Category Archives: Interviews

Mr Wonderful – An interview with Antoine Bauza

I’ve been lucky enough to recently do a bit of back and forth emailing with Antoine Bauza, designer of such great games as 7 Wonders, Ghost Stories and Takenoko. Here’s what happened…

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Michael Fox: So Antoine, let’s begin with less of a question, more of a request: could you tell me a little bit about your gaming history? What kind of things to you like to play and what got you into the hobby?

Antoine Bauza: I’ve played every kind of game throughout my life; traditional family boardgames as a kid, a lot of roleplaying games as a teenager, Magic: The Gathering and others. I’m also fond of videogames. At the end of my studies (I did chemistry and computer science), I attended a game design school in France and after that, I tried to find work in the video game industry. I didn’t meet with much success; it was a bad time for videogames in Europe and it was very hard to find a job focused on on game design (which I was looking for because I suck at programming, graphics and making music…). So I took another path and became a school teacher! I started to play modern boardgames around 2003 or 2004, and started designing my own games around the same time. After several unsuccessful prototypes, my first game was published in 2007: Chabyrinthe from Cocktail Games.

MF: What were those early games like? Anything that you’ve drawn ideas from since hitting the big time?

AB: Honestly, I cannot remember precisely those early games. There was something about washing machines, one about wrestling, another about stray cats fighting for a neighborhood… The only one worth remembering is Ikebana, the big brother of Hanabi… It was my first finished prototype.

I remember I sent it to Repos Production because a friend of mine told me they were nice people. They did not publish the game in the end but the CEO, Cédrick, called me to talk about the game and give me some feedback. I really appreciated that he did that because usually publishers don’t even bother to respond to unknown designers… Then a few years later we ended up working together on Ghost Stories and 7 Wonders.

MF: Of course, those two big hitters really helped you make your name on the designer games scene. Could you tell us a little about Ghost Stories? I’ve played it a few times but have never managed to actually win… did you intentionally design it to be so punishingly hard?

AB: Ghost Stories is my only heavy (well, not so heavy I guess) game and the first cooperative game I designed. And yes, it’s a hard game and we intended it to be like that because both Repos and I are mean! Seriously though, we wanted to make a challenging game because we love co-ops and we think many are too easy for expert players. But to tell you the truth, the game is not so hard and when you know it well you cannot lose at all in easy mode and almost never lose in normal or nightmare mode. The White Moon expansion does make the game a little easier. The Black Secret expansion, well… that depends on the player who’s in Wu-Feng’s shoes… Try to find a nice guy to do it!

MF: How about 7 Wonders then? What was the genesis behind that? And did you always have it in mind that you’d be able to play with seven people?

AB: I wrote down the complete genesis of 7 Wonders on my blog but yes, the first idea was the make a light strategy game playable up to seven because there were always seven people showing up to my regular games night.

MF: Were you surprised at how well 7 Wonders was received by gamers? It seemed to come from nowhere and was suddenly on everyone’s table!

AB: Well, we knew the game was certainly going to be a success. We did a lot of demonstrations at a lot of conventions, toy fairs and we had a lot of very nice feedback before it had been released. We were confident when the game finally came out but we never expected to have this amazing level of success! You never know if such things are going to happen, that’s part of the magic!

MF: One thing I love about 7 Wonders is the opportunity for expansion. You’ve already had Leaders and Cities released and I know there’s a forthcoming Wonders Pack too. I heard a rumour that you’re planning on eventually doing Seven Expansions – is there any truth behind that?

AB: Well, my publisher planned the seven expansions… I’m just going step by step! Currently I’ve got two prototype expansions in development – codenamed Armada & Babel – but there is still a lot of work to do on both so I cannot guarantee anything right now !

MF: Do you actually get to play it much yourself? And do you have a preferred strategy or Wonder board that you always like to get?

AB: Sure, I’ve played a lot of games but I did stop for a while. Taking a break, you know, clearing my mind and getting ready to be able to work on the next expansion. I can’t say I have a favorite Wonder or Strategy but I try not to stick with just one way of being efficient! (Secretly though, I like to try playing without resources, using lots of Yellow and Green cards, but shhh! Don’t say it at loud!)

MF: Ha! We know how to beat you now, Antoine! You’d better watch out in future! Now, could we move on to Takenoko? It’s a curious little game that’s been very well received – even Wil Weaton mentioned it recently on Twitter! How did the idea for it come about?

AB: It all started on my first trip to Japan, back in 2003 when I visited Ueno Zoo. At the entrance there is a funny statue that caught my eyeThen when I got back to France, I started think about a bamboo growing game with two pandas… that was almost nine years ago.

MF: NINE years?! I didn’t realise it had been in development for so long! I suppose the success of 7 Wonders helped get the attention of publishers so you could push your other designs?

AB: Yes, sometime it takes time… The prototype had many many versions. The publishers (Matagot & Bombyx) worked for a very long time on the wooden pieces and miniatures. 7 Wonders did open some doors with foreign publishers – mostly in Germany and the US – but for now, all my games are published by either French, Belgian or Swiss ones, so the success of 7 Wonders isn’t that relevant yet… I’ll certainly take this opportunity in the future, because I like to work with different people and companies.

MF: So what are you working on at the moment, Antoine? Anything you can tell us a little about?

AB: This year I’m actually spending less time on boardgames. I want to experience something different before I get bored! Right now, I’m working on a small videogame project that involves some game design but concentrates mostly on story writing. But I’ve still got some boardgames in the pipeline: those 7 Wonders expansions, a brand new cooperative game (codename Sinbad) and a brand new resources-and-card-based development game that’s pretty different.

MF: Exciting times then! Are there any designers out there you’re a fan of? Anyone whose games you particularly enjoy playing or keep an eye out for?

AB: Besides my fellow french designers like Bruno Cathala, Bruno Faidutti, Ludovic Maublanc and others, I always like to keep an eye on Vladaa Chvatil – he’s an amazing game designer. I like Rob Daviau’s work too!

MF: All good designers! Have you managed to try out Risk Legacy?

AB: Of course ! I think Risk Legacy is the most innovative boardgame since Magic: The Gathering!

MF: High praise indeed, Antoine! Now, finally, is there any advice you have for aspiring designers? Any suggestions you may have to help improve their games and get them noticed by publishers?

AB: I’ve seen several aspiring designers spending all their time and energy on a single idea and prototype. I believe you have to make gameS (plural!) to learn how to make gameS! You also have to be a good observer and listener, paying attention to the people playing your prototype, catching what they enjoy and what they don’t like. Then when it comes to publishers, you’ve got to actually see them and play your game with them. I don’t believe in any of that “sending the rules by email” stuff…

MF: Fantastic. Thanks for your time Antoine – it’s been a pleasure!

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Chits, Boards and Bits – an interview with Warparty designer Larry Bogucki

I am mildly terrified by war games. With hundreds of small tokens dotted around a board (and generally not enough small plastic blokes) they generally appear to me to be the most difficult things ever created in the name of entertainment. One that’s caught my eye, however, is a Kickstarter project called Warparty. I caught up with designer Larry Bogucki to talk about the game and get his opinion on gaming in a crowd-funded world…

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So, Larry: first question! Who are you and what’s your story?

My name is Larry Bogucki. I’m 42, married and a father of two girls. I work for a large insurance company in the NorthEast United States and I’ve been playing games all my life, starting with D&D at the age of 9, back in 1978…

That’s a pretty long gaming career, Larry! What are your favourite types of games to play?

I don’t play the RPGs much at all any more. What I mostly enjoy are strategy games and wargames. I’ve always been a huge fan of chess and speed chess too. Really though, I have been working for so long and with such focus on Warparty that I haven’t had much of a chance to play much of anything else for the last several years!

Warparty is, of course, your project that you’ve currently got going on Kickstarter. Could you tell me a bit about it?

Sure. Warparty is a two to four player fantasy based wargame where the forces of evil (the Undead and Goblins) face off against the Humans and Dwarves; it’s two-on-two action. Players control large armies, conquer territory, build cities and upgrade the infrastructure of their capital cities with the ultimate goal in mind being to destroy one of their enemies’ capitals. It’s economically driven in that the more territory you control the more income you have to spend on troops – they can then be placed in any of your cities. You can also use the income to build more cities and upgrades.

There are also dungeons in Warparty that can explored. Each army has a warrior, priest and wizard hero – these are the only people who can explore dungeons and they’ll fight monsters, gaining valuable treasure if they’re successful. Heroes are also powerful fighting units in their own right and can be used in the game effectively against enemy players without ever exploring dungeons.

Each army also has its own research or technology track to unlock more powerful units. For example, the Undead can summon the Bone Dragon into the game; this is their most powerful unit, but it takes a lot of upgrades, time and resources to bring it into the game. There are ten or more different unit types in each army and more than half are unique to that army within itself. Each army very much has its own feel and flavour. It’s a game that’s played with hundreds of counters and almost two hundred cards.

Wow – it sounds pretty in depth! What kind of level would you say this is pitched at? I mean, would you say you should be a pretty experienced gamer to tackle Warparty?

Well, we’ve done Warparty demos at many conventions including at the World Boardgaming Championships where we had over sixty people give it a try. We’ve had all kinds of people play Warparty and while some folks will pick up the nuances a lot quicker than others, it can be enjoyed by anyone who likes strategy games and the fantasy genre.

So you mentioned that you’ve been working on Warparty for some time… How did the design come about? What led you to take that leap and try to get it out there?

I was inspired by Axis and Allies but I’ve always been attracted to the fantasy genre, going back to my roots with D&D. We’ve played Warparty for over a decade as a house game but never really thought we could get it published. A few years ago a number of folks who played kept encouraging me to try to get it published so we took it to some conventions and got some really good feedback from complete strangers. The best feedback they gave me was when they came back to play it a second or third time. It was then that I knew I had to see it through.

Warparty in progress!

So did you shop it around to any publishers or did you go straight to Kickstarter?

Well, we actually have a publishing contract through Lock ‘n Load Publishing.  They have published a number of games already such as All Things Zombie and World at War they do all their games through P500 or pre-order; if enough people pre-order the game at a discount then that game will actually be published.  We had about $5,000 worth of orders for Warparty directly through Lock ‘n Load before going to Kickstarter to try and get the additional funding needed for Warparty to be published.
With almost 200 cards, twice as many counters and a mounted board, Warparty is an expensive game to make but we’re hopeful that we can make it happen.  We’re currently at 75% funding through Kickstarter with just 16 days left!  It’s getting down to the wire… Warparty lives or dies in just 16 days!
How’s your Kickstarter experience been so far then? It’s got to be said that 75% with a couple of weeks left isn’t too bad! Obviously you’re looking to push it to 100% – but what are you doing to try and get to that mark? And are you confident it’ll happen?
There are a couple of third party reviews that will be coming out soon and I will have a Designer Diary up on  BoardGameGeek.com as soon as it gets approved.  I’m hoping all of those will help move the needle during this last lap.  I’m hopeful that we will get there, but I will be all nerves until it happens. There’s also two videos of game play on the Warparty Kickstarter page in case anyone you know would like to take a look!
Seriously, I reckon folks should go check it out. I’m scared by most wargames but this looks pretty awesome! What are your thoughts on Kickstarter? I find it very divisive, with a lot of people in the industry seeing it as an amazing opportunity to get games out there while others believe it to be a way of getting substandard games to market…
I think there’s probably truth in both of those view points.  The creator of Scrabble was turned down by every company he went to for publishing, so eventually he did it himself.  I think that without Kickstarter a lot of great games might not ever make it but on the other hand, I think there may be some very suspect games out there as well.  Having said that, less then half the projects on Kickstarter ever make it, so I think a lot of the lower quality games might get weeded out that way. By that same token I’ve also seen some really interesting games struggle on the site. However, I think with a little due diligence most discerning gamers can get a feel for a game on Kickstarter and get a pretty good idea as to its quality.
So what do you think pushes certain games over the hump? As you say, some pretty poor games get funded easily while potentially good ones sometimes struggle to even get noticed… 
I think that’s really the exception to the rule.  Although that happens, I think generally speaking the good games get the funding.  I don’t claim to be any sort of expert on this matter but I recently attended a Kickstarter seminar at a gaming convention I was at.  Once a project reaches 30% funding it has a 90% chance of success.  That 30% seems to be the magic number according to Kickstarter.  How they get to that 30% funding is probably a combination of many factors such as making sure you have a following prior to going live on Kickstarter, promoting your game at conventions and on social media, that kind of thing.
So when (we’re being positive here!) Warparty gets funded, what’s the plan? How long do you reckon it’ll take to turn around? And after all’s done with Warparty, what are your plans for the future?
Lock ‘n Load Games posted on our Kickstarter page that the estimated delivery date is April 2012. After Warparty I have several more projects in the back of my mind and there’s a Warparty expansion, of course.  It’ll be something low cost, an add-on to Warparty with a few new units, upgrades, spells and quests. I also have prototypes for three other games that I’ve already playtested with some success; a mafia/bootlegging game with three factions of mafia and one player acting as the either a corrupt or virtuous police force. Of the three, this got the most positive feedback.
Another game I’m thinking about making is post apocalyptic with five factions of humans trying to survive and compete against each other, although struggling against the elements is difficult enough.  It’s a card game mostly that involves trade between players, alliances and war. The game that I’m most excited about but which still needs a lot of work is a Western game for four players who take on the role of either Outlaws, Indians, Ranchers or the Town.
I enjoy games where the sides are all very different rather then mirror images.  This type of approach requires a lot of playtesting because when you have sides that are very different you can run into a lot of balance issues. One thing about Warparty, good, bad or indifferent, the sides are very different from one another and they are balanced.  They should be – we’ve playtested it for years!
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If you’d like to check out Warparty, have a look at their Kickstarter page. It’s definitely an interesting looking take on wargaming and one that I’m certainly interested in having a proper look at. With only a couple of weeks left on the campaign, here’s hoping that it gets a final burst of support and makes it to the funding goal!

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Michael vs Game Night Guys – Round Two

For some inexplicable reason, the charming gents over at Game Night Guys asked me on to the latest episode of their fine show. Brian and Mike are always a pleasure to listen to; while it’s ostensibly about games, the conversation often meanders into other worlds and their day to day lives. Give it a listen! It’s well worth your time.

After laying down the gauntlet a few weeks ago, I introduce the boys to the grandaddy of the deck-building genre, Dominion. Of course there’s the small problem of us being on opposite sides of the Atlantic, so we faced off over at the Isotropic site where you can always pick up a game for free. If you see littlemetaldog hanging about, poke me for a game!

Thanks to the Game Night Guys for making me feel so welcome. You can get the show on iTunes or listen to it by clicking on this link right here!

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Huge Success – An interview with Portal Publishing’s Ignacy Trzewiczek

Time for another exclusive interview here on Little Metal Dog, this time with Polish designer Ignacy Trzewiczek. As well as producing some great games that we get to talk about, Ignacy is also the founder of publishing company Portal. From post-apocalyptic nightmares to the infinitely more terrifying world of fashion, they’re responsible for some truly interesting titles…

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My first question – could you tell me a little bit about yourself? What is your role at Portal and how did you get there?

It all started in 1999, many, many years ago. I am damn happy that I took a risk and escaped from University and tried to do in my life exactly what I love – work on games.

I was studying at the Technical University for four years and year after year, I was feeling that “this is not for me”. I thought that I’d be a terrible engineer, so I made a quite desperate move – I wrote an RPG adventure (for Warhammer) and sent it to a Polish RPG magazine. They liked it, published it and the adventure was choosen by readers as best piece in that issue. I was finally happy, proud of what I did and what’s more – I earned some money! So I wrote another article and that was published, chosen as best in that issue (again) and brought me more money. I did it again and again and at some point I finally realised that although I was a terrible engineer I really can write about games.

I left university, founded an RPG company and started publishing a magazine about role playing called Portal. We published bi-monthly and it was very well received in Poland. Two years later we started doing our first role playing games (like Frankenstein Factory and De Profundis). Both were translated into English, Factory was then licensed to Spain, De Profundis was licensed to Hogshead Ltd. in the UK and USA (and was then awarded a Diana Jones Award).

Then we designed the Neuroshima RPG followed by the Monastyr RPG, and then we discovered – a little bit by an accident – boardgames.

So what’s the gaming scene like in Poland? Does everyone grow up with the same games that I’m used to – Monopoly and Cluedo, for example? And what are the big titles over there now?

Modern games have only been around in Poland for a few years. The “gamers games” market is very very young. For example, the first Polish Game of the Year award was only in 2004, just a few years ago! During these past few years the market in Poland has grown extremely well – perhaps it is the best growing market in Europe. Every year more games are printed, more games are sold and more new gaming stores are opening.

Games are known mostly by gamers – it’s not as popular as in Germany, but this is changing every year for the better. The average Pole still knows only Monopoly, Scrabble or Jenga, but every single year we’re taking big steps to promote modern games and I think the future of this hobby will be strong here. We have two mainstream publishers who release games for average people but they have started to produce more modern games and are presenting them to mass market. They do a great job. We at Portal publish a quarterly magazine about boardgames, promoting gaming and writing about designer games. What’s more, games have become a bit fashionable and huge Polish institutions want to use them as education tool.

For example, our Essen release for 2011 (Pret-a-Porter) was originally published last year in Poland, produced in co-operation with the National Bank of Poland! They know that games are great tool to teach, so they helped us to create an economic strategy game to teach people about economy!

So, yes – Monopoly and similar crap is still on mass market shelves but gamers games are fighting hard to become popular and they are growing every year.

Nice! So what are Portal’s big games at the moment? I think Neuroshima Hex is your biggest outside Poland, yes?

Yes, our first international release was Neuroshima Hex at Essen 2007 and it was extremely well received. We have US editions, a French edition, a Dutch edition, an Italian one – there were many versions and many players know the game. We’re also lucky to have the Neuroshima Hex app for iOS devices which is proving very popular too. It got a few awards and is very high in Appstore rankings around the world.

In 2009 we published Stronghold and this game was a big hit for us – we received nominatons from almost all of the important boardgame awards and sold all of our copies! We then sold the license to a big publisher, Valley Games – it was all like a beautiful dream. I think we, step by step, are becoming more recognizable. We try to build a very clear picture of our company – we do good games, mix of Eurogames and Ameritrash. Neuroshima Hex is about war, Witchcraft was about war, it’s the same with Stronghold and Stronghold Undead…

Now this year we’re publishing Pret-a-Porter, a game about fashion! I strongly believe that some of our true fans will be more than confused.

That really is a very big leap! Can you tell me a little bit about Pret-a-Porter? And what led you to releasing a game about fashion? There aren’t that many other games I can think of that cover the subject.

It is a really long story. It all started in 2009. As I said earlier, we sent an offer to The National Bank of Poland. We wanted to design and produce game about the economy in co-operation with them. We knew that the Bank had an Educational Department and they want to educate young people about money. So our offer was very simple – we make great games and we want to do another great game – this time, a game about money. “We will help you educate young people,” we said. “What do you think?”

And they loved the idea.

After a year of working with the experts from The National Bank of Poland we were proud to produce a game recommended by the most important monetary institution in our country. This is a deep economic strategy game (think around the complexity of Vinhos or Brass). We designed a game that is a quite unique mix of Portal’s style (lots of interaction and cut-throat action) with very serious economic mechanisms. Players run a company that makes clothes – they buy materials, they gather projects from designers and hire workers (like Designers, Accountants, Product Managers and Models). Then they build important buildings (branded shops and offices), sign important contracts (from PR Agencies to material production factories) and once per quarter they go with their clothes to the fashion show. During the show players’ clothes are judged in four categories – PR, Trends, Quality and the Amount of clothes in the collection. Winning every category gives you a great profit.

On the one hand there is the economic aspect of buying materials, hiring workers, paying salaries, calculating costs, and on the other hand you have a bloody battle at the runway show – players aim to have the best PR (by for example hiring the hottest models), to be Trendy (which can be done by opening a Designer office), best Quality (buying the most expensive materials) and biggest collection (by having most Projects that are in the same style). You calculate money and you calculate which of these four factors you win, which your opponents have taken (and what you can do to take them down).

Here in Poland the game was published in 2010. We were a Game of the Year nominee, we’ve sold almost all copies and now we’re working hard to prepare the second edition for Essen with revised rules, a few new cards and polish up the balance of some cards. We are very excited about this release. And the fashion theme? Well, we had huge mech on the cover in 2007. We had orcs on the cover in 2009, we had skeleton on the cover in 2010… This time we have a hot model on the cover. I like it!

Ha! I don’t think it can ever be said that Portal isn’t willing to take a risk!

Thank you!

You guys are coming up with some great games with interesting ideas – I particularly like Zombiaki II, a simple concept that is brilliantly expressed: it feels like a gruesome version of Plants vs Zombies [a defence game available on iOS, Xbox Live, PC… oh, and an upcoming boardgame too]! Where do you find you draw your inspiration from?

I designed the original Zombiaki in 2002 at dinner at my mother-in-law’s house! I think many of us know the situation – you go for dinner, it’s a boring afternoon sitting at the table and doing nothing interesting. I took the All Flesh Must Be Eaten RPG with me to have a good read after dinner and I was really impressed. I loved the book and I quickly started to make notes – I drew three lines with zombies coming toward a human-built barricade. I wrote down some very first basic ideas – every turn zombies go forward, after shooting at a zombie they’re forced to step back, etc.

Next day I came to the office with my notes, I made the very first prototype and it worked! Just like that! I spent a few months designing cards and balancing the game but this very first simple draft of rules was good. We published the game in 2003 and it became extremely popular in Poland – a simple, fun card game for 15 minutes of play. In 2010 we published Zombiaki II, the English language sequel. [Which you really should play if you get the chance – review coming soon! M]

Are there any other designers that impress you?

I am very impressed by Eric M. Lang and his work. His great card games are one of my favourites! He has a great skill in making players make decisions all the time, every moment during game is a tough decision. This is great! The Game of Thrones CCG is a masterpiece!

I’m inclined to agree. Creating a good card game is difficult enough, but one like Game of Thrones is a rarity! Now, before I let you go, are you allowed to tell us about anything else you have coming up? Obviously there’s Pret-a-Porter but do you have anything else planned?

I’ve just finished working on The New Era, a standalone expansion for 51st State – that will be released for Essen this year. This is a little anniversary for us at Essen – it’s our fifth year of exhibiting there – so we plan to have a few surprises for our fans that we hope to see there! I also need to read a few books and watch a few movies to start researching for my new game based on Robinson Crusoe. It’s a book that I’ve always loved and I’ve wanted to design a game inspired by it for many years…

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More information on Portal Games is available over at their website which can be found at http://www.portalpublishing.eu/ – Thanks to Ignacy for answering my questions, and seriously, you’ve got to at least try out Zombiaki II!

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Interview: Abraham Neddermann, the Dice Creator

People get very funny about their dice. Some believe that they’re imbued with some mystic power. I have a friend who will regularly throw away d20s if he gets a bunch of poor rolls because he honestly thinks it’s cursed. If he got his hands on some of the dice created by Abraham Neddermann from Dice Creator though? I’d steal them off him. These miniature pieces of art are amazing – and totally usable. I recently caught up with Abraham to talk about his work.

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Let’s begin with the dice that you create. What first inspired you to make these wonderful things?

A friend wanted a gift for another friend of his, a 13 sided die. At the time I already owned a mill and a lathe, so I offered to make it (although it was a pain to do!). After that, I got curious about how I could make a D3, D5, D7, D9… pretty much all the odd sided dice. I know I could watch tutorials and videos online, but having things in your hands is always better than just seeing pictures. One thing led to another… a big collector saw some on eBay (as I didn’t “need” all the ones I had made) and thanks to his purchase and a few others, I wondered if this could become a viable job, or at least something I could do to pay for my hobbies!

I must add that until recently, I didn’t see it as more than a hobby (or at least a way to delay the search for a “real” job). However, lately, I was thinking that if made an effort I might be able make it into a job. And that’s where I am now!

Strange and beautiful

So what’s the process you have to go through to make a die? Is it all designed on a computer then you let technology take over or is it more hands-on than that?

It depends on the die but they all require handcrafting in one way or another. For the printed dice I can just print the images to transfer paper using a heat press, but then I must carefully “sand” each face with a nail brush and water to finish them. My wrists always hurt after that!

For the laser dice it’s a bit easier. You do the design on the computer and then the machine spends between 5 and 20 minutes doing each face. However, the machine can’t change the faces, so once it finishes on I have to pick up the die, change it to the next face and start again. Once the whole things is finished, I then have to paint the die. It’s not too much trouble and only takes a few minutes – then I wait for it to dry and give it a slight sanding to finish off.

The metal inlaid dice are without question the most troublesome. I have to transfer the designs to the brass sheet and etch it with acid, keeping an eye on it to not over-etch and ruin the work. Meanwhile, each die face is sanded really flat and then, using heat and skill, I melt the metal into the die. It’s a slow process but the results are worth it.

As for my lathe and mill, they are not computer controlled, so I spend a lot of time in front of the machines! Let’s say that I have machines to help me do the job, but ultimately all dice require a human touch in one place or another. It’s hard work, but I’m ok with that.

These dice you’re playing with are not made as a big series, but are part of a limited quantity made by a fellow gamer, an artisan. It’s like having handmade dice bags or your own homemade dice tower. Of course, that makes them way more expensive than a bunch of standard dice, but I want people to feel that someone saw the birth of that die, then carefully wrapped it with soft cloth and sent it your way for you to take over their RPG life.

Élegance (ridiculously lovely)

Actually, I did want to ask about that – how limited are they? Do you have a stock built up or is each one created individually on demand? 
Except for when it’s a specific “Limited edition” series (like the Space shuttle dice, where there is only one die for each year the space program was active), the actual limit on the dice is about either ten lasered dice a day, or ten printed dice, or five metal machined dice or 5 metal inlaid dice – but that is if I’m working at high speed (especially with the metal inlaid and metal machined ones).
My production rates compared to big companies are abysmal!As for having stock, I tried in the beginning and was able to do so because I had few types of dice. However, as time has passed (and now that I have 120+ different designs) it’s not feasible for me to have stock as the materials get expensive and the shop doesn’t make enough money to cope with that. However, for most orders, I can make them in one or two days so people doesn’t have to wait too long. That way I can arrange suplies as needed (divert power to shields!) and I don’t have unsold dice that might never go out. I think it’s a fairly common practice with artisans and craftsmen.
What’s your favourite creation so far? Which one have you done that (when you’ve finished it) you took a step back and thought “Perfect”?
Easy: Structural Integrity.

Structural Integrity - an ACTUAL work of art

Not only is it a die that looks awesome, but it’s fabrication is complex (drilling the die with walls so thin is quite labour intensive) so each time I make one it’s a special moment. I always get the newborn into the sunlight and appreciate it for a while, then I put it in the protective box and off to the step-owner it goes.
I love how you see each one of them as a child, being set free into the world! That die is utterly beautiful, it must be said. Would you say that is the hardest one to make? Are there any others that are challenging?
Hmmmm, yes, I would say that it’s the hardest to make. Certainly the hardest that I have actually made more than one of, or I’m willing to try.The hardest one ever by far was this one:

Looks innocuous, actually evil

Not only did I underestimate the cost (a lot!), but it also proved extremely challenging – check this out:

Don't try this at home. Not that you all have this kind of gear.

At that moment the milling head and the rotary table were less than 5mm away from each other. That is a very uncomfortable situation. But as I said, that is an exception – one which I am never willing to go through again!

A challenging die – other than Structural Integrity – is the carbon fiber one. You can read about it here: http://www.dicecreator.com/2010/02/05/carbon-fiber-aluminium-die-2nd-part/

It is an elaborate process, but at least this one is quite enjoyable.

These are incredible! The amount of work you put into them is evident, but even you must have come up against a challenge you couldn’t complete. Have there been any times you’ve just had to give up on an idea? Are there any dice that are just plain impossible to make? 
 
A challenge I couldn’t complete? Depending on how do you interpret that, there have been a few, or none.As always, money determines what we can and can’t do.
Once I was asked to do a Structural Integrity (and it’s brother Élegance) in titanium and coloured “carbon fiber” (it’s really fiberglass, but for people to imagine it, let’s say that). The fiber had to be water cut and the titanium was not cheap. So, a set of four dice was going to go for €800 (or perhaps a bit more, I can’t remember how much. It was expensive, but could be done).
 
Another time, I was asked to insert a magnet inside a D6, and leave it with no traces of modification but at €130 it was too expensive for the person. At least this one could also be done.However, now that you mention it… yes, there is a set of dice I was asked for that -even now – I could not make: a Tungsten RPG dice set, all platonic solids. To machine tungsten you must use special grinding wheels and tools which I don’t have. You don’t use cutters! Of course, if I were paid enough, I could buy the necessary tools – but you would be NUTS to pay for that…Getting in touch with reality though, I prefer to just stay on the boundaries of what gamers like (and what I can acquire). From time to time I still like to go wild and spend a couple of days just creating… One day I’ll come up with my “Jewel In The Crown”, a full carbon fiber D6 with no visible seams made in a single, hollow piece. Ahh, dreaming is so fun!
 
It’ll happen one day, I’m sure! So, where can people get their hands on these wonderful things? And how would they go about asking for special commissions? 
 
I have a little shop on Ebay : http://stores.ebay.com/Unconventional-Dice – In the future I’ll have a standalone webshop on the same address as the blog itself. When it launches I’ll make sure to promote it as much as I can, once we’re about to move from one shop to the other. The best way is actually not bother about which shop is active – just go to the blog and click on the “cart” icon. It will send you automatically to the active shop, whichever it is.For special commissions, there is a small guide on this post: http://www.dicecreator.com/2010/05/31/custom-dice-prices/
 
But everyone is welcome to write me an email to dicecreator@gmail.comand ask anything they want to know, to get a quote or just to say hi. Just remember: I’m an artisan, I can’t do tons of dice! There are plenty of big companies to do that…

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As an aside, Abraham also has a group of Facebook (of course) where he’s giving away three prizes. If you’re looking to get something special for nothing, have a look: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Unconventional-Dice/118705028170406 – or just go and buy one of his stunning creations!

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