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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How I Almost Wasted Money on Expensive Perfect Dice (That I Secretly Still Want)

Here is a link to an article I found while frantically hunting for a good price on some precision dice. "Casino Dice are NOT for boardgaming" is post on that makes a mostly sensible argument for why casino dice are not perfectly suited to wargaming. The only reason I found that thread was because I spent like an hour and a half Googling for a Japanese site where I could buy these magically average dice that I'd read about in a really interesting article that Natfka linked to on Faeit 212. For some reason his site and some other Blogger sites are down at the moment, but I'll edit in the link later on.

In that article, a mechanical engineer ran an incredibly thorough experiment, testing the reliability of different brands of dice. He tested some GW dice (which I own), some Chessex dice (which I was about to buy) and some precision casino dice like they use at craps tables. To shorten it all quite a lot, GW dice were terribly crafted and rolled 29% 1s. The Chessex dice weren't much better. The casino dice, as you might expect, were pretty near perfect.

So obviously I needed to buy 50 of these amazing, perfectly average dice! Or so I thought...until I saw the price. 5USD or 500yen for one freaking die? Really? Rolling average would be sweet and all, but come on. There were a few places to get them cheaper, but the best I found was 250yen. I was about to buy about 15 of those, but luckily that's when I stumbled onto that boardgamegeek thread.

The crux of it is that casino dice are meant to be bounced against the surface and specially textured wall of a craps table to ensure that the roll is truly random. These surfaces are also padded with felt to protect the dice from chipping. In the engineer's experiment, he did section off each die and was rolling it against the wall of the compartments. I don't recall if it was padded or not, but clearly he was taking the proper precautions to ensure ideal rolling conditions. The weight and machining of the dice could produce less than perfect results if simply rolled on a flat surface like the floor or a wargaming table.

When I play I'm generally am rolling dice on the floor. Or maybe a mat or a bunch of basing rocks. I travel with my dice in a regular dice bag on a train and generally have to travel 3-5 hours to play. It would cost almost 200 bucks to get casino dice in the quantities that I need for 40k. And I'd be pretty upset if I had to replace them due to chipping (considering that really defeats the purpose of perfect dice). I mean, it makes a little more sense for craps where you need only 2 of them, but I think it would be really impractical for wargaming. In the end I still needed dice and went with some brand I've never heard of, but that does sell casino dice as well. I'm thinking of doing a much simpler test for the ones I bought and recording the data in Excel. Maybe 100 rolls for each of the 4 types I bought. Hopefully I'll just forget about that by the time I'm freed up enough to actually do it...