If there’s one aspect of gaming that nobody particularly enjoys, it’s reading the rulebook.  Even if the rulebook is well written, it’s still a bit of a chore.  If it’s a bad rulebook, it can be incredibly time consuming and frustrating trying to figure out what’s going on.

What you really want is for someone else to read the rulebook and then explain it to you.  It’s just so much faster and easier.  Well, now there’s an app for that!  Or at least, there will be if Dized hits its funding goal.

Dized is an app that is currently seeking funding on Indiegogo (a crowd-funding site like Kickstarter).  How does it work?  Can it really teach you the rules to your boardgames?  Let’s have a look…

How does it work?

There seems to be remarkably little information available on exactly how Dized will teach you beyond a couple of animations and a few still images on their website.  It claims to provide an ‘immersive step-by-step tutorial’.  From what I can gather, the tutorial portion looks like it will be similar to what they have on the website: animations and still images.

Their big selling point is that you don’t have to learn the rules before you start playing.  It explains how to set up and then it’s supposed to teach you the game while you play.  So you’re not just watching a video that goes through all the rules before you start.

It will obviously need to cover a few rules before you begin, but then it should lead you through your first few turns and customise its explanation according to the decisions you make or the cards you draw.

Dized - CarcassonneFor example, after drawing a tile in Carcassonne, the app will ask you to select the feature you can see on the tile (eg. road or city) and then it will explain how that works.

It also has a rules lookup feature.  This appears to be text only, but they have clearly taken the time to categorise and cross reference all the rules that you might find in the rulebook for easy lookup.

So if you want to know how a particular card works, you select ‘Cards’, then the colour/design of the card and finally select the name of the card you’re interested in and it will provide an in-depth explanation of that card.  This is almost certainly going to be easier than attempting to navigate an entire rulebook.

How many games does it support?

At the moment, not very many, although they do seem to have an impressive list of publishers on board, including Repos, Hans Im Gluck, Stonemaier Games and CMON, to name a few.  This is critical as they can’t support a game without the publisher’s permission.

Dized - GamesIt looks like they’re aiming to begin with light- to medium-weight strategy games.  Lighter games include Kingdomino and 7 Wonders, while heavier games include Blood Rage and Scythe.

They are obviously keen to include a lot of games.  Like Netflix, people will only use the platform once there is a decent amount of content.  I remember trying Netflix soon after it was available in the UK and it was a great idea, but it didn’t have enough content so I cancelled my subscription.

I tried it a couple of years later though, and they had a lot more content than they did previously.  I have been using it happily ever since.  I suspect Dized will be similar.  Initially, their list of supported games is necessarily going to be limited, but as time goes on I’m sure it will keep improving.

That being said, the more funding they receive now, the more games they will be able to support when they go live.  This is one of the reasons why I have backed the project myself.

How much does it cost?

Nothing!  Yep, it’s going to be free.  Now they will need to make money somehow, or the project will grind to a halt, so how are they funding it?

Well, initial capital for software development is obviously coming from the Indiegogo campaign (their funding goal is $50,000) and they are already half way there so they ought to fund.

After that though, they will still need income in order to continually add new games as they are released.  This will come from subscriptions and adverts.

“Hang on!  I thought you said it was free?”  Getting access to the game tutorials and rules lookup feature will be free (if you don’t mind the ads), but they are providing a bunch of extra features that only subscribers will have access to.

As with any freemium model, their key objective (from a business point of view) is to acquire as many users as possible.  Only a small percentage of people will pay for a subscription, but if their user base becomes large enough, they will then be able to make money in other ways.

For example, having enough users means that games on Dized will receive a natural publicity boost so publishers may well be willing to pay Dized to put their game on the platform.

It’s like reviewers.  Reviewers with only a few followers will need to buy their own games.  If they become more popular, publishers may be willing to send them games for free.  If they become really popular, publishers will pay them to review their games.  It’s all about the user base.

Of course, more users also equals more ad revenue as well.

What are these ‘extra features’ that subscribers get?

There are a number of interesting ideas here:

  • Community Features

I suspect this will be like the community features you would find in online computer gaming: friends lists, chat, guilds, etc.  It’s one thing to use the app to learn how to play a game, but for many of these community features to work, people will need to be willing to interact quite a bit with the app.  They’ll be competing with the likes of Facebook here though.

  • Gaming Utilities

This would take all those little apps that people use for scoring, dice rolling, picking first player, timers, etc. and make them all available in one convenient app.  I think this is a great idea.  I have no end of little utility apps for gaming.

  • Digital Expansions

I have no idea how this is going to work, but they promise ‘downloadable content’ such as extra scenarios, cards and even mechanics for your games.  How can you use a digital card with an otherwise physical card game?  You’ve got me.  Apps are featuring more and more in boardgames though.  Maybe this is a piece of particularly visionary thinking on their part.

  • Player Tools

In a nutshell, they are proposing to do everything that the BoardGameGeek (BGG) app does at the moment, ie. track plays, game inventory, ratings, etc.  Again, this requires people to use the app for a lot more than just learning the game though and it can’t automatically record gaming stats like you can for a computer game.  People who already use the BGG app (like me) are unlikely to want to duplicate the data-entry work here.  There have already been requests to sync BGG data with the Dized app, so they may go down that route.

  • Customised Appearance

You can customise the look and feel of the app.  This doesn’t appeal to me, but I’m sure some people will love doing this.

  • Voting

This is not a free vote, but they will select certain games as being viable and then subscribers will be able to vote on which one they most want adding to the Dized app.  I think this is a nice way to get the player community involved.

When will it be available?

Release is scheduled for August 2018, but the higher pledge levels will get early access.

Final Thoughts

I really like the idea.  I suspect it will only appeal to some people.  I know my Euro-gamer friends wouldn’t be happy with rules being introduced part-way through a game, but for people who are relatively new to gaming, I think it will be a god-send.  Learning the rules is certainly one of the big ‘barriers to entry’ when it comes to the boardgame hobby.

I don’t know how much I’ll use it personally.  If I’ve bought a game, I want to read the rules properly.  If I’m playing someone else’s game, I would expect them to teach me.  If the implementation is good enough though, it would be pretty cool!  Maybe rulebooks will become a thing of the past.

I’ve backed Dized on Indiegogo at the Patron level (which gives me a 12 month subscription).  I’m keen to see the project succeed and I’m happy to spend a bit of money on it to try out all the features.  I’m one of those ‘early adopters’ when it comes to technology – I get pretty excited by innovative developments like this.

What do you think?  Would you use an app like Dized?

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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn't doing anything else, he designs games.

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