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10:20am on Saturday, 28th January, 2023:

Dice Men


Before Christmas, I ordered a copy of Dice Men by Sir Ian Livingstone and not-Sir Steve Jackson. My wife immediately commandeered it to give me as a Christmas present, along with Eric Zimmerman's The Rules we Break. I started reading the latter on Boxing Day, on the grounds that I might be able to use some of it in my lectures this term (and indeed I did change a couple of slides as a resul); it's an amazing piece of work, which I recommend to anyone who teaches game design.

Having finished The Rules we Break last week, this morning I began Dice Men.

In the 1970s, Ian and Steve used to run a games magazine called Owl & Weasel. Only one copy ever came into my possession, and it failed to persuade me to subscribe to it; I didn't have much money, and we already subscribed to Games & Puzzles, which was bigger and had more articles. O&W ran for 25 issues before being replaced by the much more famous White Dwarf as the house magazine of Games Workshop.

The front covers of all copies of O&W are reproduced in Dice Men. They were a real blast from the past for me — not because I'd read them (I hadn't) but because of the names they mentioned. The UK games scene was not large at the time, and was serviced by around 40 play-by-mail zines. Most people subscribed to several, and some rich few subscribed to all; as a result, circles overlapped. Thus, even though I didn't subscribe to O&W, I came across many names on these front pages that I recognised: Don Turnbull, David Watts, Steve Doubleday, Lew Pulsipher, Hartley Patterson, Edi Birsan, Allan Ovens, Gyles Brandeth (yes, that Gyles Brandeth), Pete Swanson, probably others I don't recall right now.... This is in addition to other names sprinkled throughout the book's text that I also know from my teens, including several contributors to Games & Puzzles (among whom Steve Jackson can be counted).

I dare say that as the book continues through to the Fighting Fantasy era I'll lose my connection with it, but for the moment, for me, it's unadulterated nostalgia.

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