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Dice Cards: Randomness for Games and More

New ways to generate randomness seem to be on the rise this year. First, there were Dice Rings. But what if you are a gamer who wants more randomizers without carrying a bag full of rings, dice or other things? Ian Millington is just such a gamer and he came up with a solution: Dice Cards.

On the surface, Dice Cards look like a simple deck of cards with some images of dice randomly printed on them. Fundamentally, that is what they are, but there is more to it than that. First, Ian chose the objects to cover a variety of randomizers used in classic and modern games including regular dice, polyhedral dice, poker chips, dominoes, genre-specific game dice, coins and even a set of straws that you can draw to see who pays for the first round of beer. In total, there are as many as 40 different things that change on the cards. How many can you identify?

There are lots of goodies to "roll" on each card (Credit: Ian Millington)

There are lots of goodies to “roll” on each card (Credit: Ian Millington)

To use the deck, shuffle the cards and randomly pick one. On the face, locate the die, coin, straw, etc. that represents the value you need and see what it is. For example, on the Eight of Diamonds card, above, the US Quarter coin has landed on “heads”, whereas on the Seven of Diamons card, it landed on “tails”. Since not every object has faces or sides that are a multiple of 52, some cards lack some objects. If that happens when you draw a card, you simply discard it and draw again. Some items, such as the straws/sticks, can be used simultaneously by multiple people to see who wins the draw.

Many of the objects placed on the card faces constitute games in and of themselves. For example, the deck is a full set of playing cards including Jokers. The treasure map in the background marks the spot of a random country’s capital that comprises a game for up to six people (instructions are available at DiceCards.com).

Some of the dice are useful for a particular genre of games, such as war and military games, or for specific games such as Betrayal at House on the Hill and Small World. For these, Ian designed his own versions in order to avoid infringing on the originals.

Now, you may be wondering how he designed his own dice and, in particular, how he had them manufactured to be photographed for the cards. Looking again at the card faces, you may even be wondering how many tedious days and nights Ian spent staging all the objects for each of the 52 Dice Cards. Well, Mr. Millington’s cleverness shines here too.

All objects on Dice Cards are 3D models (Credit: Ian Millington)

All objects on Dice Cards are 3D models (Credit: Ian Millington)

All of the objects displayed on the card faces are 3D models that are computer generated in Blender. Even the tabletop on which they sit exist in a virtual world. Although constructing them is time consuming, once all the models are done, the computer can “roll” them on its own to make the 52 cards for the deck. Want to tweak the design of a die or add a new one? Simply create or edit the model and make the computer do the rest. Each scene takes about five minutes to generate at a high-enough resolution for printing onto the card faces.

Each object is given some breathing room to you can see them all (Credit: Ian Millington)

Each object is given some breathing room to you can see them all (Credit: Ian Millington)

Of course, letting these virtual objects go anywhere they want would be a total mess, so Ian imposes a few constraints on them. Some objects, such as the poker chips and short straws stay in specific regions of the card. All of the objects have bounding circles so that they don’t get crowded and block your view of them.

A fully-rendered card (Credit: Ian Millington)

A fully-rendered card (Credit: Ian Millington)

With the flexibility and control afforded by using virtual objects in a virtual studio, Dice Cards can incorporate some random elements that are purely aesthetic in nature. The tabletop material, for example, varies with each card. Perhaps that could be used for something in a game (axe handle material?), but it’s not intended that way. The lighting, too, varies on each card from an hour after dawn to an hour before dusk. It’s a subtle element that just shows the level of detail and care that has gone into the design.

There are a couple of design changes I would consider if I could tweak the objects and their layout. I find that the translucency of some of the dice is a bit distracting. Making the surfaces opaque would still look good and be easier to read. The other tweak I would make is the location of the objects. Although the random placement of most of them gives it a real-world feel, having them appear in the same location on every card face would make it easier to find the one you want with minimal hunting. Most games use a small quantity and variety of dice, so you would quickly learn where to look.

Dice Cards are a clever and well-designed addition to any gaming arsenal. I wish I had caught them before their Kickstarter project closed. Hopefully, they will be available after completion of the first production run.

What ingenious uses do you have for Dice Cards?

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