I first encountered Dragon Dice back in the 90’s, still a TSR product, and of course there still was a TSR as well. My brother, my cousin and me, Magic the Gathering haters that we are, fell in love with the idea of a collectible game centered on collectible dice. And the dice were really cool too.
We bought, we planned, we practiced, we bought some more, and then headed off to GenCon with our carefully-crafted dice armies to participate in the Dragon Dice World Championship. There we encountered real Dragon Dice players, with real collections, real tactics and really good strategies. We were all slaughtered in the first round. *
* Technically I lasted until round 2 but it doesn’t count because (a) I needed kibitzing plus a really lucky roll to survive at all, I should have lost and (b) losing in round two is still very very lame
Dragon Dice is a well-designed, imaginative, well-balanced game. It is not a coincidence that Dragon Dice was the Game of the Year when introduced. The game play is intuitive, satisfying, and visceral: it feels right. Attacking? pick up your army of dice and roll. Count the swords to see how many hits you get. Games are short and fierce, rarely taking longer than an hour, but are nonetheless full of tactics and action.
But in spite of all that, the game failed. It came out while TSR was in a final death spiral. There was little to no marketing, and very poor choices were made in packaging and in distribution and supply chain. And that was pretty much that for Dragon Dice. Eventually I sold off my collection and forgot about it.
Fast-forward fifteen years to GenCon 2010. As a last-minute attendee, some of my event choices were constrained, but hey look, there was a Dragon Dice event Sunday that was still open! I signed up more out of nostalgia than anything else.
The event was a sealed starter box tournament: I acquired some new Dragon Dice just in the course of playing. I had a great time, tied for second, and realized right away that I needed more Dice.
Minor research led me to realize that Dragon Dice are still very much alive. The game was purchased from TSR – or possibly Wizards of the Coast? – in the late 1990’s and is published to this day by a company named SFR. Not just in maintenance mode either, they are developing and releasing new content. And that means new dice.
The dice have a habit of multiplying, and I willingly fell victim to their allure again, acquiring another starter box and a couple of kicker packs, giving me three different, complete armies.
In the last three weeks I’ve exposed my good-natured daughter to Dragon Dice and completely re-infected my brother. He is busily augmenting his collection too (even though he never sold his original dice from the mid-90’s) and buying the “perfect” travel/storage cases for them.
The game just has that effect. I’ve already bought out one local hobby store. Now if only I can find more opponents …