Tao Dice by Kevin Fox
Introduction  |  Initial Design  |  Playtesting  |  Gallery  |  Market Analysis

Initial Design Notes

My initial goal in designing this game was to create a game that fit in nicely with the games my friends keep in their regular game bags (or purses, gloveboxes, etc.) Given the additional assignment constraint of using dice, I looked to my favorite games to find the characteristics they had in common. My plan was to use these characteristics as a starting point in designing a new game.

Common Attributes of My Favorite Games:

Tactile Brainstorming

Too many dice

I went to Phantom in the Attic and bought way too many dice. I didn't bring any of my dice out from the West, and took this chance to stock up. I chose dice that would give me a good variety of types, as well as some sets of dice that went well together. I also bought black and white glass beads and a clear IceTowers pack to round out my personal Zendo set.

Playing with the dice, without thinking too hard about rules or goals, I reacquainted myself with the tactile pleasure of dice. From early on in the assignment I knew I wanted to use at least one unusual die in my game. Partially this was because D6es are common to so many games that they don't have any magic to them. On the other hand, I knew I didn't want to have more than one kind of die above a D6 because I felt that it might put people off. A game with complicated-looking dice can be either intimidating or geeky. A game with just one odd die (or one per player) could be intriguing.

Wednesday's (Feb 5) GD lecture on probabilities and normal curves got me thinking about how to incorporate that in to my game. I wanted to make the the probability curves in my game different than either a flat distribution or a normal distribution. I didn't want it to be overly complex. In fact, I wanted it to seem simple, with a subtlety that would give the advanced player a slight edge if they paid attention.

Drawing directly from Tijuana, I wanted to be able to roll dice in order to win a stake. My initial impulse was to have the dice themselves be the stake, where players would have their bag of dice that they would risk, bit by bit, playing with others. Dice with more sides could have a higher innate value, but also be more powerful in a roll-off battle scenario. Thinking more about this, I abandoned the idea, initially because I couldn't think of a simple way to entice players to risk dice they personally valued, and then because I realized that by commodotizing the dice, ther would be an intrinsic value extending beyond the confines of the game, bending the rules of the assignment. It also seemed more desperate than fun, if the outcome had a lasting material effect.

Friday (Feb 6) I started work on a distribution calculator in Perl. The plan was that a designer could imput the kinds of dice ("3D6 1D10 3D4" for example) and the program would generate a chart showing the probability distribution for these dice. I started thinking about the idea of a two-stage betting game, one stage with a hidden roll, and a second stage with a public roll, akin to stud poker.

To make things interesting, the two stages not only had different numbers of dice, but different kinds, so that a strategy for betting on the first stage wouldn't necessarily be optimal for the second stage.

I quickly drew up some rules so I could start testing.