Gaslands: The Dice Game

In November 2015, I was thinking about the about the skid dice. I knew I wanted to manufacture and sell them to support the game, and imagining that they might be sold in packs of five. You can get them here in our store.

Around the same time, I was been wrestling with the campaign system for Gaslands, having had a couple of false starts. I was struck with the idea to make a casual dice game using the skid dice which also described a race season. Something small enough that the rules could be included as a freebie inside the pack of skid dice. Not only would it make the official skid dice a more attractive product for gamers, it would also offer me the opportunity to explore the problem of a describing a race season through writing another game.

You are a Gaslands race team. You have one skid dice and five regular dice. Each player rolls their dice, one after another. The result of the skid dice determines what you have to do next: take another dice from the pool and roll it, put a dice back into the pool, re-roll all your dice, pass a dice to the left or right, or get knocked out of the round all together. It encouraged you to push your luck, trying to get as close to 21 as possible, and needed a high score to beat the other players around the table. The highest score wins the race, and scores that many points in the season. You play races until one player has 61 points, and they are the champion.

During playtesting, it became clear that something was off about the sequential turn structure of the initial dice game rules. The central goal of games design is always to ensure that the rules you write make the experience of playing the game “about” the thing that the game is about. In this case, each round of the game is a race, so it needs to feel like a race. It needs to feel fast, and chaotic: stressful even.

The first change was to make all play simultaneous. Now all the players were rolling dice frantically, and no-one quite knew what was happening at all times. This was a great change. No longer was the game about making good risk/reward decisions in an environment of open information, no it was about racing to get your score before the other players. If you stopped to assess the situation, you gave the other players precious seconds to get ahead of you.

The second change was to end the race as soon as any player reached and announced a score of 21 (a change suggested by my friend Stefan). This eliminated any downtime when players were sitting on a “good” score, waiting for other players to either beat it or wipeout, which was a boring moment in the game. Now, you were either striving to get 21 without wiping out, or you were out. This also allowed me to throw out the scoring mechanic too: the first player to win 5 races wins the game.

These two changes made the game feel like a frantic race to the finish line, and ensured that each game round was really fast. The simultaneous rolling also made it possible for the game to support many more players. I haven’t tested it with this many, but I suspect the game would play just fine with 10 players! You’d just need two packs of skid dice.

If you want to find out what writing this game showed me about how the main Gaslands campaign system should work, have a read of this, and of course you can now buy the skid dice, complete with the Gaslands Dice Game: in our store now!