Your favorite games with a heavy random element
AxonDomini
United States
Smithtown
New York
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Like most here, my favorite games are those where the outcome is determined by the skill of the players involved. However, there are a few games I enjoy that don't fit in this category. In these games, luck plays a signficant role in determining the winner, whether it's through the quality of the cards drawn or the result of dice rolls.

Sometimes I think games that are heavily luck dependent get a bad rap here. Games that rely heavily upon chance have a lot of things going for them:
1. You never know who's going to win. With games that rely primarily on skill, a lot of the time you know going in who's going to win. Go, Chess and similar abstracts are the extreme examples of this. It's usually not much fun going into a game knowing you're going to lose (or going to win, for some).
2. Wild swings of fortune happen in games that are heavily luck based. This can be a lot of fun if you enter the game with the right mindset.
3. They aren't brain burners. This can be good if you just aren't up to engaging in heavy thought.

Of course, too much luck is not a good thing. If a game is ALL about luck, that means there's no decisions to make and the game is basically playing you. Chutes & Ladders is the extreme example of a game in which there are NO decisions to make and the outcome is 100% luck dependent. These are not the kind of games I'm talking about.

There is also a category of game in which luck is a heavy factor, but skillful play will minimize its impact. I chose not to include such games on this list since minimizing the luck that is present in the game means that your own skill trumps that luck as a deciding factor most of the time. Such games include Attack!, where a skillful player will used combined forces to minimize the impact of luck on the dice rolls, and Blue Moon, where a good player will know how to compensate for a bad card draw.

The games I'm talking about still force the player to make choices, but they aren't deep choices and don't subject the average player to analysis paralysis. In the end, the choices are determined by a judgement call or playing style. However, the choices are enough to make you feel like you're still an active participant in the game.

Below are my favorite games with a heavy random element (not my favorite games overall). Feel free to add your own.
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1. Board Game: Risk [Average Rating:5.58 Overall Rank:14516]
AxonDomini
United States
Smithtown
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This is meant to include all the variants of Risk that I've played - Risk, Risk 2210, and Risk - Lord of the Rings - Trilogy Edition. Anyone who's played this game knows that luck plays a huge roll. Bad dice rolls can kill you, no matter how good your strategy. Still, skill plays a role. In our group there are definitely a few people who tend to win more than everyone else.

This does NOT include Castle Risk. In one of our games a player lost before he even got to take his turn. That's just a little too much luck for my taste.
 
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2. Board Game: Mag·Blast (Second Edition) [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:3098]
AxonDomini
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Smithtown
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A recent acquisition through a BGG trade, this game was an instant hit with my group (and my wife, always a bonus!) We enter the game knowing that skill plays no signficant role in the outcome, yet still have a great time. There are plenty of fun "Take that!" moments, and enough decisions to keep us interested. Where do we place our ships? Do we trade in our resource cards for another ship, thus sacrificing actions on our turn? Which of our opponents do we attack? When do we use our special powers? Not deep decisions, but just enough to make the game interesting.
 
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3. Board Game: Bounty [Average Rating:5.25 Overall Rank:13648]
AxonDomini
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Normally I hate the "roll and move" mechanic, but somehow in Bounty it works for us. This is another example of a game in which skill really means nothing, but we just don't care. It's probably a combination of theme (come on, pirates!) and the ability to raid each others' ships for loot that keeps our interest. The decisions are present but light, and the dice rolls and card draws pretty much determine the winner.
 
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4. Board Game: Electronic Battleship Advanced Mission [Average Rating:5.85 Overall Rank:9151]
AxonDomini
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A guilty pleasure, I admit. While it still comes down to choosing the right coordinates blindly, the recon options with your planes and submarine, not to mention the torpedoes, tomahawk missles, etc., add a whole extra layer of decision making. My wife and I enjoy this one on occasion when we just feel like blowing things up.
 
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5. Board Game: Manila [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:614]
Justin
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Creve Coeur
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lots of dice effects, but there are lots of ways to influence things
 
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6. Board Game: Guillotine [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1001]
Phil Kilcrease
United States
SLC
Utah
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What's better than wanton dismemberment? Maybe a nice cool one... but that's about it.
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7. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:156] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
Jon Dockter
United States
Chicago
Illinois
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Magic relies heavily on the luck of the draw, and there's nothing more frustrating than getting "mana screwed".
 
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8. Board Game: Knatsch [Average Rating:5.61 Overall Rank:8976]
Mike Adams
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Brigham City
Utah
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This one is pretty popular at my house at the moment. It's dependent on both the roll of the dice and the cards drawn. You do have to make some decisions, but they are simple ones.

It plays quickly so it is a lot of fun rather than frustration like I feel in long luck-heavy games.
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9. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:279] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
T. Rosen
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Arlington
Virginia
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Despite the "heavy random element" of Settlers, it's still one of my favorites. While a player's strategy and negotiation skills are certainly a major factor in the outcome of a Settlers game, there is also a major luck element, whether it's in rolling the dice and resource production or in drawing development cards.
 
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10. Board Game: Sequence [Average Rating:5.95 Overall Rank:3086]
Hammock Backpacker
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Columbus
Ohio
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Luck of the cards you draw pretty much determines the outcome of Sequence. Yes, 'skillful' play can mean losing even with good cards, but in general, you push your luck trying to hold out and get the card you need to block or win.
 
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11. Board Game: Backgammon [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1090]
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Backgammon contains a huge amount of randomness. But the randomness can be tempered and controlled. Backgammon is all about creating favorable positions and playing the odds of those positions. Backgammon, for me, is also extremely sensual, both visually and tactilely. Some sets rank among the most beautiful objects I have ever seen. All in all, a remarkable artifact from antiquity that still brings pleasure today.
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12. Board Game: DungeonQuest [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:1280]
 
The Dude
United States
Mesa
Arizona
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The randomness factor is what makes this game so great. It hits the table rather consistently because of its "anything can happen" possibilities. I enjoy more serious dungeon crawl games also, but there is something to be said when a game can cause to roll in laughter when you are crushed to death in an cave in on the first turn.
 
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13. Board Game: This Game is Bonkers! [Average Rating:5.72 Overall Rank:9938]
Mike Anino
United States
Placerville
California
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This has been a favorite game of mine from age 12 or so and it can sometimes play very quickly so if you feel that one person got too lucky you can play again and see if they actually have skill or just luck.This has a high chance of luck in not only dice rolling but in drawing the little cards that you place that make you move after your roll. It can be argued that there is skill in this game too since you often find players who put together complex patterns of cards that lead to the scoring spaces but it also does draw greatly on luck as you have to hope that no one else puts a card in the place you wanted to go before you get there. This has been a favorite game of mine from age 12 or so and it can sometimes play very quickly so if you feel that one person got too lucky you can play again and see if they actually have skill or just luck.
 
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14. Board Game: Starfarers of Catan [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:847]
Gláucio Reis
Brazil
Rio de Janeiro
RJ
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This is not about the typical "Catan" resources generation. It's not about "rolling" the mothership for movement. It's not even about the face-down chips on planets, which may give you a VP or prevent you from establishing a colony. The huge random element here is the encounter cards. Even getting an encounter or not is totally random (50% chance). There is no way to know the outcome in advance, and a few of them can be very unbalancing - wormhole and free ship, to be more specific.

Despite that, it's a very good game, with an immersive theme, and always provides a great time - at least for a sci-fi fan like me.
 
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15. Board Game: Nautilus [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:2207]
Gláucio Reis
Brazil
Rio de Janeiro
RJ
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Hidden discovery tiles. Granted, you can use the sonar to look at them, but it's costy. The luck factor is high, because most tiles are worth zero to two VPs, or are ruins of Atlantis, which may give more VPs or nothing at all (depending on other players' discoveries of the same kind), and the extra advantage of moving researchers. And if you don't get any of the relatively rare treasure chests, you may be very short in money near the end.

Still, much like my previous entry, it's a really nice experience, mostly due to the fact that the great theme is very well integrated with the mechanics.
 
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