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Winston-Salem man creates Garden Dice board game
Kathy Norcross Watts/Special Correspondent | Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2012 6:24 pm

In Garden Dice, the new board game created by Winston-Salem’s Doug Bass, players use dice to plant vegetables, and to water and harvest crops, while they avoid hungry birds and rabbits.

Bass’ passion for board games — the face-to-face, strategic play that sometimes lasts up to five hours — led him to create and publish Garden Dice, a board game with a garden metaphor that combines strategy and the luck of the dice.

“I’m more of a left brain kind of person,” said Bass, 43, a systems engineer for Wells Fargo.

His garden theme leant itself to a game board full of garden plot squares. Players plant seed tiles using dice as coordinates on the board, but it’s more complicated than that. Water, sun, birds, sundials and scarecrows are mixed in to add to the challenge of growing and collecting sets of vegetables.

Will Fleeson, a friend and fellow game player, has played the game approximately 20 times already.

“I really like the pleasant theme combined with the depth of strategic play,” Fleeson said. “It is a very innovative game because it uses dice in a way almost unheard of, in which dice determine not how far you move, but rather what kinds of actions you can take and where you can plant your vegetables in the family garden.”

The board game appeals to all ages, he said.

“It’s one of those sweet spots where the younger family members will love the garden and vegetables and rolling dice, and the older family members will love the difficult strategic decisions, so it’s a great way for families to spend quality time together,” Fleeson said.

Bass played his prototype 200 times before he hired Canadian artist Joshua Cappel to create the images for the game, designed for ages 10 and older.

He played it 100 more times after he received his first copy. Play testers gave him feedback, and editors proofread the rules in English, as well as German and French – two big gaming communities in Europe.

“Sometimes I’d wake up in the night with ideas,” Bass said. “A lot of times I’d wake up worrying if it’s going to be successful. It was a personal goal to get it published.”

Bass said he’s a perfectionist by nature, which made it difficult for him to get “to the point where I thought it was good enough to get published. I’d change things and change them back.”

His wife, Heidi Freeman, a former Winston-Salem Journal employee, was a constant support for him during the process.

“She encouraged me every step of the way and would help me when I would get discouraged and would help propel me forward,” Bass said.

The son of Robert and Karen Bass in Lewisville, he attended Bishop McGuinness High School and grew up in a family that played board games like Scrabble and Monopoly. He remembers playing Risk and Stratego with his friends.

Even with the popularity of computer and online games, people still like board games, he said.

“It just depends on your upbringing. I like the tactile sensation of the board game and sitting down face to face with other people. I think the computer games are more hand-eye coordination.”

A member of Camel City Gamers, a Winston-Salem gaming group with more than 200 members, Bass first started thinking about making his own game in 2008. He self-published the game with his own company, Meridae Games LLC.

“He spent a lot of time and effort ensuring it was widely play-tested by a variety of players,” said John Coates, a friend and fellow game player who also works at Wells Fargo. He has played Garden Dice approximately 30 times.

Coates said he admired Bass’ diligence in the many other tasks it took to publish the game, including hiring a veteran graphic designer, working with the manufacturing company to supply the highest quality components, getting prototype copies out to well-respected reviewers, creating advertising and working with distributors. He pre-sold 400 copies on to support the project, and he’s had positive reviews in the gaming community.

“It’s rewarding to hold the first copy and to see positive reviews and to see it available online and in retailers,” Bass said. “The end result is doing something that’s meant for people to enjoy playing face to face. I think it’s important for connecting with people and all kinds of positive interactions.”

Garden Dice is available for $38.95 on Bass’ website:, as well as at some retailers.

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