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Proposed Cocked Dice Rule

Posted By: Colin Owen
Date: Thursday, 4 July 2013, at 10:17 p.m.

In Response To: Proposed Cocked Dice Rule (Colin Owen)

I'll keep to the one post with addressing the several responses to my proposal.

Phil's argument is very much in the vein of, that players - whether new ones or old hands - should 'learn to roll' - ie, in a way that is less likely to cock the dice. This is an argument that has been put before on this forum, and no doubt will be again. Also, he asserts, if we don't 'learn to roll' then it is only right that we suffer a time penalty - even if this ultimately contributes to us losing the match on time. He also claims that cocked dice are anyway quick to re-roll, and shouldn't make much difference in the scheme of things. My suggestion, he says unnecessarily complicates things, which Rodney also asserts.

My argument is that we should learn to roll in a way that produces truly random numbers. This will undoubtedly mean that the dice tend to roll further, are more likely to come in to contact with the dreaded chequers, and therefore will more frequently end up cocked. I argue that this should take a higher priority than worrying about an increase in cocked dice, as with the 'softly softly' rolling approach, and that we should actually welcome the dice coming into contact with the chequers, as dice deflecting and falling off them help to guarantee a truly random roll. The clock rules in use should, within reason, not discourage this approach.

I also argue that it does matter that such an approach costs the player time! Phil argues that, if a player's time is low, then this is because he chose to let it get low. So what? Time is a commodity that we can use or not. If the match is clocked, and we use up too much of it, we lose. But as long as we stay within those limits then we keep our right to remain in the match, and have a chance to win it. It does not seem ethically right to me that a more aggressive, random approach to rolling the dice be allowed to contribute to, or even perhaps directly result in, a player timing out. Even top players have lost in this manner. Some world class players - Weaver and Kazaross might be examples - tend to play by feel and play fast, and will rarely, if ever get into time trouble. But others - like Mochy or Koca - seem to prefer a more analytical approach, even analysing and apportioning their use of time, so they might sail close to the wind sometimes. And almost any player - if the match is sufficiently long and complex - might need to use close to their allowance of reserve time in order to do the situation justice. When this happens, it DOES matter if we have lost more time re-shaking and re-rolling dice. I say that it should not.

There is also, of course, the unlevel playing field of one player rolling into the often cramped home boards, with his opponent enjoying the deserts of the outer boards - unless, of course, we use a (single) baffle box. My proposal levels out that field.

Chuck Bower's published tests found that it took him, on average 3.6 sec to pick up, shake and roll the dice - and that was with doing only the bare minimum of 3 shakes, and on a board where the dice tended to come to rest fairly quickly. Bearing these factors in mind, might not 4 sec+ be a more typical average? If we also pause slightly in order to obtain our opponents agreement that the dice are indeed cocked, then 5 sec might be a fair estimate of the time lag when rolling cocked dice. These 5 second chunks can add up and, in the end, unfairly penalise the more conscientious roller.

Both Phil and Rodney feel that my proposals complicate the game unnecessarily. Jason also - though liking the concept - feels it should be simpler. Of course, it could be made simpler by allowing players who throw the dice out of the board to also still reset their delay. The basic premise was simple enough: if you keep the dice within the confines of your rolling area, then you will get your delay back if they're cocked. Chuck points out the contradiction between my stating that my proposal would encourage more random rolling, and that dice leaving the rolling area should not result in resetting delay. I was aware of this. Firstly, my proposal does not actually encourage more aggressive rolling - it merely discourages it less. If players are intent on just prodding the dice out then they will still do so. But it seemed reasonable to me to place a limit on forceful rolling, hence the suggested requirement to keep dice within the board. This proviso need not apply though.

Chuck also queries the need to reduce the delay time as a result. Again, this isn't necessary, though I would still argue that it might be appropriate. The incidence of cocked dice varies hugely. Though the ball park figure of ten percent is probably on the high side for most sets of circumstances, it could be more than double that with some rolling styles combined with large dice, very thin chequers, and space for only 10 chequers across. If, for simplicity, we use this figure, allowing for the possibility of repeat cocking, we must factor in one-ninth more time to re-roll the dice. That is, 1/9 of about 5 sec, or 5/9 sec. That is indeed considerably less than one second, let alone the 2 sec reduction I suggested. But what is more relevant is not the delay time itself, but how much of it is typically used. In his long series of 7 point matches against Richard Heinz, Chuck's stats show that they used an average of 80.75% of the 12 sec delay (9.66 to 9.72 sec). With only a 10 sec delay setting this utilisation will be significantly higher, so the actual difference in utilised time between a 10 and 12 sec delay will be less than 1.6 sec; 1.2 to 1.4 sec seems most likely. Further, there are actually a multitude of conflicting factors that determine what is the right delay setting. Some argue for shorter delays combined with a longer reserve, like the average time for physically making a move, whereas the average time for actually making a move argues for a longer delay and less reserve, as does allowing for the time needed to hit several chequers. One other factor that also argues for a longer delay (and less reserve) is allowing for the average time to physically complete a turn after rolling cocked dice. With the likelihood (or even certainty) of resetting the delay when this happens - even though it may not happen very often - this factor nonetheless argues for a delay of about 5 sec less (though it would be combined with more reserve).

Of course, the adoption of the 'on chequer' rule would largely negate the advantages of resetting delay, but it may not - and arguably shouldn't - ever happen.

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