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Subject: This game seems broken... rss

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Justme LookingAround
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I've played quite a few card games over the years. Some work and some do not. The first time I tried this game it seemed to "work" just fine. But the more times my group played it, something very wrong kept bugging me. I couldn't put my finger on it, so I whipped up a quick spreadsheet to see what the heck was going on.

This topic is very debatable, hence why I am here but let's start with two CONSTANTS that will not be debated:

Game = A competition involving multiple players in which players' intelligence or strengths secures a quantifiable victory.

Waste of time = A competition in which dumb blind luck is the dominant deciding factor for a quantifiable victory.

I'm here for a discussion, but those two definitions are not part of it, they are the pillars of the discussion.

Debatable Point: Thunderstone is a "waste of time". As per above definition.

Remember, the definition will not be debated, only if Thunderstone can be considered a "waste of time" (as defined above).

So why do I suggest that Thunderstone is so overally dependent on luck? Well I ran the numbers for this game. In order to increase your $/card high enough (on average) to purchase hero cards for several turns in a row (on average), you can never get your (hero cards)/hand high enough to defeat the average monster in the deck!

That's a mouthful, but another way to look at it is you can't get enough hero cards in your hand to consistently defeat monsters, unless you are LUCKY!! This game depends heavily on luck and ONLY LUCK in order for it to proceed.

Now other games like Dominion are also somewhat based upon luck. But in Dominion, the designers seemed competent enough to make the game work based upon averages, instead of the variance (luck) of the cards. So player decisions matter, and you can raise your average $/hand up and then cruise to victory. Luck helps, but it takes a backseat to your skill as a deck builder.

I kept noticing that people were winning games who had TERRIBLE decks built. But they kept winning because they were getting "low probability" hands.

For example one of my friends had all heroes/militia/weapons one hand, the next hand was then all $ cards, the following hand was all h/m/w, and the following hand was again all $ cards. His overall deck was TRASH, but because he consistently received very low probability hands he CRUISED to victory.

That example has happened a few times in our games. Sure, even in Dominion, low probability hands happen and can shape the game. But the IMPACT of those lower probability hands is reduced significantly if the game is designed properly. And Thunderstone does NOT seem to be designed properly to prevent low % hands from completely destroying a game!

Finally, I know I'm online. But that doesn't mean gamers can't have a civil discussion about how one particular game is designed. Can we keep the personal attacks down to a low roar and discuss the game itself, instead of the people in the forum? thanks!
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Rick Teverbaugh
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The entire premise of the review is debatable as far as I'm concerned. If I can arbitrarily set up two definitions of my own composition and choosing and force everyone to accept them, then I could prove that snow is always green as it falls from the sky. I know you are looking for what you say you don't want and that is indignant replies. I will only say that Thunderstone is a very good game and that they seem to me to be far more people who don't think they are wasting time playing it than there are those who do.
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Ryan Metzler
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deimos2006 wrote:
I've played quite a few card games over the years. Some work and some do not. The first time I tried this game it seemed to "work" just fine. But the more times my group played it, something very wrong kept bugging me. I couldn't put my finger on it, so I whipped up a quick spreadsheet to see what the heck was going on.

This topic is very debatable, hence why I am here but let's start with two CONSTANTS that will not be debated:

Game = A competition involving multiple players in which players' intelligence or strengths secures a quantifiable victory.

Waste of time = A competition in which dumb blind luck is the dominant deciding factor for a quantifiable victory.

I'm here for a discussion, but those two definitions are not part of it, they are the pillars of the discussion.

Debatable Point: Thunderstone is a "waste of time". As per above definition.

Remember, the definition will not be debated, only if Thunderstone can be considered a "waste of time" (as defined above).

So why do I suggest that Thunderstone is so overally dependent on luck? Well I ran the numbers for this game. In order to increase your $/card high enough (on average) to purchase hero cards for several turns in a row (on average), you can never get your (hero cards)/hand high enough to defeat the average monster in the deck!

That's a mouthful, but another way to look at it is you can't get enough hero cards in your hand to consistently defeat monsters, unless you are LUCKY!! This game depends heavily on luck and ONLY LUCK in order for it to proceed.

Now other games like Dominion are also somewhat based upon luck. But in Dominion, the designers seemed competent enough to make the game work based upon averages, instead of the variance (luck) of the cards. So player decisions matter, and you can raise your average $/hand up and then cruise to victory. Luck helps, but it takes a backseat to your skill as a deck builder.

I kept noticing that people were winning games who had TERRIBLE decks built. But they kept winning because they were getting "low probability" hands.

For example one of my friends had all heroes/militia/weapons one hand, the next hand was then all $ cards, the following hand was all h/m/w, and the following hand was again all $ cards. His overall deck was TRASH, but because he consistently received very low probability hands he CRUISED to victory.

That example has happened a few times in our games. Sure, even in Dominion, low probability hands happen and can shape the game. But the IMPACT of those lower probability hands is reduced significantly if the game is designed properly. And Thunderstone does NOT seem to be designed properly to prevent low % hands from completely destroying a game!

Finally, I know I'm online. But that doesn't mean gamers can't have a civil discussion about how one particular game is designed. Can we keep the personal attacks down to a low roar and discuss the game itself, instead of the people in the forum? thanks!


Thin the militia and starting cards out of your deck while buying cards with a moderate gold value. After thinning and replacing with those cards, buy heroes. Focusing on heroes that also have a gold value helps. I think your analysis fails to take in to account the shift in focus that typically happens in the game. Much like Dominion, the initial focus is going to be on ramping up the gold available in your deck. Subsequently, you will see more fighting. The inclusion of experience allows you to transition your lower level heroes into more efficient higher heroes even when not actively adding cards with gold values to your hand.

I'm also curious to see these numbers that you ran...
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Dion Baxter
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Short answer.
You're wrong.

Luck plays a factor. I've lost games because I've been REALLY unlucky before, but my opponents had a strategy that worked. But I never got so bitter about it. Luck, you will find, evens out. I've had some UNBELIEVABLY lucky games of Dominion before now!


But so this not meant to be a criticism of you, here are some useful hints which might help you enjoy the game:

Get rid of those useless cards. I spend several turns getting rid of Militias. (Although the recent expansions allow for a Militia only strategy now!)
How many times have I played Dominion when I couldn't play an action or buy anything useful and wished I could have trashed a card?

Attack a monster in the dungeon. If you fail, you usually send it to the bottom of the dungeon deck. It stops your opponent getting the VP and XP. This can be used to kill off cards thanks to a Dungeon effect.

Kill a monster when you have the chance
. VP and XP will win you the game!

Hope that helps.

Oh yeah, and buy up those '3 Gold' cards quickly! I love buying up the level 2 and 3 heroes whilst others try to level up. devil


#edit# typo and added the 'Gold strategy'
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K.Y. Wong
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Wrong. 20+ games and only a handful where my ex-MTG pro brother did NOT win. The rest of us still very much enjoy trying to beat him though. laugh
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Daniel Drickman
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I've only played a handful of games and only with 2 people, but every game I played with someone less experienced with deck building games I won, every game with someone who has more deck building experience (and with the game in general) I lost.
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Justme LookingAround
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I'll post some numbers later but to respond to a couple of posts...

A more skilled player can of course beat a player with no skill.

That's not the point!

In this game it seems like you cannot actually get your attack/hand high enough to defeat the "average" monster greater than 50% of the time. So the game degrades into a contest of "I'm closer to 50% than you!". But not being greater than 50% turns this game into a competition of variance of your hands.

My friend who built hands of inferior average attack seemed very likely to win simply because he had a larger variance than the hands the rest of us had. He won because when got lucky, he did extremely well.

But the rest of us had to get lucky too!! That is because we couldn't push our attack/hand greater than the average creature damage to greater than 50%. So we all had to get very lucky, instead of depending on the %'s to work themselves out.

This means that when he eventually got that lucky break, we couldn't catch up, because we were depending on 30-40% chances.

Dominion doesn't work this way! Sure,a player with a crappy deck can still get lucky. But a player who builds properly, based on the cards available, can time and time again push to victory. Not everytime, but it is MUCH more likely in Dominion to overcome an opponents lucky draws than it is in Thunderstone.

Another way to look at it is his "bell curve" was wider than ours. In thunderstone, everyone has a low average attack, but our range of "higher probability hands" was much thinner. So when we did get lucky it wasn't by as much. When he got lucky, it was much more likely that he would do extremely well, race ahead of us, and then do it all over again.
 
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Ryan Metzler
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deimos2006 wrote:
A more skilled player can of course beat a player with no skill.

That's not the point!


Actually this one statement completely negates your whole point. The more skilled player wins, making it not based on luck..
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Justme LookingAround
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LoL!

i said "no skill".

There is a difference between luck being "part of" a game, and luck "driving" the game.

In blackjack, luck is driving the game. Can you play blackjack crappy? You betcha! But that doesn't mean that luck isn't completely in charge!

In dominion, luck is NOT completely in charge, because it is designed so well!

There is a tipping point when designing the probabilities associated with a game where players can push probabilities in their favor. Dominion does that, and it empowers the player to make meaningful decisions. On the other hand, Thunderstone does not appear to be designed this way. Thus it negates the meaningfulness of the decisions the players!
 
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Stephen Cappello
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I think you are trying to play Thunderstone like you would play Dominion. That would be your main problem.
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Chad Rathsack
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slaqr wrote:
deimos2006 wrote:
A more skilled player can of course beat a player with no skill. :)

That's not the point!


Actually this one statement completely negates your whole point. The more skilled player wins, making it not based on luck..


Right. If someone with skill can have an advantage then there is skill involved in deciding who wins. This does not mean that luck isn't a factor, but a skilled player can win regardless of luck most often.

Now, the way the OP is stating the problem is that you can't beat the average monster more than 50% of the time. That makes sense as the point of the game is to ALSO go to the village and buy cards. Generally hands that aren't good at battle are often good in the village. It is a back and forth of fighting and village runs.

A second, assumed point, is that if your average creature is only beatable by 50% of hands then hard creatures are even more difficult to beat. But again this is by design as hard creatures are supposed to be hard. Which means that your average hand that is good for fighting will still have trouble fighting it. You will need to use your SKILL to build a deck the minimizes the luck factor so that you are more likely to get these good hands that can not only go to the dungeon, but also take out the biggest creatures more often.

Also - as the person above me stated, this is not Dominion and (thankfully) is not trying to be like many of the deck builders that have come out are. It leans away from strategy and towards flavor and randomness. It is not a Dominion setup that can always be "solved" with best choices.
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Rick Teverbaugh
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deimos2006 wrote:
I'll post some numbers later but to respond to a couple of posts...

A more skilled player can of course beat a player with no skill.

That's not the point!

In this game it seems like you cannot actually get your attack/hand high enough to defeat the "average" monster greater than 50% of the time. So the game degrades into a contest of "I'm closer to 50% than you!". But not being greater than 50% turns this game into a competition of variance of your hands.

My friend who built hands of inferior average attack seemed very likely to win simply because he had a larger variance than the hands the rest of us had. He won because when got lucky, he did extremely well.

But the rest of us had to get lucky too!! That is because we couldn't push our attack/hand greater than the average creature damage to greater than 50%. So we all had to get very lucky, instead of depending on the %'s to work themselves out.

This means that when he eventually got that lucky break, we couldn't catch up, because we were depending on 30-40% chances.

Dominion doesn't work this way! Sure,a player with a crappy deck can still get lucky. But a player who builds properly, based on the cards available, can time and time again push to victory. Not everytime, but it is MUCH more likely in Dominion to overcome an opponents lucky draws than it is in Thunderstone.

Another way to look at it is his "bell curve" was wider than ours. In thunderstone, everyone has a low average attack, but our range of "higher probability hands" was much thinner. So when we did get lucky it wasn't by as much. When he got lucky, it was much more likely that he would do extremely well, race ahead of us, and then do it all over again.


But if one player's deck was able to take better advantage of luck than yours, then what made his deck inferior? Because you deemed it so?
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Aaron Bohm
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Sigh.

I am also inclined to go with the "you're wrong" answer. You are too new to this game and obviously do not understand the strategy yet.

For newer players, it is highly recommended to start with the suggested setup in the rulebook. The reason for this is, as you say, the game designers know that you do not start with "too hard" of monsters to fight. 50% chance to beat a monster? If you do a random set up MAKE SURE you let all the players look through the monsters first and MAKE SURE you tweak the village appropriately (no point in having all magic immune monsters and all magic attack heroes for example).

What happens in a typical game is that for the first 3-7 rounds of the game you NEED to thin your deck of crap cards and build up cards with high gold/high attack values and combos that work well. If you happen to get a monster you can beat in the first few rounds more power to you - however even then sometimes you shouldn't fight it. After you build your deck engine you will notice that the game zooms by, with almost ever turn allowing you to fight a monster.

The "luck" you speak about is almost entirely mitigated by each player to the point that I call these "probability" games, not "luck" games. You obviously never played Magic as the whole point is creating a deck with the right probability for each card.

Each player starts with the same cards and although the draws can be different, you should know, after the first hand, what the second hand of everyone (including yourself) will be. Can you get lucky in the first turn and draw all your gold or 5 militia and a torch and beat a monster? Yes, if you consider this luck (since usually this makes your second turn useless). Otherwise, another factor mistaken for luck is that you can get good cards in your deck but consistantly get bad draws. Usually this is caused by having a bloated deck, IE you would think it would be the same thing having 1x of card A and 1x of card B as having 2x of both but it actually really isn't (since the probability of getting a hand of all B's or all A's is higher and that might not be a good thing - IE all light or all attack). So keep your deck thin. The other luck that is unavoidable is the monster flip luck. If someone beats the monster you wanted to beat before you or if an awesome monster just happens to flip to another opponent on the turn he/she can beat it that can have some swingy-ness to it. The game doesn't have zero luck, but if you play the best usually you will win.

If you actually want to enjoy the game, I suggest you give us an example of a setup you used and a brief turn by turn so we can give you alternatives and suggestions. Otherwise feel free to send your "waste of time" to me as I could always use another copy, this is one of my favorite games of all time and I also don't care for games that are too lucky.
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Justme LookingAround
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I don't think everyone understands the impact of "defeating a monster 50% of the time". Huge casinos are built on slightly greater than 50% chance that the house will win. Think about that for a second. Gangst...I mean businessmen are willing to spend millions, if not billions, of dollars gambling on the fact that you will give them money slightly more than 50% of the time. In fact, I'm willing to say that over the long haul, that it isn't gambling anymore, but a sure thing!

So when i say "defeating monsters" more than 50% of the time I am saying that if I went to vegas, a bookie would be willing to put millions of dollars down saying that the monster will be defeated every time. And over the long haul, he SHALL make money.

I'll post some numbers later on why Thunderstone doesn't let you do this, without getting lucky.

EDIT:
It's interesting that after so many responses not a single person even could comment on that I might be "onto something". While several people I know, when confronting with this idea, could at least acknowledge that it is possible.

In fact, one of my friends figured this out independently. When I brought it up he agreed, but said, "I still like the game anyway."

But I guess the difference is that the other people I know do not have ulterior motives. I sincerely hope the guy who brought up the gaming website (below) gets at least a buck or two kick back.
 
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Rick Teverbaugh
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What I think you need to do is quit comparing Thunderstone to other things. If you like the way those other games play better, instead of trying to get Thunderstone to play like those things, go play those other things. Thunderstone, like many other board games, has elements of both luck and strategy and nobody can win without some of each. Usually claims of too much luck comes from people who has lost repeatedly at said game. Winners much less often complain that the game was too decided by luck.
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BJ
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Come play at Yucata.de for a little while before you put your numbers out there for everyone to see. I think your eyes will be opened to the possibilities.
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Ian Kelly
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deimos2006 wrote:
I don't think everyone understands the impact of "defeating a monster 50% of the time". Huge casinos are built on slightly greater than 50% chance that the house will win.


No, they're built on the expected payouts of the games being slightly smaller than the cost to play. If you can find me a casino where the slots are set to pay out slightly less than 50% of the time, let me know, because I'd like to go there and make a fortune.

Quote:
So when i say "defeating monsters" more than 50% of the time I am saying that if I went to vegas, a bookie would be willing to put millions of dollars down saying that the monster will be defeated every time. And over the long haul, he SHALL make money.


Assuming your numbers are correct, I fail to see the point of your comparison. There is no house in Thunderstone taking your money when you fail to defeat a monster, so what difference does it make if you can't win 50% of the time? The important thing is that your chance is higher than that of your opponents, or at least higher on the big monsters that really count.
 
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Paul Bobby
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deimos2006 wrote:


For example one of my friends had all heroes/militia/weapons one hand, the next hand was then all $ cards, the following hand was all h/m/w, and the following hand was again all $ cards. His overall deck was TRASH, but because he consistently received very low probability hands he CRUISED to victory.



So your buddy won? Doesn't sound like a trash deck to me.
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Ronnie Edwards
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This game does involve more luck than Dominion and I don't think there is any great way around that. In dominion you deal with the luck of your opponents draw and your own minus the cards that you and your opponent have purchased and trashed. In thunderstone you have those factors plus the dungeon deck. 

I don't love thunderstone. I don't love spending most of the first turns trashing cards and building up my party  in the village and that seems to be a near necessary strategy. I also, don't love the ever changing battlefield created by the dungeon deck. I prefer Dominion which has  less theme and less luck. 

That being said I still believe that this post exaggerates quite a bit. The game has a signifinpcant strategic component and I  consistently win while I play well and when I lose it is generally due to my opponent playing better in a observable way which I can later immitate. 

If you choose wisely regarding 1. when to rest your party and trash a card (and what to trash), 2. when to go to the village and what/who to level up and buy, and 3. when to go to the dungeon and what monster to attack, then you will play well. If you make the aforementioned choices in an unwise manner then you will do poorly. 

Furthermore, in my experience (like in Dominion) when I am drawing useless hands (and others are not) I have purchased/trashed/slain the wrong heroes/items/monsters. If you are drawing cruddy hands then you need to trash something (usually a militia), buy some stuff, or kill the monsters that give you +attack, +light, or +money

Side note: One thing which really might be broken is the Creeping Death card the Disease cards (it's too easy to receive multiple disease cards each turn without being able to block the attack or trash the cards and there are supposedly ulmited numbers of disease cards...
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Dion Baxter
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We can probably agree that maybe 50% of the time, you might not be able to kill a monster. But what is the problem with that? You still have three viable alternatives. Trash a card, buy in the village or enter the dungeon and remove a creature!

Compared to Dominion (which I love playing BTW) if you have a crappy hand, you STILL have a crappy hand! (I have over 100 recorded plays on BGG and several hundred against computer opponents.)

But if you play this game well, and my kids play it VERY WELL, you can build a deck that will wipe out most monsters EVERY turn.

I love Thunderstone, I hope you eventually learn to like it too. But if you really don't 'get it' then perhaps it's not the game for you. I personally don't rate 'Lord of the Rings:LCG' highly (I HATE it as a solo game - too much luck! Irony!whistle) but there are people on BGG more than willing to persuade me I'm wrong. And that is what makes BGG so great.


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Aaron Bohm
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I don't know where you're getting this "50%" nonsense or why you are saying it as if it was fact.

Fact: It is possible to get your deck down to 6 cards. This means each turn you would 100% know what you were going to get. And there would be ZERO luck.

Fact: IF those 6 cards were 2x level one Outlands, 1x Polearm, 1x Feast, 1x Goodberries and 1x Lightstone Gem you can beat, with 100% certainty, ANY monster in the base game at ANY rank (with exception to a Blink Dog at rank 3). Now, that is ONLY using lvl 1 heroes. Also, that gives you your pick of assuring you can kill any monster in any random dungeon. So imagine how much easier this gets if you get lvl 2+ creatures and you're only looking to see if you can kill 1 monster in a dungeon. Obviously a real game situation may differ but as you haven't given us any examples from your game and assume the most infavorable scenario to support your statements it's only fair to look at the most favorable scenario as well.

So again, what is your 50% based on? I also agree with most of what everyone else has said so far as there are other ways to get victory points than just killing monsters and if you haven't gotten your deck down to a streamlined killing machine you'll need those turns anyway to do so (and I'll repeat myself, often it can even be a better option to NOT kill a monster and instead do something that makes your deck better).

The casino analogy can work the other way as well. In a game like black jack or poker, if you play/bet correctly over enough hands you can actually make a decent amount of money. However if you don't play correctly, you are almost guarenteed to lose.

If you want to dislike the game then just dislike the game. But don't pretend like you actually took the time to validate your option. If you actually want to try and see if it is a good game, how about you do some of your own research and fact checking? Or again, post some scenarios and let some veterans show you how you might play your turns better.


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Justme LookingAround
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Never Knows Best wrote:

The casino analogy can work the other way as well. In a game like black jack or poker, if you play/bet correctly over enough hands you can actually make a decent amount of money. However if you don't play correctly, you are almost guarenteed to lose.


Actually blackjack is a losing bet, every single time. Just like roulette the house has the favor and over the long haul you shall lose.

A texas hold'm poker tournament is different. That's why the house takes in a rake.

It's amazing how we have had these casinos for many many years and yet people still think they can go there and get rich. Sure, you can get lucky over the short run, just like how i can roll 2D6 and every once in a while get 4x twelves in a row. But that's not gambling, that's just plain foolish.
 
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Jim Smith
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deimos2006 wrote:


EDIT:
It's interesting that after so many responses not a single person even could comment on that I might be "onto something". While several people I know, when confronting with this idea, could at least acknowledge that it is possible.

In fact, one of my friends figured this out independently. When I brought it up he agreed, but said, "I still like the game anyway." :)

But I guess the difference is that the other people I know do not have ulterior motives. I sincerely hope the guy who brought up the gaming website (below) gets at least a buck or two kick back. :p


OK, so you're complaining that no-one is taking your ideas seriously, even going so far as to suggest that everyone here has some kind of sinister motivation for liking Thunderstone, but you've shown no willingness to do the same and explore the ( overwhelming ) opinions of other users that have tried to engage in the 'debate' you claim to want.

Clearly there's a lot of users here that enjoy Thunderstone and find that they aren't experiencing the same faults that you're describing so I think it's time to agree to disagree.
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Markus
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deimos2006 wrote:
For example one of my friends had all heroes/militia/weapons one hand, the next hand was then all $ cards, the following hand was all h/m/w, and the following hand was again all $ cards. His overall deck was TRASH, but because he consistently received very low probability hands he CRUISED to victory.


That probably makes poker a waste of time too, since you can win all the time if you're lucky and constantly receive low probability hands like, say, royal flushes?
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Justme LookingAround
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DeePee wrote:

That probably makes poker a waste of time too, since you can win all the time if you're lucky and constantly receive low probability hands like, say, royal flushes?


Actually poker is quite a complex game. You tend to play the people more than the cards. So it is alot less "solitaire like" than these MtG clones (deck building games). Luck is of course still involved but, like I have said a few times, luck takes a backseat to the gameplay.

I showed one of my friends this post (on my laptop) and he got a good laugh out of it. I show up here every once in a while to poll the community and hear if there is someway around difficulties we have seen in some of ours games. Usually a couple of people are able to respond civilly and give some good feedback.

In this case, the idea of a transition to a (fight/rest/repeat) game pattern does seem to help in the numbers. But that kind of game really heavily depends on the items present in the game. In other words it won't always work and it actually does not seem to work *most* of the time because of all of the potentially random village cards drawn. And some of the people even alluded to that point.

So in the end, the village cards randomly drawn are likely to push you into a game where you really can't push the probabilities. That is because if you give up certain cards, you are losing attack value that you really need, but also diluting your deck with more monsters. Thus your average attack/hand sinks and luck takes the drivers seat. shake

What is really interesting is that several people keep saying to toss all of your cards down to like 6. The problem with that strategy is that "usually" it takes a very long time to do that right. (notice the bold, underline, italics? That means "right" is important)

From what I can tell, it would take much longer than what our typical game lasts.

If anyone has any other ideas, I'd love to hear them.
 
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