Community Interview: Chris Williams
What happens when Wiz Kids has license to a ton of Intellectual Property and a pile of dice? Well they get Michael Elliott and Eric M. Lang to design them a dice building game that makes use of DC, Marvel, WWE, D&D and many more IPs to create a snappy dice rolling fun time. I have gotten to catch up with Chris Williams of The Ministry of Dice. Chris is half of the team that runs the Ministry of Dice with is a community based around Dice Masters. We talk to Chris about building the community and what Dice Masters means to him.
Hi there! I’m Chris and I am one half of The Ministry of Dice. We create fan-made content about the Wizkid’s collectible card & dice game Dice Masters.
I’ve been a tabletop gamer for a good 30 years now. I got my start with dice rolling with the Jackson/Livingston Fighting Fantasy books as a young lad in the 80s and have never looked back.
Dice Masters has been the game I’ve been most passionate about through all that time, and we’ve (the Ministry of Dice) been at it for around 6 years now. We have a website, a YouTube channel and a podcast entirely dedicated to the game. Me & my friend Andy started it out of a shared love of the game and a desire to support and grow the UK-based community around the game.
What brought you into Dice Masters
It’s a convergence of many interests and passions.
To begin with: in addition to being a gamer I am also a big comic book nerd. I’ve been reading comics since I was just a whippersnapper and will largely always take a look at a game that is comic book IP themed.
Otherwise, like many of your readers I suspect, I just can’t get enough of rolling dice. Rolling lots and lots of dice is just a joy to me. Who doesn’t love the sound of a handful of dice rolling through a dice tower?
I’ve also been a fan of collectible card games since my teenage years in the 90s. You name it, however obscure, if it was a CCG in the 90s I probably gave it a go for a hot minute. I love rolling dice, but I also love filling cards away in a binder and seeing a card collection on display LOL .
However, after playing at a handful of organised events and competitive tournaments I began to get a little frustrated with the “gotcha” elements of these games and, frankly, the smarmy, cut-throat attitude this element would engender in some players I’d meet along the way. It just wasn’t my pace and
Then, my best gaming buddy Billy came round for a games night back in 2014 and had brought a starter set for Dice Masters Uncanny X-Men. It was a mix of collectible card game AND a dice game that was comic book themed! I mean… talk about hitting the trifecta for me. AND it was all open information with no hidden hand involved just waiting to “gotcha”, leaning right out of my frustrations with past CCG experiences.
All of this is all great – but the fact that the game is a really elegant, strategic pvp game that has room for both casual fun AND more competitive approaches meant it had longevity for me, with lots to explore and new play experiences to be had.
And finally: Dice Masters hands down has the best community of players I’ve ever encountered in all my years of playing these types of game that makes it very easy to be a fan of the game.
What is currently your favorite game to play that isn't Dice Masters?
There are other games than Dice Masters?
Ha! I’ve got a few faves,. The main focus of the tabletop gaming outside of Dice Masters is with my family, particularly with my kids, so you’ll forgive me if I cheat and name a few family faves.
The current front-runners that I enjoy with my children Disney Villainous, Exploding Minions and Beasts of Balance. My Wife & I play quite a bit of Smash Up and Azul. When it’s all four of us you’ll likely find us going for a bit of Cockroach Poker, Fantasy Realms or Canine Kleptomaniacs. We like a lightweight card game that can come with us on trips or occupy the kids at a restaurant (Remember those? When we used to out to eat sometimes?) while we wait for the food to be served.
If you absolutely insist on one though – I’m a big fan of solitaire games and can be found playing Warp’s Edge most often of late, when everyone’s gone to bed and I’m looking to entertain myself.
How have you worked to build the community around the Dice Masters series?
It’s definitely been a challenge over the years, particularly in recent times (as I’m sure it has been in many other communities). Anyone who has tried their hand at community building around a game with a small cult following will empathize.
I’ve always been a believer in having “a bit of hustle” though, and that if things aren’t where/how you want them to be then you should hustle around it. My favorite game is niche, and if I want Wizkids to keep printing it, and people to play it with, then I think there’s a mindset of it being a symbiotic relationship with the publisher, FLGS’ and player bases that I can contribute towards as a Content Creator. Too many games get bogged down with the expectation that the publisher or the stores should be doing more, and its their fault if it goes wrong. So, taking some ownership for keeping the thing I love going was the first step.
So… I’ve networked; getting to know game stores here in the UK, introduced myself to new players and play groups, reached out the publisher with feedback, and kept active online within the wider international community. I find it doesn’t take a whole lot of time or effort to write a short e-mail or, in this day & age, fire off a Facebook Message or a Twitter DM to just say “Hello, I’m that Dice Masters guy from the Ministry of Dice” in a warm & friendly way.
One thing that’s happened off the back of that is that I’ve run events on behalf of stores or at conventions. It takes a bit of the pressure off the store owner/convention organizers and gives me the opportunity to keep the game relevant and the player base a place to play. I’m well equipped to better understand game nuances like what attractive prizing looks like and where best to publicize the event. (Although, admittedly, I do have my content as a mouthpiece to help publicize it and attract players)
That does remind me of another point: I think there’s also something to be said about creativity when it comes to community building, or at least some research for inspiration. A little bit of experimentation around how event prizes are awarded, how you promote some organized play, how you share your passion about the game to attract new players etc can work wonders. Prizing for organized events is a great example – by drawing inspiration from the classic British Summer Fete tombola’s we were able to make prizing more accessible to less-experienced or less-skilled players, making the barrier of entry that is “why bother?” much smaller. This philosophy of prizing has become a bit of staple for fan-organized Dice Masters events now, something Andy & I are very proud of.
Something else: about how folks in the community approach being active online in general – answering questions on Reddit, responding to posts in Facebook groups, and helping out in a non-judgemental way. Also – one for content creators here - when someone is a newcomer and posts a question answer the question first and tout your content second, even if your content has the answer. It’s more personal and positions you in a much more approachable and personable way. I’d recommend anyone looking to strengthen and build a gaming community invest time into how they contribute through social media and services like Discord. It makes conversation about the game more immediate and engaging on platforms such as these and gives players a place to go. Online conversation can be intimidating for some, so anything I can do to make it feel warmer and
Clearly, creating fan-made content helps me contribute towards community building too. I’m able to hear all about, and share, ideas & best practices that are being used by others across the world when it comes to their contribution to community building. Little ideas come out of local communities at FLGS’ and gaming clubs and curating & sharing them can be really helpful sometimes.
In the last few years, while we’ve been a home, we heavily promoted online play as a means of keeping community game play going through lock-downs. Playing Dice Masters virtually, using webcams and the physical game components, was already an approach adopted within the community, so we used our platform to turn the volume up a bit by dedicating segments on our podcast to the idea, writing guides, and facilitating online organized play events. This brought with it a fresh depth of community building, as we now see a truly international community of Dice Masters players who have never met face-to-face but have played and forged virtual friendships through the promoting of “getting involved” with the online scene.
Why do you enjoy building the community?
I get a lot of personal joy & satisfaction from being a part of a community in this way.
I think it’s an important point actually; you have to honestly ask yourself sometimes if you’re the right person to position yourself this way in a community. I’ve seen too many content creators and tournament organizers behave like it’s a chore, and the is a BIG turn off for players. I’m just about gregarious enough, and
As I mentioned before; some of my reasons are entirely selfish LOL. I’m invested in the game and wish for it to continue, and so some of my enjoyment comes from those little wins where I’ve helped support and maintain the game’s existence.
Honestly though: seeing the fruits of labour, such as when players turn up to an event I’ve organized, send me a little note of thanks when a dumb vid I’ve made makes them laugh, or hear about how I’ve helped someone understand the game, is a buzz I can’t get enough of. It’s fun to be a contributing member of a community and I like being a part of it all, known to people, someone who’s appreciated.
So basically, I enjoy it because I’m a selfish Dice Masters junkie who craves attention. LOL
How do you encourage social engagement?
We just don’t take things too seriously at the Ministry of Dice and are more than happy to self-deprecate! Thankfully I’m unburdened by the self-conscious, embarrassment voice in my head and am quite happy to be a bit silly with things most all of the time.
I know it sounds like I’m joking but, going back to the point I made earlier about the first steps into a community being intimidating sometimes, it’s important to show folks that the community is place where fun can be had and its not taken too seriously. I think role modelling examples of this type of behaviour is vital to making players feel they can relax, be themselves, and, for example, ask questions in a non-judgemental environment.
We like doing things to expand the experience of being a Dice Masters player beyond the game itself too. I’m always good for a meme-storm, or to get my guitar out and re-write the lyrics to a song with Dice Masters references.
Keeping things balanced is important too. It’s fun to complain, but we are careful to see both sides of something and keep it as positive as possible. The best example of this is when we are discussing a community concern on the podcast; we’ll air different views and look at some angles whether we agree with them or not. It’s just fair and reasonable to do so, we think, and broadly keeps things friendlier.
What is next?
Dice Masters is poised to potentially have a big year in 2022. After something of a period of hibernation we are finally seeing new releases coming down the pipeline and we’ve sensed renewed levels of interest from some returning players and some new players. Only a little, but enough to get ready to push. So – the community is on a recruitment drive – we’re very keen to welcome new players and show them the ropes.
The new sets are looking really good. They’ve got something for new & old players alike. Most of the set imminently due for release: The Dark Phoenix Saga, has been revealed and the game play potential is massive and going to be a lot of fun. With a new starter friendly set due in the Summer too (The Fantastic Four Vs Galactus) there’s a moment of opportunity to capitalize upon to grow the player base. With a well-established online play scene too, folks can get up & running quick, without having to wait until a local scene has picked up pace or you can get to a convention for a game.
Oh, that reminds me, one thing I’m working on for the UK community right now is an organized play event at the UK games Expo, so that’s taking up a bit of my hustling time, as you can imagine. Help keep the game public and in gamer’s consciousness, y’know. We’re hoping to go on the road too and facilitate some local level events through the year as well, get the game seen around some UK FLGS’ and hopefully attract some lookie-loos.
What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow?
I could do with a bit more info to answer that one. Is it an African Swallow? And will it be carrying a coconut?