Titan Books, 2022, Paperback, 368pp, £8.99, ISBN 9781803360386
This book review was written in 2022 for Vector, the magazine of the British Science Fiction Association.
Dare you enter the terrifying world of Dice Men, our new adventure in which YOU are the hero? Follow in the footsteps of fearless knight Sir Ian Livingstone and mild-mannered wordsmith Steve Jackson, the twin creators of Games Workshop – the realm’s mightiest purveyor of pastimes!
You play as a lowly Reviewer with a fierce deadline to beat. To calculate yours, roll one six-sided dice and add 2 to the result. This is your Deadline; if it reaches 0, you have failed in your quest.
Now, take up your notebook and stride forth, noble Reviewer!
You find yourself asked to review Dice Men: The origin story of Games Workshop. It’s a hefty hardback tome, to be sure. Its bright red cover features a familiar logo, and a drawing of two gamers from the opposite ends of time.
To see if you are able to lift the book, make a Skill roll:
- If you succeed, turn to 2
- If you fail, turn to 5
Despite its unwieldy size, you heave the book open. Full of lost childhood, the memories swirl around you like the spirits of old friends. The many, many illustrations and photos hook themselves deep in your very soul, tempting you to simply dive in and feed your nostalgia, but as a Reviewer you know you must resist.
Make a Skill roll to resist nostalgia’s seductive allure:
- If you succeed, turn to 3
- If you fail, deduct 1 from your Deadline and turn to 5
You steel yourself and open the book, nodding keenly as you digest the first pages. Lulled by the evocative Contents section, you grip your notepad and strike deeper into the Dice Men. Your wrists soon begin to ache from holding it up – such wisdom does not come lightly! To continue, you realise help is needed.
- Use the Plump Cushion of Support? Turn to 4
- Or battle bravely on, as a true Reviewer should? Turn to 5
Your tiring wrists are relieved, but you realise this quest will not be one that can be done anywhere, nor without the Plump Cushion of Support.
Deduct 1 from your deadline
With no option but to continue, you forge past the Foreword and into Chapter 1.
Turn to 6
Too late, you realise this is no ordinary challenge for a Reviewer! Overwhelmed by the prodigious pages of Dice Men your arms fall numb to your sides and blackness envelops you…
Although the book is large, the print is small, and an eternity of whitespace surrounds each line. After but a short time, you find yourself squinting at the pages before you, the words swimming before your eyes…
Make a Skill roll to continue reading the text.
- If you succeed, turn to 7
- If you fail, deduct 1 from your Deadline and roll again
Dice Men contains a great deal of early Games Workshop history, but as you delve further into the anecdotes and stories, a chilling unease begins to build, and you ask yourself, “Is this all there is? Will I ever really get to know Sir Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson?”
- Pause to look at more of the pictures in Dice Men? Deduct 1 from your Deadline and turn to 8
- Or plough on through the paragraphs about long-gone employees and holidays in America? Turn to 5
Struggling on through Dice Men, you encounter an anecdote about a year that you thought had already passed in the narrative. Confused, you press on, but are frowning so hard that you fail to notice yet another chronological twist and stumble badly in the hollows of this uneven tale.
Make a Luck roll to see if you keep your balance:
- If you succeed, turn to 10
- If you fail, turn to 9
With your arms aching from the unwieldy weight of Dice Men, and your vision failing from the tiny text, this lack of editorial coherence proves to be the final straw. You put the book down, never to be lifted again, and compose your apology to the good readers of Vector…
Determination pours through your veins as you remember: childhood spent playing and replaying all the Fighting Fantasy books! Rounds of Battlecars! Of Judge Dredd! And, more than anything, you remember the young Reviewer you once were who loved role-playing; and how the Games Workshop logo was always there!
With a mighty roar, you smash your way through the muddled timeline! You embrace the unwise font size decision! And smile at the growing success of Ian and Steve as Dice Men comes to its concluding chapter.
- Still not feel like you know Steve and Ian at all; and wish the editor had been a lot stricter when putting the story together, and wonder if some reminiscences from gaming fans wouldn’t have been a useful addition; however, you can’t help but recall the almost forgotten, sepia-tinted memories of summers spent living and (mostly) triumphing in a wild fantasy world with your best friends. Turn to 12
- Feel saddened at this missed opportunity to tell an almost miraculous victory by a pair of seemingly ordinary blokes. Turn to 11
With only a single Deadline point remaining, you sit yourself down and spit out a review of Dice Men; but your heart isn’t really in it. However, as the last word slips onto the page, you wonder if you shouldn’t call up your old gaming buddies to relive some past glories.
Maybe you just might…
With only a single Deadline point remaining, you sit yourself down and feel yourself inspired to do something different, for a change; just as you once were, a long time ago, by two men called Ian and Steve…