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"Dice vs The Computer ?" Topic

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1,194 hits since 29 Jan 2016
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Madmac64 Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2016 4:11 p.m. PST

With today's technology comes progress. Or does it? We, as gamers, can either embrace technology or discard it. After wargaming for over 25 years, I have witnessed (and fully participated in) the rapid rise of computer-moderated rules, such as the Carnage and Glory systems and the Computer Strategies systems (I'm sure there are others, but those are the ones I am most familiar with). I have also witnessed great resistance to computer-moderated rules. There really is something about rolling those dice! Which camp do you fall in? Or like me, do you see the benefits of both methods of miniature gaming?

More musings and rants at:

Personal logo Ditto Tango 2 3 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member29 Jan 2016 4:17 p.m. PST


Madmac64 Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2016 4:21 p.m. PST
kallman29 Jan 2016 4:35 p.m. PST

I want to be the master of my own fate of my failure or success on the table top battlefield. Give me dice. I have watched a number of the Carnage and Glory games at cons and while there are often beautiful table set ups I see a lot of bored players waiting for the computer to decide the outcome. What is the fun in that. Miniature table top gaming is about the participation as much as the collecting, assembling, building, and painting. I will not yield to the machine.

21eRegt Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2016 4:37 p.m. PST

Yeah, I work with computers daily but I want the feel of the dice in my hand and the irrational sense that *this time* I can roll that double-six or whatever I really need.

Personal logo Doctor X Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2016 5:06 p.m. PST

I like dice but a computer run by a skilled operator could probably give results as fast as dice. A computer can also track things like fatigue, ammo, etc with a lot less effort than can be tracked by players. I think its that level of additional detail that some want to model that is attractive.

I have played ShipBase 3 and liked it. We've completed games with 20-30 ships per side in less than four hours. Not sure I could do that with most paper rules out there unless they were basic.

Ney Ney29 Jan 2016 5:09 p.m. PST

I like rolling dice more than pressing buttons

pzivh43 Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2016 5:11 p.m. PST

Gotta roll them bones!

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2016 5:37 p.m. PST

I prefer rolling dice. That way I know the odds.
In fact I have never played a computer moderated game. Unless you count video games, or "participatory cartoon".

macconermaoile29 Jan 2016 5:44 p.m. PST


Ragbones Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2016 6:01 p.m. PST

Dice, dice, dice!

PJ ONeill29 Jan 2016 6:07 p.m. PST

I like C&G, but many in my group don't consider it a wargame unless they roll dice, and yes, we are old.

bobspruster29 Jan 2016 7:17 p.m. PST

I'm old – 62 – and have played in 3 computer moderated games and what I liked about them was the unit stats. Which was the best regiment on each side? But I do like to roll dice: makes me feel like I have some control.

Terrement Inactive Member29 Jan 2016 7:18 p.m. PST


Personal logo The Nigerian Lead Minister Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2016 8:24 p.m. PST

I like to roll dice. I've participated in several computer moderated games and been bored silly waiting on the computer to spit out random results.

Personal logo Doctor X Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2016 8:37 p.m. PST

Don't dice provide random results?

Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2016 8:48 p.m. PST


BTCTerrainman Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2016 9:19 p.m. PST

Computer any day. I just wish I could have a program for every game I want to play. I love the way a computer can track a lot of additional information that would bog down most traditional games.

Not much a fan of dice anymore…….

Doug MSC Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Jan 2016 10:26 p.m. PST

I like to play the game, and not let the computer play it for me. Although I don't have a problem with people who like it the other way around.

Demosthenes Of Athens29 Jan 2016 11:32 p.m. PST

I've written one computer assisted wargame rules application: AWIRules.

I like to add a few thoughts to this discussion.

I tend to play solo so my main motivation for writing AWIRules was to assist with solo play. When you have an opponent and you dice you have someone who is checking to see if you do the outcome calculations correctly. With solo play you don't, and it is easy to make mistakes. So computer assist helps to keep me honest and following the rules correctly.

Further with a computer doing the work I have more time to survey the battlefield to make my next tactical decisions (blunders?). Contra to this, some commentators here have said that computer-assist slows the game down. My answer to that is "it depends". If the computer-assist rules require little data entry during the game as distinct from before the game then they are quicker. Not much more than one or two mouse clicks.

The second reason for developing the computer-assist rules is I have always disliked battlefield clutter. When I put together a scenic battlefield then I really don't want it covered up with dice, QRS etc. I hate the look of that. With a computer on the sidelines the only extraneous piece of equipment that needs to be on the tabletop is a ruler.

When I have used my commuter assist rules with an opponent I have noticed a difference. Perhaps there is a sense of disquiet that you have to "trust" the computer's dice rolling and algorithms and ultimately that the programmer has got it right.

Further, as noted by contributors here, the dice rolling provides a sense of participation in the game. (As an aside I would point out that real generals don't have an equivalent experience. They order their troops and then it is in the lap of the gods as to what happens which I think is closer to the computer assist experience.)

Which leads me to think maybe computer-assist rules would benefit from a poker machine (slot machine) style interface where you and your opponent hit a big button call "ROLL DICE" and the computer displays an animated dice roll followed by the outcome result. Just a thought.

advocate Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2016 2:31 a.m. PST

If I roll dice, I'm doing something. If the computer generates the result, it's telling me what happened. Not strictly logical, but then I'm not Mr Spock.
However, Demosthenes might have the answer!

davbenbak Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2016 8:36 a.m. PST

I like both but for different reasons. In defense of computer assisted gaming (I used C&GII), I like to have some unpredictability (otherwise I would play chess) when war gaming but dice can be awfully fickle, bordering on unreasonable, at times. I find that the computer almost always rewards sound battlefield decisions. To build that kind of detail into a dice driven game generally requires a lot of tables since a purely dice driven game usually allows an extreme chance of success or failure (snake eyes/box cars) so there is no negative consequence for trying at astronomical odds like there would be on a real battlefield.

It is unfortunate that so many have had bad experiences with computer assisted games at conventions. I wonder if it is caused by an unprepared or overly ambitious GM or a particularly slow or pesky player. That can happen regardless of the system used (happens to me more often than I like). Hopefully at some point players will be able to use hand held devises to send info to a central computer. That should speed things up and add to the feeling of being more involved.

Personal logo Doctor X Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2016 9:33 a.m. PST

As far as "computer" dice rolling, that has been in play and pretty well accepted by the RPG world for a few years now as people play online from remote locations linked in to a GM.

For board gaming this has also been prevalent in VASL, etc. for a number of years.

Are miniature gamers slow adopters or do they have a different mindset that makes accepting computer generated die rolls an issue? Playing devils advocate here…

Madmac64 Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2016 9:36 a.m. PST

Let's face it, computers can calculate and store data faster than any of us. The ease of letting the computer "do all of the heavy lifting" while we, as gamers, focus on making tactical decisions is very appealing. With no charts or math to worry about, gamers can focus more on the game itself and the social aspect of gaming. I have participated in many computer-moderated games that were smooth-flowing and, to put it simply, great fun. Computer-moderated games seem more like historical simulations than "games." The luck factor is very small, but a gamer needs to understand period tactics and how to make sound decisions to master a computer-moderated wargame. Though there are no charts, successful gamers need to fully understand how to manipulate variables such as mass, flanks, and formations in order to get a historical result. The common complaint of computer-moderated wargames is the "bottleneck" factor. Because a computer can only compute the data that it's given, someone has to manage this data. If this "game master" is slow or inexperienced, players will become restless waiting for their turn to move, fire, or charge. The key to a smooth-flowing game is an experienced GM that can manage the data…..and the players. A veteran team with a veteran GM can breeze through a game with very realistic results. This equates to more beer drinking and socializing.

On the other hand, most gamers started with "dice and charts" games. These games never seem to go out of style. Gamers love throwing dice! Personally, I think most gamers have a psychological need to test their luck and to see if they can beat the odds. I mean, there is really something truly satisfying when your beat-up unit of Confederates destroys a much larger Union unit by your throwing of "boxcars" at point-blank range. I could lose the game miserably, but I'll remember that throw of the dice for years! Wargaming is connected to gambling in a way (with no money lost……in most cases) and to many gamers, that is the true spirit of miniature gaming. In contrast to the excitement of the luck factor, there are usually some charts or rules (and maybe some math) that have to be frequently checked throughout the game. That is the "bottleneck" when it comes to traditional miniature gaming.

The truth is that both methods of gaming have pros and cons and will appeal to different gamers. That is the real beauty of our hobby; there are so many choices out there that all gamers can find their niche. My personal feeling is that I like both……..I love the historical accuracy and freedom that computer-moderated systems give me. I also love throwing those dice and battling it out with Lady Luck. I think, as wargamers, that we should try both methods and embrace what technology has to offer as well as having a grand old time with dice and charts.

TMPWargamerabbit30 Jan 2016 10:29 a.m. PST

Rabbit prefers a blend of both worlds. Computers for the off table legwork… rosters, strengths, fighting factors, health, supply, movements, strategic loss, etc. But once on the tabletop the hand, ruler, and dice method domain. For sole gamer play… the computer can be used to generate the "opposite mind" at the table with a controlled instruction "if this happens then that reaction" functions. WR hasn't practiced this art of tabletop warfare since his days of card selection / reaction gaming.

So. I concur with Madmac64, Demosthenes and others above. Both have their uses.

Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2016 11:43 a.m. PST

Excellent comments…I'm a little confused about the "waiting on the computer" comments… I work on video games for a living, and can't imagine what would take more than 100-200 mSec to execute on a laptop for a tabletop game manager? Not real sure what people are "waiting" on.

Madmac64 Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2016 12:11 p.m. PST

Hi Jeffrey…..what we are describing as "waiting on the computer" is really "waiting on the GM." Typically, in a turn, players have to go around the table and announce to the GM what action they would like to take (regular movement is not input). The GM then has to input each player's data…..if the GM is a little slow or inexperienced….that's where the "bottleneck" occurs. It kind of tunnels around the table to one person doing the data input.

Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2016 1:01 p.m. PST

Ahh…gotcha. Yeah, I was a little underwhelmed with the C&G interface or player flow. Last year, I was seriously considering putting a tablet app together in Unity that would manage orders + hidden movement, etc. with a standard interface, but nobody up here seemed very interested. I guess computer-aided play is for a niche of a niche. grin

Personal logo Baccus 6mm Sponsoring Member of TMP31 Jan 2016 8:04 a.m. PST

Probably a little late to this…

We are developing a mobile application for our Polemos rules. Think of it as an automated QRS/calculator/record keeper rather than a full computer moderated interface.

The main aim is to speed up game play rather which it does admirably. We have a nifty dice roll routine (shake the phone and it rolls the virtual dice for you). Following feedback we added a manual input for people to roll their physical cuboid randomisers and input the result. In actual game play, this option is soon abandoned as using the all to do it all is something much quicker and convenient and the app still gives the option for those wild swings of fortune that make our hobby so frustrating or exciting depending on your point of view.

Sundance Supporting Member of TMP31 Jan 2016 8:13 a.m. PST

Just like books vs. Kindle, it's about the feel. Like rolling the dice. The one and only time I played a computer moderated game was at a con. Neither the rules nor the combat results made any sense (like cavalry can charge through woods – really?). Perhaps it was just a bad game, but I won't be playing computer moderated games again anytime soon. Horrible experience (even though I was on the winning side of the game – which also didn't make any sense).

Demosthenes Of Athens31 Jan 2016 2:18 p.m. PST


Data entry into computer assisted rules is sequential where as manual dice rolling is in parallel.

An example of what I mean by that: Lets says you have a multi-player game of 6 people in two teams of 3, and lets say you are doing firing calculations, and let's say for this example a firing calculation takes the same time to determine by either method. Then with manual rolling you can have each group of opponents doing their dice rolling at the same time, where as the GM has to enter the data from each group into the computer one after the other. So potentially manual is faster in this case 3 times faster. With just two plays their time would be the same.

So computer assist can act as a bottleneck in some circumstances.


As Sundance notes, computer assist can give strange results. Some computer assist rules do this on purpose i.e. they hide what is going on from the players. They say they are simulating "fog of war" and you only get to know about what a real commander would know.

On the other hand the rules I wrote lay out all the calculations being made. I did this because they actually automated an existing a paper set of rules. So the computer completely replicates and displays the calculation you would do manually. Nothing is hidden.

What this does mean is that with computer-assist you can't do "house rules". You have to accept the result as given. If you don't like it then your only option, if it is an option, is to get the program reprogrammed. (Having said that in the rules I wrote there is an edit function for all the key game variables so potentially you can modify a result after it has happened.)


Computer-assist comes into its own if the game being played is highly complex particularly if it involves a lot of record keeping or complex calculations.

Mention was made of SHIPBASE III above. This is a naval computer-assist from the dark-ages of MSDOS. However whenever there is a request in forums for commuter-assist naval rules it is always mentioned. It would seem that regardless of its age, its keyboard interface, and the fact that you now have to run it in an emulator under Windows, its complexity handling ability is still of value to some naval gamers.


Well this conversation has simulated my brain cells. I've just completed a crude animated dice roller program which I think I will incorporate into my AWIRules. It will allow player to watch the dice roll on the screen before the rules spit out the results. And either player can trigger the rolling. (I do like Baccus 6mm's idea of shaking a tablet to roll the dice.)

steve186522 Apr 2016 2:07 p.m. PST

I find Computer games not exciting

AGregory07 Mar 2018 7:07 a.m. PST

If you have to roll dice, well, here you go!

Even Yahtzee! players are going computer-assisted! ;-)

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