Friday, October 10, 2008

Dice schmice

Funny how some weeks I have lots of posts to make; you find you have lots to say, or a catch up on recent activity you've not bothered to record before.

Or for no apparent reason you get struck by a thought on the bus to work.

In our wargames dice are the single most commonly used arbiter of chance, and as such it's fair to say that for some gamers they take on an unusually high significance. Most gamers have a set of favoured dice they use. And I can think of several such instances, mostly, I must say not mine.

When does this go over the line into superstition, or even suspicious behaviour?

Some of my dice are close to thirty years old, and yes I have favourites; a set of six medium sized red dice do most rolls and - to my mind at least - give the best overall results. These are backed up when needed by a batch of freebie white dice from Warhammer games which roll adequately. The only down side to these being that the are the same as so many other gamers dice. Still I seem to be gradually accumulating them rather than the reverse.

Here is my irrational moment: I once bought a set of 36 distinctive yellow dice; most gamers like to roll all the same dice for some reason. They ultimately let me down in so many games, that I retired them from play. I felt I could irrefutably blame the dice rolls for my defeats in so many games with them I refused to use them any more.

So far so reasonable, or not; but I've met worse.

There was the guy who kept a pair of inch square brass dice in a special case, for those critical rolls. They could be rolled intimidatingly at the enemy's troops too. I've met people who liked to use tiny dice so it was harder for the opponent to read the results, and of course there's the 'scoopers' people who roll their dice and immediately scoop up the 'hits' before you've had time to register all the results (Do it the other way round guys, it's more sportsmanlike!).

One of the best though was the chap who seemed to have a dozen ways of fixing things in his favour. Firstly it was known, because he confided in us this fact, that he would test dice at home, statistically rolling them countless times to work out their average result, thus he could select the dice, or combination of dice, that would most likely ensure his result.

Also he had a 'technique' for rolling, generally known as 'the drop'. Essentially he'd mastered the technique of letting the dice out of his hand in such a way that, say, if the 1's were face up in his hand, they would land 6's up on the ground. This roll was always executed onto a soft surface to boot, so that, you know, bouncing would not effect the predetermined result. For massed results he was always something of a scooper.

If that was borderline gamesmanship then their blatant cheating (rolling behind your back and then declaring a favourable result before you saw any dice, for example) was often admonished and caused more than one player simply to pack up and go home!

Then of course there's the flamboyant rollers who seem to think their in Vegas, and whose dice are liable to scatter like a claymore mine over the entire room. Then there are the non rollers who basically present a less honed version of the drop.

Another annoying habit, and a common trait with DBA gamers is the 'contact with anything makes it a cocked dice unless I like the result' mentality. This one I've mentioned before and it was enough to put me off one sort of tournament. If it's obviously a one, why re-roll it just because it has stopped partly on a piece of felt? A cocked dice is one that is impossible to agree a final result for as it is clearly stuck between two or more possible results, not merely resting at an angle. Grrr.

And don't get me started on the fad for personalised dice; bored with a six on your dice, feel it doesn't express you as a person, it doesn't show your loyalty to a brand or ideology? Fear not you can now get dice with GW logo's, Skulls, Iron Crosses, your club logo or whatever the hell you want on them!

Customised dice; like a red rag to a bull, but for geeks. Do you honestly need it to be that obvious?
Personally it seems like just another way of obfuscating your results. And is often used in conjunction with the scooping technique. Don't get me wrong, a dice with symbols on it which actually mean something in the rules (Such as GW order dice and artillery dice) are fine but just replacing one number with an image, is lame.

Then of course there are gimmick dice, remember round D6's, those oh so obvious loaded dice? And I've not even mentioned all the multi-sided options out there. The 4's, 8's, 10's, 12' and 20 sided dice. Ive a bagful of them gathering dust, as increasingly (barring the percentage roll of a couple of 10 sided dice) they have fallen out of favour.

The humble dice, a bigger topic than you'd imagine!


  1. I know what you mean. I bought a whole bunch of casino dice from Vegas. Absolutely guaranteed square and of exactly the same dimensions. Large and chunky they had a feel to them that felt intimidating. I was so proud of them.
    I don't use them anymore because they have no sixes on them - at least not when I roll them on the tabletop!
    My son only uses my yellow dice which always roll high for him but low for me. Exactly the same dice but two completely different results.
    I have now reverted back to my twenty year old GW dice. they at least roll an average result.

  2. I don't know about elsewhere, but around here dice that hit the floor don't count, they are picked up and re-rolled on the tabletop where everyone can see them. So there was a fellow that played here that would, whenever he had to roll two dice for something and add the results together, always "accidentally" roll one of the dice off the table. If the one that remained on the table was favourable (i.e. a low number if the total roll had to be under a certain number, etc.) he would leave it and just pick up the die off the floor and re-roll it. if the one on the table was not favourable, he would pick up both and re-roll them both...

    I love the guys that have dice with non-contrasting pips or numbers (i.e. black dice with black dots or numbers...). so even if the do leave them on the table you can't really see what they rolled unless you're standing right over them.