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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The Big Bang–Making Space Dice a Reality

This week’s guest comes from Jon Wheatley, documenting the process of taking an idea from some rough notes in a legal pad to a finished product. Take it away Jon…

Making a physical product.

I had been kicking around the idea for some kind of space themed dice game for a while. I thought it would be a really nice metaphor for what actually happens when galaxies are formed. The dice represent balls of matter floating around the universe. Sometimes they bump into other balls of matter and become stuff.

I decided to design the game around the “press your luck” genre. The concept of these games is usually pretty simple. Some things are good to roll and some things are bad. The goal is to roll as many good things as you can before rolling a bad thing and resetting your score. The first person to get X good things is the winner. 

The goal with Space Dice is to roll as many “habitable planets” as possible, before you roll 3 black holes and make your galaxy unstable. A “habitable planet” is a planet near at least 1 star and without space debris hurtling towards it. The first person to roll 10 habitable planets is the winner. 

Here’s a VERY early prototype of the game I was working on over Christmas. It really helped to make a prototype, as I could actually play the game rather than everything being hypothetical. 


Having finalized the basic concept, I needed to make sure the game would actually be playable. There should be a good chance of rolling the things you need to roll to score. It shouldn’t be likely to die in one roll. Rolling a supernova (which destroys every planet every player has scored up until that point) shouldn’t happen very often etc. 

I spent a few hours hacking together a little rails app which would play out 100,000 rolls in a few seconds and tell me the chances of everything coming up. The script let me easily play around with the values on each of the dice and tweak the chances of everything happening. It’s still online if you want to look at it ( and the code is on github ( Please excuse my bad ruby code. 

I hired a graphic designer to make some nice icons. I was ready to start talking to factories. 

I looked on and found some dice manufactures in China. It turns out 12 sided dice are MUCH more expensive than regular 6 sided dice (about $0.25 per dice vs $0.05). I reluctantly decided to go with the 12 sided dice anyway, because the shape of them worked much better with the theme. Rarely do you see celestial bodies that are square! 

The factory did a test print and made a complete set of space dice. Now it was starting to become real! 


The factory was happy to ship out the tester dice they made before entering full production. Luckily, this coincided nicely with Chinese New Year so I had a bit of time to play test the game and request any changes. When I received the package, I excitedly opened it and anxiously waited for my girlfriend to get home so we could play Space Dice for the first time. 

I may be a little biased here, but the game was great fun. Everything worked as intended, and my girlfriend picked it up pretty quickly. The only thing that was a little awkward was keeping score of how many habitable planets each of us owned. We solved this by using a pen and paper to keep track, but I’m planning on building a simple Space Dice score keeping iPhone app at some point. 

The next step was the packaging. I found a factory in LA that made custom tubes with removable tops. This was good because the tube could also double as the dice shaker. They were nice enough to send over some pictures of the tubes being made. 


The last thing I needed was instructions. This turned out to be a much harder task then I was anticipating. There were a lot of things that seemed obvious to me that absolutely were not obvious to other people when I spoke to them. It was also hard to explain all the rules, including rare edge cases, while keeping the instructions short and not intimidating to new players. I needed professional help. 

I hired a freelance copywriter to give me a hand which made things much easier. There was still a fair amount of back and forth until we decided on the best way to structure and word everything (it didn’t help that Sam had never played the game before!) but we eventually hammered out some pretty decent instructions. 

They just needed some design (thanks David!) and they were ready

Everything arrived at my apartment and I started packaging sets together. This took much longer than I thought it would (1.5ish minutes per set, 333 sets, just over 8 hours). 


And here it is. The final, completed set of space dice in all its glory. 



Design (logo, icons, website): $1,500

Domain: $69

Coding + shopify integration: $150

5,000 dice + shipping: $1,808 ($0.36 per dice, enough dice for 333 sets)

350 packaging tubes + shipping: $722.50 ($2.06 per tube)

350 instruction sheets: $290.99 ($0.83 per sheet)

350 stickers: $119.95 ($0.34 per sticker)

Total for project: $4,660.44

Breakdown per set

15 * dice: $5.40

1 * tube: $2.06

1 * instructions: $0.83

1 * sticker: $0.34

Total cost per set: $8.63

Current price per set: $20

Net profit per set sold: $11.37

The margins aren’t great right now, but I think at a slightly larger scale I can get the price down to about $5 per set. 

Head over to if you’d like to buy a copy of Space Dice. If you’re interested in following other projects I’m working on, you should follow me on Twitter here

Thanks Jon, look out for my first impressions review of Space Dice soon…

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Board Game News 26: Dragons, Mexicans, Foxes, Chickens and a World without Hope!

It’s that time again, this week we have even more Kickstarter projects including two from members of the UKGMN, a myriad of themes here, everything from drunken sailors, to Mexican Wrestlers and dystopian Steampunk futures. Plus keep reading for some nice links to a new podcast a great timer app for board games.

Slugfest Games

SlugFest Games (SFG) announced today they have launched a Kickstarter Campaign for the nautically themed Red Dragon Inn: 4. The Red Dragon Inn: 4 is a new stand-alone base set release for the Red Dragon Inn franchise of board, card, and roleplaying games.

SFG will be providing prototype demonstrations at the Origins Game Fair games convention in Columbus, Ohio June 12-16, where previews and promotional material will be made available in the SFG booth. The game will be debut at the Gen Con games convention in Indianapolis, IN August 15-18, where demonstrations, events, and the product will be available for purchase the SFG booth.  The Red Dragon Inn: 4 will be available through regular distribution in Fall of 2013.

The Red Dragon Inn: 4 is a fast-paced, light-hearted card game for 2 to 4 players. You and your adventuring companions have spent all day slogging through the dungeon, killing monsters and taking their stuff. Now you’re back in town, healed up, cleaned up, and ready to party at the Red Dragon Inn.

You can find out more about The Red Dragon Inn: 4 and the campaign at:

The Red Dragon Inn: 4 will include:

* 4 unique Character Decks featuring:

· Captain Whitehawk: Captain Whitehawk is the stalwart master of the Crimson Drake. She's a natural leader with years of experience and a wit as sharp as her saber. She’ll take the crew to hell and back for adventure and loot, and make damn sure they have a roaring good time while they're at it.

· First Mate Remy: An elf from faraway lands, Remy is an honor-bound swashbuckler who keeps the crew in line; he’ll be the first to step in and break up a fight. The seasoned sailors know to back down before they get on his bad side.

· Bryn the Boatswain: Bryn is tough as nails and knows how to keep a ship afloat. When she's not making repairs or loading provisions, she enjoys sparring with the crew… all of them… at the same time...

· Tara the Navigator: Tara was born blind, but with the gift of second sight. With her knack for seeing the future, she is an invaluable, if unlikely, navigator for the Crimson Drake. After predicting countless storms and monster attacks she has earned the trust of Captain Whitehawk and her crew.

* A Drink Deck featuring dew cards like Grog and Rum

* 4 player mats, 4 fortitude markers, 4 alcohol markers, and 50 gold coin tokens

About SlugFest Games

SlugFest Games has been in the gaming industry for 10 years. They have focused on making games with simple, fun mechanics that are dripping with theme. Their games are quick to learn, fast to play, but have a surprising depth of strategy. SFG is known for having a upper-middlebrow sense of humour which they strive to achieve in all the products they develop.

Gryphon Games

Just launched on Kickstarter!

Railways Express is a new dice-rolling race game. Travel around the USA and parts of southern Canada and northern Mexico learning elements of the mechanics used in the popular Railways of the World board gaming system! Be the first to build track linking all 4 cities of your colour to win!

Click here to visit the Kickstarter page

Stonemaier Games

Euphoria box artIt’s Time to Build a Better Dystopia

New game from the creators of Viticulture launching on Kickstarter on May 15

Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone, creators of the Kickstarter hit Viticulture: The Strategic Game of Winemaking, are returning to Kickstarter to seek funding for their new game, Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia. Game lovers familiar with the dice in Alien Frontiers and the worker-placement/removal mechanics in The Manhattan Project and Tzolk’in will feel right at home in Euphoria.

Euphoria has been blind playtested by over 60 people across the world, and it will launch on Kickstarter with the full art and design complete. The Kickstarter campaign will feature free shipping to individuals in the US, Canada, and the European Union, as well as free bulk shipping to a limited number of backers in Asia and Australia. Just like with Viticulture (which has already been delivered to many backers early, with all other backers due to receive their games as promised in May), Euphoria comes with a money-back guarantee to all Kickstarter backers.

About the game:

The world as we know it has ended, and in its place the city of Euphoria has risen. Believing that a new world order is necessary to prevent another apocalypse, the Euphorian elite not only erect physical walls around the city, but also metaphysical walls around the minds of the citizens. Gone are personal freedoms; gone is knowledge of the past. All that matters is the future.

In Euphoria, you lead a team of workers (dice) and recruits (cards) to claim ownership of the dystopian world. You will generate commodities, dig tunnels to infiltrate opposing areas, construct markets, collect artifacts, strengthen allegiances, and fulfill secret agendas, all while trying to keep your morale high and your knowledge (represented by the numbers on the dice) as low as possible so your workers don’t discover they’re in a dystopia.

What are you willing to sacrifice in the present to make the future better than the past? Find out in Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia.

Number of players: 2-5 (adding a 6th player is one of the many Kickstarter stretch goals)

Time required: 60 min

Recommended ages: 13+

Stonemaier Games website:

Euphoria art gallery:



The Agency Card Game

The Agency Card Game will be launching soon on Kickstarter, look for more details soon here after I receive my prototype Smile 

The Agency is a tactical, turn-based card game where players compete to connect chains of  agents, complete missions and emerge with the most victory points.

The unique mechanic of the game is that each card has a duality, so that you can play it in different directions. Playing the card with the agent facing towards you allows you to perform the agent’s specific command, but gives points in favor of the opponent. Or you can choose to take the points, but your opponent gets the benefit of the command. With 25 different agents, each with their own unique command, agents already placed can be rotated, flipped over, extracted and swapped, making the game ever flexible, variable, unpredictable and a test of forward planning and quick thinking.

As you learn about each agent’s special abilities, how agents work together or work against each other, and weigh up the advantages of collecting points for yourself versus sabotaging your opponent’s strategies, the game will become increasingly complex, dynamic and challenging.

Missions, played alongside factions of agents, provide interesting, strategic conditions which, if fulfilled, give you the opportunity to score big points, but if you race ahead, you’ll also become a target for attack. The better you’re doing, the more under fire you’ll be.

​The Agency is a game for 2-6 players.  It’s designed for smart adults and even smarter kids.

Command Post Games

The guys over at Command Post Games would like you to know about their Kickstarter for Supremacy 2020

After the cold war, boom years and then great recession, new superpowers emerge to contest the old...

Six superpowers battle for global supremacy in this tense yet simple game of nuclear brinksmanship.Players compete in international trade for vital resources:minerals, oil and grain.Speculate and trade commodities on the world market.A strong economy fuels the arms race as you build armies, navies, nukes and a ‘star-wars’ defense system.Borrow money from the world bank or invest in bonds to increase your income.Don’t borrow too much or the crushing interest will bankrupt you!

As conflicts and nuclear arsenals grow, the world becomes a much more dangerous place.A nuclear strike may vanquish an enemy but will the retaliation trigger a nuclear winter destroying the world?To win, you will need a delicate balance of diplomacy, economic and military strength.You must form alliances, negotiate, threaten and bluff.Many strategies can lead to victory but only one superpower will achieve SUPREMACY.

This complete re-design of the classic cold war game has an updated map, currency and countries for the 21st century!We have corrected and streamlined the rules to make the game faster, simpler and more intense.

Players:United States, Commonwealth, European Union, Russian Federation, China and Japan.

Includes:map, deck of 95 cards, 8 dice, rules, money, 2 reference cards, 2 reference maps, 6 supply bases and 380 plastic game pieces.

Scale:Army / Grand Strategic-Global

Complexity:Simple / Medium



Luchador - Mexican Wrestling Dice

Designed by the UKGMN’s very own Mark Rivera (from Boardgames in Blighty), comes a new game from Backspindle Games. Luchador is a new dice game to be published in 2013. It's fast, fun, filled with theme and can be played two-player matches or tag-team. COMING SOON TO KICKSTARTER.

Mark would like it very much if you went over and checked out his Facebook page!

Fox and Chickens

And we’d like to congratulate another UKGMN member, Michael Fox of the Little Metal Dog Show on his successful kickstarter for Fox and Chicken.

Check out Michael’s Kickstarter page for more info on the project.

Podcasts from the Grim Tree

And while we’re on the subject of the UK Gaming Media Network I’d just like to point out that our lovely friend Mark, from Grim Tree Games has just started a new series of Podcasts, documenting his group’s RPG sessions.

Mark has asked myself and some other select members of the UKGMN to join him in a future episode so keep your ears open for that, it’s going to be epic!

Time Us

Last but by no means least, David Barri has written to tell me about a new app he has designed for android users called Time Us.

Want to add more excitement to your games? Do your friends take too long to have their turns? Lost your board game's timer? This app is for you!

Time Us! is more than just a game clock.
It features:

• A random timer. Specify your time range and start the clock. You never know exactly how much time is left until it's too late!

• Countdown timers that you can tailor to your needs.

• Each player has their own separate timers.

• Players can have multiple timers. Perfect for tracking turn-times and game-time.

• Set alarms to get your attention when time's running out.

• Up to 16 players!

• Indoor and outdoor modes so you don't blind yourself at night, and so you can actually see in sunlight.

• It's free!

Perfect for Scrabble, Chess, Catch Phrase, Scattergories, and more.

As David says, it’s free, so what are you waiting for, go check it out!

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