If you’ve played a board game in the recent past, then there’s a pretty good chance you had to roll at least one die. As often as you’ve held one in your palms, have you ever taken the time to measure its sides? Probably not, but that’s what I’m here for.
A typical 6-sided die, known as a D6, will usually have 14- to 16-millimeter sides.
However, there are several types of dice, mainly based on how many faces it has. In this guide, I’ll explain what D4 through D20 dice are and when they’re used, whether the edges of dice matter and how random the outcome of a die actually is.
If you pick up a hundred different board games with dice, odds are their dice will be identical in size. The most common 6-sided (D6) dice size is 16 millimeters, but there are 14- or 15-millimeter variants.
However, it doesn’t take much searching to find dice of different sizes. Some board games will come with 12-millimeter dice, which are considerably smaller and lighter than the typical dice we’re used to.
Smaller dice are mainly used for players with smaller hands, but in most cases, 16-millimeter dice should be good enough for players of all ages and hand sizes.
Almost most games will use D6 dice, there are several tabletop games that require dice of different face counts and numbers. I’ll describe some of the more commonly used dice variants below.
|D4||Tetrahedron||Each face of a tetrahedron die will have 3 numbers. Due to its pyramidic shape, D4 dice don’t roll very well, so players will have to toss them in the air. Each face has 3 numbers, and the number that appears upright is the outcome of the roll.
Games that use this type of die include Dungeons & Dragons, Ironclaw, and Pathfinder RPG.
|D6||Cube||This is the variant that we’re most used to playing with. It has 6 sides, and each opposing side has a total pip (dot) count that adds up to 7.|
|D8||Octahedron||This type of die consists of 8 faces, and it looks like 2 square pyramids are attached together at the bottom. The sum of the opposite faces is equal to 9.
Games like World of Warcraft: The Board Game and 8-Sided Dice Poker will use D8 dice.
|D10||Pentagonal Trapezohedron||This type of die looks like a shard crystal that has 10 faces, each of which is similar to a kite in appearance. A number between 0 and 9 or 1 and 10 is assigned to each face. The sum of the opposite faces is equal to 9 or 11.
You’ll find D10 dice used in a variety of specialty board games, including Twilight Imperium and Ambush!
|D12||Dodecahedron||This 10-sided die is comprised of regular pentagons. The sum of the opposite faces is around 13.
Some board games, like Pathfinder: Rise of the Runelords, will require multiple die types to play, which may include D12 dice
|D20||Icosahedron||All 20 faces equilateral triangles. Oftentimes, the faces of a D20 die will be numbered 0 through 9, with each number appearing twice. Some D20 dice will have the numbers 1 through 20.
Dungeons & Dragons is one of the games that will commonly use this rare die variant.
Rounded vs. Sharp Dice
When looking at different dice, you’ll notice that some of them have rounded corners and sides, while others have sharply defined dice. So, what’s the difference between the, and which is “better?”
The awesome folks at Awesome Dice tested sharp and rounded D20 dice to see whether their edges affected a roll’s outcome. They concluded that for gaming purposes, neither of them has a significant advantage over the other—i.e., the player can not manipulate the outcome by rolling them in different ways.
However, from a highly technical standpoint, the rounded dice will, ironically, have a very slight edge over the sharp dice, which means that players can predict with a higher accuracy rate which number will show up. It gets incredibly technical from here, so you should check out the test outcomes on the Awesome Dice website if you’re interested in learning more about the test.
For the average board game player, use whatever dice speak to you. Some like them rounded, while others prefer sharp corners on their dice.
What Are Loaded Dice?
If you’ve heard the phrase “loaded dice,” you probably already know that they are associated with cheaters. A loaded die is a die that has been tampered with in various ways to give the player an edge when playing and gambling. Tampering could be in the form of messing with the thermoset plastic interior or carving the edges to make the die roll toward a specific number.
How Random is the Outcome of a Dice Roll?
Randomness can be defined as a state of lacking a pattern, design, or principle. However, if you can figure out all of the variables involved in performing an action, such as rolling a die, then you might be able to predict the outcome with incredible accuracy.
So, what are the variables that come into play when rolling dice? You can check out this AIP article to see what they are, but in a nutshell, the variables are:
- Rolling or throwing speed
- Rolling or throwing height
- Barometric pressure
So, in a sense, the outcome of dice is “random” in the same way we can’t tell what the flip of a coin will be.