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Subject: With a Little Luck: A Random Discussion rss

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Harald Torvatn
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dipdragon wrote:


Case 1:
Player A attacks Player B. On a roll of 1 on 1d6 the attack will be successful. Player A rolls a 1. Is this random? Is this Lucky?

Case 2:
Player A attacks Player B. Player A has to choose a number on 1d6 secretly and keep it hidden from player B. Player B is allowed 1 guess as to the number Player A picked. If Player B chooses the correct number, Player A wins, otherwise Player B wins. Player A chooses the number 2. Player B picks the number 2, Player A wins. Is this random? Is this lucky?

Case 3:
Two players have to secretly pick a number between 1 and 6. If they both pick the same number Player A wins, otherwise Player B wins. Both Players pick the number 4, Player A wins. Is this random? Is this lucky?

Case 4:
Player A has to pick a card from three choices. Player B shuffles the cards without looking at them and places the cards face down on the table. Player A picks the card on the left, gets the highest card which is the best result for him. Is this random? Is this lucky?

Case 5:
Player A has to pick a card from three choices. Player B looks at the cards and arranges them on the table, face down, for Player A to pick one. Player A picks the middle card, the lowest, which is the worst result for him. Is this random? Is this lucky?

Case 6:
Do any moves in Diplomacy involve randomness or luck? Explain your answer either way.

Case 7:
Do any moves in Stratego involve randomness or luck? Explain your answer either way.

What is a random event in gaming?

What is luck in gaming?

The floor's yours. Feel free to explain your point of view.


In case 1, the result of the combat is random.

In Case 2 and case 3 (which looks very similar to me), the result is not random if a player can somehow deduct what the other player will choose. If none of them can, the result will be random.

Case 4 is random. Case 5 is similar to case 2 and 3: If one player can deduct the other players action, it is not random. Otherwise it is.

Case 6: is really similar to 2, 3 and 5. Many times a move helps a player if his opponent does one thing, but not if he does another. If he can guess what the other will do, it is not random.

In all cases where a player can try to guess another player's action, the player can be forced to make a random move if he has no clue as to what the other player may do. He may indeed make his own actions random by rolling a die to determine his own action, if he is afraid that the other player may outguess him.

In all random cases, a player is lucky if the random event favours him, and unlucky if it does not.
 
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Roger Yim
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I found a credible definition of luck in "Luck: The Brilliant Randomness of Everyday Life" (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995), an interesting and entertaining little book by Nicholas Rescher, a University of Pittsburgh philosophy professor. Rescher says:

[Luck] involves three things: (1) a beneficiary or maleficiary, (2) a development that is benign (positive) or malign (negative) from the standpoint of the interests of the affected individual, and that, moreover, (3) is fortuitous (unexpected, chancy, unforseeable).
Luck thus always contains a normative element of good or bad; someone must be affected positively or negatively before its realization can properly be called lucky. . . .
Where no one can tell whether the developments at issue are good or bad for the individuals involved . . . luck is out of the picture.


Despite the title of the book, the author does not address the difference between randomness and luck. But I would hazard a guess that he would say luck is a type of randomness, but that randomness itself does not necessarily involve an interested party.

edit: fixed typos!
 
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Bryce Johnson
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Ok, I'll bite.
To me, something is 'random' if it can have a set of outcomes that can occur with various probabilities. True randomness in nature is probably hard to find...maybe if you look at the spin of an electron or something...but we can certainly get close enough that no one will notice. Even though the state of a deck of cards after shuffling is not random in the absolutely strictest sense (one could argue that we are picking specific permutations by shuffling a certain way), in practice, we can't tell the difference. It's a reasonable model to say that the action of shuffling a deck and picking a card is a random variable, and 1/4 of the time we'll get a club and 3/4 of the time we won't. We can't *prove* that the probability is exactly one-fourth, precisely because we can only see outcomes. We might perform the experiment 10 times and get a club every time; this does not prove that the deck is all clubs, or that the probability is not 1/4. It just tells us that, hey, something just happened that should only happen once in a million times--perhaps our model is wrong.

So...the mathematician in me says "random" is a set of events with theoretical probabilities. I'm also happy to apply the word "random" to something that can be modeled by such a variable, with errors so small I couldn't notice them if I tried. If someone asked me the probability of pulling a club, I wouldn't say "1/4, assuming the cards were randomized via quantum electron states." I'd say "1/4."

I play a lot of backgammon online, and it is amazing how many people will claim the dice are rigged because of selective memory. They'll post positions and say, "Look, I was 95% to win, and I lost! The dice are rigged to help the underdog!" Of course, they don't post the other 19 times they reached the same type of position and won, because they don't think about it.

Luck, then, is just an examination of which events in the random variable occurred. If you're 95% to win and lost, you're unlucky, and the other guy is lucky. Luck can also happen, I think, as a result of the fact that the human mind is fallible. An expert chess player is playing an amateur, and happens to see a bright yellow bird fly by the window, which reminds her of that charming restaurant in Paris where she met that librarian, and completely forgets what she was doing and gives up her queen. That's luck too, in my opinion. There is no randomness in chess, so there shouldn't be any luck, but since we're human, there is.

In case 1, the action of rolling the dice is random--the outcome is luck. Same in case 4. In case 2, it's not random for A, but perhaps it is random for anyone who knows nothing about A. I'm not claiming any number from 1 to 6 is equally likely, but if I knew beforehand that 10% of the world population would pick 1, 15% pick 2, 17% pick 3, etc., then it is random and those are my probabilities, unless I know something about A.

That was really long-winded...sorry. Maybe it's time to get back to writing my paper (on a partial differential equation with a random potential, which I'll be lucky if I finish by next week).
-Bryce
 
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Richard Irving
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Here is a simple counterexample:

Five players get together for a game and can't decide who will start the game. And there are no handy cards or die in the game for use.

Andy suggests the following: "On the signal, everyone will simultaneously hold out a number of fingers from 1 to 5. We'll add these numbers and divide by 5 and take the remainder. If the remainder is one, I go first. If R=2, then Betty is first. If R=3 then Carol goes first. If R=4 then Dave is firsy. And if R=0 then Ed starts."

Is this system random? Is it fair? If not, why not?
 
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Ray
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Games don't' have luck or skill -- players do. Games have discrete or random elements in which players employ a combination of using skill (and this includes skill with probability) and trusting to luck to try and win.

Chaos in turn is a classification for those game elements that are beyond a players skill to solve or to reduce to odds during game play (its subjective and what is chaotic for one person may be solved or understood for another)
 
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Scott Lewis
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rri1 wrote:
Here is a simple counterexample:

Five players get together for a game and can't decide who will start the game. And there are no handy cards or die in the game for use.

Andy suggests the following: "On the signal, everyone will simultaneously hold out a number of fingers from 1 to 5. We'll add these numbers and divide by 5 and take the remainder. If the remainder is one, I go first. If R=2, then Betty is first. If R=3 then Carol goes first. If R=4 then Dave is firsy. And if R=0 then Ed starts."

Is this system random? Is it fair? If not, why not?

Is it random? It depends on whether certain people have a "pattern" of choosing certain numbers, or whether their is collaboration. If not, then yes, it is random.

Is it fair? That depends on the randomness. Assuming that it is 100% random, it would be completely fair; each player would have a 20% chance of being "chosen" in this manner (yes, I checked the math).

Thus, if you rolled a balanced die instead of holding out the fingers, it would be completely random and fair. If you use the fingers, though, there would be elements of "unrandomness" that could negatively impact the fairness, which would be rather difficult or impossible to calculate because those elements would be based on player personality, etc.
 
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J. Green
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Luck as humans commonly refer to it does not exist. Luck is just another example of a word used to express the human rationalization of a random outcome. All random outcomes in games are neutral and have no cause by definition ("random"), but are attributed to unseen influences because we as humans find it hard to cope with chaos in the universe.

That's why many people find games in which random elements (like a tile draw from a bag) occur at the beginning of a round or turn and can then be modified through player choices are often more enjoyable although less suspenseful than games in which the random elements (like a die roll) occur at the end of a turn or combat.

Allowing the player more control over random elements reduces the irrational need to attribute meaning or cause to a random outcome the player judges to be negative or positive. What's good for one player is necessarily bad for others, in games where there can only be one winner.

Spock out.
 
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Daniel Jacobsen
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Luck is when random variables happen to take on values that favour you. The more unlikely these values are, the luckier you are. Bad luck is the exact opposite.

Random is the opposite of deterministic. Random applies to so-called stochastic variables that can take on different values, but the value is never known in advance. However, the likelihood of the different values appearing may be known, e.g. 1/6 for each face of a fair die.

So luck is a function of random variables. Without random variables, there is no luck.

Philosophically, one must distinguish this statistical definition of luck with another well known definition, where luck is thought of as an inherent quality of for instance (and most often) a human being. This would mean that that person is able to influence random variables to take on lucky (for him, as defined above) values. This is of course generally ridiculous.

Physically, one should also note that randomness seems to really exist in nature, as seen in quantum mechanical phenomena.

The use of random variables in boardgames is not a limitation, but a tool without which emulation or similation of natural processes is impossible. Finally, even so-called 'non-random' games (e.g. chess), which may not aim to emulate or simulate anything, still contain randomness from the perspective of the individual player, because of an element of unpredictability in the prediction of the other players' actions.

ninja
 
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J. Green
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dipdragon wrote:
bookgnome wrote:
Luck as humans commonly refer to it does not exist. Luck is just another example of a word used to express the human rationalization of a random outcome.


But what of the case of moves in Diplomacy, where two players have a unit each and each unit can move to A or to B. If both move to A then neither move, if both move to B then neither move, but if one moves to A and the other to B then both move. With no negotiation between players, is the outcome of the move random and/or lucky? Each player chose where their unit was moving to, so where is the random element? Or is it simply that the outcome of the move to observers is random (but not necessarily to players A and/or B).


The outcomes you describe only seem random in the context of the game. The various outcomes are results of the movement mechanic specific to Diplomacy, not the result of a generic randomizing mechanic such as dice or tiles drawn from a bag. It's another example of the confusion a term such as "luck" creates: luck refers exclusively to our perception of the positiveness or negativeness of an outcome to a particular person, whether a player or an observer.

What you describe is actually more akin to the results of a truth table with two elements, in which you can have four results: True/True, True/False, False/True, or False/False. It's a matrix that can have two in-game results based on the four player choices involved: Player1-A/Player1-B, Player2-A/Player2-B. If the values chosen by the players are different, both may move; if the values are the same, neither may move.

What makes it seem random is the shared element of an action with a component of hidden information: in the case of dice or a tile draw you roll or select a tile without knowledge of the result; in the case of Diplomacy you choose a destination without knowledge of how the other player's choice will affect the final outcome.

The utility of game mechanics with hidden or partially hidden information is, in my opinion, to create suspense and increase drama. If any given action in a particular game has a known or accurately predictable outcome, the whole dynamic of the game becomes much more static, more chess-like and purely strategic. Depending on the game design, theme, and the designer's intention, this could be a good or a bad thing.

Games that include hidden information and games with randomizers are both prime candidates for being labeled "luck-prone" or "luck-dependent."
 
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howl hollow howl
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rri1 wrote:
Andy suggests the following: "On the signal, everyone will simultaneously hold out a number of fingers from 1 to 5. We'll add these numbers and divide by 5 and take the remainder. If the remainder is one, I go first. If R=2, then Betty is first. If R=3 then Carol goes first. If R=4 then Dave is firsy. And if R=0 then Ed starts."

Is this system random? Is it fair? If not, why not?


We always use this system, exactly because it is random and fair (usually). It is perfectly random as long as any one of the players is random. It is also perfectly fair because each player has the opportunity to set the result to any given value. However, it still slightly annoys me that one of the players always puts out two fingers!
 
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Walt
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Dave wrote:
It is also perfectly fair because each player has the opportunity to set the result to any given value. However, it still slightly annoys me that one of the players always puts out two fingers!


Easy: Always put out three fingers to cancel his two fingers! laugh
 
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Ray
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dipdragon wrote:
wtrollkin2000 wrote:
Games don't' have luck or skill

So "a game of skill" means a game where a player requires skill to win and "a game of luck" means a game where random events will determine the winner. And a "lucky" player is simply the person whom the random event favored. It would work for me as a definition.

Yes. The terms "game of skill" and "game of chance" are shortenings of the terms "game of player skill" and "game of player chance".

 
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Harald Torvatn
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bookgnome wrote:
Luck as humans commonly refer to it does not exist. Luck is just another example of a word used to express the human rationalization of a random outcome. All random outcomes in games are neutral and have no cause by definition ("random"), but are attributed to unseen influences because we as humans find it hard to cope with chaos in the universe.

That's why many people find games in which random elements (like a tile draw from a bag) occur at the beginning of a round or turn and can then be modified through player choices are often more enjoyable although less suspenseful than games in which the random elements (like a die roll) occur at the end of a turn or combat.

Allowing the player more control over random elements reduces the irrational need to attribute meaning or cause to a random outcome the player judges to be negative or positive. What's good for one player is necessarily bad for others, in games where there can only be one winner.

Spock out.


The distinction between random elements at the start of the turn and random elements at the end of the turn is only significant if you look at each turn in isolation. Over many turns, the distinction disapears. Indeed, you can wiev a random element at the end of your turn as a random element at the start of the other players turn.
 
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Maarten D. de Jong
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dipdragon wrote:
Personally, I shall have to work hard to narrow my view of luck to a simple description, but I will try. Also, I will try to use random or chance whereas I may have used luck in the past.

You get used to it---especially once you realise it makes your classifications much stronger and less subject to subjective whims.
 
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Stephen Tavener
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I'll bite; a game can be descibed as a series of decisions by the players involved. In a game of skill, those decisions are meaningful, in that a player can play in such a way as to increase their chance of winning. A game is a game of luck if the decisions are meaningless, in that other game elements mean that the majority of decisions in the game have no effect on the outcome.

I'll include the players in this. In the examples you give, there is a difference between a player who chooses a number after some thought, giving the other players an opportunity to second-guess them; and one who determines their number randomly rendering all guesses equal and therefore meaningless.

 
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Alexander B.
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wtrollkin2000 wrote:
Games don't' have luck or skill -- players do. Games have discrete or random elements in which players employ a combination of using skill (and this includes skill with probability) and trusting to luck to try and win.

Chaos in turn is a classification for those game elements that are beyond a players skill to solve or to reduce to odds during game play (its subjective and what is chaotic for one person may be solved or understood for another)


For me, Ray sums this up nicely. Games are no more and no less than a set of rules. The players may or may not bring skill, and luck is perceptual.

It is indeed possible to make a move in chess with no analysis and that could be both the best move and the move that wins the game. Further, "instinct" in gaming can sometimes lead one to the right move via experience. Capablanca, for example, was said to never practice chess and he didn't even have a set at home. These kinds of examples make it pretty clear that luck, skill, and gut instinct are all mashed together and very hard to define in reality. An "obvious" move to me, might be pure luck if you made it, or might be just outside of your ability to analyze and, therefore... what? Luck, skill, instinct, or something else entirely?

Further, a few have made the important point here that rolling a die is not random at all. It is only that the way that the die rolls around in our hand and then bounces across the game board is too complex for us predict: how is this really different from trying to think ahead 20 moves in a chess games too complex for us to predict? Is this then random also?

Ultimately, as with most "analysis" of something that is highly human and mostly art with only some science, even though many on the Geek believe they "understand" games, and can then give precise analysis of a game's features, strenghts and weaknesses, really, this sort of thinking is highly flawed.

Few things are more subjective than a human being's enjoyment or lack of it when interfacing with a set of rules in a social setting with other humans: one can speak for oneself, but to "analyze" a game beyond that is really just in one's own head in most cases.
 
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Walt
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dipdragon wrote:
I can accept that when I play a game with randomising mechanics - tile drawing, dice rolling, etc. - that I will have less control of the game than when I am playing a game such as Go, Chess, Checkers or Yinsh. For games with random elements I can see that people would see that luck may be present (whereas I just see random elements).


It really depends on what kind of randomness (if any) is in the game. You've proposed a series of scenarios where the entire game is determined by randomness, but many other types of games are around.

Go, Chess, Hive, and the others mentioned don't just not have luck, they have perfect information: you always see all the pieces. The result is a game that is capable of unlimited analysis until the game is solved, that is, the entire decision tree for the game is known. For games too complex to be solved, those games have the capability to become what I've seen called lifestyle games here on BGG: that is, learning chess or go can consume as much of your life as you wish, studying openings, positions, end games. Someone who has not made the game part of his lifestyle may feel out of control simply because one cannot control what one does not understand: such a player cannot see deeply enough into the decision tree to know the consequences of any given action.

It is interesting to note that Diplomacy is a non-random, perfect information game, too. However, the high degree of player control and interaction give the game a completely different feel from the above games. The same applies to the recent Tempus, which has still a different feel, not highlighting negotiation. Of course, a major difference is that these are multiplayer games on nonhomogenous boards, boards with terrain.

Stratego is a non-random, imperfect information (fog of war) game. Players set up their pieces in secret, but combat is non-random. The rather extreme lack of information in Stratego promotes in some the same feeling of lack of control as randomness.

Backgammon is a non-random start, perfect information game, with continuous infusion of randomness. A match of 15 points has so much randomness, "statistics takes over" and the match will almost certainly go to the better player. "Controlling" the dice--really, allowing for as many possible rolls to be useful as possible--gives a good backgammon player a very substantial sense of control.

Opposite of backgammon, but considered by experts to have a similar amount of luck, contract bridge has an entirely random start, no randomness in play, and a continous infusion of information, starting with knowing the locations of your 13 cards. In this game, the player gets the sense of control from managing the imperfect information, as opposed to managing the randomness in backgammon.

Eurogames, as far as one can generalize about so many games, have varying proportions of random setup, infusion of randomness, and degrees of information perfection. These offer various proportions of the types of control, or lack of it, as the games above.

Overall, I think the sense of lack of control in a chess-like game, due to not knowing the full consequences of one's actions, is relieved in most Eurogames because the point where understanding of consequences fails is also the point where randomness fuzzes results so a deeper thinking opponent will be in no better control. In other words, if you look even a little depth into the decision tree, it fuzzes into randomness or uncertainty (other players' actions). Of course, where this balance point is perceived varies player by player.

dipdragon wrote:
Do others find this frustrating and so feel a bit out of control? And when something unforseen happens, they then feel that luck was involved? (Including strange/unexpected choices made by other players.)


I do not. A lot of my lack of frustration is by choosing the games I play. I do not play chess-like games because I have no intention of devoting huge amounts of study time to a game. For me, games are primarily to be played, though I don't mind studying an interesting game like PR or Caylus to a degree.

I find, for me, frustration occurs only when I feel at an acute and irreparable disadvantage to my opponent. If I were to play chess against Kasparov, I would feel the weight of his decades of study; I may as well not play. And like most Americans (anecdotally), I dislike handicaps. But, I have played--and feel in control playing--backgammon and bridge, though the feeling of control in bridge depends greatly on a reliable partner and good partner understanding.

It's very easy for me to say, "You ought to feel in control in backgammon or bridge," but frustration is an emotion: What you feel is true for you, and no objective standard can be applied. The key to gaming enjoyment is finding the class of games that you find most agreeable, by finding games with amounts of initial randomness, hidden information, and decision tree size you find agreeable.

This may be none: an acquaintance is dismayed by the least randomness, hidden information, or even a moderate decision tree--why he even tries to game escapes me.

Does this help?

PS: Looking at your game list, I had a similar opinion of Trans Europa, until I noticed that the same players always tended to win: I haven't figured out the strategy yet, but I'm convinced it exists. You might like British Rails or another of the Empire Builder series of games.
 
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Diplomacy is perfect information? Last time I played it, I had to write my move order down while everyone else's move order is HIDDEN. In fact, that is the entire root of the game in my estimation. If two people team up against me because they feel like it (not that they really had to), how different is that than rolling a lower number on a die than another player when it comes down to it?

I really do feel that talking of "random" vs. "perfect information" while sounding interesting, is really rarely so clear-cut. We don't even know for certain what randomness is beyond something that cannot be predicted by X person a Y time. If I can predict something and you can't, it would therefore be non-random to me and random to you. Since gaming is often about prediction of various kinds, this issue becomes very complicated very fast. What it the next number in this sequence: 3,1,4,1,5,9... ? Did I just roll a 10 sided die and get these numbers? Maybe. Is the answer 2? Maybe? Is the answer 182,932? Maybe? Random is about perception, not fact.

Sure, we could try and "simplify" this by saying that if there is no dice rolling/card drawing and such that this we will NAME it perfect information game, but I'm not sure what that tells us--if anything--about how skill, planning ahead, attempting to guess what others are going to do, being familiar with the rules or mechanics, even the clarity of the rules themselves play into the REALITY of the gaming experience and the interplay of controllable and less controllable and non-controllable facets.

For me, "luck" and "random" and "skill" are simply not clearly defined terms, and to imply that they are clearly defined is IMO misleading. We can make some general statements in some cases that might be reasonable, but nothing will make these terms clear enough to use really safely when talking about games in general: that is how I see it at least.
 
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dipdragon wrote:
Tall_Walt wrote:
It is interesting to note that Diplomacy is a non-random, perfect information game, too.


I have been told, in no uncertain terms that there is luck in Diplomacy. Myself, I don't see this, but others certainly do - particularly with regards to how the two armies/two areas issue is played out. It is the perceived luck in Diplomacy that started this whole thing off.


Unless you want to call human decisions random, I would call Diplomacy "uncertain": you cannot be certain what your opponents will do. The two armies/two areas situation is uncertain only to the extent the players have failed in diplomacy to agree what to do, or to get other players to aid them.

dipdragon wrote:
I agree with most of what you say, and need to think about the rest, but if what you say about Diplomacy being a perfect information game, how can there be luck was my initial thoughts. If I now view luck as a perceptual issue, then there is luck in Diplomacy for other people - just not for me.


In essense, you're talking about a labeling issue. There's a common saying, in the US at least, "It's just semantics." Semantics is meaning: it's only semantics! What they mean is, "It's only labels": "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

dipdragon wrote:
I liked the examples you gave - they solidified some of the vague thoughts on the periphery of my mind - and make we wish I could go back and start all this all over agani knowing then what I know now.

Tall_Walt wrote:
Does this help?


Yes, thank you.


Excellent!

dipdragon wrote:
... I'm perfectly happy to play random/chaos/push-your-luck games if they don't take too long (but that's another Geek List completely).


You might try those with an auction element, like Ra.

Chaos by the way, has a technical mathematical meaning. I can't think of a game that is technically chaotic, but it wouldn't be difficult to create one. A simple example of chaos is to roll two dice; on following turns, roll one of the two dice; every six turns, roll them both again. The sum of the dice will be limited by the die that isn't being rolled.



diamondspider wrote:
Diplomacy is perfect information? Last time I played it, I had to write my move order down while everyone else's move order is HIDDEN. In fact, that is the entire root of the game in my estimation. If two people team up against me because they feel like it (not that they really had to), how different is that than rolling a lower number on a die than another player when it comes down to it?


Yes, Diplomacy is perfect information. Hidden orders are an artifact of the simultaneous movement mechanic. You have perfect information of all the pieces of the game at each time you make a decision about moving your men. Though you may be uncertain about what your opponents will do, this is no different than being uncertain about what your chess opponent will do, except the mechanic of the game is that everyone moves at once.

We can hypothesize a simultaneous movement chess, where each player writes down his move and those moves execute simultaneously. Such a movement system would not make the game random, just more uncertain: you would see one less move before you needed to decide on your move. An example of a similar game is Robo Rally, where moves are planned five moves ahead; of course, RR has random elements as well, but one can imagine a non-random Robo Rally where everyone programs his robot using the same set of possible cards.

If two people team up against you, your diplomatic skills need improvement. This is a far different situation than, say, if everyone rolled a die to decide whose team they would be on.

diamondspider wrote:
Sure, we could try and "simplify" this by saying that if there is no dice rolling/card drawing and such that this we will NAME it perfect information...


You are confusing perfect information with non-random: backgammon is perfect information, but hardly non-random.
 
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Alexander B.
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Tall_Walt wrote:

If two people team up against you, your diplomatic skills need improvement. This is a far different situation than, say, if everyone rolled a die to decide whose team they would be on.


And that is my entire point. It could have nothing to do with my diplomacy skill. It could have to do with the fact that they are best friends, or one of them is stoned and didn't realize that it was not in his best interest, or we didn't have time to talk because the timer ended on the round, etc. etc..

That is my point here: there is a lot more to most games than meets the eyes.

Let's take Craps for example: easy, right? A game of pure randomness and luck. Or is it?

Here are a few questions to ask:

1) Is it a game of pure luck to the casino? Obviously not.
2) Is it a game of pure luck if you lay it for 20 straight hours? Fairly certainly not, since you will almost certainly lose in that time, but not certainly.
3) In the original game of Craps, the odds were not preset and could be "called", in this variant, you can use skill by calling favorable odds and hoping that others will bet due to believing in "luck". Yes, this could be seen as "but that is a matter of rules", but then one of my points is that many games to have many and various alturnate variants, and how familiar each player is with each variant can also impact the REALITY of luck vs. skill in a game.
4) If I bet on the "field" or be the "come" is there any skill in that? For one roll? For 10,000 rolls?
5) If I bring loaded dice in and slip them by the casino folks, was that skill? OK, so maybe that is cheating, but what about "dice control" where you practice rolling then dice in such a way as to give a very slight advantage to yourself. The casino set the table up, so I doubt that this is cheating personally: another matter of opinion. But wait, we assumed the game was random? With 10 years of practicing dice control, it could be seen as pure skill.
6) Different casinos offer different odds, some get very close to 50/50 for certain come bets, and others offer true 50/50 in rare cases, is not choosing which casino to play at a matter of skill?

So, if a game that is on the face of it pure luck actually can have this much murkiness in it and certainly skill of various kinds depending on the situation, how much worse will be complex games that are discussed on the Geek?

Attempting to trivialize complexity can be useful for rhetoric, but it is rarely useful in uncovering the realities of what is being discussed.

For me, we have fully controllable, a huge range of partially controllable, and some totally uncontrollable elements in most games. The REALITY of the list of these is very tough to get for nearly any game; another way to see this is that it is often impossile to make this list without talking about specific players playing a specific game at a specific date. In a pristine and theoritical world, this would be less true; we do not, of course, live in such a world.
 
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dipdragon wrote:
A big part of the problem for me in this discussion is the semantics of what is being discussed. What does random mean, what is luck, what is chaos and then what is a perfect information game.

...

Perhaps I should have created a List of Perfect Information Games with or without a random element. Oh well, we live and learn.


Whenever a complex area that has synergistic effects and attributes is being discussed, you run not only into definition problems, but even if you can craft definitions for various aspects of the domain, when they start interacting then either the interactions have to be specified (can be huge permutations) or new terms have to be used for at least the important combinations.

The good news is, as least from my perspective, that once you realize how complex the subject matter is, at least you will not be tempted to draw conclusions prematurely.

Fun stuff that I have been thinking about for years... Before Dreamblade was released, I had several debates about how it seemed to be placed within some of these categories. As expected, it was very difficult to do and I made a lot of errors in predicting the "luck/skill" ratio and what ended-up actually being important to winning.

Often, playing a game a lot with various kinds of opponents is the only way to really get into its "head". Having done so, describing the nuances is then still a huge challenge. Then, as to if it is fun or not is still going to be mostly subjective.

Fractals, Go, and number like Pi should remind us that if very simple rules can create untold thousands of pages+ of analysis or definition or output, these complex games we talk about on the Geek are would probably need much more than that to do them justice. That is what makes them fun for me: endless possiblities and never easy to stick in a box.

Tic-Tac-Toe might be a perfect information, non-random and pure skill game, but does that tell us if it is fun or good or.... anything? It might be great fun and very good for a 3 year old, but suffice to say that it does nothing for me win or lose.

What does facinate me a bit are games like backgammon that SEEM to be very luck based but are actually highly skill based (again, in most cases and as far as generalizations can take us). Why? Because these are good games to make money gambling at.

Another interesting area here is how e.g. Magic: the Gathering players so often claim the level of skill in the game is high, and usually vastly overrate this and ignore the huge amount of luck in it. Why? Because it can reveal how with enough complexity, fairly obvious attributes can becomes hard for many to see.

A treasure of psychological insights for those who choose to plumb the depths...
 
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Quote:

And that is my entire point. It could have nothing to do with my diplomacy skill. It could have to do with the fact that they are best friends, or one of them is stoned and didn't realize that it was not in his best interest, or we didn't have time to talk because the timer ended on the round, etc. etc..


I think your confusing 2 different things here.

People are NOT random. They are, in some ways, similar to random, but they aren't random.

The problem is people are a black box in many ways. Just like a pair of dice or a well shuffled deck of cards.

What is a black box? Simply, anything that outputs something and that you have no way of seeing or effecting how it comes about producing that output.

Think of a person and a die (a d6 specifically). Both are black boxes.

But a die is a black box without any input. Basically you flick it on and it outputs a number between 1 and 6.

A person HAS input. You may not understand WHY they've made that decision or how they've come to it. This is why it seems random. You don't know why that persons going to do something or what that person will do. But that person has reasons and they have information. In the case of Diplomacy they look at the board and make a decision about what to do based on the board. In this case, you throw in input, and the black box (ie - the person) spits out output based on that input. You don't understand how it's come to, but it IS based on input.

A die is random. You roll it, it's gonna come up between 1 and 6 no matter how much you strategise. A person, or any black box with input, can be effected by changing the input. Make yourself a threat, and they're probably more likely to attack you. Or maybe not. But that's not random, it's a decision on the part of that person. Just because you don't understand it doesn't make it random, or any less based on the information available to that person.
 
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Alexander B.
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Shryke wrote:

People are NOT random. They are, in some ways, similar to random, but they aren't random.

The problem is people are a black box in many ways. Just like a pair of dice or a well shuffled deck of cards


I don't disagree with your point here at all. The OP was wondering about how luck, skill, and such impact games; my point is that, exactly as you are saying, while people may not be strictly random, often they may as well be!

I actually do look at both the opponent and the die as a being nearly equally "forces I cannot control". That said, it is not nearly that simple. In the cases of both people and a die, I can understand psychology/experience/motive for the former, and probability theory/tables for the latter. This does not increase my control over them, but it can give me a real edge vs. another player who has less understanding of these facets, because it can enrich my response to the challenges these each pose to my own winning.

Like economic markets, gaming is often simultaneously random and predictable!? Good earning will tend to raise a stock's price, but if the entire market is diving, then this might not happen in reality.

Ultimately, games just are not like mathematics where things tend to be very clean, clear, and controlled due to axioms and an artificial environment in which pure conceptual entities exist. Games are usually ultimately about "playing the player" more than "playing the game".

Where in the rules of chess does it discuss the importance for high level players to study the previous games of the opponent? Where in the Magic: the Gathering rules does it talk about the importance of following the current "meta-game"? Where in the rules of Carcassonne does it talk about the different approaches to playing a beginning, advanced, or expert player? Yet these areas tend to be exactly where the best players focus their strategic evaluation.

These factors will tend to overshadow the fairly simply analysis of tables and probability that is the most that can normally done to take "luck" into account; and skill, therefore, becomes a nearly living entity that is very difficult to nail down.

Further, where in Knizia's design approach book did it tell him to e.g. in Blue Moon have the players "attract" plastic dragons instead of making it the best 9 out of 10 fights or whatever?

Games tend to be VERY human affairs, and where there are humans, chaos always trumps all other factors along with a few drops of self-interest and some basic common sense: the nature of the beast I like it that way personally...

Does this then make these kind of topics worthless to discuss? By now means! To me, it simply means that simplified perspectives will not tell us much to either winning or the experience of playing a game... these factors are usually located in the nuances more than the generalizations.
 
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I've answered this a number of times on my blog, and other bloggers have also piped up.

My answer is: random is when something random happens. Luck is when a random event determines the results.

Here are my two trivial examples:

A) A die is rolled. The first person to shout the number rolled wins.

Game A is entirely random and has no luck.

B) Players shout a number. A die is rolled. The person who shouted the correct number wins.

Game B is entirely random and entirely luck.

The essential differences between the two are: does the random event happen before or after players can react to the event? And how much of can their skill be utilized no matter what random event occured?

Yehuda
 
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Shade_Jon wrote:
I've answered this a number of times on my blog, and other bloggers have also piped up.

My answer is: random is when something random happens. Luck is when a random event determines the results.

Here are my two trivial examples:

A) A die is rolled. The first person to shout the number rolled wins.

Game A is entirely random and has no luck.

B) Players shout a number. A die is rolled. The person who shouted the correct number wins.

Game B is entirely random and entirely luck.

The essential differences between the two are: does the random event happen before or after players can react to the event? And how much of can their skill be utilized no matter what random event occured?

Yehuda


Game A seems to have a good bit of skill: the person who is quicker at shouting what they see will win, right?

In any case, certainly it is possible to define terms here: we must simply be careful that we don't feel that these definitions are much more than our own personal definitions. I personally am fond of the old saying, "we make our own luck" that sort of luck is obviously far from random
 
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