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I'm working on a board game for general, non-gamer audiences. (Think people who have played Monopoly and Uno, but not Risk or Settlers of Catan.) Sometimes the player faces a test with only two outcomes: pass or fail (with some consequence). Success and failure are both equally likely.

What's the most intuitive, non-gamer—friendly way to use 6-sided dice for a pass/fail test?

There are a number of possibilities that result in a 50% chance of success, such as:

  • Roll a die. Even: pass. Odd: fail.
  • Roll a die. 1/2/3: pass. 4/5/6: fail.
  • Roll a die. 1/2/3: fail. 4/5/6: pass.
  • Roll a black die and a white one. Black>white: pass. White>black: fail. Black=white: roll again.

So far, I've been quite surprised to see how easily non-gamers can be confused by simple board game mechanics, so I'm trying to come up with something as non-surprising as possible.

(Replacing the die/dice with another object, such as a deck of cards or a spinner, would be too expensive for this particular game.)

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    There's a huge difference between rolling an even and rolling snake-eyes in terms of probability. My suggestion would be to figure out the probability you are looking for and then choose the simplest mechanic that generates those probabilities. – Matt R Sep 12 '14 at 19:50
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    @Joe But method and probability are so closely linked. Your first even/odd single die suggestion would be okay if you only ever want a 50:50 chance, but it generalizes really poorly. "Roll one die, you need a 4 or higher" does the same thing, but the method lends itself to adjustment to different success probabilities (1/6, 2/6, etc.). Using two dice seems completely unnecessary unless you want more control over the success probability than one die allows, in which case it's the only way to go. – Gregor Sep 12 '14 at 21:55
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    Disregarding common (I have no data, so no idea), I think the easiest method to understand is roll 1 die, and have a certain threshold for success (e.g., 4 or higher). I think associating higher numbers with better outcomes is natural, so and I think spelling it out as "4 or higher" rather than ">3" or ">=4" makes things plenty clear, even for non-gamers. – Gregor Sep 12 '14 at 21:59
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    There is a problem with one of your examples, "Roll a black die and a white one." This actually has three outcomes: Black > White, Black < White, and Black == White. None of these outcomes have a 50% chance of success. – Rainbolt Sep 19 '14 at 21:24
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    If your only concern is to give the players ways of making a 50/50 choice, then I agree with Dave's comment above - simply flip a coin. There's no need to introduce extra parts for this. (P.S. : players will be frustrated at having game-relevant events decided by coin flips. Whether you care about this, or whether you choose to use that frustration for good, is up to you - but you should be aware that it will exist.) – Steven Stadnicki Sep 20 '14 at 1:04
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Whatever non-expert game you play (Monopoly, snakes and ladders, etc.), rolling a 6 is good, rolling a 1 is bad. So I'd say "You win if you roll a 4 or more" is the most intuitive way to speak to a non-gamer.

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Succeed on a roll of 4+.

Unequivocal and plain English.

  • This is a duplicate of this other answer that was posted a day earlier than yours and has plenty of upvotes. The only difference is that he explained his logic. In one sentence. – Rainbolt Sep 22 '14 at 13:03
  • Fair enough, but I actually think the brief answer is more useful and the language I used is something you'd actually see in a rule book. Figured it was worth seeing if anyone else agrees. Looks like not. – Adam Wuerl Sep 27 '14 at 8:06
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If you have an eye toward a professional-quality build of the game eventually, you might want to look into laser-etched dice.. but this doesn't necessarily help you in the prototyping phase. Take a look at Zombie Dice, for instance. Each face is either pass, fail, or neutral; and there are three different colored dice, each with different probability distributions. If you want the most intuitive design, having each face be either a green checkmark or a red X would be your best bet, I think.

But... If it truly is always a 50/50 chance of success, maybe you're starting with the wrong assumption. Why does it have to be a die roll? In this case, why not flip a coin? Heads - good, tails - bad is perhaps the most intuitive interface for a 50/50 chance. The downside here is that if you boil things down to literally a coin toss, players may become aware of how big a luck swing they are being subjected to. If they have no way to mitigate a 50/50 chance, and the game is made up of a series of 50/50 chances, they probably aren't going to like the game very much. Make sure your design has sufficient choice outside of those chance encounters.

  • The chance of success in this game at a dangerous event is 50%, but the player has a great deal of choice in whether or not they have to face these events. Also, custom dice is fine, but the publisher I work with wants to stick to standard dice as a component, as they're much cheaper. – Joe Sep 20 '14 at 20:08

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