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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

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bluesea
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Hello all! This is my first post so I'd like to introduce myself a bit....
Currently I am living in Guinea, West Africa after having relocated from London. (thought I’m originally from Detroit) Moving to West Africa to join my wife has left me:
1. Unemployed! (I’m a structural engineer and architect by trade, but not much work for that here…yet)
2. With a lot of internet time to ponder things and dig into the recesses of my childhood interests. One of which was…board games! |(I used to buy games when I was young, but unfortunately, I could rarely convince my friends or family to play them.)

I found this forum a month ago or so and have been addicted ever since. I want to thank all of you building a truly wonderful collection of thoughts. And I will try to fold myself into your community and offer what I can. I don’t have a lot of board gaming experience other than the typical games of childhood but I hope that my ‘innocence’ will offer a fresh perspective.

So my first topic that I offer for discussion is Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

Compare, if you will, two games: Scrabble and Monopoly (I told you I was a novice!). Both are driven by luck and player interaction. Scrabble though seems to offer a subtle difference, i.e., in Scrabble, one’s resources, letter tiles, imposes a Limit on the construction of one’s (word)choices, forcing (distracting?) a player to concentrate on those seven letters to construct their word.

In Scrabble, having the players make do with what resources they have (placing Limits by the random draw of seven tiles) seems to erase the feeling of Luck in the game. However, in Monopoly, there seems to be so much more attributed to Luck because the element of chance is so clearly visible: I have read in this forum and in many other places on the web over the last month on the role of randomizers in games, particularly, for some, the four letter word of gaming: dice. But clearly, Scrabble has much Luck involved, too.

So my question is this: What about games make them FEEL not so luck driven and what games successfully distract the players from feeling the effects of Luck in a game. What mechanics best offer this distraction from Luck in a game? For example, I have read about (never played) Settlers, but the game seems highly Luck driven, but seems to be very popular amongst many serious gamers. So I presume the feeling during the game of Settlers is one similar during the game of Scrabble, i.e., make do with my resources, capitalize on others mistakes, and maximize my points, all the while ignoring the overall cloud of Luck that hovers of the game table.

Thanks again for the great resource and I hope I have offered a somewhat interesting topic for us to discuss. I’m really trying to understand games and the engines that drive them as I am attempting to develop a few myself…more on that in future posts. (There aren’t too many game stores Guinea, so I figure I‘ll just have to make do with what I have and invent some games to play!)

Cheers

Zzzzz
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Re: Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

First off welcome to the site! And secondly I am glad to see the site has sparked your interest enough to post! I never stop feeling happy when new members join and post!

Now for you question and my view of it.

bluesea wrote:

So my question is this: What about games make them FEEL not so luck driven and what games successfully distract the players from feeling the effects of Luck in a game.

In general the number of *choices* or actions a player can perform are a big factor in making a game feel less random. The more a game relies on non player selected choices, the more luck driven the game will feel.

For example, Settlers as you pointed out has luck involved (luck of every dice rolls and the resources the rolls yields), but there is also strategy and choice! Players also have to decide on where to place roads, settlements, cities, etc. They also have to negotiate with other players, and I think this negotiating aspect helps to mask more of the luck factor since players feel that they have negotiated a deal.

Gogolski
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

[EDIT]
I type too slow, Zzzzz said it allready...
[/EDIT]

bluesea wrote:
What about games make them FEEL not so luck driven and what games successfully distract the players from feeling the effects of Luck in a game. What mechanics best offer this distraction from Luck in a game?
I think the main distraction from 'the feeling of luck' is 'the feeling of choice'.

If you can make (interesting!) choices with the random elements that a game gives you, you will get a feeling of control. Certainly so if you see that your choices have an effect on the game.
The choices you can make in scabble (= which words you can come up with and where you can put them on the board) seem to have more inpact than the choices you can make when you land on a certain square in monopoly.

In 'settlers', the resources you get are random, but some tiles have a higher probability to produce resources than others. So while being random, you know that certain building spots will probably produce more. Furthermore, in 'settlers', there ar several ways to score points:
- building vilages and cities
- building the longest road
- development cards (straight away point-cards, or having most knights)
So depending on the resources you get, you can choose how best to spend them to get more points.

In short: If the choices you can make are interesting enough, you don't have that random-feeling so much.

Note: The more influence your choices have, the less random the game will be (probably). Settlers is a good example of a game that counterbalances the random-factor with the choice-factor. They are both there, but players still have some degree of control over the game, and can pursue different strategies.

Cheese!

dsavillian
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

I think by giving the players the opportunity to have a say in their fate hides a lot of the 'luck' factor found in games. In Monopoly, you have no control over the direction of your movement. It really feels like there's nothing you can do to avoid that hotel on Boardwalk (and really, there isn't).

In Settlers, however, you can choose which 'numbers' you want to cover. You can hedge your bets and cover a lot of mid-range numbers or go stack up on 2 numbers and wait for the big rolls. In this game you gamble a bit when you build your settlements... in Monopoly you just pray you don't roll a 6,8 or 11.

Luck will *always* exist in boardgames like this. But choice will always mask luck.

clearclaw
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Re: Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

bluesea wrote:
So my first topic that I offer for discussion is Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

There are many forms of luck in games. One of the primary descriptors of luck is whether it is prescriptive or postscriptive. (Yeah, I'm torturing the language. Sorry.) Does the random element occur before or after the primary decision which the luck element controls or influences? I generally avoid games with postscriptive luck (eg no dice-based action resolution). And while yes, Settlers of Catan has a larger luck element than I like, it is at least prescriptive.

As far as the sources of luck in games, I prefer the uncertainty and excitement of human decisions. How and what will they decide? How do their evaluations of game values vary from mine? How can I determine and use that disparity to my advantage? These are highly interesting subjects.

sedjtroll
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Re: Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

bluesea wrote:
I’m a structural engineer and architect by trade, but not much work for that here…yet

Hi there! Welcome to the BGDF. I'm also a Structural Engineer (though not also an Architect - they are our clients!)

I just wanted to welcome you, now I'll go finish reading this thread and see if I have anything useful to say!

- Seth

sedjtroll
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Re: Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

bluesea wrote:
Compare, if you will, two games: Scrabble and Monopoly (I told you I was a novice!). Both are driven by luck and player interaction. Scrabble though seems to offer a subtle difference, i.e., in Scrabble, one’s resources, letter tiles, imposes a Limit on the construction of one’s (word)choices, forcing (distracting?) a player to concentrate on those seven letters to construct their word.

This is quite insightful, and a very good point. It brings up another issue in my mind - many of the people who decry luck in games like Monopoly and Settlers have absolutely no problem with Carcassonne, which like Scrabble is a 'draw a tile, play a tile' game. Only in Carcassonne, you only get the one tile - no planning ahead, no clever strategy, you just draw a tile and then place it on the board, restricted by having to match the edges.

There's a little more to Carcassonne in that you place dudes on the tiles for scoring purposes, but the game is governed in large part by what tiles you draw. This should send people into fits, judging by their reaction to other luck-based games.... but lo, Carcassonne is hailed as an excellent game that everyone likes and that seems to warrant 40 expansions.

Quote:
I have read about (never played) Settlers, but the game seems highly Luck driven, but seems to be very popular amongst many serious gamers. So I presume the feeling during the game of Settlers is one similar during the game of Scrabble, i.e., make do with my resources, capitalize on others mistakes, and maximize my points, all the while ignoring the overall cloud of Luck that hovers of the game table.

Actually, while Settlers was leaps and bounds better than Sorry and Monopoly, which is why people liked it so much, it is now often regarded smugly as 'not good enough anymore' by the likes of people over at BoardGameGeek becasue of the luck involved. People try to minimize the luck by using a Deck of Dice rather than actually rolling dice, which is supposed to represent the bell curve more closely so you don't get games where 11 comes up frequently and 8 not at all.

- Seth

sedjtroll
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I like to use games or mechanics I've designed as examples... so let me bring up Terra Prime which I think has an element that fits this discussion perfectly:

In TP there are Hostile Aliens. One of the things you can do is try to defeat the Hostile Aliens in combat (or diplomatically*). This involves rolling dice - you roll 1d6 for each Alien attacking, 4-6 is a potential hit. Then you roll 1d6 for each Shield on your ship, 5-6 cancels a potential hit. Any potential hit not cancelled cause damage.

Then you can shoot back at the Aliens the same way - 1d6 per weapon, 4-6 hits. You have to get as many hits as there are Aliens in order to defeat them.

So there's a chance you can not win, even if the odds are in your favor (like rolling 2d6 (2 weapons) vs a single alien). To make it a little better, once the Aliens are known to be there, i.e. once the tile is face up and the Alien Symbols are visible, you can go shoot at them first, and if you hit some but not all, the dead ones don't shoot back at you.

So here there's a large amount of chance involved in fighting Aliens, and one way to get points is to defeat them. However, you never have to enter a tie where you know Aliens exist. You might stumble upon Aliens while exploring (turning tiles face up), but then there's a way to check out face down tiles before exploring them (Satellite Scanner). So you can play the whole game and never roll a single die. And if you do decide to roll dice, then (a) that's your decision, and (b) you can control when and the odds of winning.

Fighting Aliens is a very small part of the game, for the most part you are trying to explore to find planets, set up colonies, and pickup and deliver resources. Fighting Aliens is something you can do along the way, or you can avoid it if you like. In this way the amount of chance in the game is diminished if the player wants it to be, however a player who is behind might start to take some chances fighting Aliens and, if lucky, might defeat them (scoring some points) and then get a lucrative settlement that was 'blocked' by those aliens.

- Seth

* Diplomatic is the same as fighting, but you roll for each goods cube you discard rather than each weapon you have. So you offer them goods, and then you see if they become your friend.

Hedge-o-Matic
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

Wow. Striking gold with your first thread. Good one! Welcome to the forums.

I'd like to say that luck is only a bad thing when its application is taken out of the hands of the players. I suppose this would be called prescriptive, based on the post above, but I'd just like to elaborate a bit.

Not only is the invocation of luck an important factor of how "in control" the players feel, but also the degree to which they can influence the results. Many people use the term "dice fest" as derogatory, meaning any game in which many dice are rolled. Wargames often have this label applied to them.

But the trueth of it is that the more applications of luck, the less wild the results tend to be, and the stronger the propability effects are, meaning players can foreseen the results more accurately. Also, players can group units or otherwise impact the actual spread and bias of the rolls, almost ensuring their victory or loss based on preparation. The random factor merely presents the possability of an upset, and a careful tactician can take even this unlikely event into account, guarding against it in a second layer of preparation.

In short, the presence of a random factor can often be used as a tool to be wielded to win the game.

The higher the "absolute luck" factor is, that is, the less the players can manipulate probability in their favor, the more skewed the game is away from absolute skill. For kid's games, this is not a bad thing, allowing them to play on an even field with peers and parents alike.

As far as Settlers goes, I think labelling this a "luck driven" game is highly suspect. One thing that heightens the feel of luck in the game is that most people don't fully understand the rules (4:1 trades for anything, for example), and so don't use the options they have, and are more at the mercy of poor rolls. Also, foresight in the setup and opening stages can pay off later, but this planning can be pretty complex, and many players aren't fully aware of the changing needs of the game. Again, they are more at the mercy of luck.

I think that Settlers feels luck-heavy because there isn't enough dice-rolling going on to smooth out the expected bell curve, and it is influenced quite a bit by the relative complexity of trying to predict future events. So I guess what I'm saying is that a little luck can be far more disruptive than a lot.

bluesea
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

First let me apologize for my absence after I started this discussion. You all will have to have some patience with my replies from time to time as infrastructure here is not always reliable...so the internet is up again…weather and political unrest permitting…
(http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/5072552.stm)

Thank you all for your warm welcomes. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all your responses.

It seems reasonable to say that there is a consensus that choice (decision making, negotiation, or problem solving) can trump luck or at least arrest the feeling of chance having a controlling factor over the game. But it is a careful balance of proportions of luck and the timing thereof.

I very much like the idea from sedjtroll about his game whereby a player can decide to confront chance if he so wishes, but may never have to. But there will always be a luck factor in the tiles chosen, which echoes the feelings here as well: luck is here to stay…we must deal with it!

Hedge-o-Matic wrote:
But the trueth of it is that the more applications of luck, the less wild the results tend to be, and the stronger the propability effects are, meaning players can foreseen the results more accurately. Also, players can group units or otherwise impact the actual spread and bias of the rolls, almost ensuring their victory or loss based on preparation. The random factor merely presents the possability of an upset, and a careful tactician can take even this unlikely event into account, guarding against it in a second layer of preparation.

In short, the presence of a random factor can often be used as a tool to be wielded to win the game.

I think that this is a great observation because, at least to me, it was not obvious. (And will probably comment on it more in depth once I have a chance to think it over a bit.)

So I offer now a Gedankenexperiment to try and remove some of the cloud of the luckplay from the world’s favorite game. I think that these rules might help to get the chance driven feel out of Monopoly.

Imagine a game of Monopoly with the following changes to the rules:
1. There are no set property values.
2. The person landing on the un-owned property becomes not the potential buyer, but rather, the auctioneer of the property and may sell the property for what ever the market may hold, getting a 20% cut.
3. Addition of a Squatter’s rule: A player gets two game markers. One is their car, or wheel barrow, etc. and is used as normal. The other is their Squatter. If a player has a squatter not already squatting on a property, and that player lands on an undeveloped property (i.e., no houses or hotels) that player may put down their squatter piece. The Squatter’s rule then proceeds thusly: a.) The owner of the ‘Squatted property’ can remove the Squatter on their next turn if he develops the property. b.) The owner of the property can remove the Squatter if he lands on his property before his opponent lands on his property. If his opponent lands on the property before the owner, he has the option of putting the property up for auction or taking ownership himself.

And I’m sorry for concentrating on Monopoly so much, but I am just seeing this as an intellectual exercise to get my understanding of game design going. And what better place to start than the nature of Luck in games. Thanks again for all the thoughtful tutelage.

sedjtroll
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

bluesea wrote:
I very much like the idea from sedjtroll about his game whereby a player can decide to confront chance if he so wishes, but may never have to. But there will always be a luck factor in the tiles chosen, which echoes the feelings here as well: luck is here to stay…we must deal with it!

While it's true that the tiles start face down, and you reveal them when you explore... and that is based on luck a bit, you CAN use the Satellite Scanner a lot before you start exploring, thereby limiting or eliminating all luck. You can also just follow other people when they explore. In that case the only luck involved is where the random outlay of tiles happened to end up...

But better in most cases to actually explore in my game, as when you turn the tiles face up, you get to orient it how you'd like. Also, you know that the green tiles are 'safe' from random harmful effects, while yellow ones are more dangerous, and red ones are very dangerous. So you can hedge your bets there as well.

So what I'm getting at is this. If you can control the chaotic elements then it ceases to feel like luck, which is basically the jist of this thread. The more control you have, the less it feels like luck.

Though in principal I hate to agree with clearclaw on anything, I think he had a very good point in this thread when he said that when the randomness happens before the player's choice, such that you know the outcome of the random thing before you make your choice, is better than making the choice and then having the random occurance come into play afterwards - potentially counteracting your action.

- Seth

gilbertgea
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

Concerning luck...

...I dont think it is possible to eliminate luck completely from most games. Luck, or "chance", is probably going to figure in most games, to a greater or lesser degree. Most games seem to involve drawing cards from a deck and/or rolling dice to determine certain things. Notable exceptions to that rule include games like Chess, Checkers, and Diplomacy where there appears to be no luck involved.

However, I dont think that the absence of chance is an altogether desireable trait anyhow. In fact, it seems rather unrealistic. I think that players in a game should be given choices to make, opportunities to interact with other players that will help them improve their positions, and then introduce a degree of chance into the mix to represent that nothing ever goes as planned. There should be some way to mitigate the effects of chance, but not eliminate them completely.

Just my $0.02.

clearclaw
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

gilbertgea wrote:
...I dont think it is possible to eliminate luck completely from most games. Luck, or "chance", is probably going to figure in most games, to a greater or lesser degree. Most games seem to involve drawing cards from a deck and/or rolling dice to determine certain things. Notable exceptions to that rule include games like Chess, Checkers, and Diplomacy where there appears to be no luck involved.

The relevant definitions here are Perfect Information Games, Certain Information Games and Compleat Information Games.

- Perfect information: http://www.gametheory.net/dictionary/PerfectInformation.html

- Compleat & Certain information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complete_information

As happens there are a great many games that fit these defintions (in fact many, almost most, of the games I play fit these definitions). Examples: Bridges of Shangri-La, Intrige, 18XX (we've been playing 1824, 1830, 1856, 1869, and 1870 lately), Throught the Desert, In the Shadow of the Emperor, Blokus, Rumis, Clippers, Torres, Punct (and the rest of the Gipf series), Stephenson's Rocket, Billabong, Roads&Boats, Twixt, Antike, Gemblo etc. There are no luck, chance or otherwise random effects in these games at all once past the initial game setup/seating order.

Quote:
However, I dont think that the absence of chance is an altogether desireable trait anyhow.

It generally is for me. I generally prefer games with little to no luck/random/chance elements, but then to me the interesting parts of games aren't the risk mitigation and tactical adaption, but rather the human questions.

clearclaw
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

sedjtroll wrote:
Though in principal I hate to agree with clearclaw on anything...

Gahh!

Quote:
I think he had a very good point in this thread when he said that when the randomness happens before the player's choice, such that you know the outcome of the random thing before you make your choice, is better than making the choice and then having the random occurance come into play afterwards - potentially counteracting your action.

Not to single out dice, but rather using them as an example of the genre, I've found that players tend to confront dice, especially dice in postscriptive events, in one of two ways: either with anticipation or mild dread. The former love the dice, they chant and cheer when they roll well as if there were some skill or ability in it; they feel usefully involved. The latter don't like or enjoy the dice, they dislike the sense of capricious arbitrariness, and they experience an unsettled relief after the dice are rolled as at least that's over with for this turn (no matter if the roll went well or bad for them -- at least it is over).

Zzzzz
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

clearclaw wrote:

It generally is for me. I generally prefer games with little to no luck/random/chance elements, but then to me the interesting parts of games aren't the risk mitigation and tactical adaption, but rather the human questions.

Ok I might be really really picky or dumb with my following comment but I just have to share it.

Is there luck involved in all games because of WHO your opponents are and HOW your opponents play the game?

For example, if your opponent has multiple opinons to play as an action and chooses one action that better positions a future action for you, are you not lucky that your opponent choose that action?

Huh?

clearclaw
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

Zzzzz wrote:
Is there luck involved in all games because of WHO your opponents are and HOW your opponents play the game?

There can be in the WHO. For example if one of the other players is a notably strong or weak player in a game with strong right/left binding (eg Puerto Rico), then the "luck" of getting to sit to their left is significant. This is usually expressed as "player to the left of the newbie wins".

The HOW is tougher because we often think of other humans as capricious incomprehensible creatures (especially women?). But if the players are not playing randomly (eg rolling a die to determine all their moves), are in fact playing the same game and are playing to win., then there is no luck here, just human evaluation.

The other player's are playing to win. That means that they they will be constantly evaluating their positions for the move that best progresses them towards winning and then doing that. To do that they must (usually) also predict the moves that other players may make and the reasons why they would or would not make them. There's no sense in making a great move that then results in your being wiped out. You want the move that leads to your victory, or perhaps more simply, the move that ensures that all the other players will lose. The other players are also presumed to be rational beings -- they are going to make rational decisions based on their goal of winning. So what move most advances you toward your goal? If you make that, what moves most advances the other players toward their victories? Where does that other player think his best options lie? Then if they do that, what's my best option? What if I chose a seemingly less optimal short term path, where do I end up 3, 4, 5 ,6 turns down the game? Where do the other players end up? This results in something called ply analysis, or more commonly called "I GO U GO" in two player games (I go here, then you'll go here, then I'll go there and then you'll go...and that's bad, so I'll go here and then you'll go...). Decision trees.

Quote:
For example, if your opponent has multiple opinons to play as an action and chooses one action that better positions a future action for you, are you not lucky that your opponent choose that action?

No, they presumably chose that action for a reason, a reason I could have understood and predicted, a reason that I (or other players) may well have engineered on previous turns. There's no random factor here. The other player is making a rational and informed choice, and that means that his choice can be predicted and even controlled -- if you understand how he evaluates well enough.

The only question is whether he's making the choice that I predicted. If he isn't, then obviously my understanding of how that player evaluates his game position is faulty. If my understanding of how that player evaluations his game is bad then all my ply analysis is likely also wrong, and that means I don't know if I'm making the right decisions for my eventual victory. Thus the core question: Do I fully understand how the other players evaluate?

Zzzzz
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

Very very good points clearclaw. No additional comments from me on my Huh post... lol

But while reading you good response I thought of one other idea. You talked about player analysis, which made me think of Analysis Paralysis (AP).

Do games that contain high levels of luck reduce the amount of AP?

Do games that have low (or no) luck mechanics increase the amount of AP?

Or do Luck and AP have nothing in common?

Obviously it is possible to have AP and high Luck in a game, but to me that might show signs of a potentially bad game design.

Epigone
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

Zzzzz wrote:
Do games that contain high levels of luck reduce the amount of AP?

Do games that have low (or no) luck mechanics increase the amount of AP?

Or do Luck and AP have nothing in common?

Obviously it is possible to have AP and high Luck in a game, but to me that might show signs of a potentially bad game design.
Analysis Paralysis generally arises because a) knowing what the state of the game will look like after several moves given a move I make now would be a large help in determining whether I should make that move, and b) I can know with reasonable certainty the probabilities of various game states several moves from now given a move I make now.

Without both of those two factors AP should not (sometimes does, but should not) happen much. Luck affects factor b. The more uncertainty there is between turns, the less sure I can be of future game state probabilities without prohibitive computation, and the less likely it becomes that deep analysis is worth the time.

So if I can spend 3 hours staring at the board and determine that move A lets me win 72% of the time and move B only lets me win 71% of the time, I often won't bother, because it's just not worth it. But if I can discern between winning 72% and 24%, I might be compelled to spend those 3 hours.

Zzzzz
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

Epigone wrote:

Analysis Paralysis generally arises because a) knowing what the state of the game will look like after several moves given a move I make now would be a large help in determining whether I should make that move, and b) I can know with reasonable certainty the probabilities of various game states several moves from now given a move I make now.

I agree Analysis Paralysis does arise for your stated reasons, but I feel that it assumes a player has control over their moves. What if the moves/actions available to a player use luck based mechanics (rolling dice). If that is the case I still feel that there is a reduction in potential AP since there is less for a player to analyze. For instances, I feel this is the case in games like Chutes & Ladders (Snakes & Ladders).

sedjtroll
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

clearclaw wrote:
The only question is whether he's making the choice that I predicted. If he isn't, then obviously my understanding of how that player evaluates his game position is faulty. If my understanding of how that player evaluations his game is bad then all my ply analysis is likely also wrong, and that means I don't know if I'm making the right decisions for my eventual victory. Thus the core question: Do I fully understand how the other players evaluate?

And herein lies the logical extension of the arguement - if you assume everyone is rational and can accurately predict each other's moves, then maybe there's no luck involved. But (or 'therefore') might it follow that a player who misinterprets your intentions, has the opportunity to block you but chooses not to, not because he had a better play, but because he didn't notice that not blocking you meant you'd be able to win in three turns... might that be considered luck?

If a player takes an action without realizing every single consequence, and one of the unseen consequences benefits you, mightn't that be considered luck? This dicsussion probably applies just as well to the Kingmaker situation, where a player can intentionally or inadvertantly cause another player to win, even if it's several turns down the road and noone can tell until later.

Gogolski
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

sedjtroll wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
The only question is whether he's making the choice that I predicted. If he isn't, then obviously my understanding of how that player evaluates his game position is faulty. If my understanding of how that player evaluations his game is bad then all my ply analysis is likely also wrong, and that means I don't know if I'm making the right decisions for my eventual victory. Thus the core question: Do I fully understand how the other players evaluate?

And herein lies the logical extension of the arguement - if you assume everyone is rational and can accurately predict each other's moves, then maybe there's no luck involved.
This reminds me of an episode of 'Futurama' in which two robots play chess. Without one move ever being made, one says "checkmate in 274 turns." "Damn, I lost again!" says the other robot...

I think knowing one's playing style helps to predict certain actions an opponent is likely to make.
You generalise a player's playing style into: 'play on the save side', 'risk-taking' or 'offensive player', 'defensive player'.

Cheese!

soulbeach
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

Simply put, with all opinions considered, my own is this:

Luck brings drama to the table. And drama is an aspect i find very fun. Obviously, i like my games to be passionate and action oriented.

dsavillian
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

One of my all-time favorite games is Poker. Specifically the craze of No Limit Hold 'Em and Pot Limit Omaha. To the superior player, there is a very high level of skill involved (reading players, bluffing, calculating odds, etc) but there is *always* an element of luck involved. No hand is considered the 'losing' hand until all cards are dealt (except for < 1% of hands that will be dead on the 3rd or 4th card dealt).

Skilled players, however, will often get involved in hands that are statistically in their favor and thus, will win more often.

Luck vs Skill comes down to this:

Over a long enough period of time, all players will have the same amount of 'luck' just like how if you flip a coin a million times heads will likely appear ~50% of the time. Skilled players, however, will find ways to skew the odds in their favor...

Games that allow for players to manipulate their luck and partially control their destiny are far superior to those that give every player the same odds every time.

EDIT:

Even in Monopoly, skilled players can try to skew odds and situations in their favor. For example: If a player is within 6,7 or 8 squares of a collection of properties I control, I might be tempted to funnel a bunch of cash into building houses and hotels on those properties. Odds are that he will land on one of them and I will get paid off.

Epigone
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

dsavillian wrote:
Games that allow for players to manipulate their luck and partially control their destiny are far superior to those that give every player the same odds every time.

EDIT:

Even in Monopoly, skilled players can try to skew odds and situations in their favor.
My favorite example of this is the following game (or a variant of it). Two players each start at 0 points. The first to 15 or more points wins, and if both achieve that on the same turn then the player with the most points wins, and if they tie, player A wins. Players may decide on each turn whether to score d6 points or d4+1 points. It is known that player B will always choose d6.

This is a very simple game where no matter your choice of moves, you have the same expected value of points scored (3.5), but the choice still makes a small difference. Since you win ties you should win this game 52.5% of the time if you just roll d4+1 every time, or 52.9% if you just roll d6 every time.

But if you have a choice, even though that choice is just manipulating how likely you are to get lucky or unlucky, your wins go up to 57.9%.

clearclaw
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

Zzzzz wrote:
But while reading you good response I thought of one other idea. You talked about player analysis, which made me think of Analysis Paralysis (AP).

I think the first thing to recognise about AP is that it is a feature of players, not of games. AP occurs when a player is takes longer to make a game decision than another player considers reasonable. In the general form it occurs when a player takes longer to make a game decision than a (presumed) majority of other player's in te game consider reasonable. As such it is entirely a question of subjective evaluation and viewpoint, not of the game in question.

Note: I'm going to carefully ignore the hypocrisy of the slow player with no patience for other player's moves. Instead I'll assume equivalence in both a player's personal style and their patience with other player's approaches.

Quote:
Do games that contain high levels of luck reduce the amount of AP?

They can. They an also increase AP. It depends on the players. Consider a game which has an element which is randomly determined and has significant effect on the game:

a) PlayerA figures that the range of impacts of the element is too large given its variance and so doesn't bother. He guess, he relies on hunches, he ignores the lower probability aspects, he really only considers a portion of the game analytically -- the rest is too random to support his desired types of analysis. This player plays quickly.

b) PlayerB recognises the random element and its variance and laboriously plots out all the ramifications and then makes the decision that he think offers the best risk/reward return. He is meticulous. This player plays slowly.

Mixing the two sorts of players in the same game is not a recipe for success. but keep like with like and they'll both be quite happy, like pigs in mud in fact, as they play their games in the manner they prefer. In both cases the game hasn't changed, only the players have. Which camp you and your local players fall into for various games is another question.

Quote:
Do games that have low (or no) luck mechanics increase the amount of AP?

Similarly, it can. Or not.

Quote:
Or do Luck and AP have nothing in common?

I don't think they're strongly related.

Quote:
Obviously it is possible to have AP and high Luck in a game, but to me that might show signs of a potentially bad game design.

Remember that AP is only a problem if the players consider it a problem, and in fact doesn't even exist unless the players think it does. Would a 150 minute game of Blokus be a sign of AP? Only if the players thought it did (and in the real world case I'm citing, they didn't).

I've recently taken a liking to the game Bus. Bus is a cute little perfect and certain information Pickup&Deliver game. Neat game. Some play groups consider it a 45 minute almost-a-filler and other groups consider it a 150-180 minute meaty analysis game. Both groups are playing by identical rules. Which of them are right? They're both right. It is a 45 minute fast light game for those that play it that way, and it is quite enjoyable that way as well. It is also a very nicely meaty 3 hour game for those that want to play it that way, and it is very enjoyable that way as well...

I think from the perspective of this forum the question is: Which player demographic do you want in your audience?

clearclaw
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

sedjtroll wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
The only question is whether he's making the choice that I predicted. If he isn't, then obviously my understanding of how that player evaluates his game position is faulty. If my understanding of how that player evaluations his game is bad then all my ply analysis is likely also wrong, and that means I don't know if I'm making the right decisions for my eventual victory. Thus the core question: Do I fully understand how the other players evaluate?

And herein lies the logical extension of the arguement - if you assume everyone is rational and can accurately predict each other's moves, then maybe there's no luck involved. But (or 'therefore') might it follow that a player who misinterprets your intentions, has the opportunity to block you but chooses not to, not because he had a better play, but because he didn't notice that not blocking you meant you'd be able to win in three turns... might that be considered luck?

I would consider it luck except for the fact that every one of those cases can be observed and can be explicitly engineered and manipluated by the other players. For instance, a long time ago in a land far away, I played Age of Steam (your favourite game I know) against the local feared player. They were a good player; I lost many games. Oh, I was unlucky! However was I going to win with such a good player? However I gradually observed that while they had many glaring strenghts, they also had weaknesses, and in particular would consistently fail to "see" certain value tradeoffs in the game and so would ignore them. Realising this I changed my play to directly target and exploit that disparity. I would set up game conditions to concentrated on that aspect so that they'd the feared player would fail to my advantage, and so I began to consistently win. Luck? No. My failing was that I did not observe their trait earlier. Their failing was that they didn't recognise their weakness sooner and correct it. This is the nature of human players.

A similar argument can be made for poor players (and I was the poor player for most of the above). The other player was lucky I was so comparatively poor that they could win easily and consistently. Oh, what great luck!

This all is not to suggest that winning over defenceless or incompetent opponents is desireable, far from it. Winning over a stiff challenge is the way to go.

Quote:
If a player takes an action without realizing every single consequence, and one of the unseen consequences benefits you, mightn't that be considered luck? This dicsussion probably applies just as well to the Kingmaker situation, where a player can intentionally or inadvertantly cause another player to win, even if it's several turns down the road and noone can tell until later.

It could be, but I don't think it applies for the same reason as above: it can be predicted, controlled and manipulated with (near absolute) certainty.

On the kingmaking issue: Certainly many (most) German games might be considered to have kingmaker issues. Its just that the kingmaker decision occurs so many turns before the end of the game that it isn't recognised or thought of as a problem. As you say, this sure looks like the other side of the same leaf.

clearclaw
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

soulbeach wrote:
Simply put, with all opinions considered, my own is this:

Luck brings drama to the table. And drama is an aspect i find very fun. Obviously, i like my games to be passionate and action oriented.

I find that low luck games move the drama toward the mid-game. There usually comes a point in the game in which there's a great muscular struggle, a crescendo of plans and positionings which will then be played out variously well over the end-game. It is often during this time that the final victor is actually determined, even if still unknown then. While the fight is going on it is about opportunities and the attempt to relegate to the players to desired roles, and it is a very involving and dramatic fight. "Ahh," we then nod to ourselves in retrospect, the game done, "Yeah, the core happened way back when, there, that's when it was all decided. If only I'd recognised that you were/had/whatever... Blast you!"

JeffK
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

I think a useful distinction in this discussion is "Luck vs. Chance". While they're closely related, they are not actually the same.

Luck refers to any result that is outside of your control. Thus, a good di roll can be lucky if it helps your position, but so can a bad move by your opponent. If, for example, they missed the fact that your knight was threatening their queen in a game a chess and they failed to save their queen, that's lucky for you. It's also true that it was not bad luck for them. It was poor play. Thus, their lack of attentiveness was your good luck. True, you may have manipulated the situation in advance suspecting that they would miss the threat based on your knowledge of their play style, but you couldn't know for sure that they would miss it. In the end that specific outcome was controlled by your opponent, not you.

Chance, however, refers to any result that is outside of everyone's control. Dice are the epitome of chance - none of the players have any control over the result. When someone says a game is "all luck" it means that all of the significant outcomes are the result of chance. In effect, my good luck is always my opponent's bad luck, which is not the case in a game like chess where my good luck is always my opponent's poor play (at least compared to my own play).

In multiplayer perfect information games (like Blokus), the feeling of luck increases since it gets harder and harder to predict the course of the game as more players are added. There is also a greater probability that another player will make a poor move, which is lucky for their opponents. It still does not involve any chance, however, as every player has complete control over their own moves.

hpox
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

JeffK,

I agree with what your saying but not the terms you used.

I would replace your definition of Luck by Chaos and your definition of Chance by Luck.

Chance is the concept of the risk. I have 50% chance of making it. But I think it can also be used as Luck...

my 2 cents

clearclaw
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

hpox wrote:
I would replace your definition of Luck by Chaos and your definition of Chance by Luck.

Yep. Thus the term, "multiplayer chaos". Many games rely on this: the inability to predict future game states well simply due to the accumulation of small(ish) variances in each future player's move. This scale is commonly exposed by different player counts for the same game. For instance many consider Web of Power and China to be best with 3 players because that's the point where multiplayer chaos most clearly balances with player control/foresight. With more players the standard complaint is that the board changes so much between turns that no effective planning is possible.

Quote:
Chance is the concept of the risk.

Another way to look at chance is as the opportunities for failure (or success). It doesn't make a real difference, the distinction is logically specious, but I find it encourages a different viewpoint with participants. They can confront, think constructively with and use opportunity balances, but they have a hard time balancing "risk" as they tend to fixate on the possibility of the very bad (especially once there has been a fairly bad).

JeffK
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Luck, Limits, or the Limits of Luck?

hpox wrote:
JeffK,

I agree with what your saying but not the terms you used.

I would replace your definition of Luck by Chaos and your definition of Chance by Luck.

Chance is the concept of the risk. I have 50% chance of making it. But I think it can also be used as Luck...

my 2 cents

Chaos is a term appropriate for certain aspects of gaming - usually when trying to predict several moves ahead in a complex game. Chaos refers to situation when a non-random system is so complex that trying to predict an outcome, even poorly, is well beyond the scope of feasability. It would easily apply to the start of a chess game (or, even better, a game of go). It would not apply to a situation in which your opponent missed a single pivotal move. That isn't chaos since it's possible to engineer that situation knowing your opponent's blind spots. You're basically crossing your fingers and hoping that you read the situation and your opponent correctly, or that he doesn't have an uncharacteristic burst of insight. Perhaps "luck" isn't the best term, but "chaos" doesn't cover it. I actually can't think a word that truly sums this concept up, though I'm sure there's one out there.

Chance and risk are definitely not the same. It's definitely possible to have risk in non-random perfect information games, such as chess. Risk is about how much you stand to lose if your plan does not pan out as you hope/thought; i.e. how much you're "putting on the line". It could fail due to poor di rolls or failing to see a counter-move that's open to your opponent or simply because you failed to follow through adequately. Perhaps "randomness" is a better term than "chance".

Regardless of the words used, my point was that there's unpredictability that results from randomness (such as dice) and unpredictability that results from your opponent's decisions. Using the same term, such as "luck", for both isn't helpful since they are fundamentally different and result in vastly different gaming experiences.

Jeff K.

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