{DD Boot Camp}

(Surveying the Terrain)

Getting the lay of the land

THe prime directive

As the focal point of any game of Dragon Dice, terrain provide several functions: they determine the actions available to armies at their location, they provide elemental energies to power faction abilities, and their eighth faces grant special powers to those who control them.

And of course they determine the winner, which is somewhat useful.


Your run-of-the-mill terrain dice come in six combinations of colors, each with four different eight-face icons, giving us a grand total of 24 options when building any force. Each of these six color combinations has a distinct progression of magic, missile, and melee faces, regardless of the eighth face chosen.

While it may seem obvious to choose terrain matching both colors of an army, there are several more considerations to be made, so let's dig in and see what we discover.


Coastlands - preferred home of the Coral Elves - are comprised of Blue (Air) and Green (Water) elements. Coastlands allow magic only on the first face, with missile on faces 2-5 and melee faces on 6-7.


Highlands - home to the Dwarves - contain the Red (Fire) and Yellow (Earth) elements. They grant magic on faces 1-3, missile on faces 4-5, and melee on the last two faces.


Composed of Blue (Air) and Yellow (Earth) elements, Flatlands are the primary home of the Feral. Offering magic only on their first face, missile and melee each receive three faces apiece.


Containing Green (Water) and Yellow (Earth) elements, Swamplands are home to many peoples, especially Treefolk. They offer two magic faces and two missile faces, with melee spanning faces 5-7.


Home to Scalders, Feylands are made up of Green (Water) and Red (Fire). With the fewest missile faces on any standard terrain, Feylands bring three magic faces, a single missile face, and melee faces beginning at 5.


Red (Fire) and Blue (Air) blend to form Wastelands, home to Fire Walkers. With only a single magic face and two missile faces, Wastelands have the most melee faces of any standard terrain, running from faces 4-7.


  • City - When a player controls a City at the start of their turn, the controlling army may recruit or promote one unit.

    • This versatile eighth-face is a good general-use ability for many armies, as free resurrection is always nice to have.

  • Standing Stones - Units controlling a Standing Stones may convert any of their magic results to the colors embodied in the terrain.

    • Standing Stones is an obvious fit for mage-focused armies, as it allows access to new colors of magic. Amazons don't have any use for these however, while Undead can benefit significantly, tripling their color access.

  • Temple - An army - and the units contained therein - is immune to opponent's Black (Death) magic. At the start of the controlling player's turn, they may force another player to bury one of their dead units.

    • The temple is one of the more difficult-to-choose terrains, as its effect is more narrow than other terrain. The ability to block death magic can be irrelevant if an opponent doesn't bring any death magic, but the bury effect is one of the few ways to permanently remove units.

  • Tower - When performing a missile action, the controlling army may attack any opposing army at any location, but attacks into reserves ignore ID results.

    • Almost an auto-pick for any missile strategy, the ability to fire into any location - including Reserves - is a potent ability to be sure!

Points of Note

  • No standard terrain containing Blue (Air) has more than a single magic face, so mages may want to consider this while constructing a force.

  • No standard terrain containing Red (Fire) has more than two missile faces, so missile-heavy builds may want to select non-Red terrain.

Advanced Terrain

As with their more common counterparts, advanced terrain also come in six color combinations with four different eighth-face variations, giving another 24 possible options. However these advanced terrain cannot be taken as home terrain, somewhat limiting their reliability in use.

Diverging from standard terrain, advanced terrain have icon distribution based on their eighth face, rather than their color combination. In other words, every Castle has the same icon distribution, whether it's a Coastland, Swampland, etc.

Castle - Flexible fortress

Offering magic on two faces and missile on one, the Castle brings melee starting at the fourth face. It has the following eighth-face effect:

When an army turns a Castle to its eighth face, the army's controller choose any standard eighth face (City, Standing Stones, Temple, or Tower) and the terrain is considered to have that eighth face until the terrain face changes.

Dragon's lair - abandon all hope

Boasting the highest number of melee faces bar none, the Dragon's Lair has a single magic face and a single missile face, with melee from every face thereafter. It has the following eighth-face effect:

When an army controls a dragon's lair at the start of their turn, they may summon any dragon matching at least one color - or any ivory or ivory-hybrid - to any terrain. This does not include white dragons.

Grove - unburial services offered

A boon to mages across Esfah, the Grove has four magic faces - more than any other terrain - followed by a single missile face and two melee faces. It has the following eighth-face effect:

When an army controls a Grove at the start of the turn, its controller must unbury one buried die (controlled by any player) if possible - Dragonkin and minor terrains move to their owner's Summoning Pool, non-Dragonkin units move to DUA, and items move to the controlling army.

Vortex - swirling sensation

Sporting two faces for magic, three for missile, and two for melee, the Vortex grants one of the few re-roll options available in all of Dragon Dice:

During any non-maneuver roll while controlling a Vortex, an army may re-roll a single unit before applying any SAIs.

Points of Note

  • Due to the fact that icon progression of advanced terrain is based on the eighth face, they can be used to overcome limitations seen on the more basic terrain - more magic faces for Air-elemental armies, for instance.

  • As these dice cannot be used as a home terrain, they provide another layer of choice at the start of the game, and can sometimes be used to entice an opponent into picking the advanced terrain when they win a horde roll.

Minor Terrain

Minor terrain form a portion of the Summoning Pool at the start of the game, and can be critical to many strategies. There are four types matching every color pair on their larger counterparts, with each type providing a different icon distribution.

  • Minor terrains add their colors to the current terrain for purposes of the controlling army's faction abilities.

  • Minor terrains provide additional action options or maneuver and save results, depending which face they roll.


The Bridge has two faces showing Double Maneuvers which doubles the army's ID results when rolling for maneuvers. It also has the Flood icon, which halves the army's maneuver results, and then buries the die at the start of the army's next march.

This die is excellent for either ensuring your maneuver-heavy army will win those rolls, or for helping your slower armies maneuver a bit better.


The Knoll provides two Missile faces, expanding the possibility of an army getting to take missile actions. It also has the Dust Storm icon, which halves missile results and again buries itself at the start of the army's next march.

It goes without saying that any missile strategy is made better with the inclusion of at least one Knoll in the Summoning Pool.


A counterpart to the Knoll, the Village provides two melee faces to boost any army relying on close combat for victory. It has the Revolt icon which halves melee results and buries the Village at the start of the next march.

Again, this die is a welcome addition to any Summoning Pool for armies interested in melee combat.


The counterpart to the Bridge, the Woods minor terrain provides two faces with the Double Save icon, which doubles ID results when rolled for saves. It also has the Flanked icon which - as you might expect - halves save results and buries the Woods at the start of the army's next march.

This is a very versatile minor terrain that can be used for any army at all, and is a great option instead of - or in addition to - the melee- and missile-oriented minors.


Unique among all terrain by containing the Death element, Deadlands are a great asset to any Death faction, and can even be a great option for anyone else.

First, they can be brought to any terrain - no elemental match required. This means a single Deadlands Village could be used by a melee-oriented army without worrying about matching a color with a terrain.

Second, they count as "dead units" for purposes of powering Death-faction abilities, allowing them to access those abilities without any units in the DUA.


For many newer players, the default strategy for selecting terrain is to grab the terrain that matches both colors of the force they've built - if possible - and then selecting eighth faces that seem useful. While this is a valid strategy, there are often much stronger choices to be made, with some deeper consideration.

Blocking faction abilities

There are many times where an army strategy might rely on simply blocking access to potential opposing faction abilities. Dwarves, Goblins, and to a lesser extent Treefolk all have abilities that bolster their maneuvers at Earth terrain. Unless your force also wants that element, it is wise to choose non-Earth terrains when constructing a force. In the same vein, Swamp Stalkers and Coral Elves gain lots of saves at Water terrain, so it is often useful to avoid selecting Water terrain if your force doesn't use it.

icon distribution

While an army might match two colors exactly - and hence have both of their faction abilities immediately active - sometimes terrain icons are a more important consideration. For instance a Coral Elf force might naturally want Coastlands, but with only one magic and two melee faces, they might opt for a Feyland to get the Water element while offering more melee and magic faces, depending on the force's needs.

Along these same lines, taking a Dragon's Lair for melee strategies, or a Grove for magic strategies, can force an opponent's hand during the Horde roll at the start of the game. If your opponent wins the roll, they are stuck between a rock and a hard place - they want the first turn chance to strike, but in doing so they are leaving you with your chosen terrain which means a much higher chance of giving you the actions you want.

selecting minors

There are a few layers to choosing minor terrains, and this decision can greatly impact the way a game plays out. Breaking it down in a few steps:

  • Icons - Each minor terrain has one magic, missile, melee, double-save, and double-maneuver face, with one of them duplicated depending on which minor you choose. This is usually a straight-forward decision, but consider the importance of saves and maneuvers as well.

  • Colors - Consider the colors of your faction abilities, but also the colors of the possible terrains. To use an example, Goblins want Earth at every terrain they encounter, but a color match is necessary to bring in a minor. So it might be wise to bring a Swampland (which will match any Water terrain) as well as a Flatland - Flatland contains Air and Earth, and the chosen Swampland will add Earth to any non-Earth terrain except Wastelands, which Flatlands will cover. By bringing a Swampland and a Flatland, you are ensuring that no matter what terrains show up, there is at least one minor terrain in your Summoning Pool that can bring in that Earth element you need.

  • Deadlands - While the obvious benefits to Death factions need to explanation, it is also important to note that Deadlands can be brought in to any terrain, regardless of element. An army that doesn't rely heavily on faction abilities - or an army already at terrain matching their colors - can use a Deadlands to help get the necessary action icons. Don't overlook Deadlands just because you aren't playing with Death!

Final Thoughts

While terrains are the focal point of a game of Dragon Dice, the decision of which terrains to bring can often be undervalued. It is easy and quick to simply grab dice of the matching color, often selecting a City for its general utility and usefulness. However there is a lot more strategy and planning that can be done when making these choices, and they can greatly impact your games.