Evolution of Utara Symbols

I'm looking hiring the services of a custom dice manufacturer to make a single prototype set of Utara dice. Above, you see the prototype I worked with during the playtesting process and which I used to demo at Dreamation 2011. Simple blank dice with stickers and hand-drawn letters.

With an eye towards non-English speaking audiences, I thought it would be good to make Utara's faces non-linguistic. I based these on compass arrows. However, I realized that any time you introduce an arrow into an interface, the human will want to follow it in that direction. In the end, I figured out that there was such a thing as being too abstract.

So I went back to the NESW system from the prototype, but I wasn't content with simply putting letters on each face all on their own. I needed to add a thematic element to the presentation, something harkening to navigation by the stars. I needed constellations. Thankfully, boardgamegeek member BT Carpenter offered this diagram for turning a regular pip die into a Utara die. That's the perfect structure for making constellations that form the cardinal letters. Plus! The stars can be read as pips!

And here's a quick mockup of what the dice would look like in a perfect world. I have no idea if I can find a supplier for dice with this kind of marbling, but let's hope. At the very least, it'll be handy to show to a potential vendor or publisher.


  1. Those dice look very nice!

    Now I'm wondering about those compass arrows. How does the game change if, rather than in the clever north-aligned rectangular grid, dice are played in whatever direction their arrows fall?

  2. That's something I considered in as a long-term game project. In my experiments, it would call for a long ruler or rubber band to ensure accurate trajectories. It reminds me of a dice-based version of Cheapass Games' Light Speed.

  3. Those are superslick! I don't think I've seen dice with that particular type of marbling before. Most are either the swirled or the speckled kind, the latter of which might be about right. When can I preorder?

  4. I'm writing a more thorough post about this, but basically my plan is to print one set of dice for use in demos and in a pitch video. I'll use that prototype to pitch to potential publishers for the license. So, right now, no preorders are planned.

  5. Thanks so much, Marc! Hope I can get a good prototype.

  6. I love the look of the dice, the stars-as-pips. They'd be functional even outside your game, looking forward to them.

  7. Yup, that's the idea. Get some added value beyond the game itself. Perhaps expansions will incorporate point values based on pips, but for now it's just a nice bonus.

  8. I love the look of the dice, the stars-as-pips. They'd be functional even outside your game, looking forward to them.


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