I’ve posted a few games-in-posts and other toys that involve rolls of dice, and my strategy is to use Unicode die-face symbols. I think, for the foreseeable future, this is how I will continue to handle such matters – it’s clean, compact, and rather portable. For whatever reason, I was wondering how best to achieve this in an SVG containing all of the pips, with the face selected via class and modified via CSS. So, below is an SVG die that contains seven pips, with its class set to .die1. But if we set it to .die2, it hides the (0-indexed, left to right, top to bottom) pips 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. If we set it to .die4, it hides pips 2, 3, and 4. This works, of course, for .die3, .die5, and .die6 too, of course. Since pips 0 and 6 and pips 1 and 5 will always be (in)visible together, we can combine either set into a single class, .pip06, and .pip15 to simplify the .die classes that hide them.
Pros include the ability to customize dice (regular D6s and fudge dice, say, or simply multicolored pips), the potential to mix in other-sided dice, and likely superior accessibility. Cons are complexity and file-size (SVGs must be embedded into posts as SVG elements). The latter can be mitigated by generation of the SVGs from whatever JS would be running the show, but it’s still a bit clumsy. An interesting experiment, regardless of whether or not I ever use it.
Here it is! Game-in-a-post of ‘Rolling Market’, which I’m still pretty happy with, truth be told. Rules are here. This JS implementation has one bug I’m still aware of which lets you cheat during the endgame, so just… don’t do that until I fix it.
A few additional tips/thoughts on the game:
$60 final score is pretty much the bare minimum. That’s like a game where I thought I was doing terribly the whole time, like I might end up with twenty bucks or something. Breaking triple digits is a success in my mind.
Being mindful of volatility is crucial. If volatility is low, maybe you should influence something down by selling it to put it where you want it next turn. Likewise, you may have to sacrifice some buys, or perhaps you buy up to 4 hoping for a split. Use these shifts to your advantage – buy 1s until they turn to 2; chances are it’ll jump to 4 next turn and you’ve quadrupled your bucks.
Along that vein, splits are a Good Thing. They can cost you, but it’s fairly minimal. Buying at 3, pushing up to 4, splitting, and then seeing a bunch of split shares jump back up to 4 is just… that’s how the big bucks are made. Mind your 4s, 2s, 1s.
I’ve been testing out a little solo game design lately that’s somewhat inspired by Sackson’s Solitaire Dice. Inspired in the sense that I was looking to come up with something that has that same lack of Yahtzee-esque luck mitigation, instead relying on intuition, probabilities, and risk management. Much like Sackson’s game, this can backfire, and the dice can utterly screw you. But even when that happens, there’s enough going on to where the game is still enjoyable (in my humble opinion).
Full rules are listed after the jump, and will repeat some of this brief overview, but here’s the idea: players have four companies they can buy and sell stock shares from. On every turn, the player rolls dice which influence the current value of a given company’s shares. Buying and selling also affects values. On some turns, the market is closed, but when it is open the player can buy shares of one company and/or sell shares of a different company. The player goes through 12 of these buying/selling turns, and scores based on their final pile of cash.
I have a JS game-in-a-post implementation nearly ready to go, so that will appear shortly, along with a PDF of these rules, and potentially a few more strategic thoughts. Until then…
Sid Sackson, in his book A Gamut of Games1, describes a solitaire dice game that I have grown very fond of. Fond enough that I decided to whip up a little js version of it, found below. I won’t go into the rules here, others have done that well enough. I will just put a couple of thoughts out there on why I find the game so compelling. Dice are obviously the epitome of randomness; roll-and-move mechanics are universally bemoaned for this. Games that try not to be awful while still using dice generally do so with some sort of randomness mitigation technique. Yahtzee is an easy example – a player gets three rolls to a turn to mitigate luck. Sackson’s Solitaire Dice does not offer any mitigation, and in fact it can be brutal. You could theoretically lose 400 points on your last turn. And while this sounds objectively terrible, it really isn’t. Occasionally you will have a game where the dice just torture you, but for the most part the game forces you to think about probabilities, and attempt to control pacing. If the game is going really well, you may want to try to blow one of your scratch piles up toward the game-ending 8 marks. Similarly, if things aren’t going great, it would probably be in your best interest to take poorly-scoring pairs in order to scratch dice evenly. In my plays thus far, I’d say that a meh game is in the -100-100 point range, a successful game being 350+.
On to my number one solo game at the moment: Chris Cieslik’s One Deck Dungeon, released by Asmadi Games. This game takes all the uncertainty and the brutality of a roguelike, and packs it into a small deck of cards and a pile of dice. One’s character has attributes which indicate the number and color of dice that can be rolled in resolving a conflict. A section of dungeon, so to speak, is entered by spending time (discarding cards). This fills the player up to four face-down dungeon cards, which can then be encountered on a turn by flipping them up. One can either attempt to defeat the card or leave it for later, wasting time and available space to fill with new dungeon cards. Defeating these cards involves rolling the dice allowed by the player’s character attributes and placing them to beat numbers on the card. These can be color-specific or not, and spaces can either require the placement of one die or allow multiple dice. Unfilled slots are what ultimately cause damage – to either health, time, or both. Assuming the player lives, resolving a conflict allows them three choices – the card can be taken as an item (additional dice and/or health), a skill or potion, or experience.
My (probably, maybe) second most-played solo game currently is one of dice, cards, and worker placement. Designed by Tony Go and released by Tau Leader (in very small print runs, it seems, though one can print-and-play), Deep Space D-6 packs a lot of game into a very small package. One of several tiny boards with illustrated ships, explanations of their features, countdown tracks for hull and shield health, and placement areas for worker dice sits in front of the player. To the right of the players ship, tiny threat cards are added every turn, and positioned to indicate their health. The player rolls their crew dice for the turn and assigns them to various attack and defense roles. Worker actions are taken, then a die is rolled to see which, if any, enemies activate and attack on that turn.
As someone who is far more into board (and card) than video games, as someone who spends a lot of time alone, and as someone who has immense insomnia (compounded by the ridiculous anxiety brought on by recent politics), the volume and quality modern board/card games continues to impress me. While I know I’m not alone in seeking these out, I do think they get pushed to the side a bit, and I’ve been meaning to get a few write-ups out there about the games I’ve been enjoying as of late. Initially, I’m going to present this series as my current top five, but in the future I’ll be tacking others on in no particular order. With that…
First up is Dungeon Roll from Tasty Minstrel Games and designer Chris Darden. Its appeal is pretty clear: it’s cheap, has fun dice, and comes in a tiny cardboard chest that you pull treasure from during the game. They bill it as playing 1-4, but multiplayer is essentially just every individual playing a solo game while others watch. All of the encounters are based on dice, with no automatic rerolls (some character abilities grant rerolls), so it is very much a game of randomness and of pushing one’s luck. There are a handful of expansions out there (all bundled together in a cheap package at CoolStuff Inc., conveniently), which are largely just new player characters, though the winter one also adds some interesting new treasure.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about new game concepts and designs using existing bits – dice, playing cards, checkers, &c. One such recurring thought is expanding on the Yahtzee sort of theme – solitaire dice-chucking games with poker-like scoring. It’s easy to pan Yahtzee as a garbage game, but as a quick solo activity it isn’t terrible. It isn’t great, but nor is it terrible. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been playing around with an idea for a dice game that offers a tiny bit extra in the decision-making category. I call it Yamzod, which is a name I came up with while on the brink of sleep, and have stuck with because it makes me laugh.
A little over a year after writing this post, I decided to make a code golf challenge of it. Not too many people submitted answers, but there was a wild one in MS-DOS Batch, as well as some interesting tricks I hadn’t thought of.
I’ve been meaning to implement a way to incorporate style or script requirements into my posts using Hugo frontmatter. I’m not there yet, and before I get there, I need a test post that requires one or the other. I thought a little toy that lets one play a turn (three rolls) of Yahtzee, and then returns the highest possible score of the roll would be a fun and simple demonstration. Aside from small straights wigging me out a little (and I still have a nagging feeling this can be optimized), it was indeed simple1 to come up with an optimal score search. Fortunately, for a single-turn score, we don’t need to worry about a few scoring rules: bonus (joker) Yahtzees, the upper row bonus, nor chance. We could implement chance easily, but it really doesn’t make sense for single-turn scoring.