01 June 2012

D10 , the dark horse of wargaming?

I love the D10, and recently I have noticed that the D10 is on the rise.

"This very ground", a French & Indian war skirmish game I bought a couple of years ago was really my first exposure to the D10 and ever since I have been hooked and find it superior to the awfully common D6. Just over the past year I have covered several games that use D10 completely or partially.

Beside "This very ground" we have "By Fire & Sword", "Brink of Battle" and most recently "Empire of the Dead". Another game that uses D10 albeit in a limited amount (but still) is "Victory Decision".

The interesting thing here is that "This very ground" is a "platoon" scale skirmish game, "Brink of Battle" and "Empire of the Dead" small scale skirmish, while "Victory Decision medium sized skirmish and "By Fire & Sword" roughly on a "company" scale. In short, the D10 has found its way from the smallest to the largest of games.

So what is so fantastic about D10?

In my opinion the D10 has the following advantages

1) 10 sides = 10% per side, making fine tuning of 100% easier and more accurate
2) More sides allow for a broader spread of results compared to D10
3) Modifiers often make their way "onto" the dice rather than adding it to the result on the "outside" which often happens on D6.

Many games which use D6 limit themselves in an artificial way, capping what you can achieve at "6" being the highest. Instead of adding modifiers and allowing an 7+ to hit you are either told "no it can't hit" or forced to reroll the result of 6 where a following 4+ would equal a "7+" result. It just becomes clunky.

D6 also reduces the spread of "skill" within the game. You simply won't have too large a gap between the "best" and the "worst" units. Often the best units will instead have some kind of extra rules to press home their elite rating. If 4+ to hit is the standard, having to roll a 6 may be the worst you can get, 16% chance on a D6. Rolling a single D6 it sure will appear difficult. But roll a slew of D6 dice and you will have a bunch of 6's.

Compare this to having 4+ on a D10 as the standard, and 9+ being the worst you can get. Rollin multiple 9+ results would theoretically spread out the success/failure ratio a lot more making it a lot more difficult to hit with such poor skill rating.

Perhaps what I think is the single most decisive area when using D10 in a game is really how you can fine tune the skill of characters/troops/units in unison with terrain features, range modifiers and additional effects that stack ontop of each other to either increase or decrease the difficulty to make an attack. A D6 is a lot more restricted, if 4+ is the standard "to hit" value then you only have 2 more results that you can fill with effects before you either reach the "cap" or have to go beyond the D6 by making it 7+ or something similar as mentioned earlier.

Equally apparent does it become if you want to tweak something on a D6 either in a positive or a negative way. You realize that you are very confined and the fine tuning will end up being a lot rougher than you may have wanted to achieve - becoming too rough. Hitting things on 3+ instead of 4+ becomes a lot better on a D6 than improving from 8+ to 7+ on a D10 .

Spread of results also makes things like critical success/failure's less common if you use D10 dice. Some games that use D6 offer a "critical hit" when you roll a natural 6, then re-roll it and have it land on another 6. 1/36th chance if you calculate the odds - if the game used D10 a similar procedure would become 1/100th chance of a critical hit. Of course this depends on the game design and how powerful you want your critical results to be. I would think that the less common critical result on a D10 would warrant a more powerful effect than on a D6.

All in all I find the D10, while still being regarded by some like "hipster dice" to be a bit more "precise" in generating desired results. If I designed a game and would want absolute control and results divided equally in percentages to tweak things just a little I would go for the D10. It would also offer more space to apply modifiers to the roll.

I still own more games that use the more popular D6, and don't hate those games for using it. It just often feels like games decide upon D6 dice because "they are more readily available". As if that would be a problem. If you take a plunge into wargaming buying some new dice would probably end up being your smallest expense. As such it is interesting to see the wave of D10 among newer rulesets.

I have previously written about various dice and my fascination of "alternative dice", there were some very interesting stuff in the comments so I'm linking to that post HERE

If you have any interesting gaming experience involving D6/D10 dice or have a set of rules using D6/D10 dice in a unusual/different way then please let me know in the comments below. I'm always interested in new/different stuff  :-)


  1. i like your comment and tend to agree with you. While I find that SOTR found a fine balance with a d6, I found games like w40k would earn more to swith to d10-base in regards to the range of stuff involve. D10 is widespread in RPG games and it also limit the number of dice to roll because one die offer more range of success/failure.
    d10 allows more weapon type which fits better sci-fi and fantasy game. Same as you said, d10 allows more differentiations between a peasant and a hero, with gradual value for Elite, standard, other raves (orc, elf, dwarf, or whatever is in the universe)

    Another game base on d10 is Urban War, which is fun too.

  2. One of my favorite set of rules is Wargods of Aegyptus by Crocodile Games. An excellent system that has a couple of unique twists on the sequence of play.

  3. I agree the D10 has been a sleeper for a long time with miniature gaming. RPGs such as White Wolf, Palladium and other companies have been using the D10 for years.

    One thing you did not mention is that two D10's can be used as a percentage also allowing for an even larger range on up as you add more dice if you wanted to use the Mordheim formula for rolling for exploring....

    I just ordered Iron Ivan's Disposable Heroe's and a coffin for Seven Brothers and if I recall that is a d10 system. I just got two friends interested in 28mm WW2 and found a few other players local that are playing the same system.

  4. @Cedric, good points there. Speaking of Fantasy/Sci Fi I am very interested how the expansions for Brink of Battle pan out. The rules already use a clever combination of both the attacker and defender to roll D10's and add it to their stats to generate results at any given time. It has worked very well with the historical framework. Sci-Fi and Fantasy tend to include things that are a lot more potent/lethal. Devastating plasma weapons or magic weapons/powers.

    @Styx, yeah combining 2D10 = 100% is also a great feature.

    @Kris, I'll have to check out that game as I never heard of it - the name sounds interesting enough :-)

  5. I've always liked the D10 since I first came across it (and the d100... easier than it sounds)in GWs Inquisitor system, had lots of fun with that game back in the day. Colonial Battlefleet recently reminded me the d10 existed and got me to buy a load more of 'em. I noticed the three advantages you outlined above and thats why in the system I'm currently designing for company scale 15mm sci-fi the D10 is the standard die type used. I especially like the extra differentiation you can get, plus they're fun to roll, nice and chunky!

  6. Have to agree, loove D10 systems. One of my favourites rule sets is fire n fury

  7. Other than the d10 as its use in games such as D&D and what, my real first exposure to the d10 was the Starship Troopers miniatures game put out by Mongoose Publishing back when it first happened. In our group, d10's are regularly used though as d00's rather than the tens by themselves, and are almost as common as both the twenty- and six-siders.

    The twelve-sider certainly doesn't get much air time. Though I've heard somebody made a system that uses mainly d12s. Wouldn't that be best as the "hipster" die? I know there's only ever one, and that one person alone, in our local cluster that uses a d12.

  8. Great article Alex. When I first starting designing Brink of Battle six years ago, I ran the gamut of arguments for using one type of die over another. My final decision for using d10's only were based to two factors: 1. I wanted to simulate the chaos that occurs on the battlefield. As you mentioned, that range is capped pretty badly by d6. 2. I wanted to have a dice mechanic that wasn't common, but wasn't uncomfortable either.

  9. Stumbled upon your blog looking for other examples of D10 gaming systems. Its good to hear that there are/have been gamesystems using the old D10.

    Thanks to your blog, I've decided to go with the D10, over the D6.

    Thank you for that ^_^


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