Roll Dem Bones

Dice are one of those integral parts of gamer culture. Each player seems to have his own preferences, superstitions, customs. I remember seeing a guy at the WBC playing this massive WWII war game that spanned all of the European theater. Every time he went to roll the dice, he would stand up, do two large quick shakes–holding the dice in both his hands–do a third slower shake bringing his hands to the top of his dice tower, release the dice from his hands with a parting flourish–dropping them down the dice tower–and then lean over to check the results.

Dice Tower

The Dice Tower - I dislike them, but you can still learn to make one here

I thought, at least he made using a dice tower look cool, as I dropped a couple six-siders down a dice tower at my own table, cringing at the rattling the dice made as they banged down the wooden structure without grace or style. Despite their popularity, I can’t stand dice towers.

I don’t like that they are loud. The plastic die bounces around against the structure and the rattling seems to echo and magnify in the tower. I don’t like that they are bulky. I can’t imagine transporting one of these to and from a game. The L-shape and tenuous construction don’t seem very conducive to being stuffed into a backpack. And finally, I really really hate that it does all the die rolling for you. It literally pulls the fun right out of your hands!

Fortunately, John nor any of my other game playing friends use or insist on dice towers. However, John isn’t without fault. (Just ask his wife! Hey-oh!) See, John has these itty-bitty 12 millimeter dice. Now, there isn’t anything wrong with 12 mm dice, per se. You get 36 in a cube from Chessex and that’s a lot. They are perfectly serviceable. Heck, in the event that someone rolls the dice onto the board, they are small enough that they often don’t disturb the pieces too badly.

Can you tell which one is a M-A-N's die?

Can you tell which one is a M-A-N's die?

But, come on, I’m a man, spelled M-A-N. I want manly dice. I want to feel them clatter around in my hand, see them bounce and spin on the table. I don’t want to put on reading glasses and lean over the table to see my results. It’s 16 millimeter dice for me. It doesn’t matter much if they have rounded edges or squared edges (but it they do have squared edges, I like them to be perfect right angles with corners that look like they could take someone’s eye out), as long as the pips are high contrast to the die body. There’s nothing I dislike more (except for maybe dice towers, it’s a close call) than dice whose pips match the color of the die body. There should never be any confusion as to what was rolled.

Which is a perfect lead into my last point: etiquette. Dice that are cocked or land on the ground should be rerolled. It isn’t because we think you are cheating (I’m still watching you, buddy!), but it’s good etiquette to roll in such a way that everyone at the table can verify your roll. And finally, for Pete’s sake, don’t roll into the board. Nothing is more annoying than a bulldozer roller that knocks aside all the playing pieces, because they roll their dice onto the board. If that’s you, please roll into the box top or (sigh) use a dice tower.


6 Responses to Roll Dem Bones

  1. Joe says:

    dice cups?

    • Russ says:

      Dice cups are fine. But, it really should be mandatory to turn them over quickly and not just pour the dice out.

  2. Joe says:

    I agree. The main point of them is to control the splash.

    The only other upside I could see is that it always makes for a solid roll. I don’t like when people cautiously toss the dice and they just sort of flop out and land without any “rolling” at all. I know it’s still random, but it just seems weak.

  3. Rick says:

    What are your thoughts on electronic dice rollers? Or is the only real way to go is having actual dice being rolled like the Dice-O-Matic does?

    • Russ says:

      The Dice-O-Matic is a triumph of nerdery.

      I don’t really have a problem with electronic rollers if you are playing using an electronic format. Any good Random function will do a serviceable job of creating a random number.

      We never seem to have problems with all the random functions used in video games.

  4. Brad says:

    Dice Towers can be very useful in venues such as the WBC where space is limited. Two player games in popular events such as Twilight Struggle can certainly benefit from using a tower versus finding enough space for a box top and then tossing the inevitable “non-roll” roll, (a situation arising out of a dice toss that hits the bottom of the box without changing sides.

    I will say in games such as Here I Stand the dice tower can be trouble when one gets into combat involving loads of dice and one trys to cram them all into the tower in one fell swoop. Dice are cocked, stacked on top of one another, and eyebrows raised all over the table!

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