A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Friday, 14 January 2011

Commands & Colors - The Dice

Battle Dice - the original GMT 18mm (black) & my proposed 19mm replacement

I have received my set of Commands & Colors: Napoleonics (hereafter CCN) from America, and am impressed with it. I haven't had time to get on with all the stickers yet, but I hope to do some of that this weekend. I checked the contents, and everything looks very good, and the quality, as always with GMT, and as is almost always true with American games, is excellent.

Since I have spent a little time gawping at the pre-release discussions on various fora, I was aware of some concerns about the quality of the battle dice. Now I have to say right up front that if I hadn't read about this, it would not have occurred to me when looking at the supplied hardware, and much of the prejudice which I have read about seems to come from the Ancients version of the game. Yet I can see that the dice might wear a bit.

In case you do not spend much time reading discussions about the quality of dice in a game you do not own, a quick explanation might help. The game uses special Battle Dice, each of which carries 2 infantry symbols, 1 cavalry, 1 artillery, 1 crossed sabres symbol and 1 flag, all of which (obviously) have a defined meaning in the rules. The dice are supplied blank, with stickers to be applied by the purchaser (or his kid brother, if it is that kind of family).

The discussion threads on GMT's site and at boardgamegeek.com get into odd areas such as whether people prefer the feel of wooden or plastic dice, whether dice with stickers attached can ever be truly dynamically balanced, whether wood swells with the weather conditions, etc - you know how these discussions develop.

The dice provided - and there are 8 of them - are black plastic, 18mm across, with very slightly recessed areas to take the stickers, which are shiny printed paper, each one being 14mm across. I can see that the edges of the stickers might wear a bit - the indentation is shallow, and the thickness of the paper will protrude a little. It is entirely probable, of course, that the dice as supplied will work excellently well for many years, but I am such a worrier - and then I read the misgivings of all these other people - oooh oooh.

I do have some alternative blank dice. I purchased some samples of various types of plain dice, quite a number of years ago, and (naturally) they are still lying in the Diddy Box in their original packets, untouched. Amongst these are some slightly larger dice - 19mm - which have deeper indentations, and the indentations would fit 14mm stickers perfectly. OK. Unfortunately I only have 5 of these, but I have ordered a couple of additional packs on eBay, from a firm which specialises in educational toys. Given enough of these alternative dice, my plan is to fit GMT's stickers onto them, the deeper indentations will protect the edges nicely, and I might also apply a bit of acrylic varnish over them (subject to a bit of preliminary testing). If all this works, I should have dice which will be the envy of all. Dice of Thunder. When the smoke clears after World War III, my dice will be the only undamaged objects they find around here.

Only potential fly in the ointment is that the supplier cannot guarantee that the dice will all be the same colour, but they are hoping that will be possible. Let's see what I get.


  1. Prometheus,

    There is of course the deeply worrying matter of the cards. To my eye they appear to be made of 120gm pulp based paper. This is less than ideal. Pasteboard would be far superior - possibly a linen based laid paper perhaps? The repercussions of playing with these sub standard materials are too horrible to contemplate.

  2. I confess I have not yet unwrapped the cards - I have enough stuff lying about the place with just the blocks. The cards do look a bit svelte - and yet I have seen no adverse comment about them, and I have seen copious whingeing about all sorts, so maybe they are OK.

    I have friends in the printing trade - maybe, if necessary, I could commission some heavier sets of CCN cards. I imagine GMT can supply replacement cards if wear is a problem - they have been very efficient supplying spare bits for me in the past.

  3. Conrad - the cards - apparently Mayday Games do clear card sleeves in exactly the right 2.5" x 3.5" size - the premium quality would do the job perfectly.

    50 cards in a pack. Mayday themselves seem to be out of stock, but there's an Australian supplier


    there may even be a European supplier...

  4. There is a UK supplier of Mayday products - Spirit Games of Burton on Trent.

  5. Tony - thanks for posting this, somehow you have made me feel almost normal...


  6. Hi Ian - in the words of the old Les McCann record, "compared to what?"!

    I freely admit this is all a bit dweebie, but if a boxed game costs me $70 + $40 shipping + £13 UK VAT + £8 UK mail ransom demand + about 2 days hard labour applying stickers to wooden blocks, I am going to look very carefully at the durability of the equipment! Yes, yes - well over the top - I agree.

    My intention is to be able to use the game with the supplied board and blocks, or with my own tabletop and miniature soldiers, so the dice and cards may get a fair amount of use. Or, of course, I may find them in the Diddy Box years from now and wonder what they were!

    Best regards - a whole new year to fritter away on hobbies and related distractions!