Scent of a Gamer

From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.

Looking anew at dice

Dice have been around for thousands of years, yet we can still find new ways to use them in games. This article at Boing Boing caught my eye. It features interviews with a couple of board game designers who have taken a different approach to the D6.

In summary their approach is functional rather than numerical. When you roll your dice, it’s not a simple case of higher is better (or its corollary, lower is better) rather the dice faces that you roll give you access to different options in each turn of the game. This seems like a decent approach, and while I haven’t yet played The Castles of Burgundy, the article made me want to give it a try.

Thinking about my own tabletop game play, I have cut dice out almost completely. I suspect this was unconsciously deliberate. I didn’t wake up one morning and declare ‘no more dice for me!’, however I have been moving towards games where your actions and planning cannot be undone by rolling a 1 and a 2.

Right now my favourites are Lords of Waterdeep, Tzolk’in, 7 Wonders, and Magic: the Gathering. No dice in any of those games.

scent of dice

I enjoy the Star Wars X-Wing miniatures game, but I’ve noticed that the best planning and positioning can be rendered irrelevant with two turns of bad dice. Roll all blanks for your attack and defence dice two turns in a row, and your game is over, superior positioning be damned. This has happened both for and to me, and in neither case does it improve the game.

With that said there is no need to discard dice completely from your gaming. Two interesting games I played earlier this year used dice in ways that I was initially skeptical about but in practice they worked. Stone Age marries agent placement with dice rolling, and that actually works quite well within the game, as the randomness of the dice tempers the inevitability that can set in with pure strategy games. On occasion it is obvious someone has won three-quarters of the way through the game, and the remaining turns become pointless. The dice bring that back, though that’s not the only available method.

In Kingsburg, the players roll three dice, and there are squares on the board numbered 1 to 18. You activate those squares by placing one or more dice on them. While higher numbered squares tend to be more powerful, there are still uses for those lower values, so a low dice roll doesn’t necessarily spell disaster (it doesn’t help, though!).

Both games were enjoyable, and good examples of how dice can be used differently and well in games.

As a side note, when I was considering a suitable image for this post, I realised I had a larger number of dice within arm’s reach, so I grabbed a random selection and that forms the image you see above.

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This entry was posted on October 4, 2014 by in Board Games, Game Design, Tabletop and tagged , , , , , , .
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