Never, never let it be said that Interplay are a bunch of stodgy folks unwilling to try anything new, novel, or - in this case - verging on the gratuitously bizarre. Dragon Dice, slated for release in the second quarter of 1996, will be the networkable software version of the popular TSR fantasy/strategy dice game whose following is almost as rabid and cliquish as the cult of Magic: The Gathering (of which the truly astute fantasy enthusiast may have caught wind in recent years). The original, physical Dragon Dice comes as a boxed set including 18 assorted polyhedral dice, those multicolored, multifaceted, and coveted jewels of the RPG community. While each copy of Interplay's new product does include one randomly-selected die just for the sheer joyous hell of it (and maybe to, ahem, promote TSR's original product), the die's function in the game has been replaced by very tight, pretty graphics and number- generation routines.
The object of Dragon Dice is to conquer and hold - and I emphasize hold - territories via the construction and organization of "armies" whose particular abilities, combat effectiveness, magical attacks, and lucky breaks are determined, or at least modified, by rounds of die-rolling. On the opposite end of the combat spectrum from reasonably physical, logistical strategy games such as Warcraft or Command and Conquer - i.e., move this unit to this defensible position, launch a projectile, wait for reinforcements - Dragon Dice is much more abstract in nature, with its profuse graphics of terrain and townships serving more as ambient environment-candy than anything else. "Armies," "units," and "dice" are somewhat interchangeable here, and after long talks with designers on this matter it is without any sense of guilt that I say: you will not fully understand this game until you play it yourself. Don't even try.
I grew up with RPG products such as D&D and Call of Cthulhu, and in all honesty have never experienced the original Dragon Dice. Suffice it to say, though, that for months now fantasy enthusiasts, game designers and hard-core sword-and-sorcery geeks of every stripe and spot have raved about the approaching release of this game, and every scrap of data available on it seems to point to the "easy to learn, difficult to master" scheme which is the signal of so many massively popular products. And one last thing: every time I call Interplay lately, somebody there is away from their phone, off playing the original game, hoping to get really good before the October release of the software version. Heed my words: trouble is brewing.