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Customizable Dice games - are they dead?

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Fhizban
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Hello everybody,
I found large quantities of blank, unpainted dice lately and thought about turning them into a playable game. This brought up the question if customizable dice games are really dead nowadays? Do you remember the old game like Dragon Dice, Star Trek, Chaos Progenitus, Dice Master or Marvel Super Dice? Despite a loyal fan base theese games all went the way of the Dodo. But does this mean the genre is dead?

The new Quarriors is a good example that dice heavy games still exist and are marketable. But this game is not quite what i am thinking about. My vision is a traditional game (like Dragon Dice) that is centered around dice with custom symbols on it, requires large amounts of them and involves a lot of dice rolling. Additional components like cards and reference sheets are only the side dish, not the main course.

Of course, i hear you say: Dice games are too luck based! It feels like "the game is playing you"! All you do is roll! But wait: Is that really true? Of course, dice games are heavy luck based games. But isn't there a way to make gameplay more interesting by adding appealing rules, a gameboard and maybe some cards?

Maybe we should see the dice rolling factor in theese games more like a flow of randomness the players have to control and use to their liking. Game Designers could provide ways to split the dice rolls just by providing non-random options to the players: For example assume a player has 3 piles of dice, each pile geared towards a different strategy. Just by letting the player decide wich pile to roll in wich situation gives the player the feeling "to be in control" back again. built up on this mechanic, randomnes could be split up and divided to make it less "omnipotent". See this just as an idea how to take a bit of wind out of the sails of the "its all random" ship.

Now, to give you a practical example: i thought about creating an outline for a customizable dice game (avoiding the term "collectible") similar to the good old Dragon Dice (wich was basically a fantasy wargame). The thing about miniature wargames is the near impossible production of high quality figurines - and this where the dice fit in perfectly. Its much easier to produce dice in large quantities and use them (printed in nice colors and with medieval symbols on them) to represent vast armies. And vast is to be taken literally here: How difficult is it to buy, build, paint and maintain a 50 metal-miniature army compared to collecting 50 nicely designed dice? Of course this is just one example of many games, and i dont say i want to produce such a game. This is just a theoretical discusssion.

Finally, of course we could say: lets use standard d6 and look up the results on a table. But is this really the same compared to nicely crafted, chunky rune dice with a texture and fine symbols on it? All sitting there on the table - in various colors, different sizes and the typical shapes?

Think about it and answer if you have something to say. I would certainly be interested!

Don't let the Dodo die (again)!

truekid games
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Dragon Dice actually are

Dragon Dice actually are alive and kicking- a startup licensed them from Hasbro/WotC. They've had booths at conventions for several years now: http://www.sfr-inc.com/dragondice.htm

Fhizban
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@truekid games : Yes i know

@truekid games : Yes i know SFR quite well. Maybe my post was not well written regarding that point. But DD is from the dice game's glorius past - so it fits quite well into the topic of my post i think.

ReluctantPirateGames
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Perhaps...

Perhaps the reason they seem to have faded away is because of difficulty of design. More specifically, for an amateur designer to conceive of and test a game like that, they would need either a supply of easily painted/marked cubes, or they would need to have tables of "1 means dragon, 2 means ogre, etc." on hand during testing. I agree that these games can be very fun, but it seems like a big part of board gaming now is this kind of hobbyist scene, and I just feel like the difficulties in making a go of a dice game might be too much. And beyond that, there isn't a great way to prototype it for possible sale, and not many companies out there are printing small, cheap runs of custom dice. I personally use the Game Crafter, and despite their many capacities, they are nowhere near the ability to make custom dice.

All that being said, it would probably be very rewarding to design a massive dice rolling extravaganza. If nothing else, bringing it up to designers could spark something.

Fhizban
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@ReluctantPirateGames : Yes i

@ReluctantPirateGames : Yes i agree absolutely with your post. A different point of view I did not consider before. In fact, this makes me think about two more reasons of failure:

1. The cryptic symbols are not only difficult for the game designers, but also for the players later on. So dice games require large amount of explanatory extras (like sheets, templates, rulebooks or cards) and a good memory to remember all the symbols. In summary we could say the "cryptic factor" increases learning curve and alienates target audience (This could also be a reason why card games outperformed dice games).

2. The prototyping difficulty is also true for actual production. Dice games are very expensive to produce in my oppinion. most publishers decline such ideas because the very basic structure of the game is just too "material heavy". and - a publisher who has the money, could go the much more appealing metal miniatures road anyway. In summary: production costs might be a real argument against dice games.

But - I dont want to turn this thread into a postmortem of collectible dice games. Also i would like to shift the focus of discussion more to the gameplay mechanics. So, what makes theese games worthy to be resurrected from the grave? Comments anyone?

ReluctantPirateGames
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A positive spin

So yeah, this discussion should probably move away from the "post-mortem" thing. That being said, your point about the "cryptic symbols" is both a fault and a feature of these games. Some games are designed so that you are rewarded instantly, but this usually means making everything easier to understand and less complex. Others require a bit more patience, hoping that you will find even more enjoyment once you have a moment when you finally understand what's going on. I can tell you that Settlers of Catan was more confusing than fun for me the first time I played, but about half way through the second game I had I had a moment where everything was clear and it was super fun, possibly more fun because of my initial confusion. Anyway, in terms of dice games, being overwhelmed by piles of confusing symbols will certainly limit fun during initial plays. But once you start to really "see" the symbols, not just a cluster of lines and colors, you enter a space where the game sings. Actually, DDR is probably a better example of this.

So yeah. Basic point is that overwhelming confusion, once overcome, provides a gravitational slingshot to the center of the fun-time galaxy. I'm sorry for that terrible analogy.

willm.wade
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I have tried a couple of

I have tried a couple of times to learn Dragon Dice, but without anyone who knows how to play it is difficult to learn. And this is coming from someone who figured out how to play Black Friday.

I think perhaps you might have a better chance with an expandable dice game over the collectable format? That might help ease folk into the game and not habe so much unneeded information in the rule to get going.

Anyway just a thought.

Hasenpflug
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Joined: 12/05/2011
Indented dice

I thought indented dice are fairly easy to get a hold of these days? Even Disney Yatzee has em haha. Just using stickers to place inside them. Not as nice as customized dice but it does the trick.. kinda.

Anywho, I enjoy rolling dice, really do.. I enjoy how much rolling there is in Quarriors. But for some reason i can't stand rolling dice in games like Axis & Allies and Risk, where sometimes it takes a good solid 10 minutes for 1 battle to occur, and if you roll terribly the game is essentially over if the battle was large enough and the outcome heavily favoured 1 side.

Fhizban
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Dice game concepts

I have difficulties brainstorming expandable dice game ideas. Its like the concept limits the possible designs to some degree. or is it just me? the only things i can come up with are games where the number of dice plays an important role. for example one die could represent a unit in an army or one space ship in a fleet. this way each die contributes its abilities to the whole, flattening out the randomnes of a single die a little bit and turning a pile of dice into some kind of swarm (i dont have a better explanation right now).

this makes me think about theese game concept, and then it suddenly..ends...because i just cannot image other things to be represented by dice.

1. army game - dice represent troops, a pile of dice represents an army. armies can be located at one of a handful zones on a gameboard to make the game a bit mor strategic.
2. space ship game - the same, but now a die represents one single space ship.
3. warrior/gladiator game - here, a whole bunch of dice represents a warrior and his abilities. wounds remove dice, while items, spells and skills add new dice.
4. the same as above, but instead the medieval warrior, a pile of dice represents just a single space ship or a battle mech. dice represent weapons systems, shields, engines and the like.
5. city game - dice represent buildings in a city. this would be a peaceful game where all players try to build the biggest city. each turn you roll your dice and process the outcome (gain taxes, manage revolts, fires, crime etc.). <- i think this idea is quite cool by the way and should be investigated further.

all other ideas evolve the core idea (expandable dice game) too much from its origin by adding a real gameboard, tokens, cards and other utilities to it. so it wouldnt be a dice game anymore and instead a card/dice/boardgame hybrid/tribryd.

i bet this is just me and my limited creativity. do you have ideas?

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