An Interview With Ninja Dice Designer Rocco Privetera, and Jeff Gracia of Greenbrier Games

NinjaDiceHey, thanks for joining us today, as we talk with Rocco Privetera, designer of Ninja Dice, and Jeff Gracia, of Ninja Dice publisher Greenbrier Games.

Guys, thanks for joining us today!

Rocco: You are most welcome! Gonna have to squeeze this in between various day jobs, the Kickstarter, and my nightly nervous-Kickstarter-fretting schedules!

Jeff, Rocco, tell us a little bit about yourselves—is there any random thing our readers should know about you?

Rocco: I’m an ex-professional Jazz pianist, comedy improviser, and a kitten just crawled through my window a few weeks ago. I named him “Ninja”. Now that we’re funded I guess I get to keep him?

Jeff: I’m a software engineer by day and game designer and publisher by night.  Zpocalypse was my first creation, self-publishing the game paved the way to design and publish more games.  Such as working with Rocco on the design and publishing of Ninja Dice under the Greenbrier Games banner.

Jeff, can you tell us about Greenbrier Games—what you've been able to accomplish, and what your goals are?

Greenbrier Games is a board game company created by a group friends. Due to the success and support of Kickstarter our dreams became a reality, and thus Greenbrier Games was born.  The long and short of it is we are a bunch of people working day jobs to support our addictive habit of creating board games!  For those interested in the in-depth story of how I convinced my friends to following me down the rabbit hole, check out our About Us on our Web site:

NinjaDiceDiceRocco, Ninja Dice sounds really fun. Can you fill us in a little on the genesis of the game, and how it plays?

Rocco: Ninja Dice was created because a different publisher put out a call for submissions for a push-your-luck dice clone. I was trying to learn game design from a “how do you actually finish something” perspective, and thought it would be a good choice. Ninja Dice is a tight game with 15 dice and some money in its basic version. Every turn the active player is trying to beat a House formed out of House dice that show challenges in the House: Guards, the Residents, and Locked areas. The active player rolls and re-rolls Skill dice to get the Skills necessary to beat the House: Fighting, Sneaking, and Lockpicking skills (as well as Wilds and die-boosting-Fortunes). Meanwhile, while this is happening the other players are rolling dice to slow him down, which may stop him, while they are also stealing money from the active player—and each other!

So what sets Ninja Dice apart from other push-your-luck dice-rollers?

Rocco: Unlike a lot of “multiplayer solitaire” games, everybody is involved and interacting all the time. The inactive players are rolling Threat dice to use up the active player’s time and to steal money from the active player and each other, so you are never sitting around waiting for your turn. Also while it’s definitely a casual game, it has a surprising amount of strategy—you never just roll the dice and “do the one obvious thing” like a lot of other PYL games. It also plays in three rounds instead of to a point limit—thanks to the interaction, there isn’t a clear winner sometimes until after the last arrow is fired and the last coin stolen, which leads to a lot of dramatic close finishes.  And, of course, it has my fun “arc of fire” mechanic, which leads to a lot of dramatic and interesting gameplay.

NinjaDiceArcHow did you come up with the awesome idea of an arc of fire depending on how the dice land?

Rocco: I was doing some odds calculations and was trying to find a way to make a specific die face come up less often than 1 in 6 and thought “well, what if it only works when something is on side of the die? That’s about 50% of 1 in 6,” and went from there. Now that we’ve used it, of course, I can imagine a lot of other similar mechanics that can be derived from the idea.

You've pushed past the funding goal, so Ninja Dice will be brought to market (congrats!), tell us a little about the stretch goals you've got planned?

Rocco: There’s a bunch of them! We’ve got some that enhance the base game, like plastic money coins instead of cardboard tokens to keep score, and colored Threat dice so everyone using them has a unique color. Then exclusive promo cards for other games Greenbrier works with, like Zpocalypse. And a bunch of new gameplay add-ons called “Location Cards” that add some advanced gameplay options to the game.

Jeff: Little do people know our location cards have turned into a full-fledged expansion. Being a game addict, I wasn't satisfied with just giving the Kickstarters a few cards to tease them.  After some math-crunching, and some easy convincing of Rocco, we turned the few promo cards into a full-blown expansion, more than tripling the card count.  I can’t wait till Kickstarters realize the extra bonus they are getting!

What are some of your favorite games? (Besides Ninja Dice, of course…)

Rocco: Well Zpocalypse is my current Zombie fave, of course. :) Other than that, my group tends to vacillate based on who shows up. We’ve been enjoying Deadwood Studios, Shadows over Camelot, Pandemic, and, of course, a few of the next designs of mine I force… I mean... encourage my group to playtest.

Jeff:  Some of my top games are BattleStar Galactica, recently Rampage, Race to the Galaxy, Mage Knight, and many more!

NinjaDiceProductionSamples13546-800x829Are there any other projects (from either of you) that you can share with our readers?

Rocco: My life consists of my stumbling from one creative project to the next (all on hold while the Kickstarter finishes). You can go to for an overview of everything. It’s a lot.

Jeff:  Early February we'll be announcing our next project; please stay tuned for another announcement :P

It’s time for the Versus Version of 1-Word Answers! Who would win?!

Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris?

Rocco: I want to say Bruce Lee but Chuck might be listening. Chuck Norris.

Jeff:  Chuck Norris—after all, that’s not a chin under his beard—its another Fist!

American Ninja vs. Karate Kid?

Rocco: Jaden Smith Karate Kid < American Ninja < Macchio Karate Kid

Jeff: Karate Kid!

JCVD-splits-1Jackie Chan vs. Jean-Claude Van Damme?

Rocco: Mostly Jackie Chan, but Van Damme is aging much better, so a few years from now…

Jeff: Jackie Chan!

Jet Li from the Matrix vs. Jet Li from Lethal Weapon 4?

Rocco: Software Jet Li!

Jeff: Jet Li from Lethal Weapon 4

Crouching Tiger vs. Hidden Dragon?

Rocco: I’m a Shaolin Long-fist practicioner. I’d be be way more scared of Tiger guys!

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us!

Rocco: Thanks for the opportunity! And thanks to Jeff at Greenbrier Games for giving me the opportunity to make the game with them!

Jeff: Thank you all for taking the time to check out our latest project!

Ninja Dice already funded on Kickstarter, but you can check out the game on Greenbrier's Web site, or on the Geek. Thanks so much for reading!

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