More Thoughts on Shadow Dice

Michael Martin

I really like the new Button Men website, though I notice that the strategy section didn’t have anything new on it. I cut my Button Men teeth on Grist and Wastenott, and Shadow Dice have been near to my heart ever since. Here’s some thoughts my game group and I have had about Shadows:

Shadow Dice are interesting on a number of levels. At first glance, they appear strong — they can wipe out high-valued dice. At second glance, they appear weak — since they can’t be both safe and useful at the same time, except against other Shadow dice. After a few games against Peace or Wastenott, you then realize that playing as or against Shadow Dice completely change the game.

I classify my Shadow Dice into three types:

– “Blind” dice are showing values higher than all my opponent’s dice. They’re vulnerable to Skill attacks, but otherwise are completely out of play. The existence of blind dice is what lets both people have dice left at the end.

– “Active” dice can make captures. Unless that’s against another Shadow Die, that means it’s vulnerable, too.

– “Hosed” dice can’t make captures, but that’s because the opponent’s dice are showing values above the Shadow Die’s maximum value. They can’t act (except as part of a Skill Attack), but they can be taken.

When playing with a mix of Shadow and Normal Dice, you can use your Normals to attack the dice your Shadows are blind to. Things get more interesting when dealing with characters like Wastenott or Peace, or once your normal dice have all been captured.

If you’re Peace, an endgame that benefits you is one where you’ve hung on to your heavies, they’re showing high values, thus locking you out, and your opponent is locked out with a bunch of lighter dice. Yes, that’s an advantage even if you’re not using Shadows, but with Shadows, you can hit their heavies a bit more easily, and then proceed to blind all your dice. Round ends, you get lots of points for retaining dice, they don’t get nearly as many.

Hence, Peace and Wastenott, right? Conflicts that end early, without too much destruction. Very appropriate.

So, some basic strategies against each type of die would be:

– Against normal dice, as above. Let them keep the dice that are lighter than yours. Force a stalemate and net points on defence. Or, just wipe them out, if you can.

– Against Shadow dice, this is essentially the same as normal vs. normal.

– Against poison dice, don’t take them. Unlike players with normal dice, you can retain lots of dice left and still leave them the poison at the round’s end. Your only real danger is poison d12s and d20s, as Shadows are *very* effective against heavy dice, and they can blind you to everything but the high-valued Poisons if you’re all Shadow.

– Against Trip dice, abandon hope. You *must* take them every chance you get, but against a savvy player your only chance is right at the beginning. Against Hope, Peace and Wastenott are guaranteed to be doomed, unless they roll two ones and an additional number below 4 right from the start.

Trip dice prey on the weakness of Shadow dice. Let us imagine that Hope and Wastenott are battling. Wastenott has been doing pretty well and has managed to wipe out Hope down to her 1-sided trip die without losing any dice himself. None of his dice are showing a 1. Wastenott is now utterly, completely hosed. Wastenott passes. Hope trips a random die. If that die comes up less than or equal , Hope takes it. Otherwise, it rolled something over 1. Wastenott passes. Hope continues. Each attack sequence has a probability of capturing, and Wastenott is completely locked down. He will eventually be wiped out. This will occur essentially whenever an all-Shadow character must pass against a character with Trip Dice. (We first encountered this effect when taking Faith vs. Wastenott, and all Wastenott’s values were above 2.)

I did some basic probability calculations on the various shadow dice for chances of being Blind, Active or Hosed against dice of various other sizes. I didn’t really know what I’d be doing with these when I wrote the program, but some interesting results emerged. With an equal die distribution amongst the six major die sizes, the 8-sided die is active the most, with the 10-sided being a close second. If the d16 is thrown into the mix, the 10-sided becomes marginally more active. Likewise, the 4-sided die is blind the least, and the 20-sided die is never hosed. When given a Shadow Swing die, my Shadowy friends and I tend to pick in the 8-12 range. When playing Peace or Wastenott, I tend to like 10-sided shadow dice, as they can target the heavier dice often without being too juicy a target themselves. I would suppose that a stalemate-oriented player would prefer 20-sided Shadows, but they’d be real liabilities unless you’re very good at Change Killing.

Here are the probability tables my program computed:

Averages without d16:

Die | Blind | Active | Hosed

—–+——-+——–+——-

4 | 0.194 | 0.323 | 0.483

6 | 0.316 | 0.376 | 0.308

8 | 0.417 | 0.394 | 0.189

10 | 0.500 | 0.389 | 0.111

12 | 0.567 | 0.367 | 0.067

20 | 0.725 | 0.275 | 0.000

Averages with d16:

Die | Blind | Active | Hosed

—–+——-+——–+——-

4 | 0.179 | 0.299 | 0.521

6 | 0.293 | 0.353 | 0.354

8 | 0.389 | 0.378 | 0.233

10 | 0.469 | 0.382 | 0.149

12 | 0.535 | 0.372 | 0.093

16 | 0.634 | 0.337 | 0.029

20 | 0.704 | 0.296 | 0.000

Shadow d4

Die | Blind | Active | Hosed

—–+——-+——–+——-

4 | 0.375 | 0.625 | 0.000

6 | 0.250 | 0.417 | 0.333

8 | 0.188 | 0.312 | 0.500

10 | 0.150 | 0.250 | 0.600

12 | 0.125 | 0.208 | 0.667

16 | 0.094 | 0.156 | 0.750

20 | 0.075 | 0.125 | 0.800

—–+——-+——–+——-

Avg | 0.179 | 0.299 | 0.521

Shadow d6

Die | Blind | Active | Hosed

—–+——-+——–+——-

4 | 0.583 | 0.417 | 0.000

6 | 0.417 | 0.583 | 0.000

8 | 0.312 | 0.438 | 0.250

10 | 0.250 | 0.350 | 0.400

12 | 0.208 | 0.292 | 0.500

16 | 0.156 | 0.219 | 0.625

20 | 0.125 | 0.175 | 0.700

—–+——-+——–+——-

Avg | 0.293 | 0.353 | 0.354

Shadow d8

Die | Blind | Active | Hosed

—–+——-+——–+——-

4 | 0.688 | 0.312 | 0.000

6 | 0.562 | 0.438 | 0.000

8 | 0.438 | 0.562 | 0.000

10 | 0.350 | 0.450 | 0.200

12 | 0.292 | 0.375 | 0.333

16 | 0.219 | 0.281 | 0.500

20 | 0.175 | 0.225 | 0.600

—–+——-+——–+——-

Avg | 0.389 | 0.378 | 0.233

Shadow d10

Die | Blind | Active | Hosed

—–+——-+——–+——-

4 | 0.750 | 0.250 | 0.000

6 | 0.650 | 0.350 | 0.000

8 | 0.550 | 0.450 | 0.000

10 | 0.450 | 0.550 | 0.000

12 | 0.375 | 0.458 | 0.167

16 | 0.281 | 0.344 | 0.375

20 | 0.225 | 0.275 | 0.500

—–+——-+——–+——-

Avg | 0.469 | 0.382 | 0.149

Shadow d12

Die | Blind | Active | Hosed

—–+——-+——–+——-

4 | 0.792 | 0.208 | 0.000

6 | 0.708 | 0.292 | 0.000

8 | 0.625 | 0.375 | 0.000

10 | 0.542 | 0.458 | 0.000

12 | 0.458 | 0.542 | 0.000

16 | 0.344 | 0.406 | 0.250

20 | 0.275 | 0.325 | 0.400

—–+——-+——–+——-

Avg | 0.535 | 0.372 | 0.093

Shadow d16

Die | Blind | Active | Hosed

—–+——-+——–+——-

4 | 0.844 | 0.156 | 0.000

6 | 0.781 | 0.219 | 0.000

8 | 0.719 | 0.281 | 0.000

10 | 0.656 | 0.344 | 0.000

12 | 0.594 | 0.406 | 0.000

16 | 0.469 | 0.531 | 0.000

20 | 0.375 | 0.425 | 0.200

—–+——-+——–+——-

Avg | 0.634 | 0.337 | 0.029

Shadow d20

Die | Blind | Active | Hosed

—–+——-+——–+——-

4 | 0.875 | 0.125 | 0.000

6 | 0.825 | 0.175 | 0.000

8 | 0.775 | 0.225 | 0.000

10 | 0.725 | 0.275 | 0.000

12 | 0.675 | 0.325 | 0.000

16 | 0.575 | 0.425 | 0.000

20 | 0.475 | 0.525 | 0.000

—–+——-+——–+——-

Avg | 0.704 | 0.296 | 0.000