How to Play Dice Games Like a Pro

dicegamespicWhat is the fascination that many of us have with dice games? If you are like me you were playing some form of games as young as 4 or 5 years old. I remember playing Yahtzee at a very young age and we played it as a family with my kids when they were very young. It was one of the first things we used to help teach them basic math.

Most games only use a couple six-sided dice so it is fairly simple to gain an understanding of basic probabilities. This can give us a sense of control, or at least a solid understanding, which can make games more fun. Just about everyone who has played Monopoly understands that it is much easier to roll a 6, 7 or 8 than a 2 or a 12. So I think we are drawn to and enjoy games that use dice because they are some of our earliest gaming experiences and because we can usually understand what is going on quickly, even if we are introduced to a new game or a new version of an old favorite.

I have enjoyed and been fascinated with dice gaming for years. I remember sitting in my room rolling dice and recording results hour after hour seeing what percentage of the time each possible outcome came up. This was before I had any clue about statistics and using calculators. I had never even heard of a computer then. I did this with 2 d6’s and then with four six-sided cubes. My friend had developed a baseball game using four dice and I wanted to make it better and assign each player a set of outcomes based on their life statistics from the previous year. This was time-consuming but I had a ball doing it. I also learned a great deal about the outcomes and possibilities.

This is why I have built this website. Each game has a thorough summary and the ones that need a larger discussion also have how to play and rule pages. But don’t get stuck in the mindset that you have to play a game that someone else came up with or even follow someone else’s rules to one of your old favorites. Take a stab at developing your own game or your own new variations on old standbys. You never know when you might come up with the next big thing. But even if you never find any commercial success, you may develop family favorite that lasts for years to come.

Popular Dice Games Variations

There are literally hundreds of games that use dice and I hope to write about most of them on this website, but I only have room for a few of them here on the main page. So I decided to narrow it down to a top ten sort of list. However this top 10 is not in any particular order. It is just ten of the top games that I know of.

Top 10 Dice Games List

The following is my top ten dice games list, in no particular order.

Yahtzee

Probably the most well-known game on this list, it seems that everyone has played a game of Yahtzee. You role 5 dice, pick the ones you want to keep, roll the remaining dice, choose the ones you want to keep and then roll a last time. So you use three rolls to get your best possible score to be placed on the score pad. The pad has a top section and a bottom section. The popularity of this game is helped because it is so easy to learn how to play and even young children can play without much help. The current game design has been available since the 1950’s and it is estimated that over 50 million games are sold each year.

Backgammon

This game combines dice, checkers and a fancy board. Players use the outcome of the rolls to move their checkers around the special board. While this game is easy to learn how to play, there is a tremendous amount of strategy involved if you want to win. While most people just play for fun, any high roller gamblers play for high stakes. Backgammon also has a special type of dice called a doubling cube. It can be used to double the current stakes of the game and is a unique type of device.

Farkle

Farkle is available commercially like most of the games on this list and uses six d6 and players compete until one of them reaches a predetermined score, usually 10,000. Outside of the normal rules included with the game there are tons of options played as house rules. This game is quite similar to another set of games called 1000/5000/10000.

Boggle

This is a popular game that uses a special set of dice with letters instead of pips or numbers that must be used to make words. Sixteen special cubes are put in a 4 x 4 tray where players try to see which words they can make of at least three letters.

Craps

The most popular casino based dice game; craps is the game where most of the players are making a bunch of noise. Played on a large table with high sides to keep the dice on the table, the felt has areas where players can place their bets before each roll. The number of options can be intimidating to first time players, but it is really a pretty easy game to get started with. You only need to place a wager on the pass or don’t pass line and wait for the first throw outcome. As you get more comfortable playing you can learn what the other optional bets are. The game of craps can also be played at online casinos.

Bunco

Also sometimes called Bunko, uses three dice and has six rounds. There are world championships which started in 2006. This game has evolved from a gambling version played all the way back to the 1800’s.

Monopoly

This is the other game on this list that could rival the popularity of Yahtzee. Just about everyone I know has played this game and many families and friends still enjoy playing it today. You move around the board landing on properties, chance, community chest and railroads you buy real estate, houses and hotels. The game was developed in the early 1900’s and was released under the current name in 1933. There have been different themes licensed over the years on Monopoly game. Though it is criticized in many circles, it is a game that teaches certain business principles to players of every age.

Dungeons and Dragons

Developed in the mid 1970’s, Dungeons and Dragons (often called D&D) is responsible for just about all the weird dice that are around today other than normal six-sided (d6) ones. This game can use all sorts of different numbers like d4, d8, d10, d12 and d20. The two developers, Gary Gygax (deceased) and Dave Arneson (also deceased) were almost worshiped in some circles because they introduced this new way of gaming that has grown to a huge business today. Gygax was often credited as the father of role-playing games. He continued working in the rpg industry until his death. While the stereotype for years was that D&D was played by nerds, it is a strategy based game that helps develop creative thinking and math skills.

Bluff or Liar’s Dice

If you have seen the Pirates of the Caribbean movie where Will Turner plays the game with the ancient dice and the cups against Davy Jones (squid face) then you have seen an example of liar’s dice or bluff. There are many variations, but this is one of the older games that is still played.

Strat-O-Matic

Millions of baseball fans grew up playing this popular simulation. Each player in the major leagues has their own card with a basic version on one side and an advanced version on the other. Two dice are rolled and the result is read from either the pitcher or batter card, depending on the numbers that were rolled. The game originally started being sold in 1961 by the designer named Hal Richman and is still available today. It has added online play as well as computer disc based play but many people still enjoy playing with the cards.

A Short History of Dice

We do not know exactly how long ago dice were used in history, but the earliest stated use was part of a type of backgammon set that was excavated and dated at around 5,000 years old.  This is listed in many web sites, but it is also refuted by some, so I am including it here so you can make your own decision on the accuracy. In biblical times there are references of casting lots in the Bible. Some historians believe that they used some form of dice when casting lots. Most early history of dice games involve gambling of one form or another. The Greeks and Romans of history both used dice in some of their gambling games.

Sometimes dice are referred to as bones, which come from the term knucklebones. This comes from when dice were made from the bones of animals. However there is a difference between knucklebones and dice, but they are both used for gaming purposes. Throughout history they have also been made from materials such as ivory, plastic and wood.

Knucklebones were similar to a four-sided die. The common six-sided one has been used for thousands of years as well. And today you can find variations that range from a one sided version (which is a form of a joke) all the way up to 100 sided versions. There are even computerized versions that roll virtual dice for you with a click of the mouse. There are even some calculators that can be used to simulate rolls.

A Quick Look at Dice Probabilities

It is easy to determine the probability of any single number coming up on a regular d6 is simple as there are only six possible outcomes and each has the exact chance of coming up. The percentage for each number is 16.67%. Things become a little more complicated when we add a second d6 but it still is easy enough to determine the possibilities. With two die there are exactly 36 different ways that the two cubes can land. Each of the 36 possibilities has a 2.78% chance. The numbers 2 and 12 only have one combination each so they only have a 2.78% chance of being rolled. Of course numbers like 7 have multiple ways that it can come up. 7 can be rolled with any of the following rolls. 1,6 or 2,5 or 3,4 or 4,3 or 5,2 or 6,1 for a total of 6 out the 36 possibilities. This makes rolling a 7 a 16.67% chance. Rolling a 6 or an 8 can happen 5 ways each for a 13.89% chance. A 5 or 9 each have 4 ways for a 11.11% chance. 4 and 10 each have 3 chances for an 8.33% probability. Finally a 3 or 11 each have only 2 possibilities for a 5.56% chance. If you add a 3rd d6 there are 216 possible outcomes.

The Difference Between Dice and Card Games

While card games and dice games have many similarities, like being used as tools to randomize results and working with odds and probabilities, they are also different in many ways. A deck of cards has 52 different cards and is split into four suits over 13 different ranks. The classic d6 only has six possible outcomes and has nothing to do with suits. Even two only offer 11 different numbers.

There have been games that use cards in place of dice by only using the ace, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Also there have been games that combine the two types to create some interesting odd and probability calculations. One of the main differences is that games can be taught to children of a younger age when they only have to deal with the six numbered sides of a d6 game. It can take longer and more mental development to learn card games involving ranks suites and things like poker hands or rummy rules.

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