Q: Why not use two d10 dice?
A: Because we don’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot this early? Well, this was considered but there will be many more aspects that need to be carefully examined if we go to extremes like this, namely the board as such might not be suitable anymore. By now we have considered one d8 or d12 dice etc instead. d10 is for most purposes optimal. We haven’t actually tried to play using two d10 dice as there are so many known problem areas this would generate and we have been able to identify them clearly already while doing game development discussions.
Q: Seriously, another backgammon variant, yawn…
A: That’s not a question.
The reason Eskgammon beats most (if not all) other backgammon variants is that the most popular ones are basically just props. Once you play a prop 100 times it loses it’s appeal. Nackgammon is the only one that makes any sense (IMHO) and it quickly deteriorates into normal backgammon. Once you play Eskgammon 100 times you have barely scratched the surface.
Q: Can you come straight off the bar into position 9?
A: No. This is an interesting question since it would fundamentally change many aspects of the game like the blitz. At this point the consensus is that this would break the game too much so the answer is still No. After lots of games under the belt the consensus stays the same.
Q: Can you bear in from 9 pips away with your last man outside the home or do you need to have everyone in your home first?
A: You have to bring in everyone into your home first although this is as debatable as the previous problem. Bringing in your last man directly would not break the game as much but interferes with keeping the rules simple (bear off can begin when all men are in your home). In addition one of the complex strategy changes presented in Eskgammon depends on not being able to play high rolls as easily. So having your last outside man on your bar point and rolling 9-2 means you first have to come into your home using the 2 after which you can use the 9 to bear off. Since only having one d10 dice in use guarantees you a chance to come in, eventually, this does not break anything. This is also the current consensus. And again, after lots of games this seems to have been the correct game design decision.
Q: So you can get stuck with your last man trying to get home if you roll 9-1 and your opponent is standing in front of you?
A: Oh yes, this is one of the fun aspects. When you normally would get stuck only with a 1/1 roll you now have plenty of rolls (1/1, 1/7, 1/8, 1/9, 1/0) that can make your easy path home messed up. We also feel that if we allowed you to bear in from outside your home board, we pretty much would have to let you come off the bar outside of your opponents board as well.
Q: No, seriously, if I roll 10-1 from position 10 with my last man on board I could only move a 1? And if I then roll 9-1 etc…
A: Yes, bearing in (fast) with your last man is not as certain anymore. Generally you are moving faster which saves a lot more gammons but you also have the opportunity to have the luck element really screwing you at times. Again, this is the current consensus and this just might be annoying enough for enough people to get changed in the future :). And no, this won’t be changed (easily). This seems to be a fundamental thing needed to be grasped when playing Eskgammon and allowing bear in with your last man from outside your home breaks more things than it fixes.
Q: But if I have 2 men on the 7 point and roll 9-6? Can I then bring one man in and bear off the other using the 9?
A: Still no. The rules say you have to have all pieces in your home board before bearing off. This is by design (without going into details) and yes, it really sucks when it happens to you (been there, done that :). If it’s any consolidation, once you played this wrong a few times, you’ll certainly become a better Eskgammon player.
Q: Wouldn’t it be possible to roll the 1d10 dice at the start of a game?
A: Yes, but for now we feel the starting roll then gets too many pips and thus too much of a headstart for the winning player. And rolling two d10 dice is just a bad idea (considering the board size) so this won’t be considered further anymore either.
Q: But but, maybe a player may chose with which dice to roll at start?
A: No. We even considered that (I promise) but it would become Spacegammon then.
Q: The d10 dice sometimes get stuck even though the roll is completely readable.
A: Ah, the “bad board” problem, which is rare. This one requires some explanation (and I will not add pictures – we have pictures of d10 dice standing on a corner which really should be impossible).
d10 dice are obviously slightly more prone not to land flat. With a good board this really isn’t a problem and you can figure out if the dice are laying straight or not by pressing them down (like you would test dice playing regular backgammon). It is quite rare that d10 dice end up next to the board sides or a checker so that the dice would move if you remove the checker next to it.
However, with a bad board (one where the surface isn’t flat, the triangles are slightly higher than the surface etc) it sometimes becomes difficult or even impossible to say if the dice are straight or not, especially if the d10 dice land on an elevated triangle AND next to the board side. Pressing on the dice will then shift the dice slightly, but often just because any dice would move if the triangles are higher than the surface on the board. It is just more apparent with d10 dice.
For this purpose, there is an optional rule in Eskgammon, agreed beforehand:
If the d10 dice are clearly readable, they are usable as such.
This rule speeds play on lower quality boards, provided your opponent is sensible.
If you are playing for money, your opponent or you are drunk or your opponent (or you 🙂 ) are known for always arguing until the outcome is favourable, don’t use this optional rule.
With a sensible opponent you never argue about 0-30 degree slightly off dice (which actually then reduces rerolls, for d10 (!) dice). 45 degree obviously should be rerolled anyway so maybe you have one debatable reroll per night. Summa summarum, on a really bad board, less fuss, provided you know your opponent.