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Nations: The Dice Game» Forums » General

Subject: Designer diary 6: Randomness rss

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Rustan Håkansson
Sweden
Norrköping
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Randomness, luck, risk or chance-taking; variability in games come in many forms. Long eurogames, like the big Nations game, often have more input randomness (you know what will happen if you take a certain action, cards are displayed before you buy them). Short games have more output randomness (roll the dice, see what you get). Thematic games tend to be long and have output randomness (critical dice rolls, card combos from random draws) which is a big reason I like very few of them. Short games without randomness tend to behave like abstract games regardless of their theme.

I like chance-taking and having choices related to randomness. How well a game handles randomness is for me a good indicator to whether I will like it or not.

Nations: The Dice Game retains input randomness from the big game both for events (draw them at the start of the round, they happen at the end) and tiles (randomly drawn at the start of the round, these are what you can buy during the round), but transforms the resource collection into dice rolls that you cannot keep from round to round.

In the dice game you start with a reroll chit and can use that to roll any or all dice again. To use the reroll you use your action, your chance to buy a tile (or build on a wonder), and cannot do anything after having rolled until it is your turn again. Combined with the possibility to buy advisors (that give you more rerolls) and trading 2 dice showing anything for 1 gold, 1 stone or 1 food you have several options to mitigate bad rolls.

You also start with a gold, a resource chit that is renewed every round. There are other such resources you can conquer (colonies) or build (wonders) during the game, but adding this initial gold was an important step in the development. Together with removing the blanks on the dice completely it was one of the last bigger changes, and improved the game significantly. A big chunk of decision-making was moved from how to build your nation to how do I interact with the other players. At the same time it removed a lot of frustration with poor dicerolling.

The two resources that you cannot trade dice for are strength and books. Strength is used for conquering colonies, winning wars and player order. Books are used to gain victory points for every nation with less total books at the end of every age (like in the big game, but here every age is a round). That you only get what you roll makes the resources more different, and also speeds up the game significantly. The chance-taking and benefit of advisors (granting rerolls) is much clearer with strength and books than the other resources.

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Andrew Brooks
United States
Indianapolis
Indiana
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Thanks for sharing these designer diaries! I am really intrigued by the implementation of randomness in this game compared to Nations. I found it interesting that in addition to resources not carrying over from round to round you're no longer even in control of what resources your buildings will produce. It's as if you are a step removed from your civilization compared to Nations. You are guiding them (by purchasing tiles) but they still have their own capability to make decisions (simulated by the die rolls). The colored dice allow for more control through specialization but also have more variance in that they can produce 1 or 2 of the given resources. I really like this concept and it seems like a clever way to speed up the game by shifting the focus from heavy resource micromanagement to tactical resource allocation.

I am curious though, was there a specific design choice behind having strictly better results on the colored dice? Is it to encourage players to pick up reroll chits or simply to entertain the thrill of uncertainty?
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Rustan Håkansson
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Agreed, and the specific dice even go up to 3 They are upgrades, but not guaranteed to be better or even a specific resource. This is an important factor in what makes the game fun. If you want guaranteed resources you get the chits.

Indeed, if you get more dice you are certainly more interested in getting rerolls as well.

Mainly the development of exactly this distribution came up through testing and experimenting over several years. I had 1 face blank for a long time, but it turned out to just be more fun and interesting when you always got at least something.
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