Dice Dominate at Gen Con 2022, Including Dispel Dice Currently on Sale

Dice Dominate at Gen Con 2022, Including Dispel Dice Currently on Sale

At one point I was at Gen Con, stalking the vendor floor aisles for the next big board game. The next moment I was shopping for an engagement ring, or at least that’s what it felt like. A woman with beautiful hands was removing semi-precious stones from a brilliantly lit glass case, placing these beautiful objects on a velvet cloth and encouraging me… to roll them up.

Luxury has come to board games. First it was fancy tables, and this year it was all about dice. At least two vendors, Dispel Dice and Level Up Dice, were selling sets of polyhedrons that were nearly as expensive as some complete sets, and people were lining up for a chance to buy them. The biggest name in the room was Karen Wang, whose $2.3 million crowdfunding campaign for sharp-edged dice packed with creative inclusions turned heads in 2020. Level Up Dice was also in attendance, their wide selection of semi-precious dice like no other. something else in the room. . All vendors were at the top of their game, energized by the interest and momentum of the crowds at the Super Bowl of table games.

Dice made from fluted, blue and green limestone sit on a board.

Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Ionized hematite dice inlaid with purple and gold.

Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Obsidian dice.

Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Rainbow holographic dice.

Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

But it took quite a bit of work to get there. Wang, for his part, struggled during the pandemic with manufacturing, workflow and import issues. Level Up CEO Alex Abrate said many would-be dice makers simply went out of business during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The problem is that it’s a niche market,” he said, his voice muffled by the mandatory face mask guests were asked to wear this year. “The problem is that it is a niche market with a lot of fever […] customers. So all of a sudden we had this whole new generation coming in, looking to monopolize [and] capitalize on the dice industry. And then he hit COVID, which meant there was no way out of there. So there are places with [literally] tons of dice they have been sitting on for two years. […] They are lowering their prices everywhere.”

Abrate and Wang stand out from the crowd for how they make their dice and what they make it from. Wang relies on liquid resin, kind of like the two-part glue you can buy at the hardware store, and novelty inclusions to give her creations depth and shine. There’s also the branding that comes with their names: Crimson Nebula, Eldritch Fire, Magenta Inferno, Faewater, each of which is an opportunity to connect with the fan of a certain type of RPG or campaign.

Abrate’s niche is semi-precious stones and incredibly rare materials. “What you see here is not the only kind of thing we work on,” Abrate said. “We work on four-figure stuff, five-figure stuff. We just finished making a dice game with a World War II Tiger I.”

A woman with purple hair and a dice necklace stands next to a set of green dice.

Dice maker Yaniir poses with these black light reactive dice, only on sale at this year’s Gen Con 2022.
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

The reactive dice under black light.

Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Indrani Ganguly represented another cohort of dice makers at Gen Con this year: independent artisans who sell their wares online. The first modern dice maker in India, their problems during the pandemic stemmed from finding the tools and materials to even get started. His biggest challenge: the air bubbles that ruined his sets.

Blue die with purple ink and floral inclusions.

Photo courtesy of Indrani Ganguly

Blue and white dice with a red tinted owl logo on the 20 side.

Photo courtesy of Indrani Ganguly

A dice with a saffron flower inside.

Photo courtesy of Indrani Ganguly

A dice with dried flowers, opaque blue.

Photo courtesy of Indrani Ganguly

“A pressure cooker is basically an air compressor tank that compresses any air bubbles in the resin once you put it in there,” Ganguly explained. “So it cures while it’s in the pressure cooker, which means there are no bubbles or little holes in the dice. And that kind of stuff isn’t just available at Lowe’s or Harbor Freight or things like that at home. [in Mumbai]. I have to go get these industrial-grade ones and say, ‘Listen, I don’t want 20 of these. I just want one. Can we work something out please? And it was a lot of that for me.”

Now Ganguly, who was on hand to accept the Diana Jones Award on behalf of game designer Ajit George (Radiant Citadel Journeys), he uses his dice sales to fund his trip to Gen Con.

She says she loves the job, even when a single game of dice can take hours to perfect.

“It takes a lot of work and effort to be able to get to the point where people see it online,” Ganguly said, “where it’s super bright and beautiful with no streaks or marks. And that’s hours of work, usually five to six hours of work per step just in my seven-step polishing process.”

Ganguly says he also makes custom dice to order. A customer requested that her dehydrated breast milk be included in his dice. Another wanted raven feathers, a nod to Vax’ildan from Critical Role.

But what about dice with Mountain Dew inside?

“My goal is to make aesthetically pleasing dice,” Ganguly said. “I don’t necessarily want to make the most damned dice you can imagine.”

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