In praise of the humble dice…

A staple of nearly every childhood game; roll a dice to move, roll a dice to attack, roll a dice to see what treasure you found, dice are synonymous with board gaming. The problem is, some people just don’t like them. Euro game fans in particular have moved on from a modern classic like “Catan” as the randomness of dice means, what if you never get that all-important brick? What if the robber takes all your hard-earned sheep? And whilst some mechanics, the roll and move of, say, “Talisman” have definitely aged badly, I still love dice in a game! I know it’s random, I know a string of bad rolls can wipe out even the best strategy, but for pure drama in a game, for those leap out of your seat, holy smokes moments, to my mind, there’s still nothing better than a dice roll.

“RISK” in particular still comes in for the most criticism. People will often ask “looking for a RISK-like game…” on a forum which will lead to much gnashing and wailing in the comments about dice. “RISK” was most my played game as a teenager, and despite its flaws I still adore it (always play missions, yes, world domination takes too long…) In direct comparison you would have a game like “Diplomacy”, with no dice whatsoever, all negotiation. Now I enjoy both these games but for me, revealing you have backstabbed a pal to help another player move a tank into Munich in Diplomacy can feel a bit negative, whereas rolling constant 6s to defend the last troop on the map in RISK feels electric!

Dice, for me, bring these incredible, punch-the-air, against-all-odds moments that I love in board gaming. My favourite game is Twilight Imperium, which for all the strategy and negotiation, can also come down to a single dice roll. Battles are dice again, this time on D10s. Each ship has an attack value, roll that or above and you hit! This can mean great big swathes of dice being hurled across the table, or, better yet, two terrible ships who both only hit on a 9+, both players rolling again and again for what seems like hours. Pure joy! And the weird thing is, if it were just a random card draw, a coin toss, or anything else, it might feel like pure luck, but there is something about rolling a dice that feels like… I did that, I messed up with that double one or, I did it! A double 6! What great rolling! It’s not of course, it’s just as random as anything else, but there’s that little bit of storytelling magic in a dice tumbling across a table, everyone holding their breath to see… can it happen?

So that’s why I like dice! And if you’re now thinking, “Hey, I also like dice!” then here are some dice based games you might want to check out…


You’ll know this one, sometimes called Liars Dice, it’s an old betting game of everyone rolling 5 dice under a cup and betting on how many of a certain number has been rolled in total. A classic for a reason, this push-your-luck game is still great with enough players and if you want to pretend you’re all pirates on the deck of a ship betting over your souls (they play this game in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies…) then, no one’s stopping you!


A real modern classic, this game took the Yahtzee mechanic and turned it into a brilliantly silly yet tightly tactical game of giant monsters attacking each other in Tokyo. Each turn you roll 5 dice, with 2 chances to reroll, and are looking to make combos to attack, heal and power up to be the last monster standing. Different ability cards change how you play each game and the gamble of, dare I reroll one more time is always exciting. Warning, it has lead to one small family argument but, that’s a small price to pay to see your behemoth lizard reign supreme.


Proving you can do Euro mechanics and still use dice, this worker placement game uses dice people to do some classic engine building in medieval France. Roll dice, place them, try and get more dice and hopefully screw over your fellow players. A lot of the game is about mitigating against bad rolls rather than going for broke with a big roll but you do get to steal dice in classic medieval shenanigan style! It’s a fairly heavy euro so, inevitably a bit of maths involved, but the player interaction is high, it’s pretty quick and each game feels different. I prefer this to another Euro dice game “Castles of Burgundy” but only by a whisker so, that’s also worth a look if you’d rather roll dice in the setting of (checks notes) medieval France…


You better believe this one has dice in it! Another battler with Yahtzee push-your-luck mechanics, Dice Throne is not one single game but a series of different characters, including a lot of Marvel ones, that battle it out head-to-head by rolling dice to power up their unique abilities.

“Season One” had six characters in a box whereas the more recent ones have sets of two, but you can mix and match any characters you want. “King of Tokyo” pips this at higher player counts but this is great for 2 players!


A favourite game of mine which is sadly very out of print at the moment, I still wanted to mention Quantum here though, firstly to try and convince all the publishers reading to do a reprint (yes please) and secondly because it’s my favourite use of dice in any game. In it you are piloting spaceships, which are all dice, around a galaxy, battling and exploring. You roll your “spaceships” to start and the number of the dice tells you how far they move, how good they are at fighting, what their special power is AND how good they are at colonising planets. So many mechanics off the single roll of a dice, it’s all dice all the time! Not recommended for people who don’t like dice.

It’s REAL dicey.

…And before anyone panics, I heard you can now say dice to mean one single dice. They changed it! I don’t know who they are but, I’m all for it!

Written by Tom Bell

If you want to pick up any of these games, check if they’re in stock at Zatu. Buying them there supports No Rolls Barred via our affiliate partnership. Read more here.