Dice Men (297pp, 2022) tells the “origin story” of Games Workshop in the words of two of its founders, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson. It covers the decade for which they managed the company, from the beginning in 1975 to the handover to Bryan Ansell in 1985.

It is a weighty tome. The vast majority is written by Livingstone, with some short sections from Jackson and sidebars quoting the reminiscences of other GW employees. This entails a small amount of duplication. It is not especially distracting, but could perhaps have been reduced with tighter editing. Livingstone has said the greatest challenge in writing the book was combining chronological and thematic perspectives. His solution is to present the story in a series of chronologically overlapping thematic chapters. The arrangement works well.

The text is liberally adorned with images: photographs of people and places; documents, such as jottings of possible company names and Livingstone’s first dungeon; replicas of book and magazine covers, including the full set for Owl & Weasel; and even an extensive collection of pictures of Citadel Miniatures. It is a feast of gaming eye candy, even if the layout sometimes seems more functional than inspired (most notably in the nine uninterrupted pages of painted figures).

The story told in its pages is a personal one. It is personal in the sense that it is written by Livingstone and Jackson themselves, and built on their own recollections. But it is also personal in that it focuses closely on the people at GW. Even staff who worked there for only days or weeks are mentioned. The result is Dice Men is more memoir than history: rich in anecdote, but light in analysis. For example, it contains a detailed description of Livingstone and Jackson’s US road trip in 1976, but almost entirely neglects GW’s relationship with Chaosium, which seems to have been an important part of the business after the break with TSR in 1979-1980. The result is an enjoyable nostalgic journey, which captures the heady atmosphere of GW’s early days, but which adds surprisingly little to our understanding of events. There is scant coverage of the development of the games themselves and only partial discussion of the corporate background. This is not a history in the vein of the TSR histories I recently reviewed. As much as I enjoyed the read, I was left wanting more. I suppose that’s what the best showmen do.

Internal art by Iain McCaig. Images used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.


7 thoughts on “DO OR DICE

  1. Between your review and Goonhammer’s, I’m increasingly convinced this is history as Livingston wishes it remembered, more than an attempt at honest revelation. Which is fine, it’s an autobiography, who amongst us does not editorialise their own life at least a little and so on – but it would be unfortunate for someone to think this version definitive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it reads like the reminiscences of a group of ex-GW workers at a reunion: interesting, but not authoritative.

      Thanks for flagging the Goonhammer review. I hadn’t seen it. It’s excellent and I hardly disagree with any of it. In fact, if I had seen it, I might not have bothered with my own much inferior effort!

      For anyone who wants to read it, it’s here:


  2. Hey Gideon, out of interest, would you consider doing an article on the relationship between GW and Chaosium in the next chapter of the WFRP story?


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