40K is slowed down a lot by excessive dice rolling – but does it make a fun game?
40K Loves Dice
We all agree to play a game with dice. Random is a built in part of the game, the challenge and the fun. We don’t play chess.
But when does the dice rolling go too far?
I want you to think about what playing a typical 40k game looks like, and ask yourself these questions:
- How many dice do I roll at a time in an average turn?
- How many dice should I have in my dicebag?
- How many dice do I roll in total in a typical game?
Now think about the other popular games in the industry and ask yourself the same questions.
I bet the numbers for 40K are WAY WAY WAY higher aren’t they?
“Hi Forge World, I’d like to order 20 sets of these. No, it’s just for me…why do you ask?”
What is the Point of Dice?
I would argue that as a solid game designer you want dice to give you a set of random results with a granular scale desired by the customer for the key elements of the game that determine victory.
Now let’s unpack that.
I would want to choose the type or number of dice to get the number of results I want the game should need. In some games combat can be determined by a small dice pool (Warmachine), or a large one (40K). But does 40k give the players any more granular or fun/satisfying results for the time expended in rolling all the additional dice?
I vividly remember playing at Adepticon many years back with a Nurgle terminator heavy force up against an IG conscript horde that loved to use “1st Rank Fire-2nd Rank Fire” He rolled hundreds of dice each firing phase – all for a tiny handful of dead terminators. It was exhausting for both of us and drained the fun right out of the game. We had both become prisoners of the dice.
Those conscripts rolled WAY more dice than this…
The second part of my argument is that not everything needs to be random. Only the things that the game designer thinks affect victory. Really why bother letting players roll for every last thing – it just slows things down.
Think about what you roll for in 40K currently:
- Warlord Traits
- Determining Psychic Powers
- Casting psychic powers
- Defending against psychic powers
- Various mission parameters
- etc… (I’m sure I missed some)
Now ask yourself, which of those really matter and affect the game? How many of those are random for no reason other than to make you roll dice? Also note that making you roll for some items is a way for designers to walk away from improperly balanced sections of rules. If you have 6 warlord traits that are all equally balanced – there’s no harm in letting players choose. But if you have a poorly balanced set of psychic powers, making players roll for them lets the designers off the hook – “it was the dice, it’s not my fault”
I think at least half of that list could be replaced with fixed rule. For example just choose your warlord trait/psychic powers, more fixed mission rules, fixed run distances, etc…
And I think the game would not lose a bit of its fun, still reward skill, and move things along with less dice rolling.
~So how much do you think rolling dice equals fun, and do you think 40K needs to cut WAY WAY back on the amount of rolling to play the game?