Friday, November 20, 2009

Reference Library Updates after The Gathering Storm: Dice Games

By Linda

The Dice Games article has been updated with information from The Gathering Storm about two new dice games, both requiring two dice. They are rather fun additions. I have posted one of them here under the spoiler tag.

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Cat’s Paw, Third Gem (Ebou Dar), Feathers Aloft (Cairhien)

Two dice are used for this game, with one person throwing them and everyone else betting on his tosses. The stakes are usually equal, but Mat waived that requirement:

"I ... don't know if we can match that," said a man with a short black beard. "M'lord," he added belatedly.
"My gold against your silver," Mat said lightly.

- The Gathering Storm, The Tipsy Gelding

Dice are thrown until a winning or losing throw is made. The winner takes all the stakes and new stakes are made for the next round. A throw of a one and a two is an instant loss. A pair of fours is “an outright-winning throw” (The Gathering Storm, The Tipsy Gelding).

The game strongly resembles Barbudi, a popular gambling game for two (although obviously onlookers can make bets among themselves) using two dice. (In Mat’s game it was him versus the clients of the inn, seeing as their pooled resources couldn’t match his own.)

In Barbudi both players put equal stakes in the centre and then one player throws both dice. If the dice show 6-6, 5-6, 5-5 or 4-4, the player wins the stakes outright. If the dice show 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, or 3-3, the player loses and the other player takes the stakes. Any other combination rolled is indeterminate and the other player then throws the dice. The same criteria are used to determine if that throw wins, loses or is indeterminate. The two players continue rolling in this way until there is a winning or a losing throw. The winner then takes both players’ stakes. Stakes are ventured again for the next round.

The feature of the game is that:

both players have equal prospects to succeed, irrespective of which player takes the first throw.

- Reiner Knizia, Dice Games Properly Explained

In this case, seemingly equal chance to win. Mat chose a game that would normally be fair, and then exerted his luck to lose (his first toss was a 1-2, which lost, just as it would in Barbudi) until the stakes were very high, and then win (with a pair of fours, which is also a win in Barbudi). Any of the betters could have pulled out, but their greed kept them playing. Mat was relying on that and used them as ‘cat’s paws’ (hence the name of the game) to win what they wouldn’t sell: sufficient quantities of the goods he needed. Mat the ‘shady’ character pays the extra price of being attacked by a town of ‘shades,’ in this case not entirely disembodied ones. And Mat is King of the Dead (see Mat essay) as well as a shady character. Or was Mat the cat’s paw of the Pattern? Mat has complained about being a tool of the Pattern often enough.

The scene ends with Mat claiming that he won the food and drink fairly.

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