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Subject: Is the actual scoring totally unpredictable and coincidental? rss

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Krzysztof Balauszko
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Hi,

I bought the game recently, well 3 boxes actually -as it was very positively reviewed by Game Boy Geek, and these were the last three in Poland - I decided to give them as presents and to keep 1 for myself. Beautiful, little packages with nice graphics. I'm talking about the Shmidt Spiele edition.

So...
I've played the game and I'm super confused. It's a trick taking game. It's supposed to reward player's who count ang guess correctly the number of tricks they're going to take. Yet there's almost always - absolutely no way to be sure how many you're actually going to take. The problem is that unless you get the exact number - not only you get nothing but you're also seriously penalized.

The fact that pirates can be played even when a player has cards of the right suit to follow and that pirates always win combined with the fact that only some of the cards are dealt each round means that you have no way of telling what yo're actually up against. Theoretically you can always count the odds correctly and keep failing anyway for the whole game - ending with a difference of 200 points compared to someone who is a bit lucky. You can be a great predictor but if you're off even a bit you get only penalties.

I know it's supposed to be cool and YO-HO and whatever but is it good? As I see it and I have to say I really tried to find out what I'm missing - the game simply doesn't work. At all. Where is the actual game? Can someone describe in human language how is it possible that people regard to it as a strategic trick taking game when the actual scoring is completely out of anyone's control? Is this another game that is supposed to be CRAAAAZY meaning the designer's lazy and mechanics are totally broken and I shouldn't treat it seriously or I don't get something? Right now it's a 1/10. Great cards but to play a different game with. Why is it rated above 7? Someone tell me, please.
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Evan S
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How many times have you played it?

You aren't penalized severely for missing your number of tricks. You are penalized severely for missing your number of tricks BY A LOT. And that's hard to do. If you have three pirates in your hand and it's round five, you know you are going to take at least two tricks. Maybe three, maybe four. So if you guess three and end up taking two or four, the most you are going to get that round is -20. But you might get 60 if you guess right.

Later in the game, round 7-10 when you have more cards in hand, the guessing gets harder, admittedly. But that's when you have more chance to get bonus points by taking pirates with the Skull King or using a Mermaid to grab the Skull King.

There is also nothing more thrilling than bidding zero in round 6 or later and actually pulling it off, getting 60+ points for tanking.

It's my favorite trick taking game. It's super fun. Maybe you are taking it too seriously? Best I can say is play it some more and see if it sinks in.
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Allen Brown
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Yeah, it's also my favorite trick taking game so far. You can tell what kind of cards people have sometimes because of their bids, too, so you aren't really playing blind. If you are on round 6, and someone thinks he/she will win 5, then you can probably guess that person has some pirates/mermaids/king.
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Evan S
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The bidding is simultaneous and blind though if memory serves Allen. I believe everyone puts their hands out and reveals their bid at the same time so it’s hard to glean info from other players.
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Allen Brown
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Yeah, but what people bid is a huge amount of information. I mean after that you aren't playing "blind" with no information.
 
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Kirk Roberts
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My understanding is that the game is partly evaluating your hand for bidding, and partly then evaluating the evolving game state as the hand plays out. In order to make your bid you may need to "lose" a card that previously you were counting as a winner, or you may play differently to try to "set" another player based on their bid.

If you're expecting it to be Bridge or even Spades then you're bound to be disappointed because the power cards and (more-so) the limited deal do introduce randomness. But as Allen said you get information from people's bids. I do think it is supposed to be more "fun" and less brain-burning.
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john newman
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I have played the standard Oh Hell!/Wizard more than 30 times. So far I have played Skull King 15. To this point, I much prefer Skull King.

Simultaneous blind bidding can lead to significant under bidding or over bidding on occasion. In my gaming groups, this is a time for laughter and ribbing. I prefer Yo-Ho-Ho simultaneous bidding of Skull King to the sequential bidding in Wizard. In Wizard, the last players to bid in the last few rounds have a tremendous advantage over the early bidders. Simultaneous bidding puts everyone on equal footing.

Half the game is about bidding and half is about card play. For bidding, you need to take into account is there someone who is likely to go null (they are behind and need a zero bid to catch up), are some people likely to overbid their hand, and are my high cards likely to get ruffed.

In card play, two big questions are what position are you in to order of the trick, who wants tricks, and where are the big guns. You might not have much information when making your bid, but you certainly have plenty of information for your card play.



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Krzysztof Balauszko
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First of all - thanks for the answers
Yeah, I understand what all of you are saying but at some point it is important to state whether the game is silly-fun and was made just for fun or is it actually serious game which means you can have fun by playing it seriously - like most of good games.

My point is simple - this is a great and beautiful deck of cards which can be used to make a good game in 5 minutes but the actual scoring makes no sense at all. The reason is this - it doesn't matter how little your penalty is - if you're going to be rewarded at all the reward will be completely inadequate to the penalty. Let's say I want to take 3 tricks and I manage to do it. I get 60 points. You want to take 2 and it's totally reasonable- you have a yellow 13, a Red 13 and a black 13... but you are the starting player and I have a mermaid, a black card and a pirate... you get 0. Your score is -20. The difference is 80 points. Now beside the fact that we can play in disguise and scream YO-HO-HO!!! - where's fun in that? How is this supposed to reward being good in guessing?

My suggestion is the game rules stay the same, the scoring changes. For example you get no rewards, only penalties. No scoring special rule for 0. For each trick less or more than you bid - 1 negative point. That's it. It would work. Who has the least negative at the end wins. But I guess it's not gonna be crazy anymore so no point in that right?

Folks, do you suggest that this scoring actually works and the best player wins most of the time or you just don't care about the actual score? I just can't see how it could ever work under such conditions and if I'm to stupid maybe someone can explain what I don't understand. I don't want to be rude, it's just that I really want to get it.

For me it's the same case as with Jamaica, don't know if any of you have played it. Great concepts and mechanisms, great artwork and production. It just doesn't matter because in the end it's 90% luck... My question is - why bother with the whole production and original concepts when they won't matter in the end?

Sam Healey of Dice Tower made a review of Jamaica and he loved it. Then Ryan Metzler of Dice Tower did a very negative review and honestly I just think the later was simply right. You can't make a case for that game and be fair, someone has to convince me yet. And YEAH, Game Boy Geek said Jamaica has NO FAULTS - it's perfect. So it starts to make sense for me now.
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Kirk Roberts
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Kritto wrote:
Let's say I want to take 3 tricks and I manage to do it. I get 60 points. You want to take 2 and it's totally reasonable- you have a yellow 13, a Red 13 and a black 13... but you are the starting player and I have a mermaid, a black card and a pirate... you get 0. Your score is -20. The difference is 80 points. Now beside the fact that we can play in disguise and scream YO-HO-HO!!! - where's fun in that? How is this supposed to reward being good in guessing?

Well, if you bid/guess 2 tricks and you take zero then that wasn't a very good bid/guess, was it? Maybe, in this game, that bid is not "reasonable" at all. It depends...

Your bid is going to have to factor in what round it is multiplied by the number of players (how many cards are dealt). How likely is it that someone has pirates or a mermaid or the skull king? Because if they do, a 13 card is unlikely to be a winner. That's the bidding. But then the game state can be important: when you actually play your 13 may matter greatly. That's the card play. There can be skill in both, and there can be luck in both.

I believe the scoring is meant to make it a swingy game where people can "come from behind" to be competitive. Some people like luck in their games, as it can level the playing field so a wider range of players can win. If you want less luck (even no luck, so the best player always wins), then maybe this game is not for you. It still can be a good game for other people but not be to your liking.
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john newman
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It's a card game, so luck will be involved. It's not even close to 90% luck.

Wizard is a much more precise game than Skull King. No doubt. That being said, if you miss one bid in Wizard (maybe because you had to bid first in the fifth round) you will have a difficult time ever catching up. Your game is over.

In Skull King, hope springs eternal. One bad hand can be made up with the Skull King catching two pirates or a null bid on a 6-card hand. But good players will be aware of that. (E.G. Slightly underbid your hand and underplay it if you suspect someone will go null to catch up or their careful when the play their pirates.)

In my games, the best player not win every game, but every game he is in the hunt. One of the better players will win. I have only seen a lucky player win 1/15. (The Skull King caught three pirates and they made two mull bids. We never let that happen again.)

Skull King isn't Bridge, but it isn't Jamaica either.
 
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Krzysztof Balauszko
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Sure, I understand - I like Dwarf King for example and it's swingy but in a different way. I don't care about luck so much honestly - I do care about scoring system which works against this game though - in my opinion of course

So let's say we take my example and it's the third round. How much would you bid with those cards as the starting player?

I don't want to write to much here but I'll try to show my point as clearly as possible; You don't know what cards people have because some of the cards were not dealt. Most of them probably weren't. That means you're just guessing and whatever number you pick the odds you're wrong are huge. And to adres the in-game tactics after bidding is done I'll say this; Normally in such games it's counting the majorities in colors you have and the highest cards but also the number of trump cards. This way you can kind of predict based on who's starting the first trick what you can take for sure if you play carefully. The trump card can only be played to follow trump suit or if you don't have the right suit. The main difference here is you can play a pirate whenever you want - and that breaks all the foundations I know of in trick taking games. You do not know if someone has a pirate card. So having none yourself you suggest it's wise to bid low even if you have majority of a suit, you're a starting player and you have the highest cards of that suit? Say you bid high - than someone just breaks your leading with a pirate and then starts with a new suit that you have no matching cards. What do you do then?
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Krzysztof Balauszko
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Again, my point is - you can be close all the time if you know the odds and guess well but... you can still lose every round meaning possibly huge score difference in the end.

I have nothing against the game rules, I actually like how powerful some cards can be and the idea of "swingyness" and luck here. I just think that the scoring blights the whole point of the game. It's wrong and doesn't reward actual ability to guess reasonably.
 
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john newman
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I’m not 100% sure that I understand your question, but I’ll giveit a shot. If I understand you correctly, you were asking what I would do in a three card hand when I just had high off suit cards In the same suit.

First, it would depend on how many players are playing and what my place was in playing the first trick. If I were the first to play that round, I might bid one if I had no low cards in that suit. If I were any other player I would be zero.

If you’re playing with five or six players, at least two of those three cards are going to be ruffed. The reason I would be zero, is that without a trump you can’t get in the lead. In a three card hand, your suit is only going to be lead once. I would throw off my high cards on other peoples off suit leads. Unless I am unlucky is should be very easy to make a zero bid Especially if I have at least one low card in that suit.

 
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Allen Brown
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It depends on the number of players, but with 3 normal 13s, I'm probably bidding 1 or 2 because the chances are high that someone has a black card or higher.

But it's just round 3. Nothing is decided in round 3. The higher the round, the less luck is involved in achieving the bids and the higher the points are.

I think one thing that is being taken too seriously is if a game is fun or serious. The difference between a game being made for fun and a game being made for serious play isn't very large. 99.9% of games are made to be fun. If this game isn't fun, then I guess don't play it. To me, it's the best trick taking game out there.
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Krzysztof Balauszko
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I understand that and think yo're right. I wasn't clear with this one because something I wrote regarded a previous post. In that post I described a situation where I have 2 highest cards from different suits and the highest trump + I'm the starting player. How many do I bid (it's the 3rd round)? Now, whatever your answer is, let's say in advance that it's a 2 player game and you have a pirate, a trump and a mermaid. I'd say that the first player would bid 2 and the second would bid 3. The first player would end up with 0 and the second with 3 which would make a difference of 80 points, while both players bid reasonably. The game is probably over. That's my problem.
 
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Krzysztof Balauszko
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NocturnalAllen wrote:


I think one thing that is being taken too seriously is if a game is fun or serious. The difference between a game being made for fun and a game being made for serious play isn't very large. 99.9% of games are made to be fun. If this game isn't fun, then I guess don't play it. To me, it's the best trick taking game out there.


Not sure what you mean by that - Terraforming Mars, Gloomhaven, Through the Ages, Brass, Dominion, Puerto Rico - top games from BGG - are these made for fun? I'm having fun while playing games in general but you mean fun like Jungle Speed or silly party Games? Because it's a weird combo for me - to actually play your best in a game that's kind of mathy but at the same time not care about the results as they are simply coincidental or say I'm too serious to have fun? I feel this is super inconsistent and it feels like a lazy design. Again - I just hate the scoring. Bidding and the rest of the game are fine.

And also one last time - this game gives you points only (!!!) if you bid exactly right and yet doesn't give you any chances to ever be exactly sure how to bid- so in case you made a good decision but it turned out you weren't lucky - what are you penalized for?
I should ask you then if you like serious trick taking games?
 
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Evan S
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Honestly, if you think the game would be better with different scoring, then house rule it to your preferences. It's your game after all, right?
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Kritto wrote:
I understand that and think yo're right. I wasn't clear with this one because something I wrote regarded a previous post. In that post I described a situation where I have 2 highest cards from different suits and the highest trump + I'm the starting player. How many do I bid (it's the 3rd round)? Now, whatever your answer is, let's say in advance that it's a 2 player game and you have a pirate, a trump and a mermaid. I'd say that the first player would bid 2 and the second would bid 3. The first player would end up with 0 and the second with 3 which would make a difference of 80 points, while both players bid reasonably. The game is probably over. That's my problem.

1. The game is not over...especially in the 3rd round. Cause guess what, the 2nd player might bid wrong in a future round and you might hit your bid, and you'll be right back in it.

2. This is definitely not an enjoyable two player game...there's a good reason it's not recommended for two by the BGG community.

3. Sounds like this game just might not be for you. Nothing wrong with that...just trade/sell it away and move on to a game you enjoy. Or house rule it to your liking.
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Krzysztof Balauszko
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You're probably right
 
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Krzysztof Balauszko
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Thanks for the discussion guys. That's not something obvious to be able to have
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Allen Brown
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The scoring adds tension and strategic game play to each round. As Brodie said, you can't possibly be out of the game after the 3rd round. I think the majority of the time, only 1 or 2 players aren't making their bids every round, and it's not always going to be the same players.

Your example is a big outlier. It's like asking about a poker hand where 1 player has 4 of a kind and the other has a full house. Yeah, that full house player might get burned, but that's part of the tension of every hand. Is that player just trying to bluff me, or can he/she really beat a full house?

But as others said, house rule away or play another trick taking game. There are dozens of them out there.
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James R. Gracen
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GoingTopShelf wrote:
Honestly, if you think the game would be better with different scoring, then house rule it to your preferences. It's your game after all, right?

I like the exact scoring system. If you bid two tricks on round five and you get those two early, you have to try hard not to take any more during the round. But that's all just part of the strategy. You strategize incorrectly, and you lose points. I like the scoring mechanism in Skull King and before that in Wizard.

But, if you find the scoring system too harsh, try this variant I just thought up (so, obviously untested): You get your bid, you score normally (+20 per trick). You are off by one, you score half points (+10 per trick). You are off by two or more, you start losing points as normal (-10 per trick).

Oh, and we house-ruled Wizard long ago that you divide your points by 10 when scoring. +2 points and -1 point per trick are just simpler to deal with on the score pad.
 
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Krzysztof Balauszko
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NocturnalAllen wrote:


Your example is a big outlier. It's like asking about a poker hand where 1 player has 4 of a kind and the other has a full house. Yeah, that full house player might get burned, but that's part of the tension of every hand. Is that player just trying to bluff me, or can he/she really beat a full house?


I guess I'm finally getting how you guys approach this game and sure it sounds like fun but this quote here exemplifies what I exactly mean and what I have a problem with.
I love poker. But in poker you don't actually "play a card game" - you just make "impressions" on others trying to make them give up or you wait for a right moment to back out - based on your guessing and bidding.
In Skull King all players will play all their cards anyway so you can't manipulate your way to your bid if the cards don't let you - that is a huge difference since in poker my opponent can actually back out when I'm all in even when he has better cards - that's what I can try to make him do at least. After a round we score accordingly to our decisions and oftentimes the efforts - and what's most important - I can take no risk and back out instantly. In Skull King I can't do much when I have only 1,2,3 or 4 cards - very little info and no way to manipulate. I just have to bid and play anyway. The game is supposed to let me get close to my bid if it was reasonable and I play well so I'd score better. The problem is it sounds like I should only lose points for landing further from my bid without the option to score positive other than a bonus for being spot on maybe. That way you'd play the same but the outcome would be adequate but - the actual scoring gives you huge points for being spot on (even when your bid is doubtful) and steals them for not doing so (even when you bid wisely) which seems to me totally off putting - it means that the actual deal is a deciding part regardless of what players think. That makes the whole game look like it's just an addition to something that will come out anyway and nobody can predict it unless he has a hand full of pirates, both mermaids and the skull king. I don't understand the first half of the game - why doesn't it start with everybody being dealt more cards if this is when you can actually do something?
Also in poker I can bid as much as I want whenever I want, even in the first round. Here I have to bid and be rewarded or penalized despite the fact that it's impossible for me to know how to actually bid correctly. I have no options and it's the game that plays me not the other way around.
 
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Allen Brown
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The point was that the hand is an outlier. It comes down to how you play the cards, yes, it's a trick taking game. Most hands you can safely assume players have an average hand, and then adjust your play accordingly. The game isn't just getting your bids right; it's reacting to the bids accordingly. The better players will win most of the time, which is the real comparison to poker. Sometimes you get burned by the river in poker, but most of the time it comes down to who played better.
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James R. Gracen
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Kritto wrote:
In Skull King I can't do much when I have only 1,2,3 or 4 cards - very little info and no way to manipulate. I just have to bid and play anyway.

Sure you do. You manipulate your hand with cardplay. If you take a trick you don't expect to take, and still have high numbered cards (that you were expecting to take a trick with), then you just need to sluff it off on an off-suit in someone else's trick. When someone leads with green, and you have no more green cards, go ahead and play that purple 14 you were expecting to win a trick with but no longer need, on the other player's green. And in the earlier rounds when you have fewer chances to play skillfully, you have many more later rounds to make up for it if you fail your bid early on.

As with all card games, there is both skill and luck involved. You still have room to play skillfully, which you seem to be downplaying in your responses ("very little info and no way to manipulate"). But you are still bound by the luck of the draw somewhat, as you are with pretty much any card game.

And what you need to realize is that it is not just you that has to deal with luck of the draw. Everyone else at the table is bound to it as well. This is why I think I prefer the bidding mechanism of Wizard over Skull King a slight bit. You get more information with which to formulate your bid, by seeing what the bids before you are. I.e. round five, and players before you have already bid a total of six, maybe you bid zero when you were expecting to bid two...

Maybe with this change to the bidding mechanism, you wouldn't need to make any house rules for scoring like I and others have suggested above...

But then again, if your perception of the luck factor for this game is too high, there are many more games out there.

The Fox in the Forest is a great two-player trick taking game that you might try.
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