Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Q Workshop GIC Electronic Dice

Today on the Q Workshop Facebook page they announced that their sister company GIC has developed an electronic dice version which just might be the next big advancement in the dice world. Functianally there is actually only a few things that seperate this from a regular analog D6. It rolls and lands on a number just like any other die. Where it differs is in the ability for the results to influenced. The die will go red if the roll is too short and that decreases the chance that the die is being manipulated. The die will also go red if after the die comes to a stop the die is tipped, again with the goal of reducing the chance of cheating. It should be noted that the "Q" has assured it's Facebook friends that the dice are balanced. That will be interesting to see.

This is all very interesting and it certainly is not a new idea with respect to a digital die, I have one from Radio Shack from the 1980s and I am familiar with several that might go back to the late 50s and therefore what makes this one special. I think it is the fact that the previous dice where novelties with no other purpose then perhaps allowing a player to roll multiple sided dice on the same device. This concept while clever has never been successful. There is something about real dice hitting the's the feel...the sound...the vibration as the dice bounce along. There is also the style of dice...and the "Q" sure has shown us that in recent years. They have advanced our concept of style on dice significantly, they have turned the industry on edge and given us all a whole bunch of interesting collectables. I am looking forward to getting a set of these new electronic dice in my hands. It is my hope they have a nice feel to them both as they roll around in my hand and also how the skid and tumble over my table.

Here is a link showing the die in action.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Armory Dice - An Evolution

The Armory - An Evolution

To understand the importance of Armory dice you have to go back to Dungeons and Dragons. When it was released in 1974 there was no way to predict the popularity nor the explosive growth of the game. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson had tapped into a subculture eager to expand on the fantasy world of middle earth. Because of this unpredicted popularity production of the original components of the game was strained. This was especially true of the dice which were included with the game. For the first time polyhedral dice were in demand.

Some of you might even remember the early sets of dice coming in small plastic bags. This bag contained a devilishly sharp yellow D4, an orange D6 with numerals, a medium green D8, a light blue D12 and either a white or pink D20. These dice were actually purchased from an educational supply company to be included with the early DnD game, they were actually marketed as Math Dice. But, at the time, there were no other sources for these strangely shaped dice and the DnD game system required the use of them.

As I have previously stated demand for Dungeons and Dragons was high. So high in fact that at a point the manufacturers inventory of polyhedral dice was depleted and TSR had to resort to including "chits" which were numerals on tokens which could be blindly pulled out of a bag to create the random results required to play the game. A coupon was also included with the game for a future set of dice. Please realize that this is a simplified version of the history as I understand it...there are rumors of a totally pink set of polyhedrals being included in some original sets but until I see proof I hesitate to believe these rumors. There is just enough credibility in them to make me continue my search for my own set but not enough for me to be sure I will ever see one. They are like Nessy...or Hobbits. I would consider anyone having seen one a crackpot but would eagerly investigate the sighting to determine if there was any chance they do exist. I want to believe.

Anyway...I told you that story to lay the foundation for why Armory dice ever came into existence. You see, anyone who produced polyhedral dice in those early days would have enjoyed fast and furious sales. The obvious company that comes to mind is Gamescience. Lou Zocchi was the founder of Gamescience, the first company in the United States to produce polyhedral dice. This put them in the enviable position of producing a product which was in short supply due to the enormous demand which was being created by DnD. Distributors of Gamescience dice could not get enough product. Everything they could get their hands on immediately flew off the shelves. A market with few suppliers and huge demand was attractive to several companies especially those already in the gaming industry. The Armory was a game store in Maryland(I think). From what I know of them and that is very little indeed they seemed to have an inclination for at least private labeling products and in many cases actually having products made for them. Dice were no different; in fact it seems downright logical they would get into making polyhedral dice.

I do not know the dates of production but in the early days The Armory produced dice like you see in the far left in the intro picture with the distinctive "A" replacing one of the 1s. We collectors sometimes call this 1st Generation Armory. The "A" was a branding attempt by the Armory to make sure players knew what dice were being used. What is interesting about this is that the dice were not of the highest quality and looking at it from my perspective I am not sure I would be proud to have my brand on low impact dice which had cock eyed 2s and fell apart. But hey...I am glad they did it now because "A" dice are fairly rare and very distinctive.

Directly to the right in the picture you see the next generation of Armory where the “A” no longer exists and the dice have assumed a more traditional look for the time with 2 sequences of 0-9. The player would then ink half the numerals to designate the number above 9 and thus achieve the desired D20 effect. The is called 2nd Generation Armory by many collectors. In fact all generations of armory dice after the “A” disappeared are referred to 2nd generations.

I am here to suggest these two designations are not enough. I now have enough of a population of Armory dice to start to discern patterns and I see 4 distinct generations of Armory dice. I call them, and you can follow along left to right in the picture above (ignore the D10 for now), 1st generation, 2nd generation, 3rd generation and multi co period.

I have already gone over the history of the “A” but two other obvious characteristics of both 1st and 2nd gen Armory dice are the Fat “O” and the check mark shaped “7”. Study the Armory dice on this page and you will begin to develop and eye for these traits.

When Armory dice evolved into the 3rd Generation the 0-9 system was dropped and a more modern 1 – 20 sequence was established. And finally on the far right you can see what I call the Multi Co dice. This was the period right before The Armory was purchased by Chessex and interestingly enough the dice began to reflect a different mentality. Gone were the sharp edges of precision dice, gone was the Fat”O” and the check mark “7”. The armory went over to the dark side and was buying dice from an offshore source (probably Chinese). These factories were producing dice for any number of other American buyers. I have inserted the D10 in the picture above to show a transitional die where The Armory attempted to reinsert the traditional ”A’ as a branding mechanism on these generic “Multi Co” dice in order to distinguish them from all the other companies buying these same dice.

See my entire dice collection at

Sunday, March 11, 2012


In the coin collecting world uncirculated mint condition coins are the most sought after and generally most valuable. Paper money is the same. Sports cards, comic books and magazines…same. However, if you are collecting furniture the worst thing you can do is clean off the “patina”. The richness and character that has been acquired through use and life should only be removed under the most dire of circumstances. So where does the dice world fall into this spectrum?

I have studied more than my fair share of dice collections. Maybe that’s a little weird but it keeps me out of jail. I usually run through my hotlist of collections every 2 or three months looking for new acquisitions which spark that jealous desire to own those little baubles. Like Gollum and his ring I am. My Precious! And in those collections one of the things I find myself gravitating towards are those items which show the wear of use. Not broken…not rotten…worn. Worn dice show the death of a thousand dragons or the conquest of many a kingdom. Worn dice show that these were not cloistered objects destined to never be touched by human hands. But they were in fact cursed, and blessed and caressed in hope and thrown in anger. Worn dice show the love of age or the hatred of betrayal. They are like Woody in toy story. You can almost feel the fear in them of being surpassed by the new love. It is my opinion that most collectors value mint condition dice over used dice. I am not that idealistic. Yes I have mint condition dice but also I have the well used dice which show every bit of life they have earned.

In my collection these dice have found a home. I photograph them with the same respect as the latest and greatest mint, in the package designs. They are given a place of honor in my heart if not in placement within the collection. These dice have soul; they have a story to tell us and the represent the people who held them in their hands and waited with anticipation as they rolled to a stop. And in that moment there was humanity. And while the games change and maybe even the stakes change, the human emotion of hope carries through the ages. As I roll them over in my hand this is what connects me to these dice and to the people who used them. Would you want a prestine set of dice from the roman age? Or would you rather like to know a roman soldier travelling through Slovakia rolled them. I know where I stand on that.

I will forever argue that worn dice are just as important if not more important than boxed sets. Boxed sets tell us something but used sets tell us more.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Defining "Dice"...dismantling the cube.
defines the noun "die" as; a small, marked cube used in games of chance.
defines the noun "die" as; small six-sided cube used in games of chance
defines the noun "die" as; a small cube marked on each face with from one to six spots and used usually in pairs in various games and in gambling by being shaken and thrown to come to rest at random on a flat surface
defines the noun "die" as; 1. small cubes of plastic, ivory, bone, or wood, marked on each side with one to six spots, usually used in pairs in games of chance or in gambling.


defines the noun "die" as; 4. any small cubes. what's wrong with these definitions? Well, probably the most obvious item is they all define a die as a cube. A cube is defined as being of 6 square facets. This statement is wholly untrue by almost any measure. Polyhedral dice have been in existence for at least 22 centuries. A cube die is but one of many configurations. I consider any definition which does not incorporate other possible forms of dice to be inaccurate. It is my belief that "dice" the noun and "dice" the verb have a relationship. Small tossed randomizing devices were called dice because they resembled what came from the chopping of food stuffs into small, often cubical bits. This should by no means limit the definition of dice to "cubes".

Additionally, I call into question the term "random" as being absolutely and exclusively true in defining a die and therefore the use of the term limits the picture conjured up when imagining a "die". There are two easy examples of "dice" which point out the limitations of the word "random". The first is cheat dice. The very intention of cheat dice is to limit randomization for the cheater while providing the illusion of randomness to the "mark'. Like a doppelganger cheat dice exist disguised as dice but really by most definitions are not dice. And yet...there they sit in my "dice" collection.

The second example of where randomness is NOT the intention of the dice is in divination dice. Divination dice are used to expose the will of the gods. Therefore while the user should exert no influence over the outcome of a toss of the dice the gods certainly are expected too. At the least hardly random in the mind of the user and as for the gods...well I guess if devination dice are random god does no exist.

I am still thinking about what would make a good definition of the term "dice" but these are thoughts I am having along the way to that definition.

Monday, April 26, 2010

European Invasion

Last year I started noticing that the cutting edge of dice design was shifting from the United States to to Europe. It was not any one event which caused my shift in thinking but several "OMG" moments which had me salivating as surely as Pavlov's dog at dinner time.

The first thing which caught my eye was the unique designs of Q Workshop of Poznan, Poland and how they seemed to be taking full advantage of laser engraving. The combination of new and interesting designs with the detail and accuracy of a laser engraver are brought together in designs here-to-fore unseen by the world. The faces of dice began to look like the engravings once reserved for coins. The picture to the left is a Q workshop design and illustrates my point wonderfully. This is the new Celtic design. Q Workshop was kind enough to get me an advanced copy. As you can see quite detailed with each face almost a work of art. This is way beyond anything US manufacturers have been doing and has caused some of them to sit up and take notice.

But Q's work in bringing these new and wondrous designs to market was far from the only reason I say the center of the dice world has shifted from North America to Europe. One other reason came to my attention last year when Lego of Denmark announced the changeable face dice mentioned in an earlier post. These dice are new. The very concept of being able to change the odds or the ratio of the resultant throw of the dice is unique in far as I know. Here is an example of a design I created with the new Lego system.

And if it were just Lego and "Q" which came out with trend setting designs then would I be mentioning a shift in the center of the dice design Enter Irondie. This was a WOW moment for me. Take the time to look at what these guys came up with. Located just southwest of Milan Italy Irondie has come up with a beautiful style for what looks to be an interesting game. I would consider this a collectible dice game(CDG) in the fashion of Dragon Dice or Chaos Progenitus because of the rare dice which can only be acquired by purchasing multiple booster packs. Simply stunning design and not shy about pricing. I do not own any dice yet but will be making a purchase later this year.

And one more...Late last year I was introduced to a new concept in dice design...heck new to any kind of design. That is the world of rapid prototyping. For those who are not interested in the technical aspects of this it should suffice to say that rapid prototyping is a way of printing a 3d version of a concept or design. Very quickly, very inexpensively. That is starting with just a 3d drawing of a die and literally printing out a "hold in your hand and roll" copy. I am talking about Shapeways. Shapeways is a company out of the Netherlands which has brought rapid Prototyping to the masses by allowing people to design their own items and have Shapeways print the design. What an amazing concept. Here is a link to one of the more interesting designs submitted. While technically speaking Shapeways is not specifically in the business of dice production they have effected how I look at the ability to get designs into production. I currently have a design I would like to produce and need only send it in for editing and then production. A very cool concept indeed.

And conclusion these four companies have made me come to the conclusion that the center of the dice world is now in Europe. If anyone can offer an argument in opposition to my theory please let me hear it...I'm all ears.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Count on it.

Once you start collecting dice it is not long before you start needing to describe the size of your collection. It is an awfully convenient number to have to place into a conversation just before someone else says "Really? I had no idea there were so many". In other words it is helpful in impressing your family, friends and neighbors. It also comes in handy when trying to compare your collection with someone else's collection.

The most common way of sizing your collection is through an actual count of all dice, seems simple. That is what I thought until Kevin Cook came into my life. Kevin holds the Worlds Record for number of dice in a collection. At the time of this writing it numbers 29,577. That figure changes almost daily but right now his official counter, which appears on his web page, says 29,577. Kevin owns more dice than 29,577 but he probably cannot tell you what the absolute number is because he doesn't count that way. He has very specific rules which determine the number of dice in his collection. You will have to dig through his site to find his rules. My rules are the subject of this writing.

Duplicates are one of the largest issues. What constitutes a duplicate? I have 100s of average sized white dice with black pips. I have so many I could make small sculptures with them. Perhaps I will someday. It is either that or get my slingshot out and do a study on the aerodynamics of the 6 sided dice. That would be fun too. But the true question is, do they count towards the official total of my Actually at one point in my collecting history I did count them but the time of having to impress with numbers has gone from my life. Now my collection is more about what speaks to me and what I know will impress those I feel important to impress. A far smaller population then once was needed. All the same i do like to quantify my collection if for no other reason than conversation.

Here are some of my rules...

Pipped 6ds are counted in pairs.
Unless I own only one
Unless it was intended to be a single
Unless for some compelling reason they would be counted as more than 2

Polyhedrals are counted as singles
Unless a set is more than one

Casino dice are counted in pairs
Unless I own only one

Game dice are counted as the number required in the rules to be part of the game
Unless that number is unknowable like Xenon or Lego dice

Collectible dice are counted as singles even though the rules of the game may allow for multiple copies of the same die.

"Vintage" or antique dice may be counted individually because hand work or wear has made them unique

My official collection count right this instant is 826. Strange, somewhere in a previous post I mentioned something like approaching 4000 dice, 826 is a far cry from 4000. Rest assured this unusually low number is only low because I am currently entering all my dice into a spreadsheet. The official tally with the above rules applied constantly updates at the top of the worksheet. I have 3 large plastic bins yet to document. After everything has been entered I will have approximately 4000 dice. As I enter these dice i am defining my rules on the count. There will be issues yet to decide...I am sure. I will update the above rules as new ones are created or old ones get modified.

In later writings I will be discussing the very definition of a die. This can also effect the total number of dice in ones collection.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lego's Got Game

March 1st brought to the shores of the USA Something both my son and I can appreciate, Lego Games. These games were introduced in Europe last year and in the interim production scaled up for the US market. It has been a long wait for a dice collector.

The uniqueness of this game is that it uses a changeable die. That is the facets of the die can be changed to effect the outcome of the roll...during game play itself just by switching out tiles. This is not without precident.

In the early 1990s Dirk Laureyssens invented a changeable die which was marketed under the Dirk's Dice label. Today this design seems to still be around but it is difficult to say since I have been unable to purchase them. Today they are known as Zap Dice. However this design differs in one important way. The Lego Die allows the odds on any given face to be changed while Dirk's Dice only allowed the entire face to be changed. Therefore the Lego die gives far more flexibility.

In reading about these games I learned Lego has taken the philosophy that games which stand the test of time are designed to have the rules modified and certainly this die reflects that notion.

For the Dice Collector these dice are unique enough to make this release one of the premiere events of the year.

The games are...

Robo Champ
Monster 4
Lava Dragon
Race 3000
Pirate Code
Lunar Command
Rames Pyramid
Shave a Sheep
UFO Attack
Magna Monster
Pirate Plank

See them here.

I would also add this link for those wishing to buy Lego Parts.