DBA Gaming and Military History-By Musashi

Dedicated DBA Dice?

I was reading an article on Fanaticus.org this morning on the subject of dice etiquette. It seems there can sometimes be some strife with people changing out dice during a game frequently to change their luck. It’s a fun thread  so if you want to read it later it’s here:


After reading that thread, and with too much time on my hands on a Sunday morning, I gave some thought to my own dicing habits.

At our recent DBA Game Day in Avon Park, I used a glass Queenline honey jar with a small white die in it. This seemed logical since I run a beekeeping business. The die made a nice, “the Gods are really making this roll random” sound to it. Very satisfying. The problem was the die was too small to be seen clearly through the glass due to the fact the glass is not completely translucent and my die was white and too small to be read easily.

So the size, shape and color of the die and relief pips are as important considerations as the vessel utilized to put it into play.

Instead of having dice that are themed to myself, Tony Aguilar (His blog is linked on my blogroll), has dice, themed to the Army he is fielding. He has Kanji dice for his Asian armies, for instance, which I congratulate him on for realizing the superiority of Japanese everything (my emphasis ;-). He uses Roman Numerals when playing with Roman armies as another example he has cited. Needless to say, this sort of themed genius struck a chord and the Musashi Mashed Potato(e) Mind was put to work.

I decided that my soon to be painted Phokian army needed its own dice. So, I thought wouldn’t it be cool if you could order your own custom dice. I prefer Casino style dice, which are called “Floating face dice” type. I suppose you could just fashion some yourself but once you start drilling or engraving into dice yourself, you make a lot of people nervous 😉 I did some internet searching and came up with this:

Custom Imprinted Casino Style Dice
These economical dice feature smoothed edges and a translucent red casino look. They are available in 5/8″, 3/4″, and jumbo 1″ sizes, with or without spots. The minimum order is 250 pair for 1″ dice and 500 pair for 3/4″ and 5/8″ dice.

Size     Quantity Pricing per Die
500     1,000     2,500     5,000     10,000
5/8″ (#1102)           $1.02     $0.90     $0.85     $0.72
3/4″ (#1103)           $1.25     $0.99     $0.89     $0.79
1″ (#1104)                $1.60     $1.35     $1.25     $1.15     $1.05
*Prices are for each die, not pairs

I had previously come up with the idea to make my own imprinted T-Shirt for my Phokian Army for the University of Phokia (Phokia U). Continuing with my phonetic paronomasia,  my idea this morning is to have a die made for my Phokian Army that were just like these red ones, but the ONE pip would be imprinted with PHOKIA ME and the SIX would be imprinted with PHOKIA YOU. I find this incredibly amusing.

It’s hard to read the pricing above since the table didn’t come over in the copy and paste but I will translate. There is a minimum order of 100 PAIR. That is 200 total die(s). Can you imagine? I’d wind up with 200 PHOKIA ME and PHOKIA YOU dice? lol Well, it’s lol, until my wife, Yukiko, finds out that I spent $320.00 dollars! The standard Casino dice are 3/4 inches and that also my preferred size. So, if I go down to that size, 200 of these Phokian Themed Dice would run me $250.00! Getting better, but about $249.99 more than she will think makes any sense.

I welcome any rationale  anyone can give me that I can give to her that will justify this much desired purchase!

Of course I may find myself with having to utilize existing dice. I own a good number of vintage board games. It occurred to me that many of these games have weird\odd\unique dice in them. Now, having priced dice myself, suddenly more sympathetic to board game manufacturers who go through the trouble of inserting dice custom made to their game!

I’m currently painting a Skythian Army and I thought just a die with a horse imprinted on it would be cool. So, the hunt is on for a horse racing dice game which can supply me with that. Ebay is your friend. My fellow soldiers, here are pics of just a few:

There are TONS of horse racing games out there. If you’ve never checked, trust me, TONS! This is quite wonderful I think, as my wife and I love to go play the ponies at Tampa Bay Downs when the season is in.  So far, every time we’ve gone I’ve not lost any money and have made enough to pay for our burgers and croissant. Yes, I said croissant! But that’s another story.

Another source of fun dice for your DBA gaming are collectors. Yes, my Soldier, there are people who collect any and all dice! Some people are into numbers. There are even dice groups organized around this. (http://www.dicecollector.com, and http://www.dicecollector.com/DICELINKS.HTML )Here are a few of the people interested in numbers seemingly:

Some people collect unusual dice, out of production dice, usually from vintage board games. I’m not sure how the board gamers out there feel about people snatching their dice from these games, but for your Dedicated DBA Dice needs, these are the people to go to! Here is a picture of one gents collection just to give you an idea. For the record, I wouldn’t recommend you actually use dice just like this. It might start a DBA Shouting match:

There are other game groups trying to pool resources. The Miniatures Page has a link about this effort too here http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=122708. After reading that thread I became a bit more hopeful us DBA gamers can execute fun themed dice for our armies.  One maker of dice who covers the challenges of ordering small numbers of custom dice is Crystal Caste Custom Dice.

Another manufacturer listed on the TMP link is a company we’re probably all familiar with.  Check out their website if you’re getting serious about your own custom DBA Dice:

Whew….Ok, So after all of that. Guess what? You’re unlucky dice might be EXACTLY that. Fun Themes might be good for some giggles, but are the dice you’re using REALLY random?

Check out this link for an eye-opener: http://www.d20source.com/2010/06/most-six-sided-dice-biased-by-75

I will excerpt the important sections here for you:

Most Six-Sided Dice Biased by 75%

posted Wednesday, June 23rd 2010 by Jonathan Drain
News, Reviews & Culture

The myth is true: Warhammer six-sided dice roll 1s more often. That’s the conclusion of an American engineering professor who rolled dice 144,000 times and dissected them using a hydrogen-cooled diamond saw.

The experiment tested Games Workshop dice, Chessex dice, and precision casino dice. The GW and Chessex d6s rolled a ‘one’ 29% of the time, when the average should be one in six or 16.6%. That makes the dice almost 75% more likely to roll a ‘one’, giving your rogue a crappy damage roll or your Warhammer unit a pass on a leadership test. The casino dice were spot on at 16.6%.

The best theory is that rounded edges cause dice to keep rolling longer. Gravity paradoxically favours the heaviest side at the top, since gravity causes dice to stop rolling:

Game room logic, poor source of anything, would dictate that the side with the one is heavier and would therefore be on the bottom more. Unfortunately this is just not true, take popcorn or batholiths as an example. The 6 is too light to stop the momentum of the dice, the rounded corners cannot prevent the dice from turning due to the weight. In the end 1s are by far the most common result.

Dice inventor Lou Zocchi has a similar theory.

and one comment from that article:

  1. Sian

    June 23rd, 2010

    Not a new article (it’s been kicking around since 08) but it’s good to bring up now and again,and lends subjective evidence for the ‘lucky/unlucky dice’ that everyone has.

    Personally, any future dice purchases of mine will be Gamescience. Lou knows his stuff, and what would you rather have, pretty dice, or dice that actually do their jobs? Dice with a bias (one way or the other) kind of wreck the whole reason for using dice in the first place.

Now some people think that since this data was never allowed to be reviewed it is some plant by the Casino companies to validate their dice and the true random nature therefore inherent in gambling dice.

I normally like conspiracy theories, but still, what about our fun DBA Themed dice? I still want some! Finally I found a solution. Use whatever dice you like, but you should a sample test to validate the dice you’re using. Maybe throwing your “bad dice” across the room wasn’t so crazy after all!

Here is the way to do it from another blog site:


I encourage you to read the whole thing. Lord knows, I can’t do all those match equations, but here is the main paragraph about it:

Testing a d6: Let’s say you’ve got a d6. Roll it 30 times. Keep a tally of how many times each face comes up, from 1 to 6. (Note that we expect the number of appearances from each face to be about 5; 30/6 = 5). At the end, go through the counts and subtract 5 from each, square them all, and then add them all up. For a fair die, the total at the end should be no more than 55.

According to the blog there, testing 30 throws will result in a 5% error rate, where a good die might read as good and a bad die might read as good. 5% isn’t bad, but I may roll more times to see if the result changes much. 30 rolls would just be the minimum sample size needed apparantly.

The next thing I will test for is the type of “rolling” that is done. I will test with a dice cup and just rolling it on a table and maybe in my Queenline Honey jar to see if the numbers look different. This might take awhile but I will blog about it as soon as I have the data.

So there is my answer! I will find some custom dice that theme properly with my armies and then test them to make sure that they are truly random!



4 responses

  1. I’m having some dice made in Auburn colors by a lady in Jacksonville.

    August 1, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    • Well, Dave, I’m not very very interested in testing my various dice to test their true random nature. It makes sense that the various constructions of how dice are made could and probably likely would produce unwanted variations in the probability of certain numbers to be rolled.

      It’s amazing after all these years of gaming, I never fully realized this fact or the impact of it.

      I’d be interested to hear how you got your dice custom made and for how much? I’d also be very interested to have you test yours too. I’m in test mode can you tell? I’m going to test some of mine and blog about it as soon as I’m done!

      August 1, 2010 at 2:28 pm

  2. I don’t have custom dice, but I do theme my dice to my army – I bought a pack of blue ones to use with my French Napoleonics.

    I find it hard to believe that the miniscule weight difference caused by dimples affects a properly thrown die. It isn’t a matter of weight, it is a matter of the centre of gravity.

    August 6, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    • Hi there! Thanks for stopping in!
      The physics of why non precision dice have more of a bias than precision dice are no doubt multi-fold. The three things typically cited are the holes are refilled on precision dice with the same material Cellulose Acetate. The cube is precision cast to within 0.0005 of an inch tolerance. Lastly, the material used can affect it’s “bouncy” qualities.

      The trick is your word miniscule. Certain dice exhibit distribution tendencies. The die may be in mathematically acceptable ranges overall but still tend to throw some numbers slightly more and some slightly less. In a game like DBA where there are very low number of dice throws to determine the game, this can have more than miniscule impact. 😉

      Feel free to check out the fanaticus forum thread on this. It’s covered in great detail! lol

      August 6, 2010 at 3:41 pm

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