Tuesday, April 17, 2012

First Strokes: Rolling Dice

The Dice Players; La Tour; 1650
SandWyrm here. I've spent most of the day writing rules about dice. I thought that I'd get through it quickly, as most games spend a page or less on this. But it ended up requiring 4 pages to address properly. The first half of this is pretty straightforward how-to-roll stuff. The second half is the juicy bit where I talk about anti-cheating restrictions. Because really, any game that wants to encourage competitive play should address these issues clearly in the rules.

Rolling Dice

In completely determinative games, such as Chess, Checkers, or Go; victory or defeat is completely up to the actions of the players. Chance plays no part in the outcome of these games.

However, in real world battles, there are a wealth of factors that no commander can completely account for. Did the troops get a good night sleep? Is the navigation system working properly? What’s the weather like? Was my order understood?

All of these factors and more contribute to the uncertainty of battle. More than one general in history has done everything ‘by the book’, but still suffered a crushing defeat due to factors beyond his immediate control. It would be unrealistic then not to include a certain amount of randomness into a wargame such as M42. This forces players to hedge their bets and to create backup plans in case a unit fails to do what is expected of it.

Adding too much randomness, however, can destroy the gameplay experience. After all, victory should depend on one’s ability to plan for the unexpected and to create contingency plans. But the outcome of a battle should never hinge on just one or two die rolls.

In designing M42, we have strived to only introduce die rolls only where the outcome of a particular action should not be certain. Not simply to add ‘fun’ random elements into the game. This preserves the competitive value of play and rewards players for improving their tactical skills.

Hence, you will not see things like randomized psychic powers, template scatters, or other craziness. A particular action may or may not work based on a die roll. But whenever possible the players will be in full control of the factors leading up to that roll.

You’ll Always Use D6 Dice

Every test you are called upon to make in M42 will use some combination of standard six-sided dice (D6). Sometimes this will be a single die whose result will determine whether a unit will flee the field. Other times you will roll 20 or more dice to determine how many of your unit’s shots found their mark.

Rolling A D3

Sometimes you may be asked to “Roll a D3”. in that case, simply roll a standard D6 and half the result, rounded up.

Rolling 2D6 or 3D6

When you see a number like 2 or 3 in front of ‘D6’, this means that you should roll that number of six-sided dice and add the results together. This will give you a possible result of between 2 and 12 for a 2D6 roll, or between 3 and 18 for a 3D6 roll.

Rolling N+

The M42 rules will often say that a test will succeed on a roll of 3+, 4+ or other such value. In that case the test is considered to have succeeded if the result of the roll is equal to or greater than the target number

1+ Always Succeeds

If the target roll of a test is listed as ‘1+’ or ‘a’, then there is no need to roll. The test is considered to have succeeded automatically.

7+ Always Fails

If the target roll of a test is listed as ‘7+’ or ‘-’, then there is no need to roll. The test is considered to have failed automatically.

Rolling N Or Less

Sometimes the rules will say that a test will succeed on a roll of 4 or less, or other such target value. In that case the test is considered to have succeeded if the result of the roll is equal to or less than the target number.

Modifying Die Rolls

If you see ‘D6’, ‘2D6’, or ‘3D6’ followed by a plus or minus sign and a number; this indicates that you should add or subtract that number from the result of the roll.

For example, ‘D6+2’ means to roll a single 6 sided die and then add 2 to the result. While ‘2D6 - 4’ would be an instruction to roll 2 six sided dice, add them together, and then subtract 4 from the total.

Ensuring Honest Rolling 

In casual non-competitive games, or when you’re just learning to play M42, it’s perfectly fine to use whatever six-sided dice you happen to have around. If that’s the case, go ahead and skip over this section. You can come back to it later once you’re comfortable with the rules.

But proper competitive play at events such as tournaments requires a few restrictions on the types of dice that players can use and how they are rolled.  This is to discourage some of the more common forms of cheating and ensure that everyone has a good time.

Legal Die Sizes

There are a staggering number of companies that manufacture and distribute D6 dice. In every color and style imaginable. But this variety does cause some problems for competitive play. Dice that are too small can be difficult for an opponent to clearly read. On the other hand, dice that are too large are easily rolled in ways that ensure that certain numbers are more likely to come up.

The minimum legal size for any die used in a game of M42 is 12mm3. This corresponds to the size of the Chessex dice that are sold in blocks of 36 by most game stores. Any die smaller than 12mm3 is not legal for competitive play.

The maximum legal size for any dice used in a game of M42 is 19mm3. This corresponds to the largest standard dice used in American Casinos. Any die larger than 19mm3 is not legal for competitive play.

No Mixing Of Sizes

All of a player’s dice must be of the exact same size. Mixing sizes of dice, even within the legal range, is not allowed. This is to prevent dice of different sizes from being used for rolling different kinds of tests.

No Hand Made Dice

All dice used in M42 must be machine made. Players may not use dice that they have made themselves. Nor may they use dice made of hand-poured resin or other ‘hobby’ materials.

No Damaged Dice

All dice used in M42 must be free of cracks, dents, holes, chips, or any other visible surface defect. Dice which appear to have been partially melted or otherwise deformed shall also be disqualified from use.

No Custom Glyphs

All dice used in a game of M42 must display their numbers using either traditional dots or clearly visible numbers printed in a san-serif font with a line under the ‘6’. Dice which mix the use of dots and numbers are not allowed.
Dice which use custom letters, images, or symbols for one or more of the faces are not allowed.

White Or Black Marks Only

All of a player’s dice must have all of their dots or numbers marked with either white or black paint at the time of original manufacture. Dice whose markings have been painted in by the player are not allowed. Black dice marked with black paint, or white dice marked with white paint are also not allowed.

Close-Handed Throws Only

It is possible for a skilled cheater to ‘set’ the dice in his hand so that as he drops the dice onto the table, they are more likely to land certain ways.

Before rolling, a player must close their hands entirely around the dice and shake them twice prior to releasing them onto the table. If this is impossible due to the large number of dice being rolled, a cup must be used to roll the dice instead.

The Dice Must Travel

After leaving the player’s hand, all of the dice being rolled must travel at least 6 horizontal inches before coming to rest. If this is not done, or the dice are simply dropped straight down onto the table, the roll is invalid and must be performed again.

Cocked Dice

It sometimes happens that a die will come to rest against a model or bit of scenery that prevents it from lying flat on the table. When this happens, simply re-roll the cocked die. If the cocked die was rolled as part of a larger group of dice, then only the cocked die must be re-rolled.

If there is any disagreement between the players as to whether a particular die is cocked or not, perform the following test:

Have the player who wishes the current roll to stand attempt to place a second die of the same size on top of the disputed die. If the second die falls off of the first, or the first die is moved during the test, the die is cocked and must be re-rolled. Otherwise the roll will stand.

(End of Section)

Did I miss anything?

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