Diced (A Game Tuesday Post)

As a tabletop gaming enthusiast, I have a whole lot of games.  I own a small Toys R Us worth of games, and have played even more.  I really do love games and could play them all day, all night.  If I was locked in a warehouse with every single board and card game made throughout the history of the world, I’d be in no rush to be rescued.  Provided I had some good company to play those games with.

I don’t just love games because they are fun to play though.  I love them because they are a way at looking at the universe, of understanding the fundamental nature of this thing we call reality.  All games are just systems of rules, of balances of risk versus reward, of goal setting,  And aren’t those all things that apply to this thing we call life?

And then there are dice.

For most people, dice are such a closely associated element of board games, they might be surprised at just how many game players hate them.  Really.  There’s an entire class of players who hate any form of randomness.  They want games that are safe, predictable.  Where every strategy is equally viable and every path to victory as simple as following steps one, two, three.  They hate the idea that their most carefully laid plans will be destroyed by one bad roll.

Maybe it’s because they’re control freaks.  Or maybe it’s because it sucks watching your army of little plastic soldiers get slaughtered by an unsympathetic die roll.  Or maybe they just hate the fact that the universe doesn’t give a damn how clever you are.  Sometimes, it’ll crush everything you’ve worked for, and there’s not a damn thing you can do to stop it.

Einstein was wrong.  God does play dice with the universe.

The dice has always represented the random, the chaotic, the entropic nature of reality itself.  We are never in full control of our lives.  We are always plotting and planning and pretending like we can bend the universe to our will if we just believe it enough, work hard enough, have enough drive.  But it really only takes one bad die roll to remind you how our best laid plans can fall apart in a moment.  Or one good one to remind us that sometimes we succeed despite ourselves.

I embrace dice.  I love the dice, even if they don’t always love me back.  But sometimes, they do.  Never consistently.  Their affections are fleeting, their wrath always constantly hanging over my head.  The dice remind me that I am not in charge of my own destiny.  At least, not fully.  And that life is full of random rewards and penalties.   You will lose through no fault of your own.  And win too.

Mostly though, I’m reminded that the dice don’t care either way, and that there’s neither malice or joy in their actions.  When everything is going my way and they turn against me, I curse their existence.  And when they turn defeat into victory, I praise them for their generosity.  And when they do exactly what they’re expected to do, I don’t even pay much attention to them.

It’s foolish to rely on the dice, but it’s just as foolish to ignore them.  Because at the end of the day, we all live with them.  Even when we’re not playing games at all.

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  1. Posted August 25, 2011 at 3:18 am | Permalink

    I totally agree with you to some extend. I am myself an avid board-gamer, owning an attic full of games and was a longtime dice-hater. But where did this hate come from? From one single game called Risk. The frustration of being swept away by some lucky dice-rolls is just unbearable. And during my university-time we played a lot of Risk… So I was after that always on the lookout for board-games, that do rely mostly on strategy/tactic. But I discovered also games that are dice-games. So the games are build around the dice themselves and they are not just a means of getting a result of a battle. And I really started to love them dice-game. I think one of the most brilliant ones is Perudo (also called Liar, Liar if I remember well). The whole game revolves around the dice, the unpredictable and the bluffing. Now I own a lot of games that use dice… but maybe its also an maturation process I had to go through, and learning to accept over time that I can’t control everything around me…

  2. Posted August 26, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Perudo (aka Liars Dice, Pirates Dice) is one of my favorite games. Somewhere I should have 12 of the Milton Bradley cups for it. Can’t believe it is out of print and only available for outrageous prices. There are several variations in the rules online as the rules that came with this set are too simple.


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