Games have helped to shape, and guide, humanity since the dawn of time. They taught, and continue to teach, social interaction and co-operation, critical and analytical thinking, and how to be magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat.
As crucial to our individual development as they are to our collective progress, games are mankind’s oldest, and most cherished, hobby. We’ve been enjoying them for countless millennia and we’re not about to stop playing them anytime soon.
Dice, like the games they’re a part of, and their precursors are older than recorded history. Thought to have originated with fortune-telling and the casting of bones and runes, flat two-sided die were discovered by archeologists in Egypt who dated them to around three thousand BC.
Even the pharaohs weren’t immune to letting their guard down and indulging in a little game based fun.
The modern idea of dice, that is the six-sided cuboid, can be traced back to Ancient Grece. Sophocles claimed that were invented during the Trojan war by Palamedes while the historian Herodotus stated that they were a product of the Lydian court during the reign of King Atys two thousand years before the birth of Christ.
Whichever of them was right doesn’t really matter, as we can draw the same conclusion from the accounts of both men. That is, that dice are old. Really, really old.
Like the games they’re used to play since they first appeared on the historical horizon, dice have evolved. No longer the sole remit of gamblers desperately searching for that one big score, dice have become a staple part of the vast and varied gaming lexicon and the ways in which they’re used are as diverse as the games they are a crucial part of.
If you thought that dice games began and ended with Monopoly or Ludo, you’re a little behind the times. Truth is, dice aren’t even limited to six sides anymore. Some games require four, eight, ten, twelve, twenty, and even one hundred sided dice to play.
It’s a strange, and seemingly contrary, fact that in the age of the video game and online gaming, dice-based games are more popular than they’ve ever been. The resurgence of interest in rolling dice and the growing demand for games they’re used in is a testament to the driving forces of human nature.
At heart we are a social animal that thrives in the company of others, and, even as dependent on technology as we’ve become, there is no greater tool in the human arsenal than imagination.
Come with us as we venture in the world of gaming, or more specifically dice-based games and look at five of the best, and most popular, of them. They say that there’s a game for everyone, so let’s test that hypothesis and see if we can find the right dice-based game for you. Are you ready? Let’s roll…
OUR TOP PICK
One of the most enduringly popular dice games in America, Bunco is an easy to learn, even easier to play, team-based game that is solely reliant on luck.
Played with nine dice and anything up to twelve people (divided into teams of four), Bunco is all about the roll of the dice and the hand of fate. If Lady Luck is on your side, you’ll forge ahead to victory, but if she abandons you to your destiny, then you’ll be gobbled up whole by the jaws of defeat.
It may be simple to play, dice rolls need to correspond to the round of the game (if you’re in round three, then you’ll need to roll threes to win to in that round and score a point), but that simplicity means Bunco impossible to master.
Thre’s only one problem with Bunco. When you start playing, you might not be able to stop. It’s a highly addictive game that won’t let you quit.
- Games don’t get any more social than Bunco. Needing anywhere up to twelve players, it’s a party game extraordinaire that’ll bring everyone to the table.
- Because it’s so easy to play, it lends itself to the adults-only genre of “Drinking Games”. Grown-ups everywhere have created their own offshoot rules in order to add a little booze to sessions.
- It really is one of the easiest dice games in the world to get grips with and start playing. If you thought ‘Shoots & Ladders’ was easy, you ain’t seen nothing yet. ‘Bunco’ makes the rules to ‘Shoots & Ladders’ seem like Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity. Yes, it really is that easy to play.
- Because it’s so easy to play, it can become repetitive and annoying. That’s probably why it’s been adopted as a drinking game by so many people. Alcohol has a tendency to make everything seem less frustrating. Plus, if you’re looking for a game to play when you’re blitzed, then you need something really straightforward and easy. You need something like Bunco.
- It’s not exactly challenging. There’s no strategy or planning involved in Bunco, the outcome is completely dependent on the roll of the dice. If you’re not a ‘game of chance’ type of person, then you won’t get, or enjoy Bunco.
You can’t beat the classics, and dice games don’t come any more classic than Yahtzee. It’s a dyed in the wool, sure-fire American original that’s been entertaining and enthralling families since the nineteen forties.
Combining dice and strategy, Yahtzee is played over thirteen rounds and is scored according to different number and dice combinations, with players electing to choose which combinations apply to which round. It’s feverish and compelling, which is why it’s retained both it’s cult and family appeal for nearly eighty years.
While there are many disparate versions of Yahtzee, this edition draws heavily from, and on, the original game of dice and cunning and it’s retro-tastic theming, design and pocketbook-friendly price make it the one that, just as John Travolta did, you’ll want.
And if you’re the curious sort and are wondering where the name ‘Yahtzee’ came from, it refers to a five of a kind dice roll that’s a winning combination in the game. If you roll it, you have to say it. That’s Yahtzee
- There’s a reason that Yahtzee has stood the test of time and embedded its roots deeply in gaming culture. As this edition’s name states, it’s a classic.
- That ten-dollar price tag makes this dice game a must-have for anyone looking to take their first tentative step into the world of strategic dice games.
- And it’s retro design and components (including an aluminum dice cup that mirrors the one in the original game) will also strike a chord with the Yahtzee faithful. Nothing beats the genuine article and this edition is as close to it as you’ll ever likely to get.
- It’s a classic dice-based game and we’re willing to bet that there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve already played a couple of rounds of Yahtzee at some point in your life. So you already know if you like it. Or loathe it.
- Some of the more ardent devotees of ‘Yahtzee’ have argued that this edition isn’t a direct representation of the original. It looks suitably retro to us, but if that sort of attention to detail is important to you, then turn your dice cup upside down. This isn’t the Yahtzee that you’re looking for.
Thanks to shows like ‘The Walking Dead’, Zombies have become a de rigueur horror fixture that’s slowly, but surely, creeping toward world domination. We’re in the middle of an undead invasion that doesn’t look like it’s going to come to an end anytime soon.
Taking full advantage of the monstrous wave of popularity that zombies are riding is ‘Zombie Dice’, a lightning-fast, dice-based two-player game that lasts anywhere between fifteen and thirty minutes.
It’s based on a great idea - the players become zombies and the dice the humans and points are scored by rolling combinations of brains, shotgun blasts, and footprints, all of which are on the dice.
It’s fast, horribly good fun, easy to play, and an effortless dice-based way to fill that zombie sized hole in your life. ‘Zombie Dice’ is all about the brains. The more brains you score, the better.
Who said the living have all the fun?
- It’s fast, it’s fun and transforms you into a zombie. Sort of.
- Simple to pick up and difficult to master, this dice centric game will provide endless hours of blood-soaked gory fun. All together now…”Brains”
- It’s the sort of price that no-one objects to paying. At just under fifteen dollars it’s an inexpensive way of letting your inner geek come out to play. And who knows, you might like having geeky you around and want them to stay for a while.
- There isn’t all that much too, or needed to play, ‘Zombie DIce’. Just some dice. But as this is a dice game list, it seems like a perfect fit. We just can’t shake the feeling that you don’t really get all that much for your money.
- It’s a Steve Jackson game, so there’s a nearly endless amount of expansion packs available for ‘Zombie Dice’. The game sinks it’s undead teeth into you and makes you want more. Much, much more. Once the zombie apocalypse begins, you’ll be in for the long haul and more game expansions than you ever thought possible will end up cluttering your shelves and breaking your wallet.
One of the board and dice game smash hits of the twenty-first century, ‘King of Tokyo’allows players assume the roles of giant monsters, robots, aliens and mutants who are then let loose on the Japanese capital to wreak havoc and destruction as they attempt to become the king of the city.
Designed by Richard Garfield, the man responsible for giving the world ‘Magic: The Gathering’, ‘King of Tokyo’ combines rapid dice and card play with board based Kaiju action. It’s more fun, and far less time consuming than a classic Godzilla movie marathon.
The dice, and between two to six players, control the monster based action in ‘King of Tokyo’, a game that encourages players to out-think, out-roll and out-destroy their opponents in the stomping ground of leviathans.
- Who hasn’t wanted to be a giant monster that crushes everyone and everything underfoot? ‘King of Tokyo’ allows you to live your monster-filled dreams with your friends without causing any real-world damage.
- It’s a gorgeous board, card, and dice-based game that provides hours and hours of monster-filled fun. But, if you don’t have all the time in the world, you can still play a game or two of ‘King of Tokyo’ in under an hour.
- ‘King of Tokyo’ isn’t just about luck. Dice, strategy and playing to your chosen monsters’ strengths pave the way to the throne of Tokyo and the endless possibilities that can come into play make sure that this game is always fresh, exciting, and challenging.
- The majority of ‘King Of Tokyo’’s appeal is centered around monsters, robots and mutants which are if we’re honest, not everybody’s cup of tea. If you’ve never heard of Godzila and don’t know what Mothra is, then you’re probably not going to want to go on the rampage in Tokyo with their Kaiju cousins.
- Some reviews highlight the fact that the rules are needlessly complicated and leave too much of the game open to interpretation.
Our last choice is the dice-based game that did away with boards and took co-operative play to a whole new level, ‘Dungeons & Dragons’. As well as adopting the traditional six-sided dice, D&D, as it’s more commonly known, also uses four, eight, ten, twelve and twenty-sided dice.
Invented by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974, ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ has become a global phenomenon and the latest edition of the game, the fifth, is by far the easiest to learn, understand and play.
Players assume the roles of characters, who they design and create themselves, in a fantasy world in which they battle monsters, seek treasure, solve mysteries, explore dark domains and pursue adventure, fame, and fortune. Guided through this new world by a Dungeon Master, or DM, players actions are moderated and determined by the outcome of dice rolls.
Controlled by the imaginations of the players and Dungeon Master, ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ is a dice centric game of unlimited possibility and promise that will transport you to realms undreamed of. And it’s a lot of fun. Trust us, we know these things.
- ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ is literally a world in a box. As long as you have a group of friends to play the game with, you’ll never be bored again.
- Once seen as being the purview of ‘nerds’, thanks to the geeks inheriting the world, ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ is now regarded as being one of the coolest dice-based games that you can play. You’re cool, aren’t you? Of course, you are. That’s why you need to play ‘D&D’
- It’s the game that gave the world the twenty-sided dice. Which is, just like, ‘D&D’, incredibly cool.
- ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ isn’t the sort of game that you can play in an hour. Games usually take a couple of hours to play and campaigns (a linked series of games) can last for years. Literally. It’s an incredibly time-intensive game.
- And then there are the rules. While it isn’t difficult to get to grips with, it is a rule-heavy game that requires preparation. You can’t play it straight out of the box. ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ doesn’t work that way.
- Then there’s the swords and sorcery thing. It’s a fantasy-based game filled with monsters, dungeons, and mystery that’s driven by imagination and forsakes and ignores the more traditional models of gameplay. And having read that, you’ll already know if you’re ready to start rolling twenty-sided dice and slaughtering orcs.
Frequently Asked Questions
A Game For Everyone and Everything In Between
Here’s the thing. There’s at least one dice driven game for everyone and a hundred more that’ll appeal to that part of your brain that’s telling you what you want from a game.
Are you looking for an easy dice-based game that you can just pick up and play and then put away and forget about? Do you want to play with a large group of friends or are you looking for something more intimate and involving?
Do you want to throw caution to the wind and place your fate entirely on the roll of a dice, or would you rather use dice as a finely honed blade with which to enact a well thought out strategy? Is time a concern? How much do you have to devote to a dice game?
Are you looking for a short, sharp, intense blast of excitement? Or are you willing to spend hours crafting a finely tuned scenario in which you and your friends can fully interact and build something wonderful? Do you want to keep it simple or are you happy to lose yourself in complexity? Is it all about fun or are you looking for more than that?
Before you decide which dice based game is the right one for you, you should ask yourself all of those questions and ideally, answer most of them. And then when you’ve decided what it is you want, read the list again, because we guarantee you that there is at least one game on it that’s right for you. Are you ready? Have you decided? You have? Good. Then let’s play…