# What's the most intuitive way to use a die for a pass/fail test?

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.)

• 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. Sep 12, 2014 at 19:50
• @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. Sep 12, 2014 at 21:55
• 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. Sep 12, 2014 at 21:59
• 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. Sep 19, 2014 at 21:24
• 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.) Sep 20, 2014 at 1:04

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.

• Is it really? Sometimes, you want to aim for a specific space and you don't want a high number...? Jul 8, 2020 at 2:21
• @Malady Sometimes that is the case but in general higher is better Jul 8, 2020 at 2:33
• @JoeW - Yeah, but there must be a better game to choose than those two grid-based ones... Jul 8, 2020 at 3:51
• @Malady Why? What is wrong with using two examples where generally rolling higher is better? Why are you so focused on the games themselves instead of the end result which is a high roll (4 or above) counts as a success and a low roll (3 or below) counts as a failure? Jul 8, 2020 at 12:14
• @JoeW - Because, it's saying that "If your player has played Monopoly, then they know that bigger number is good"... Which is incorrect and therefore bad for OP? Although they did green check it, so whatever. Jul 8, 2020 at 12:32

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. Sep 22, 2014 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. Sep 27, 2014 at 8:06

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, 2014 at 20:08
• Flipping a coin in the context of a board game is awkward. Because it's hard to control where the coin lands on a potentially stuffed table. Dice are much better in this, as they can be put into a cup and "rolled" by placing the cup upside down on the table. This has essentially zero chance of disrupting the setup while being simple to execute. Jul 8, 2020 at 7:43

Succeed on a roll of 4+. Because higher numbers are usually the better results to get, in evaluations / grades, and this is "Pass / Fail".

If it were just using it as a way of picking between two equally wanted results, then I'd say Even / Odd, because there's no value judgement there.

• There are already two answers saying effectively the same thing. They were posted more than five years ago. What does this usefully add?
– Nij
Jul 9, 2020 at 0:01