My love of Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s dice game started off innocently enough. While I was settling into Rattay, the game’s first proper town, I’d visit one of its two taverns virtually every night. Deliverance’s evenings are so dark that I never really fancied wandering out into the wilds, and I’d picked a perk that let me go longer without sleep. That meant that, even when all the shops had shut, it was far too early for bed - and I had a lot of time to kill.
If I wasn’t sneaking around nobles’ homes pinching their velvet slippers then I was at the dice table playing Farkle, scratching together enough Groschen to buy some better armour the next day. I enjoyed the simplicity of both its equipment and its rules: you swirl six die around a wooden cup and slam them down on a table. You score with 1s and 5s (1s are 100 points, 5s are 50), or with a set of three or more of any other number. A set of 1s is best, followed by 6s, 5s, 4s and so on.
You set aside die after your first roll to bank their score, and then you can roll your remaining die again. However, if you don’t turn up any scoring die you bust your hand, and forfeit any score that you’ve banked. So, it's mixing the random element with some tough strategic decisions. Say you’ve already set aside a couple of 1s, and with the remaining four die you roll another alongside three blanks. You set the 1 aside, but should you then pass the action to your opponent, or roll the remaining three die again to try for a higher score?
The trick, early on, is patience. I had a few bad runs, and once I ended up completely bankrupt, but overall I won more than I lost. The NPCs I was playing, presumably filled with ale, would make blasé decisions, and roll when they’d already set four die aside. By hitting a consistent 250 to 300 points a turn, I could normally win by waiting for them to make mistakes.
It was a time sink, and a pleasant distraction from all the murdering. And then one day, when I was travelling between Rattay and nearby Ledetchko, I was stopped by a beggar on the side of the road. He didn’t want a handout: he wanted to sell me a loaded die. The game had hinted they existed, but I’d forgotten about it until then. I snapped it up, dropped what I was doing, and headed straight back into town.
I slapped down 50 Groschen on the nearest table and started playing. The loaded die’s dots were comically large but somehow nobody noticed, and I won comfortably. A bit of research told me that there were at least a dozen die to discover across Deliverance’s open world, offering different colours, a variety of traits, and a better chance of winning.
Soon enough I started finding them. In Rattay, during a particularly drunken evening with Lord Capon at the bathhouse (in which I ended up picking flowers half-naked at midnight from the castle garden), I won a game of strip Farkel with one of the maids, pocketing another unique die. Later I met a charlatan in Sasau, who spoke in riddles and wanted me to win a rabbit’s foot from the town’s gambler. I beat the gambler in a close one, taking the charm along with a Holy Trinity die that has a greater than normal chance of rolling a three. I still haven’t found a use for this one.
Then I stumbled across a Lucky Die while hunting for the many treasure chests in Bohemia, which kicked off a five-hour search for the various treasure maps and the locations of their loot. This unfortunately involved abandoning a quest to find a cure for the plague in Merhojed, which did cause some of the ill to perish. But it was an accident.
The most sinister moment of my obsession came when I was stopped by a riddler spouting something about 10 candles in a feast hall that are blown out by a gust of wind. I’d read online that riddlers might carry a selection die on them. I’d given him the wrong answer to his teaser, so I was already annoyed. The temptation was too great. I made sure nobody was around and – I’m almost ashamed to write it – bashed him over the head with my bailiff's mace. Riddle me that one mate. I looted his corpse, and found another die that I added to my growing pile.
Between gambling, treasure hunting and murdering I’ve amassed 14 different die. Now I can play two games one after the other using completely different sets, enjoying the patterns that their bright colours and shiny surfaces make, and chuckling at the fact that none of my opponents have noticed anything untoward.
I must have played hundreds of rounds, but the game itself still holds some mystery. I know how some of the loaded dice work having looked them up, and a handful are easy to work out: the Lu, Ci, and Fer die have more chance of rolling a six, for example. But I still don't know everything about my collection. I like the fact that I’m not quite sure if the Shrinking Playing Die is more prone to roll a six, or if it just mimics other die in my hand, thus increasing my score. The converse is true for the Die of Misfortune: does it just have less chance of rolling 6s and 1s, or is it actively working against me to try and bust my score?
I also enjoy how opaque the process of starting a game of Farkel is. Most of the time you’ll see a gambler waiting at the table to play you, but sometimes the seat sits empty. When you take all your opponent’s gold, they stand up from the table and walk off. I’ve waited a few hours in-game for someone else to take their spot, but I haven’t got the patience to sit there all day to see if a different chancer shows up. Perhaps I have to wait a few days until the first man replenishes his gold and comes back for more? Maybe they've rumbled that the guy with a pouch of ostentatious dice isn't just lucky. I’m still not sure.
That tinge of mystery, combined with how fun I find the simple ruleset, keeps me coming back even 60 hours into the game. And I know there are more die out there waiting to be collected. Whenever I pass by a tavern in my expensive late-game clothes, thousands of gold coins clinking in my pocket, it doesn’t matter if I’m on an urgent mission. I always have time to sit down and take 16 Groschen off a drunk farmer.