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Race for the Galaxy» Forums » General

Subject: Luck versus skill rss

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David B
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I know this has been brought up before, but I cannot resist. Two players that know the deck and have a lot of games under their belt. What portion of the game is determined by the cards you get and what portion is determined by skill? I would be interested in hearing some opinions from the more seasoned players.
 
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Pete Goch
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It's kinda of a non starter. You're scenario (seems to) presuppose that the players have a roughly equal level of skill. If we're making that assumption then luck (or randomness) will be the deciding factor in most games. But that's going to be true of any game where randomness can be a factor in determining the winner - that includes chess.

What it can tell us, over time, is if there is some small but measurable difference in skill between these two players. It wouldn't take much - just a few percentage points over 50% - over a large enough sample of games to make that determination.

But, if we are really and truly taking your hypothetical at face value then it's mostly going to be down to chance. He who gets the best combination of cards the earliest is most likely to win if we assume both players are equally skilled at identifying these combinations and maximizing their chances of pulling these combinations while responding to and anticipating their opponent's plays.
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Chris Johnson
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If you know it's been discussed before, then you know the answer...

It depends on skill differential; with low-to-no differential, it's going to be mostly luck. With middling-to-high differential, it's going to be mostly skill.

But you knew that. So why couldn't you resist?
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Daniel Kearns
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I would imagine that in an equally matched situation, the player who can better determine what their opponent is doing (edit: in the current situation) so as to capitalize on their round choices will win.
 
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Pete Goch
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dkearns wrote:
I would imagine that in an equally matched situation, the player who can better determine what their opponent is doing so as to capitalize on their round choices will win.



Then it isn't really equally matched...
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Dave K
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Speaking in generalities, I would say RftG is 80% skill and 20% luck. Maybe adjust a few percentage points - it's overwhelmingly skill.

Sometimes in a close match your cards just don't give you what you need. Most of the time your decisions throughout the game offered you many chances to adjust your strategy, and only more experienced players will pick up on it.

I'd roughly put people into 3 categories for this game:

1) new to the game, do not know the deck
2) know the deck but do not yet build strategies around reacting to opponents
3) know the deck and know the game well enough to react to opponents

The game can be relatively multiplayer-solitaire-ish until you get to #3. People who do not realize how to play counter-strategies will sometimes feel the game has too much luck in it as they rely solely on lucky draws to hope for a quick victory. Sometimes you simply get lousy cards. It does happen. Same for an amazing combo-a-thon that lets you blow everyone away. But most of the time the outcome is based on your decisions.
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Tom Lehmann
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There's a number of different skills involved. First, there's the ones that the OP identified: card knowledge and combo knowledge.

Beyond this, there's card, risk, and tempo management; the ability to consistently make efficient plays and make good use of opponent's calls; and adaptability and creative play, both to particular game situations and to different opponent tendencies.

In my experience, players are often roughly equal in the some of these areas but rarely equal in all of them. In particular, skills in adaptability and creative play seem to vary a lot, even in experienced players who are reasonably skilled in the other areas. I suspect -- but haven't collected the data to prove this -- that this is what separates great players from good players.

How often does superior skill in adaptability and creative play permit a player to overcome poor luck? I'd say, roughly 50% of the time.

For example, I recently had a 2PE AA non-orb game where all 6 of my initial cards were 6 cost worlds and devs. Opening E+5, E+1 did not find a strong combo to work from. But, I knew my opponent's tendencies -- a very defensive and efficient player who rarely Settles or Develops, but goes for card advantage and leeching. My opponent had Alpha Centauri and would most likely Trade-Produce the first few rounds, plus call Develop to put down a Bank, Investment Credits, etc.

So, I decided to leverage this expected slow start and go for a big Alien strategy and mostly just Explore until I could get some of my building blocks in place. I won after getting a -6 discount on Alien worlds and then placing a lot of high VP worlds. Had my opponent been willing to deviate from his standard style of play and press tempo advantage before I got my building blocks in place, I would have lost.

This was a game where some specific skills allowed me to overcome poor initial luck. Against a player with unknown tendencies, I wouldn't have tried this strategy -- it most likely would have been far too slow.
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David B
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fnord23 wrote:
If you know it's been discussed before, then you know the answer...

It depends on skill differential; with low-to-no differential, it's going to be mostly luck. With middling-to-high differential, it's going to be mostly skill.

But you knew that. So why couldn't you resist?


Forums have been devoid of controversy for too long. Not saying this topic is terribly controversial, but strong documented opinions are always something I enjoy reading. Plus, I like seeing cool avatars, like yours.
 
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Kester J
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"Two players of perfectly equal skill" is the spherical cow of the board game world.
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Bryan Thunkd
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Happymrdave wrote:
Speaking in generalities, I would say RftG is 80% skill and 20% luck. Maybe adjust a few percentage points - it's overwhelmingly skill.
I don't disagree with you, but that has little bearing on the question. There are a lot of skill games where a skilled opponent will usually beat an unskilled player, but where games between players of equal skill will come down to random chance.

It's not a matter of how much luck is in the game so much as it is that if the players are perfectly balanced in terms of skill, then the only deciding factor left is whatever luck is in the game.

 
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pfctsqr wrote:
Two players that know the deck and have a lot of games under their belt. What portion of the game is determined by the cards you get and what portion is determined by skill? I would be interested in hearing some opinions from the more seasoned players.


Knowing the deck and having a lot of games under your belt doesn't necessarily mean equal skill, as some of the respondents above seem to assume. I play mostly on BGA (over 4000 games) and in my opinion very few players truly understand all the strategies in the game, when to use a certain strategy, and how to leech off the opponent's strategy. Such players typically beat me about 65% of the time.
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Bryan Thunkd
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Kester wrote:
"Two players of perfectly equal skill" is the spherical cow of the board game world.
I dunno. I played Chess for years and my friend and I were always very close in skill. Even as we got better at the game, we stayed about the same. Our win-loss record ended up being roughly 50%-50% up until the time that I quit playing Chess.

I don't know that you can have "perfectly equal" skill, but you can be close enough so that it's impossible to say with confidence which player is better.
 
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Daniel Kearns
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TheOneTrueZeke wrote:
dkearns wrote:
I would imagine that in an equally matched situation, the player who can better determine what their opponent is doing so as to capitalize on their round choices will win.



Then it isn't really equally matched...


In that case it comes down to whoever gets luckier and draws the better cards, whatever that means.
 
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Daniel Kearns
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Kester wrote:
"Two players of perfectly equal skill" is the spherical cow of the board game world.


Kinda like if Deep Blue and Deep Blue got in a fight, who would win?
 
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Previous discussion:

Re: What is the skill:luck ratio in this game? How deep is it?
Re: What is the skill:luck ratio in this game? How deep is it?
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Jason Wear
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[Read in the voice of Vizzini from The Princess Bride]
The game is purely based on the cards you get, so it's clearly completely luck. But then again, it's what you do with the cards that really counts, so it's clearly all skill. However, if your opponent benefits from all of your action selections and you don't benefit from any of your opponent's selections, clearly that's due to luck! But you should know your opponent better and be able to predict his selections based on his board, and that's clearly a skill!
[end]

Ahem. It's both, but I'd say it's mostly skill. What you do with your cards over what cards you get. Even if the opponents are of equal skill. After all, you just discard a bunch of your cards anyway.
pfctsqr wrote:
Forums have been devoid of controversy for too long.
Check out this thread from the Marco Polo forum about dice roll luck impacting the victor. 80 posts since Monday.
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Mark Delano
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Thunkd wrote:
I dunno. I played Chess for years and my friend and I were always very close in skill. Even as we got better at the game, we stayed about the same. Our win-loss record ended up being roughly 50%-50% up until the time that I quit playing Chess.

I don't know that you can have "perfectly equal" skill, but you can be close enough so that it's impossible to say with confidence which player is better.


I think there's a good reason you can't say which player is better when players are close in skill, even with a large number of trials. We are fallible human beings, and tend to vary quite a bit in our abilities at any given moment. Environmental factors and mental state weigh heavier than we usually admit.

That speaks to part of the truth of Kester's statement. Even between ostensibly similarly skilled opponents it would be exceedingly unusual if on a given day at a given location they would be exactly equal.

In your Chess example you admit that skills changed over time and both of you got better, but presumably there were times that one of you had an edge and then the other. "Perfectly equal" probably never happened, even if the aggregate was extremely close.
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ackmondual
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
There's a number of different skills involved. First, there's the ones that the OP identified: card knowledge and combo knowledge.

Beyond this, there's card, risk, and tempo management; the ability to consistently make efficient plays and make good use of opponent's calls; and adaptability and creative play, both to particular game situations and to different opponent tendencies.

In my experience, players are often roughly equal in the some of these areas but rarely equal in all of them. In particular, skills in adaptability and creative play seem to vary a lot, even in experienced players who are reasonably skilled in the other areas. I suspect -- but haven't collected the data to prove this -- that this is what separates good players from great players.

How often does superior skill in adaptability and creative play permit a player to overcome poor luck? I'd say, roughly 50% of the time.

For example, I recently had a 2PE AA non-orb game where all 6 of my initial cards were 6 cost worlds and devs. Opening E+5, E+1 did not find a strong combo to work from. But, I knew my opponent's tendencies -- a very defensive and efficient player who rarely Settles or Develops, but goes for card advantage and leeching. My opponent had Alpha Centauri and would most likely Trade-Produce the first few rounds, plus call Develop to put down a Bank, Investment Credits, etc.

So, I decided to leverage this expected slow start and go for a big Alien strategy and mostly just Explore until I could get some of my building blocks in place. I won after getting a -6 discount on Alien worlds and then placing a lot of high VP worlds. Had my opponent been willing to deviate from his standard style of play and press tempo advantage before I got my building blocks in place, I would have lost.

This was a game where some specific skills allowed me to overcome poor initial luck. Against a player with unknown tendencies, I wouldn't have tried this strategy -- it most likely would have been far too slow.
If nothing else, it's great to hear you still have time to get in games of, well, your games in from time to time! cool
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Pete Goch
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frunkee wrote:
Thunkd wrote:
I dunno. I played Chess for years and my friend and I were always very close in skill. Even as we got better at the game, we stayed about the same. Our win-loss record ended up being roughly 50%-50% up until the time that I quit playing Chess.

I don't know that you can have "perfectly equal" skill, but you can be close enough so that it's impossible to say with confidence which player is better.


I think there's a good reason you can't say which player is better when players are close in skill, even with a large number of trials. We are fallible human beings, and tend to vary quite a bit in our abilities at any given moment. Environmental factors and mental state weigh heavier than we usually admit.

That speaks to part of the truth of Kester's statement. Even between ostensibly similarly skilled opponents it would be exceedingly unusual if on a given day at a given location they would be exactly equal.

In your Chess example you admit that skills changed over time and both of you got better, but presumably there were times that one of you had an edge and then the other. "Perfectly equal" probably never happened, even if the aggregate was extremely close.



But if the "aggregate" is extremely close that tells us that the environmental factors are merely noise - they may as well be just another potential random factor in the game. So, we can step away from the idealized notion of perfectly matched players being perfectly matched in any given game and move on to the notion that matched players are matched over time and a large set of plays.
 
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Bryan Thunkd
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jdw734 wrote:
Ahem. It's both, but I'd say it's mostly skill.
But again, if the players are of equal skill, it's going to come down to the random card draw.

 
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Look guys, the answer is very simple and avoids endless debates if the question is formulated as a math problem.

For example: "what is the ELO-based estimate of the odds that the most skilled player on, e.g. the Keldon online community defeats the median player?"

The answer is 9/10 times
Source: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/72642/item/1840069#it...

End of discussion, at least for that particular math question.

If any of you would like to reformulate the question as a different well-defined math problem, we can also answer that.

If we do not formulate the question as a math problem, then the answer is subject to personal interpretation and opinions. And everyone's opinion is just as valid as anybody else's (at least if it is logically consistent). That is what opinion means. Sometimes a question cannot be formulated as a math problem, and endless debates is the only approach, won by whoever has the best debate team experience.

But, since we are lucky enough that the OP question can be reformulated as one or more math problems, let's just do that, and avoid needless debates. (Unless you actually enjoy that kind of thing )
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Pete Goch
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Let's try this as a math problem, then. Of games where the players are equally matched according to ELO rating is there a greater or lesser degree of variance within those games as the ELO rating increases.

Variance can be defined as average score differential (total of all winning scores - total of all losing scores)/(total number of games) for each bin of ELO rating (or narrowly defined range of ELO rating) in a histogram.

We can take a wider variance in scores to be an indicator of "luck" or a greater impact of randomness. We might expect that, as ELO increases, players of equal ELO are better able to constrain their opponents from running away with the game thus creating a narrowing of the variance.


Does that sound like a reasonable test of the data and the idea being proposed?
 
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Mark Delano
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TheOneTrueZeke wrote:


But if the "aggregate" is extremely close that tells us that the environmental factors are merely noise - they may as well be just another potential random factor in the game. So, we can step away from the idealized notion of perfectly matched players being perfectly matched in any given game and move on to the notion that matched players are matched over time and a large set of plays.


I think it's a mistake to assume that environmental factors are merely noise because the results are close. Let's say we meet to play our Chess games on Tuesday evenings, and every Tuesday you have a late afternoon meeting at work that rattles and upsets you. The aggregate result for those games was a 50/50 split. If we switched the games to Thursday night and you started winning significantly more would that indicate you'd suddenly become a better player?
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Thunkd wrote:
But again, if the players are of equal skill, it's going to come down to the random card draw.


Smells like Troll. There have already been numerous posts explaining why "equal skill" is a red herring.
 
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Bryan Thunkd
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rbelikov wrote:
Look guys, the answer is very simple and avoids endless debates if the question is formulated as a math problem.

For example: "what is the ELO-based estimate of the odds that the most skilled player on, e.g. the Keldon online community defeats the median player?"

The answer is 9/10 times
Source: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/72642/item/1840069#it...

End of discussion, at least for that particular math question.
Except that wasn't the question. The question was about players of equal skill.
 
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