The original dice weren’t really dice at all. The first dice were knuckle-bone, usually from sheep. The first games involving knuckle-bone happened somewhere near 5000 BC. Early versions of dice were used for ‘Cleromancy’ or casting small objects in order to predict the future. The traditional 6 sided dice (D6) first appeared after 3000 BC in Iraq and Iran. The dots on a traditional D6 were one of the first numerical systems in the world that still exists today. In addition dice are the oldest gaming implements known to man.
Gambling became popularized in large part to dice games and the majority of early dice games were gambling games. Many primitive dice were tampered with. Most were not evenly weighed, probably leading to the phrase the house always wins (don’t quote me on that one). The first recorded example of actual weighted dice is from Pompeii. Most casinos now use a very specific dice with exact weights and sharp edges. Tabletop games use the classic rounded style that is easier to produce but still produce a mostly even probability.
Craps is the most well known of dice games. The majority of the game focuses around placing bets on numbers 2 -12. The payout is based around the probability of two dice totaling the vetted number. Bets are also taken on rolling a specific pair to make that number. Besides craps many fun games revolve around the simple premise of the randomness of 6 sided die. The ancient roman game of Jactus and the Spanish Conquistador game of Dudo, or Liars Dice (Popularized in Pirates of The Caribbean) are still fun games thousands of years later. They contain mechanics seen in more recent games such as Flux and Clue.
It wasn’t until the 1960’s that larger numbers of sides became popularized. This is mainly due to their use in war gaming and now in tabletop RPGS. With the increased number of dice sizes the number of games to play with them is seeing an expansion as well. These dice use the same notation as a D6 in description, so a 20 sided dice is typically referred to as a D20.
Because dice have been around for so long, the number of games and their various structures became the basis for almost every other game form. Their are literally millions of dice games you can play today, although many typically require 5xD6 (or shorthanded to 5D6). Much like craps many of these games are based around trying to roll a perfect combination to achieve a goal.
Today dice games are typically defined as games that strictly focus on rolling the dice as the prime mechanic. Yahtzee is by far the most popular and D6 are still the societal norm most other games utilize. If you want to try some older dice games look at the more simpler Sixes Bet and the intricate Chinese Three Dice Game.
The main piece in almost all of these games revolve around an extremely common item. Because of this it is rarer to see these type of games being sold because they are easy to duplicate. That being said Tenzi is one of the best fast play games on the market (additional 77 ways to play helps). Buying just the basic set has 40 dice, you can then play just about any D6 game out there. Their are plenty of online resources with games available to play for free as well.
Understanding Probability – Arrangement, math and patterns are a typical feature of many dice games, which are also the core tenets of statistics.
Reaction Speed – Many current dice games work as a speed based run threw or require you to count the dice faces quickly, this increasing ones own processing power.
Fine Motor Skills – Cause and Effect, small object manipulation and 1:1 correspondence are all at the forefront of dice games. Great for kid development. (Have real young kids? check out Jumbo Polyhedron Foam Dice)
Beside Yahtzee, I had never really developed a knowledge for dice games until my late 20’s. I like many people, would confuse games such as Monopoly and Backgammon as dice games, but I now recognize the core differences between having a character that you move and having the dice be your only action. Dungeon Dice really sparked my love for dice games, although I’ve been fond of a few bar games that revolve around dice.
I have spent many a night finding games online and just trying them out. If you want to easily see a large amount of game mechanics their is nothing better you can do. If you are looking for dice games that shake the basic D6 boundaries a bit I do have a few suggestions:
Dungeon Dice is an amazing RPG with simplified abilities, very easy to learn yet hard to master.
Roll for the Galaxy is your typical galaxy spanning strategy game yet it boils down to about 45 minutes.
King of Tokyo has you rolling around as giant monsters and is extremely family friendly.
Marvel Dice Masters is a fun licensed game and although it has a bit of a convoluted mechanic system I still enjoy.
Bang: The Dice is a simplification of the longer Bang! that I enjoy way more than the original source and has an extremely good social mechanic.
Will you like it?
I’d be hard pressed to say you won’t find a dice game that you like. You may have to sift threw many games with no graphics almost no replay value and little to no theme. Gravity is typically low in these games as well, but for a party or bar game that is exactly what you are looking for.
Because their are so many varieties you will not like every mechanic. If you like rolling a dice and probability then I’d say that’s all that really matters. Mastery in these games are typically very low, while achievement typically comes quick.
If you like gaming in general than you will probably like dice games! Most are fast paced and have easy mechanics. If you play a lot of FPS then this is the genre I’d introduce to you first.
Bonus Game: 7-7-7
I’ve been thinking about this game for a little while and as a warning it has only been tested once. I will come back and update it as I play more, and if you try it please leave a comment about how it went!
Set Up – Every player requires their own set of 7 polyhedron dice (various colors per player suggested). A set of 7 dice includes A D4, D6, D8, D10, D%, D12 and D20. A D% is a ten sided dice that shows 10, 20, 30, etc. In the case of a D% only use the first number (i.e. a 40 equals 4)
Goal, to get the total of their 7 dice to equal 7. I.e. you want every dice to be a 1 (or 10 in the case of a D%). Who ever does this 3 times wins the game.
To Start – Every player rolls their 7 dice then pick a player to go first.
The players take turns rolling one of their dice that doesn’t equal 1. If they hit the highest number with the dice they get to switch that dice with an opponents. For the case of a D10 and a D% a 0 or 00 roll counts as the highest number (as the typically represent 10 or 100, respectively)
Example: If you roll a 4 on a D4 then you can take another players D4 dice and place it with yours while giving them your D4 (that is the 4 you rolled). Similarly If you roll a 00 on a D% then you can switch with any players D%.
When a player achieves a dice total of 7, they mark a win and re-roll their dice. The first player to get 7 three times is the winner, and all sins are forgiven!