Academy: Tabletop Time Management and Pre-Sorting
While we dearly love our table-top miniature games, one drawback that is undeniable is that they consume time. You read about the armies, assemble the models, and spend time painting. Then there’s the actual game time spent setting up and conducting the game. What makes matters worse is that for most table-top miniature games the larger the size of the game, the longer it takes. So the very games that are played at an epic scale take an epic amount of time. And thus, when planning to play more large-size games, I had to sort out ways to increase the speed at which I could run a turn. Thinking about the games I tend to play (Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40k and Warhammer Fantasy Battles, as well as Privateer Press’s Warmachine and Hordes), I realized that there was one step I could make to speed things up: pre-sorting dice.
I took a simple craft tray and a few blocks of different dice and split them into different numbered sets in different bins. I then printed labels for the number of dice that are in each bin. The craft tray clips shut and fits right in with my other gaming aids. I keep it open during the game at the side of the table, and I’ve been amazed at the time it saves.
Imagine your squad of intrepid Space Marines is facing off against a rampaging herd of Ork boyz. As the boyz charge, your opponent starts counting out a depressing number of dice for the attack (even the most lowly Ork slugga boy generates 4 attack dice on a charge). Watching the opponent count out attacks you realize how long it’s going to take—he’s got 30 Ork boyz, so that’s 120 dice. Even if he rolls 20 dice 6 times, there’s still lots of time spent counting dice out.
Due to the grace of the Emperor, the rolls fall in your favor. Your opponent informs you that you need to make 27 saving throws. Instead of taking the time to count out 27 dice, you empty the 20 dice bin and the 7 dice bin and then throw the set. A few stalwart warriors perish, but your opponent stares in amazement at how much quicker your set of rolls went.
The dice in each numbered bin are varied colors for two reasons. First, when I use dice from two or three bins to make my number, they are easy to put back into their numbered bins to keep the counting system intact. And second, to provide an additional benefit—managing the attacks of varied units in a single roll.
In particular, administering the shooting or attacks of a complex unit took a fair amount of time. For instance, a single infantry platoon in an Imperial Guard army can field 4 different weapon types in a single shooting phase. Consider an example squad: platoon sergeant with plasma pistol, special weapon trooper carrying a grenade launcher, heavy weapon team with lascannon, and six troopers with lasguns. That means usually pulling out a single dice for each weapon (except the lasguns), and then rolling and resolving it.
By having different color dice, I just inform my opponent which dice count for which weapon/s and then throw the whole set at once. By having them pre-split by numbers, I can even coordinate firing in different situations. In rapid fire range? Swap in 12 dice for the lasgun shots. Decide to use the frag setting on the grenade launcher? Pull out one of the 3 different color scatter dice with matching 2d6 for distance.
It works for vehicles firing different weapons at once and for close combats where you’ve got combatants with differing strengths or certain models using power weapons. By being consistent about which color dice are used for which weapons, my opponent quickly sees the pattern and saves some time explaining. The same principle can work even if you don’t have to throw a huge hand full of dice—a unit of 6 Troll gunners in Hordes could be sped up by taking all six shots at the same time with six different color-coded 2d6 rolls.
Pre-Sorting: Worth My Time?
For any one dice roll, it doesn’t take too long to count out 22 dice. Or to roll a single die 3 times in a row for different weapon shots. Yet over the course of a game, the time adds up. I’ve found I can run larger battles faster, and reach that epic scale of table-top battles without spending an epic amount of time counting out dice.