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Reiner Knizia's Decathlon» Forums » General

Subject: Better than Yahtzee? Not the way I see it... rss

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Robert Potter
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Okay, let me get one thing clear right out of the gate. Yes, I HAVE played this game, and I do enjoy it quite well. It has a nice variety, and it's very unpredictable. The first time I played, I was a chamipon at the discus, but sucked at javelin. Next time, it was just the opposite. It's excellent filler, and a pretty good main attraction as well.

But, let's keep this in perspective. Almost every review I've seen of the Decathlon claims it's better than Yahtzee/Farkel/Cosmic Wimpout/every other dice game on the planet. I think those who write such raves are still on that new game high from when they first picked it up. Either that, or they are apostles of the Church of Reiner, who think everything with the Knizia name on it is worth its weight in gold.

The fact of the matter is, you roll dice, examine your roll, strategically choose to keep or reroll some dice, taking a calculated risk each time you do, and hoping against all hope that the gods of luck and chance will smile upon you and produce the numbers you want. Just like Yahtzee/Farkel/Cosmic Wimpout/every other dice game on the planet!

I like this game, and I rate it highly. I reccomend it to anyone who likes Yahtzee, or the Olymics. But better than Yahtzee? shake Not in the abstract.
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Ender Wiggins
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HerrCannon wrote:
The fact of the matter is, you roll dice, examine your roll, strategically choose to keep or reroll some dice, taking a calculated risk each time you do, and hoping against all hope that the gods of luck and chance will smile upon you and produce the numbers you want. Just like Yahtzee/Farkel/Cosmic Wimpout/every other dice game on the planet!

As far as the game play and the mechanics go, I think you make a fair point - in the abstract it's not significantly superior to dice games like Yahtzee. What makes it better for most people, however, is not the new game high or the Knizia name, but the theme. The way the theme is incorporated into the mechanics gives the game a lot of flavour and drama, and I think this is the real reason that most Decathlon fans prefer it above Yahtzee. For example, consider these session reports:

New World Records: Celebrating the 2008 Olympics with Knizia's Decathlon
In which three world record holders return to the track
In which Mr N breaks world records in the high jump and pole vault!
Disaster and Glory in a Rookie Decathlon

You won't find anything as thematic, dramatic, or interesting in the Yahtzee session reports!

Being able to compete for world records in the individual events just enhances this further.
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Randy Cox
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I agree, it is no Yahtzee.

Yahtzee has the re-roll element (for the tension/press your luck part) but it has one other element that is sorely lacking in this game--strategic score placement.

In Knizia Decathlon, after you've made your rolls and re-rolls, you have a score and it's pre-ordained into which "cell" it goes on the scoresheet. In Yahtzee, you then have the often grueling decision as to where to place your score. Do you use up your CHANCE cell early? Do you go with the high-scoring 6-6-6-6-5 four-of-a-kind or lock in those extra points in the upper section taking only 24 points for the sixes?

But in Decathlon, it's just roll and see how you scored in that cell and then move on. It's enjoyable enough only if you're at least mildly interested in the actual sport of the Decathlon. My wife has no passion or even interest in the Decathlon so for her, this was just an exercise in rolling dice over and over with different ways of tallying up the total. She understood the game and re-rolls well without any knowledge of the Decathlon (and should have beat me if she hadn't been distracted), but it wasn't interesting. I imagine this is true of a lot of people, while Yahtzee holds people's interest longer because of the fact that THEY choose what "event" they want to post the score against after they roll. That's a key strategic difference.
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James Fung
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I've tried to write computer players for both games. It's relatively easy to analyze Decathlon event by event, but the Yahtzee mechanic of assigning the dice to any open slot complicates things (and that makes it the more interesting problem).

However, I feel Yahtzee is also more luck dependent, meaning a good (or bad) roll can really swing the game. I.e. I don't think anyone actively tries for a yahtzee, they either happen or they don't, and that 50 points can decide the winner.

In comparison, if you're playing Decathlon by point total, the events have some mechanism to balance out extreme luck: for track events, minus 6s are pretty bad, but you have plenty of rerolls; for high jump and pole vault, you set a bar and try to beat it, so one extremely good roll is wasted unless it's the one that counts; the other events are best out of 3, so you can recover from faults, and probability says you can expect most players do have one result around the 75% percentile for the event. If you're instead playing for event placement, the effect of one very good roll is mitigated. That said, I think the Decathlon world records are more due to luck than smart playing.
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George Leach
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I don't agree. I have always found Yahtzee to be too repetitive and I must admit I'm surprised how much the thin theme adds to Decathlon. I prefer this to Yahtzee by quite a way.
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Yee Keat Phuah
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I played like Yahtzee solo 10 times on my phone, and played 2 Decathlon with my wife.

I find that some events in Decathlon can be quite interactive. I find myself persuading and reasoning with my wife to not take risks as her score is already high (yeah she beat me in both games!).

I don't see how this interaction can happen in Yahtzee, maybe its the theme, or that its not apparent to me yet which move is actually the pushing your luck, and which move is it that is to play safe.
 
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