GAME OF THE MONTH
Antic High RollersDice-throwing excitement combines luck with strategy
By Frank Walters
Test your luck and your nerve with this high-rolling BASIC game of dice for two to eight players - only one joystick required! Runs on Atari 8-bit computers with at least 48K and a disk drive.
I first learned the dice game High Rollers when stationed overseas with the Air Force. Though fun and easy to learn, the game had one drawback. We had to keep score on a blackboard, and with a large number of players it wasn't easy to track everyone's score. I figured that High Rollers was a good candidate for conversion to a computer game, since the computer itself makes a great scorekeeper, easily displaying the running scores onscreen.
Get RollingType in HIROLLER.BAS, Listing 1, check it with TYPO II and SAVE a copy to disk before you RUN it.
When you first RUN the game, you'll see the title screen and the program will ask if you want to see the Help screen for instructions.
Then, you will be asked for the number of players. With four players or less, I recommend that each player take two turns to make the game more interesting. Four players would enter  for the number of players, then type in each name twice in succession. This gives each player two chances to score in each round.
In High Rollers you roll three dice at a time, counting any points made until one-player reaches exactly 3,000 points. The player with the dice can choose to keep rolling (and risk going bust with a pointless roll), or pass the dice to the next player. When you pass the dice, you add your current points to the bank, where you can't lose them. If you bust, you lose any points not in the bank.
To play High Rollers on your Atari, you need to have a single joystick plugged into port 1. Push the joystick forward to roll the dice. Then, when you have enough points, press the joystick trigger to enter your points in the bank and "pass" the dice to the next player.
You get 100 points for any ones you roll, 50 points for fives. You get an additional 1,000 points for three of a kind- any kind. If you roll three ones, for instance, you'd get 1,300 points for that roll. Reaching 3,000 points isn't as simple as it sounds. Before you can open your bank account, you must first roll a minimum of 500 points. Once you have a bank account established, you can pass your turn and bank your points with as few as 50 current points. You also have to reach 3,000 points exactly - if you go over, you bust, and the next player gets a turn. The computer randomly chooses the first player, indicated onscreen with an arrow. Play then follows down the list of players. Prompts appear to tell players when to roll the dice, or when they have made an illegal move. When one player wins by reaching exactly 3,000 points, the program presents three options - press [START] to play again with the same players, [SELECT] to enter different players, or [OPTION] to end the game and return to BASIC. When you use the [START] option, a record is kept of the games won by each player.
Figuring OddsFiguring the odds for this game depends on the permutations, or possible combinations, of the three dice. With six-sided dice, there are 216 possible rolls (6 x 6 x 6).
When you roll a bust, none of the dice can have a one or a five, and you can't have a triplet (three of a kind) of any of the other numbers (2,3,4,6). You have four chances in six of rolling any of these numbers on a single die. If you multiply the number of chances of rolling one of these numbers on one die (4), by the chances on the next (4) and on the third (4), you get the odds of rolling without a one or a five appearing. 4 x 4 x 4 = 64 chances in 216.
These 64 chances include triplets, which must be subtracted. Each triplet is only one of the 216 possible combinations of the dice, so we subtract 1 for each of the non-scoring numbers. (64 - 4 = 60.) This means there are 60 ways to roll a non-scoring combination, out of 216 possible combinations. Your odds of scoring, then, are 156 in 216 (216 - 60 = 156).
All this presumes you have 1,700 points or less. If you have more points, you add the chance of going bust by exceeding 3,000 points. The closer your score gets to 3,000, the greater the chances of going bust before you get the points you need. For example, if you have 2,950 points, the only roll you can use is a single five - any more points, and you'll bust by going over.
Without boring you with arithmetic, a single five comes up 48 out of 216 times. That leaves 168 ways to bust. When playing for those last few hundred points, you want to avoid going over by increasing your chances to win in a single roll. Your chances are better (60 in 216) if you have 2900 points in the bank than if you have 2950points (48 in 216) because you can roll 100 points in two ways, not just one. (Two fives, or one ace.) Keep the odds in mind, and you'll win more consistently. How ever, remember that odds are the downfall of all gamblers. They only even things out over the long run. Over millions of rolls, the dice will follow the probabilities figured here, but in a single game luck still plays a major part. The most unlikely rolls can and will happen, even against the odds - but that's all part of the fun!
Listing: HIROLLER.BAS Download
Frank Walters is a retired AF fighter pilot living in Panama City, Florida. He has been running an Atari BBS for five years. His previous programs for antic include Lazy Loader (May 1985) and VCR Labeler from the May 1989 issue.