Monday, 21 November 2011

Dice Psychology

Now I realise that there are many mathmaticians who have studied statistics - the missus is one of them - who will tell you that you have no psychological influence over the outcome of a dice roll.

According to the missus each individual die roll is a unique event of probability. Which is undeniably true, but it doesn't explain why I roll more 1's if I say "anything but a 1" before rolling instead of "I need 2+".

Nor indeed does it explain why somethimes you can play a game, and know from the moment it starts that you are either going to win or lose.

I'm not talking about the list, army match up, or anything tangible; but rather those games in which you just know you can't win.

The example that springs to mind is a game I played with my Woodies vs High Elves. It was a rematch - I had won the previous encounter - and I got the feeling that the outcome meant way more to my opponent than it should have. Plus they were the kind of competative player than has borderline personality issues with regard to the hobby.

The crux to a combat in the centre between an Alter Noble and an Archmage who was hiding behind 5 shades to protect him from the challenge. The combat went five turns of combat, and eventually pulled in a unit of High Elf archers.

The combat occured because I wanted to shut down the magic phase, in order that I could position my encircling troops to take out his support troops before making an attack on the Pheonic Guard bunker. Now clearly I was rolling well and he was rolling badly in order than the combat went as long as it did. However because his mage was refusing the challenge I was determined to win the fight and bring him to battle. And it wasn't until my focus dropped because I had decided that I had won, that the dice Gods went against me, my attacks whiffed, my defence failed and I was run down and killed.

Obviously if you don't believe in the psychology of dice, you would rationalise this as the averages balancing themselves out. The problem is that this ignores what is going on in the mind off the player when the dice were thrown, the narrative of the dice up to that point, etc.

Yes, the dice are inanimate objects, and the result is a matter of chance... and yet... and yet.... why is that whenever there is a dice throw that I don't want to make, that I know will go against me, or conversely that I can't wait to make and I know will go in my favour, it always goes the way I want it to go/against me?

There was a Standard Bearer article on the subject a while ago, based on Jervis' conversations with a psychologist in Bugman's Bar. According to the psychologist the reason people percieve this effect is because just as it is human nature to find patterns in randomness, it is natural to find significance in extreme results.

Which is fine except it ignores that there are two psychologies - on either side of the table - involved in the dice throw.

At which point I will stop before I get all Jonathon Cainer and start waffling on about the energies which flow back and forth across the table during a game.


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