Space Invaders Dice!

Did you think you killed all those space invaders back in 1978? Well, think again - those pesky pixel aliens are at it again, and YOU are humanity's last hope. However, this time you're armed with a handful of dice instead of an arcade control panel. Space Invaders Dice! is a roll-and-write game designed to emulate the classic 1978 Space Invaders arcade game by Taito. Do you have what it takes to take out the incoming enemy swarm, destroy the high-value UFOs, and avoid getting destroyed? Only time (and playing the game) will tell...
Synopsis: In Space Invaders Dice!, players attempt to get points by destroying the swarm of space invaders. Players roll attack dice to see what invaders they can target on their player sheet; the catch is that invaders must be destroyed in order from the bottom of the sheet to the top. If a player cannot use a die (either because it's an X or because they don't have access to the indicated invader), they must take a penalty. The game ends when the swarm is annihilated or when a certain number of penalties are taken. If a player is quick to the trigger, they might be able to take out a high-value UFO before it flies away. The player with the highest score obtained from destroying invaders, gets their name on the leaderboard.

Designer: Daryl Andrews

Publisher: Turn One Gaming Supplies

Player Count: Like most roll-and-write games, Space Invaders Dice! is essentially a solo game with very little player interaction, so I think it plays best with 1-2 players. The box says 1-4 players but recommends having multiple copies if you play with more than 3 players; you could technically you can play it with as many players as you want, but that's just silly.

Game Length: The game plays in 10-15 minutes per player. The more players, the longer the game, hence my recommendation to play with less players.
Space Invaders Dice! plays over a series of rounds until a player has beaten all the space invaders or a player has used up their penalty squares. Each round is made of a few phases: Setup, Roll Attack Dice, Reroll Dice, and Eliminate UFO. To start the game, each player receives a player sheet showing the invading swarm. I'll explain the solo game here, and then at the end, I'll go into the minor changes for more players.

During the Setup phase, the Laser Dice are rolled to set which 3 columns will be blocked this round (i.e., you can't shoot invaders in that column). Role 2 dice, sum them up, and place a die in the column corresponding to the sum. Repeat. Finally, role the last die and place it in the corresponding column.


Start the Roll Attack Dice Phase by calculating how many Attack Dice you get to role; you start with a maximum dice pool of 8 dice but lose 1 die for every 2 empty columns. If you have successfully targeted all invaders in a column, that column is considered empty. The first column counts as an empty column, and the UFOs are ignored when determining if a column is empty.

Role the attack dice and use them as follows:
  • Blue Ship: Cross out a blue invader
  • Green Ship: Cross out a green invader
  • Blue/Green Ship: Cross out a blue or green invader
  • Pink Ship: Cross out a pink invader
  • Green Shield: Remove a laser die allowing you to now shoot into that column
  • Red X: No effect
Take note of the following firing rules:
  • Spaced invaders must be destroyed from bottom to top
  • You cannot fire into a blocked column
  • When you reach the UFO (red), any ship die can be used to destroy it
  • When the UFO is destroyed, roll the point value die to determine how much it is worth (50-300 points)
If you cannot use a die (either because the die is an X or because the invader color shown is not available), you must take a penalty or reroll the die. To take a penalty, cross out one of the blank or UFO squares around the left, top, or bottom of the sheet (but don't take any points when crossing out a UFO). Rerolling may reveal useable dice, thereby avoiding a penalty, but deciding to reroll carries a greater risk.

Reroll the chosen dice and play them as described before; however, this time around, for each die you cannot place, you must take a double penalty (cross off two squares).


At the end of the round, you must cross out a UFO for no points. This simulates the UFOs flying away before you had a chance to hit them.

When all the invaders are destroyed or all the penalty spaces are filled, the game ends. Calculate your points based on how many invaders were destroyed (Blue - 10 points, Green - 20 points, Pink - 30 points, UFO/Red - Variable).

When playing with more than 1 player, the game plays mainly the same with players taking turns as described above, however, there are a few changes. A UFO is not destroyed at the end of each round, but when a player shoots down a UFO, all other players must cross out the same ship on their player sheets for no points. The game end condition is the same as the solo game, but it applies to each player individually (i.e. all players will not finish the game at the same time). If a player clears the whole invader swarm, they get a bonus 100 points.
My Opinion
What I Like
The Nostalgia: The game is straight-up Space Invaders. The invader artwork, ship value, and ship formation are exactly the same as the arcade game. It also has the feel of Space Invaders; Space Invaders wasn't the most exciting game, and neither is this. To be fair, this is a bit of forced/imagined nostalgia on my part, as I wasn't around during the Space Invader heyday.

The Tension Ratcheting Up: The first few rounds of the game are pretty boring (roll, mark some things off, repeat) but once columns start emptying and you begin to have less dice, there is a bit more tension. My normal MO is to always reroll regardless of the double penalty risk, but there are times I have to hold myself back to avoid an early death.
What I Dislike
The Rulebook: The rulebook is horrible! The game is easy to play and teach, but the rules were not clear from the rulebook. The organization needs work, and there are several key rules that are only told in a component description, not in the gameplay section. Plus, there are spelling mistakes littered throughout. Come on! A simple review could've solved a lot of these issues.

The Randomness: There are limited decisions to be made in Space Invaders Dice! and even fewer tough decisions, but I can live with that for a simple dice game. What really bugs me is that at the end of the game the bulk of points come from the UFOs, which have a broad score range. The entire fleet of invaders scores 990 points and each UFO can score anywhere from 50 points to 300 points. That balance and score range aren't correct.

The Shields: The shields which block the columns are way too fiddly for the value they add to the game. In my experience, they rarely impact what I'm doing; it's only in the last round or two that they may block the column I need to target. For such little impact, players still need to be managing them every turn, which can be annoying.
Final Thoughts
I had fun with Space Invaders, but it's not the greatest game. When it comes down to it, Space Invaders Dice! delivers what it advertises. It is Space Invaders in dice form, so if you're super into Space Invaders, you might what to check this out (especially for the low price). However, it doesn't offer anything beyond the Space Invaders theme, and there are better options for clever, quick, and solo-able dice games. If you really like Space Invaders, you might want to check out these nifty Space Invaders Dice Turn One sells; I think I like them more than the actual game.