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dice rolling

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jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008

This came up in the discussion of hpox game in the GDW, but I think it's a bigger topic now...

sedjtroll wrote:
jwarrend wrote:

But the crux of the matter here, to me, is that you have a fast-paced game that you're trying to simulate. If you have a card in front of you that allows you to take 4 actions, and you have to roll a die for each one, that could potentially bog the game down.

As I read it in hpox' rules, not all actions require a roll.

It's hard to know whether "most" or "not that many" do, and that's an important point.

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Also, part of having the roll is that it makes a decision for you. "I would like to do X, and I have a decent chance to succeed. I'll try it *roll*" can be faster than "Gee I dunno, I'd like to do X, but then if I DO then I won't have the resources left to do Y. And if I don't then I can do Y, but later Z will not be available... Let me balance the relative value of the option to do Z later, with the importance of doing Y now... and I have to figure in how X really advances my strategy enough to do it..."

Here you oversimplify things to make it look like your view is the right way to see it. Yet, I could apply similar analysis to your game -- "let's see, I currently have a show that hits on 2,3, 7, and 9. I can add this Modifier which gives me hit numbers 8 and 11 or this one which gives me 6 and 12. So [after doing a ton of math], I can now see that the one with the greater probability of success is [whatever outcome of math was]".

The point is, a die roll doesn't make a decision for you; it gives you a basis on which to make a decision. (or rather, it HAS to in order to be useful from a game design standpoint). Do I want to take this action, given its chances of success are X, or do I take that one given that its chances of success are Y? There could be just as much analysis in that version of a game. That said, I'll agree that my proposed "change" would turn it more into resource management, which is not in the spirit of the design. But, it was just a suggestion of an alternative way of doing things...

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That's not intended to be an attack or anything, I just wanted to point out how the mechanic tends to work in a sports game. A lot of real sports are nothing but a collection of statistics anyway- like Baseball. Dice are a perfect way to implement sports dynamics in a board game- there are a lot of variables and you play the numbers. Ask any coach.

Sports are not just a collection of statistics. The interaction between a player's muscles firing to throw a ball, and another's brain processing the sensory information of the ball approaching him, and his brain then directing his muscles to fire according to the response he wants to attempt, is WAY too complicated to model statistically. But, statistics provide a useful way of analyzing things after the fact, and of making pretty reasonable predictions what the average behavior of a system will be. In your free throw example below, I wouldn't say "Shaq has an 8 in 10 chance of making a free throw", just because he's shooting 80% from the line. The reality is that the "chance" of success is not beholden to the past results of Shaq from the line.

That said, I agree dice rolling can work well in sports games because sports are explicable in terms of statistics -- the "better" player will usually have better stats -- and dice can exploit the properties of statistics, which can be fit to the statistics deemed important by the designer to capture the feel of the sport. But that doesn't mean dice are the right way to go for all designs. That doesn't make one foolish for proposing a non-dice solution to a game problem; the key question is what problem that particular mechanic is trying to solve.

Incidentally, while you may not have a problem with dice-rolling, a lot of people do, and a lot of people won't look at a game with a strong luck element. That may not bother you (and it probably shouldn't), but if you want to consider selling your game, considering the tastes of the market is not a ridiculous idea. Of course, that sensibility is probably more common in the "German games" community, which is probably less likely to buy sports games anyway.

A game you might look at for a counter example to your argument is "StreetSoccer", which, as far as I know, has a very "German" game mechanic yet is also a decent simulation of soccer. Dice are a way, but not the only, and not necessarily the best, way to do sports.

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So, I guess my main objection to dice is that when used well, they can be very nice, but often, they are a cop out when a cleaner, more elegant way of producing an effect is available.

I'm not convinced that adding a class of cards is more elegant than rolling dice. I am also not convinced that using dice is a cop out. you're not really a Magic player, but would playing Necro during Black Summer have been a cop out? Is playing Blue in general (up until recently) for countermagic a cop out? In Basketball, is having the tallest guy on the court stand under the basket and passing him the ball a cop out?

Now you're just being argumentative. I can't speak to Magic analogies, having never played the game. It's crucial to note that I said "often, they [dice] are a cop out". It's the first thing that comes to people's mind; why else do you think there are so many "roll and move" games on the market? But are there more interesting ways to produce movement on a game board? For example, Clue is a great game, but the die rolling detracts from the game's overall quality, adding a luck element that is out of place and unnecessary to the larger goal of the game. I don't know what any of this has to do with a tall guy in Basketball. Are you saying "dice are self-evidently the best way to model sports", in the same way that "throwing the ball to the big guy is self-evidently the best way to score"? If that's your argument, I have to say you're missing my point, which is to question the assumption that "dice are the best way". Again, notice I never say "dice are a bad way", just challenging us to think past something that's quick and easy to design when a more decision-producing system could be found.

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So, I don't have an across the board hatred of die rolling, but I do think it's a crutch that a good designer need not lean on; however, when used well, they can really reproduce certain effects nicely.

So which is it? A crutch, or an effective tool? I suppose when you get down to it, a crutch IS an effective tool. I have used crutches when injury has kept me from walking and they worked out all right.

It's situational. Sometimes, designers don't think hard enough to try to find something better than dice to pull off a goal when other options are available. Sometimes, dice do a good job of introducing randomness into the game in a controlled way. It seems you were misunderstanding "my" position to be "dice are always bad" which I've clearly never said, yet are you not saying "dice are always good?" Don't you think there are some games where the dice rolling is not a positive component of the design (cf my Clue example above...)

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Also, I think playing cards to thwart other people's plans would not fit into the game as hpox has it. There's already a set number of cards, 1 per round, and it would be cumbersome to add a whole new set or re-vamp this set to accomodate playing cards on other players turns.

Maybe so, but no need to shout done alternative suggestions: the point of this process is to get a lot of ideas on the table, things that you hadn't thought of, so that you can push your design further. hpox can make up his own mind, and I wouldn't necessarily advocate any of my suggestions very strongly except to say that to me, what's important in a game is the opportunity to make meaningful decisions. When I hear a game has dice, there's always a concern that my decisions won't matter. And incidentally, there are other randomizers out there than dice. The "cube tower" in Wallenstein is one of the coolest combat mechanics I've ever seen, and even though it introduces luck, it's a great device. Something like that wouldn't work here, obviously, but I think you get the point: dice are a way to do things, but not "the only" way.

sedjtroll
sedjtroll's picture
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Joined: 07/21/2008
Re: dice rolling

jwarrend wrote:

Here you oversimplify things to make it look like your view is the right way to see it. Yet, I could apply similar analysis to your game -- "let's see, I currently have a show that hits on 2,3, 7, and 9. I can add this Modifier which gives me hit numbers 8 and 11 or this one which gives me 6 and 12. So [after doing a ton of math], I can now see that the one with the greater probability of success is [whatever outcome of math was]".

I did simplify a bit, but it's not the same as the comparison to 8/7c. In 8/7c you are exactly right, there's math to be done for that decision, and lots of decisions like that can bog down a game and make it take too long, that's one of the major things I've had to think about in 8/7c, weather I wanted to streamline that, or weather it was acceptable. Also note that the decision in your 8/7c example is a "how to spend my action points/cards" choice, not a "does this action succeed" choice. I thikn you just argued against yourself ;)

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But, statistics provide a useful way of analyzing things after the fact, and of making pretty reasonable predictions what the average behavior of a system will be.

Exactly. So why not use a statistical model (dice)?

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In your free throw example below, I wouldn't say "Shaq has an 8 in 10 chance of making a free throw", just because he's shooting 80% from the line. The reality is that the "chance" of success is not beholden to the past results of Shaq from the line.

That's what the stats are for. If you were a betting man, and Shaq was shooting 80% (he doesn't shoot that well, does he?) from the line, and you had to bet on weather or not he was going to make the next free throw... how would you determine the odds? What would your bet be? I don't see ANY way to do that other than assuming an 80% chance that he will make it.

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I don't know what any of this has to do with a tall guy in Basketball. Are you saying "dice are self-evidently the best way to model sports", in the same way that "throwing the ball to the big guy is self-evidently the best way to score"? If that's your argument, I have to say you're missing my point, which is to question the assumption that "dice are the best way". Again, notice I never say "dice are a bad way", just challenging us to think past something that's quick and easy to design when a more decision-producing system could be found.

I think I was saying that dice are probably the best, easiest, most efficient random generators around, and for something that isn't really even the biggest mechanic in the game it makes more sense to use what's universally considered to be "quick and easy" (although I guess there's a negative connotation there) and move on. There's nothing interesting about figuring out if you stole the ball, the interesting part was choosing the card with the "steal" option on it, setting yourself up to be in the right position at the right time, then opting to take the action. The resolution of that action doesn't need to take time or effort, it seems to me, because you've done the work- now you're just waiting to see if you get rewarded.

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It seems you were misunderstanding "my" position to be "dice are always bad" which I've clearly never said, yet are you not saying "dice are always good?" Don't you think there are some games where the dice rolling is not a positive component of the design (cf my Clue example above...)

I think you misinterpereted my comment as directed at you in particular. I know about where you stand on Dice in games. You are not the only person on these boards who has proposed deleting dice from a game when, in my opinion, there was nothing wrong with them. There has also been discussion already on these boards regarding dice, dicefests, luck, and probability- and it wasn't just me vs you there either.

My comment was more like "well, he mentioned a die, I knew SOMEBODY
would say to get rid of the luck factor by replacing the die with a decision..." In this case it happened to be you. Nothing personal. Also in this case the fundamental reason for the die (as I saw it) was to introduce a necessary luck factor, of course I was going to take issue with the idea of replaceing it with a decision. Of course if given the chance, the player trying to steal the ball will choose to succeed, and the other player will choose to have him fail.

Jeff- I didn't mean to shoot down your suggestion, I merely meant to say that in this situation, replacing the luck factor with a decision would be a terrible move. This is my opinion. Everything I write is merely my opinion. I don't preface it with "In my opinion..." because I learned not to in English class... that everything I write is my opinion- I'm the one writing it after all.

Lets not fight anymore. Can we put down the dice and be friends again? This is all very silly :/

- Seth

sedjtroll
sedjtroll's picture
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Joined: 07/21/2008
dice rolling

Largely unrelated, but what do you guys think of this (while we're on the topic of dice).... It's from the cheapass games list, I don't know whos on it and who's not.

Roll Out the Gun Barrels: Star Strife
By J. L. Butler

Basic Rules:

Each player should have distinctive dice. If not all of one color, at
least
make sure everyone knows which dice belong to which player. This can
get
problematic when you have more than 3 or 4 players, of course.

Your forces will consist of some number of dice of various types. By
adding
up the total number of sides on all your dice, you get the point value
of
your army. Players will usually want to have the same number of points,
but
need not. Determine who goes first by some random method, then have all
players roll their dice.

Each turn consists of two phases. During phase 1, the first acting
player
plays and then during phase 2, the second acting player plays. A unit
may
only act once in a turn. If it conducts a defensive action during the
other
player's phase, it may not attack. If it attacks in its own phase, it
may
not conduct a defensive action during the other player's phase.

In a direct assault, pick one die of yours that shows a number greater
than
one die of an opponent's. That enemy die is eliminated and placed in
your
scoring area.

For a flanking maneuver, choose two or more of your dice whose total
equals
that of an enemy die. Greater than doesn't work, the total must be
equal.
This represents the greater finesse required in outflanking an
opponent.
Additionally, one of the dice used in the flanking maneuver must show a
value that is at least half as large as the value shown on the die
being
attacked. This keeps a horde of d1's from being able to overwhelm any
other
target, unless that target rolled really poorly. As with a direct
assault,
you place the enemy unit in your scoring area.

Note: The presence of attrition units may change who is the victor of
an
engagement. Should after attrition casualties the defender hold the
advantage, he is the victor and the attacker's die is eliminated. The
defender then suffers damage as if he were the attacker. In the case of
a
tie, both sides suffer damage.

Damage: Units suffer damage as a result of engagements. In direct
assaults,
the attacker's die is reduced by half the value of the defender's die.
For
example, if your D12 with a '10' showing is used to polish off a D10
with an
'8' showing, the D10 is eliminated and your D12 is now reduced to '6'.
An
attacking die which is at least 4-sided cannot drop below one, unless
already equal to one. Those which drop to zero or less are eliminated,
and
go to the defender's scoring area.

In flanking maneuvers, those points of damage may be distributed among
the
attacking units as the attacker wishes. Any attacking die may be
reduced to
zero and thus eliminated.

Catastrophic Damage: Any unit reduced to '1' cannot roll again.

Once you've made your attack, regardless of the type, the phase passes
to
the next player. Obviously, in a game with many players, the opening
rounds
will be very bloody as all the low-rolling dice are eliminated.

The game ends when only one player has any dice left. Total up the
sides of
the dice you have in your scoring area, highest total wins

Attack Sequence:

a. Declare attack (type, target and participants)
b. Call for Reaction (continues until both sides pass)
c. Resolve Attrition combat (attrition units are counted after
attrition
casualties)
d. Determine Victor
e. Eliminate Loser and Assign Damage

Units:

Note: D1-D3 units regardless of type gain the Attrition tag. Attrition
units cannot control, deploy or field other attrition units.

Small Fry: These units are unattractive targets, but can get lucky and
outflank a big unit that got a bad roll. It's recommended that no more
than
half of any total army be made up of Small Fry.

D1:

D1 Battlesatellite/Space Mine (Cannot kill units larger than D6 unless
flanking.) (Attrition unit.)

D1 Space Combat Drone (Represents a pattern of 1-10 drones. Adds +1
attack,
+1 defense to controlling unit; takes up one control channel. Owning
player
can buy more SCDs than control channels, extras are deployed in space
as D1
attrition units until a control channel is freed. Can be targeted
separately. A ship can only control D/2 of units in control channels.)

D1 Decoy (Cost: 2 pts.) (Adds +2 defense to controlling unit; takes up
one
control channel. Decoys cannot be replaced in combat. Can be targeted
separately.)

D1 Interceptors (Cost: 2 pts.) (Represents a pattern of interceptor
drones
and/or rockets. Attrition. Reaction. Held out of play aboard owning
starship
until used. Requires an open control channel at beginning of turn of
use.
Interceptors react into play from their deploying starship and are
immediately removed at end of the turn in which they were deployed. +3
defense to controlling unit. The interceptors themselves gain +2 attack
when
rolling for attrition casualties only.)

D2:

D2 Corvette/System Defense Boat (Escort. Attrition. Cannot kill units
larger than D4 unless flanking.)

D3:

D3 Heavy Corvette (Escort. Attrition.)

Medium Fry: The meat of any army.

D4:

D4 Fighter Squadron (Attrition. Reaction. Must be deployed from a
carrier.
Fighters can stack more attack points than their target in flanking
maneuvers.)

D4 Mecha Squadron (Attrition. Must be deployed from a carrier. Mecha
can
stack more attack points than their target in flanking maneuvers. If
given a
control channel, they lend their firepower support to the controlling
ship,
surrending their own attack. Supported ships receive +1 attack, +2
defense.
Supporting mecha provide a die roll towards attrition casualties
against
enemy attrition units attacking their controlling ship. Mecha receive
+0
attack, -1 defense against fighters in open space; mecha receive +1
attack, -0 defense against fighters in bad terrain. Mecha receive +3
attack
vs. ships without defending mecha or fighter cover.)

D4 Frigate/Patrol Ship (Escort)

D4 Gunboats/Heavy Fighters (Attrition. Reaction. -1 defense, cannot
drop
below 1. May add +1 to attack when flanking or not as owning player
wishes.)

D6:

D6 Destroyer (Escort)

D6 Guided Missile Destroyer (+1 attack, only 1 control channel)

D6 Escort Carrier (Carrier)

D6 Defense Platform (Station)

D8:

D8 Light Cruiser (May add +1 to attack when flanking or not as owning
player wishes.)

D8 Light Carrier (Carrier)

D8 Base Station/Space Station (Station)

Big Fry: The units that you want to have a few of, but really hope
they
never roll 1s.

D10:

D10 Heavy Cruiser/Battlecruiser

D10 Guided Missile Cruiser (+2 attack, only 1 control channel; can
deploy 0
D4 units but gets 2 carrier actions for supporting drones)

D10 Fleet Carrier (Carrier)

D10 (Station)

D12:

D12 Battleship

D12 Attack Carrier CVA (Carrier)

D12 Basestation (Station)

D20:

D20 Dreadnought

D20 Supercarrier (Carrier)

D20 Battlestation (Station)

D30:

D30 Superdreadnought

D30 Battlestar/Mother Ship/Command Ship (Carrier)

D30 Frontier Station (Station)

D60 (D30x2):

D60 Warstar

D60 Basestar (Carrier) [Note: Basestars can carry as many as 300
fighters.]

D60 Starbase (Station)

D100 (not recommended):

D100 Borg Cube

D100 Starfortress/Fortress Station/Asteroid Fortress/Death Star
(Station)

Unit Type Rules:

Stacking: Certain units may launch mass attacks, namely fighters and
mecha.
Fighters and mecha can stack together more points of units than the die
roll
of the target die in flanking attacks.

Attrition Units: Attrition units suffer casualties when participating
in
attacks. Attrition units roll their dice and divide by 3 (round down)
and
eliminate that many enemy attrition dice involved in the attack.
Non-attrition units involved in the attack roll their dice and divide
by 4
(round down) and eliminate that many enemy attrition dice involved in
the
attack.

Reaction Units: If these units have not already acted this turn,
reaction
units may be sent in as reinforcements by the defender to bolster a
particular battle for his side. Or he may opt to pass. Either way,
after
this, the attacker is free to send in any reaction units of his to the
fight
that have not acted to compensate. Or he too may pass. This continues
until
both players have passed. Then all reaction and attrition units roll
their
dice and resolve casualties. The survivors add their points to their
respective side and if the attacker's total is greater than the
defender's
then the target die is removed from play; otherwise it is not.

Escort Units: Escorts can either attack or defend in a turn. Either
counts
as an action, and they cannot act twice in a turn. In defense, if your
opponent manages to take one of your dice, you can choose to have one
or
more escorts take that die's place, but only if their total is greater
than
or equal to the difference between your opponent's die and the die she
is
trying to take. Example: Your opponent uses a d12 to take your d10. The
d12
reads "11", and your d10 reads "8." Her d12 beats your d10 by 3 points.
HOWEVER, you notice you have an escort in play. The escort shows 3. You
can
choose to sacrifice the escort to your opponent instead, and keep your
d10
in play. Now lets change that situation... This time, she again has 11
on
her d12 and you again have 8 on your d10, but none of your escorts show
3 or
higher. But you do have 2 escorts in play, with the numbers 1 and 2.
You can
sacrifice these two escorts (because their total equals 3 or higher)
and
keep your d10.

Carriers: Carriers are used to deploy fighters, gunboats and mecha.
Carriers also gain Carrier Actions depending on size.

Carrier Type: Can deploy X D4 units: # of Carrier Actions:

D6 CVE 2 1
D8 CVL 3 1
D10 CV 4 2
D12 CVA 5 2
D20 SCV 8 3
D30 BatS/MS 12 5
D60 BaseStar 24 10

Certain non-carriers can deploy a limited number of small craft as
seen
below:

Non-Carrier: Can deploy X D4 units: # of Carrier Actions:

D6 DD (or smaller) 0 0
D8 CL 1 0
D10 CA 1 1
D12 BB 2 1
D20 DN 3 2
D30 SDN 5 3
D60 WAR 10 6

Carriers cannot attack and thus their attack strength is always
considered
zero. They roll as normally to provide a defense number. Non-carriers
utilizing Carrier Actions forfeit their attack that turn if they use a
Carrier Action. Non-carriers forfeit their Carrier Actions if they use
an
attack that turn.

Carrier Actions:

Repair Attrition: Roll carrier die, if even, the loss of an attrition
unit
in combat is prevented.

Rally: The friendly attrition unit of your choice re-rolls its die.

Disperse: Friendly D4 attrition unit is dispersed into 4 D1 Attrition
units.

Coordinate: Grants a friendly attrition unit +1 offense for a turn.

Stations:

Stations can both attack and use carrier actions without penalty. Only
the
strategic defender may have 1 station (barring a special scenario) and
he
may only have 1 (again, barring a special scenario). Stations cannot
participate in flanking attacks although they may be the target of
flanking
attacks. Stations gain +3 attack, +3 defense, +5 defense against
flanking
attacks. Stations have D/2 (round down) control channels. Stations may
make
use of decoys. Stations gain the carrier capacity and carrier actions
of a
carrier of their die.

Control Channels:

Starships have limited communications and scanner resources; these are
represented by control channels. A ship has only D/2 control channels.
These
channels are used to control drones and decoys or such and/or
coordinate
close support with mecha squadrons. A single die may conduct a
supported
direct assault by attacking with drone, decoy or mecha support with
only the
units that fit into its control channel allotment. Damage incurred in
such a
supported direct assault may be scored off of accompanying drones,
decoys
and mecha first.

Command Points (optional):

At the beginning of each turn, each player rolls a D6 and gains that
many
Command Points. You may use a Command Point at the beginning of a Phase
to
reroll a single friendly die. You may expend all of your Command Points
to
force a single enemy die to reroll (in which case, that player may not
use
Command Points to reroll.)

Terrain Types:

Asteroid Field: +3 defense for all units. Attrition units gain +2
attack
vs. non-attrition units.

Ancient Minefield: Every turn, during their phase, each player gains 5
D1
Basic Space Mines to use against their opponent.

IngredientX
IngredientX's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/26/2008
dice rolling

sedjtroll wrote:

Roll Out the Gun Barrels: Star Strife
By J. L. Butler

Seems like Button Men In Space at first glance. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing... I like the Button Men mechanic, though I have a tough time with the extra rules.

Some extra fiddly rules with this one, with damage after an attack (in BM, the attacking die simply rolls again), dice at 1 not being able to attack, and one die needing half the value of the defending die in order to attack. You have attrition units, reaction rules... hmmm. I'm not sure if those would feel like good fixes or unnecessary chrome until I played.

So this might be stuck in the no-man's land of being too light for a sim, and too complex for a tabletop dice game, or it might be a nice way to spend an evening. If you try it, let me know how it goes.

Anonymous
dice rolling

sedjtroll wrote:
Largely unrelated, but what do you guys think of this (while we're on the topic of dice).... It's from the cheapass games list, I don't know whos on it and who's not.

Roll Out the Gun Barrels: Star Strife
By J. L. Butler

A couple of years ago I tried working out a game design similar to this. Never took it too far though after playtesting what I had come up with.
(Note: It wasn't like this game, but used dice like this as "space fighters" and whatnot) Actually, I'm quite glad I saw this post; it helps me to know just how close I was to copying a game and not realizing it. :)

About the game itself. The overall elements of play I like, and I like the idea of using dice in this manner for a strategy game. I think I would enjoy playing once or twice, but one thing I found with my own attempt was that there are aspects of strategic play and a limited degree of complexity in options of actions to be taken that caused (my game idea at least) to become boring very quickly. There was no real desire to play it again due to the fact that there was really nothing truly involving.

With that in mind, as with my own idea and Star Strife both, add some new elements and the game could become more involved and therefore draw your attenttion more.

Just a thought...

Vexx Paradox

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