flaw.

Electric Boogaloo 2

The inking is done in a thick paint that has a few pits or cracks throughout the set, but it doesn’t seem like it’s in danger of falling out or wearing away any time soon. The material used though does mean that, if I wanted to, I’m not sure I would be able to re-ink these without prying the existing paint out and risking damaging the dice. Not a real concern for me, but I also kind of want a set in black and blue now.

As to feel, they’re pretty standard for acrylic dice. There’s the occasional rough bit from the inking that’s texturally interesting. They’re nice and light and seem to roll well, no notable favored sides with this set. So definitely enjoyable to use.

Electric Boogaloo 1

So, of course I love this set. They look nice. They feel nice. Even with the inability to reink it if I chose, the Electric set is just overall one that I enjoy. So it gets a five out of five.

I really want to use this set for an engineer or hacker rapscallion type in Starfinder or maybe build my own Tracer and go for a speedy tech rogue. They do feel more sci-fi than fantasy for me despite having the advantage die for 5e, so it would definitely have to be a sci-fi campaign either way.

So, guess who got hit with a fun little dose of anxiety about actually starting her new job back on Wednesday. It’s me. I spent so much time getting up and looking for things to do that I got just about nothing done. All the same though, I’m happy to share this one with you all. The nice folks at Tor Teen sent it to me ages ago and I’m finally talking about it. By an author I’ve reviewed several times before, Ann Aguirre, this is Heartwood Box. Enjoy!

Heartwood Box cover

Araceli Flores Harper’s parents sent her to live with her great aunt Ottillie for her own safety. On paper, the town is safer than nearly anywhere Araceli could possibly be. No crime. No outward threats. But people, her great uncle included, have been disappearing for years with no trace found. That’s concerning enough on its own. But between her new pen pal from World War 1 and the disappearance of her best friend Araceli will need to dig deep into the town’s mysteries for the truth regardless of the danger.

Ann Aguirre’s Heartwood Box does an interesting job of balancing the mystery of what causes the disappearances and Araceli’s attempts to figure them out and the sort of romance across time between Araceli and Oliver.

Aguirre is one of those authors that I adore with major exception to how she writes romance, Heartwood Box is a fascinating exception to that. Something, I think, about how she balances the romance against the plot and Araceli’s feelings about other characters. The plot is allowed to happen without being entirely devoured by the romance. As the plot gets more serious it feels like Araceli leans more heavily on the impossible romance with Oliver. And yet, the only thing that feels lost to the romance was the possible love triangle with the boy next door class clown, Logan, which did not feel like a loss at all given the characters involved.

It actually becomes difficult to talk more about the plot, beyond going over how it balances with the romance, without spoiling the climax. Which is a bit frustrating because the real mystery only kicks in later in the book, the first half or so of the story is introduction and lead up. And yet, it is introduction and lead up that is done well enough that I was almost disappointed when the end started getting closer. I was enjoying seeing Araceli trying to figure out how she was communicating with Oliver, seeing her finding out more about the town, even her interactions with Logan made for good character work and made him feel like more of a character than just the third wheel guy. The character work over all is good actually, I enjoyed reading the interactions between Araceli and her friends. I wanted to see more of them, more of their stories, it made for great side characters because they felt solid and like they had their own stories going on off page.

My problem, if I had a problem at all, with Heartwood Box is the ending. Trying not to go too far into it, it feels way beyond Araceli’s scope. By nature of the narrative and the book to that point, the reader has to stick with Araceli for the ending but then the things that happened seem vastly out of step with what both the reader and Araceli herself know and could expect. It leaves her feeling unmoored in a way that could easily have been the start of a completely different story. This is definitely a matter of necessity, again the reader has to stick with her or it would be way too jarring, but the difference has to be tremendous enough for the reader to get the sheer magnitude of how much changed from the comparatively small scope of Araceli’s life in this small town in New York. It is a trade off that I’m not entirely sure works, but acknowledge had to be made.

Which brings me to this, I liked Heartwood Box a great deal. It falls pretty far from my usual genre preferences but the characters were interesting and the mystery was well constructed enough that I got hooked. It reminded me of the parts of Ann Aguirre’s writing that I really enjoy and made me want to check out more of her YA works. So it earns a four out of five from me. If I felt more confident with the ending it would have gotten a five.

Running late with this. I had something important earlier in the day and just sort of checked out afterwards. It was an exciting thing, but kind of exhausting. Away from that and on to the dice, these guys are from Dice Envy, the Carina Nebulaset. Let’s roll!

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These dice are sharp as all get out. The red solid red and translucent black with its included glitter and the silver inking work together so nicely. The swirling folds of red in the black give this nice sense of depth, playing into the nebula theming. It kind of makes me want to just sit and turn them in my hands, there were no bad sides on any of the individual die.

The silver inking stands out fantastically against both colors, making them easy to read. They’re nice and fairly neat, there’s no places where the paint used comes out onto the dice themselves. Though there were a couple odd places where it looked like a little extra paint had dripped into the numbers themselves. It doesn’t effect reading them and it doesn’t seem to effect the way they roll, so no real issue just interesting. I’m left curious how it got that way.

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As is expected of acrylic dice, the Carina Nebula set feel nice in hand and roll enjoyably well. It almost feels like there’s a little bit of bounce to them, which is fun. They don’t seem to have favorite sides. There’s plenty of random chance to how these dice land so they should be more than fair for game night.

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I would like these dice even if they didn’t roll acceptably for game night though. The Carina Nebula set is just so pretty that it makes me want to find one of those jumbo d20s in this style to add to my display set. It also makes me want to get my hands on one of the other sets that are in this same general style but different colors to see if they all turn out this well. I give them a five out of five.

I’m thinking that I would wind up using these for a spell caster of some sort, probably a sorcerer or a warlock. Something that has an inborn or traded for style of magic rather than a learned style. Maybe a character that splashed rogue in with the casting class. It’s the swirls and the glitter I think.

So, this was something I’ve been excited for for a good while. I’ve covered Cerberus’ #DICE4MASKS campaign before, because it still feels like a really awesome thing for them to be doing. Now these guys are randomized between something like a hundred different sets, so it’s pretty exciting to have gotten a color and style I like as much as I do these. All that said, let’s roll!

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I don’t generally bring much attention to the bag for things like this, but I liked the design and that the bags are meant to be reusable. They feel a little flimsy compared to the cloth ones I’m used to, but they reseal well and made it through shipping no problem.

We’re here for what’s in the bag though, so on to the dice. I do not know what this set is called, but I do know that I like the look of them.

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As ever, I am a fan of sparkly things, so the combination of green and silver foil glitter is much appreciated. There’s actually so much color from the glitter and enough of it that the clear acrylic takes on a pale green color as well, which is delightful for me. Plus, it manages this without feeling busy, which is also appreciated.

Part of that not feeling busy is probably down to the inking being in that nice contrasting gold. The inking itself is nicely clean. There weren’t any notable over fill places and the places where the inking is thin are uniformly down to being places where the glitter came through the acrylic. Those places aren’t noticeable from table distance though and the numbering seems to be the only place where the glitter has come through, so it isn’t a tremendous complaint.

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In hand, they feel as nice as any other standard set of acrylic dice could be expected to. Again, there aren’t any strange places from the glitter coming through. They don’t seem to have favorite sides, so it can be assumed that they’re acceptably random for game night.

I like this set of dice. They’re a nice color combination and read easily, even in the comparative low light I’m in now. I do have that quibble about the foil peaking through in the numbers, which loses it some, but the numbers are deeply cut enough that it doesn’t effect the feel of the dice in hand. Plus, I like that I felt like I’d done something nice ordering these guys. I give this set a four out of five.

As to what kind of character I would use them for. I think I’m going to use them for my upcoming tiefling bard. The sparklies are a nice tie in for bardish flamboyance, while the green ties in nicely with the earth and flower tones I want to use for her dice.

So this is a review that I did not feel entirely comfortable with the writing of. I did not read the first book, Echos, so things felt more than a little disconnected. I do want to thank the nice folks at Entangled Teen for sending me an ecopy of this for review. This is Alice Reeds’ Fractures. Enjoy!

Fractures cover

Miles and Fiona survived the island. Survived a bear. Their rescue by the FBI should have taken them to safety, a new home and new identities. Instead they were taken to a villa in Poland where everyone has strange expectations for them. Instead they find themselves on a freighter in the middle of the ocean with no food or water. If they want to survive and maybe even stop whoever is behind all of this, Miles and Fiona will have to work together and remember all that has been done to them.

I confess that I did not realize that Alice Reeds’ Fractures was the second book in a series until I was around a third of the way through. I had assumed that the aspects that made it feel like a sequel were a deliberate stylistic choice to leave the reader as lost as the main characters were. I was about it, it felt like a cool idea that could have paid off really well. For obvious reasons it did not pay off, this is the second in a series and that realization was part of what started my path towards losing interest in what was going on.

Fractures feels very like a middle book in that everything feels like set up for something later in the series. It moves very slowly with long spans of Miles worrying over his relationship with Fiona or angsting over his brother or how poorly his father thinks of him. Those stretches of internal concerns made Miles a protagonist I just could not get into, he felt so whiny and constantly down on himself that it felt difficult to keep reading at times, like he should have had another solid book worth of character development rather than just retreading the same beats over and over.

Having missed the first book, the antagonists here seemed like their whole plot was poorly worked out. What the protagonists, and thus the reader, find out is interesting but thin. We get an end goal but not much on how the process is meant to work or why. That could work on a level of keeping the protagonists on their back foot until everything came together. But then things never so much come together as the solution gets dumped into the protagonists’ laps less through their actions and more because the book needed to end. It feels like the plot boiled down to nothing and then tied up far too quickly and too neatly for things to actually be over.

There was a lot that could have been interesting here or well done if given a little more attention. Miles aside, the characters show promise. The antagonists are this huge organization that has been picking out and buying specific teenagers to do military experiments on and everything is shadowy and mysterious and so much could have been explained better. The antagonists could have been so much more threatening if the reader was given more reason to believe that the characters were in danger or if the villa felt more locked down than it did. Even the romance could have been better if the reader was shown Miles making the effort to show Fiona that he cares rather than just thinking about how much he loves her over and over. The bit with their files could have had a much bigger effect if it actually affected the characters rather than Miles just talking about how worried it made him and how it was clearly affecting Fiona too.

Fractures winds up having a lot of things that should have been minor issues adding up to something unenjoyable. I found Miles utterly worthless as a protagonist. The antagonists were bland and flatly villainous. It is the kind of book that I am certain would have been more enjoyable if I had read the first in the series, but I also have no intention of going back and reading the first book. I could probably be convinced to read Alice Reeds again later in her career but for now, Fractures gets a two out of five from me.

Ghibli Dice Set

Another Monday, another chance to talk about dice. I don’t really have anything else to put here, so let’s get into it. These are Dice Envy’s Ghibli set. Let’s roll!

Ghibli 1

Blues and greens and sparkly things are all qualities that make me happy when it comes to dice. The Ghibli dice set has all three of those things in concert if not in abundance. This is a set that combines a deep blue base with thin swirls of teal and enough micro glitter to make the whole thing sort of remind me of a night at the beach. I will note that, while the glitter is much more impressive in real life, the teal green stands out more in the pictures.

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The gold stands out really well against the blue, meaning that the Ghibli set reads easily from where ever they land. The inking is crisp and clean with no noticeable spill over or thin spots. I find myself happy to leave the inking on this set alone rather than thinking about other colors I might use on it, so bonus.

These dice roll nicely and don’t seem to have preferred sides, so they’re definitely random enough to use in game. Hand feel is good and they roll well.

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I like the Ghibli dice set, I think I would have preferred more of the teal in them but that’s sort of a luck of the draw thing on swirled dice like this. The blue still looks good, especially with the gold inking, so it works out. There’s nothing bad I can think to say about them, five out of five.

I admit, they sort of make me want to use them for a sea side druid or, failing a campaign that would allow for that, maybe a fae pact warlock. Something that I could tie those lovely deep colors and the sparklies into.

Postponing this helped a lot, though I wish I hadn’t needed to. Things to work on for next week, right? Let’s get to the book though, here’s Claire O’Dell’s A Study in Honor. Enjoy!

A Study in Honor cover

Doctor Janet Watson lost her arm while working desperately to save injured soldiers on the front lines, ending her career both military and as a surgeon. Given honorable discharge and a partly functional mechanical prosthetic, she’s returned to Washington DC to find her way back to a normal life despite the political upheaval of the New Civil War and her own PTSD. Normal means a place to live, a more functional prosthetic, and a job. Normal means just about anything except Sara Holmes and the many many secrets she brings with her. Normal means that her patients should not be dying under suspicious circumstances, their records deleted within the day. Normal might mean having to work with her evasive and teasing roommate to follow the trail of suspicious deaths into something deeply dangerous, all in the name of justice.

I do not know what I expected when picking up Clair O’Dell’s A Study in Honor. The idea of a cyberpunk mystery using new versions of known characters appealed, though ultimately there is not much cyberpunk to it and the mystery is slow to arrive.

That is actually my biggest complaint about A Study in Honor, it is incredibly slow starting up. The first third or so of the book feels as long or longer than the entire rest of it. It has all of the introduction to the second Civil War, why it happened and how it is effecting things. It has Watson’s thoughts on the candidates for the upcoming presidential election and the promise and failings of the current president. It has Watson falling down a depression hole and just going through the motions of life for a time until the monotony of it is broken by a run in with an old army buddy and her introduction to Sara Holmes. All of this is important background, but it drags on and on. The official blurb does not really help this, given that it covers most of the book, which could easily make the slow start feel even more so. The plot really only starts after Watson has moved into apartment 2B and been given reason to suspect that Holmes is more than she seems.

Holmes herself feels like an oddity. Simultaneously charming and infuriating, Holmes spends much of the early book seemingly toying with Watson by playing a game of questions and half truths. She has some really concerning behavior at one point, it gets explained later in the book but still feels really off from a character Watson and the reader are meant to come to trust. There really never is a point where it feels like the reader could catch up to her even if the reader has figured out what will happen on their own. Her seemingly endless wealth of information and resources just puts her so far outside of what Watson could know that it feels in places like she is being dragged along by some force of nature as Sara Holmes jumps from clue to unknown clue, hauling the plot along with her.

All this feels far more negative than I entirely mean for it to. The plot is familiar enough to figure out what will happen and roughly in what order. The characters of Dr. Janet Watson and Sara Holmes are well written and consistent, Watson perhaps more so since she is the reader’s view into all of this. The background conflict of the New Civil War has far reaching consequences, both serving as the inciting incident for Watson’s return to Washington, DC as well as touching most every major plot point. It feels like a big dangerous thing rather than serving as an excuse for Watson to have been injured and honorably discharged from the army and then just dropped.

Overall, I enjoyed A Study in Honor and I look forward to the follow up, I also appreciate though that A Study in Honor feels like a complete story on its own. I would read more of O’Dell’s writing. So, while it loses a little bit for me due to how slow it starts, I give A Study in Honor a four out of five.

 

So this is the first set of dice I’ve received from my Libris Arcana subscription. It’s also the last set of dice before their Premium subscription flips over to being mostly exclusive resin sets. We’ll see how that starts off later in the month. For now, let’s roll!

Ice Steel 1

So, the combination of a deep blue and the silvery grey are already something I knew I liked. It’s a good combination and works especially well with the translucent blue here. The way the two colors are folded around each other gives a sense of depth and the impression that there are more shades of blue than were actually used. If the light catches them just right the blue almost seems to shine.

The inking is highly visible and quite neat, with no major thin spots that I could see or places where it had been over filled. Full points there. I do sort of find myself wishing that it complemented either the blue or silver a little more, but anything I come up with wouldn’t be as readable as what’s already there. And it does have the effect of contrasting with the swirling colors of the dice, leaving a sense of something like controlled chaos. I might be being a bit poetic there, but I do like it.

Ice Steel 2

The dice feel nice in hand and do not seem to have any preferred sides. There seems to be a little less bounce to them than some sets I have, they like to hit the table and stop. So it might be worth using a dice cup or just shaking them more to ensure more fair rolls.

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Overall, I really liked the Ice Steel set. The colors are good, the feel is good, the inking is well done, and if I ever decide I want to re-ink them there shouldn’t be any issues with doing so. They get a five out of five and I’m left excited to see what comes next.

As to what sort of character I want to use these for, I think I would go paladin. Assuming that I’m using this character for Pathfinder, I’d probably lean towards a neutral good paladin of Shelyn, the goddess of art, love, and beauty. Assuming Dungeons and Dragons, I might lean towards Tyr and make a paladin who came into it from a less than savory back ground, do the whole path of redemption and justice thing while still being able to interact with my game group’s generally chaotic tone.

Special bonus, the Libris Arcana Premium subscription comes with a bonus die from their “big bucket o’ random dice” that could be any number of things. Mine this time was a Joe Fixit die from Marvel Dice Masters. It’s a fun extra that leaves me curious about what’s going to be included next time more than anything.

 

OGND Dice

I have been busy today. I got some gardening done while the sun was out, got some cleaning done, all that fun stuff. Now I get to talk about dice! These are Dice Envy’s OGND set. If you like them, you can use the promo code NOTEARS for 10% 0ff your order. Let’s roll!

OGND 1

OGND is sort of a throw back to the dice available in the 80’s when D&D first came out, so they’re pretty simple and straightforward. Red acrylic, white inking, though the acrylic itself does have some variation in color. I’m fairly certain that variation is on purpose to make the set seem a little more like the mismatched sets from back in the day.

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The white inking is a good continuation of the simple throw back idea and it’s nicely visible against the red acrylic. The inking is well done, no notable over or under fill, I didn’t notice any major thin spots. It works.

As expected for acrylic dice the OGND set feels nice in hand and does not seem to have preferred sides when rolled. So they roll acceptably randomly.

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All in all, I like this set. It’s way different from most of the sets I collect, given its simplicity, but I like the differences in the dice and how clear the inking is. As a retro throw back the OGND set is basic in the best way, with super clear numbers and nice casting. So they get a five out of five from me.

As to what kind of character I would use these for, I’m thinking a Human Fighter, probably Lawful or Neutral Good. I’d probably go for a sword and board build, something that would let me tank.

Alpha Dice Set

I missed the first round of Dice Envy’s Alpha dice set, so it was a long wait to see if they would be remade. This being Dice Envy’s first Kickstarter set it seemed likely that it would happen eventually, especially in light of the company’s anti-FOMO stance. The wait was worth it I think. Let’s roll!

Alpha 1

I like the starkness of the black and white on the Alpha dice. The movement lines on most of the numbers offer a dramatic flair while the high numbers on most of the dice have what looks like targeting sights, which feels excellent on nat 20s as a nice bit of extra confirmation. I would have liked to see the same pattern on the d10 and percent dice, while they still look cool the lack of the sights on the high numbers makes them feel a little less than the other dice. Even the d4, something that cannot follow the pattern due to its shape, had the pattern adjusted to make it work better there.

Alpha 2

The inking on these is interesting, the numbers and pattern have been filled until they’re level with the rest of the die rather than the engraved numbers having been painted. This results in the dice being texturally interesting. The filling should be level, but there are places on many of the dice that it either sank in or was gouged out a bit somewhere along the lines. It winds up being a bit frustrating because I’m not sure how to fix it.

They do, as expected, roll well though. The d6 seems to have a little bit of a preference for its 3 side, but it is the only one and the preference is minor enough that I don’t think it would effect things to terribly much. The filled in inking does not seem to have any effect on the way the dice feel when rolling them, so they still feel quite nice to roll.

Alpha 3

I do feel like the Alpha dice set was worth the waiting for the restock. I like them quite a bit and find the pattern fun but not overly busy. They do lose a point with me for the issues with the inking, more because of how hard it would be for fix than just for the issues existing. So, Dice Envy’s Alpha set gets a four out of five from me, I’m left looking forward to the Omega set arriving on the website.

This is a bit of an odd set to decide what sort of character I would use them for. I definitely want to use them in Starfinder, Pathfinder’s science fiction sibling game, but I’m not certain which class I would go for, probably an android mechanic or technomancer. I might come back to this after DMing a game or two.