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Alumni couple on a roll

Ian and Angela are inventors of the pocket-size game Football Dice. They reveal the game's origins, describe how it can support learning and share their favourite games to play.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup may be over, but a football-themed dice game invented by alumni couple Ian Holden (Professional Graduate Diploma in Education 2012) and Angela Lafferty (MA Architectural Design 2000, MArch 2002) might help to fill the void.

One city, two perspectives

Ian and Angela of the Football Dice family
Alumni couple Ian and Angela invented the game Football Dice.

It's great to hear from an Edinburgh alumni couple. Could you tell us a bit about your individual memories of studying here?

AngelaI am from the Stirling area and Edinburgh was my number one choice as I had always loved visiting the city. I absolutely loved my time there, and Edinburgh is still what I call my “home city”. As there were only around 30 of us doing architecture, we became very close, particularly as we had our own 24-hour access studio on Chambers Street to work away on our projects day and night- which we did many times!

My flatmates sometimes didn’t see me for days on end when I had a deadline approaching - my favourite time was that walk home at dawn, when sleep deprivation made everything seem so surreal, looking forward to a few hours deep sleep before crits in the morning. A friend once fell asleep with his face on his drawing board (yes, we still used Rotring pens back in those days!) and dribbled all over his beautiful ink drawing. I also remember going to Pizza Express on North Bridge for lunch with a group of classmates after a series of all-nighters before our final hand-in, and being woken by the waiter after our table had fallen asleep! Ah, those were the days….

IanI was already working and living in Edinburgh with Angela and our young son Max, so studying at Moray House was the obvious choice. In October of my PGDE year, our daughter Carmen was born and on the day of her birth I took Angela to the hospital with an assignment in my bag as it was due in two days later. It was a pretty full on year but I loved both the theoretical learning and the placements in a nursery and schools across Edinburgh and of course Carmen joining our family was the best!

Professional growth

What have you been up to career-wise?

IanSince graduating I’ve been working as a teacher: one year at Forthview, two years at Leith Walk (both in Edinburgh) and the last three years at an international primary school in southern Spain.

After my first year I was lucky enough to be nominated “Probationer of the Year” from the City of Edinburgh. For the last three years, in addition to being a reception teacher, I have also been an Early Years Foundation Stage leader. Next year I will be working with slightly older children in Year Three!

AngelaAfter graduating I carried on with my professional training in an Edinburgh practice and qualified in 2004. Over the next few years I combined work with extended periods of travel, meeting Ian in Australia and moving back to Edinburgh to start a family.

I then began working at large Edinburgh practice RMJM where I became acutely aware of the huge gap between the sustainable ideals of the building industry and the reality of energy-guzzling mega structures. I was feeling a bit disillusioned and so searched around for a short course on eco-building but instead ended up doing a full-blown MSc at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, graduating in 2014. That was a fantastic experience where I met a lot of like-minded people from all over the world, and led me into a job as an architect in an eco building and renewable energy company in the Borders.

I left that job to move to Spain, and am now building up my Spanish language skills and contacts in architecture and eco circles here with a view to get back into practice soon, and build that solar-designed, rammed earth eco house I've always dreamed of.

For years I wanted to combine two of my favourite passions - football and games - in a way that was reflective of football's simplicity, i.e. score more goals than your opponent and was also socially interactive and tactile.

Ian HoldenInventor of Football Dice

Football Dice is born

Football Dice at a game
Three of the 16 Football Dice teams currently available.

Tell us about your interest in games. Have you always been keen players?

Ian: We both grew up in families where we often played games and as Angela's mum was Luxembourgish and her family used to travel there every summer by car and ferry, she used to play lots with her sisters en route. Once there, there was not much to do and little in terms of toys, except for a games compendium which consequently saw a lot of action!

How did you come up with the idea for Football Dice?

Ian: For years I wanted to combine two of my favourite passions - football and games - in a way that was reflective of football's simplicity, i.e. score more goals than your opponent and was also socially interactive and tactile.

Talk us through how you brought the game into production.

Ian: As the idea developed I made lots of paper prototypes and had my children and Angela help me test the game to make sure it worked. We made many alterations until we arrived at a version we thought was perfect. We then had to go through a tendering process with factories and agree costs and timescales. We also had to set up with Amazon and loads of other business procedures that I had no clue about before!

What does a day running the Football Dice business look like and what's your favourite part?

Ian: Before going to school to do my day job I normally post a photograph on our instagram page and when I get home I look over social media communications, and check online sales before possibly filming and/or editing a video for our Football Dice YouTube channel. Angela takes care of all the business side of things, designing the graphics, running the website and preparing new teaching resources to upload to our website.

The best part of it all is seeing people play and love the game!

Tell us a surprising fact about the games industry.

Ian: Before making the game we had no idea just how big the games industry is and how many people simply love dice! One of our customers is a world record holder for owning the largest dice collection in the world, with nearly 80,000 dice in his collection!

Learn and play

Football Dice components
Each pack of Football Dice contains one team, comprising three dice: a defence die, a midfield die and an attack die.

What role can games like Football Dice play in teaching and learning?

Ian: Football Dice and similar games are fantastic tools to support teaching and learning in the classroom and especially good at engaging some harder to reach pupils and also children with English as an additional language (EAL), thanks to the repeated phrases involved and the way the game encourages speaking, listening and turn taking.

Children will be talking about the recent men’s World Cup for a long time, so when schools resume teachers and children could use Football Dice to have a mini world cup in their class, researching the countries involved and creating factfiles like those in each packet of Football Dice. They could also commentate on matches like I do in our YouTube videos and write match reports or make videos of the action, whilst improving their video editing skills.

Children could make league tables and use their arithmetic skills to organise who has the most points and what the goal difference is. Older children could use Football Dice to explore probability and all children could have a go at making their own football dice using the templates on footballdice.com, developing their fine motor skills in the process.

Adding more teams

And finally, what can we expect to see from Football Dice in the future?

Ian: We want to add more international teams, and are currently looking into the possibility of making Football Dice with club teams. We also want to keep developing resources to support Football Dice’ use in an educational setting and also some extra items to go with the dice in future editions of the game.

Ian and Angela's favourite games

  1. Chinese Chequers - we love the strategies that can be used in this game.
  2. Articulate (Drummond Park) - this game can provide much hilarity and we like how you are more effective at it when you really tune in with who your playing partner is.
  3. Sussed (Games to Get) - a great game for finding out what you do and do not know about friends.
  4. Wildlife Adventure (Ravensburger) - this is a game Angela enjoyed playing as a child!
  5. Football Dice - of course!

Related Links

Football Dice