Dice Men cover image

Dice Men

December 5, 2022

books d&d gw rpg

Recently - finally - I received my copy of Dice Men: The Origin Story of Games Workshop through the post. Having dived back into the hobby in 2016, the announcement of this book being written and produced on the Unbound platform had my inner kid filled with excitement and nostalgia.

Like so many others I'm sure, my earliest introduction to this world was through Sir Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson's Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks. At junior school, a friend introduced me to Deathtrap Dungeon, Scorpion Swamp, Caverns of the Snow Witch and Appointment with F.E.A.R. when I was around eight years old. I still have my copy of Phantoms of Fear, the tattiest Fighting Fantasy book I own, worn out and held together with sellotape after being attempted over and over on the school playing field one summer in the late 80s.

I have vaguer memories of older kids in junior school playing Blood Bowl, and a copy of 3rd edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle floating around, but Fighting Fantasy is what drew me in first. Warhammer came a little later. I went on to spend entire weekends at that same junior school friend's house, playing Advanced Heroquest, AD&D, Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader, Confrontation (the series of White Dwarf articles that became Necromunda). Warhammer Fantasy Battle and 2nd edition 40k were just out of our grasp - we just didn't have enough miniatures!

So, with my rose-tinted glasses, hat, gloves, jumper, shoes and trousers all snugly on, I pledged for the bundle containing the book itself, a copy of Warlock of Firetop Mountain, and a copy of the first issue of the Owl & Weasel newsletter - all signed.

The book is an easy read, with loads of colour photos and artefacts from the early days. It covers the genesis of the company of course - the early struggles, the bedroom offices and the lucky breaks. The story moves from distributing Dungeons & Dragons in Europe, past losing the exclusive license, through to investing in their own games, ideas and IPs - the rise of Citadel Miniatures, Warhammer, and ultimately the handing over of the company to Bryan Ansell. The rest, as they say, is only war.

The book jumps around a little and isn't strictly chronological, preferring instead to focus on one topic at a time, describing the challenges, successes and growth or demise of various lines of business. I found myself flicking back and forth, driven by a curious need to connect some dots when it came to the chronological history.

The book ends with the sale of Games Workshop to Bryan Ansell, who shifted focus from D&D, RPGs and board games to miniatures and larger scale wargaming. Thus, the book covers a period in time just before my own golden hobby era in childhood. Even so, it's a wonderful trip down memory lane, and a solid account of the early years of a pioneering duo and their company.

On Kickstarter, Unbound and crowd-funding

I have supported just two crowd-funded projects, this being the second. To be honest, I might have to think hard if there's ever to be a next one. It's not uncommon I guess - the project needed to hit funding, timelines were extended, there were various delays in the process of writing, legals and publication. Then in late October 2022, finally, in came an email informing that the book was ready to be sent out to backers. Joy!

Then... nothing more for almost two weeks until another email informing us that our books had been dispatched. That means on their way to our houses, right? Wrong. Another two weeks later I received another email with the subject "Potential Order Delays", citing "a significant linehaul delay by our distribution partner" meaning "the parcels have left the warehouse but not yet been scanned into the Royal Mail hub." Sigh.

By this point the book was available from more regular outlets including Amazon, and I had my digital PDF copy but was otherwise still waiting for the real thing (I'm not an avid reader of books in digital format). Call me self-entitiled maybe, but that does smart a bit as an early supporter. Previously I had also supported a Kickstarter project which took twice as long as planned - another book, this one on terrain building. I bought two copies as my brother was also getting into the hobby. By the time the book was delivered three years later, he'd completely lost interest.

Meh, I gripe and grumble. Dice Men landed on my hallway floor at the start of December, almost five years after I initially backed it in December 2017. I read it immediately and it has a place on my bookshelves, of course. Even after the long waits, I'm glad I supported both projects.

If you want to get your hands on Dice Men: The Origin Story of Games Workshop, while it's no longer available in hardback directly from Unbound, you can purchase an ebook edition or you might find it on Amazon or Waterstones.