Everyone dreams of turning a personal passion into a livelihood. It’s a different story when an idea grows into an industry-defining company on the London Stock Exchange, now valued at over $3 billion, but that’s exactly what Sir Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson achieved with Games Workshop. Now they’re finally telling the story behind his rise to stardom – and it’s an inspirational story for fans, gamers and hopeful visionaries alike.
Dice Men: The Origins of Games Workshop is a 288-page in-depth look at the founding years of the company, which grew from humble beginnings in a third-floor London flat to become synonymous with role-playing and tabletop gaming worldwide fight against fantasycitadel Miniatures, warhammerand more.
The book is dedicated to the memory of Gary Gygax – the co-creator of dungeons– to whom Sir Ian and Jackson “owe a great debt of gratitude”. in the dice men‘s foreword, Gygax is credited with publishing it white dwarfthat GW took from his cult Owl and Weasel newsletter brochures and into the big leagues.
dice men feels like the culmination of Games Workshop’s publishing past. Less a history book and more a coffee table tome, dice men manages to do something quite remarkable in less than 300 pages: telling a surprisingly profound story, rich in captivating images, without ever being wordy or vain. You can count the number of text-only spreads on one hand as, with Jackson’s expert assistance, Sir Ian presents ups and downs in a way as colorful as her many creations.
It’s packed with never-before-seen visuals, including D&D dungeons and character arcs in the making warhammer Sketches, photos of the behind-the-scenes action from Games Workshop itself, and dozens of flyers, posters, and artworks that have helped make the company’s creations so compelling to a burgeoning audience of fantasy gaming fans.
Covering everything up to the mid to late 80’s when Sir Ian and Jackson left the organisation, dice men still tells its impressive story on a much broader scale than many might expect. Those who have only seen Games Workshop on the high street and expect it to focus heavily on its huge popularity warhammer franchise, will be surprised – but not disheartened – to learn that it only makes up a small part of the book.
While Games Workshop’s core products offer a wealth of interesting stories, it’s those stories that underscore the broader timeline that offer some of the more memorable and intriguing moments dice men. The team’s coast-to-coast journey across the United States is fueled by car deliveries and free McDonald’s hamburgers courtesy of the 1976 Olympics. They sleep in Van Morrison and work in a bread bin. That War in the Falkland Islands The 1982 board game Scandal underscores the company’s vulnerability to unfair tabloid criticism. Jackson finding an out of print board game he created elicits the biggest smile.
dice men ends somewhat abruptly; everything after 1987 is practically distilled into a few paragraphs, and people like me – whose fondest or most vivid memories of the authors come from their time at the helm of Eidos Interactive and Lionhead Studios – won’t find anything about their subsequent careers. Still, that’s the point; dice men is focused on the story that needed to be told.
Eventually, Dice Men: The Origins of Games Workshop is something too many of us have been waiting for. It might not be the story you expect – and its narrative approach occasionally favors hard facts over flourishes – but it more than succeeds in its mission to capture the rise and rise of one of gaming’s most revered creators.