Noah J Nelson on Monday, Jun. 6th
When Tristan Convert started the Kickstarter campaign for his game Dice Age, he didn’t know much about the site.
“I looked at Kickstarter for two hours and said let’s do it,” says Convert. He had jumped onto the crowdfunding site at the urging of a friend after Convert had run a tournament of Dice Age at his house.
At his Echo Park home, Convert — who emigrated to the U.S. from France last August– ran a demonstration of the main Dice Age game- the “Crown of Gods”- for me. The contest has a stream of consciousness quality to it. A simple core mechanic– roll a lower number than the last number rolled or lose the round– is mutated by symbols on the various dice. The game is heavily influenced by Magic: The Gathering, and the planned final retail product will be sold in collectible sets.
Nor are we talking about standard six-siders, or even the 8-, 12-, and 20-sided dice familiar to Dungeons & Dragons players.
“I went down to the definition of dice,” says Convert, “which is an object which can stop on one side or the other, and I went crazy making shapes. Whatever shape is good so long as it stops on one side. So you have dice that have the shape of barrels, volcano, rocket, whatever goes.”
At last count four other games have been “discovered” by Dice Age players, making it not just one game but an entire system of play. Our duel went by quickly, with the game twisting and turning on each roll. I quickly saw how two players with carefully constructed sets of dice, ala Magic or Warhammer, could find themselves in a tense game of strategy, tactics, and chance.
Plus it’s just fun to throw a die shaped like a castle onto a playing field hoping that it lands canon-side up.
The project began back in the late 90’s, Convert tells me, while he was a biology student at the University of Science and Technology in France. While hanging out with a friend attending art school Convert became interested in the idea “of a piece of art with no bottom side. Le Venus Di Milo has a bottom side, it is a statue and its either erect or not showable. So a piece of art with no bottom side is kind of, to me, a die. You have always a hidden side, but each side is as [viewable] as the other one.”
“After the first pieces of art I invented rules to bind those artistic, roll-able pieces of art- dice- together into a game. Kinda as a joke I went to the campus cafeteria and I played with a friend… and people were just amazed by seeing those dice looking like nothing we’ve ever known and playing with rules that don’t refer to any actual game.”
Dice Age has evolved a lot since then, with the rules being as solid as any game I’ve played.
The final production dice are being remodeled by a designer using computer aided design, and Convert has taught himself the software to try his hand at turning his handcrafted dice into 3D printed objects. The whole process is expensive, but I still wondered about the $10,000 fundraising goal. As it turns out, the price is tied to the price of the master injection molds and a run of 300 sets of dice Convert negotiated with a Chinese toy factory. For the factory a run that size is almost comically small.
Convert admits to being a bit overwhelmed by the Kickstarter process. With over half the campaign over and $3000 left to be raised (as of this writing) Convert is nervous about the success of the fundraising.
“If this awesome idea can’t make $10,000,” Convert says, “then I’m putting it back in the closet.”