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Subject: Too Much Randomness? rss

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Quantum Jack
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I have seen many complaints, as well as have had a few serious duscussions about Magic Realm and it's randomness. As a rule, the problem most people have with randomness in games is the "swinginess" it creates, or how easily a "lucky streak" can make a less skilled player win, or a more skilled player lose.

Most commonly accused in MR is the use of dice; to hide, to search, to buy/hire. A second random feature criticized is the map chits. They can make some tiles far better than others.

Seasoned players know that both of these factors can be mitigated. Good planning, and paying attention can (at least) keep the experienced player alive.

But these factors are, as far as I can see, far less swingy than the real culprit. The thing which really is (possibly) too random:

The Treasures!
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Quantum Jack
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Treasures are SO SWINGY in this game. A random distribution can mean the difference between picking uo the battle bracelets or the lucky charm. The level of usefulness between the dwarf picking up the garb if speed, or the elf. And conversely for the belt of strength. The timeless jewel is almost unfair. A wizard, sorceror, or magician picking up the flying carpet is ecstatic. The white knight just sees a useless rug.

For all the complaints about failed hide rolls, thus comes across to me as the swingiest aspect of the game. 2 equally skilled players, the game will often come down to who hot the better treasures. I don't really see a way (nor have a strong desire) to fix this. The treasures provide one of the best sources of diversity. But it just seems strange to me that of all the criticism, i've yet to hear treasures blamed, despite the actual legitimacy of their swingitude.

Thoughts?
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GodRob
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All of what you described is what makes this game great. Well spotted!
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GodRob
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There's nothing like the sound of a child's laughter to remind you that your apartment's haunted.
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If it's any consolation, that guy with the Lucky Charm has a much greater chance of also looting the Mouldy Skeleton and getting cursed with Squeak. Then the Demon shows up and a Fiery Chasm opens! Only rolling one die on Curses and Power of the Pit is very bad.

Magic Realm laughs at his good fortune.
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Todd Pytel
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I think criticism of the treasures' random impact is reasonable. What keeps it from being obnoxious is that you usually need a solid plan to get some treasures in the first place. Unless you lucksack into the perfect, inexpensive item from a friendly native, you'll need to manage hide rolls, denizen appearance, and probably some combat to loot a treasure pile. All of those systems are random too, but are more predictable or don't have quite the variance that treasures do. So I can't say the treasures bother me.

But I'm not a terribly experienced MR player either. I look forward to responses from the experts.
 
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Daniel Goddard
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Yes, the treasures are so variable in their usefulnesses and particular to this character or that. But, really, you are not seeking after a single treasure, but many. Some for their resale value only and some for their inherent benefits to your character. ...It really is not so much the randomness factor that limits a player as it is his careful planning which is driving him/her to delve deeper.
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Jay Richardson
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Quantum_Jack wrote:
Treasures are SO SWINGY in this game. A random distribution can mean the difference between picking uo the battle bracelets or the lucky charm.

Would you prefer the alternative, where all of the treasures were so uniform and homogeneous that it wouldn't really matter what treasure you found?

devil

Quantum_Jack wrote:
A wizard, sorceror, or magician picking up the flying carpet is ecstatic. The white knight just sees a useless rug.

Using the Flying Carpet effectively assumes that the character has a reason to use it, and the using character may have to expend Rest/Enchant phases to recover after using it. The White Knight, on the other hand, will quickly sell it for 17 gold, which might give him enough gold to hire a Knight of the Order, or buy a warhorse, etc. That could be quite a useful benefit to him.

In addition, if the White Knight *does* find the Flying Carpet, it means that the Wizard, Sorceror, and Magician will *never* get it... which the White Knight might well see as being a huge benefit just by itself!

Quantum_Jack wrote:
2 equally skilled players, the game will often come down to who got the better treasures.

I don't think it's that simple. Between two matched players, you have to consider, at the very least:

* who makes the best use of the good luck they receive,
* who best minimizes the effect of the bad luck they receive, and
* who is better at negating the other player's good luck.

Quantum_Jack wrote:
But it just seems strange to me that of all the criticism, i've yet to hear treasures blamed, despite the actual legitimacy of their swingitude.

With skilled players, Magic Realm is not overly "swingy" except on rare occasions.

In my old gaming group, for example, our best player had a record with the Wizard of 3 wins and 7 losses. The other three players combined could only manage 3 wins and 20 losses with the Wizard! Our best player had that impressive record with the Wizard (arguably the weakest character in the game) not because he got lucky more often than anyone else, but rather because he was a damn good player. His skill often allowed him to overcome the effect of luck – either his own bad luck or another player's good luck.

There's an old adage that says it's "better to be lucky than good," but, in Magic Realm, being good will take you much further than just being lucky.

There have been a few older threads were the effects of powerful treasures on the game were discussed. Here are a couple, from 2009 & 2010:

Lucky Charm too powerful?
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/448777/lucky-charm-too-...

Balance in Magic Realm
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/507967/balance-magic-re...
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Todd Pytel
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richfam wrote:
Would you prefer the alternative, where all of the treasures were so uniform and homogeneous that it wouldn't really matter what treasure you found?

I think this a false dichotomy, Jay. The distinction between "treasures have variation in utility" and "treasures have too much variation in utility" is not an unreasonable one.

Quote:
In my old gaming group, for example, our best player had a record with the Wizard of 3 wins and 7 losses. The other three players combined could only manage 3 wins and 20 losses with the Wizard!

But this is a much more compelling response, based on actual results from experienced players. It does suggest - within the limits of relatively small sample sizes - that player skill matters more than which treasures they happen to find.

For all the (justifiable) love that MR gets around here, the enormous learning curve required to play the full game (even without optional combat rules and such) leaves the finer elements of MR's balance open to some question IMO. I'd guess that you could count on hand the number of groups worldwide with Jay's playing experience. I strongly suspect that most people around BGG are rather similar to myself - they've played some solo games and maybe a handful of 2p or 3p games with people they roped into MR. But that's a long way from having the collective experience to produce meaningful data. So it's good to hear balance reports from the handful of groups that can actually judge it.
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Steve Schacher

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Solve the thought that treasures are too random, and then someone will suggest that the treasure site placement mechanism is too random, sometimes creating clusters and sometimes creating empty tiles.

Solve the supposed problem with treasure site placement being too random, and someone will complain that the monster summoning chit placement is too random...

Steve
 
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Quantum Jack
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As I said, I don't think it needs "fixing" just that its odd that most people blame the less swingy elements, while ignoring the most swingy element. I am not even saying they are insurmountable, just that they can have a big impact.

I like the variability of the treasures, it is one of those things that makes "so this one time ..." stories. Like when I looted the flying carpet on day 20 with the amazon, then flew across the map to eke out a victory. Or the fabled woodsgirl with T armor and Bane sword. These moments make this game great. But while criticism of die rolling are clearly dismissable, the swing provided by treasures is very real. Not denying skill levels, or character's relative powers. Just saying that, all other things equal, the in-game factor most likely (in my estimation) to decide winner/loser is treasure cards. Although a case could be made for monster roll (i think mostly overcomeable).
 
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Todd Pytel
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Quantum_Jack wrote:
As I said, I don't think it needs "fixing" just that its odd that most people blame the less swingy elements, while ignoring the most swingy element... But while criticism of die rolling are clearly dismissable, the swing provided by treasures is very real.

I think a fair number of new players (20%? 40%?) never to get to the point of understanding how to minimize the impact of hide rolls and denizen appearance rolls. Those rolls generally hit before any treasure gets acquired, so they get the most attention. This is not a knock on those new players either - there's almost nothing in MR that's remotely like any other fantasy game, and it takes more effort to get your head around it than many people want to invest.
 
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James Dean
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Life's random.

I think there's too much criticism at times, generally speaking, of randomness in games. Heck I could get in my car tomorrow and get T boned leaving my housing development. It wouldn't be anything *I* did that caused my misfortune - just dumb luck.

More than the randomness of the treasure distribution, I'd say the relative balance of the treasures' values is a more important factor in "swingy-ness". If you've got only 1 or 2 treasures that practically gauruntee a win, then yeah you've got a problem because randomly discovering one of these treasures mean you win, randomly. But Magic Realm is very well balanced for the most part when it comes to treasures, don't you think?

I also guess the categories for Great, Large, and Small treasures were in part the designers' attempts to reduce randomness in the distribution of treasures. You know, for example, you have a better chance of finding that Lucky Charm at certain sites, because those sites are seeded with a greater number of Large treasures.

Definitely though, the less aware you are of the total set of treasures, the less aware you will be of any swing-ness introduced by the random distribution of the treasures. On the other hand, EVERYONE very quickly learns the costs of failing a hide roll(for example) and the less experienced you are the higher the costs of a failed hide roll are likely to be.
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neko flying
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My two cents' worth of opinion.

Yes, there is a lot of randomness. But the learning curve is even steeper.

You will probably lose 100% of your first 20 games because of your own mistakes anyway. There is almost no way luck can help against a beginner's bad decisions.

Luck begins to come into play at intermediate level (when you survive more often than not). In fact, you will probably win your first game because you were good enough not to get yourself in a deadly situation, and got the right treasures for a lucky win.

With advanced play, when you start to win relatively regularly, luck will definitely still play a role, but the games in which you die just because of bad luck will be a very small minority.

For the most part, with advanced play between players of comparable skill, luck will play a relevant role in the difference between winning (as in achieving your own victory conditions) and being the victor (as in scoring more points than anybody else).

Now if the only, or main, thing you care about in this game is competitive play, I can see why this would bother you. But, for most people playing MR, competitive play is just one facet of the game, and probably not the main one.
 
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Chris Laudermilk
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A tangent thought: Doesn't the mere fact that we are here discussing this game 35+ years after it's gone out of print say something about the effectiveness of the game--randomness or not?
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Michael Bechard
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Evan Everowl wrote:
But, really, you are not seeking after a single treasure, but many. Some for their resale value only and some for their inherent benefits to your character.


This. I've found the resale value of most items very balanced, so even if I get something useless to my character, the fact that I can hop over to some natives and sell it for something I can use (or sell it and keep the gold for victory requirements) means I'm never very disappointed in my treasure finds.

Unless I can't carry it.
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