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Dice Rolling and Randomness

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Anonymous

I was wondering how many people actually like dice rolling and randomness in a game? I, truthfully, like, yet hate, both. Die rolling makes more interaction, and gives players something to do, yet, I like more strategie then randomness in a game. Thoughts?

IngredientX
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Re: Dice Rolling and Randomness

DragonKid wrote:
I was wondering how many people actually like dice rolling and randomness in a game? I, truthfully, like, yet hate, both. Die rolling makes more interaction, and gives players something to do, yet, I like more strategie then randomness in a game. Thoughts?

I put up a GeekList on BGG awhile back called "In Defense of Dicefests." I did it because there's a very vocal contingent of gamers who are very vocal about despising randomness in their games. They're often bashing Evo or Settlers of Catan because both games, while not exactly being War, do have an element of luck (how large this luck element is, is not relevent to this discussion. Please flame me in a different thread. :) )

These grognards prefer games dictated completely by the choice of the players. They will tell you that dice are the worst thing that you can put in your game, because they hate seeing good dice rolls beating good strategy.

I'm not discounting their opinion; it's very valid, and a lot of these people are intelligent and outspoken when talking about their hobby. It's just that those of us who enjoy a little chaos in our game usually don't get a chance to bark back. :)

It all depends on which market you're shooting for. If you're making something like an abstract strategy game like Go or Chess, then you probably want absolutely no randomizers whatsoever.

The next step down would be games like Puerto Rico, Princes of Florence, or Euphrat & Tigris. These games have a relatively small amount of luck, mostly to vary the playing experience and ensure that if the same four people play the game with exactly the same moves, the games would turn out differently. The randomizers are usually not big enough to give the game to someone playing poorly, however; victory usually goes to a skilled player (though not always the most skilled).

Next come the "lighter" Eurogames; I'd put Settlers of Catan at the higher end of this spectrum, as well as more chaotic games like Evo and Citadels.

Then come the "beer and pretzel" games. Almost anything by Cheapass goes here. I've never played Cosmic Encounter, but I understand that it's about as chaotic as a game can get where a "better" player can still defeat a "worse" player.

Finally come the complete luckfests. Other than kids' games like Chutes & Ladders and Candyland, the only game worth mentioning here is Fluxx, which is fun with the right crowd.

Please note that this is not a ranking of games by quality. Connect-5 goes very high on this list, while Cosmic Wimpout is very low on this list. Yet my wife and I love playing Cosmic Wimpout; it's not something to feature on Game Night, but it's a fantastic end-of-the-night selection.

We can establish a spectrum here. On one extreme is a game where your tactics are dictated by strategy. We'll call this extreme Strategic. On the other end is a game where your tactics are dictated by luck. We'll call this extreme Chaotic.

Having said all this, I can answer your post now. :) I like randomness in games, but usually under the following restrictions...

- The more STRATEGIC a game is, the longer it can be. The more CHAOTIC a game is, the shorter it must be.

- The more STRATEGIC a game is, the more acceptable it is to have a large gap between the losing player and the winning player. Players who are getting skunked will usually see their mistake, and will perform better in their next game. The more CHAOTIC a game is, the more important it is for the last-place player to be able to come out of nowhere to take the lead... and for the first-place player to fall into last. Ditto for the next turn. But note the next item...

- No matter how strategic/chaotic a game is, all players must feel like they have control over what is going on. This is possible even in a game with a good amount of chaos; for example, with Can't Stop, Sid Sackson implemented a "push-your-luck" mechanic. So while a player can't control his dice rolls, he can decide whether to roll again or not. Whether or not the dice hose him, he feels responsible. Can't Stop is a chaotic game, but the amount of control players feel is remarkable. An example of outstanding game design in a "light" game.

I'd also recommend as few die rolls as possible, but one of the games I'm working on flagrantly disregards that, so never mind. :)

~Gil

Brykovian
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

One type of mechanic that can be employed that will allow for some randomness, but still allow the player some strategy, is to give them a choice from a set of randomly-selected items. This is usually done by giving the player a hand of cards (or tiles) that are drawn from a shuffled deck.

This gives the player the ability to pick and choose from their hand -- giving that feeling of control that Gil mentioned -- but still have luck dictate what is in their hands.

You can do similar things with dice ... have the players roll more dice than are needed, and just pick the best ones to be used.

As for my personal feeling ... what I described really sits in my "sweet spot" for luck-vs-strategy.

-Bryk

sedjtroll
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Re: Dice Rolling and Randomness

IngredientX wrote:

... for example, with Can't Stop, Sid Sackson implemented a "push-your-luck" mechanic. So while a player can't control his dice rolls, he can decide whether to roll again or not. Whether or not the dice hose him, he feels responsible.

~Gil

Near the end of Gil's post he hit on a very important distinction which people don't seem to acknowledge when they denounce die rolling and other randomness in games. Probability.

Settlers of Catan is a good example of a game that utilizes probability. The die rolling in that game is not completely random. Sure, any given die roll has a random result, but the laws of probability dictate how the dice will fall on the average. I think Settlers does a decent job of utilizing this probability. If you think it's a little too random, then simply lengthen the game (play to 12 points) and stretch out the number of rolls that occur- This should give probability a chance to work and more accurately reward people who make choices.

On that note, you mentioned that a game which is chaotic must be short. I neither agree or disagree with that. However I contend that a game that is probabalistic should be long in order to offer a better approximation of the probable distribution of the random event. In the case of Settlers you roll 2d6. If you roll once, it's more likely that the roll will be 6 than 3, but the roll could be anything. If you roll 2d6 100 times, more of them will be 6's than 3's (with more certainty than the 1 roll).

Nothing is guaranteed, but betting on probability is a perfectly reasonable mechanic for a strategy game.

- Seth

Brykovian
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

Seth makes a great point ... very much the reason that traditional card games (take Cribbage, for example) over many, many games will show the better player -- while a couple of good hands might impact a single game, that impact will get washed out over a lot of games.

This is one reason that traditional dice-a-plenty wargames had many, many rounds of battle. It still gave the underdog a feeling that they might get lucky -- but over a lot of rolls, you need more than luck. The many dicerolls, however, turn a good number of people away from playing wargames though ... the trick is to find a way to play out the probably with a little randomness and not need a *lot* of iterations to get through a single battle.

-Bryk

zaiga
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

I don't mind random games, but they should be short. I also feel that bad players should generally lose even when they have good luck and that very good players should on average do better than a player that is just good, although a good player als has a chance to win single games if he is a bit luckier.

What I hate is putting a lot of mental energy into something (a complex calculation for example) when in the end the luck is overwhelming. Imagine for example that you would use Taj Mahal's incredibly mental overwhelming, brain-draining, cardplaying auction mechanic, but when you win it you get something like a +2 modifier on a D20 roll. This is of course exaggerating, but you catch my drift.

sedjtroll
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

zaiga wrote:
I don't mind random games, but they should be short.

There you go again... my point was that Random =/= Probabalistic.

An example could be Blood Bowl- which is a lot like a tabletop War Game, but also a lot likle a 'strategy' board game.

If you haven't played it, each player has a team of dudes, and each dude has some stats. Each turn you get to give each of your dudes 1 action (and some movement). Some of the actions are so easy you just do them (like running around where there aren't any people). Others are either more difficult or more riskey and they require a die roll. The roll is modified by all kinds of things, depending on the attempted action.

As soon as you lose a die roll, your WHOLE TURN is over. This can be devestating if you fail the first action you attempt. It's very easy to say "I lost because I kept failing actions"

The key is that it's very important to prioritize your actions, do the easy ones that won't fail, do the important ones before the risky "extra" ones. When I first played the game I thought it was a dicefest and all luck. My friends and I played a league, and one guy ALWAYS won. We though the was the luckiest guy in the world, always rolling 6s when he needed them, etc.

The fact is, he did a good job of prioritizing, playing the odds, and when he would lose a die roll he would shrug like it was no big deal (rather than make a big stink). He understood how the game worked, and therefore won almost every time while we would try to do too much with each dude (the more stuff you do, the more dice you have to roll, and the more likely you'll F something up).

So lesson learned. I don't know that I'm any good at Blood Bowl now, but I learned an important lesson about luck and probability in games.

- Seth

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dicefests

Also another thing to note (as Seth pointed out so well in his examples of Settlers and Bloodbowl), just because the game seems like a dicefest, doesn't mean it necessarily is. Sometimes players, because they don't understand how the game works, may blame a bad performance on the randomness of the game. Obviously with Seth's two examples, once you understand the underlying game, you can easily work to minimize (or maximize) the effects of the dice rolls. I think that this point is key when creating a game with a random factor.

-Darke

sedjtroll
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Re: dicefests

Darkehorse wrote:
once you understand the underlying game, you can easily work to minimize (or maximize) the effects of the dice rolls. I think that this point is key when creating a game with a random factor.

This is what I tried to do with 8/7 Central, and I think it works pretty well (determining which programs are viewed by the general public).

- Seth

zaiga
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Re: dicefests

Darkehorse wrote:
just because the game seems like a dicefest, doesn't mean it necessarily is.

What? I just imagine I'm rolling a lot of dice in Axis and Allies? :wink:

I agree with you guys that in longer games the luck will balance out a little more and that you have to play the odds to succeed at games with a random element. I think a good example is what can be considered the epitome of german gaming: Euphrat & Tigris. The tile draws in this game are totally random, but what you do with them is completely up to you. If you enter a conflict you have an idea how your odds of winning are and whether you are taking a risk or not.

Two of my other favorites: Lost Cities and Royal Turf also have quite a large amount of luck in them, but a skillful player will still win more often than not. Then again, if either of these games would take twice the amount of time then I would not like them as much. So, I still think that random games should be relatively short.

zaiga
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

I would also like to add that randomness in a game can keep the game fresh and suspenseful. A good example is Ra, when the Ra track is almost full. Should you bid on that mediocre set of tiles or wait until something better comes up, but then you also run the risk of getting nothing at all!? If you start a new expedition in Lost Cities, will it work out? Should you gamble and start the expedition with a handshake card? In these cases there is amount of uncertainty that makes the game fun, you have to play the odds, play it safe or take a gamble depending on the circumstances.

If you take a gamble and it works out you can smile and congratulate yourself on your good play. If the gamble doesn't work out then the rest of the players get to laugh and you get to work on your whining skills :)

Anonymous
Dice Rolling and Randomness

How about Risk? The only thing the figures actually do is let you use more dice when attacking with that place or being attacked by another place. It is almost ALL luck. You really only decide placement and attacks. But Risk is a dicefest!

Brykovian
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

Risk is usually held up as a classic dicefest (and as an "elimination is bad" example, since the players killed early on have to find something else to do for the next x hours until the game is over) ...

But, it's not *all* luck ... the choices you make in where you place your units, how far to extend your attack, when you attempt to gain/hold an entire continent ... these are the strategic decisions that will separate good and bad players. Since all of the individual units have the same attack/defense value, the person with more units *usually* wins, but the mass dice rolling makes it so it isn't certain -- and even if you figure on winning, you won't know how many troops you'll have left.

There's just so *many* rolls needed for large battles -- this is usually the mechanic that people try to change (some say "fix") because it doesn't add much to the game.

-Bryk

slam
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

I took a perverse bit of pleasure in designing games (Knockabout and Warp 6) which are loaded with dice but actually are more like pure abstract games with a little chance element involved than a luck-based game. It's funny because they're uncategorizable. Dice are the only things in the game, but they really are abstracts in which the better player will win the majority of the games.

Plus, the production costs can't be beat.

sedjtroll
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

DragonKid wrote:
It is almost ALL luck. You really only decide placement and attacks.

Haha! You say it's all luck, then the next sentance you say how it isn't!

Anonymous
Dice Rolling and Randomness

sedjtroll wrote:
DragonKid wrote:
It is almost ALL luck. You really only decide placement and attacks.

Haha! You say it's all luck, then the next sentance you say how it isn't!

Read again. Almost ALL luck!!! HA HA HA!

sedjtroll
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

DragonKid wrote:
sedjtroll wrote:
DragonKid wrote:
It is almost ALL luck. You really only decide placement and attacks.

Haha! You say it's all luck, then the next sentance you say how it isn't!

Read again. Almost ALL luck!!!

My point is that it's NOT almost all luck. It's not much luck at all, really. There is some chance in the die rolls, but the game is not luck based.

Anonymous
Dice Rolling and Randomness

I think what seperates catan from the other games I played that use dice is that any result could technicly help any or all players. It's not simply that you roll to see if you kill more guys, or weither you land on that important boardwalk space, but it's a matter of investing in more numbers, and the higher probiblity numbers. It's "open ended" rather than what's called in RPGs "opposed action" (Rolling against another player's roll) or a "unopposed action" (Rolling to see if an event takes place). That's why I like catan so much and I think it's going to last a long time yet.

zaiga
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

Perhaps why dicefests have such a bad reputation is because a lot of older, well known games use dice in a bad way. Monopoly is basically just hoping you roll the right rolls in the beginning and/or on crucial moments. It couples that with very little meaningful decisions, a runaway leader problem and a gamelength that is far too long for what the game actually does.

Parchisi. Again a very annoying and repetitive game with a very sparse amount of meaningful decisions. You roll a lot of dice, so Sedjtroll would call this "probabilistic". Care to explain this one Sedj?

Risk. Again a game that goes on and on and on and on. It couples a lot of die rolls with a leaderbashing problem (which is part of the reason that it goes on and on and on) and a mechanism that rewards piling up armies and sitting on your butt behind an impenetratable wall of units.

Axis and Allies is a more recent example, again a game length that is not justified by its contents, a runaway leader problem and large amounts of downtime.

None of these games are bad because they are dicefests, but they are bad games that happen to use dice a lot. Or well, Axis and Allies is at least half decent. OK sorry for bashing your favorite game, now hit me :P

Anonymous
Dice Rolling and Randomness

sedjtroll wrote:

Quote:
Settlers of Catan is a good example of a game that utilizes probability. The die rolling in that game is not completely random. Sure, any given die roll has a random result, but the laws of probability dictate how the dice will fall on the average. I think Settlers does a decent job of utilizing this probability. If you think it's a little too random, then simply lengthen the game (play to 12 points) and stretch out the number of rolls that occur- This should give probability a chance to work and more accurately reward people who make choices.

i see what you mean about the high number of dice rolls eliminating the dice's "luck" power, but i don't think that settlers of catan allows for this to happen.

the reason is simply because the timeline for a settlers game is unbalanced; the outcome of the first number of turns (no matter how long the game) is far more important than the middle or end, and most often dictates the rest of the game, at least in my experience. if two players put both their cities at equally strategic places (i.e. probable numbers), but the first ten rolls favor one player over the other, it is pretty unlikely that the other player will catch up. by the time the "probability" rule eventually evens out the dice rolls, the player who got the quick start already has twice as many cities, thus eliminating his reliance on specific numbers.

it's the main problem i have with the game. if the dice screw you over at the start, you've just got to sit there and take it for the following hour.

d.

sedjtroll
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

zaiga wrote:
Monopoly is basically just hoping you roll the right rolls in the beginning and/or on crucial moments.

I'm not going to argue that Monopoly is a really good game. However, there's a lot more to it than just hoping you roll the right number at the right time. First off, as any of the many books on the subject will tell you, some of thep properties (and monopolies) are better than others. The Oranges are the most commonly landed on monopoly in the game, followed by the Reds. St Charles Place (I think) is the most commonly landed on property (there are multiple cards that send players there).

These facts and the trading between players keeps Monopoly from being strictly a dicefest. I'm not sayin gI like how Monopoly goes, or that it's at all strategic... well, it IS strategic- just not in the way we like.

Quote:
Parchisi. Again a very annoying and repetitive game with a very sparse amount of meaningful decisions. You roll a lot of dice, so Sedjtroll would call this "probabilistic". Care to explain this one Sedj?

I cannot comment as I do not know how to play Parchisi. I'll clarify though that rolling lots of dice is not probabalistic. The results of the die rolls is probabalistic, and the decisions made based on those results (or the likelyhood of those results) are perfectly valid.

- Seth

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Dice Rolling and Randomness

You might know Parchesi better as Ludo.
And Sedjtroll's argument is correct - it is probabilistic in that over the course of the game each player will roll approximately the same pip total, which theoretically keeps the game balanced (one of the reasons it has survived so long). What's missing is any way to properly exploit the tactical advantages (something that later developments of the game have tried to take into account.)

Oh, and may I also take this opportunity to remind people that Monopoly is the most regionalised game in the world (hell, you can play an Oz version if you want) so if possible please avoid referring to locations on the original US board ;)

Ken
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

Time to chime in with a shameless plug. :wink:

A couple of years ago I did my own version of the parchisi format called Domino Derby. It uses a set of dominoes as the basis for movement instead of all that icky die rolling. (but you probably guessed that from the title).

It's still random, Its still light-hearted, but it also provides for planning and meaningful decisions (at least I like to think so) You can find it at http://members.shaw.ca/kenmgames/games/games.htm if you are interested. Just scroll down on the left and follow the links.

End of Shameless Plug. :wink:

Oh, I actually LIKE dice and Chaos in my games. It gives me something to blame (other than myself) when I lose. But then again, I'm a poor sport.

Ken

Anonymous
Dice Rolling and Randomness

I've found people I've met enjoy rolling dice.
It's tactile - they're different shapes and they make noises.
An interesting poll would be how many and what types of dice players enjoy rolling. For some, the more the better...

Sure it all boils down to probabilities, combinations and permutations - but it can all be worked out fairly simply on spreadsheets in the end. The main difference between dice and cards for randomness is the diminishing returns on cards - the changes in the probabilities when cards are removed.

Luck factor can of course be modified by the lessening of result choices or the results only having minor ramifications.

(yay - I got to use the word 'ramification' in a sentence!)

FastLearner
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

I will still use cards over dice nearly every time (I admit I have one game in development that might use dice) because I know much better how the probabilities will work out.

For example if I have a deck with, say, 10 shields and 10 swords and based on playtesting I know the deck will be be run through 1.5 times per game then there will definitely be at least 10 shields and 10 swords in the game, with a probability of there being 15 of each.

If on the other hand I have some dice with shields and swords on them then over the course of the game -- regardless of probability -- assuming the same ratio of sides and rolls then there might be a whole ton of shields and no swords or vice versa, or maybe it will work out probabilistically. I have absolutely no way of knowing, though, and a player's (and a reviewer's, and a potential publisher's) first game could completely suck due to "bad" or "weird" die rolls.

I just don't trust them unless they're a very small part of the game, adding only a tiny bit of chaos, with the outcome of the game not depending on them at all.

jwarrend
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

FastLearner wrote:
I will still use cards over dice nearly every time (I admit I have one game in development that might use dice) because I know much better how the probabilities will work out.

Has anyone used the "deck of dice" to any success?

I guess that if you're going to use a deck of cards anyway, you may as well just customize them so they fit with your game.

I think the thing about dice is that you have to decide what it is that is the important effect. For example, in combat, is the "aha!" effect more important, or the "uncertain outcome" effect more important? Both can be achieved with dice, but there are other ways of achieving the former. (like having players add cards, for example).

I think that there are some cases where dice are used to pull off an "outcome unknown in advance" effect when really there are other ways of achieving this without having to also bring along the attendant baggage of randomizing the outcome as well...

-Jeff

Anonymous
Dice Rolling and Randomness

There's also the fact that to achieve the probabilities normally used by dice games - you would need an unwieldy amount of cards. So using dice in that circumstance reduces the amount of components needed to play -
ie 2 dice = 36 cards, 3 dice = 216 cards.

Probability has never bothered me - I had fun figuring out excel sheets to compute the numbers for me :)

But I will use both, depending on situations - cards for their advantages and dice for theirs.

JPOG
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

I think objectively, it depends on the game and its aims. A 'beer and pretzels' type would be best suited to probably quick die rolls here and there, rather than any attempt at real 'strategy', while something that is intended to take 1+ hours would be better suited to either more strategic use of cards and/or resource management, or a DIFFERENT use of dice.

I myself am more a fan of dice than not, since I also play role-playing games, though in all honesty, I have gone full circle and come back to preferring just the old standard normal cubes (D6). I think for games which *might* benefit from, or be able to accomodate dice, one might consider a relatively new concept in dice mechanics, that being the "Ladder" system (from the Ladder rpg), in which you roll a number of dice equal to a trait or skill and count 6's as Special Successes, 1's as Failures and anything else is considered to be a 'typical' result which won't affect anything one way or the other - so if your Superhero has a Strength of 4, and you roll 4 dice for damage and get no 6's or 1's, you are assumed to do a solid 4 damage or whatever - if you rolled a 1, your result would drop 1 level, to 3, for example - if you had rolled a 6, your result would be 5, etc.

Its reasonable, if you have a certain trait or proficiency in something, it really takes an unusual and unlikely event to change it much and even then, usually not by much. Also, some designers like to use 'open ended' and 'exploding' dice, for each 6 you roll, you roll AGAIN, eliminating a TECHNICAL maximum result, though a PRACTICAL limit could probably still be guessed at.

I co-created a Pro Wrestling Promoter game for multiple people, using some resource management and dice aspects - we based the 'guts' on the other creator's original idea, "Figure Club". We tried to cut it down as much as we could but there is a need for "character sheets" for each Player to keep track of his promotion and his wrestlers, etc. and we agreed that this is just a bit too much for a "dice game", as we both ended up playtesting it online and found Excel to be an invaluable time-saver for us, since there is a consistent, though not large, amount of math in EACH turn, which is NEVER really good - you want to keep math and any tracking of large numbers to a minimum (or at best, absent) in anything but a very involved game. If anyone is interested in seeing our finished (ahem) product, please feel free to visit:

http://www.jpatt.net/files/wresgames/diceblash.html

Any feedback or comments on that as well, would be welcome.

daem0n_faust
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

I would like to be vain here, being a new member of your pretty holy sanctum, and say my personal opinions on this weird mechanism called the dice.

I have great but fairly few experiences with the dice. One such, is when playing an old card game known as ARCADIA. I used to play it alone, and it seemed really difficult back then. Arcadia promises to be a game that is playable with only two pieces of boosters. Sure, it is playable, but being the rpg that it is, I can barely survive as a beginner. Its all a game of chance to win.

Unlike that, Monopoly is about making decisions in a dire or fine event. The dice merely randomize your steps, which is unrealistic for a game of real estate stuff, because if you are a real business, stuff can be planned. However, I like it as a game in itself.

There should be a limitation in the use of dice in games. However, it also breaks down to one of two categories: as mere counters, and as mere randomizers. Heck, we can assume the limitation is due to my fear of dice dependent games which might detroy the strategic factor of it. Many card games fell into that level, since we now use card decks to just randomize different cards to use. We are playing ccgs strategically just because we are using constructed decks and adapting to minor game changes (in our part, i.e. our draws). Bad events, such as bad draws occur in a semi-strategic value, because we are to adapt to these effect, unless it is about the Mana-Screw in magic wherein you can barely play due to lack of card-paying mana.

For dice to be really useful, we can always combine the dice-master stuff with board games, wherein the dice is used often but do not command the entire game. After all, despite all the rules that can be created, it's always the players who are the real commanders of the game.

:twisted:

I tried designing a ccg that revolves on combat, trying to incorporate the combat style of RPGs, wherein a dice is used to see the To hit character effects. So, a bad roll could mean a failed hit on your character's part. These, as always, can be modified. Give me a reason why I SHOULD NOT CONTINUE this design.

Pt314
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Dice Rolling and Randomness

I think dice if used in a good way, can add a lot of spice to a game.

Yekrats
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I'm in favor of limited use of dice.

I kinda like dice, but not too many. Games can bog down (IMHO) if die-rolling is relied on too heavily. Sorting hits and misses is a pain in Titan, for example.

Occasional use of dice is nice though because they provide tension. There is that second or two of not knowing a result, as someone is about to roll a die. The die is cast and the tension builds. Will the result help or hurt you? Then the result is revealed, and its consequences accounted for. When you have multiple die rolls spread throughout the game, each one builds the tension a bit more. (Who cannot be nervous in Knizia's LotR when the die is cast?)

Dice also give players an unknown element to deal with. There is no way to predict how dice will fall, so it forces a player to keep his options open. Does he risk a further possibilty of failure, or does he quit while he's ahead?

Dice games allow a person that is way behind "shoot for the moon" and catch up at the last minute. There's no better feeling than winning against incredible odds in Can't Stop when your opponent is about to seize victory.

-- Yekrats

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