The Deck of Dice

A gaming aid from Dice Corp.
These comments copyright 2001 by Steffan O'Sullivan
My thanks to Neil Carr who first told me about this deck.
This page last updated January 21, 2001


The Deck of Dice contains 42 cards:

  • 36 cards representing the numbers 2-12 in a two six-sided dice (2d6) distribution,
  • 2 jokers, and
  • 4 player aid cards showing the number distributions and odds.
Thus there is one "2" card, two "3s", three "4s", etc. The three fours, for example, show:
  1. a white die with a 3 and a black die with a 1,
  2. a white die with a 2 and a black die with a 2,
  3. a white die with a 1 and a black die with a 3.

    The cards are monochrome: the backs have a pattern of dice in various sizes and shapes, and look the same if the cards are rotated 180 degrees. The fronts show a large black die and a white die in the center, one card for each of the 36 possible combinations, and the same dice as small icons in the corners, with a number showing the total pips. The cards are regular playing-card size, and are plastic coated for easy shuffling. While not exactly beautiful, they're not bad looking. No actual dice are included: only cards representing dice.

    The deck also comes with an explanatory sheet with a simple card game to use the cards with, as well as some suggestions for using the cards with other games.

    The Games Mentioned in Their Notes

    The complete game provided is called Caba, and is a gin-rummy variant with some interesting twists. The game is for 2-4 players, and only deals with four-card hands. Each player is trying to collect a set, and offers one card face-up on the table for other players to swap with. In addition, there is a common draw and discard pile you may take cards from. Sets are worth more points if made up of rarer elements - for example, a set of four 7s is worth only 15 points, as there are six cards that total 7 points. A set of four 5s is worth 25 points, however, as there are only four 5-point cards in the deck. While not an earth-shattering game, it's actually pretty well thought out.

    More interesting, however, is the Backgammon suggestion included. They suggest you can play Backgammon by dealing each player four cards. Each turn you play one of your cards as your move, then draw a replacement card. This would make for a very interesting Backgammon variant, though I admit I haven't tried it yet. You still risk some horrendous luck, such as one player drawing all the doubles. They recommend using multiple decks shuffled together as a variant to mitigate this possibility. However, it could be eliminated altogether by playing with two decks: each player has his own Deck of Dice and draws only from that. Thus each player would eventually have exactly the luck that the odds predict - no better, no worse. In fact, you could use this method whether you drew one card at a time from each deck or tried their suggested choosing from four cards.

    Other Possible Uses

    I can think of many uses for this deck of cards. Settlers of Catan instantly springs to mind, for example. Many people complain about the luck in Settlers, and this would eliminate much of it. Instead of rolling dice, simply turn over a card each turn - you know the numbers will turn up in the exact quantities predicted by probability, but you don't know when, at least until late in the deck, if you've been counting cards ...

    Other games can use the techniques listed for Backgammon above. Any game that uses two dice, such as Monopoly, Columbia's Victory, Wizard Kings, or Pacific Victory (for the initiative rolls in all three games), Illuminati, Galaxy The Dark Ages, etc., can have the luck smoothed out by using these cards.

    Even games that only use one die (Igel Ärgern, San Marco, Basari, Star Traders, Ursuppe, many wargames, etc.) can benefit from these cards: simply read only the white die, for example. (Though some, such as Basari, would really require a separate deck for each player.)

    Or you can use it in games in which each player rolls 1d6 and compares with the other player, such as in Encounters: one player uses the white die, the other the black.

    The Jokers

    Something they don't mention but which occurred pretty quickly to me is that one of the Jokers can be included in the deck as a "reshuffle" card. (That is, when the Joker is drawn, reshuffle all 37 cards together and start drawing from the full deck again.) This would make for an interesting cross between the pure luck of rolling the dice and the ever-changing odds involved in simply using the deck straight. Thus once the double-six card is played, anyone counting cards knows it can't come up again until the deck is reshuffled - but they don't know when that will be if using the Joker as a reshuffle card.

    Why Wouldn't You Like This Deck?

    You might, of course, prefer rolling the dice. The advantage of rolling is the same uncertainty that is sometimes bothersome in dice. That is, if you're using the deck, once the "snake-eyes" card has come and gone, you know it won't come up again. This can alter the way you play some games - certain actions become safe, for example, and other actions impossible, depending on the game. In those situations you wouldn't want to use The Deck of Dice, at least without a Joker as a shuffle card.

    Summing Up

    Obviously, the cards aren't for every game that uses dice, nor for every situation, nor for every player. They're still pretty flexible, and even hard to count in games that only use one die: using just the white die means that each result will appear six times within the 36 cards, and that still gives you a lot of suspense in a game that just uses 1d6. For games such as Pacific Victory where so much is riding on an initiative roll, rolling dice can be very unfair. It's far more a game of skill if each player has their own Deck of Dice, whether you're using a simple flip over the top card, or playing one card from a four-card hand.

    Recommended for certain situations and games - notably any game with one or two dice where a lot of people complain about the luck.

    These can be found in game stores for a suggested retail price of $3, though I don't know which distributors carry them. Or you can contact the manufacturer directly at:

    Dice Corp.
    160C Donahue St. #243
    Sausalito, CA 94965
    ph- 888-388-3649 (or 415-388-3642 if outside North America)
    fx- 415-388-8634

    Back to SOS' Gameviews
    Back to Steffan O'Sullivan's Home Page