Help me learn to figure out dice probability for games
August 9, 2010 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Help me teach myself enough about probability to properly balance the board game I want to design.

I want to try my hand at designing a complex Risk-like war game, along the lines of the things that Fantasy Flight puts out. Unfortunately, to do it properly I think it will take more knowledge of probability than I have. I was a math minor in college, but at this point its been about six years since my last math class, and I never actually took a probability course.

I need suggestions for books and websites that explain probability in an interesting and easy to understand manner. Bonus points if they focus their teaching around dice, since odds with dice are what I most need to figure out.

Extra bonus points if, once I'm done teaching myself, I know enough that I could figure out the most likely results in any given combat in a Warhammer or Warhammer 40K game.

Alternatively you could suggest good programs or tools for figuring stuff like this out, but I'm not sure I know enough to actually use the tools properly. I've already found dicelab, but wouldn't mind other tools as well, because dicelab is pretty complicated.
posted by Caduceus to Education (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Khan Academy is outstanding; he's got a series on probability.
posted by Theloupgarou at 10:57 AM on August 9, 2010

People seem to like Khan Academy -- I've never much looked at it. You might also try MIT's OpenCourseWare; relevant courses include 18.440 Probability and Random Variables (in the math department), 6.041 Probabilistic Systems Analysis and Applied Probability (in the EE/CS department). These are perhaps more "academic" than what you're looking for, though.

math.stackexchange is a new, fairly good site for asking math questions. might be tempting but only if your questions are potentially interesting to an "intended audience [of] professional mathematicians, mathematics graduate students, and advanced undergraduates." Either of these might be good places to go if you try to self-teach and run into some trouble.

Finally, I am a probabilist. (And I suspect I am not the only one on MeFi.) Feel free to memail me if you have any questions, although this is really a bit off-topic because you are not asking for fish, you are asking to be taught to fish.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:52 PM on August 9, 2010

Playtest and update, playtest and update, playtest and update. Understanding probability will not tell you when a game mechanic feels right in play.
posted by Hogshead at 3:22 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

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