Dice

Bottom line

  • Casino Craps dice are bad for Warmachine
  • If you’looking for precision and fairness, use precision backgammon dice.
  • If you are a believer, refrain from using Magic dice, lucky dice, prayer, voodoo, the Force, to influence the game.

Why the dice rant?

Let’s refrain from the typical internet rant, and try to turn this into an educational exercise.  Nobody likes to feel like their opponent is playing unfairly, even if that unfairness is unintentional.

Playing unfairly?

While most of the Warmachine Community I’ve encountered holds themselves to a high standard, there are a handful of players who still try to give themselves an edge on the game beyond that of their own strategy and ability to play.

Assuming that most people aren’t trying to cheat, why do I feel like a game or too wasn’t exactly played fairly?  Believe it or not, it was how my opponents handled their dice.  How often have you seen someone reach for a “special set” of dice after flubbing an attack roll?  What about that player who lines his dice up “just so” before picking them up to roll?  Ever notice how those oversized casino dice don’t roll well in the hand, and just kind of flop onto the table?

Even if the intent to fix a dice roll isn’t in your opponent’s heart, the idea that they may be brings doubt to the game, and risks spoiling the fun.

Perception of bad dice throwing is easily solved

The source of the perception that a player is trying to unfairly influence the game comes primarily from player behavior.  Simply put, player behavior means all the rituals, mystical dances, good luck chants, and the dice shaming habits we learned from years of playing RPGs before transitioning to war gaming.

Think back to board games like Risk or Monopoly.  In Risk, the red dice were the attack dice for a reason.  The dice get shared, so everyone has the same odds.  Like Risk, Monopoly shares the same set of dice for everyone.  Yatzee, the epitome of dice games, not only promotes sharing the dice, but usually includes a cup to promote a fair throw.

When we started playing RPGs, we started buying special dice sets to match our mood, style, or character.  People became protective of their dice because they were (at least in the 80s) hard to find and pricey.  Vanity dice took off in popularity, and that extended to war games.  And being the superstitious breed that we humans are, we attributed our successes and failures to luck, rather than to the probability charts that lined our RPG book covers.

Don’t shame your dice

The solution to behavior problems is easily fixed for most people.  Play with the same set of dice throughout your whole game.  Don’t swap out “bad dice” based on performance.  Remember that each time you roll a die, a number has a 1/6 chance of appearing face up.

Pick up randomly, roll randomly

When scooping dice for a roll, scoop them up without lining them up, straightening them, tapping them or performing other rituals.  Don’t just shake them, roll them around. Let them hit the table and roll.  If you don’t want them hitting models, roll into a backstop.

Roll fair dice

Rolling fair dice doesn’t just mean properly balanced dice.  Fair dice for war gaming have traits that lend themselves to wargaming.  Fair dice should posses these fine qualities:

  • Clearly marked pips or numbers that contrast with the color of the die.
  • Properly configured sides (1 and 6 opposite, and so on).
  • Free of decoration that obscures number or pips.
  • Rounded edges to promote rolling.
  • Size that promotes rolling or tumbling in the hand or cup.
  • Weight that doesn’t cause worry over breaking scenery or models (looking at you, lead dice).

Conclusion

For war gaming, we need to be able to trust our opponent.  Nothing outside of outright cheating or lying erodes that trust more than facing down a player who chooses to act suspiciously or to throw suspicious dice.

Our dice need to be easy to read, roll fairly and lend themselves to a fair game.  Casino Craps dice don’t roll well, need to be thrown at a wall to tumble properly, and are easy to manipulate.  Standard backgammon styled dice can be manipulated too, but the behavior that suggests manipulation is easily corrected by bouncing the dice off a backboard or throwing with a cup.

If you have a concern about how you look to other players during a game, play in front of a camera, and give yourself an honest look.  Warmachine is a game of strategy, positioning and speed.  We don’ need dice magic getting in the way of a good time.

Links for further reading