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Subject: My "Two-Pack" House Rule To Reduce Luck rss

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Ben Stanley
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I wrote a critical review of the game, but only because I do love it in a lot of ways and think that some very minor changes could have vastly improved it.

One of my fundamental issues was the amount of total randomness in who wins. It does not need to be so driven by luck, and this one house rule is elegant and a major improvement in my view:

You can buy as many "two-packs" on your turn as you would like, but each one costs one more cash than the last one you bought, and you can only keep two cards maximum from all the two packs you bought.
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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Sounds fair, although I wouldn't allow for any further buys once you've bought one or two cards from any one two-pack. So, I'd tweak your rule as follows: As long as you discard both cards of a two-pack, you may purchase another one for 1 more cash than the last one.
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Ben Stanley
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There are some things I like even better about your suggestion. The way I have been playing it, you have to make another house rule about which card will go on top of which if a person picks their two cards from two different two-packs.
 
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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Blue Steel wrote:
There are some things I like even better about your suggestion. The way I have been playing it, you have to make another house rule about which card will go on top of which if a person picks their two cards from two different two-packs.


Yeah, that was my immediate concern after reading your variant. BTW, your variant is so simple and yet so ingenious, I'll definitely try it out (with my tweak). At times, it is, indeed, frustrating to see other player draw cool cards and pay little and when it comes to me drawing cards, I get the least useful ones and have paid some cash...

thumbsup & for this variant!
 
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Ralph Bruhn
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Good idea! But isn't it too expensive? Just thinking about paying 2 coins for the first two-pack and then 3 for the next two-pack? That makes 5 coins in total ...
Just imagine you again don't find useful cards. Then you lost cards AND big money. This doesn't look like luck reducing ...

If you find it too expensive, I suggest to pay only one additional coin for the next two-pack.

Another way to reduce the luck: Draw 3 or 4 cards (I'd prefer 4) instead of 2, but you're only allowed to keep a maximum of 2 cards of them.
(This is my favorite house rule). In this case you really reduce the luck without making one player paying more money for the luck reduction.
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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Yeah, right, Ralph. I guess both of us have made the same mistake assuming the given player didn't have to pay for their two-pack this round (or at least very little). Your variant is even simpler and definitely better.

 
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Josko Tosic
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I like Ralph's idea better because the OP's variant is too expensive and I think it wouldn't be used all that much. As for card balance, what about the Officer card, wouldn't it be much more powerful, thus ruining card balance?
I also think that by using one of these variants, the game might become too much two-pack-action-oriented.With present rules, you are forced to plan different possibilities if you don't get what you need or if you can't afford a two-pack.
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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What is the text of the Officer? You know, I have a German version...
 
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Josko Tosic
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Ponton wrote:
What is the text of the Officer? You know, I have a German version...

Official: "In this action phase, the Buy a Two-pack action is free for you."
Oops, I've just noticed I misspelt the helper's name.blush
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I somehow had the feeling that you're talking about that guy. Hm, I don't think he's broken with Ralph's variant. He wasn't broken before and won't be afterwards. You just get the two-pack (be it 2 out of 2, or 2 out of 3-4) for no cash, like you would if you had no helpers and market stalls. It's a definitely useful helper, but not one that you can't live without.
 
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Josko Tosic
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Ponton wrote:
I somehow had the feeling that you're talking about that guy. Hm, I don't think he's broken with Ralph's variant. He wasn't broken before and won't be afterwards. You just get the two-pack (be it 2 out of 2, or 2 out of 3-4) for no cash, like you would if you had no helpers and market stalls. It's a definitely useful helper, but not one that you can't live without.

Hm, perhaps you're right but if you have, let's say, two market stalls and the Official, then you will choose from 2 cards for 2 cash according to present rules. If you use one of the suggested variants, you will choose from 4-8 cards for the same amount of cash. This can affect the gameplay a lot. I think many players will just do some other actions and then wait for the specific card to appear as part of Buy a two-pack action.If they happen to fail, they'll think this game is even more flawed.
 
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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Oh, I guess you've missunderstood at least my variant. The Official wouldn't give you all of these cards for free, just your very first two-pack. Anyway, as I like Ralph's variant much better, I'm retreating my variant. In Ralph's variant you get a one-time shot at 3-4 cards.
 
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Ben Stanley
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barandur wrote:
Good idea! But isn't it too expensive? Just thinking about paying 2 coins for the first two-pack and then 3 for the next two-pack? That makes 5 coins in total ...
Just imagine you again don't find useful cards. Then you lost cards AND big money. This doesn't look like luck reducing ...

If you find it too expensive, I suggest to pay only one additional coin for the next two-pack.

Another way to reduce the luck: Draw 3 or 4 cards (I'd prefer 4) instead of 2, but you're only allowed to keep a maximum of 2 cards of them.
(This is my favorite house rule). In this case you really reduce the luck without making one player paying more money for the luck reduction.

I like this a lot, Ralph.

The original house rule I developed was just to let players continue to take two-packs at the same price as the first until they found one that they liked. This made it even easier for the player who didn't have good cards (nothing in the market stall or helper areas) to mitigate luck and be sure he or she got at least something useful during the round, but made the player who already had a lot of good stuff (higher costs because of cards in the helper and market stall rows) really think twice before buying a second two-pack. But the prices didn't increase, so anyone who got a truly terrible two-pack could reject it and buy more.

I still think that rule may be the best one, because letting every player draw 4 cards and keep two skews everyone toward even more ideal hands, whereas buying the two-packs one at a time forces them to make the decision each time: "is this two-pack really so bad that I need to reject it and buy a new one, or is okay, just not what I was really hoping for?" In that sense, it keeps the player honest: they aren't going to reject the first two cards they drew if they can get some use out of them. The problem, though, and the reason I started increasing the price 1 for subsequent two-packs bought in the same round, was because there wasn't anything keeping the player who paid nothing for each one honest: they could mine the entire deck for the ideal card.

In some ways, another issue is the fact that the player who already got great cards (from the draft) should theoretically have to pay more for two-packs, but since the two-pack can be bought at any time, they can usually manipulate their play area down to fewer cards by the time they buy, so they are getting just as good a price as the player who got terrible cards in hand during the draft.

So another houserule I considered was forcing the two-packs to be purchased before any cards could be used, but that creates problems for the players who need to use their markets to get the resources to satisfy customers in order to have money to buy the two-pack! So it isn't a very good rule, despite its good intention.

I think in the end, maybe the best rule change is: Players can pay once for a two-pack, draw 2 cards, either keep 1 or 2, or reject them both and then draw (for free) 2 new ones, but those are their last chance: keep 0, 1, or 2, but don't complain about luck after that. At least that way they have to make a decision about the first two before they even get to see a second two.
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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A little more complicated, but still very nice. If I have the time to play at all, I'll try either way: draw 4, take 2 at max., and draw 2, if you discard, draw another 2 for free.
 
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Josko Tosic
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I think there is a reason why Uwe decided to make two-pack action in this way. Perhaps he simply didn't want this action to become the most powerful one or to put it another way, he didn't want players to count too much on getting a good card through this action, the card phase is where we should choose the cards that fit best our strategy or the ones that will enable us to use a different but realistic plan. I personally think that if a player's plans collapse just because of bad cards he bought in a two-pack, it is more a problem of the player's moves than of the game's mechanic.
BTW, Grzegorz, you were one of the Playtesters... did this issue ever occur during playtesting?
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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No, we didn't notice any unbalances with the two-pack in our playtesting group nor did any other group as this matter never came up. I guess Ralph, as the publisher, can tell you more about that as he has the survey of all playtesting groups. However, I'm not reluctant towards this variant. At times, the cards drawn with a two-pack may be really bad and I see how it may frustrate people. I like this little gambling effect in the game. Anyway, I'm willed to try the variant.
 
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Ben Stanley
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johtara wrote:
I think there is a reason why Uwe decided to make two-pack action in this way. Perhaps he simply didn't want this action to become the most powerful one or to put it another way, he didn't want players to count too much on getting a good card through this action, the card phase is where we should choose the cards that fit best our strategy or the ones that will enable us to use a different but realistic plan. I personally think that if a player's plans collapse just because of bad cards he bought in a two-pack, it is more a problem of the player's moves than of the game's mechanic.

I don't think a player's plans ever collapse because of a bad two-pack draw, and if they did, it would be evidence of bad moves. What I tend to see is a player getting a disproportionate number of small boosts from good two-pack draws and thus winning the game. Often that player is me, but it still feels too random and unfair. If I draw an extra field early when I can afford it and it gives me a stronger engine, but my opponent's two-pack was awful market stalls that got discarded, my win is less meaningful. And then again in the final round when we are tied because we have been extremely skillful during the card distribution phase each round, and he draws two fields that do him absolutely no good at all, and I draw a bookkeeper who gives me a couple of coins for free and thus the victory, what you are saying Uwe wanted to avoid (two-packs being particularly important ways to get cards) is exactly what has happened: two-packs decide the victor and are too powerful precisely because the other card gaining mechanism is balanced and fair!
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Ralph Bruhn
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Ponton wrote:
No, we didn't notice any unbalances with the two-pack in our playtesting group nor did any other group as this matter never came up. I guess Ralph, as the publisher, can tell you more about that as he has the survey of all playtesting groups. However, I'm not reluctant towards this variant. At times, the cards drawn with a two-pack may be really bad and I see how it may frustrate people. I like this little gambling effect in the game. Anyway, I'm willed to try the variant.
In the end it's all a matter of taste. We decided to take this "gambling variant", because you really should think about if it's worth the 2 or 3 coins to maybe draw only crap. If the two-pack only costs 0 or 1 coin you take it anyway.
And even in this version this action is very important and strong.

But: It doesn't make the game worse to use my suggested rule (take 0-2 out of 4 cards). It reduces the luck a little bit, but makes the action even stronger. I think then you're ready to pay more for this pack than before.

What I don't like so much in Ben's variant is, that it is not really luck reducing. I don't want to ask a player's opinion about that variant, after he threw away 2 mediocre cards only to get 2 really bad cards in the second draw ... whistle

And don't forget: We chose the fastest variant. The other now suggested variants generate even more downtime ... devil
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Ben Stanley
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barandur wrote:
What I don't like so much in Ben's variant is, that it is not really luck reducing. I don't want to ask a player's opinion about that variant, after he threw away 2 mediocre cards only to get 2 really bad cards in the second draw ... whistle

But I see it as luck reducing: I at least get to see two cards, and if they are mediocre and I take different ones, I deserve to get burned. Then I really am gambling. But taking a two-pack isn't a gamble in the game, it is an essential move most all of the time, and you can usually manipulate your play area such that it is very inexpensive. At least when we play, everyone buys a two-pack nearly every single turn, and the winner is the player who got the better ones. IF you see two, you have a very tough and meaningful decision to make regarding gambling, but skipping your two-pack in the first place is hardly an opinion the way the game works: you are giving up half the cards you could get that round!

barandur wrote:
And don't forget: We chose the fastest variant. The other now suggested variants generate even more downtime ... devil

Well, now that is a fair point, but I see the randomness as a greater evil than the downtime.

As you say, though, Ralph, it may all be a matter of taste . . .
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Ben, I agree with Ralph, your variant doesn't reduce luck, but punishes the player who has chosen to risk another draw even more with the high cost. It's only a good idea to do if you've got your first two-pack for free.

Also, don't wonder that you lose if you really take a two-pack EVERY turn. This isn't necessary at all. Of course, if you can get it for free, take it regardless, but I doubt that you get it for free all the time. If you do, again, no wonder you lose: that means you never have any market stalls or helpers around, or chose to discard them first prior to taking the two-pack.

The fascinating aspect of this game is its well balance despite the luck elements. A trivialization like yours, that the winner is the guy with the better two-packs, is the same people used to say about Agricola ("the guy who first grows family wins") and Dominion ("buy only treasure and you win the game", "village is the path to victory").

Don't get me wrong. I admit there is luck involved, but it has never been an issue. There is luck in Settlers, more than in Loyang, and, still, there are always the same guys winning the championships. Weird, huh?

There is luck involved with drawing a two-pack and so I liked your variant that seemed to make a good thing slightly better. Now I like Ralph's variant much better for said reasons. However, I have never had an issue with the game. It's good as it is, but I'm open to try things differently, and maybe they will enhance it a little bit. Might be they don't change it at all.
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Ben Stanley
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Ponton wrote:
Ben, I agree with Ralph, your variant doesn't reduce luck, but punishes the player who has chosen to risk another draw even more with the high cost. It's only a good idea to do if you've got your first two-pack for free.


I think we will have to agree to disagree. I don't often lose the game, and my scores are reliably in the 19's, but every now and then I can only muster a high 18 because of unfortunate field draws or market stalls or other issues. With the people I play with, that's sufficient to win. But it isn't reliable, and playing with true experts I am sure it would be totally random whether they won or I did.

The scoring system of the game is brilliant, but it is at the end of the day a game of luck once you have maximized the mathematical optimization options under a given draw.

Hence my proposed improvements.

If player drew 4 cards and kept 2 for each two-pack, his scores would be consistently higher than before, but only very slightly more consistent overall. If he drew 2, had to weigh whether to keep or reject those and then truly gamble and look at 2 more (for free, but without being able to return to the first two cards), his scores would be generally in the same range as under the official rules, but more consistent overall, and that is statistically superior, is the definition of luck reduction, and what I am shooting for! I don't want to inflate people's scores. I want the better player to reliably win the game.

This discussion has convinced me that increasing the cost per subsequent two-pack is not the right solution, but rather letting people buy their two-pack (which, again, I maintain does and should happen more often than not (probably 6 or more of the 9 rounds of the game) amongst good players), and then if and only if they fully reject those two cards may they draw a second two for free.

Run the statistical analysis. I think you will find that I am right.

If I sit down with people who generally score a 17 or 18, I know I can be fairly confident (though not certain) of a victory. If I sit down with other players who can reliably get 19, than I have no idea who will win, which makes the game random. Even if I average a greater coin surplus in the 19 range than they do, I have no confidence that my skill will exceed the luck of a given game and the two-pack draws sufficient to have confidence I will emerge victorious.

Though again, I wouldn't be at all surprised if I did.
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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
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I disagree with the fundamental premise. The game isn't broken. Sure, there is a luck element, but that's what makes the game interesting to play. The OP mentions that he regularly scores in the 19's and his opponents in the 17's and 18's, which appears to be evidence that their results are skill-based.

Also, I think the game is all about managing risk-reward. If you eliminate the downside risk of the central tension of the game.
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