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Subject: avoiding repetitive play in turn based games? rss

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Lazar Naniov
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Hey, my first post here on these forums. I've been thinking about game design, and have been wanting some input on a particular matter.

In board games, and turn based games in general, what stops players playing out games the same way each time they play? Following the same strategy, making the same moves on the same turn. Usually it's an element of randomness which makes game diverge and differ from the one beforehand. This could be through a dice role, coin flip, drawing a random card from the top of a deck.

My question is mostly to do with card games. Let's say you were playing Magic, Pokemon or YGO. Now let's say you never drew a random card, but instead got to pick the card you drew each turn. What would stop players following the same set of moves each time they played? Assuming players avoided cards with random effects.

Has anyone every tried this? What did it amount to? Did matches turn out looking and feeling the same each time or did players adapt and there was no single best series of moves?

Sorry if this isn't in the right forum, I was guessing between two.
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Mario Hocks
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If you take a look at Terra Mystica. There is minor randomness before the game starts. After that the game has no more randomness as far as I see and players just have to react on other players moves. I think that if someone loses a match, the next game they try something else and the other one has to react to that, wich changes his moves and therefore the whole game.
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Matt Lee
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BraveRats actually does exactly this with 8 cards for each player and players play any card in hand that they want. The general rule is highest number wins, but the special rules for each card and how it handles ties makes every play through completely different as players have to consider what the opponent may play and what the other player thinks you will do.
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Trakyan wrote:
Let's say you were playing Magic, Pokemon or YGO. Now let's say you never drew a random card, but instead got to pick the card you drew each turn. What would stop players following the same set of moves each time they played?


In fact, MagicTG stopped making cards that let's you search cards in your draw pile (or drasticly reduced printing those cards) for exactly this reason. These cards are popularly named "tutor cards" in Mtg.

As a personal example, I used to have a combo deck. Each game, I'd do exactly the same (which was the optimal strategy of the deck), so I could win on turn four. The tutor cards were there because, if my opening hand didn't have the cards I needed to win on turn four, I'd use the tutor cards to search for the missing pieces. This would cost me time, obviously, and I'd win on turn five instead. But in exactly the same way, and players playing against me knew the only way to win was to play to my terms.

The thing is:
- Those kind of search cards are better when you're playing "actively", by which I mean that you do the thing you are pursuing. Since you are very much aware what you yourself are pursuing, it's very clear to what you should be searching in your deck, and you'll take a card that is 100% optimal.
- Search cards are less than optimal when you're playing "reactively", since you don't know what cards your opponent has, and if you search the wrong kind of card, it's far from an optimal choice.

Thus: non-randomness makes it a lot easier to make your own strategy powerful. Reactive play will benefit less from non-randomness, since you don't know what the other player will do.

As a second example, I'd refer to Machi Koro, the base game rule vs the expansion rule. In the base game, you use the same set of 10 cards each game, in the expansion, the cards that come out are variable.
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Trakyan wrote:
What would stop players following the same set of moves each time they played?

One obvious reason is the fact that all players are supposedly trying to win.

If I lost the game, why would I repeat the exact same moves in the next game, knowing that they will lead to my loss?

Only the winner has any incentive try playing the same moves again in the next game... ...and that works only if the opponents obligingly (foolishly) play out their losing moves again in the next game.

---

Note that there exist thousands of games with no randomness (Chess, Go, Shogi, Mancala, GIPF, Hive, etc etc), yet players do not play out the same moves every time.

Randomness is not at all needed to achieve this variety.
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Interaction.

Do your best move, and I'll counter you. Adapt to my countermeasure, or you'll lose.

Next game, if you play the same move as before, you'll face the same countermeasure. Or another one. And you'll either lose if you've lost the last game, or have to adapt again to the new strategy the person who lost the previous game used.

Works for M:tG but won't for multiplayer solitaire games unless they share a common pool, such as Ascension for instance.

M:tG has players trying to play the same, uninteractive game as always, pulling the same card in the same order as usual, and the other player trying their best to prevent them from pulling out their winning combo. At least that's how I felt before I stopped playing.
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Chess, the pieces are your hand of cards.
Players playing differently due to other players' sctions is the random element, the only one.
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Trakyan wrote:
What would stop players following the same set of moves each time they played?


    Not a damn thing, and that's the problem with static games. You need something that rattles the players, forces them to make do with what's available to them. This can be small things like die rolls, or much larger like the opening Destination Tickets in Ticket to Ride that more or less force players to move outside of their safety zone.

    Games like Bridge offer a large amount of starting variability, but then offer players the opportunity to have a particular playing style, and a set of well-considered heuristics from which to draw on any particular hand. This makes their play somewhat predictable in a general sense, but unpredictable from hand to hand.

    Some players like perfectly dependable approaches, so I wouldn't rule it out as a potential target audience. But I think the fatter part of the market is more interested in thinking on their feet to some level or another.

    One hell of a first post dude. Welcome the the Geek.

             S.

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I have read of games that are 'solved', but most games, even with perfect information and no 'unpredictability' built into the rules(no dice throws or random card decks), contain the 'unpredictable' nature of the opponents choices. You also mentioned 'adaptation' and this is what other players would/should do when one person has some consistent approach. They may win a game or 2, but generally, their 'system' would eventually be identified and the other player(s) will make individual or coordinated plays the thwart his plans.
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Sagrilarus wrote:
Trakyan wrote:
What would stop players following the same set of moves each time they played?


    Not a damn thing, and that's the problem with static games. You need something that rattles the players, forces them to make do with what's available to them. This can be small things like die rolls, or much larger like the opening Destination Tickets in Ticket to Ride that more or less force players to move outside of their safety zone.

???
Yet you surely know that the same players playing repeated games of (for example) Go (and most other randomless games which start from the same setup) will not just repeat the same sequence of moves every time they play. Clearly something other than randomness is stopping them from following the same set of moves each time they play.
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Jeremy Lennert
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As russ points out, a player will only want to repeat the previous game if they won the previous game.

In a solitaire or pure co-op with no randomness, once you have found a strategy that wins, you can just repeat that strategy and win every time. (I am not aware of any popular games fitting this description, probably for this exact reason.) Of course, if you haven't won yet, then you will continue to try new stuff until you do.

In a competitive game with no randomness, at least one player lost the last game and therefore will not wish to repeat it, and will therefore want to try something else. Something that might win, rather than something that they know will lose. Therefore, you should not have an intentional repeat of a previous game unless that player has simply given up.


In principle, you could consider every possible move and counter-move in the whole game and figure out the true best strategy. That is called "solving" the game. For instance, you can solve tic-tac-toe and determine that it will end in a tie if both players play optimally (and what moves will give your opponent the maximum opportunity to screw up and let you win). But while all games can be solved, most of the games that people commonly play are too complex to make that practical. For example, no one has solved Chess or Go (nor is anyone expected to solve them any time soon).

Note that even if a game does include randomness, you can still solve it--that just means the solution might give a result like "80% chance for the first player to win" instead of "the first player wins".
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russ wrote:
Sagrilarus wrote:
Trakyan wrote:
What would stop players following the same set of moves each time they played?


    Not a damn thing, and that's the problem with static games. You need something that rattles the players, forces them to make do with what's available to them. This can be small things like die rolls, or much larger like the opening Destination Tickets in Ticket to Ride that more or less force players to move outside of their safety zone.

???
Yet you surely know that the same players playing repeated games of (for example) Go (and most other randomless games which start from the same setup) will not just repeat the same sequence of moves every time they play. Clearly something other than randomness is stopping them from following the same set of moves each time they play.


    Yep, a lack of dedication to memorizing all the best combinations of opening moves, including the combination based upon the opponent's response. That's why I can play Chess and enjoy it, in spite of the other guy getting pissed that I don't respond "correctly" during the opening. Granted, such a strategy in Chess like any other game only goes so far before it becomes an actual intellectual match. But in the meantime you have programmed openings, often defensive, that some players simply love to implement. Some of those can be exceptionally robust.

    My son turns Summoner Wars games into two hour affairs by building castles and defending them with prepped creature selection and locations. It becomes quite tedious to play with him.
 
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Lazar Naniov
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I think I might not have phrased my question very well, but the answers have been very interesting and helpful never the less.

I was wondering if it would devolve into a repetitive action and reaction being led by the first player. Your optimal response to player A's first monster (assuming they start with the same 'best' monster in their deck) does not change from game to game, and their optimal response to that and so on. In my head this would lead to matches coming down to deck match up more than anything.

The reason I ask this is because I've been looking at competitive card game matches, those at the world championship levels, and it is very common to hear things like 'Ohh, bad draw, this could cost him/her the game' even in the finals. Yes there is skill involved, but even with the top players some matches were obviously decided by one player's poor opening hand or dead draw. I've been looking at ways to mitigate this, my first thought was non random card draw.

The issue I'm seeing with it though is if your deck has an inherent disadvantage to the opponent's deck, winning becomes impossible (very difficult?) as they always have an optimal draw, they will always play their fastest, most optimal turns and you cant do anything about it.

I've also thought about letting players draw multiple cards to ease bad draws, but it doesn't feel like the right solution.

Lastly I've thought about some way to ease the lag time between one players action, and another's reaction. In chess (a static resource game), strategies will take several turns to play out, but they can be interrupted by just one, blocking off a crucial square or forcing your opponent to move a critical piece away or lose it. Here, the person responding to the strategy isn't always running behind, since they don't so much need to 'prepare' to interrupt the strategy. In some videogames such as pokemon, players take simultaneous turns, which lets predictions play a big and interesting part rather than rote reaction.

But in a card game (usually a developed resource game), one strategy will take several turns to prepare and execute. Let's say your opponent starts preparing their strategy, on your next turn, you start preparing a counter measure. The issue is that your counter measure will be ready a couple of turns after they've started attacking, at which point they're likely almost done with their response to your countermeasure and so on. It seems to end up with a back and forth trade in favor of the starting player.

Has anyone thought of or seen a system that helps avoid this? Or am I overthinking it and this doesn't actually happen.

Some other solutions I've been thinking about are hidden information (i.e, players play cards face down as in yugioh) which adds uncertainty, and forces players to pick cards differently. After all, uncertainty is what forces us to adapt to randomness.
The other form of uncertainty I've been toying with the idea of is simultaneous turns, or at least the parts of the turns that involve both players (i.e. battle phases) be simultaneous. This lets players respond immediately and introduces uncertainty (what the other player will do, how best to counter it). But so far I can't think of an elegant way to do this in a board/card game. Anyone got any ideas?
I've thought about a side deck, which you pick a numbered card or something that corresponds to a card on the board you want to use during the simultaneous phase, then place it aside and face down. That way you can't change your mind and your opponent can't see what you've done until they act and the cards are revealed. This way I think turns are effectively simultaneous.
 
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Trakyan wrote:
I was wondering if it would devolve into a repetitive action and reaction being led by the first player. Your optimal response to player A's first monster (assuming they start with the same 'best' monster in their deck) does not change from game to game, and their optimal response to that and so on. In my head this would lead to matches coming down to deck match up more than anything.

You seem to be assuming that each player knows the optimal counter to every opposing move. Knowing that is called "solving" the game. Games typically rely on the players NOT knowing that (for one reason or another).
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Have you looked at Codex: Card-Time Strategy – Deluxe Set? It was designed in large part as a response to games like tournament-level M:tG, and it works with that telegraphed counter-counter-counter rhythm you're talking about. I think the trick to avoid allowing the first player to completely dictate the direction of the game is twofold. First, you want more than one viable counter so that you only rarely get boxed into forced choices. Second, you want those counters to require their own answers instead of returning the board to a neutral state (which would give a heavy advantage to the first player, as you're describing). That way, the second player's choice of counters informs the first player's choice of counter-counters, and so on, generating an organic and interactive direction for the game.

Also, M:tG has a strong rock-paper-scissors type metagame dynamic in addition to a fairly high luck factor. For other card games that mitigate these factors, maybe look at Android: Netrunner? Its tournament scene is known for skilled players winning even in unfavorable matchups, and the skill differential even with the same deck is huge. It's not the sort of game where you can netdeck the most favorable deck in your meta and simply pilot it to victory, you actually need to be good at the game AND ALSO you need to understand your deck intimately. Some of that is because of the bluffiness, and some of that is the relatively flat resource structure and variety of viable strategies.
 
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I had an experience almost the exact opposite to the question at hand, but illustrates the point, I think.

I once played Checkers with my son (probably 7 at the time) in a way intended to teach him to be more strategic and not just defensive.

He would always play each move so that that piece could not be jumped on the next turn. I decided to show him how repeating this would never lead to a win since there was no sacrifice.

I played as follows... When he would make a move, I played the mirror opposite. We both started with the same set up on each side (obviously), but what ended up happening was eventually, each of our sets of checkers advanced one row and blocked each other so that no piece could move. It was a draw and no pieces were taken.

To me, having a choice of cards, and knowing your opponents cards, will have a similar effect, but the other way round, sort of. It does come down to having a perfect knowledge of all cards and optimal moves, then repeating that each time to guarantee a win. This is unlikely in any game I know.

Only Candyland will produce predetermined results based on the player turn order, IMO.

(By the way, the only way to play Candyland as an adult is to use the 3 card draw method with Sugar Rush rules).
 
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Lazar Naniov
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Cosmonaut Zero wrote:
Have you looked at Codex: Card-Time Strategy – Deluxe Set? It was designed in large part as a response to games like tournament-level M:tG, and it works with that telegraphed counter-counter-counter rhythm you're talking about.


I've taken a look at that game, yes (whilst googling names for my game to make sure they weren't taken, unfortunately) and while it does encourage the counter-counter-counter tempo, it also has randomized drawing from what I'm aware (you add cards to your deck, draw them at random, similar to a deckbuilder like dominion? Please let me know if I'm wrong so I can take a closer look). Randomized drawing is great for creating a different game each time. Now that I think about it, some kind of randomization seems necessary for board games. In board games you'll likely be playing against the same small group of players, be they friends or family, for most of your games. Each player is likely to settle on a strategy and unless there is some randomization somewhere games will likely get repetitive as the players figure out the optimal solutions to face everyone else (this is less predominant in games where you're facing different people constantly, i.e. at card game tournaments etc. and the challenge is always different.)

Cosmonaut Zero wrote:
Also, M:tG has a strong rock-paper-scissors type metagame dynamic in addition to a fairly high luck factor. For other card games that mitigate these factors, maybe look at Android: Netrunner? Its tournament scene is known for skilled players winning even in unfavorable matchups, and the skill differential even with the same deck is huge. It's not the sort of game where you can netdeck the most favorable deck in your meta and simply pilot it to victory, you actually need to be good at the game AND ALSO you need to understand your deck intimately. Some of that is because of the bluffiness, and some of that is the relatively flat resource structure and variety of viable strategies.


These are good points, and I'd like to avoid the issue games like magic, pokemon and yugioh face where decks are more or less automatically at a disadvantage against other decks strictly due to type advantage. I'll be aiming to create a system where there are different types that share a rock/paper/scissors type relation but players are encouraged to use several in order to make a balanced deck. Decks will instead be split by play type (defensive, steady offensive, early aggressor, late game attacker, and yes, I intend to make a defensive strategy viable in a card game.)

I'll have a look at netrunner, I've heard it mentioned a lot. I would rather avoid bluff based plays though for my game, nothing wrong with them and I enjoy playing them but I don't think they fit into the game I'm working on. I'd like to reiterate what I was meaning to ask as I've steered off as well. I'm not so much asking how to make a skill based game, I fully intend to do that, but I'm asking about how to address the 'problem' of randomized drawing. I considered letting players pick their cards instead of randomly drawing, but am worried this will make games repetitive and lead to memorization of an optimal play and just rote execution of the exact same strategy during games.

As a sort of poll, what do people think of this idea of random draw vs selection? Any other ideas to mitigate the issues random draw can have? Letting players pick from the top 2/3/4/5 cards?
 
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Trakyan wrote:
but I'm asking about how to address the 'problem' of randomized drawing. I considered letting players pick their cards instead of randomly drawing, but am worried this will make games repetitive and lead to memorization of an optimal play and just rote execution of the exact same strategy during games.

As a sort of poll, what do people think of this idea of random draw vs selection? Any other ideas to mitigate the issues random draw can have? Letting players pick from the top 2/3/4/5 cards?


Well, MTG itself does have some mechanics to somewhat mitigate randomized draw in the form of Cycling (discard to draw) and Scry (look at top card of library, put it on top or on bottom of library).

As for your poll, picking cards is essentially drafting. Drafting leads to more in-game choices, and can help develop a meta-game. I'd have to go with drafting over random deals.
 
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Variety.

This is best resolved in games that don't use all the same cards every game. For instance, in round 1 there are 24 cards, but players only pick 12 cards to be used this game. The rest are returned to the game box face down.

Then 24 different cards are brought out for round 2, with 12 of those 24 cards selected, and then the same for round 3, etc.

Many games do this with events, units, purchases, etc, so players never know what cards are going to be used from game to game.
 
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Lazar Naniov
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Wolkster wrote:
Variety.

This is best resolved in games that don't use all the same cards every game. For instance, in round 1 there are 24 cards, but players only pick 12 cards to be used this game. The rest are returned to the game box face down.

Then 24 different cards are brought out for round 2, with 12 of those 24 cards selected, and then the same for round 3, etc.

Many games do this with events, units, purchases, etc, so players never know what cards are going to be used from game to game.


Variety is a good point, it's what random draw creates by giving you a different set of cards in a different order each turn. However you're describing more of a deckbuilder like dominion, my game is going to be more similar to magic, pokemon and YGO in that players pre construct their own decks. Asking them to select a subset from that deck against a given player, they will always be picking the same cards that are optimal for that matchup.
 
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My understanding is that Magic and similar games often use a draft for tournaments, where players are forced to build a new deck from a limited random subset of cards for that specific event. Some players claim that this is, in fact, the best way to play Magic.
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Trakyan wrote:
Wolkster wrote:
Variety.

This is best resolved in games that don't use all the same cards every game. For instance, in round 1 there are 24 cards, but players only pick 12 cards to be used this game. The rest are returned to the game box face down.

Then 24 different cards are brought out for round 2, with 12 of those 24 cards selected, and then the same for round 3, etc.

Many games do this with events, units, purchases, etc, so players never know what cards are going to be used from game to game.


Variety is a good point, it's what random draw creates by giving you a different set of cards in a different order each turn. However you're describing more of a deckbuilder like dominion, my game is going to be more similar to magic, pokemon and YGO in that players pre construct their own decks. Asking them to select a subset from that deck against a given player, they will always be picking the same cards that are optimal for that matchup.


Hmmm... I quit playing those games years ago due to the poor odds of getting the cards you want/need at a particular time. I still have huge piles of Legend of the Five Rings, Middle Earth, Guardians and Dune CCG cards. I like Mage Wars much better where you build your spell book, have access to every card in the spell book and you get to choose two of them to play every turn.

Deck (spell book) building is so much better when you know that you can select any card at any time.
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Lazar Naniov
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Wolkster wrote:

Hmmm... I quit playing those games years ago due to the poor odds of getting the cards you want/need at a particular time. I still have huge piles of Legend of the Five Rings, Middle Earth, Guardians and Dune CCG cards. I like Mage Wars much better where you build your spell book, have access to every card in the spell book and you get to choose two of them to play every turn.

Deck (spell book) building is so much better when you know that you can select any card at any time.


Thats perfect, actually! I've been wondering what would happen when people were allowed to pick their cards from their decks rather than topdeck. How does that turn out? does it make for repetitive games, games where one deck that has a matchup advantage win indisputably? I'd love to hear what you think of that game and how the mechanic works/doesn't work if you have the time.
 
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Trakyan wrote:
Wolkster wrote:

Hmmm... I quit playing those games years ago due to the poor odds of getting the cards you want/need at a particular time. I still have huge piles of Legend of the Five Rings, Middle Earth, Guardians and Dune CCG cards. I like Mage Wars much better where you build your spell book, have access to every card in the spell book and you get to choose two of them to play every turn.

Deck (spell book) building is so much better when you know that you can select any card at any time.


Thats perfect, actually! I've been wondering what would happen when people were allowed to pick their cards from their decks rather than topdeck. How does that turn out? does it make for repetitive games, games where one deck that has a matchup advantage win indisputably? I'd love to hear what you think of that game and how the mechanic works/doesn't work if you have the time.

I am wondering if you might get more feedback if you changed the title of your post to something more descriptive like:

"avoiding repetitive play in pre-constructed deck-building games?"
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Trakyan wrote:
I've been wondering what would happen when people were allowed to pick their cards from their decks rather than topdeck. How does that turn out? does it make for repetitive games, games where one deck that has a matchup advantage win indisputably?


Its essentially action selection, just using cards. The potential for repetition depends on the content and variety of the actions/cards, not the system of action/card selection itself.

With all actions available at almost all times, any powerful actions or combinations of actions would need to be mitigated. Mage Wars uses a mana resource system to do this.

A possible inverse to this might be Puerto Rico, where individual action selections dont really seem powerful, but can become more poweful if a player can successfully take advantage of his opponents action selections.
 
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