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Ticket to Ride» Forums » General

Subject: TTR and Experiancally Hidden Information rss

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Amory Wright
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Quick note - I'm not quite sure where to post this. It started as a session report, veered off into strategy, and ended up settling down as design ideas born of my insecurity surrounding my own work. I'm throwing it into 'General', because I figure that it doesn't get much more general than this.

I played Ticket to Ride last night for the first time, and it got me thinking about the ways that games reward experienced players, and what that does to first time players. Let me explain.

My session had four players, two of whom had prior experience playing the game. My starting tickets were Chicago <-> Santa Fe, Vancouver <-> Santa Fe, and New Orleans <-> Montreal. I pitched New Orleans, because I figured that I’d build a railway across the country from Vancouver to Chicago, passing through New Orleans. The bonus points seemed high (9 and 13, respectively), and with no point of reference, I figured that I’d end up with the most bonus points, and outstrip my competition right at the end.

Of course, this strategy worked approximately not at all. Unbeknownst to me, half the cards in the ticket deck were worth at least 13 or more – I was never going to outstrip my competition with those tickets. Sure enough, I thought I was sitting pretty at 98, but the player across from me got 130 – and barely missed getting longest railroad.

The experience got me thinking about games that have information hidden by lack of experience, rather than the more traditional notion of information hidden by players (think cards in your hand). This idea is particularly important to me, because I am currently building a game which uses double sided cards, and I worry about the advantages experienced players will hold over newbies.

My hope is that I can mitigate this problem in my game by making the relative power of the ability on the back (Which is hidden from most players) obvious from its cost and difficulty to obtain on the front (Which is open information). But I still have to wonder – how much of an advantage does this ‘experiential-private’ information effect a game?
 
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Jon Ben
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I think you were done a disservice by whoever taught you the game. Showing you the contents of the ticket deck is essential. Of course you don't need to know every card (although that helps a lot) but knowing the range of values is necessary.

It is possible to get extremely good at TTR, and experienced players will always beat newbies. To me that is desirable, it shows that the game has skill and is not overwhelmed by random elements.

As to your game with double sided cards. You have to assume that the players will know the possible reverse sides of the cards. An experienced player will have this information. If your game doesn't work when people know that information then the game will be become worse the more people play it, and that isn't what you want. To mitigate experience you could try to construct a crib sheet for players. Or you could just let that knowledge develop organically. Many cards games have the feature that knowledge of the cards gives experienced players an advantage, for example Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends andBlue Moon.
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Darin Bolyard
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I'm no designer, but I am intrigued by your question and desire to mitigate this in your game. Though from my experience with games, it seems an inevitable situation--experience generally (if not always) leads to greater success (not guaranteeing victory, mind). My experience also shows that the depth of strategy vs. the level of randomness play heavily into whether or not a newbie can viably compete with an experienced player.

I agree with Jon above, that disclosure of the contents and details of the components is key to teaching a game properly. However, I disagree with Jon that experience will always win in this particular game. I think TTR does a great job of narrowing the experience vs. newbie gap...when taught properly. But this largely depends on the newbie's experience in other games and/or willingness to receive a tour of the components.

Let's face it, TTR is not a complex game. Another game that plays well for newbies is Splendor. This one comes to mind because I won my first 3 games against far more experienced players. After playing it several more times, I've lost 3 recent games against far less experienced players--including a newbie. Again, not a complex game. However, I've never seen a newbie win a game of The Castles of Burgundy--a far more complex game than either of the above.

How complex do you anticipate your game being?

Perhaps the more important solution you should seek is how to build a game that, when played by either a newbie or an experienced player, has fun win or lose. This is another way to mitigate the issue (or rather a way to skirt it). Firefly: The Game does a fabulous job of this.




 
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Tomello Visello
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Amorywri wrote:
I played Ticket to Ride last night for the first time...

Sure enough, I thought I was sitting pretty at 98, but the player across from me got 130 – and barely missed getting longest railroad.
Bluntly, some of knowledge you lacked is just the sort of thing I look forward to discovering through the joy of repeat plays.

I don't need to win first game. I just want to build my own perspective on how the game plays. It doesn't have to be handed to me.

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