Dragons are awesome and part of pretty much every serious (board game) fantasy story. But it doesn’t always have to be a cool miniature or cardboard dragon to get the imagination going. How about some cool Dragon Dice instead?
We had the pleasure to speak with publisher SFR about their award-winning strategy game Dragon Dice and their plans to bring it to a wider audience.
Before we will let the dragons loose (sorry :)), please introduce yourself and give us a quick overview of your role in the board game industry.
Hi guys, thanks for checking out the game and inviting me to answer your questions. I’m Shep and amongst a few other board game-related roles, I am the Community & Strategy Coordinator for SFR. inc. That’s a big title but really it just means I’m focused on the upcoming Kickstarter project and all the stuff that goes along with that.
Thanks, Shep! Let’s talk about Dragon Dice, a game which originally released in 1995, followed by an updated 2-Player Starter Set hitting the market in 2006 and various expansions thereafter.
When a player, who is used to modern games with a lot of different components, opens the Dragon Dice (Starter Set) box for the first time, he or she might be surprised to only find a manual and plenty of dice in various shapes and colour. No miniatures, no game board, no tokens. What makes Dragon Dice special to you and is the pure dice mechanic the magic which makes it unique?
While Dragon Dice is usually regarded as a ‘board game’, it’s probably more accurate to call it a ‘collectable dice game’. In the same way that Magic the Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh only have cards, Dragon Dice only needs dice – the field of battle isn’t as important as the game mechanics and the passion of the people playing it. The 2-player starter set comes with playmats to aid new players in understanding the placement of dice on the table, but at its core, you can play the game anywhere that you have a flat enough surface to place and roll some dice.
23 years ago when TSR first launched the game, I bought an original starter set. I was 13 at the time and already played Warhammer and Magic the Gathering. It instantly struck me as being the ultimate hybrid of both – I got to collect (which I loved!) the most incredible quality dice and refine my army. Like most wargames, I had to assemble a force using a point cost with each die being worth different costs and offering different qualities to my army. I was hooked. I think at the time, this was it’s great appeal. Wargaming was in a real good place in the 90’s and the CCG market was thriving. Lots of people saw the appeal in it that I saw and it exploded off the back of that.
While the game may be somewhat more ‘underground’ these days, those players that got hooked back then still feel the love. Since I’ve been working with SFR, so many people have said, “oh! I have a box of Dragon Dice in my attic. I LOVED that game, let me dig them out”. Those guys dig them out, feel the nostalgia, but then realise this game is still really relevant. It’s a conceptual wargame played with incredible quality dice. It’s fairly deep and strategic, especially for a dice game, and the collectable nature really appeals to a lot of gamers. Pair that with the fact it has a fairly unique core mechanic and I think you have the recipe for the magic that it cast on me and thousands of other gamers over the years.
We have to admit that we struggled a little to fully understand the rules and meaning of each die at the beginning. Would you agree that Dragon Dice is a game which has a steep learning curve and needs a few games to fully get your head around and to understand the different dice, options and strategy? Any pro tips for new players? Also, are you planning to update and streamline the rules?
I think that’s a fair statement. Once you understand that game, it’s very easy to teach the starter rules to someone, but the way you’d teach the game doesn’t come over well in written form, so the rules take a more traditional ‘rule book’ approach. This is fine, as the mechanics are not overly complex, but as the game has been around for over 20 years and every die that was ever produced is still considered current, that means there is ALOT of available information to be taken in. I believe the starter rules are fairly simple and I urge people to make sure they understand them before moving onto the full rules set (which can be downloaded from the SFR website), but due to the sheer size of the range, it certainly appears that there is more to take in than you need to – of course, you only need to be concerned with elements applicable to the races that you own once you get beyond the core mechanics of the game.
All that said, we are currently producing an updated, more streamlined full rules set (and the starter rules will of course follow suit) which is focused more on delivering the kind of gaming experience the current gaming industry is used to, while still retaining the wargame-like strategy that Dragon Dice always delivered. We are also working on a number of resources to make entry to the game easier, such as quality how-to-play videos and more user-friendly quick reference sections. All this work is being done to be tied in with the launch of the upcoming Kickstarter, so it won’t be long before all this stuff is available.
Dragon Dice has an average 5.8 rating on BGG, but fans love the game and support it for over 20 years. Do you think there is a general misunderstanding of the game and are players struggling with the different design and abstract way to play it – similar to our initial experience when we had to learn what each of the dies means?
BGG is a fickle beast 😉 In seriousness though, Dragon Dice has really changed a lot since it first arrived in the 90’s. After SFR took over the reigns the game grew and expanded and in the same way as an LCG system, there was need to evolve the rules with it. Over the years the rules have seen lots of expansion and lots of adjustment. I think it’s fair to say that at one point it ran away with it self a little and maybe went too far. It’s been a big challenge keeping the game relevant, whilst still appealing to those gamers who love the deeper strategic aspects, but at the same time keeping the game true to its original form. For a period of time the rules didn’t get the attention they deserved and a block of ratings over those years are there for the world to see in the average rating on BGG.
I’m really happy to see so many high ratings from new players entering the game now and lots of great feedback in the community. We are making a big effort to listen to the player community and that has really helped with the streamlining of the rules and learning resources I mentioned earlier. Of course a collectable-format game is never going to appeal to everyone, nor is a dice game, but with regards to the learning curve, I feel confident that the future of the game is going to be one that sees more players getting involved.
The game is currently not widely available and some expansions are out of print for a few years now. To tackle this you recently announced a Kickstarter campaign launching later this year. Can you tell us more about it? What exactly will be available and will there be any differences to the original game or its expansions?
Dragon Dice is (and has always been) available directly from the the SFR webstore. There are a number of retailers in the US, UK and Australia that also stock the game, but it’s never been available through general distribution. This is partly the reason that many gamers didn’t realise the game was still very much alive. Exposure to the game via a bigger distribution channel is certainly something in our sights.
Over the years a number of the races and expansions have gone out-of-print. A few were reprinted, but others were not. There had been a lot of demand in the player community for Swamp Stalkers, one of the most loved races and the one that had been out-of-print the longest, so we decided it was time for them to slither from the swamps once more. We chose Kickstarter to do this as it’s a fantastic vehicle for smaller publishers, we love the format and it’s a great way to add some exposure to the game. We really want to see new players enter the game and believe that Kickstarter is a great way to find those players.
The campaign is due to go live on July 18th and while the campaign is focused on the Swamp Stalkers, all of the currently available races will be there as add-ons, alongside a few other expansions and items. It will be a chance to get your hands on most of the range whilst helping to bring back something that has been unavailable for many years. Alongside the campaign launch will come the revised rules set, how to play videos and a range of other resources for players to get their teeth into.
Of course, we hope that this may pave the way for us to reprint some of the other out-of-print races. It’s about time for the Feral armies to rise again!
How about some exclusive dice and cool stretch goals? Anything, fans can get excited about?
Yes! I can confirm that we will have some exclusive dice for the long-term players and collectors who already own substantial Swamp Stalker collections, as well as some other add-on and stretch goal items that we know the current player community have been asking for.
I can’t say a huge amount more at this point, but I believe we’ve come up with an offering which suits new players wanting to get into the game as well as those who have been playing for 20+ years.
This all sounds very exciting, not only for card fans! Thanks allot for your time and great insights! We are looking forward to emerge further into the world of Dragon Dice and wish you all the best for the upcoming KS campaign!
Thanks. It’s been a pleasure. If people want to keep up with what’s happening in the world of Dragon Dice, the chan check out the facebook page and if anyone wants to delve into what the game is about, it’s races and a whole pile of other stuff, they can do so over at www.sfr-inc.com.
Finally, July 18th. Kickstarter. Be there!
- Publisher: SFR Inc.
- Players: 2+
- Age: 10+
- Genre: Strategy Dice Game