Drop by and take a listen. Jut roll with it, and may all your die rolls be boxcars.
I continue to work on my Kursk Kampaign History-to-Wargame (or is it Wargame-to-History?) project. This is a special series I am working on to look at the Battle of Kursk using both books and wargames. The “core wargame” I am using is Trevor Bender’s Battle for Kursk: The Tigers are Burning, 1943 from RBM Studio as found in C3i Magazine Nr. 34 (2020). I don’t know if the series will feature here or at Armchair Dragoons yet.
Multi-Man Publishing found some wayward stock in their warehouse. Good for me because I was able to pick up another Standard Combat Series title; Karelia ’44: The Last Campaign of the Continuation War (2011). As with every SCS game, I am interested in the “gimmick” rule; in this case the “Boss Point” system which varies game length.
Do you know that ConSimWorld has a new social site? I’m trying it but am really unsure. I can be found there as (you might of guessed) RockyMountainNavy. What do you think?
Not a very busy boardgaming week except for recording an episode of Mentioned in Dispatches for the Armchair Dragoons.
Look Listen for the episode to drop next week. In the meantime check out my meager dice collection here.
My pre-order for No Motherland Without by Dan Bullock from Compass Games should be shipping next week. As a guy who spent nearly 1/3 of my military career on the Korean peninsula to say I am “interested” in this title is an understatement.
Role Playing Games
I’m not really into Western RPG’s but I am sure tempted with the release of Rider: A Cepheus Engine Western from Independence Games. I love what John Watts has done in The Clement Sector setting for his Alternate Traveller Universe and am sure he has brought
the same level more love to this setting. Here is how he described Rider in a December blog post:
Rider will use the Cepheus Engine rules as a base with modifications made to fit with the “Old West” setting. Rider will draw inspiration from both fictional and historical Western lore but will definitely side with fictional portrayals. To paraphrase Larry McMurtry (who was misquoting “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence”), we will be “printing the legend”.
As part of my Kursk Kampaign series this week I read parts of The Battle of Kursk by David Glantz and Jonathan House (University of Kansas Press, 1990) and The Battle of Prokhorovka: The Tank Battle at Kursk, The Largest Clash of Armor in History by Christopher A. Lawrence from Stackpole Books (2017).
Feature image nolimitzone.com
I will be recording a special episode of the Armchair Dragoons Mentioned in Dispatches podcast in the very near future where we will discuss dice in gaming. At the risk of looking like a poser (because I know I am far from a true dice fanatic) I’m posting my dice collection for reference during the episode – and (hopefully) for your viewing pleasure.
The 2021 RockyMountianNavy Dice Collection
Role Playing Games
I’ll Take My Chances
Since 2d6 is so common in wargaming, it is helpful to understand the odds when rolling. Marc Miller in the rules for the Traveller 5 RPG goes way into depth on the the topic with an entire appendix, The Dice Tables.
As quick as many people are to dismiss the Traveller 5 RPG (“too complex” is a very common remark) there is lots of good design inspiration within what is admittedly more a toolkit than a simple set of rules. One dice use that has inspired me elsewhere is Flux where you use 2d6 to create results from -5 to +5. Useful for a random modifier? Hmm….
My dice collection shown above EXCLUDES dice that come in the many games sitting on my shelf. Within those many boxes I can find everything from the standard d6 to d10 and even the occasional d20. I also have specialized dice like the Battle Dice in the Commands & Colors series from GMT Games, Compass Games, or Days of Wonder. There is also the specialty dice found in the Birth of America/Europe series from Academy Games. Heck, even the latest Conflict of Heroes game from Academy Games, Storms of Steel, uses a specially marked d10. Even Root (Leder Games) has a special combat die.
Which raises an interesting question I hope we dig into during the episode; What is the best use of dice in a wargame? The hobby started with the d6. Once RPGs came along the d20 became popular which actually led to the availability of polyhedral die like the d10 (where 2d10 can actually make a d100). Some wargames replace dice with cards (for example see Tank Duel! from GMT Games) while others make the d6 the centerpiece of the game (Table Battles from Hollandspiele). Lowered manufacturing costs also allows publishers to enable designers to use special dice (Commands & Colors, etc). What do you think the future of dice are in wargaming?
A tweet by fosfanol (@fosfa on Twitter) caught my attention this weekend.
This got me thinking; do I really care about the dice that come in my wargames or boardgames? I mean, I’m definitely not one of those RPG players that likes to shame my d20 just because it rolled “wrong.”
Then again maybe I am, in a way.
I have a dice collection. I have also been known to change out dice in a game. I did this most recently when I changed out the black and white d10 that came in Blue Water Navy (Compass Games, 2019) for red and blue. I mean, they just look so much more thematically correct!
As I look across my gaming collection, I can’t help but feel that the die itself is changing. One of my latest acquisitions, One Small Step (Academy Games, 2020) has three d6 in them but they are custom die with game-specific faces on them. Academy Games also used a custom d10 as the Spent Die in the latest edition of Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel Third Edition (2019). Just look at the evolution of the Combat Dice in the Commands & Colors series that has progressed from stickers applied to the sides of a d6 to nicely etched dice. Further, I positively cannot imagine playing any of the Academy Games Birth of America series without their special dice.
So, some designers or publishers have forced us into using their custom dice. I can’t really change that. But what about the many other games that use ‘plain old vanilla’ die? Do the dice really make a difference?
For me, I look at dice in the game and evaluate if I need to change them on a few factors:
- Size: If a throw is only two dice then I don’t mind big, chunky dice. In some ways it’s easier for this Grognard to see the results. But if the roll is a handful, then smaller die are definitely appreciated.
- Color By Design: Color is important in two ways for me. Some game designers use different color die rolled at once to help determine the outcome by using the die color to represent different effects. In these cases it often is helpful to just roll the die pool and read the results (recognizing that sometimes the roll may be not needed).
- Color by Theme: A second way the color of the die might make a difference is the theme of the game. In Blue Water Navy the d10 is used to resolve the action; the color of the die has no impact. So in this case, I decided that it just looked better to replace the black & white die with appropriately colored ones for each side. Does it make a difference in play? No, but it looks better to me!
- Dice Tower or Tray: With the rise of accessories in gaming, some people now use the size of their dice tower or the dice tray as a determining factor. I have a (small) dice tower that works well for 12mm or smaller die, and a dice tray that works for many sizes. Personally, I dislike these accessories. Dropping dice into a tower just doesn’t have the same physical or audial satisfaction as taking some dice, cupping them in my hand, shaking them about, and listening to them clatter across the table as they roll. I often use a dice tray to keep the die from rolling about (or when table space is at a premium) but again, rolling into the tray feels like I am restricting the roll; artificially stopping it early as it hits the tray walls. Silly? Maybe; but it’s my game and I want to enjoy EVERY aspect of it, even the die rolling! (As a concession to Mrs. RMN, I bought a Poker Mat for the dining room table to place under the games that we play. Not only does this preserve her nice table, but it provides a nice surface for rolling dice – even those sharp-edged Gamescience ones).
I have been around the hobby long enough to hear the claims of Colonel Lou Zocci and his Gamescience dice. Heck, I bought into the marketing and have a fair number of Gamescience die in my collection.
Are they really that much better? According to some, no. But at the end of the day it’s the aesthetic of the die that make the difference for me. Here I have to say that, given my choice between Gamescience and Chessex, I’ll take Gamescience.
At the end of the day I usually play with the dice that come with a game. These days with more custom dice in games I have no other real choice. But yes, @fosfa is is correct, size – as well as color an thematic match – can make a difference!
Feature Image: My dice collection (at least those dice not in a game).
THE ROCKYMOUNTAINNAVY BOYS ARE ALL IN on the Traveller role playing game. This past weekend, we played another adventure. Unlike the previous session where I relied upon Gypsy Knights Games 21 Plots for inspiration, this time we riffed off our character and world generation time. We used Cepheus Light (Stellagama Publishing, 2018) as our rules set.
The adventure party, in a Scout ship, was engaged by their enigmatic contact to smuggle high-end luxury goods (handbags in a nod to RMN Mom) to a rich, but vastly overcrowded, planet ruled with an iron fist by a religious dictatorship. Along the way they were approached by the Space Patrol and surreptitiously engaged in espionage, they were double-crossed by a smuggler, they double-crossed the smuggler back, were harassed by the police, had to disarm an improvised explosive device on their ship, knocked heads with smugglers, ran from system defense boats, and dodged fighters.
After the session, both RMN Boys expressed relief that the adventure was over as it was stressful (in a good way). When I asked what part they liked most the answer was the dice. Several times during the game, I took one of my chunky Traveller dice and used it as a countdown timer. For instance, as they went to disarm the bomb, I placed the die heavily on the table.
As they discussed their plan – at some length – I picked up the die, rotated it to the next lower number, and placed it down hard on the table.
The Boys looked up in horror as they realized they really were working against a clock. They tried to disarm the bomb, but failed.
CLICK! The die rotated again.
They eventually disarmed the bomb, but the countdown die would come back again during space combat. They were jumped by a system defense boat during their escape. To show how long they needed before they could safely jump away the countdown die came back out.
“Let’s duke it out! Oh…my little beam laser ain’t so hot….”
“Let’s run away!”
“Uh, we need to do something more. Let’s get the Engineer to goose the engines and try some fancy flying and use Tactics.”
“OK, we got away. That was easy!”
“Where did those fighters come from? Hey, that hurts!”
We are having lots of fun and I am sure there are many more adventures ahead. I just hope I can keep up with the RMN Boys and deliver good games.
SERIOUSLY, how many times do I have to mess up before I do it right?
In Classic Traveller, the Core Mechanic is a simple Roll 2d6 OVER your target number. These days Mongoose Traveller uses the same 2d6 Roll OVER mechanic.
HOWEVER, in Traveller 5, one must roll UNDER the target number on a variable number of d6. So many times I have to redo a character or combat because – in the moment – I automatically default to roll OVER.