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[raw concept] Runestones: customizable dice game

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Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009

Hello everyone,

This post is about a side project i wil work on during 2014. Its a "no art" project, as it
does not require fancy images, it will be an abstract game using only self-made vector art.
As the title says, its a customizable and expandable dice game - something i wanted to
do for a long time.

I try to build as many choices into the game as possible. As dice games seem
to be so random (they feel like "the game is playing you"), there must be a
decent set of choices for the player - so an action-point-sytsem is used.

I won't go into detail how the dice themselves work, instead i describe the skeleton
of the system. i have lots of ideas for dice flying around in my head already, but the
"main loop" of the game is much more important ATM.

Below you find my first thoughts so far, it suddenly stops after "attacking" when my
well of ideas dried up. maybe you have some ideas to share?

Runestones - a customizable, expandable dice game

Each player represents a mighty wizard of some sorts, using custom dice
you try to defeat your opponent. This game makes heavy use of custom
dice and features lots of die rolling - it could be interpreted as MTG converted
into a dice game.

Players: 2+
Components: Custom Dice, Player Boards & Reference cards

Custom Dice
All custom dice are 6 sided and feature special symbols that support the
player in the various actions of the game. either by dealing damage to his
opponent, or by preventing damage or by generating mana or special effects.

Dice represent creatures, spells, artifacts, terrain and all other things a wizard
can summon onto his board. Compared to other games, all dice are permanent
and stay in play until removed. There are no fast effects or one-time-spells.

Dice come in various colors and each color represents an element. each die
features an "ID" or "face" as main symbol and 5 other symbols (like attack,
defense, mana or special).

Player Board
The player board features 5 areas: above the board, on the board, left to
the board, right to the board and below the board. These are the areas where
the dice are placed. each player brings his own board. location of dice on or
beside the board matters. but there is no movement of dice in this game, there
are no tiles or spaces. its only important to keep track where your dice are located
on your board. the rest of the board is used as reference and reminders.

above the board: attack zone
left to the board: defense zone 1
right to the board: defense zone 2
on the board: mana zone
below the board: void zone (not used yet)

Reference Cards
reference cards explain the die faces, i try to incorporate them into the game
itself but right now they only act as reminders. each card represents one die.

most symbols are shared and are very common, so its easy to remember them.
there will be a maximum of 8 basic symbols. the true complexity comes from the
special symbols. these are explained on the reference cards as well. as this game
is expandable, new dice and cards can be added on a regular basis. the only problem
is remembering the meaning of symbols and the increasing amount of reference cards.

Each point of damage you deal to your opponent forces him to remove one of
his dice from his board. When the last die is removed, that player loses the game. there
are no life points, the dice themselves represent your hit points.

Game Start
Draw 8 dice from the shared dice bag (it still has to be deciced how the composition
of the dice bag will be done: either by "deckbuilding", "random", "preset" or by sharing
a common pool of dice among the players - there is also the possiblity to bid for dice,
although this might not be the best method to start the game, as it tends to slow things down).

Place the 8 dice on your board, in the middle section - referred to as the "mana zone".

Both player roll their dice, the one with the higher mana results begins.

Your game turn
First you charge mana, this is done by rolling all the dice in your mana zone. Count the
mana symbols. Each symbol grants you one point of mana to spend during the turn. The
rest of the turn follows an action-point-system and you can freely choose what to do when
and in which order (and also how often, except attacking):

Moving a die from one zone to another is called Shifting. It costs 1 mana to move a die
from one zone to another. The zones are: mana zone, attack zone, defense zone A, defense
zone B and maybe a void zone.

you can shift as often and as many dice as you want, as long as you have enough mana.

thought: take the color of your mana results into account, maybe shifting costs 2 but shifting
a die of the same color costs only 1.

Only the dice in your attack zone may be used for attacking and you have to pay 1 mana for
each die you want to attack with. this way, you can scale your attack by attacking with just 1,
a few or all of your dice.

when attacking you select one of the two defensive zones of your opponent and roll your dice.
count all attack symbols. your opponent just rolls the dice in that zone and counts defense
reults. is your result higher, the remainder is the amount of dice your opponent must choose
and remove from the game. when the last die is removed, he loses the game.


…well and thats it for now. this could almost be some of those "chain stories" or "chain games".

has anyone an idea how to continue past the … ?

help and ideas appreciated

Joined: 05/31/2013
Comments and Ideas


I like the idea of your game. Shifting sounds interesting. It does remind me of MtG too, but when you boil it down to the basics, nearly all 2-player mage games resemble magic one way or another. =)

Here are some comments and ideas:

Reference Cards

This should not be a problem if you try to compress as many special abilities to keywords as possible. Think about the MtG again. There are about 50 or more keywords in it. As you don't need and want art to the reference cards, use a single reference card for multiple dice. Think about common dice, uncommin dice and rare dice (MtG, MtG, MtG). THe common dice are simpler and multiple dice can be fitted on a single card. Rare dice are more powerful (and rare) and need their own card, but you should not have many of them at once anyway, and if you have, it is still not more than 8. No problem.


This sounds a simple system: 1 die = 1 life. Slick and smooth, with only one major hiccup (and a few smaller ones that are solvable). When you have only 8 dice at the beginning and cannot gain more (if I understood correctly) after starting the game, losing 1 die is a major major setback. One that you will have very hard time recovering. The good point of MtG and other systems where you really have separate hitpoint/life etc. is that it does not matter are at full strength or one point away from dying, you still have a fighting chance. The other problem is, what die you lose when you take damage? The one that was defending? What if you lost more life than you had dice defending? Or you had no dice defending? Who makes the decision? Best solution for this is most likely the tried and true lifepoints as a separate entitity. Make it an 8-sided die to keep the dice theme intact!

Game Start

Why don't you just copy everything that really works in MtG and other games like this. Build your own 8 dice set and the starting kit comes with 16-20 dice to be used to build two fighting sets. I'd like to be able to build my own set. And when you can only choose 8 dice, it would so much more easier and faster than say in MtG (8 <<<<< 60). LCG:s live and breathe with this also and the idea in Star Wars LCG (with sets of cards) is nice as it makes deck building faster. These would be even faster and add more strategy to the actual game.

Game Turns

The base ideas are cool and fine. There is one thing I did not understand though and it is kinda crucial to the whole concept. Can you save mana to your next turn?

So say I roll mana symbols from all 8 dice in the first round (all dice are in the mana area). Yeah! Now I cannot do anything with this mana, as all my dice are locked into being mana. And how do I track how much mana I have used during the turn? My suggestion, roll all the dice in the Mana area at the beginning of your turn and track the mana gained and stored on the player board itself. This could be cubes (different colors for different mana) or just trackers on the player board and a single cube for each mana. Or maybe once again an 8, 10, 12, or 20 -sided die for each mana to keep track of it (don't leave it to the players like life is in MtG. That would be just rude nowadays =).

The other problem (which could most likely be fixed by storing the mana) is that you could quite easily be locking yourself into situation where you cannot do anything anymore. All your dice are in attack, defense or void zones and you have no mana left. You cannot move, nor attack. Just waiting the enemy to pummel you down. I like the idea that transfering dice to another area costs 1 mana => Keep it, but maybe transfering a die into the mana area is free and maybe even out from the mana area. But moving from attack to defense costs 1 mana and so on.


This needs to be done well. Why does it cost to attack? And does the attacker choose which side of the player board he or she attacks? If once again there are no mana storing the maximum amount of dice attacking is 4 and that would leave you completely defenseless. THe only real option would then be to have 2 dice on both defense areas, 2 dice at the attack area and 2 dice on the mana area. Quite boring actually. Make the mana storable and make basic attack free. But if the die has special actions or attacks they will cost and they can cost more than 1 mana. Much more. =) This should give you a lot more design space for your dice too.

The other question I actually have is why separate attack and defense areas? Why not just 2 fronts where both attacking and defending happens? Left always attacks enemy's left side etc. This would make it once again more tactical as you could see where the enemy is attacking.

The other question is that if you move a die from any area to attack area can it attack the same turn? Or does it have summoning sickness =)? How about making your player board so that all the combat areas (defense, attack etc.) have a transfer area where the moving dice are placed when going into the area or returning to the mana area? The dice would stay in this area until the end of your turn when you may move them into the area they were going originally (or even turn back if you change your mind). To speed up the movement, you could pay mana. Just an idea and would give your player even more things to do.

Ookay. This did became quite a long post but I hope it helps and gives you some new ideas or points you can use in your game. I wish you all the best in your design and a Happy New Year!

Best wishes,

Henrik Collin

Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009
more feedback

thanks for your feedback - much appreciated! it seems like "dueling wizards" is the most overdone theme in
fantasy games. but who cares. this is about dice and i wanted it to be simple (and as the dice will be referred to as "runestones" it makes things much easier for me to paint).

Reference Cards
I could also imagine to seperate the reference cards into elements. so there would be 1-2 cards per elemtn in the game. this also groups the keywords by element. later on there can be cards added - no problem.

Yep, this makes sense. after i wrote the post, i thought the same way. and here are is a new idea that could be fine:

use the fifth zone on the board as a lifepoint zone (this would be the area below the player board and could be referred to as "void zone"). you place 8 dice in that zone and keep mana dice completely seperate from this. when you loose life, you have to discard one die of your choice from your void zone.

players could also use just one single dice and turn it to keep track of life. but with 8 dice that come from your dice pool- you never know which ones will be used as life and what others will be available for playing throughout the game. also, there could be effects that target the dice in your lifepoint zone to generate effects etc.

Now, there should be some mechanic that lets you add more dice to your mana zone. like drawing cards and playing lands in magic. i therefore recommend to increase the total amount of dice a player brings to the game to 16 or even 24.

Game Start
I already thought about this. Right now i just dont know if i should go the TCG/LCG route or the deckbuilder route. players could also build their dice stacks from a common pool of available dice. the dice come from a shared dice bag and form some kind of bazaar. then you can bid for dice and add them to your board. but well, this makes things quite complex.

Using your LCG route i could imagine: each player uses a unique and personal dice bag. players choose a bit more then 8 dice, maybe 16 or even 24 (because you already need 8 of them to represent your lifepoints). and all dice come in "sets" that are elements and subgroups of elements. each set contains lets say, 4 dice. instead of choosing each single die for your dice bag - you just choose a couple of sets (6 sets for 24 dice in total).

but this is not really required, players could also build dice bags containing 24 - guess its still fast enough.

Game Turns
I wanted mana to be temporary, so any leftover points are lost at the end of your turn. I forgot a important point in my opening post: you must be able to summon new dice onto the board by paying mana.

again, mechanics will be copied from MTG (i dont care if this turns out as a copycat, as its just a quick and free dice game).

like said above: maybe you only start with life dice and no mana. then you can add one mana die from your bag to your mana zone per turn. or maybe there should be a "hand" of some sorts that allows you to choose the die.

then you roll available mana dice and sum the mana points. now you take a look at your "hand" zone and use mana points to summon dice to the board.

- this is still quite vague right now -

you made some very good point in that section!

Making the basic attack free and instead the special symbols costly sounds good. It could go even further that you need a "red point of mana" to activate a "red die's special symbol".

The two fronts idea is also very good, it simplifies the layout and increases tactical depth of the game.

I had a similiar idea about the transfer area (the "pay mana to speed them up is good BTW"), all dice feature a "ID" or "face" side that shows what the die represents. Dice put somewhere with their ID side showing means that they can still act this turn. If any other side is showing, then the die cannot perform any more actions this turn.


okay, back to the drawing board - there is a lot of brainstorm ahead!

all the best,

Tobias (aka Fhizban)

Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009
board mockup

Attached you find a simple mockup for a possible board. Each player will use his own board.

Right now i think about the following:

add more zones to the board to allow more flexibility. maybe a "spell zone", dice located there could be used to unleash special effects. i can imagine a total of 6-8 zones (right now its 5). initially i wanted to use the sides of the board to place dice off-board. but it might be better to keep all dice of one player "on" the board instead.

the only two zones that are currently not on the board are the "dice bag" itself (where each player keeps all the dice he brings to the game) and the "purgatory zone", where defeated dice go. It might be an idea to add this purgatory zone to the board itself and allow effects to target dice within that zone (much like the graveyard in Magic: the gathering).

Im out now - thanks for any feedback and advice - this is all very cloudy ATM

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
I did not read your whole concept... but

I did see the picture of the play area and that the game uses dice.

The only concern that I might have is the cost of producing sufficient dice. It is rather expensive to produce dice in the U.S. The Game Crafter sells standard 16mm d6s for $0.35. That's high. I have seen prices in China and they are about $0.02 each...

So the game might be more viable if you locate a Chinese source who is willing to see dice at a cheap price.

But that is standard dice. Polyhedral dice at TGC cost about $0.75... Again you can get those from a Chinese source for about $0.04 each.

Some other solutions is to use chipboard pogs instead of dice. When you NEED to roll a dice, you take a dice from a shared pool and roll it (obviously discarding the pog). This is another way to keep cost down by only having a shared pool of dice and then pogs to represent them in the various zones...

Just a few ideas and comments...

Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009
yeah i know about dice

yeah i know about dice prices. but this will be a fun game and without any commercial target, so i see no problem here.

i had to cancel one of my first professional concepts because of the high dice prices. we worked with an artist and created really unique looking dice together with the guys at q-workshop - but its just not affordable as a economical adequate price cannot be reached for production runs below 1000 - per type of die.

so, i will stick with the gamecrafter solution for this one - and the game uses only d6, this makes it easier.

for all others with a business in mind: i cannot recommend dice games (or component heavy games in general). keep em small, keep em cheap.

my main project is a card game, it uses nothing but cards. colorful, easy to use and cheap

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
What I like

I like the fact that you can move dice between the various play zones... Correct me if I am wrong.

So you could choose to sacrifice a *life* dice and place it in another zone? Is this the way it works???

How many life dice do you have at the beginning of a game???

Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009
zones and shifting

yes you are right, this is the way how this game is supposed to work. but to be honest: i have not thought about moving dice to/from the lifepoint zone. but thats a really cool idea!

(please note this is a raw concept, it has not been tested yet). i refined the zones and worked ab it on various aspects of the game:

1. the total number of dice was increased to exactly 16 per player.
2. all dice feature an icon as well as a number (1-6) on each face (still unsure about this, see end of this post).
3. 13 of your dice start in your "Reserves Zone". You can summon them during the game.
4. 3 of your dice start in your "Void Zone" they are turned so that their "6" faces up. This represents a total of 18 lifepoints, your starting lifepoint total. you choose the dice that will represent your health.
5. each player uses a playmat that features 7 different zones, all dice are located at one of the zones during play:

5.1 Reserves Zone
This represents your "hand" or "deck". There is no bag to draw your dice from, and there is no random drawing/picking. You can summon dice in your reserves to other zones. reserves may never be attacked directly.

5.2 Void Zone
This represents your lifepoints. This zone may never be attacked directly. you can shift dice from or to this zone. you may never shift your last die from this zone. any attack against you, puts dice from this zone into your purgatory zone. when there are no dice left in this zone, you lose the game.

5.3 Purgatory Zone
Similar to a graveyard, all destroyed dice go here. You can shift dice to this zone, but dice cannot leave this zone anymore. you can pay mana to roll dice in this zone, but they only generate special effects if a "purgatory symbol" shows up (represented by a tombstone). So some dice are able to generate devastating effects from within your "discard pile".

5.4 Mana Zone
You may shift one die from your reserves zone to this zone at the start of your turn, for free. the second step during each one of your turns is to roll all dice here. all "mana symbols" grant you 1 point of mana to spend during your turn. mana is lost at the end of the turn. this zone cannot be attacked directly, dice can shift out of this zone but not additional dice (except one die per turn) may shift to this zone.

5.5 Battlefield Zone
You can only shift a die from your reserves to this zone, if you can pay the die's cost in mana. you may shift to or from other zones by paying 1 mana per shifting die. dice in this zone can be rolled to attack your opponents battlefield zone. no matter how many dice you roll, your opponent rolls all available dice in his battlefield zone. compare your "attack" symbols with your opponents "defense" symbols, each point you exceed your opponents total - you deal 1 damage to his dice in his "void zone".

5.6 Support Zone
Works exactly like the battlefield zone, but only "missile" symbols counts when attacking. attacks still target your opponents battlefield zone.dice here can trigger special abilities when rolling "support symbols" represented by a bullseye.

5.7 Spell Zone
Works similar to the battlefield and Support zones, except that rolled dice do not deal direct damage. instead you can trigger "spell" symbols represented by a scroll. spell symbols are explained elsewhere and some of them cost additional mana points in order to generate an effect. the spell symbols can have devastating and varying effects that affect your opponents dice in several zones.

okay, thats all for now - its a lot. this little design is coming along nicely i must say.

im just not sure about labelling each die with numbers from 1-6 in addition to the other symbols. maybe i find another system how to represent health. want to keep the "life is represented by dice" mechanic - because its cool and opens up a lot of possibilities to both players and designers.

PS: i just realized, that in orer for the "move dice to/from your lifepoint zone" to work, i must get rid of the 1-6 numbers. instead each die represents one lifepoint, but the total number of dice per player may not exceed 16 (thats already a lot). hmm, maybe there is a elegant solution to this.

feedback welcome, as always!

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Good distribution

Okay so you start with 16 dice. That's a good starting point.

I notice in your last message that you added a bunch of zones (unlike your original design that only had five (5) zones...)

Thinking about the *game*, and it would be cool if you ONLY ROLL dice in the Mana zone. Once you do this, you can re-distribute the dice AS YOU LIKE. Instead of using CUSTOM dice, you could use DICE COLOURS. So let's say you roll a RED 6. You could place that in your Battlefield Zone. RED dice in the Battlefield Zone DOUBLE in value, so you would score 12 points.

BLUE dice could be used in your Support Zone (they would double in value). GREEN dice could be for the Spell Zone, etc.

If you use colours as well as numbers, you may find there are more in-game possibilities.

Note: I would try to get the number of zones back to the original design (so five zones). I see them as Battlefield, Support, Spell, Life and Mana. Purgatory could be the dice bag, when you discard a dice, you place it back into the bag...

Just some ideas - since you seem to be *fleshing* the game as we respond...

Note 2: I would consider using *screens* to hide how a player distributes his dice. Then players reveal and then the dual ensues... Something like that...

Note 3: You could START the game with only 6 WHITE dice = Life dice. 6 x 6 = 36 additional dice. As you lose dice, you use your "life dice" to ADD to the Mana dice available to roll...

Note 4: In the dice bag, there are NO white dice. BLACK dice offer NO BONUS (So you could have Red [Battlezone bonus], Blue [Support bonus], Green [Spell bonus], White [Life ONLY] and Black [No bonus].

Note 5: Add to the six (6) White dice, 10 randomly chosen dice from the dice bag (Put those in your Mana zone - initially).

Again I'm just thinking about your concept and shooting out some ideas! :)

Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009
thanks for your feedback

thanks for your feedback questccg! and yes, i am developing parts of this as you post - helps me to find the right direction at this early stage.

1. maybe i reduce the zones again. purgatory and reserves are used too rarely, they do not really deserve to be zones on their own (that eat up space on the playmat).

2. new idea: combining both the reserves & lifepoint zone into a single zone. so you start with all 16 dice in this new "nexus" zone. they represent both: the dice you can play AND your life. the more dice you play, the more it takes away from your lifepoints.

3. when you take damage, you also roll the dice in your "nexus/life" zone. each point of damage is negated when you roll a "defense" result. this adds another chance (or "saving throw") to each player and reduces life loss (this would enable me to remove the 1-6 numbers again as it reduces the amount of life a player can lose after a successful attack - so each die in your "nexus" counts as 1 life).

4. i really want to see custom dice in this game. a regular d6 is fun, but the scope of the game can be expanded by adding special results and "runes" to the sides of a die. also: all dice in all zones will be rolled, thats the purpose of a dice game!

PS: I got the "shifting" and "zones" idea while watching Sci-Fi movies where pilots distribute engine energy between life-systems, shields and weapon systems :-)

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