Scream or Die started with a simple idea: A dice game where any player could score on anyone’s turn. When we say dice game, we mean games like Zombie Dice or Yahtzee, games where players roll dice and score points. Usually, with these games, one player rolls and everyone waits. Our goal was to turn that paradigm on its head. And so we did.
Originally, Scream or Die wasn’t called Scream or Die. It was called Steamroller, and it was a steampunk-themed game radically different from what you see on Kickstarter. Players had dice that benefited them and one other player equally, and built a slowly growing dice pool that would eventually reach 12-15 dice by the end of the game. Like Scream or Die, players could spend resources to add or reroll dice, but the pace of the game was slow. It took about 45 minutes.
While we were satisfied with Steamroller, it didn’t quite fit our aim. We wanted a competitor to Zombie Dice and other light dice games, not a 45-minute $45 game. So we pared it down and turned it into Candy Dice. Players took on the roles of the Gummi Thief, the Chocolate Priest, the Peppermint Mage and the Lollipop Warrior, and each had different abilities. Candy Dice was, in this and many other ways, more complicated than Steamroller.
Yet, it also had a unique charm. In Steamroller, you could ONLY score on someone else’s turn, while in Candy Dice, you could score on anyone’s turn. Even with the complicated abilities, it was a shorter game than Steamroller that ratcheted up the fun factor. Candy Dice never worked, however, because each player’s abilities were either too different to balance well or too similar to be interesting. We knew we had to go back to the drawing board.
So we stripped down the game to its core components. Scoring on anyone’s turn. Rerolling and adding dice on anyone’s turn. Asymmetric Dice that benefited some but not all players. Resource management. Collecting Resources only on your turn.
Instead of building a dice pool, we switched to randomly drawing dice out of a bag every turn. We decided to change to 5 types of 3 dice each for a total of 15. We removed abilities completely. We simplified the actions to reroll or draw as many as you want at a cost of 1 per scream, but we kept in one major feature of both Steamroller and Candy Dice: You only scored if you got at least two of your symbols on a single roll.
The result was meh, but luckily, one of our playtesters, Anthony Puhl, came up with a suggestion that saved the game: One symbol, one point. We shrugged our shoulders, said why not, and had the time of our lives. The game suddenly came alive. It felt more fun than Steamroller or Candy Dice had ever been and we knew we needed to make the game.
So we searched for a theme. Classic Monsters! Movie monsters are fun, generic and easily recognizable. Who doesn’t love a vampire or werewolf or an invisible man? Our artist, Adam Krause, quickly made a few sketches we immediately fell in love with. One of our developers, Dan, came up with the name, and we thought it fit.
We then began taking the game to small conventions around Michigan and got a few great suggestions that improved the game. Brandon Beran, creator of Pocket Ops, suggested we end the game at 13 to go in line with the theme. A play tester at Davecon convinced us that the Scream Die were boring, so we changed them to give either 1 or 3 screams instead of 1 or 2, making them a tempting target for rerolls.
And then, we kickstarted it. During Origins. This was a mistake. We not only didn’t give ourselves enough time to launch, but we did so while preparing for the convention and while shipping out our first funded game, Heir to the Throne. Yet, we’re glad we tried and failed, because out of that failure came some amazing suggestions which have made the game better than before.
First, we had no female monsters. This was because of how we designed the game mechanics first. We didn’t really think about the skin when we slapped on the monsters, but as soon as someone mentioned it, we realized it was a huge oversight. It’s so important to include characters that everyone can easily relate to, especially for kids. Thus, Mina, Cleo, Grace and Harriet were born. Now, they’re our favorites.
Second, Kevin Nunn of Mayfair Games gave a great suggestion at Origins. He envisioned a dice drafting variant where, instead of scoring all the screams on your turn, players take turns drafting resources after every roll. This variant appeals more to the strategic gamer rather than people who just love to chuck dice, and it’s now a part of the game.
Third, we added a mega meeples and dice tower deluxe edition as a direct request from our backers. While these don’t add to the game plan, they sure look cool!
Lastly, we added a 5-8 player team mode. People commented that light games should be able to involve everyone at your game night, and we agree. So, we made a team mode, and it’s been well received. The most meaningful praise we got was from Jonathan Gilmour, creator of Dead of Winter. He tried out Scream or Die at Grandcon 2017 and liked the team mode so much he suggested that it only be a team game. And he’s right, with the added element of scream sharing, team mode is really fun and ups the strategy!
So, that’s how Scream or Die came together. We want to thank the community so much. Our play testers, our friends and other designers who tried our game contributed so meaningfully to the development of Scream or Die.