Dice – Taking Away the Doubt

On March 22, 2012 by Rich Loxam

I have a confession.  I am a dice addict.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I hate dice.

When I talk about dice people often say the phrase ‘dice are dice’ referring to the fact that sometimes they roll hot and sometimes cold.  There seems to be a magical nature about dice with wargamers.  Every person has their own quirks when it comes to dice from choosing a certain colour, throwing in a certain way or using ‘that dice’ when its an important roll.  Are these merely psychological barriers created by the individual?  Or is there any truth behind the issue?  Lets investigate…

Meet Louis Zocci of Game Science Dice

This guy is either one of the best salesmen in the world or there is some truth behind his words.  In this 2 part interview on YouTube he goes into some of the science behind how dice are manufactured and explains why certain dice appear to roll high or low.  Now, the cynical amongst you are probably thinking that phrase again ‘dice are dice’ but hear me out.  This article isn’t about proving whether your set of dice rolls normal, high, low or whatever.  This article is about one thing:

What happens if you could take away the doubt about your dice

As a tournament player I have both won and lost tournaments on dice rolls that shouldn’t on averages have happened.  Chains of double 1s, double 6s – impossible odds.  ’Dice are dice’ often came to mind in these situations.  However the mental state it puts you in when these dice happen is not a positive one.  Here’s an example:

Masters last year, playing Ash Mitchell.  My dice were on fire for most of the game (Legion Gale Force 9 Dice).  I was rolling several double/triple 6s, very rarely failing to hit, etc.  Near the end of the game I had a combine ranged attack needing anything but double 1s to hit.  Crucial roll as it would nearly guarantee a game winning situation.  I rolled double 1.  Thoughts rushed into my head – all based around the dice.  It threw my game plan into chaos and I was quickly losing my train of thought.  I lost the game in the end through Ash passing a tough roll on his caster, but with hindsight if I had thought about the turns more clearly after I failed that crucial roll I feel I could of engineered a win.  But I didn’t as I was so hung up on that missed combined range attack.

I am hoping that example resonated with people reading this article.

So Whats the Solution?  Take away the doubt.

By removing any possible idea your dice are rolling high/low due to imperfections, superstition or any other related issue.  By removing the doubt from your mind, you are increasing your ability to look at a situation logically and objectively.  To succeed in Hordes/Warmachine or any other miniature game  strategic planning and logical thought processes are required.  If anything is distracting you from this then your success outcome is lessened.  Dice doubt is one of these issues that often goes unappreciated and put under the ‘dice are dice’ phrase – as if that eases the blow.

Introducing – Precision Backgammon Dice

Here is a quick quote from an online store that sells these dice – www.bgshop.com

…precision dice (with ball-corners) are the tools of the game of backgammon, they are required equipment at most backgammon tournaments, and are a must if you play for money. Cellulose acetate is the material used for precision dice. This material is completely homogeneous and free from minuscule air bubbles.
The spots on the dice are made by boring precision holes into each face, and then filling the hole with a “plug” of “cellulose acetate” of a different colour. The cost of this material is a contributing factor to the high production costs of precision dice.
Additionally, precision dice are cut with a precision laser, which once again contributes to the high production costs.
We supply precision dice with rounded corners of the highest quality, they are balanced to 1/1000 of an inch, and made by a leading US manufacturer that supplies precision dice and quality gaming equipment to licensed casinos throughout the world.
All dice are guaranteed against faults for 1 year.
Precision dice are suitable for many games including RPG games where unbiased rolls are required. Precision dice with rounded (or cut) corners are recommended where a limited rolling area is available, the cut corners allow the dice to tumble, in particular the smallest size of 1/2 inch (13 mm) are becoming increasingly used by many RPG gamers. Other sizes that are available are 9/16 and 5/8 inch (14.2 and 16 mm).

There are a few key parts as to why these dice remove the doubt:

  • Use in Backgammon Tournaments for Money

If these dice gave bias results they could not be legitimately used within any cash based system as it would be unfair.  The backgammon tournament organisers remove this doubt from players by enforcing these specifically designed dice to be used as they give a true, fair roll.

  • Limited Rolling Area

Roll distance has a factor on dice probability and is why casino dice (larger in size) have to be bounced of a wall to give a true reading.  Backgammon dice are made smaller with rounded corners (like traditional wargaming dice) as they are intended to be thrown a short distance but still give a true, fair roll – removing the doubt.

With all these factors considered, its fair to assume these are the most accurate, fair dice available for our hobby.  I know that whatever they roll there is absolutely no bias in that result and as such it allows me to focus on the important issues – what I am doing strategically to win the game.  There are other options out there such as game science dice that offer similar results, however there is still some doubt with these cheaper options.  Backgammon dice are not cheap – setting you back around £6 each.  However for me, that ease of mind and avoidance of the blame culture I suffered with my dice is priceless.


Rich has participated in most major tournaments within the last 2 years with considerable success – mainly 2nd places! Starting 2012 he comes from a win at the end of last year to become the first UK Hardcore Champion. His recent projects are being one of the lead organisers of Smogcon and Steamforged.

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21 Responses to “Dice – Taking Away the Doubt”

  • junchi

    Dice addict!

  • Andy Burdis

    Good article. I’m definitely in that superstitious camp. When rolling well I keep using the dice and when rolling poor I swap them out even though thinking logically about it now it should make no difference. I’m not sure if I pay more for dice if it would get rid of this superstition for me personally but at £6 per die I certainly wouldn’t have spares to swap them with if they were rolling cold!

  • mbbelius

    Great article buddy – really informative. I do have the distinct honor at our club (http://s4.zetaboards.com/Legion_Wargames_Club/index/) of being the lowest dice roller of all time!!!

    If we roll off to see who’s making the tea you can guarantee I’m on my way to the kitchen :)

  • Sergeant Bus

    Very good article. Some day I’ll have to get some.

  • DialFforFunky

    Hmmm… Sweet, sweet dice… (dice-addict here :D )

    Are there figures for how much difference these dice actually make in practice? It’s the only thing I think is missing from this nice article. If the difference results in only a handful of ‘deviant’ rolls in a thousand, I’d say the difference isn’t significant for me to bother. My dice seem to fit the general picture of what dice are supposed to do, and realizing and accepting that this general picture falls slightly short of being truly random is good enough for me.

  • Yastobaal

    Glad to see another person has joined in by using backgammon dice. But for everybody else, if you are happy with the remembered results of your dice, if they seem fair rolling to you then I don’t see a reason for you to change.

    Personally, I can see that the imbalance of the pips removed weight or the imprecision of the sides could be the reason for bias when rolling. I wanted to remove doubt from my mind so I went and spent some money. I’ve had backgammon dice for just over a year now and though I’ll roll high or low I don’t feel the need to blame the dice. I just think the universe is trying to feck me over.

  • munkeykungfu

    I only tend to use the same 10 Dice now that I got from bolterandchainsword. Not because they are good but mainly because they cost so damned much to buy and ship from America lol.

  • Prophaniti

    I may well get a pair of those sometime. They look nice and seem like a sensible size for rolling. I think the main thing I like about this article is that I never even realised the product existed. Good work.

  • for me the critical thing with dice is clear visibility…both for you, and your opponent, to be able to quickly see the roll and add the pips…i’ve played loads of games where i’m effectively ‘blind’ as to the rolls because the dice numbers aren’t clear enough to see properly from my side of the table…or am i getting old? :)

    the other thing to bear in mind is you can have the best or the worst dice in the world…but when they land, the roll is the roll…feel annoyed or frustrated for a second if a critical roll borks, then take a deep breath and get on with your turn ‘cos the roll ain’t gonna change! having backgammon or science dice helps you deal with this…

  • Liam Jordan

    As Mat said, as long as I can see the dice then I’m all good, this means they’re not clear die, just a plain flat with pips on. I’m a big fan of Club Dice, they’re a nice touch :)

  • Martyn jenkins

    as long as they not vassle dice iam happy lol

  • DialFforFunky

    The topic of fair dice has been on my mind all day now. My solution: shared dice. It doesn’t matter if the dice aren’t 100% random if both you and your opponent are using them.

  • blackear

    Good article.

    I really like the idea of “average” rolling dice to help implement this and I am so tempted by some of these. They look a whole lot better than the Science Dice as well. They really weren’t that clear while these are look to be clearer to read and much better looking that the Science Dice.

    Tell you what though, at £6 for one dice they’re certainly not on the cheap side!

  • glamage

    Interesting article.

    I am satisfied that my dice roll fairly averagely (despite kind opponents telling me that my dice let me down when they thrash me) but I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing some of them abandon their accursed lucky dice in favour of these!


  • Doc

    Well I am kind of on the fence still. I am superstitious about my dice, but then I catch myself doing something superstitious with them and think ‘you’re an idiot’. I am going to have to go and start stacking dice now :-p

  • Baffo

    Nice article:)
    I’m not competitive enough to spend that kind of money per die, since I would need 5 (since I often play Weapon masters under Battle lust or Signs and portents).
    I’ll stick to my set of 6 chunky Kamasutra dice with ‘suggestive pics’ (from the time when I still played WH 40k Slaanesh chaos dwarfs); they might not be perfectly statistical, but it’s fun when my opponents are more interested in the pictures on the dice faces than the numbers rolled:).

  • Craig Johnson

    I’m using my massacre dice 100% of games from now on! :D

  • hilo

    I agree 100%, tournys should require these dice. I use retired Vegas casino dice for this reason. If only everyone would do the same, instead people have their collection of die for the high roll and separate ones for low.

  • purplewizard

    Very nice article. But unfortunately having the most precision made, balanced dice cannot protect gamers from taking the laws of probability personally. You will always have that chance of getting the undesirable result. And really the only way you can protect yourself is by minimising the risks as much as you can. Either with effects that require no dice at all (pure mechanical things like knock downs and auto hit pulses) or simply giving yourself more shots so that one has more chances at rolling what one wants.

  • jaythegrim

    How much….. it would be nice to have dice that roll average the science dice I have where supposed to do it. Now Backgammon dice are suppose to do it, but at that price they should roll what you tell them to roll………

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