Recently I’ve seen a lot of discussion over dice. Dice are probably a very important topic to you. I’ve seen many of my opponents have rituals or superstitions. When people are giving battle reports players often use phrases like, “My dice abandoned me”, “My dice where on fire” and “I got diced!” If you want to be better at this game and win more then changing your relationship with dice is one of the simplest and effective ways to achieve a marked improvement. That’s a bold claim, but I stand by it. I see many good players lose games purely because of a poor relationship with dice.
This all started on a forum where a player asked how people found dice that rolled well. The initial responses contained lots of the usual mojo. “I store my dice with the sixes face up” or “I roll them all one hundred times and keep the ones that roll best”. I hear things like this a lot from players and I usually dismiss it as mindless superstition. This time however, it struck a nerve. If my opponent turns up to the table with dice that they believe will roll better than average then they are attempting to cheat, even if it’s entirely in their own head.
And that’s the thing it’s easy to dismiss this as silly superstitions that don’t affect the game, but consider that the main thing we look for in cheating is not what happened, but intent. If a player mistakenly gets a rule wrong, we don’t consider it cheating. The truth is that rules are played wrong in almost every game of Warmachine. It’s an incredibly complex game with lots of rules interactions and on top of that we had a new edition just over a year ago. This means we often misremember rules or stats. It’s not ideal, but it’s an inevitable part of the game and I don’t think anyone would reasonably accuse those players of cheating. Two quick examples: I played the Stone Scribe Elder as Mat 6 (which he was in Mk2) for nearly a year. It gave me a tiny advantage and I was horrified when I found I had been playing it wrong. On the flip side I also played the Earthborn as if Water didn’t count as difficult terrain anymore. I had misread the new rules and assumed it had changed since Mk2. This was giving me a small disadvantage, but these two example show that no one ever really plays the perfect game and it’s not cheating. I’m almost certainly still playing something wrong, we all are.
If I continued playing the Stone Scribe Elder as Mat6 after I discovered the change then yes I’m cheating, because my intent is to gain an advantage. Even if the Elder hits but does no damage so it makes no fundamental difference. So if we accept that intent is what matters in regards to cheating then all of these rituals to improve the way dice roll suddenly become a bit malicious. A practice I’ve heard of is testing dice by rolling them a statistically significant amount of times, recording the results and keeping the dice that rolls best. All die have imperfections and unfortunately no die are going to roll perfectly average, but the moment you attempt to find which one of your dice has a beneficial defect then you are cheating if you continue to use that dice.
This all comes down to the social contract you enter when you agree to play a game. We assume the opponent is bringing dice that roll as close to average as possible. We aren’t attempting to gain advantage through the tools required to play the game, but rather through our lists and strategy. If you bought second hand dice online and after using them for a while discovered one was weighted, I imagine your reaction would be horror. If we go back to my previous example where I had played a rule wrong for nine months that was certainly the case and a fixed die could be way more impactful than one extra mat on a model that rarely enters combat. I imagine almost all of you would stop using the dice immediately. It doesn’t matter that you bought it as a fair die. It only matters that you now know it isn’t fair and continuing to use it would be a breaking of the social contract we enter every single time we play an opponent on the table.
Superstitions and Rituals
So this is strongly linked to the next idea that is Dice Voodoo. Nerds are incredibly superstitious when it comes to dice. Even people that I would consider otherwise rational, will roll certain dice for certain rolls or change them if they get a bad run of rolls in a row.
The main issue with this is that most of the time players are worried about actions making dice unlucky. If we think about it for a second it’s blatantly preposterous. Luck is a factor in the game, but lucky dice and actions intended to improve your luck during a game are again an attempt to gain an advantage over your opponent. The truth is that almost all of these actions have literally no affect on the game, but that’s the point. Either you know that they have no affect on the game, so all you are doing is wasting time and mental energy on a part of the game that not only doesn’t help you, but actively hurts you or you believe in this malleable luck that can be controlled by superstitions and rituals, and thus you are attempting to gain an advantage against your opponent. Remember what we said about intent? That’s cheating even if I don’t believe you’re gaining any kind of advantage.
The Mental Side
I mention mental energy and that’s really the point of all this. All of these associations between dice and luck, dice that roll well, dice that have to be rolled for tough checks, dice that have to be brand new for a tournament and burned when they fail you. It’s all using mental energy and taking away from what you do at the table. They distract you from thinking clearly, they waste your clock and ultimately they do nothing to help you win the game.
It’s related to how we react to the dice rolls of a game. It hurts you both long term and short term when you complain about dice.
In the short term I often watch opponents go on tilt and cloud their mind, because the rolled lower than expected. Sure you failed to hit a boosted four and that’s unfortunate, but it happens and getting stressed about it and letting it dictate your emotions doesn’t help you win that game. Sure, you’re human and I’m not asking you to remove all emotion from the game, but the best players don’t bat an eye when they roll low. They register the result and move on, because you can’t change the outcome of dice you’ve already rolled so why spend time worrying about it.
Similarly in the long term it can be easy to blame dice for a loss, but that’s an easy way out. It’s always easier to blame the bad luck rather than admitting to yourself that you could have played better. When you blame dice you refuse to use a game as a learning experience that makes you a better player and that’s a shame, because that’d how most of us get better. We fail and we learn from it. Some of the best players I have ever played would never let a whole game come down to a single dice roll unless they really had to and even they would accept that their opponent putting them in that position was the real victory. Not the outcome of the dice.
I hope this has been helpful.