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It was recommened that I also post this in Misc Game Accessory.
Over the years I've become convinced that a good dice tray is almost an essential for any gaming that I do, be it role-playing, miniature gaming, or board gaming. It started way back when I was in high school playing Rolemaster with a group of people older than me. The GM, Greg, rolled his dice in a cocktail tray and it just worked so well for him.
Over the years I've experimented with lots of different dice trays, some bought and some built. I've discovered what I think is desirable in a dice tray and thought I'd post my discoveries. I hope it is helpful or at least enjoyable.
Of course, why a dice tray in the first place? Well without a tray, the dice are not constrained. Everyone knows how annoying it is when a dice rolls on the floor. It immediately goes to the least desirable place on the floor all the while, the roller claims "It's a 6! It's a 6!" Or how about when the die gets caught in the crack where the table leaves meet and ends up cocked. Or the worst of all events, the dice blow across the game board sending counters flying everywhere.
Typically the choices to contain the dice are dice trays, dice towers, and dice cups. Personally, I like the feel of rolling the dice in my hand and that is why I gravitated towards trays. Cups tend to be noisy unless they are lined and towers are cool but make me feel like I'm playing a slot machine. Nope, it is trays for me.
The first tray I picked up was a plastic one from Chessex. It was a circle about 6 inches in diameter, shaped like a circle with thin green felt inside it. It technically had a clear piece of plastic on one edge that could open up and store dice, but there was nothing keeping the clear plastic on so its dice holding ability was questionable. The tray was a little on the cheap side, the felt was wafer thin, but it worked well for me. A friend of mine really liked it so I sold it to him and bought a different one, upgrading to a better one. Looking back, this tray was almost perfect. It was sturdy, light weight, not too small, and not too large. It was a little on the ugly side but it could be tossed in a game bag without worry that it would fall apart.
Sorry, no picture.
The next tray I bought, to replace the previous one I sold, was Koplow's large wooden hexagonal one. The wood was finished in a high gloss varnish and the green felt inside it felt nice and thick. The entire tray measured 12" from side to side. I now had the king of dice trays. At this time, I discovered that bigger is not necessarily better. The tray worked great and there was plenty of room to roll the dice, but the thing took up a lot of space on the table, a table already cluttered with books and pencils and paper or a game board, cards, and counters. Plus, its large size meant that it took up a lot of space in the bag with the other gaming stuff. In fact, most times it didn't fit in the bag so I'd have to carry it separately. It is a great tray, but I only bring it out when the table has the space and we are playing at my house.
So I realized that bigger wasn't necessarily better. I have quite a few Hirst Arts molds, where you cast castle-type bricks out of plaster and build miniature buildings and terrain. While browsing the forum's on their website, I saw a dice tray someone had made out of the bricks. I had enough bricks left over from the last time I cast that I could build one easily. So I cut a piece of cardboard out the size I wanted the tray, glued my bricks on it and glued some gray felt onto the bottom. I had some cool architectural pieces left over so I glued those one as well. Some quick gray paint and drybrushing and I had a pretty awesome looking dice tray. The thing measured 3 inches by 5 inches, easily small enough to put on the table. This one worked pretty well. It could hold my dice and still have some room left over to roll them. The walls were high enough for the dice to bounce around but I could still reach in pretty easily.
I ultimately stopped using it for a couple of reasons. First off, it was just a bit too small. The dice didn't move around quite as much as I'd like and sometimes getting the correct die out was like playing a claw game at the arcade. The other issue was that I had used regular plaster of paris to cast the blocks, rather than the dental plaster I normally used. Consequently, my dice tray got pretty banged up over the months and pieces either broke off or got chipped.
Clearly something more durable was needed. I saw a website that sold dice trays and in looking at them, I noticed it was just PVC pipe mounted on a wooden board. Heck, I could make that pretty easily. So I got some 3/4" plastic PVC and four elbows. I cut a board 10 inches by 10 inches, glued the PVC pipe into a square shape with the elbows, painted it, and then glued the pipe and felt to the wooden board. Voila, a brand new dice tray. I discovered two problems with this one. First, when I glued the felt down, I thought I would glue down a second piece of felt in the middle to make the rolling area extra padded. It worked well, but I miscut the felt so there was a little gap on one side, which created a dip on the rolling surface. This lead to cocked dice. Secondarily it too was too large. I needed something smaller to be completely portable like I'd like it to be. I could rebuild this one, but discovered a better path.
Out on RPG.Net I read a post from Grubman about how he bought a box lid from Hobby Lobby for $2, got some craft foam, and made his own dice tray. There's a Hobby Lobby just down the street from me, so off I went. I didn't find the box lids that Grubman used but I found something a little better. A tiny wooden serving tray clearly meant for decoration. Its size was prefect, being 6 inches long and 3.5 inches wide, it had a nice shape, it appeared to be durable, and best of all it was $.99. I took it home and scrounged up some craft foam my daughter had (hence the purple and yellow colors, not my first choice but hey it was free). I glued the foam in and had the ultimate tray. It fit in my bag without a problem, was light enough to be unnoticeable (the Chessex octagonal one is HEAVY) and had plenty of room to roll the dice. Now, my biggest problem is determining how I want to decorate the outside. Maybe a dark stain.
This would have been the end of my quest if not for an innocent looking booth at BGG.con. VixenTor games had a booth setup there showing off their wares. I knew about the dice towers they made, but since I wasn't a dice tower guy, I didn't give them much thought. But then I saw an interesting looking dice tray. It was made out of fabric. How could this work? I talked to them and they told me what I was looking at. It was a dice bag that turned into a dice tray! Amazing. Now, the bag does have an edge where the dice could get cocked and it isn't a truly flat rolling surface, but 99% of the time the dice roll great on it, and when you are finished, you pull the drawstrings and your dice are held in a great bag. Since I previously held my dice in an old VHS tape case, this was clearly a step up.
So now my quest appears finished. Between my VixenTor dice bag and my Hobby Lobby dice tray, I have great rolling surfaces available that don't take up too much space and are easily portable.
I hope this helps people when it comes to looking for a dice tray. I'd love to know what trays you use or if you disagree with some of my thoughts. Let me know, until then roll high (or low if that's what your game uses).
- Last edited Tue Feb 10, 2009 8:01 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Feb 10, 2009 8:01 pm
I know it has been a few years since you made this post, but I wonder what you'd think about a dice tray that takes up almost no table space?
I call it the Dice Shield, and it uses 3 legs to raise the dice tray above the table so you can place it over any pieces without disturbing them. Its clear so you can see where you're placing it. And I found a clear vinyl liner to soften the sound, kind of a transparent felt.
If there's anyone in the San Francisco Bay area who would like to try it out and maybe write a review, please let me know! I'm currently bringing it by Endgame in Oakland and both Gamescape and Two Cats Comics in San Francisco for playtesting. If you're out of the Bay area but you review a lot of stuff, let me know and I could possibly send a prototype to you.
I hope to Kickstart it and make a mold so they can be mass produced! If you'd like to see a rendered video of what the final product will look like, please see: http://diceshield.com
So, what do you think? Would you like to get that table space back?
I have been looking for a dice tray and your post inspired me to try making my own. I got a few boxes from AC Moore to experiment with.
I totally stole the OP's last idea for a DIY dice tray. Went with a little bigger tray, but still only $1.49. Plus some felt and a little time, and I've got a tray for under $3. May add some rubber feet, if we experience any sliding issues on our table. So, maybe $4 all said. That should tide me over until I break down and order a nice stained one from somebody one Etsy....
I've gotta say, the longer I'm into gaming, the more Hobby Lobby is becoming my favorite store (barring FLGS, of course).
Rick Louallen Jr.
Vixentor looks out-of-business according to website. Any alternative vendors that are similar?
Here's my dice tray, total cost just slight over USD2.
- Last edited Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:00 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Nov 24, 2013 10:47 am
Ur of Persia wrote:
that's a good idea...using an old picture frame.
My first attempt at a Dice Tray. I found this at Hobby Lobby:
The top makes a nice dice tray. The bottom is an "extra deep" tray that's perfect for my 4 year old that ends up rolling all his dice off the table 1/2 the time.
Added bonus, it's provides decent storage (5" cube). I can fit both the Zombie dice and Martian dice tubes inside, or 3-4 small card games, or even King of Tokyo + Power Up expansion (everything but the main board which you don't really need).
Gonna go back to the store tomorrow and pick up another box and make another.
that's a good idea...using an old picture frame.
Thanks, it has been working well so far and prevents dice from going all over the place.
I have updated the URL to the current one.
Hello all, great work to everyone who posted pictures of their work above. I recently made a dice tray for a friend, octagonal, 3" sides, which makes it approximately 6" in diameter. I think it turned out pretty well.
The wood used is black poisonwood (my friend is playing a rogue, very fitting), which is an exotic hardwood. All I did to finish it was brush on a few coats of gloss polyurethane.
I got a custom request for a similar design, but instead of all 8 sides being 3", this customer wanted two sides 6" long, making an octagon that is more of an oval than circle.
This wood is red oak stained with "Rosewood" and finished with gloss polyurethane.
I lined each with felt.
After having some success with them I've put them up on Etsy, in case anyone is interested:
Also, I would be happy to give advice, discuss designs, or give anyone suggestions if they are interested: firstname.lastname@example.org
A slightly different take on dice trays.
My requirements were:
1- fits in the game box (no more "I wish I had brought that dice tray")
2- for those games with lots of dice rolling, 1 tray per player
3- reduces noise (we play often near other people engaged in non-game activities)
4- cheap (I have LOTS of dice-based games)
From 1- and 2-, it is clear that trays had to be:
- rather small
- very light
The trick was to make them useful despite all of this.
I used the trickiest game I knew as a design constraint: Tiny Epic Galaxy. "Trickiest" as in "such a small box, what do you mean a dice tray in there ?". Of course you can roll inside the game box, but this does not take care of the “no noise” requirement.
There it is:
The design uses:
- base: cardboard tray from takeaway food truck supplies or similar
- exterior: self-adhesive paper, printed in color
- interior: self-adhesive felt
Time to build: about 30 mn per tray (now that I have refined the process).
Cost: about 1 euro per tray. OK I invested 25 euros to build about 40 trays, the difference is the cost of inkjet printing.
40 trays you say ?! I know, that’s way too few, in the end I will likely build over 100, for myself, friends and our club’s game library...
Anyway, here are a couple more examples:
- Las Vegas: 2 trays to share (players roll on their turn, no need for 1 tray per player; 2 seemed adequate for efficient sharing)
- Discoveries: 1 tray per player (lots of rolling, all the time)
Rolling in those light trays is surprisingly good, no need to hold them in place with your hand, and the walls are rather high (38mm) so bouncing them out is rare.
Hope you guys like those. Comments welcome.
- Last edited Tue Apr 5, 2016 8:42 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Sun Apr 3, 2016 10:29 pm