$15.00
$20.00
$5.00
$30.00
Recommend
19 
 Thumb up
 Hide
6 Posts

A Feast for Odin» Forums » General

Subject: A purely academic consideration of randomness in Odin rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Andrew Brooks
United States
Indianapolis
Indiana
flag msg tools
Proud writer for iSlayTheDragon
badge
mb
A Feast for Odin has a number of random elements, this much we can agree on. Any opinions derived from those random elements and how they affect one's enjoyment of the game play is another matter. Randomness is uncharted territory for Rosenberg's heavier designs so it's not surprising that people are reacting to it. But here's the thing, this game was designed the way it was for a reason. These random elements are intentional. Some will like their inclusion, some won't. I'm not here to convince anyone that they should like or dislike this design. Rather, I'd like to look at what the random elements are and what they add to the game.

To state my bias up front, I think they are well implemented from a design stand point and do not need to be fixed or changed. This is based on my enjoyment of the game, others are free to disagree. If you want to disagree, I would appreciate framing it within your preference rather than asserting Odin was poorly designed.


What are the random elements?


There are several different sources of randomness in Odin:
*Die rolls for certain actions (hunting and raiding/pillaging)
*Card draw for occupations
*Card draw for weapons

I'm not going to cover the random order that mountain strips come out because it affects all players equally (turn order and need for wood withstanding) and can be reacted to.

I want to start by looking at what these things have in common. I'll note that while they have some similarities, their thematic immersion, implementation, and ability of the player to react to the outcome is different. I'll cover these differences as they come up.


Game introduced uncertainty


First and foremost the random elements add uncertainty introduced by the game (rather than the other players). You can calculate the odds of a given outcome but you can't speculate what is likely to happen as you can with player-introduced uncertainty. Randomness leads to an inherently unpredictable form of uncertainty. This, in turn, drives the need for risk assessment. You can choose to be risk-averse by abstaining from the die actions or relying on card draw. What you can not do is mitigate bad results.

I'll give two examples of bad results and how they aren't reasonably mitigable. And to be clear, I've seen these things happen regularly enough to be under consideration, they aren't edge cases.

Die rolls: The hunting action is taken and the results of 7-8-7 are rolled, leaving the player with a hefty 7 cost in order to be successful. Paying 7 bows and/or wood is simply not worth the output for this action so you are very likely to choose failure. You could choose to pay but you aren't really mitigating the result, you are simply paying a very high price.

Card draw: A 3-viking action is selected and an occupation card worth 0 points that doesn't have any actionable benefit is drawn. This is effectively a dead card if its benefit is too divergent or it is drawn late enough in the game. There's nothing you can do to improve or react to this draw.

There can be situations where mitigation is present, such as rerolling bad results or drawing cards early, but that doesn't mean there is always mitigation. You simply can't rely on it. Bad results are bad results despite compensation for failure. You'd (almost always) rather have good results, which are strictly better, and you don't have any control over it. That's the risk which should be assessed before taking actions that rely on chance.

And to be clear, this isn't a game that has chance built into your turn structure (such as Stone Age).

[tangent]

As a personal side note, I speculate that risk-averse strategies will lose to ones that have a reasonable degree of success with die actions. The reward for luck-based action spots needs to be higher to justify the risk. Increased player count will exacerbate this effect. There are actions that have better odds of success (whaling [-6] and pillaging [+3]) but there's no guarantee that your weapon and occupation draws will play into those. I'm not necessarily saying that players are forced into risky play but you may be forced into some degree of risk assessment (such as whether it's worth hunting with limited resources or how much ore to load in your boats) if you want a shot at winning.

[end tangent]


Adapting to outcome


Another thing that random elements introduce is the need to adapt. It could be argued that if you have favorable outcomes that align with what you're doing that you won't need to adapt but, as a whole, you are going to be presented with less ideal outcomes from time to time.

Die rolls prevent perfect resource planning. Rather than thinking of die rolls as stark success/failure, I find it's better to view them as a price randomizer. What players are reacting to is the willingness to pay the given price or push for a better one at the risk of being denied the main action. It's true that you are compensated on failure, and at times that may be the desired outcome, which lowers the risk of these actions to a degree. The adaption comes into play when players are presented with a higher price than they would like to pay. Perhaps it's worth that cost and the remainder of the turn must be faced with less than ideal resources. When you don't get perfect results, and you won't most of the time, you'll have to adapt to the cost.

Card draw encourages action diversification. When a card is drawn that doesn't go along with what a player is already doing they are given the choice to capitalize on the opportunity presented or ignore the card. Doing the former may mean that player is getting in someone else's way. Encouraging diversification leads to interaction when players may be content running divergent engines. Some players will actively block other's plans and, through card draw, could end up with fuel to drive those decisions.


Thematic integration


The last similarity that I'll touch on is how these random elements can add to immersion in the game. Hunting and pillaging do not have static outcomes or resource costs because they represent things that can't be accounted for. The hunt could a glorious success or the prey could be illusive and require additional resources to capture. Pillaging could be met with unexpected opposition or a literal treasure trove could be unearthed. The die roll tells that story.

The card draws are a little looser but still have merit. You are the leader of a tribe but you don't necessarily have control over what your vikings want to do. They will make the weapons that they want (sorry!) and specialize in the occupations they enjoy without your direction. Why you don't have prior knowledge as information trickles in is less clear but perhaps it's because you're busy with more pressing matters. Resources and skills are presented as they become apparent and you can either use them or not.

If viewed from a mechanical standpoint, the thematic touches can be ignored but they are still there to reflect the action in the game. The thematic integration doesn't trump mechanical implementation. Rather, they are paired together. Those who appreciate these kind of design decisions will receive a richer game experience as a result.


Conclusion


The random elements in A Feast for Odin seem very intentionally included in the design both from a mechanical and thematic standpoint. They emphasize risk assessment and encourage adaption to game introduced uncertainty. If you don't like those things then you may not like A Feast for Odin. Fortunately there are other Rosenberg designs that don't have any (or very little) game introduced randomness that you can play instead.

It's easy for me to come to that conclusion because I like A Feast for Odin but that doesn't mean it's without merit. This game won't be for everyone and that doesn't make it a bad design or one that needs to be fixed.
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason
Canada
Campbell River
British Columbia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Low die roll = good ==> I'm soooo excited to play this with my d8 from my D&D dice set. It always turns up 1 or 2. I'm on my way from misery to happiness...
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Brooks
United States
Indianapolis
Indiana
flag msg tools
Proud writer for iSlayTheDragon
badge
mb
oilerfan wrote:
Low die roll = good ==> I'm soooo excited to play this with my d8 from my D&D dice set. It always turns up 1 or 2. I'm on my way from misery to happiness...


Except on raiding when it's bad Better stick to hunting! How does your d12 roll?
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason
Canada
Campbell River
British Columbia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
dotKeller wrote:
oilerfan wrote:
Low die roll = good ==> I'm soooo excited to play this with my d8 from my D&D dice set. It always turns up 1 or 2. I'm on my way from misery to happiness...


Except on raiding when it's bad Better stick to hunting! How does your d12 roll?


Erm...shake
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Erik Burigo
Italy
Belluno
flag msg tools
designer
“Don't try the paranormal until you know what's normal.” - Granny Weatherwax
mbmbmbmbmb
Great explanation! I agree with you on this topic.

If someone is still not entirely convinced, I could suggest this home rule to mitigate the impression of "bad luck" on both the weapon and occupation card draw.

Quote:
You may discard an occupation card as if it were 2 weapons of the type required by the action you are undertaking.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Trey Chambers
United States
Houston
Texas
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb

Randomness with the dice is fine. I'm still on the fence about the occupation cards, though. They seem VERY swingy, and I'm not sure "diversify so you can make use of all cards!" is a winning a strategy OR a good justification to include that random element in the game.

When playing with veterans of the game, I might suggest a face-up tableau of three occupation cards to pick from.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.