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Subject: Luck in games: positive or negative? rss

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Osiris Saline
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After browsing BGG for years before setting up an account, I've noticed many members tend to dislike dice rolling/flipped cards being core mechanics of games.

I have encountered this in multiple game groups in my life, mainly from big fans of Eurogames and competitive CCGs, and have been unable to get to grips with why including luck can take away a lot from games.

I've noticed that many people dislike luck as it can ruin grand plans in strategic titles with multiple layers, bad rolls can push a game that has flowed so far into a ditch it never recovers from, or feeling that dice-luck drains the importance of other mechanics. All of those are understandable, but sometimes it seems players of a hardcore nature outright don't want to risk losing to anything bar their own mistakes/others skill? Of course I expect this with some of the more alpha/win-at-all-costs-for-enjoyment players, but it does seep into other player types.

When setting up Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) one time I had a variety of different personalities getting close to upset when I suggested we choose factions randomly. That idea was shot down faster than my teenage hopes of getting a game of vanilla Risk running! I've also had players get overly upset/livid at losing important rolls in games such as Arkham Horror (even though I openly condone co-op mood-improvement re-rolls if it means players are happy) even if they're content with random elements prior.

Beyond the simple fears of losing to a random factor, why are dice roll & random card mechanics looked down upon so readily by certain groups of players?
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Pokey 64
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Control.

They're afraid to lose it.
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Paul DeStefano
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Luck in chess would change the game.

Lack of it in blackjack would as well.

A good game balances the controlling and mitigating of luck.

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Liam
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I'm fine with a little luck so long as it in now way overly impacts the rewards/importance of meaningful decision making.
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Bryan
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I think it bothers people when they're playing competitively. I tend to play for the fun of playing, and while I'm trying to win, I ultimately don't care. I find some luck components fun. For example, in Mage Wars Arena, your carefully planned and executed spells can be completely thwarted by a bad dice roll. I find this moment hilarious, and enjoy when a random chance can suddenly put you ahead or behind. This adds excitement, since you don't really know or completely control what is going to happen. When someone hits that right lucky moment, we all have a moment of amazement, and when someone hits that super unlucky moment we all have fun laughing at them.
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Boaty McBoatface
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depends what you roll.
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Russ Williams
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OsirisSaline wrote:
I've noticed many members tend to dislike dice rolling/flipped cards being core mechanics of games.

I have encountered this in multiple game groups in my life, mainly from big fans of Eurogames and competitive CCGs

How is randomly drawing cards not a core mechanism of most CCGs? I think I must be missing something there!

But I agree that randomness is often relatively small in many thinky strategic "euros".

Quote:
Beyond the simple fears of losing to a random factor, why are dice roll & random card mechanics looked down upon so readily by certain groups of players?

A frequent (and perfectly reasonable to me) reason is that too much luck can make the game's end result feel meaningless. E.g. imagine an extreme absurd case where you play a game for a couple of hours, doing various complicating strategic interesting things, and then in the final round the game says "Now determine victory by rolling dice, and whoever rolls the highest wins." This is of course an extreme absurd example, but a game with increasing amounts of "too much" luck starts to approach this in effect. If someone who plays very badly is almost as likely to win as someone who plays very well, that makes the game feel rather pointless for many people (and understandably so, I think).



Personally I think randomness is appropriate and good in some games (e.g. wargames which are intended to simulate the uncertainty and chaos of war) and inappropriate and bad in some games (e.g. pure abstract strategy games like Go, Shogi, Chess, etc which are intended to permit players to read ahead sequences of moves with certainty). Most "BGG-style" games lie somewhere more in the middle. Different games by design and intention give different types of experiences. Different players like different kinds of experiences.
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Jeff Lozito
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OsirisSaline wrote:
Beyond the simple fears of losing to a random factor, why are dice roll & random card mechanics looked down upon so readily by certain groups of players?


This to me is the very crux of the 'why'. I don't think it's a 'fear', per se ... but a lot of people simply don't want their chances of winning or losing a game to be out of their control, even to a small extent. Those same people want to play games that come down (at or nearly) 100% on their skill vs. the skills of those other people playing the games.

Beyond that, I also think that some people look at mechanisms like that as 'lazy' or 'uninspired'.

Combat is one oft-cited example of these ... it's super easy and super simple to have combat come down to rolling dice and comparing results. And can be frustrating when you roll a bunch of garbage, and your opponent wins because they simply lucked into a better roll. Contrast that with a game like Kemet, which uses cards to drive combat ... my winning or losing (in part) is about the cards that each of us choose to play. So it comes down to my decision vs. your decision, and not something out of either of our controls.

All that being said, I am not one of those people as I happen to be perfectly fine with a little (or even a lot!) of luck in games.
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David Aldinger
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The shorter the game the more that Luck becomes acceptable.

As far as doing mulligans in a game of Arkham, shame on them. That's not what Arkham is about. It's about long and random and the roll of a die is what moves the story. Winning is secondary to telling that story.

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Osiris Saline
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russ wrote:
OsirisSaline wrote:
I've noticed many members tend to dislike dice rolling/flipped cards being core mechanics of games.

I have encountered this in multiple game groups in my life, mainly from big fans of Eurogames and competitive CCGs

How is randomly drawing cards not a core mechanism of most CCGs? I think I must be missing something there!


With most of the CCG players I know they'll have arranged their cards so they're generally guaranteed something usable. Using Magic: The Gathering as an example, it's rare players will ever lack mana or a low cost card in their opening hand due to the preparation of your deck when you know the size of your deck/cost of mana to activate cards and long term strategies, even if the drawn cards are random in a sense.

Quote:
Quote:
Beyond the simple fears of losing to a random factor, why are dice roll & random card mechanics looked down upon so readily by certain groups of players?

A frequent (and perfectly reasonable to me) reason is that too much luck can make the game's end result feel meaningless. E.g. imagine an extreme absurd case where you play a game for a couple of hours, doing various complicating strategic interesting things, and then in the final round the game says "Now determine victory by rolling dice, and whoever rolls the highest wins." This is of course an extreme absurd example, but a game with increasing amounts of "too much" luck starts to approach this in effect. If someone who plays very badly is almost as likely to win as someone who plays very well, that makes the game feel rather pointless for many people (and understandably so, I think).


That's a fantastic point I hadn't considered before, possibly because I love the chaos of major failed rolls or high emotion successes in games more than anything else. It makes a lot of sense, even in regards to thematic timesink games like Arkham Horror where one player can roll 1s (or roll nothing!) all game and still win.
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Jon Vallerand
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OsirisSaline wrote:
When setting up Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) one time I had a variety of different personalities getting close to upset when I suggested we choose factions randomly.


One thing I particularly hate in game is when randomness keeps you from doing cool stuff. If you hate the race you draw in TI3, it will be a long game. If you draw no Ice breaker in Android: Netrunner, the game's an exercise in frustration; same if you draw no money-generating character in Bruges, or never get a locomotive in Ticket to Ride for links that need one. Or luck that comes to determine the result of an action: "I shoot the 20 zombies with my super-awesome-huge-ass-gun, and *rolls bucket o' dice* hit none." Yeah, that was fun.

That being said, I'm fine with the luck of the card draw in Splendor or Power Grid, because you should know the risk of revealing a card that helps an opponent when you take one.
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Eric Matthews
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I love luck, and dice in particular, but that love begins to diminish very quickly after about 30 or 40 minutes of gameplay. An hour is fine. 2 hours is usually OK, but at that point the luck better be thematic or at least applied in an interesting way.

Once I hit 6 hours of gameplay coming down to a few dice rolls I'm absolutely hating luck (even if I'm the one benefiting). There's exceptions like when luck determines random setups with equal impact to everyone, or games where there are clever and real ways to mitigate the luck, but in general:

The shorter the game the more I like luck.

Personally I think some of the fun of boardgames for a lot of people is control as it has been said. There's so much we can't control about our lives that there is a certain pleasure in having control in a game, whether it is a city of workers, an army , or a single, powerful wizard.
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Richard Keiser

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A little from column A, a little from column B. The proportions depend on how lucky I am at that exact moment.
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Pete Martyn
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It depends. I certainly don't want to waste my time playing a game of pure luck such as Candy Land. But games that include luck as another resource to be managed are something I very much enjoy. Luck is luck, but understanding probability, game theory, etc. is absolutely a skill, and one I enjoy getting to play with.

If I played games solely to win, I wouldn't enjoy luck. But luck in games can provide a big boost to some of the other things I enjoy about gaming, like drama, tension, narrative, and even joy.

Whoops, just hit semantic satiation for the word "luck." Luck luck luck luck. What a strange word.
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April W
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It's about personal preference. I think some people feel cheated if they lose to luck when they have otherwise (in their minds) done everything to gear themselves for the win.

Personally, I enjoy the thrill of luck-based elements, but also like when it can be mitigated to an extent.
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CARL SKUTSCH
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Check out Clockwork Wars. It's a pretty darn good dudes on a hex map Euro'ish steampunk game. Quick and fun.
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I want my skill to be the main thing that matters in a game. I don't see games as organized activities designed to tell a story that I'm watching as much as playing. I want to be in control of much of my story. That said, I don't mind some randomness in the right context.

Wargames, as Russ said, are good with randomness. However, wargames usually have lots and lots of die rolls so the luck tends towards the average. One of my issues with Twilight Struggle is that I feel there are relatively few die rolls and so each roll has too much importance. I still like the game a lot but I'd like it better if the randomness was handled differently.

I am not fond of games where you play a bunch of turns and then it's all down to the big die fest and you can lose just because.
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Chris Ruf
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Too often people look at luck and skill as opposites when they aren't. This has been talked about a lot, and Richard Garfield gave a great lecture on this that I suggest you look up on YouTube.

Personally, I have no issues with luck, even in long games. What I think people often overlook is the amount of skill involved to even get to that "deciding die roll." Granted, not every game rewards skill equally, but I find that it is often disingenuous to say that, "the entire game came down to a single die roll." Did it really? Did all your other decisions truly not matter? Often times the answer is: no.

In Arkham/Eldritch you have to make solid choices before the luck happens. Good luck often won't compensate for bad choices. And while bad luck can certainly mess up good decisions, does that mean you shouldn't have made the "right" choice?

Coming from a Magic the Gathering and Poker background, I see luck as just another aspect of game to be aware of. Luck is a short term problem, but solid play will ensure you win in the long run. I extend this line of thought to any game that involves luck and skill. I may lose this game of Eldritch/Eclipse/etc due to bad luck, but as long as I feel I made the right decision, I have nothing to feel bad about.

Also, luck is a good equalizer. If a game is high on skill and low on luck, it can be very demoralizing for people not as skilled at the game as their opponents. Luck helps people feel like they have a chance. I like the fact that in Magic, even if I play perfectly, I can't expect to win all the time. It creates an environment where people feel like there is always a chance. Plus, since the weaker players don't always realize how often they actually lose, they keep playing. Ensuring a healthy player base for the game continues to exist.

There will always be room for 100% skill based games. But they require a high level of devotion to get better, and/or a struggle to find players of equal skill. Some people like losing over and over on the quest to get better. But I think a lot of people like me feel like they "ain't got time for that s***!"
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Ken Lewis
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Geosphere wrote:
Luck in chess would change the game.

Lack of it in blackjack would as well.

A good game balances the controlling and mitigating of luck.



But, that doesn't answer the question as to why luck is looked down upon by certain players.

I think, as others have stated, those players who dislike luck in games prefer having as much control over their position in a game as possible.

On the flip side of that, I think players who like high luck games like giving up that control so they can see what happens next.
 
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Bryan Thunkd
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russ wrote:
A frequent (and perfectly reasonable to me) reason is that too much luck can make the game's end result feel meaningless. E.g. imagine an extreme absurd case where you play a game for a couple of hours, doing various complicating strategic interesting things, and then in the final round the game says "Now determine victory by rolling dice, and whoever rolls the highest wins." This is of course an extreme absurd example, but a game with increasing amounts of "too much" luck starts to approach this in effect. If someone who plays very badly is almost as likely to win as someone who plays very well, that makes the game feel rather pointless for many people (and understandably so, I think).
For me, there's a length-to-randomness ratio. If I'm playing a short game, I am happy to allow a healthy dose of randomness. But the more you extend the game length, the less randomness I want in the game. So for the absurd example you posit, I'd be okay if the game takes a minute. Win, Lose, or Banana pretty much is that game for me. It's not a favorite game of mine, but given how short it is, I'm fine with it being highly random. But the more I invest time and effort into a game, the more I want the result of the game to reflect that time and effort.
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Maarten D. de Jong
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OsirisSaline wrote:
Beyond the simple fears of losing to a random factor, why are dice roll & random card mechanics looked down upon so readily by certain groups of players?

It's not the fear of losing. Each and everyone of us will lose most games played to begin with (because of the pigeon hole principle). It's the feeling of wasting time on something you have little to no control over.

Many people on this planet like the uncertainty that arises from randomness, can even get addicted to the adrenalin rush it produces. You get all sorts of weird hypotheses and theories why some people seem to be 'luckier' than others. Fortunes are made and lost over it. Movies, especially Asiatic ones, are rife with this theme. (And like all such movies, they are hilariously over the top about it.) So apparently it all does have a certain appeal.

But not everyone is like that as obviously we're not all hardcore gamblers. Not everyone experiences that adrenalin rush. A more philosophical approach that it's the long term of all this uncertainty that matters is now taken. Once you do that using the tools of science and maths the appeal of randomness simply shifts to other things. Focus is on the cold, hard calculation of probability density functions, expectancy values and variances. Deceptively simple-looking stochastic processes can yield a surprisingly rich variety in these outcomes; and mastering them is then a challenge in its own right. And even though most people would not know how to calculate these values explicitly except for the simplest of cases, they do enjoy working them out heuristically. (Even if they'd never put it in terms like these.) To them the thrill of that One Roll™ is just... a nuisance. It doesn't mean anything. It's just that: one roll. Big deal. Get over yourself.

Hence the mechanisms being looked down upon. They don't offer the appropriate challenge and/or assign too much value to singular outcomes of the stochastic processes, thus is playing games employing them deemed a waste of (often valuable) time.
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Russ Williams
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panzer6 wrote:
Control.

They're afraid to lose it.

That's condescending bogus psychoanalysis.

Are people who dislike games with no randomness similarly "afraid" to have control or afraid to lose without being able to explain away their loss by "bad luck"?
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Chris Ruf
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russ wrote:
panzer6 wrote:
Control.

They're afraid to lose it.

That's condescending bogus psychoanalysis.

Are people who dislike games with no randomness similarly "afraid" to have control or afraid to lose without being able to explain away their loss by "bad luck"?


I think you are taking his comment more seriously than it was intended.
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Russ Williams
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Legend5555 wrote:
russ wrote:
panzer6 wrote:
Control.

They're afraid to lose it.

That's condescending bogus psychoanalysis.

Are people who dislike games with no randomness similarly "afraid" to have control or afraid to lose without being able to explain away their loss by "bad luck"?


I think you are taking his comment more seriously than it was intended.

Perhaps, though I've seen the same sentiment expressed sincerely by plenty of people.
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John
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Thunkd wrote:
For me, there's a length-to-randomness ratio. If I'm playing a short game, I am happy to allow a healthy dose of randomness. But the more you extend the game length, the less randomness I want in the game. So for the absurd example you posit, I'd be okay if the game takes a minute. Win, Lose, or Banana pretty much is that game for me. It's not a favorite game of mine, but given how short it is, I'm fine with it being highly random. But the more I invest time and effort into a game, the more I want the result of the game to reflect that time and effort.


Exactly. That's not to say I don't enjoy longer games with randomness in them, the game just has to be designed in such a way that the randomness is unlikely to be what decides the game.
 
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Chris Mcpherson
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I'm def one of the people who dislikes luck involved in my games for some of the previously stated reasons but I'm totally fine with losing a game. What I enjoy most about the lack of luck is that after losing a game I can tell the winner what a great decision they made at a certain point that heavily contributed to the win. Or alternatively, what choice I had made that didn't work out and led to less points or negatively affected a future move. I'll play a game with friends with luck involved if they choose it but I'm unlikely to buy one.
 
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