In Defense of Real Dice

There are apps out there now which allow players to easily roll whatever dice they want. They're fast, they're cheap (I think in some cases they're even free), and it’s easy to choose what you want to roll and roll it. No more needing to look around for which dice you want. You can even make the dice look however you want.

This is nice and all, but I prefer real dice.

I’ll confess that I have a couple of these apps and I use them every now and then, particularly when I go somewhere to game and forget to bring my dice. They’re good in a pinch, and especially when the theme of the game works with it. But there’s something about the feel of dice, the rolling of them on the table, and the public sharing of the results that can’t be reflected in an app.

The biggest argument in favor of real dice is the sheer fact that you’re playing a game that actually uses dice. This implies that you have chosen to get together with people and play with something that is tactile already. If you were only concerned with the odds being correct, the graphics being good, and everything being calculated quickly, you’d probably be playing video games. I’m certainly an avid video game player, and I understand the appeal of that.

But when I’m playing a tactile game face to face with other people, there’s a reason; and I think dice are an integral part of that. I even have different types of dice depending on what I’m playing. For sci fi games I have black dice with speckles that look like stars. For fantasy games I have stone-type dice, or sometimes some that look a little like wood depending on whether the race I'm playing are more dwarf or elf types.

My Flames of War dice are all color-coded to their army. I have yellow for my British (they’re painted in their desert uniforms), green for American, gray for German, and white for Russian (they’re painted in their snow uniforms). And in that game in particular, even though I can simulate dice rolls on my phone, there’s nothing like the feeling of a handful of dice being rolled at my opponent to rub the sixes in their face!

Sep 7th 2014 Jeff McArthur

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