Tod Andrew
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Let's say there is a known deck of, say, 60 event cards that are drawn throughout a game (in a random order).

Having knowledge of what to prepare for could be seen to reward skillful play, but also advantage card-counters toward the end.

Alternatively, a number of cards could be removed from the deck so that card-counters do not have perfect knowledge towards the end. However, removing too many cards might hugely lessen the skill factor.

My query is, how many (or what % of) cards would you consider removing so card-counters are stymied but a skill, rather than luck, factor remains?

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Jeremy Lennert
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Actually, removing cards does not stymie card-counting, unless you also have a rule that the game ends when the deck runs out or something like that.

If you have a deck of N event cards and you shuffle them all, then after X cards, a card-counter knows the next card will be one of the N-X cards that haven't been drawn yet.

If you have a deck of N event cards and you remove Y of them (without letting anyone see them), then after X cards, a card-counter still knows the next card will be one of the N-X cards that haven't been drawn yet--exactly what they knew in the first scenario.


You can reduce the power of card-counting by:

1. Adding more cards to the deck, so that there will be more remaining undrawn cards at any point during the game. (Obviously, this requires that you manufacture more cards.)
2. Shuffle the deck more often, so any information they've learned is periodically reset.


One technique I like is to include one card in the deck that says "reshuffle the deck and draw again". This means that even cards in the discard have a chance to be the next card to resolve (since you might reshuffle and then draw them), albeit at a lower chance than the cards still in the deck.

However, one downside to this technique is that you're reshuffling at the worst possible time (right when the next thing you have to do is draw from that deck), thereby holding the game up--compared to some hypothetical scenario where you reshuffle in the background while someone else is taking their turn. (One variation would be a card that says "draw and resolve the next event, then reshuffle afterwards", but that's more complicated, causes problems if it happens to be the last card in the deck or if you ever draw multiple events in a row, and loses the bit where you might get an event from the discard without warning.)


As to the general question of "how much benefit should you allow players to get by counting cards?", it depends entirely on the game.
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Tod Andrew
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Yes, I was considering that the game ends when the deck runs out.

With a deck of, say, 60 cards, you could start with 65 and remove 5, or start with 100 and remove 40. The former might not stymie card-counters whilst the latter might not reward skill.
Maybe there is a balance in between.

As to how much players should benefit from card-counting; sure, it depends on the game. I am thinking of a game that rewards players who prepare for events that they have a 'gut feeling' of likely to occur, rather than only rewarding those with photographic memories.
 
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Graham Muller
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Another thing to take into account is game length, re-playability and additional events packs.

For game length a limit on the number of cards will create a hard end event, but you could include an end card shuffled into the last 10 so that the exact end turn is more random.

For re-playability the more cards removed the better.

If you want the ability to add more events into the game as an expansion, then the limit for card counting becomes less important factor as 60 of 100 could become 60 of 150 etc.
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Jeremy Lennert
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Koldfoot wrote:
No one can keep track of 60 individual cards without pen and paper.

That's simply not true. The standard trick for a memory athlete is to memorize the order of an entire deck of poker cards.

Most players are not going to keep track of all 60 cards, but that's entirely within the realm of what a hardcore player could theoretically do.
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Morgan
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I think you should stick with removing very few cards; perhaps just 1 is enough. (Or zero, depending on the impact on the game - let card counters have a slight advantage)

Let's imagine this is a game where all the cards are out for display and only 1 card is drawn at a time, so everyone will know what the final card is if they have a player aid. Removing just 1 card reduces the chance of guessing what the final card is to 50% (e.g. Love Letter); removing 2 cards 33% and removing 3 cards 25%. We're now in the realms of dinishing returns as far as card removal vs. chance of guessing correctly and you're removing components from your game which increases variability.
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Tod Andrew
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I am thinking that the final deck of 60 is likely to be approx 10 cards each of 6 different events. So maybe you start with 11 cards of each event type and randomly remove 6 cards.

(60 cards is the target deck size because it is divisible by all player counts up to 6 players; assuming an event card is drawn after each turn, each player will get the same number of turns.)
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Steven Tu
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I would hate to setup a game where it tells me to count of 40 cards and just sit them down. Also a huge concern is balance - if you have 100 cards, removing 60 at random inevitably breaks the balance of the game. What if all the points are gone? What if there are only 2 points left and whoever gets them and wins? What if all the defensive cards are gone?

Points/defence are just examples.

If you're aiming for equal turns, a turn tracker and finishing the game at a target number, and then the rest of the deck is useless, is functionally the same as removing cards, with the added caveat of search through deck for X being guaranteed to work (as opposed to oops they were all removed from the game)
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Jeremy Lennert
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Koldfoot wrote:
Even the best couldn't play a game of chess and simultaneously count cards with any degree of accuracy at all.

This claim strikes me as implausible. What's your source?

I've heard from two reasonably-reputable sources (one TED talk and one educational TV show; I'll dig up references if you care) that memorizing the order of a deck of poker cards is a reasonable goal for an average person willing to do a modest amount of memory training. It's not some freakish savant thing.

I've done no specific training, but in games that I play repeatedly I typically track about a dozen different event cards (that's not simplified "good minus bad", I mean I can list them all by name and which ones are currently in the discard pile). That's not every card in a 60-card deck, but it's a sizable fraction, and I'm confident I could improve if I made a concerted effort.
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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Tuism wrote:
a huge concern is balance - if you have 100 cards, removing 60 at random inevitably breaks the balance of the game.

That is FAR from inevitable. There are lots of games where you could plausibly end the game after going through only 40% of the main deck and where that is not generally considered a balance issue.

Also, every game that uses dice is effectively doing this. Dice rolls are statistically equivalent to an infinite deck with lots of duplicate cards, which means you're using only an infinitesimal fraction of the deck each game. Does that mean every game with dice is inevitably unbalanced?
 
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Steven Tu
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Antistone wrote:
Tuism wrote:
a huge concern is balance - if you have 100 cards, removing 60 at random inevitably breaks the balance of the game.

That is FAR from inevitable. There are lots of games where you could plausibly end the game after going through only 40% of the main deck and where that is not generally considered a balance issue.

Also, every game that uses dice is effectively doing this. Dice rolls are statistically equivalent to an infinite deck with lots of duplicate cards, which means you're using only an infinitesimal fraction of the deck each game. Does that mean every game with dice is inevitably unbalanced?


I did mention that allowing seek cards to exist lets cards remain in the deck without actually removing them.

Some are not designed to be balanced by the whole deck. Some are. So no, it's not inevitable.

Dice is a different mechanic with a different design goal to a deck of cards. Part of the design goal of a deck of cards is that it statistically evens the odds out over time. Why use a deck of cards if you want a dice, and vice versa?
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It depends on how many cards you will go through in an average game, if there are duplicates/sets ,what the cards are used for, etc.

In something like Arkham Horror, the event "mythos" deck can just be played. You won't get to every card, all the cards are unique so as already said, someone would just be "expecting" one or two specifically annoying cards, and the deck has a "reshuffle the discards" card too for further complications.

Police Precinct plays like Arkham Horror lite. The event deck is smaller / flipped every turn instead of every round. You might get through it or close to it. But because only a few cards are in play at a time, knowing what's left would only matter in the rarest of circumstnces.

I just think in general, event decks don't really get card-counted. And you'd want more cards for play variety anyway, so you'd just be better off having more than necessary.

For a regular card game, with a set-colleciton or trick-taking, players will count cards. I recently started playing Biblios and I really like how it removes just enough cards to screw with the card-counters. From an 87 card deck, it removes 7 cards in a 4-player game, but from 2 or 3 player games, it removes a certain amount of money cards first (3 or 6) and then a larger random amount of cards (12 or 21). Because the deck is easily memorizeable (33 money cards -11 of each denomination, 9 church cards that affect scoring, 45 point cards equally split between 5 suits with only 2 or 3 numbers in each suit) the cards can be counted
easily. With 4 players, there are more unknown cards, so even taking just 7 out is enough to cast doubt on a suit missing 1 or 2 or possibly 3+ cards. With 2 players, you will see more cards so more cards are removed. Now you have no way of knowing how much of a suit is missing unless you have seen every card in the suit.

TLDR: As little as 10% or as much as 25%, but doing it at all is completely dependent on the usage of the cards.
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Steven Tu
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Yeah Love Letters' one card removal is great. So what I'm saying is just don't make people count 40 cards out. A couple of cards is fine, and should be enough.
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Brendan Riley
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Tuism wrote:
Yeah Love Letters' one card removal is great. So what I'm saying is just don't make people count 40 cards out. A couple of cards is fine, and should be enough.


I like games that have lots of event cards and only use some each game. Then it's a surprise which ones you'll get. (A Study in Emerald is my favorite that does this.) I agree that counting forty cards is a bit onerous.

Actually, the thought of a game that requires me to draw through sixty cards before it ends is tough, especially if all of those are unique (as opposed to ALHAMBRA or TICKET TO RIDE, where the cards are currency and move pretty fast.
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Craig C
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Perhaps have one of the cards say "Discard the next five cards in the deck face-down" and shuffle it in somewhere. So all the cards are there but five of them get taken out at random without the card-counter getting to see them.

Another question: is card-counting the only skill needed to break the game? If so, you might look at the other mechanics and see if they need to be tweaked to play a bigger role in the overall strategy.
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Andrew H
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I think it is easier for card counters to remember a standard poker deck than a game deck because of the repetition of rank and suits. I've also heard that people develop tricks where they associate each card with an object or action, and then tell a story to themselves as they see the deck. People could do the same with your game, but I'm not sure that most people would remember all 60 cards (though it is possible). I do think it is more likely for people to remember a smaller amount, and/or the pattern of cards before specific cards.

Lastly, I've made games where cards are added each round to add difficulty, and this might work with your game. For example, the player pulls out 20 cards before the game starts. The first level, they have to play through 40 cards, the second level they add 10 (50 total), and the last level they add the last 10. Depending on your game, the longer deck might be easier (more time to win) or harder (more damage and encounters), but the change could help reduce counting too.
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Bryan Thunkd
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It's rarely important in a deck of 60 cards to track every single card. Usually there are particular cards that are important to a player. Tracking 10 or 20 cards in the deck is significantly easier than tracking the entire deck and can have a potent impact.

When playing Bridge, for example, being able to track the face cards and the trump suit is powerful and as you can see the ones in your hand, and the dummy player's, it's some number less than 25, and probably under 15, out of the 52 in play.
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John "Omega" Williams
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A separate question might be.

Is this worry really necessary?

It is part of the whole worrying about players cheating deal.

Most players dont. And theyd probably resent being penalized for the theoretical actions of a small subset if they knew.

When playing a game with event cards for example. Without even counting cards I know that if X has been drawn then X is now not going to be drawn again, or if there are duplicates, then X is now less likely to be drawn again. Even if some cards are discarded, I still now know that X is not going to be drawn again until the deck is reshuffled.

All without counting a single card.

It is called "Paying attention".
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Matt Blackburn
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I think we really need some more context to make a recommendation.

Part of the fun of board games is that you get to play them how you want. If players want to meticulously count cards in order to get a slight edge, that's their prerogative. I would only worry about it if the edge is big enough, it forces players to count cards in order to stay competitive.

There's a complexity cost to explaining to players that they must remove a certain number of cards, there's a setup cost, and there's also a cost that you will have to design and produce more cards than you actually need. Also, a lot of games have cards that MUST occur by the end of the game. If you're removing cards, you obviously don't have the flexibility of designing these types of events.

Also, keep in mind that stopping card counting will NOT in any way improve the fun of the first few playthroughs. The rule would only affect players who have committed the entire deck to memory. I would definitely err on keeping the game simpler to set up, especially for beginner players.

If you really have a game where this is the best solution, I'd like to hear more about it, you must have a very unusual and unique game.
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