Dice Men: The Origin Story of Games Workshop

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Dice Men: The Origin Story of Games Workshop

Dice Men: The Origin Story of Games Workshop

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For those with either a nostalgic memory of, or an interest in the seminal era of the 70s and early 80s for role-playing games (TTRPG under current nomenclature) this is a great read. We began thinking of ways to be more hands-off in the day-to-day running of our company but without giving up control,” says Livingstone, clearly anticipating the best of both worlds, but the agreement that puts Ansell in charge also includes handing him a majority of the company within four years, so the “without giving up control” part doesn’t last long. Ian and Steve co-authored The Warlock of Firetop Mountain with Steve Jackson in 1982: the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series has sold over 18 million copies worldwide.

But anyone still having flashbacks to those 14-hour sessions at a friend's basement will know what I am talking about. The idea to start our own company first cropped up during one of our many ‘beer and a board game’ sessions after work at our flat.This is also a business environment alien to the modern age with no e-mail or IMs; for most of the time Ansell in Nottingham is going to be running things independently from Livingstone and Jackson in London and so by necessity he is going to be out of sight – and probably out of mind – for long stretches. In the backwards view of history this newsletter is adorable in its naivete; it’s suggestive of a group of enthusiasts getting in miles over their heads playing at running a company which will be lucky to survive its first year, never mind eventually grow into a multinational. Naturally, the unremarked-upon Naismith quote is followed by a lengthy discussion of the Fighting Fantasy plastic range, a set of 54mm miniatures which was a complete flop and merits attention only as a point of historical curiosity as Citadel’s first plastic range – their contribution seems to have consisted of Citadel learning what not to do. I mentioned the page count earlier, but the meat of the thing is in the section from pages 15 to 268, roughly 253 pages (not accounting for chapter breaks – which are fairly frequent at approximately 14 pages per chapter). Nevertheless, the book still gives an impression of faint surprise at how things went, as if events just overtook Livingstone and Jackson and the company was swept out from under their feet.

The Men at this time are three blokes in a flat who really, really love games, and want to Do Games as a living and are grabbing at whatever they can think of to turn that dream into a reality; Livingstone himself describes it as “role-playing as businessmen engaged in the business of role-playing games. The subsequent two occurrences both follow this pattern – Bryan wants more time and cash spent on Citadel and isn’t getting his way, he forces the issue with a resignation, and Livingstone and Jackson fold. I was intrigued enough by the premise to fund it and you can find my name in the back in the list of supporters, which feels like a disclosure I should make at the start of a review like this. It doesn’t exactly smack of a text that was overburdened and had to shed some weight, especially with its particular publication method which surely allowed the author as much freedom over content and page count as he could have cared to utilise, and if you were going to cut for space you probably would not look first to drop the bits about goings-on in Nottingham.

Some of that just isn’t in the scope of this book; Livingstone’s last link with GW is severed in 1991, before even the second edition of 40k, let alone such far-off ventures as GW becoming truly multinational or the Lord of the Rings licence or Age of Sigmar or any of that.

Initially, it was a distributor for the role-playing games from the US, principally Dungeons and Dragons and Runequest.For fans of the "good old days" of GW, role-playing, war-gaming, and board games, this book is a treat; written by two of the three GW founders, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, we're given an inside (if not overly detailed) look at GW's humble beginning as a board game distributor, to the fateful meeting with Gary Gygax, to the development of the Warhammer games. My dad was in the Navy, and I was fortunate enough to have lived in Scotland for six years in the 80s.

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