I’m thrilled to present to Game Trade Magazine readers the totally true and 100% not made up history of the Sailor Moon Crystal Dice Challenge game that my company, Dyskami Publishing Company, is debuting this month. The first release in a line of tabletop games set in the Sailor Moon Crystal universe, Dice Challenge has taken a long five-year journey from inception to publication. Herein is my story.
Sailor Moon Crystal is a recent Japanese anime adaption of Naoko Takeuchi’s smash-hit manga (comic) series, Sailor Moon. The beloved original mid-1990s Sailor Moon series is one of the most popular and recognizable anime productions ever translated into English for the North American market. The Crystal series is a reboot of Sailor Moon that is a much more faithful adaptation of Takeuchi’s manga story, which omits much of the original material from the first series that was inserted to appeal to a younger viewing audience. Sailor Moon Crystal is a more robust and mature story of the five pretty magical guardians who fight for love and justice and protect the Earth from evil forces threatening harm. Currently available in North America on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as numerous free and paid on-line streaming services, Sailor Moon Crystal remains a popular and critically acclaimed anime series that appeals to a wide audience. I’m a huge fan of this faithful series reboot.
In 1999, designer James Ernest of Cheapass Games released an innovative abstract game called Button Men in which players simulated battles through dice roll-and-capture mechanics. Each product in the Button Men line featured two buttons with game stats and rules, but no dice were included. Why buttons? The genius behind James’s design created not just a simple tabletop game but a social game as well. Gamers would wear their favorite button at conventions, which served as a notification to other Button Men fans that they were looking to accept challenges and engage in dice battles with complete strangers. The buttons promoted the game actively and created a community of Button Men fans. James was awarded with the Origins Award for Best Abstract Board Game for his efforts.
At that time, I was serving as CEO of a tabletop RPG company called Guardians of Order and was enjoying great success with my Sailor Moon Role-Playing Game and Resource Book. A huge fan of James’s dice game design, I thought that a Sailor Moon expansion to Button Men would be a great product for both fans and gamers alike and I approached James to co-design a set of Button Men compatible buttons with me. In 2000, Guardians of Order released the first 12 buttons of the game that was simply titled Sailor Moon Button Men, emphasizing characters from the first season of the mid-1990s TV show. Two buttons - a heroine and a villain - were packaged in each set and six sets were produced. A year later, James and I co-designed a second set of six button pairs that focused on the second season of Sailor Moon. Guardians of Order continued selling the twelve Sailor Moon Button Men sets until their license came to a conclusion several years later.
Fast forward to 2013. After nearly a decade working outside the gaming industry and itching to return to my creative roots, I founded Dyskami Publishing Company to re-enter the market and create and publish tabletop games. Eternally a Sailor Moon fan, I outlined a business plan to reacquire a license to create tabletop games based on the promising Sailor Moon Crystal anime reboot. I thought it would be a great idea to relaunch Sailor Moon Button Men in a new product form as Dyskami’s first Sailor Moon offering. Details were still forming in my head, but I needed to reach out to Cheapass Games early to ensure James would permit a modified re-release of the game. To paraphrase our phone call:
Mark: Hi James, it’s been a long time since we talked!
James: It sure has, old friend. What’s up?
Mark: I’m publishing tabletop games again. If I can get a Sailor Moon license, I was thinking about reformatting and rereleasing Sailor Moon Button Men. Would you be OK with that?
James: Funny, I was recently thinking that Cheapass should relaunch our own Button Men game too.
Mark: Wow, what a coincidence! I don’t want to use buttons, though. I was thinking cards this time.
James: I was thinking of using cards too.
Mark: Cool! And instead of only two characters in a set, I want to release a single deck of dozens of characters at once.
Mark & James: Same!
It took a few (long) years of communication and negotiation for Dyskami to acquire a Sailor Moon Crystal license from Toei Animation, but I was successful at last. Sailor Moon Crystal Dice Challenge is a reboot of our original 2000 release, rebalanced and tweaked for a new audience. We also added two distinct multi-player options and tournament rules to the set. Furthermore, the boxed set includes custom Sailor Moon Crystal lanyards and card holders to maintain and promote the social play aspect of the original button design. Cheapass Games decided to keep the Button Men name for their own game reboot since it ties in with the combative origins of mobster “button men”, but I though a separately branded and named game would be more streamlined and less confusing. Same game, different name - yet fully compatible with Button Men.
Thus, Sailor Moon Crystal Dice Challenge was born. The game has a suggested retail price of $34.99 and is currently available from your friendly local game store. Best of all, Dyskami Publishing has packaged a special Sailor Pluto promotional card with this edition of Game Trade Magazine. Have fun saving the Earth!
Mark MacKinnon is the president of Dyskami Publishing Company, which is headquartered in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Mark also currently serves as City Councillor for Guelph, where he enjoys applying his game design background to stress-test city bylaws and procedures.
©Naoko Takeuchi/PNP/KODANSHA/TOEI ANIMATION