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Subject: Not a Review: No Dummy + Don't Overthink It rss

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Warren Smith
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I picked up Mage Knight when it first came out and enjoy it immensely as a solo game. I have Lost Legion and Krang but passed on Tezla. The game had been on my shelf for some time since my last play but this past week I put it on the table again to go through the Lost Relic and accompanying pre-levelling up. Twice. Good times!

I'd first like to recommend that solo players ditch the dummy player. While the app makes a fairly simple task even simpler, the dummy is still an extraneous layer of calculation that can detract from the experience. There are other ways to adjust the difficulty without having to take time to flip cards and count crystals. (Change city/volkaire level, add fortification to a ruined city, or tweak an objective for example). I played without the dummy, went through my rounds and did not feel like I was cheating. You could also set a fixed number of rounds if you wanted to ensure you keep the pace up - I think the dummy averages out to 5 or 6 rounds per day/night? Kill the dummy to save precious play time and mental energy.

I'd also like to recommend that the more thematically inclined players among us give this game a good go. While AP can set in quickly, you don't have to calculate everything. Just wing it! Have a good time. The game will tell a great story whether you play it like the stingy resource management euro it is or if you take a more haphazard approach to battle and exploration. This is NOT the way I play, but I could easily see this working very well for others. Mage Knight is a very workable and robust design with lots to offer a wide range of tastes.

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Jonny Lawless
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I don't see much advantage in losing the dummy player. The only change I'd make to it is a semantic one. Call it the round timer or something like that, because I think people get spooked when they hear they'll have to manage a "player".
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Thomas King
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jonnylawless wrote:
I don't see much advantage in losing the dummy player. The only change I'd make to it is a semantic one. Call it the round timer or something like that, because I think people get spooked when they hear they'll have to manage a "player".

I don't know, I also found the dummy in MK to be extra (and tedious) book keeping and totally over-thought. Instead of me vs. the game, it's me vs. the game and an awkwardly simulated 2nd player.
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Humulus Lupulus
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The app for the Dummy Player is very helpful. One of the few times I've found an app very useful for boardgaming (although I play MK strictly multiplayer now).
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Box of Delights
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dummy is really important element of the solo game: i would never ditch it. It's not a dummy player, and it's not trying to simulate one. Instead it manages the pace of the game so that you have an extra level of decidion making with regard to your use of time and deck, governing the length of the day or night. IMO you lose an important mechanism by ditching it.

But it does then prompt me to ask, since it is a mechanism like others in the game, if there are other key elements people might ditch - e.g shuffling their deck ?
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Warren Smith
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I think that to equate the dummy player rules with core mechanics is a stretch. The only purpose it serves is to time the rounds. The cost benefit of taking the time to do so is clearly, at least to me, one sided in favour of cost.

EDIT: some people obviously like playing with the dummy player. if this is part of your enjoyment of the game, by all means continue with it! My suggestion is simply that you won't miss much if you scrap it.
 
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Box of Delights
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h00sha wrote:
I think that to equate the dummy player rules with core mechanics is a stretch. The only purpose it serves is to time the rounds. The cost benefit of taking the time to do so is clearly, at least to me, one sided in favour of cost.

EDIT: some people obviously like playing with the dummy player. if this is part of your enjoyment of the game, by all means continue with it! My suggestion is simply that you won't miss much if you scrap it.


For sure, I get you, my opinion is only as good as the next guy's, and you've raised a good point. But....

One thing to think about is the impact of getting knocked-out or taking a turn Resting. Does this alter the importance of the timer ?
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Thomas King
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ricky2002 wrote:
dummy is really important element of the solo game: i would never ditch it. It's not a dummy player, and it's not trying to simulate one. Instead it manages the pace of the game so that you have an extra level of decidion making with regard to your use of time and deck, governing the length of the day or night. IMO you lose an important mechanism by ditching it.

I agree, the dummy's role is important to create extra tension, but I don't think you need a "dummy" deck that's built, shuffled, and drawn from, tracked with tokens, just to create variable round lengths. It really has a simple job, but does it in a long-winded, clunky manner (in my opinion). It could be greatly simplified.
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Ben Kyo
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First, the dummy is really really simple and takes about 3 seconds between your turns.

Second, the only way to lose a solo game is to be too slow, i.e., slower than your rival, the dummy. You cannot die. You can get beaten to a pulp, but all that does is slow you down. If you want to play a game you cannot lose, by all means, go ahead. I don't think that will appeal to a majority though, and I'm at a loss as to why anyone would "recommend" it.

Of course the dummy is a core mechanic (or at least, a round timer, if you want to abstract it further and remove uncertainty). Mage Knight without a timer doesn't work.

As another guy mentioned above, an example: You get into a fight you shouldn't have, you take 10 wounds and discard your hand. That's potentially a fail state. But wait! You are playing without a timer. You use a skill to draw a card, move to a glade, throw away a wound. Rest, discard a wound, throw away a wound from your discard, repeat. You've turned a significant event into a trivial one that barely even affected you. An infinite number of wounds is the same as one wound - a detour to a glade. That's just one example of how a timer is a core mechanic.
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Sky Zero
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I too ditched the dummy player long ago. I try to play at a brisk pace and not overthink each turn. I found when using the dummy player that 9 out of 10 rounds it didn't play a factor outside of "another thing" to keep track of.

Now, that leaves the question of could you cheat or game the system without it? Sure, but I can do that with or without a timer playing solo. Play in the spirit of the game and what works for you.
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Warren Smith
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Benkyo wrote:


As another guy mentioned above, an example: You get into a fight you shouldn't have, you take 10 wounds and discard your hand. That's potentially a fail state. But wait! You are playing without a timer. You use a skill to draw a card, move to a glade, throw away a wound. Rest, discard a wound, throw away a wound from your discard, repeat. You've turned a significant event into a trivial one that barely even affected you. An infinite number of wounds is the same as one wound - a detour to a glade. That's just one example of how a timer is a core mechanic.
i see what you mean. Yes, I concede that setting a time limit is a core mechanic. But, again, you don't need the dummy player for this. If you're concerned that you might not be playing in the spirit of the game then just say at the start that you're going to allow 6 turns per round. Too easy? 5 turns then. If you prefer the variability offered by the dummy player, well I don't have an answer for that. All I know is that I'm done with it and I cant see a reason to start playing with it again. I would definitely recommend the no-dummy option.
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Ben Kyo
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h00sha wrote:
Benkyo wrote:


As another guy mentioned above, an example: You get into a fight you shouldn't have, you take 10 wounds and discard your hand. That's potentially a fail state. But wait! You are playing without a timer. You use a skill to draw a card, move to a glade, throw away a wound. Rest, discard a wound, throw away a wound from your discard, repeat. You've turned a significant event into a trivial one that barely even affected you. An infinite number of wounds is the same as one wound - a detour to a glade. That's just one example of how a timer is a core mechanic.
i see what you mean. Yes, I concede that setting a time limit is a core mechanic. But, again, you don't need the dummy player for this. If you're concerned that you might not be playing in the spirit of the game then just say at the start that you're going to allow 6 turns per round. Too easy? 5 turns then. If you prefer the variability offered by the dummy player, well I don't have an answer for that. All I know is that I'm done with it and I cant see a reason to start playing with it again. I would definitely recommend the no-dummy option.

Thank you for the reasonable response. I agree that a set timer is an acceptable alternative. Cutting 3 seconds down to 1 second seems like a trivial gain to me, but it can be done at the expense of thematic dressing. The problems are that you lose the development and variability of the dummy or end up with something equally or more time-consuming if you want a variable timer.

I suspect that it isn't the time taken for the dummy that is at issue, but rather that you have to remember to do something (anything) at all in addition to your turns. I know that when I'm playing quickly on Vassal I sometimes have to check the log to see if I remembered the dummy between turns. In other words, any method of tracking turns is equally distracting/forgettable for me, as it is the tracking itself I forget, rather than the method of doing it. Since I think the game breaks without a round timer, these two arguments take me full-circle back to the dummy again.

The base game is a race against time, and against one or more rivals.
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Warren Smith
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Benkyo wrote:


I suspect that it isn't the time taken for the dummy that is at issue, but rather that you have to remember to do something (anything) at all in addition to your turns.
I guess the only thing I'd add to this is the decision about whether or not to allow the dummy to have same colour cards/crystals in an attempt to slow him down. It's an extra consideration that doesn't pay off in terms of effort/reward.

Hey, thanks for reading and for your comments.
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Ben Kyo
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h00sha wrote:
Benkyo wrote:


I suspect that it isn't the time taken for the dummy that is at issue, but rather that you have to remember to do something (anything) at all in addition to your turns.
I guess the only thing I'd add to this is the decision about whether or not to allow the dummy to have same colour cards/crystals in an attempt to slow him down. It's an extra consideration that doesn't pay off in terms of effort/reward.

It really isn't worth thinking about, that much I agree with, so don't! I do think it is important that the dummy develops as you do though, and gets slightly faster. The way it works is quick, simple, and thematic - I can't think of any other solution that would work as well.
h00sha wrote:
Hey, thanks for reading and for your comments.

Cheers!
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Thorsten Schröder
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Having played quite a lot with the dummy for me it's no problem to keep track of it.

But I can see that it is another extra thing to keep track of. And the mechanics are completely different from anything else in the game. If people say they want to play witout it I say do it.
Just play the way you like and have fun (Just don't compare your victory points with mine devil).
When you feel you are having no problems with the rules anymore (I have some things I very regularly forget - like the bonuses the cities give to the defenders), then try the dummy.
In my opinion even better: play against Volkare.
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Personally, I would never ditch the dummy player. It emulates the experience you have when playing competitive; players might play slow or play fast, it makes selecting tactics a strategic decision, it makes selecting advanced actions and spells a strategic decision, etc. pp.

In particular, the dummy has the following effects:

- You do not know how many turns the round will have and have to plan/adjust accordingly.
- You really have to think about which tactic you take when playing solo
-- since it can mean you get one less turn if the dummy picks a lower one.
-- since the dummy can burn any tactic you do not take.
- You have to think about which advanced actions and spells you leave and if you want to pile up on one color or distribute (both for crystals AND AAs).
-- Stacking one color is a risk/reward mechanic.
-- Distributing means you will end up with an average (but guaranteed) number.
-- I always play with "Control Over the Offers" as well, which makes me see more cards (as it would happen in a multiplayer game) and adds an additional level of control over colors.
- You get access to additional skills the dummy "discards" when he levels.

All in all, the dummy emulates A LOT of effects of having competitors, granted with a totally different motivation a lot of the time, but yet it makes many decisions (about tactics, AAs, spells or skills to pick) more interesting.

Calling it "just a timer" does not do it justice at all.

Unfortunately, the dummy does not touch the source at all, which is a pity for solo play, since that makes the source a pretty big luck factor. Sure, people/dummies/Volkare touching the source can screw you as well, but just as often it revives dead dies or gives you a color you can use.
Maybe adding one die for the dummy and then adding some kind of mixing up mechanic would have been nice, although I would not know an elegant way to do this.
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Benkyo wrote:
First, the dummy is really really simple and takes about 3 seconds between your turns.
I agree. Frankly, I don't get why so many solo players appear to dislike the dummy player.

I'd actually prefer the dummy player to be a bit more 'active', similar to Volkare (but not quite as complex).
I already have some ideas for that and plan to eventually post it in the Variants forum. (In the meantime I'm working on a new hero, though. Hopefully, I'll post a first version of it soon to gather some feedback.)
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Ben Kyo
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I just had a go at playing with and without a dummy/timer. Same setup, same mana die rolls. Just one round, Braevalar. Took planning.

Results:
With dummy:
Level 3, 8 fame (orcs, monastery)
Banner of Fear
1 AA
1 blue crystal
Herbalists
Start round 2 on a maze

Without dummy:
Level 4, 16 fame (orcs, monastery, maze, keep)
Banner of Fear
Fireball/Firestorm
2 AA
3 blue crystals
1 red crystal
4 Wounds
Start round 2 on keep

It's just a massive difference in efficiency. Of course I had some foreknowledge the second game, but not anything that made a difference to my decisions. I still played pretty much the same way both times, just an extra turn on a blue mine and an extra turn just moving made my two attacks more efficient, and gave me enough cards and mana to take on the maze, which gave me the card to take on the keep.

It's not a great example, and I didn't get to really abuse the lack of timer, but even the edge it gave me made a huge difference. I can imagine better starting rounds and all later rounds creating much greater differences.
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Warren Smith
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Great to see the discussion continue in this thread. Thanks all.

Wow! I didn't realize there was so much love for the dummy player (DP). I have always played with it, but only this past week did I scrap it to find that it was having a slight negative impact on my enjoyment of the game. I do place a DP skill in the offer, though, when appropriate.

Ben, thanks for posting your test results. Huge difference! I maintain, however, that you don't need the DP to ensure that you don't get an extra turn.

That said, I've now refined my position for clarity - the only good purpose of the DP is not to be timer because timing can be achieved by setting a fixed # of rounds. Rather, the only good reason to use DP is if you like the extra layer of decision that offers a chance to increase the number of turns you get and the variability that goes along with that. This is a perfectly good excuse for using the DP.
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