[While I'm away for a week, I'm posting classic Boing Boing entries from the archives. Here's a gem from 2006.]
I'm reading a terrific book by William Poundstone called Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System that Beat the Casinos and Wall Street. On page 153 Poundstone writes about a 1968 dinner meeting between mathematician Edward Thorp and fund manager Warren Buffett. Poundstone mentions in passing that Buffett and Thorpe discussed their shared interest in nontransitive dice. "These are a mathematical curiosity, a type of 'trick' dice that confound most people's ideas about probability," writes Poundstone.
Curious, I googled "nontransitive dice" and found a nice description of them by Ivars Peterson at the Mathematical Association of America's website.
Peterson introduces the subject with this intriguing paragraph:
The game involves four specially numbered dice. You let your opponent pick any one of the four dice. You choose one of the remaining three dice. Each player tosses his or her die, and the higher number wins the throw. Amazingly, in a game involving 10 or more throws, you will nearly always have more wins.
The trick is to always let your opponent pick first, and then you pick the die to the left of his selection (if he picks the die with the four 4s, then circle round to the die with the three ones). It's just like playing Rock, Paper, Scissors -- only you get to see what the other guy picks in advance.
With these dice, you always have a 2/3 probability of winning -- what a great sucker's bet! Read the rest
@kirin_nico has created a large robotic die that, when rolled—if any side other than six comes up—it unfolds and then refolds itself so the six side is upward.
It does this slowly and spastically, reveling in its homemade awkwardness and making clunky sounds like a kid’s toy having a stroke. In other words, it’s not pretending to be anything other than what it is, which is why it’s cool.
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Here's the rule: design a 2-sided die that is not coin shaped. Many people have tried, with varying degrees of success. Core77 has a gallery of some attempts. Here are a few:
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You can own a D20 die carved from a 10,000-year-old wooly mammoth tusk for just $249. Read the rest
My search for an easy way to generate strong passwords and passphrases led me to the "Diceware" method Cory wrote about on Boing Boing. This was no game. I needed serious dice.
Zombies aren't known for their critical thinking skills, but in Zombie Dice, a fast-paced, risk-vs-reward dice-rolling game designed by Steve Jackson, you play a zombie who must balance its desire for human brains with its fear of getting blasted to necrotic bits by a shotgun.
The game comes with 13 specially marked dice. The dice have three kinds of markings: brains, shotgun blasts, and footprints. (Green dice have more brains, red dice have more shotgun blasts, yellow dice are in-between).
The rules are simple: two or more people can play. Everyone is a zombie. The dice represent humans. When it's your turn, pull three dice from the cardboard cup (without looking) and roll them. Set any brains to one side. Set any shotgun blasts to the other side. Footprints mean the human got away - keep those in front of you. Do you want to roll again? No problem. Just re-roll the footprints dice along with enough fresh dice from the cup so that you roll three dice. You can roll as many times as you like in an effort to eats lots of brains in your turn (my record is 11 juicy brains in one turn), but if you end up accumulating three shotgun blasts, you lose all your brain points for that turn and the next player-zombie gets its turn. When one player gets 13 points, play continues until the round is finished and whoever has the most points wins.
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A couple of weeks ago my friend Kent Barnes recommended a simple, fast-moving dice game called Tenzi. I bought it and my wife, 11-year-old daughter, and I had fun playing it. The rules are simple - everyone starts out with 10 dice and the goal is to roll your dice as fast as you can until all of them show the same number. Every time you roll, you are allowed to set aside any dice that match your desired number. When all ten of the dice show the same number, you shout "Tenzi!," throw your hands in the air, and gloat while the other players gnash their teeth. The game rules included a couple of variations on the basic rule set, which we also played and liked.
A few days later Kent told me about a $10 deck of cards called 77 Ways to Play Tenzi. I ordered the deck and last night my wife, 11-year-old, 16-year-old daughter (who doesn't like games and joined us reluctantly), and I tested the deck out. Ninety minutes later we decided that this deck takes Tenzi to a new level. The deck adds variety, surprise, and humor to Tenzi. It makes Tenzi so much more fun that I think the company shouldn't sell the dice without the cards. My 16-year-old daughter was surprised that she had such a good time.
77 Ways to Play Tenzi | Buy Tenzi cards and dice as a set
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Though I've never played a pen-and-paper RPG in my life, I'm completely in love with the dice. At Comic-Con, a company called Chessex had more on offer, in more shapes, sizes and geometries, than I'd ever seen in my life. Irresistable!
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