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“Top 5 Alternatives To Dice In Wargaming
Dice have always been the most common way to achieve randomization in wargames. They are fun to roll and the many different types allow you to generate a random number from 1 to 4 or even 1 to 100. A new trend in dice is to use custom dice with the results from a combat results table printed on them instead of numbers. The benefit is it eliminates cross-referencing a CRT, but you cannot have that many types of results if it’s on a six sided dice. Dice have served wargamers well over the years, but some designers have tried other randomization methods and we’ll go over the pros and cons of those.
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#5 is the “Finger system.” This crazy system was designed by Tadashi Ehara and used in STOMP the microgame from Chaosium. Essentially, in cases where you have four or more units working together on a task, it automatically succeeds. Otherwise, if three units work together it is a two-finger resolution. If two work together it is a three-finger resolution. Last, if it’s just one unit working on a problem, it’s a four-finger resolution. Both players pound their right fist into their palm twice and on the third pound they display up to as many fingers as the resolution calls for. I.E. in a four-finger resolution, they may display one to four fingers. If both parties display the same number of fingers, then the attacker wins. This method may be fun for younger players, but it seems to slow down the game. Adults will probably find it to be a wee bit childish.
Alternative #4 is mutations of rock, paper and scissors. These are not used to determine a random number, but to randomly determine a winner of an event. This method is an attempt to make opponents interact in a more social and hopefully enjoyable manner. The problem is there is nothing you can do to gain an advantage. If you’re playing with dice and a combat results table, you can use terrain to add modifiers to your defense or with some rulesets you can do a flank attack to get a helpful modifier. You can’t do this with rock, paper and scissors. A mutation of rock, paper and scissors exists in the game One World by Metagaming. In this mutation, each player’s children units secretly transform themselves into fog, blade or stone and then reveal themselves simultaneously. Blade will defeat fog; fog will defeat stone and stone will defeat blade.
#3 is drawing numbered chits from a cup. The advantage to this is you can have number ranges outside of what dice normally do. I.E. you could have numbers from 0 to 13 if you wish, along with a + sign that signifies that you can draw two additional numbers. Another advantage is that you can have the player place the used chits in another cup so each chit is used exactly once before the next cup is used. You now have an even distribution of numbers if that is what the game designer wants. The disadvantage to drawing chits from a cup is that it is tedious. In addition, if the even distribution method is used, then the player will always know what the last number in the cup will be. Space Infantry from Lock N Load use the chit pull method.
Alternative #2 is the playing card method. In this method a standard playing card deck is used. The value of cards is used to determine the winner of an outcome. Some games also use the color of the cards to determine initiative. Morgan’s A’Comin’! is a post card wargame where you add the cards value to the attacking units combat factor and subtract the defending units combat factor and add modifiers. If the result is a 6 or greater, the defender loses a step. The playing card method is a lot of fun and as mentioned, it can be used with modifiers.
The #1 alternative to dice is the custom card method. Custom cards can be used essentially in the same manner as the playing card method, but they have the added bonus of having an event on them. Essentially, the card can be played for either its value or event. This gives the player more options when strategizing. Turning Point from Worthington Games has done an excellent job of using the custom card method.
I’ve always wondered what a wargame would be like if it used a spinner like in the Game of Life. After your done laughing, listen to the advantages it would offer. You could have a custom number range such as zero to fourteen and a plus sign or symbol that signifies that you get to use numbers from two additional spins instead of one. In addition, you could have other symbols such as a retreat symbol or disordered symbol right on the spinner. It probably would be a great substitute for one or two dice, but would be impractical for large numbers of dice due to the fact that you would have to keep spinning the same spinner.
Now, let’s hear from you guys. Please post in the comments section below what your favorite alternative to dice in wargaming is.
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