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Hostage Negotiator» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Not sure I'm getting the "strategy" in this game... rss

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Chris Orme
United States
Illinois
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Hey all,

This is admittedly a heated post, but I just tried playing this game for the umpteenth time today, yet another loss in a streak of...many. One win (my second game) out of nearly 20 plays, and only because I rolled like a champion.

I've read all the strategy posts in this forum, and it just doesn't feel like there's much to do to mitigate crummy dice rolls, of which I have had MANY. You can get the "What I meant was..." card to help re-roll, or save two cards to turn a 4 (which I never seem to roll until I have one card in my hand) into a success. Even with three dice, I've rolled absolute garbage.

Sure, you can burn cards to generate convo points, but the game feels like you can't spare those precious cards, there just isn't enough time. Great, I just discarded two cards to make two conversation points. Now I can buy one card that will likely fail in the next round.

I've tried playing all my cards, hoping for a huge turn, but the dice hate me. I've tried playing only half the starter cards, hoping to have a little of something each turn, rather than putting all my eggs in one basket. The dice hate me.

Concede to demands they say. Well great, I would if I could, but I don't have the conversation points because the dice hate me.

Even the "What I meant was..." seems under-powered. I only get to re-roll one die? How about re-roll all of them? But...what good is that if the dice hate me?

I guess I'm just frustrated...perhaps good luck shines just around the corner and I don't know it yet. But seriously, you guys boasting 75% win rates have got to be lying, or just have sacrificed to the dice gods or something...

What tips am I missing? What strategy works for you?
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Steve Gitis (just my village's name)
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Try with different dice. Maybe yours are not "perfectly" balanced.
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Peter Kossits
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You can try what I did, when I was getting super frustrated at the beginning. Get rid of the dice completely!

I played one game without dice and always assumed I would get one success for every two dice I rolled. If I was only rolling one die, then I assumed a 4 that I would have to convert with cards.

When I found that really easy to win, then I played again with the dice but counted 4, 5 & 6 as one success and 3 as the conversion result.

...and then after a game or two like that, I felt comfortable playing it as designed.
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Ivan Silov
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I suspect the dice may not be quite balanced, with the variable etching across faces, so there could be something there. I use a dice rolling app sometimes to keep the noise down if I am playing near others - maybe something like that would help?

The other way to mitigate the effects of the dice rolls is to focus on saving zero-cost cards to convert fours. Leveraging available cards to gain dice for a big round is helpful, plus it is just more fun to chuck a big handful of dice when you can.
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Mike Martins
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My strategy varies throughout the game (and also depends on the abductor) but generally I spend the first turn revealing the demands and then the next several turns trying to get the threat level to S... partially to save hostages but also to roll with 3 dice which increase my chances of double successes. The only cards I buy at the beginning are "Just stay calm" and "What I meant was" and I never roll "Keep cool" nor "Just stay calm" unless I have 2 cards in hand (to convert a 4) and/or "What I meant was" for re-rolls. About half way I assess how this plan is going and either stick with it to the end, or start shifting towards buying extraction cards to save the remaining hostages.

Don't know if it makes a difference but I cup the dice with both hands, shake 3 times, and drop them about 4" off the table (usually onto a table cloth). Sometimes this gives me awesome rolls (but not always)
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Josh Malbon
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agiorgitis wrote:
Try with different dice. Maybe yours are not "perfectly" balanced.


I agree using different dice. Mine failed more often than random. Once, I switched to precision dice, I started having WAY BETTER results.
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Joke Meister
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sixthecat wrote:
agiorgitis wrote:
Try with different dice. Maybe yours are not "perfectly" balanced.


I agree using different dice. Mine failed more often than random. Once, I switched to precision dice, I started having WAY BETTER results.


This is potentially REALLY worrying. Has anyone done any kind of empirical test on the dice?
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fortheloveofdice
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My sarcasm meter might be busted. I can't tell who is joking in this thread and who isn't!

The dice in any copy of the game are pretty much the same as in any other copy of the game.

Are the dice completely fair? No. And that will be true for any custom dice you use unless they make it very clear that they are fair. It's also the case for Chessex dice or whatever other dice - they aren't casino grade.

For a truly balanced die, the holes in the 6 side have to be smaller than the hole on the 1 side, for example, and they will have to be tested.

And yet - some people have a better success rate at Hostage Negotiator than others, using the dice which come with the game. (Due to strategy decisions and/or rules mistakes )

If someone did some legit, statistically significant tests on the dice I'd be vaguely curious of the results. But if the dice are rolling slightly off the norm, they'll be doing that for everyone because of the die mold. And it would change the statistics slightly but - so? (That said - if you prefer playing with other dice, go for it!)

As for the OP: if you read the strategy thread by the designer (I haven't read the spoilers but I heard it was helpful for other people) but are still having trouble you could try tweaking the difficulty while you get the hang of things.

You can add an extra couple of red terror cards to give yourself more time or you can start with a different threat level. You can give yourself a 'free' conversation point each round, or a limited number of free re-rolls. You can ignore the +1 threat for each unrevealed demand clause on terror cards or ignore the "immediately end conversation" effects.

I suspect that if you start to win a little bit, you'll start to figure out things which make you win more often. And then you can toughen things back up.

And FWIW I find Donna the easiest thus far so maybe start with her?
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Josh Malbon
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No sarcasm. The engraved dice in this game are off balance.

Since they are not standard and engraved, the balance is quite off.
I found I could roll the dice to get better results, but I had to roll the dice a funky style to get good results.

While cool in concept to have custom dice engraved. They really need to be studied to be balanced correctly. I love this game, but the engraved dice are not balanced properly.

When I threw the dice into the box, rather than rolled them I could achieve better results. My standard rolling movement would result in more failures than proper odds.



I've studied dice a lot. Standard pipped engraved dice, I can cheat and get 5' and 6's more than the normal 16% odds. The weight of these dice are off.

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Guy
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Anyone tried a dice tower? Does it make a difference?
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Steve Gitis (just my village's name)
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I'll try tonight throwing 5 dice around 100 times and registering the results in an excel sheet. (500 results)
I'm not expecting a perfect 16.6%, but something close to that at least.
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Mark James Schryver
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If possible, you should throw each die separately. Then you will learn how many – if any – of the dice are out of true.
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O' Ibb
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PlanBee wrote:
Anyone tried a dice tower? Does it make a difference?


I always use my Pringles dice tower as I don't trust my rolling technique nor any dice anywhere ever. devil
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Mark Yang
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mikemartins wrote:
My strategy varies throughout the game (and also depends on the abductor) but generally I spend the first turn revealing the demands and then the next several turns trying to get the threat level to S... partially to save hostages but also to roll with 3 dice which increase my chances of double successes. The only cards I buy at the beginning are "Just stay calm" and "What I meant was" and I never roll "Keep cool" nor "Just stay calm" unless I have 2 cards in hand (to convert a 4) and/or "What I meant was" for re-rolls. About half way I assess how this plan is going and either stick with it to the end, or start shifting towards buying extraction cards to save the remaining hostages.

My strategy is pretty much the same as Mike's above.


Don't feel pressured to spend cards!
Save some of the cards you purchased to be used later when you have a higher chance of success with more dice. Hostage negotiation takes time and patience. This game is thematic in this way without people even realizing it.

Find the right time to strike
Decide when is a good time to concede a demand or two to get that advantage and then spend those saved cards for the big climactic push. It's exhilarating and fun, win or lose.

Effortless points
You can always discard your zero-cost convo cards for conversation points without rolling any dice, which allows you to buy medium-tiered cards to save for that big push later.

Know your foe
Some abductors can be talked down (get to the Safe zone repeatedly), while others need to be taken out by the SWAT team.

Get nice rolling dice
Without getting into the specifics of balance, I'm just going to say I don't like big dice, nor do I like square cornered dice. I love "rolling" dice so I use my own smaller dice that have rounded corners. I don't need custom etched icons, I know what 4 pips, 5 and 6 pips mean. The rolling-feel I get from my own dice makes the gambling aspect of this game more enjoyable.
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Chris Orme
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Illinois
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Thank you all for the tips and strategies. I made use of a combination of the above tips and am feeling less frustrated.

I used random.org's dice roller and got significantly better results. Sure, a few key rolls failed, and I ended up losing a game, but it was CLOSE...definitely up'd the tension of the game, rather than leaving me feeling hopeless.

The game after that, I won, and not handily, it was rather close again, with the hostage taker swinging rapidly from S to 6 in one turn! I was able to cool him down while extracting a few hostages, and in the end, I conceded a demand to be able to roll 3 dice, plus the extra two from the "Secret Escape" demand. Even with this last roll, I only rolled two successes out of the five dice, so it wasn't EXACTLY a sure win.

Whether or not this has anything to do with the reliability of the dice that ship with the game or just my growing sense of strategy remains to be seen, but I appreciate everyone's input!

Now...on to Donna Scarborough...
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Pascal Van Vlaenderen
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agiorgitis wrote:
I'll try tonight throwing 5 dice around 100 times and registering the results in an excel sheet. (500 results)
I'm not expecting a perfect 16.6%, but something close to that at least.


I'm very interested to see these results.
When I was young I always believed dices were fair.
But since playing with cheaper or engraved dices I had the feeling it was off a bit.
I've never tought of the physics behind it and that it could matter that much.
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Morten Monrad Pedersen
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VanVlaenderenP wrote:
agiorgitis wrote:
I'll try tonight throwing 5 dice around 100 times and registering the results in an excel sheet. (500 results)
I'm not expecting a perfect 16.6%, but something close to that at least.


I'm very interested to see these results.
When I was young I always believed dices were fair.
But since playing with cheaper or engraved dices I had the feeling it was off a bit.
I've never tought of the physics behind it and that it could matter that much.


Here's an article reporting results of dice tests: http://arstechnica.com/the-multiverse/2016/08/how-fair-is-yo...
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Steve Gitis (just my village's name)
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Here are the results for the 5 dice

Die 3 was run 2 times. 1st run 100 die drops, 2nd run is 177 drops.

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Morten Monrad Pedersen
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agiorgitis wrote:
Here are the results for the 5 dice

Die 3 was run 2 times. 1st run 100 die drops, 2nd run is 177 drops.



Great, thanks. That doesn't look too bad.

Did you do this in Excel? I think that Excel can add 95% confidence intervals, which would make it easier to evaluate the results.
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PenumbraPenguin
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Those distributions might look alarmingly uneven, but they're actually reasonably close to what a fair die would do.

For comparison, I rolled 100 virtual dice, looked at the minimum and maximum frequencies, and did this a few times.

Mins: 13, 11, 8, 11, 9, 13, 13, 11, 11, 14
Maxes: 21, 26, 30, 21, 26, 21, 22, 20, 24, 20

Those look very similar to your results. Your most extreme sample, that of die #5, is about the same as the most extreme of these 10 simulations, so not at all out of the question. The others are pretty standard with a min of about 12 and a max of about 21.

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Jay Kenigsberg

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I'm with you. Bad rolls means bad games and I've been hitting a string of bad rolls leading to lopsided losses. I've lost interest in the game quickly because I can't get "on a roll" and because losing alone is no fun at all.
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fortheloveofdice
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PenumbraPenguin wrote:
For comparison, I rolled 100 virtual dice, looked at the minimum and maximum frequencies, and did this a few times.

Without a virtual dice tower I'm not sure you can come up with statistically meaningful results.

Also did you try different edge and corner shapes in the simulation? That could affect someone's ability to roll certain numbers consistently.
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PenumbraPenguin
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As in, I simulated perfectly fair dice, with 1/6 probabilities of rolling a 1, 2, ..., 6.

The reason for this is to get some idea of whether the experimental results above are surprising. For example, if you rolled a die 100 times and only got 12 3's, is this surprising? Is it indicative that the die is uneven, or is that just usual variance?

To test this, if you roll 100 perfectly fair dice (or if you prefer, generate 100 random numbers uniformly between 1 and 6), and notice that the least frequency is often about 12, then there's no issue. Alternatively, if you do this many times and notice that the least frequency is usually 14 or 15 (compared to the average of 16.7), then your original die doesn't look too good.

I was reporting that the former is true. That is, those results look pretty much like what you would get from a fair die.

It is possible to do this via calculation rather than simulation, if one desires. I should also note that it's insufficient to just look at the smallest and largest frequencies in order to conclude that the die is fair, but if it were unfair by much, then at least one of these would be wrong.
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fortheloveofdice
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My comments above were meant to be ridiculous enough not to be taken seriously but internet, tone, people who don't know one....

While I'm sure the (physical) dice aren't casino grade, the results looked fine to me. I was too lazy to perform calculations and explain results because if you look at the Monty Hall problem you'll see people won't believe you most of the time anyway.

They know that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics, maybe? (Also meant to be funny.)
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PenumbraPenguin
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No worries!

I was a little surprised by how large a deviation from 16.7 was common for the minimum and maximum frequencies - hence why I checked it =).
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