Help support TMP

"Using playing cards instead of dice mechanic" Topic

22 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Dice Message Board

Areas of Interest


771 hits since 19 Feb 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

YogiBearMinis Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2018 10:37 a.m. PST

I am sure this came up before, so I apologize, but I didn't see it un the last couple of years.

I primarily play DBx, where the single d6 for PIP scores as well as for combat results is the resolution mechanic. I am thinking about substituting a deck of cards, culling the A through 6 from each suit to make a custom deck for each player to use. The benefit is that instead of a wildly random set of results for die scores for each player, the players would have a reasonably-comparable set of scores, and the "luck" factor would merely be the "when" of your scores occurred rather than just rolling more poorly generally.

Obviously, the issue is not limited to DBx, but I just wanted to add that detail.

Stryderg19 Feb 2018 10:55 a.m. PST

To understand: each player gets a deck of cards with only the A to 6 cards.

Do they get 1 of each, or 4 or each? (one suit or all four)

The chance of getting a specific number should still be 1/6, same as a single die roll. The disadvantage that I see is that you would have to shuffle the deck after each use, slowing down the game. Or giving the player something to do during his opponent's turn.

If you want to smooth out the results, you need more dice. ie. roll 2d6 and consult a chart:
roll 2 = 1 pip
roll 3-4 = 2 pips
roll 5-7 = 3 pips
roll 8-10 = 4 pips
roll 11 = 5 pips
roll 12 = 6 pips

It just hit me, you're going to make decks with 1 Ace, 2x #2 cards, 4x #3 and #4 cards, 2x #5 cards and 1x #1.
In that case, yes, that would work, with the same shuffling issue.

Make a set of tokens and put them in a bucket for players to pull from.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2018 11:07 a.m. PST

But if you re-shuffle the deck, it becomes entirely possible to have a prolonged run of bad results, just as it is with dice. Ideally, you need a custom deck exactly as deep as there are die rolls in the game so that each side will have exactly the same number of every "roll." But you'll still not have eliminated the "bad run of luck" since Smith will sometimes get good results in unimportant--or unwinnable--contests, while Jones will get HIS high cards exactly when they are most helpful.

I wouldn't have called it worth the trouble, myself.

Short games with a relatively few random casts are more luck-prone than longer games with more dice used in resolution. There's no way around that. Just try to avoid long games with a very few very important random casts.

lloydthegamer Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2018 11:17 a.m. PST

Speaking of bad luck, my buddies and I were playing a game of Dirtside yesterday. Dirtside features opposed die rolls and my buddy was rolling a D12 against D4,D4, D6,and D8. He lost every time because he rolled a "1" each time. The chances of that happening are, I believe, 1 in 248,832. Yup, he was really unlucky.

Mick the Metalsmith19 Feb 2018 11:18 a.m. PST

I think he means you might get to spefically choose your result from the deck but the card is then used up. If you use up all your sixes too quickly, you might need them later when your opponent sluffed a his one on you.where the six was overkill. If it is just to get a bell Curve, why bother? We already have average dice, and opposed rolls are essentially a bell curve as well.

The choose from the pool method is a whole new game, but I would hate it. No way to rationalize my defeats by blaming luck.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2018 11:37 a.m. PST

You could say the cards were marked.

I don't know what to think about your idea. It will eliminate a lot of luck and, I believe you can say that a number of battles are won or lost based on luck (or bad die rolls) as opposed to skill. How many of each card will players get? Does everyone deserve to have a certain number of sixes?

YogiBearMinis Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2018 11:44 a.m. PST

What I envision is giving each player one deck of four suits, each suit having only the cards A through 6 for each suit, therefore each player has a single deck of 24 cards.

As the need for die rolls comes up, instead of rolling a d6 the player will pull the top card from their deck, then place in a discard pile when done. If an opposed roll like in combat, both players will pull the top card from their respective decks and compare the cards. The players should go through their decks at the same rate (at least in DBx you would). When a player runs out of cards, you shuffle the discard pile and begin again.

It is not perfect, because if you only go through a partial deck then there is still a non-symmetrical randomness issue as it pertains to that partial deck's worth of cards, but to me it seems better than being purely random.

I think the "it wastes more time" argument really isn't true in practice, because so many people fuss and fidget and such with their dice that it is a wash relative to dealing with cards. At least with most people I have played with over the years—people screwing around with their dice is the bane of every RPG session I have ever participated in.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2018 1:17 p.m. PST

I'll revise my statement and say that i don't like it. It would lead to card counting and changing possibilities. I shouldn't base my attacks or actions on how many sixes my opponent has already pulled. That is providing me with certainty that a commander wouldn't have.

evilgong Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2018 2:15 p.m. PST

For the OP, as you probably know, the order of computing combats is a key part of the game in DBx.

So if I have information about the cards already played I can modify the order of combats to maximise my outcomes – sure this is player skill but it degrades the mechanism as randomiser.

The real issue is that it might prompt analysis paralysis where a player exhausts time as they compute their chances with the card information now available.

Or worse still as a player's deck is almost exhausted you will _know_ what his random score will be and choose a combat with a now guaranteed outcome.

In all such card mechanisms you need a re-shuffle card in the deck to keep it random – in which case why not stick with dice.

I actually like the wild swings of fate that the evil d6 brings, when something improbably happens at a string of good / bad dice you have a fun tale to tell.

David F Brown

Personal logo T Callahan Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2018 2:36 p.m. PST

I played a game at a con a few years back where the GM used playing cards instead of dice. Thirty-six in each of two decks, one for each side. Each combat was decided by the top card in the deck of the attacker. After combat the card was placed face up at the bottom of the deck. Next combat next card until all the cards had been drawn. No shuffling until all the cards had been used. It was in my view worthless. During the game I only would get a 12 once, 11 twice etc. Really no randomness. And we were not allowed to shuffle the deck at the beginning. We were given the decks and told don't shuffle. Talking afterwards my friend and I had a feeling that the GM's may have had stacked the decks. Stay with dice or shuffle the playing cards after every play.

In DBA as you only use one d6 you should only have six cards in your deck and shuffle after every turn. In the example I wrote about you would go through the deck once before shuffling it again. So in six turns of DBA I'd get a 1 once, 2 once etc.

If someone ever proposes cards in place of dice in a game I would walk away (shaking my head thinking been there done that).


Personal logo Virtualscratchbuilder Supporting Member of TMP Fezian19 Feb 2018 7:44 p.m. PST

Pigwars uses two full decks instead of dice and I have always liked the mechanism.

saltflats192919 Feb 2018 9:37 p.m. PST

Sounds like Malifaux mechanics.

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2018 10:31 p.m. PST

Sometime back I would run DBA duplicate tournaments. I created decks of randomly generated numbers from 1 to 6 and printed them on cards. Each player had maybe 100 cards. These were for PIP rolls . Each player had exactly the same deck, so nobody could complain that they had a bad set of pips As everybody had the same tips for each bound.

The decks were changed for each round of the tournament.

I tried it with combats as well But players really wanted to have their charisma in the dice roll.

YogiBearMinis Supporting Member of TMP20 Feb 2018 5:40 a.m. PST

One of the reasons opi thought of this was the proposal by Bill Simmons and others to change to NBA (and other leagues) draft process, whereby everyone got the same pick slots, distributed in a mathematical formula to balance over time. Cool idea to facilitate trades and avoid the incentive for tanking.

Lonkka1Actual20 Feb 2018 8:29 a.m. PST

2d6 is always good if you want to avoid extremes

Dashetal20 Feb 2018 11:36 a.m. PST

Dice take up less space on a cluttered table. We have been playing to the strongest ancients rules and we decided to get rid of the cards and draw tokens and use dice where appropriate. One of the problems with cards is the counting. People will base their tactics on the fact the cards are finite. Reshuffling is time consuming and rarely are the cards thoroughly mixed. No cards for me.

MajorB20 Feb 2018 11:51 a.m. PST

No cards for me.

And of course dice are a near perfect random number generator …

Mick the Metalsmith20 Feb 2018 12:15 p.m. PST

To me one of the great skills in playing DBA was pip management. David Kuijt was really good at this, bait your opponent to use all his 5 and 6 pip rolls to breakup and scatter his groups, while you preserved your own groups to just a few. Then he will have to roll high just to move while you don't. Odds are you are going to win, and it isn't luck that won the game. Too many players don't seem to grok that basic fundamental tactic of keeping cohesion.

Bob the Temple Builder20 Feb 2018 1:24 p.m. PST

I use playing cards for unit activation. Each side has their own deck of cards … including at least one Joker. If a Joker is turned over, the deck of cards are reshuffled. This avoids the problem of card counting.

I avoid problems with shuffling by using a shuffling machine. It works quickly and is better than doing it manually.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP27 Feb 2018 11:54 a.m. PST

I have a game, Path of Bones, that uses dominoes to resolve combat (and other challenge events). Players draw a small hand from a common pool, and play them at their discretion. Part of the point of the mechanic is that you can count the bones and have a better understanding of "what is left" at a certain time. There are periodic and event driven returns to the bone pool, which increase the ambiguity. And you can't always carry a bone over to another round. Again, the purpose is to have an estimable, changing degree of "randomness" in the outcomes.

For the card idea, some of the above concerns about card counting could be alleviated by shuffling your 24 cards, the putting the top six immediately into the discard pile without looking at them (or put them face up on the bottom of the deck, only looking at one). This moderates the "rolls" without being as predictable, especially toward the end.

Another option is to put both jokers in the deck. Ignore the first one and draw a new card when it comes up. Reshuffle when the second one appears. If you get a couple sets of identical decks, you can use this idea with a "deck and a half", which gives a slightly different balance of moderation and randomness. Using two jokers instead of one tends to push the reshuffle into the middle of the later half of the pack.

billthecat01 Mar 2018 7:26 p.m. PST

Why not dice?

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Mar 2018 6:02 a.m. PST

Why not dice?

Dice are memoryless.* Despite how strongly you feel you are "due" for a result, what happened in the past does not influence the next roll.

Depending on your use case, any (pseudo-)randomization scheme will have advantages and disadvantages. I believe the OP considered certain outlier events – long strings of "high" or "low" rolls – as detrimental to the play of the game and was looking for a memory based pseudo-random approach that limited/truncated the occurrence of such events, thus improving the game.

* – In the general, not strictly formal, sense. Technically, every time you handle and roll dice you may add or subtract miniscule amounts of smut on them as well as possibly alter their shape/composition in tiny-tiny-tiny ways, thereby altering their rolling characteristics.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.