Dice are an integral part of wargaming. In most wargames dice are used to resolve combat.

For most of my gaming life I have struggled to "not blame the dice". When things go wrong in a game, it's easy to blame the dice. But vocally blaming the dice just ruins the game for everyone. I know I dislike it when an opponent starts blaming the dice when a game goes "wrong". It really serves no purpose and makes the game not fun for everyone involved. Intellectually, I know the dice are not to blame. But when you roll four ones in a row (where a one is bad, of course) or roll a handful of dice and get zero hits, it's hard not to take it personally sometimes. At least it is for me!

I know my enjoyment of a game can be ruined by a either player having a run of "bad luck." It's no fun for me to see my opponent get the a "bad" result roll after roll. A game won because my opponent had a run of bad luck is not a good measure of our playing abilities and just not that enjoyable.

But even if both players have a "perfect" bell curve result when rolling dice, it's still likely that the losing player will feel he was unlucky. Because when it comes to dice rolling, it's all about context. When you roll what you roll is as important as anything thing else in dice rolling. You can roll the dice a 100 times and be satisfied with the results, but when it comes down to that attack where you can "roll anything but a one" to win the game and you then roll a one... well, you're liable to feel a little "unlucky" at that point. That's context.


The Psychology of Dice Rolling

What constitutes a "bad" dice roll? In general a "bad" roll is one where the result is not favorable. Usually, this is at a critical point of the game, or when a "must win" combat roll fails. Of course these "bad" rolls are bad only in context. If you don't put yourself in a situation where a bad roll can undo your game winning strategy, then you can't be hurt by a "bad" dice roll. (This is called "risk mitigation". Sadly, it is not always possible to arrange things (combat rolls, random event rolls, etc.) so that risk is non-existent.)

Pick up twelve six-sided dice and roll them and count the number of sixes rolled. Statistics tells us that on average, we should see two dice (out of 12) showing a six. What does it mean if there are no sixes? Or if there are four sixes? Statistically speaking, it means nothing. But it often means a lot to the player rolling the dice. We're happy when we exceed the average; ambivalent with an average result and unhappy with a below average result. How the dice roll shouldn't affect our emotions, but it often does. That's the psychology of dice rolling at work.


How dice are rolled:

By Hand
I don't like rolling dice by hand. The hand always betrays me. I shake the die; I flip the die or bounce it off a box top wall. It doesn't matter. At some critical point, the hand will betray me. There is also the (slim) possibility that my opponent is a slight-of-hand wizard and can manipulate his rolls in some favorable manner. (Do I really believe this? No, but it's all about psychology here. How else to explain when my opponent has a run of "good rolls"? Or rolls just exactly what he needs at a critical point in the game? Random chance? Pshaw!)

Dice Towers
I much prefer a dice tower. For some reason (psychology again) it is easier for me to accept dice rolls out of a dice tower than dice rolls that are hand rolled. A dice tower encourages my belief that a roll is in fact random. I find that dice towers are accepted by the gaming community without objection. Does anyone object to the use of a dice tower? Does anyone object to being required to use a dice tower?

Dice Decks
Dice decks are decks of cards that include a card for every possible roll of a given set of dice. This assures a bell curve distribution of dice rolls. Generally, to preempt "card counting", a joker is cut into the deck somewhere near the bottom of the deck and when the joker turns up the deck is reshuffled. This ensures that not every possible result is guaranteed to come up while also ensuring that bell curve breaking runs of luck (good or bad) will not occur. Generally, each player is provided with their own dice deck. (I use 72 cards decks. This gives me a good selection of D6 rolls and two complete sets of 2D6 rolls.) Dice decks are also nice because no room is needed to roll the dice. There is no chance with a dice deck for a wild roll to displace or knock over stacks of counters. No chance that a dice will ricochet off the table and get lost under the furniture or down the heating vent. Also, dice decks are quiet. This can be helpful when quiet is at a premium, like when playing a game solitaire while a significant other is sleeping nearby.

In my limited experience (outside of games like Combat Commander where deck dice are used by design) dice decks are grudgingly accepted. Strangers might object but friends usually allow me to use a dice deck if I want to. Some say that using dice decks means rolls are not truly random. They are correct. I mean that's the reason why dice decks are used in the first place!.
Would you object to an opponent using a dice deck? Why?
Would you object to being required to use a dice deck? Why?

Electronic Dice (Devices or dice rolling programs)
Electronic dice machines. A device or computer program that "rolls" dice electronically. Is this beyond the pale? Would you allow an opponent to use a hand-held electronic dice roller? If not, why not? Do you not trust the software? Do you believe an electronic dice roller cannot be truly random? I like the convenience of a dice rolling program. For games that require rolls of many dice, a dice rolling program makes it easy to roll virtually any number of dice and you don't have to find room to roll the dice. It's quick and it's easy. But would you trust an opponent who used a dice rolling program?

So that's it. Some thoughts on dice rolling. What are your dice rolling experiences and how do you deal with the "psychology of dice rolling"? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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Comment by Kimbo on August 15, 2008 at 10:26am
Combat Commander card decks server multiple purposes in the game but could be used as generic Dice decks. Each deck contains 72 cards, which is two sets of a standard 2D6 distribution. The two dice on the cards are colored differently, so the deck can also be used in situations where only a six-sided dice roll is required.
Comment by Skip Franklin on August 15, 2008 at 8:33am
Here is a link to some Combat Commander cards.

CC Cards
Comment by Dan Stueber on August 15, 2008 at 7:42am
Skip and Kimbo, Thanks for the info on dice decks.......I will look into them.
Comment by Smitty on August 14, 2008 at 10:14pm
It was a KV-2....
Comment by Kimbo on August 14, 2008 at 8:33pm
There are dice decks that are generic and can be purchased. There are also dice decks that are manufactured for use with a specific game, but can be used generically. The dice decks I've seen are 38 card decks: 36 dice cards and 2 jokers. a bell curve for two dice. I've always used two decks (72 cards) for my decks. Mayfair games produces a dice deck for their Catan games that can of course be used generically. I also have a generic deck of dice called, I think, Deck of dice that I purchased from the local game store, so should be available. (Funagain Games has a listing for the Deck of Dice - http://www.funagaingames.com/control/product/~product_id=013321 - but is currently out of stock.)
Comment by Skip Franklin on August 14, 2008 at 7:41pm
Dan, The cards are used for more than rolling dice.
Comment by Dan Stueber on August 14, 2008 at 7:56am
In all seriousness I prefer to roll the dice in the box top. Any more than two dice and I start to worry. I have a bucket o' dice game where I had to roll like 30 dice in one combat and did not get one hit. I kinda stared at the rolls and then put the game away. Never heard of a dice deck but I don't have combat commander. Can you buy a dice deck just by itself?
Comment by Dan Stueber on August 14, 2008 at 7:53am
If you want to use an electronic dice rolling gadget expect me to pat you down to make sure there are no other devices that could cause the dice rolling gadget to give you better rolls. I would probably line the walls with foil too just in case you have an accomplice outside. Wheres my tin foil........
Comment by Skip Franklin on August 13, 2008 at 8:44am
I have a fairly large collection of SPI's small dice that came in the flat packs.
Comment by Smitty on August 13, 2008 at 4:07am
Anyone who has ever played Stratomatic baseball understands all too well the pain of die rolling!

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