It was decades ago that I would sit in front of my PC and chuck in a disc of Theme Hospital to play. Staying up until the small hours curing comical diseases such as Bloaty Head and Slack Tongue. Oh my, it was good. So when I had the opportunity to play Dice Hospital with Gareth (aka @boardgamemeeple on Instagram) I jumped at the chance. I hoped that this would be the tabletop spiritual successor to the my much-loved video game. My first impression was so good, it instantly went on the ‘to own’ list and was duly delivered as a present from my family soon after.
I added the Deluxe Upgrade pack at the same time, as I am a tart when it comes to things like that. Some of the photos will display components from that just to warn you. What you’re probably wondering is how does it hold up after more plays, well that is what I am hear to tell you, so put on the blues and twos and buckle up for a board game review of Dice Hospital!
Give each player a starting board and three basic white nurse meeples. They will also need a coloured syringe of their player colour placed on the score track and beside them, in case they forget what colour they are! Also give them a reference card.
Depending on player count, some dice may need to be removed from the bag and also, set out the correct number of ambulances. Each player then draws three random dice and sets them to the pip values, three, four and five in the ward section of their board.
Shuffle the specialist cards and department tiles and place them near the play area. Also shuffle the Hospital Administrator cards and deal two to each player, keeping one and discarding the other. You are now ready to open the doors for more patients!
To win dice hospital you need to have the most points after eight rounds. You get points by discharging patients, i.e. healing a die to a value over 6. Having blood bags left at the end of the game will also give you points. You lose points by killing your patients, surprising huh? Fatalities are caused by allowing a die to fall below a pip value of one.
Each round of Dice Hospital is played over a series of phases. The first phase is patient intake. The first player randomly takes and rolls enough dice to fill each ambulance. These are placed on the ambulances in low to high pip value. When pip values match, the player to the right of the start player will choose which dice go where.
The second phase sees players choose a hospital improvement, a ‘Specialist’ granting an additional meeple or an additional room to treat patients in. The picking order is determined by which ambulance was chosen.
Hospital Activation is the third phase and this sees players moving nurses and specialists around their hospital to treat the dice patients. If a dice goes to a pip value above six they are discharged. Any dice not treated is deemed neglected and will be lowered in pip value during the fourth phase. The scoring of discharged patients is then done during the fifth phase. The final phase is the clean-up and reset phase ready for the next round.
Inside the box are some interesting ways to mix up the game and increase its difficulty. Adding in event cards or adopting the ‘Hard Mode’ suggestions in the rulebook offer different ways to play.
There is a solo mode included with Dice Hospital but I haven’t got time to indulge myself in solo play, but it is there for those that like to play with themselves.
What it’s like
Once players are familiar with the game it moves at an okay pace. The activation phase can be done simultaneously so this speeds things up. It may take a bit of getting used to the drafting of the dice and priority order at first, however I find it does click with people relatively quickly.
I really like the tantalising balance of whether to choose lower pip value dice to secure first pick of the specialist meeple or room with the added benefit of a blood bag or whether to take the easier to heal dice at the expense of forgoing first dibs.
The more patients you heal in a phase, the more points you can get. If you don’t have room in your hospital for new arrivals sacrifices will have to be made! So you will certainly be aiming to cure at least three patients after a few rounds. This can get really tense and it is at these moments I have to adopt my inner George Clooney to save all the dice! Blood bags can heal a patient so offer a good back up too.
People die in hospitals. The game reflects that by not being too punishing when a die dies. You only lose two points and sometimes, that terminally ill patient may have to be allowed to rest in peace, for the greater good of the hospital. I don’t feel good saying it but when you play it you’ll understand.
I like the way the hospital builds out in front of you. The three-dimensional feel to the rooms is cool too. The meeples with their massive terror-inducing needles are a little bit wobbly but their bright colours make up for it. The dice are equally bright and have a nice feel to them.
Although I was taught the game, time passed between the teach and the first game on my own. I did therefore utilise the rulebook and it is really good. The player aids are welcome too.
Blinging up my copy with the deluxe add-ons is something I won’t regret. It is all superficial but I like my board games with a bit of glamour! The grey lumps of plastic that resemble ambulances will one day be painted… honest! The wooden blood and death tokens are so much more tactile than the cardboard ones! Although the dice tower not fitting in the base game box is a bore, so that rarely gets used!
Final thoughts on Dice Hospital
There is hints towards the humour of Theme Hospital but it isn’t obvious. Dice Hospital is much more grown up in that regard. I forgive it for that, I just hoped for pangs of nostalgia when playing.
Games of Dice Hospital are often close. This adds to the requirement of triaging every round and dissecting every decision. I’m sure analysis paralysis will be an issue for some, I know I have stared blankly at my hospital in later rounds thinking, come on, what would Clooney do to save them all? Obviously try and sell them a coffee, but that’s not the point I am making here.
There isn’t lots of interaction, but deciding which ambulance to take and where to sit in turn order is important, also if you can see that your opponent struggles to heal yellow dice and there is an ambulance full of them, you know what you could do!
I love the exercise Dice Hospital gives my brain. It always feels like a proper work out for it. Things click together, patients get saved and the grey cells whir throughout. Overall the theme and the gameplay works really well in a pleasing, symbiotic way.
Number of players: 1 to 4
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 11+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 10+
Playing Time: 70 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 3 minutes
Designers: Stan Kordonskiy & Mike Nudd
Publisher: Alley Cat Games
This board game is great. It offers a lovely amount to think about. Games will regularly be tense and close. So if the thought of dicing with death, or perhaps more aptly deathing some dice appeals, be sure to check out Dice Hospital.
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Expansions and upgrades available
- Play moves quickly and often simultaneously
- Good components
- Theme is applied well
- Theme may not appeal
- Killing dice
- Could have more humour
Need more games?
If you already own Dice Hospital and enjoy it, or are looking for other inspiration, you might also like these similar games:
- Rajas of the Ganges
- Dice Theme Park
- The Red Cathedral
Buy Dice Hospital
If you want to buy Dice Hospital after reading our review click on one of our affiliate links below (note there has been no affiliate links until this point)
For clarity: we don’t get paid for our reviews. Not just that, we also paid for this game with our own money! We have tried not to let this affect our review in any way.
We may however earn a tincy wincy commission if you buy a game having clicked one of our affiliate links like the one above… this hopefully gives us a bit of pocket money towards hosting costs and new games to review!
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Board Game Review is a brand ambassador for Out of Town Games.
These affiliate advertising programs are designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to their websites.