June 4th, 2010
In Focus Review - Q-Workshop Dice
As of late there's been a growing trend of skirmish/wargames ditching the dice, and moving ahead to use decks of cards instead, but for the most part dice are here to stay. It's probably the most common accessory which is needed, that we all handle as much as the miniatures themselves. I've always been a fan of fancy, and unique looking dice. Many players also like to express themselves in their own individual way too via accessories, and what a better way than through a set of spiffy dice?
I was really impressed the first time I saw some pictures of the products from Q-Workshop.
Q-Workshop is a company out of Poland. For years now these guys have been putting out some really unique, and even some say strange looking dice. They were even nominated numerous times for an Origins Award in the Game Accessory category, and this year marks their third year in a row being nominated. In 2005 is when they went world-wide, and we started to see more of their stuff here in North America. You can say that they've been around the block a few times, and this isn't their first foray into the realm of dice making. Their website claims the company was started in as far back as 2001.
There is literally so many unique and attractive looking dice to choose from, that I had a hard time deciding just which sets, and which single dice would work best to cover for this article. Therefore what I'm covering here, is just a small sampling of what's really available from Q-Workshop.
Battle Dice 12mm German Set
First up is the German Battle Dice set. This is a set of five D6 dice. These look to be 12mm size dice, as they're the same size as the dice I used in the past from the GamesWorkshop 12mm dice bricks. The difference is, these utilize a German font, and the value for six is designated by a German cross. These are black with white detailing, and they also come in Green with black detail.
There are also little tiny symbols in all four corners of each side of the die, surrounding the large number in the middle. Upon closer inspection, what looks like little bits of barbed wire can be found, leading from one side to another, all the way around the die. There's a lot going on too be realized by simply looking closely at any Q-Workshop die, these included.
Without a doubt, this is the perfect set for a German Flames of War player. On the back of the package it reads “Commander! This just came straight from Berlin. It seams HQ are providing us with special engraved dice with paint that doesn't wear off. Hope we can us those with our Tiger tanks!”. I thought that was a nice touch. Underneath that passage on the back of each package they also give credit to who designed each set, and this one was designed by Thomas Pasieka.
In addition to the German dice, they also offer USA, Soviet and United Kingdom sets in two different color schemes, plus matching dice bags for all 4. This German D6 set cost 5 Euros, or $7 USD. That's a little high I think, but there's also the fact that these are tiny little works of art, more than just some plain colored, and simply piped dice to toss around. Some German Flames of War players probably won't thinking twice about the price once they see these either. Although I must add, I've seen US retailers selling the German dice sets for as high as $10 each, which isn't right, when they should be $7. Therefore the best bet is ordering direct from Q-Workshop.
The dice bags I've seen first-hand are the USA and German ones, which they sent for review. These are made of an off-white sturdy cloth, with a black draw string. They're not very large, at about a hair under 5-inches tall, by 4 inches wide. The German bag has a German Cross symbol on it, and the USA one features a star inside of a circle symbol. Both of which run 5 Euros, or $6 USD each. I think that's a bit much for a simple dice bag, with a symbol printed on it, but if your a Flames of War player, this is probably one of the more appealing designs out there that you'll find. To a Flames of War player, it's definitely a nice product to show your allegiance for your country. Otherwise, it's clearly an overpriced dice bag to anyone else.
7 piece Skull Assortment Set
The 7 piece Skull set in Red with black detail includes a D6, D10, D20, D100, D4, D8 and D12. Each of these are Red dice, with black details depicting little tiny skulls surrounding the digits in the middle of each die. The font used has a very horror-like quality about it too. Of all the dice in this set, the D20 was only one, that due to the design is just hard to make out the numbers. All of those little tiny skulls get in the way, and obscure the most important detail of all, the value on the D20. The rest of the dice look great, and I can't say a bad thing about them. If you like skulls, this is a really nice set to go with.
Price-wise this set retails for $14.95 Euro, which is roughly $19 USD (I've seen these 7 piece sets selling for $12-$14 USD online tho). Again, that sounds quite pricey. These are also standard size dice, not the smaller variety like the 12mm German ones I had just covered above. Every die in this set can also be purchased singly as well, and this set also comes in two alternate color schemes Gray with black details, and white with black details as well.
Battle Dice 16mm Orc Set
This next set is a real treat for Warhammer 40k, Warhammer Fantasty Battles, and Orc players from any other game system out there. This set was designed by Brian McRae. The Orc Battle Dice set comes with five 16mm standard size D6 dice, and this set as reviewed featured green dice with yellow details. This set comes in red with yellow detail, and black with yellow details as well, but I felt that nothing was more Orc-like, than true orc green with yellow details.
On these dice are attractive orc-ish designs. For instance the six is designated by what looks like a painted orc skull symbol, which most any Orc player will recognize at a glance. The rest of the values are represented by what looks like orc teeth, utilizing the slash-mark counting method. For instance, four teeth with a fifth slashed through them all designates the value of 5 on the die. All around the edges checkerboard detailing can be found, and like the other Battle dice, there are tiny little symbols in all four corners of each side, surrounding the center value too.
By far these are some of the nicest, and most attractive looking dice you can get. If you're an Orc player too, these are a total must. This set cost 10 Euro, or $12 USD, which again, for being premium dice, that's not a terribly outrageous price for a dedicated Orc player to swallow. Everyone else might feel otherwise.
7 piece Steampunk Assortment Set
The Steampunk set is a 7 piece set very much like the Skull set (D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D20 and D100), only this one as reviewed contains all yellow dice, with black details, and feature steampunk detailing. This is by far one of the most crisp, and clearly defined detailed sets I've seen yet. These all feature little cogs, clockwork, screw-heads and pipes detailing all about.
Each number is so crisp and clean, that every value on the D20 is clearly defined. All of the detailing looks great, and doesn't get in the way of the dice performing their primary function, which is telling what value has been rolled. This set was designed by Shannon Couture. Like the Skull set, this one also retails for 14.95 Euro, or $18 USD (again, I've seen these 7 piece sets selling for $12-$14 USD online tho). This set comes in beige with white details, black with white details and white with black details as well, therefore this one has 4 different color schemes to choose from.
7 piece Dwarven Assortment Set
The very latest 7-piece set is their Dwarven dice set, which was also designed by Shannon Couture. The set I was sent for review utilizes yellow with black detail dice, and since these aren't available from their website yet, I don't know what other colors they may be available in. Each of these dice feature dwarven hammers, and some even have crossed dwarven hammers surrounding the numerical values.
The D20 is quite simple tho, it has just the font with black detailing around it. I think maybe they learned from previous designs to not muck up the D20 die too much with cool designs, because it becomes hard to decipher the values, unless you pull off a design as clever as the Steampunk set, where they encircle the number value, and then put the detail on the outside of the circle, clearly creating a barrier between the detail and the number values. I'd have to say this is probably one of the nicest sets too, and it's definitely a must-have design for most any Dwarven player.
Elven and Dragon Singles
In addition to the sets, I had also asked to see a few of the single dice they had to offer. The Dragon series D20 dice comes in 11 different color scheme varieties, and I asked to look at a few of the black with red details D20s. Each of these have tiny little dragons illustrated with the wings and tail curling about each individual number value. The font used is a little hard to describe, but it looks nifty, and most of the values are easy to decipher, with only a few taking a 2nd glance to recognize.
That's the thing about D20 dice tho, there's not a lot of room to begin with to get all artsy-fartsy with, so what ever they do, they need to be careful. I like the dragon D20, but others might feel that they're a little harder to make out, and I can't say that this isn't something that could be easily solved by opting for a different color scheme too tho. Although I will say this, the position of the dragon helps to define which way is up, and I thought that was a very nice touch, and it helped a lot in determining the 6 from the 9 value. The dragon design isn't limited to the D20 either, they make all 7 of the other different die types with this same design, and the 7 piece sets too.
I had also asked to see some the Elven D10 dice. These come in 15 different color scheme varieties, so it's far too much for me to sit there and list. I ended up reviewing some orange with black details D10. These are quite simple to describe too, they're standard size D10, but utilize an elven-looking font for the number values, and surrounding each value are loads of Elvish characters. These are a must for most any Elf player, and this design isn't limited to just D10 either, they make all 7 different die types in this design, plus a 7 piece assortment set as well. Buying singles is an option, but it ends up a bit more costly, as all of the singles we looked at are in the 2.50 Euro range, which equals $3.00 USD each.
New Celtic Design
Lastly I was sent some of their all new Celtic dice to preview, and they claim they're using a new technology to make these. The D12, D8 and D4 they had sent along are white with black detailing. These do look to have the most intricate detailing I've seen yet from them. The best part is, they're amazingly detailed, but the detail doesn't obscure the means to decipher the numerical values at a quick glance. They might be on to something here. I'm curious to see what the Celtic D20 looks like now that I've seen these ones.
A few last odds and ends that they had sent along include some nifty little counter tokens, and one monster size D20. These look to be made of the same material as their dice products, and with similar detailing in various colors. There's dragon ones to match the dragon dice, and what appeared to be an elven counter, along side some nuclear hazard symbol counters.
The huge D20 is what they're calling a card game life counter, to help keep track of points, levels, etc, what ever you need to keep track of, you can use this huge D20 to spin-down to keep track. I can't say I'm totally sold on the counters and the monster size D20 tho. I'd have to see pricing before I could comment much more on those.
Q-Workshop products may visually appeal to everyone, because you definitely can't deny, that these are some really amazing looking dice, but they most certainly won't appeal to everyone's wallet. That's really the only thing going against them. There's no denying the fact, that these are the Rolls Royce of dice. I'm yet to see anything else out there, that can come close to how truly brilliant these look.
Due to the painting process they utilize, they claim that the paint won't wear off their dice either. They also offer custom dice, where you provide the design, and the cost depends solely on how many dice you want to order, not how intricate the design may be. In all they claim to offer 1500 designs at present too, so there's definitely a little bit of something for everyone too be found via their website.
Most of these designs are geared towards the diehard enthusiasts, who love to accessorize, and show their faction loyalty. I personally think they're all amazing dice, and the Steampunk, German and Orc Battle Dice sets are by far some of my favorite designs from them.
They even offer some licensed designs, like Arkham Horror, Call of Chtulhu and Munchkin dice products. There's no questioning what they can accomplish, that's a given, the sky is the limit with Q-Workshop.
The problem I have, is when it comes to D6, most games using D6 utilize more than 5 on average. A set with even 10, or 12 would make more sense than these tiny 5 packs they offer. They need to be able to bring these down to something in the range of 12-15 standard size 16mm D6 dice for $20 USD. If they could do that, I think they'd really be on to something then. Until then, these won't catch on with the majority of the wargame, and skirmish game enthusiasts.
However, the 12mm Battle Dice I think aren't too bad cost-wise, they're a little over $1 each in the 5-piece sets, but again, they need to be selling these in at the least a 10-piece set for $10-$13 USD. Some may feel that's still a bit much, but I think that's a reasonable price-point. I totally agree that these should cost more than the average pipped, and colored variety of dice out there, but just how much more is too much? That's the bigger question.
The other problem with the smaller Battle Dice sets that are aimed towards the Flames of War crowd, is that US retailers are charging quite a bit more than the 5 Euro price, which would equal $7 USD, not $10 USD. So if you're a Flames of War player, expect to pay more than you should for these in North America.
RPG players may see it differently, because most RPGers can get by with a single assorted set of 7 dice for a little under $20. A nice set of dice for $20 or less, when that's ALL you'll need for years to come... that's a reasonable investment for an RPG enthusiast.
Wargamers and skirmish game enthusiasts in general, need more than just 5 D6 to work with, and I don't see very many running out to spend $22 to get just 10 16mm D6. It's just not going to happen, when you can buy a brick of 27 D6 piped dice in 12mm size for $6.00 from Games Workshop. Granted those dice from GW aren't pretty, but can you see the cost difference there?
They also need to put together more sets of say just D6 from the existing 7 piece set designs, or make more Battle Dice D6 sets from some of those existing designs. At present the only way to buy 10 or more 16mm D6 from say the Skull, or Steampunk line, would be in singles. No one in the right mind will be paying $2.50 Euro per D6 at that rate for 10 D6, no matter how nice they are. That's$30 USD for 10 16mm D6. That's just too much.
Granted some people have more expendable income than others, and there's probably a top 5% of the gaming crowd who might drop that kind of money without thinking twice about it. However, they're certainly loosing that other 95% of the market who would eat these up if the price were more attractive, or if they offered better bundled deals geared more towards the wargaming enthusiast. I will say this though, dealing direct doesn't seam like a bad option either to save a buck or two tho.
I was playing around with their their website shopping cart, and shipping rates for two sets of the $7 USD each German Battle Dice was only $6 USD. So direct you can get two sets of the German dice for $20 USD delivered. Considering US retailers are raping customers for $10 per set, without shipping included, it makes more sense to go direct to save a few dollars.
I also fooled around a bit more, and added tons of more 7 piece sets to the order, and shipping never went any higher than the $6 USD. Therefore, if you were looking to buy some of these dice, dealing direct isn't really a bad option, even from as far away as North America. It seams they only charge $6 USD no matter how many sets you buy.
This is definitely great stuff, but their price-points keep them out of reach of the majority of the players in this market. Q-Workshop dice are the best you can get, but not everyone can afford a Rolls Royce or a Ferrari either. Dice collectors will find, that these are worth every penny, and then some, because before Q-Workshop came along, most never saw anything like these dice before. They're on the cutting edge when it comes to dice, now if only they could cut some prices, or cut some better deals to reach more of the market with their products.