For some reason, gamers seem to have an obsession with dice. We buy huge amounts of them with very little good reason. At Gen Con gamers buy them by the pitcher full (literally by the pitcher full, when I asked a gamer one time why they had so many they responded: “You never know when a die might run out of 20’s!”). Every year they come out in different colors, patterns, shapes, and materials. But what really makes one die different than the next?
Chessex, easily the most well known dice manufacturer, is best known for their high quality and stunning designs, not to mention their elevated prices. I suppose in the world of dice, you pay for what you get. Chessex dice seem to have a little more substance to them, weighing probably closer to a gram more per die than their competitors. At the same time, I have seen less innovation from Chessex. They sell good ol’ fashion polyhedral dice, none of that other nonsense.
By contrast Koplow dice are very innovative (although they do carry the staples as well). They are the folks who have brought us the ‘Sneeze dice’ (5mm dice, aptly named, because should you sneeze you will blow them all away), round dice, blank dice, dice with symbols, and other obnoxious novelty dice. These dice are also very economical, blowing away Chessex prices easily. But remember, you get what you pay for. Koplow dice are lighter weight, and generally feel cheaper all around. But they do give you a lot of bang for your buck.
Then there is Crystal Caste. They are the folks who so kindly donate the Gen Con dice each year in the swag bags, and for that I do appreciate them. This is where you go to if you want gold dice, dice made entirely of platinum, crystal dice, etc. Very very high end stuff, and not something I would feel comfortable playing with. While they do carry some standard dice, they are very limited and simply can’t hold up with Chessex or Koplow.
What about dice for those gamers who loathe the idea of ‘lucky dice’. Dice are suppose to be random! 100% random, no preference for any number over any other number. Game Science is the place to go for your dice then. These dice are popped straight out of the mold and sold as is. Nice sharp edges and no paint, also not very pretty if you ask me. If you find yourself ever needing a casino quality D10, these guys are where to go, however I’ll stick with my pretty yet slightly imperfectly balanced dice. They are good enough for government work.
Ah, but where are you going to find dice with pips in the shapes of your dwarven bards family crest? Why the Internet of course! Several online retailers have started offering custom dice. Design it the way you want it and then order 1 die, or 1000 dice. Your call. This process is cheap for what you are getting, but certainly more expensive than buying a die off the shelf. You can really get some very stunning looking dice from this, however, you can also end up with nearly illegible dice this way too. If you want to go this route my advice is the good old K.I.S.S rule: Keep It Simple Stupid! A fine retailer for ordering your own custom dice is www.q-workshop.com.
So what dice company is the best? It really all depends on what you are looking for. I own some Chessex dice, but also have my collection padded out with a fair number of Koplow dice. Of course I also have the Gen Con dice from the past several years, and thus have dice from Crystal Caste.
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