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Subject: Do YOU see skill when it's really just luck? rss

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Seth Owen
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I thought this was interesting:[url] http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbli...[/url]

It seems to me to be very applicable observation to gaming. For example, there's the natural human tendency to chalk up our successes to superior skill and excuse our losses to luck. This work tends to suggest that even those of us who consider ourselves pretty honest about our luck may be underestimating things.

How good a ratio of wins to losses to YOU consider proves you're skilled and not just lucky?
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Enrico Viglino
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I tend to see it as the opposite. Blame myself for failure,
yet always figure out why a success is not really earned.
Not always luck - it could be poor opponent play just as
easily.
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Steve Duff
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wargamer55 wrote:
I thought this was interesting:[url] http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbli...[/url]

It seems to me to be very applicable observation to gaming. For example, there's the natural human tendency to chalk up our successes to superior skill and excuse our losses to luck. This work tends to suggest that even those of us who consider ourselves pretty honest about our luck may be underestimating things.


Yeah, I think this is applicable to gaming. I see criticisms of Pandemic all the time, where players blame their losses on the game setup. It wasn't their strategy that failed, the game was "unwinnable". These are the same alpha types who always see "the obvious best move", and make sure to tell everyone.

Personally, I don't think there's an unwinnable game of Pandemic.
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Aaron Bohm
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The article you mention I believe illustrates more people's misconceptions regarding odds and statistics. For example commonly I hear if a coin is flipped 5 times as heads, someone will say that it's very unlikely that heads will come up again. Which, of course, is completely untrue. The same with dice and if a certain number is rolled many times, people will believe it is less likely to come up again.

As a rule, if you guess heads every time you should be right roughly 50% of the time and if you weren't it might be somewhat fair to claim you were unlucky (although over 5 flips this isn't exactly representative). Knowing that regardless of what the previous flip is the next flip is 50/50, although stupidly simple, is actually a skill.

There are several problems with this premise applied to board games, thoguh. One being how to determine the amount of luck vs. the amount of skill in any given game - something that's never been agreed on here. Maybe something can be gleaned from it, for example, have you ever felt skillful playing LCR?

Another being how to determine the skill of a particular individual and here you state that one criteria might be that you "won" a particular game. This, however, doesn't necessarily make you skillful, merely (potentially) more skillful than the players you happen to be playing against. If you play a 5 player game against the 4 least skillful people on the planet and win, technically that only makes you eligible for claiming you're not the least skillful person at that game.

Lastly, there are a number of different "skill" mechanics among many different games. An example is in games like Diplomacy, the "skill" is in negotiating among the other players to your favor. Trading/negotiating games often do not get their fair shake as a "skill" as much as games with high math and investment breakpoint components such as Power Grid or Outpost. However you may be more skillful in one and less in another.

As a general rule, in a complete skill based game of 5 players, you should win roughly 20% of the time. If you don't your less skillful than those players, if you win more you're more skillful. Luck will of course alter those results to varying degrees.
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Ian Taylor
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It happens in poker all the time. Every* losing poker player in the world is convinced they would be winners if they could just stop getting so much bad luck.

I wouldn't say I have experienced it so much in board games, mostly because the people I play with a pretty good losers and we don't usually play games with massive transparent luck elements. Human nature is human nature though, I imagine the same rules apply.


* hyperbole
 
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Pete Goch
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I think it's a futile task to examine the mechanics of a game and then try to determine whether it's a skill based game or not. It's much easier to measure results than predict them.

If one player wins more than 50% of the time in a 2 player game (33.333% in a 3 player, 25% in a 4 player etc) over a large number of plays and against a large variety of opponents then that player can be said to have won based on skill.

If you can look at a very large sample size of plays and players of a particular game and identify a subset of players that win a much higher percentage of the time than pure chance would dictate then you've identified a highly skilled set of players for that game. The higher the average win rate for that set of players the higher the impact that skill has on determining the winner of that game.

If there's very few players who win at a rate even a small amount above the rate of pure chance then the game can be said to be purely "luck" based.

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Matt Sommer
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Never Knows Best wrote:
The article you mention I believe illustrates more people's misconceptions regarding odds and statistics. For example commonly I hear if a coin is flipped 5 times as heads, someone will say that it's very unlikely that heads will come up again. Which, of course, is completely untrue. The same with dice and if a certain number is rolled many times, people will believe it is less likely to come up again.


While the odds of each individual coin-flip is 1/2, there is also a separate calculation for STREAK probability:

1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/64 (or a 1.5625 % chance).

EDIT: (Which, as I said before, wouldn't really matter once you already get to five and are discussing the sixth flip)



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SommerMatt wrote:
Never Knows Best wrote:
The article you mention I believe illustrates more people's misconceptions regarding odds and statistics. For example commonly I hear if a coin is flipped 5 times as heads, someone will say that it's very unlikely that heads will come up again. Which, of course, is completely untrue. The same with dice and if a certain number is rolled many times, people will believe it is less likely to come up again.


While the odds of each individual coin-flip is 1/2, there is also a separate calculation for STREAK probability:

1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/64 (or a 1.5625 % chance).




Sure, which is relevant if you want to know how likely it is to get six heads in a row. It is not relevant to Aaron's example, which is the odds of a sixth head coming up once five have already done so.
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J. Michael Spencer
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SommerMatt wrote:
Never Knows Best wrote:
The article you mention I believe illustrates more people's misconceptions regarding odds and statistics. For example commonly I hear if a coin is flipped 5 times as heads, someone will say that it's very unlikely that heads will come up again. Which, of course, is completely untrue. The same with dice and if a certain number is rolled many times, people will believe it is less likely to come up again.


While the odds of each individual coin-flip is 1/2, there is also a separate calculation for STREAK probability:

1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/64 (or a 1.5625 % chance).




True, but wherever you are standing in that streak, the odds of the NEXT flip being heads is still 1/2, which is what many people fail to realize in the case brought up in the comment above.

Yes, if someone were to ask what the next run of 5 flips will be, there is a 1/64 chance of it being HHHHH (just as there is a 1/64 chance of it being HTHTH, or any other permutation). However, if, after HHHH, a person is asked whether the next flip is more or less likely to be Heads, studies have shown a tendency to say that it is much less likely to come up heads than the actual 1/2.

(Interesting related statistical fact... if you were to flip that same coin 68 times, there is a very high likelihood that at some point in that sequence, you will get a 5-heads streak (and a 5-tails streak, and any other permutation possible). There was an exercise wherein a statistics professor divided her class into two groups and left the room. Group A was to flip a coin 100 times and note the results on one blackboard; Group B was to simulate (imagine) 100 coin flips and write down their results. The professor could always immediately tell which one was real and which was imagined. The imagined sequence never had more than 3 or 4 successive flips with the same result.)
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chrisr
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i geneally play perfectly after 3 games or so. it's ussually luck if other players win.





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Seth Owen
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CyanideNow wrote:
SommerMatt wrote:
Never Knows Best wrote:
The article you mention I believe illustrates more people's misconceptions regarding odds and statistics. For example commonly I hear if a coin is flipped 5 times as heads, someone will say that it's very unlikely that heads will come up again. Which, of course, is completely untrue. The same with dice and if a certain number is rolled many times, people will believe it is less likely to come up again.


While the odds of each individual coin-flip is 1/2, there is also a separate calculation for STREAK probability:

1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/64 (or a 1.5625 % chance).




Sure, which is relevant if you want to know how likely it is to get six heads in a row. It is not relevant to Aaron's example, which is the odds of a sixth head coming up once five have already done so.


It's interesting, though, in the context of gamer's perceptions. For example, her eon BGG there always seem to be innumerable threads about some game is "broken" or one side can't win based on some player's personal experiences -- and most of the time I discount this as mere whining because they simply can't know that based on their own experiences. Sometimes they point out an actual identifiable design flaw -- but generally not.
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Boss Beau Blasterfire
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In many games, the skill comes in managing luck.
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Matt Sommer
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CyanideNow wrote:
SommerMatt wrote:
Never Knows Best wrote:
The article you mention I believe illustrates more people's misconceptions regarding odds and statistics. For example commonly I hear if a coin is flipped 5 times as heads, someone will say that it's very unlikely that heads will come up again. Which, of course, is completely untrue. The same with dice and if a certain number is rolled many times, people will believe it is less likely to come up again.


While the odds of each individual coin-flip is 1/2, there is also a separate calculation for STREAK probability:

1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/64 (or a 1.5625 % chance).




Sure, which is relevant if you want to know how likely it is to get six heads in a row. It is not relevant to Aaron's example, which is the odds of a sixth head coming up once five have already done so.


Yep. I didn't make that really as clar as I wanted to in my post. Edited for clarity.
 
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Chris Morse
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UnknownParkerBrother wrote:
Personally, I don't think there's an unwinnable game of Pandemic.

Of course there is. Just imagine that had the opportunity to stack the card decks to guarantee that the players lose. Don't you think you could do that? If you do, then obviously it is possible that a random distribution could come out which would be equally unwinnable.

That's not to say I don't agree with you about the foolishness of claiming the game is "all luck."
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Chris Ferejohn
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Corrino22 wrote:
UnknownParkerBrother wrote:
Personally, I don't think there's an unwinnable game of Pandemic.

Of course there is. Just imagine that had the opportunity to stack the card decks to guarantee that the players lose. Don't you think you could do that? If you do, then obviously it is possible that a random distribution could come out which would be equally unwinnable.

That's not to say I don't agree with you about the foolishness of claiming the game is "all luck."


How many epidemics do you think you would need to be able to stack a guaranteed loss? I'm sure it's possible with 4.
 
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Mike Jones
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I always chalk my wins at BSG to 'Superior Admiral Play'
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Enrico Viglino
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piemasteruk wrote:
It happens in poker all the time. Every* losing poker player in the world is convinced they would be winners if they could just stop getting so much bad luck.


Not this one. When I lose over the course of a night,
I know damned well it ain't luck. Usually it's wine.
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Mac Mcleod
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With many eurogames I can usually see the winners and losers fairly soon. It is a death march to be in a game where you are the loser and it's going to be another couple hours before it is over. Low interaction is a key part of this. Of course, Euros with high interaction are complained about as "kingmaking" games.

Euros are like hollywood movies in that way.

Sometimes I can see before the game starts. For example Kingdom builder with mustang hopping power and hermit victory conditions (and really a lot of other powers too- but hermits is the worst). You can't win that game unless you randomly draw a card on the first couple turns that gives you mustang powers.

Otherwise, I see it more from the flipside. Sure- I can lose a game by bad play, but when everyone is a good player often victory comes down to luck of the draw deck.

It's also a true of some ameritrash games. Walking Dead comes to mind which is entirely up to luck short of obviously stupid moves. Don't care to play that one again.
 
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Vid Dles
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I played a game of Pandemic in which the game was over before I got to take my first turn. (I was third of three).

The initial setup had an unusually high number of cubes in Asia, then player 2 drew an epidemic card. The reshuffle and infection phase caused a double outbreak that depleted the orange cubes.

Maybe if the first or second player had a ticket to Asia and a telephone psychic to tell them that they'd need to get there right away, the game could have been won, but for all intents and purposes, the probability of winning was negligible.

Of course, with Pandemic, unwinnable games are usually very short, and you can just reset it and start over.
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Chris Morse
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cferejohn wrote:
Corrino22 wrote:
UnknownParkerBrother wrote:
Personally, I don't think there's an unwinnable game of Pandemic.

Of course there is. Just imagine that had the opportunity to stack the card decks to guarantee that the players lose. Don't you think you could do that? If you do, then obviously it is possible that a random distribution could come out which would be equally unwinnable.

That's not to say I don't agree with you about the foolishness of claiming the game is "all luck."


How many epidemics do you think you would need to be able to stack a guaranteed loss? I'm sure it's possible with 4.

Yes, you could do it with four.

I think the key is in the infection deck, actually. If you set up multiple hot spots with groupings of 3-4 cities in tight clumps in hard to reach places, the cascading outbreaks would kill you.

Of course, as long as we're not leaving it chance, we'd also fix the player deck so that nothing but yellow cards come up, while all the infected cities are in other colors.
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Pete Goch
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I'd need to set it up and test it but I think it's possible, with a tight enough cluster of 3s and 2s of the same color in your setup, to lose the game on the first turn due to outbreaks. This is assuming that the first epidemic got shuffled to the top of the deck and when you go to play the infector both cards drawn to infect trigger outbreaks which then trigger other outbreaks - both of the same color. If the city you add 3 to from the epidemic is also in that cluster it should be possible.
 
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Brian M
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I've also seen people claiming a game is "all luck" when another player consistently beats them at it. Sometimes people have a hard time recognizing skills that they don't possess.

And people claiming that there is no such thing as luck in any game. Yeah, right.

I do have to wonder, with the coin flip experiment - is flipping a coin truly random? Do coins have imperfections that would cause a given coin to have greater odds of a certain outcome? Could someone reasonably recognize such a coin?

At what point when seeing a coin flip Heads 'X' times in a row, does it become more reasonable to assume that, in fact, it is a two headed coin, than that the flips have just had an unlikely outcome?

Quote:
For example, her eon BGG there always seem to be innumerable threads about some game is "broken" or one side can't win based on some player's personal experiences

You know, I've seen many more instances of a person talking about people saying games are broken than I have ever seen of people saying a game is broken.
 
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StormKnight wrote:


I do have to wonder, with the coin flip experiment - is flipping a coin truly random? Do coins have imperfections that would cause a given coin to have greater odds of a certain outcome? Could someone reasonably recognize such a coin?



It is true, usually the odds are actually 0,47-0,49 vs. 0,51-0,53, depending on the coin. You can try to recognize it - the side that looks heavier (has a more solid image) is probably less likely to be up.
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Steve Duff
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Corrino22 wrote:
Just imagine that had the opportunity to stack the card decks to guarantee that the players lose. Don't you think you could do that?


No, I don't think that, actually. I don't know how I'd even start to try and make a given stack more difficult.

I think no matter how you set up the decks, a solution is always possible. That's simply due to the nature of the game, cards have multiple uses, and there are many different actions available. If you stack the deck so that travel by card is difficult, then other actions like treating or trading move to the forefront. If you make curing difficult by having a lot of one colour at the bottom of the deck, then travelling becomes more important, etc.

Of course, it's theoretically possible that there might be setups that are unwinnable, something like 1 in a million or whatever. I feel pretty confident that even if one of these setups does exist, it wasn't the one that some guy played in his first game of Pandemic that he then posts a scathing review about how the game was unwinnable.
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Seth Owen
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UnknownParkerBrother wrote:
Corrino22 wrote:
Just imagine that had the opportunity to stack the card decks to guarantee that the players lose. Don't you think you could do that?


No, I don't think that, actually. I don't know how I'd even start to try and make a given stack more difficult.

I think no matter how you set up the decks, a solution is always possible. That's simply due to the nature of the game, cards have multiple uses, and there are many different actions available. If you stack the deck so that travel by card is difficult, then other actions like treating or trading move to the forefront. If you make curing difficult by having a lot of one colour at the bottom of the deck, then travelling becomes more important, etc.

Of course, it's theoretically possible that there might be setups that are unwinnable, something like 1 in a million or whatever. I feel pretty confident that even if one of these setups does exist, it wasn't the one that some guy played in his first game of Pandemic that he then posts a scathing review about how the game was unwinnable.


This, I think, gets to the heart of the matter. I think game balance is about the hardest thing for a casual player to judge properly. Until you've played a game a lot, against many different opponents, your typical game can easily hold all sorts of surprises for you. I think it's especially important to reserve judgement until you've had chance to play outside your usual circle of opponents.

I remember playing Ogre at a tournament one time. Now, Ogre is not a particularly complicated or tricky wargame, as such things go. But I had a real eye-opening experience as I first played as the defender against a fellow who literally just ran over me like I wasn't even there -- and then, when we switched sides, proceeded to pick apart my Ogre while suffering minimal losses. In short, I was schooled. I thought I knew Ogre. I was wrong, but I learned a lot about how much your perception can be affected. If I judged ogre only after my first game I would have sworn that the defender didn't stand a chance.

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