Types of Dice by Number of Sides
When we think of dice, what usually comes to mind is a small cube whose six faces are numbered from 1 to 6. These are most commonly used in games of chance and games of strategy that have some component of randomness. Yahtzee, Clue, Monopoly, Parcheesi, craps, and many other classic games are played with regular 6-sided dice, also known as D6 dice.
Yet they are also made in other shapes, allowing for more than six outcomes. For example, archeologists have uncovered small carved dodecahedra in Roman and Greek ruins, suggesting the ancients used these 12-sided shapes as dice. Today, D12 dice are mainly found in table-top role playing games and educational math activities, but not in many mainstream games. Octahedral dice with 8 faces allow for more outcomes than traditional 6-sided ones, but you are unlikely to find these in board games either.
List of Different Types
If you want to discover new kinds of dice or create your own unique games, you can find a large selection of polyhedral varieties at most game stores. The magic of 3D printing also allows professional game designers and hobbyists to create new shapes never seen before. Here is a list of the most common types that are commercially available.
D4, 4-Sided Dice
D4 dice are most often made in the shape of a tetrahedron, aka triangular pyramid. When a 4-sided die is thrown and lands on one of its flat faces, what you see from above is a point, rather than a flat face. The value of the roll is usually read along the bottom of the die on the landing face. Some manufacturers make 4-sided ones with the points labeled so you can read the value at the top.
Because the shape is so pointy, it doesn't roll as well as dice that have more faces. It also hurts like hell if you accidentally step on one! For these reasons, and because reading them can be awkward, D4 are often replaced with spinners. A spinner divided into four equal sections produces the same outcomes as a 4-sided die. A 4-sided dreidel can also be used in place of a D4.
D6, 6-Sided Dice
Dice with six faces are usually cube shaped and numbered with dots, also called pips. Some are also numbered with the digits 1 through 6. Some manufacturers also make 6-sided ones in the shape of crystals with elongated triangular faces and pointed ends. These are all shown in the image above.
D7, 7-Sided Dice
Unlike other shapes listed here, a 7-sided pentagonal prism isn't always a fair die, meaning it may be more likely to land on the pentagonal faces than the rectangular faces. If the pentagonal prism lands on one of the rectangular sides, the value is read along the edge that shows upward.
Unfortunately for gamers who want to play with a fair 7-sided die, there isn't any polyhedral shape with seven equivalent faces. Perhaps the easiest way to play with a fair 7-sided die is to use an 8-sided die and designate the face labeled "8" as "roll again."
D8, 8-Sided Dice
Dice with eight faces are made in the shape of octahedrons. The faces of an octahedron are equilateral triangles that meet four to a corner. This solid shape has six corners and 12 edges; it can also be visualized as two square pyramids that have been glued together at their bases.
On octahedral dice, the faces are usually numbered so that opposite faces sum to nine -- 1 is across from 8, 2 is across from 7, 3 is across from 6, and 4 is across from 5. The figure above shows a folding pattern for making an octahedron out of paper.
D10, 10-Sided Dice
D10 dice come in the shape of pentagonal trapezohedra; think of two pentagonal pyramids that have been fused at their bases in such a way that the faces of one pyramid line up with the edges of the other. This creates a solid shape with kite (deltoid) shaped faces with opposite faces parallel.
D10 are often used to generate percentiles in role playing games. One die is labeled with the digits 0 through 9 and the other with multiples of 10 from 00 to 99. When you roll both, you generate a number between 0 and 99.
D12, 12-Sided Dice
12-sided dice are based on the Platonic solid dodecahedron. It has 12 regular pentagon faces that meet three to a corner. Dodecahedral dice are labeled with the numbers 1 through 12 so that the sum of the numbers on opposite faces equals 13. These can also be used as calendar dice, with the faces labeled with the names of the month. A pair of 6-sided dice numbered as follows can be used to represent the date number 1 through 31:
- 0, 1, 2, 4, 5, 8
- 0, 1, 2, 3, 6, 7
The "6" can be oriented to read as either a value of six or nine.
D16, 16-Sided Dice
16-sided dice are harder to find and do not come with standard sets of unusual types. Most 16-sided dice shapes are octagonal bipyramids, in other terms, two octagonal pyramids fused at their bases. The faces are isosceles triangles with two long sides and one short side, where the long sides are more than twice as long as the short sides, making the faces quite narrow. They are labeled with the numbers 1 through 16 so that opposite faces sum to 17. The even numbers are on one side and the odd numbers on the other.
D20, 20-Sided Dice
Dice with 20 faces are based on the Platonic solid known as the icosahedron. An icosahedron consists of 20 equilateral triangle faces that meet five to a corner. Because these have so many faces, they appear more spherical and are easy to roll. The faces are labeled with the numbers 1 through 20 so that opposite faces sum to 21.
D24, 24-Sided Dice
24-sided dice come in two shapes, the tetrakis hexahedron and the deltoidal icositetrahedron. The tetrakis hexahedron has 24 triangular faces. You can picture it as a cube in which each square face has been replaced with a very flat square pyramid. The deltoidal icositetrahedron has 24 kite-shaped faces. You can picture it as a cube in which each square face has been faceted into four smaller quadrilaterals.
D30, 30-Sided Dice
A rhombic triacontahedron is a polyhedron whose faces are all rhombuses. The acute angled ends of the rhombuses meet five to a point, the obtuse angled ends meet three to a point. In total it has 30 faces, 60 edges, and 32 points. Because it has so many faces with a high level of symmetry, the figure appears almost round and rolls much like a sphere. The sides are usually labeled with the numbers 1 through 30, with opposite sides summing to 31. Some word games are played with D30 dice labeled with letters of the alphabet instead of numbers. 26 of the faces contain the letters A through Z and the other four faces are wild.
Large Number Dice
The more faces a polyhedron has, the more round it has to become, which means dice with a large number of faces don't land as well. Some large number types include the D100 (or Zocchihedron, named after its developer Zocchi) and D50.
For Math Teachers and Board Game Geeks
Purchase polyhedral dice in bulk for math classroom games or to package with your board games.