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Subject: Are Euro games more luck dependent than Wargames? rss

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Steve Gilbert
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Let me start by saying I play both kinds but gravitate to 2-player wargames... that said I typically feel that luck (while usually hidden) is usually more of a factor in Euro's. To test my theory out I did a non-scientific casual scan of the WBC 2009 results (see link below).

http://www.boardgamers.org/yearbook/

Euro's like Settlers, Puerto Rico, Agricola, etc. have very few if any repeat winners. Wargames like Hammer of Scots, Russian Campaign, and even (so called) dice fests like War at Sea, frequently have repeat winners.

Thoughts? Theories?
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Jim Cote
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Puerto Rico has almost no luck. I would guess on average that wargames have a higher degree of designed-in randomness than euros. The difference is where that randomness is applied. In euros, the randomness is almost always pre-action or action (do something to the board, draw cards). In wargames, it's almost always post-action (roll for results). Also I think average wargamers also tend to become experts at their games more than average euro gamers.
 
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Rishi A.
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How many people enter the Euro events as opposed to the Wargaming events? More players = less of a chance for a repeat winner.

Also, the Euros you named are multiplayer. The wargames are two-player. It's more difficult to consistently win a multiplayer event.
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Steve Gilbert
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ekted wrote:
Puerto Rico has almost no luck. I would guess on average that wargames have a higher degree of designed-in randomness than euros. The difference is where that randomness is applied. In euros, the randomness is almost always pre-action or action (do something to the board, draw cards). In wargames, it's almost always post-action (roll for results). Also I think average wargamers also tend to become experts at their games more than average euro gamers.


I've heard that about Puerto Rico but I have to ask if no luck why 9 different winners in 9 years? Also, if the theory is euro gamers tend not be become experts, then wouldn't the few who become experts be more likely to win multiple times?

I do agree with your general statement about when randomness enters the game (i.e. pre vs post action), but I'm not sure what the impact is to outcome of the game.
 
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Boaty McBoatface
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Depends on the game. Wargames with odds charts are less random then any game (wargame or oterhwise) that rely on a straight die roll (yes their final hour I'm looking at you).
 
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Pete Lane
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Could it be that many Eurogamers just aren't as interested in the competitive play as Wargamers might be, so they don't sign up as frequently? I know I've actually had very little interest in that convention because of the tournaments.
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slatersteven wrote:
Depends on the game. Wargames with odds charts are less random then any game (wargame or oterhwise) that rely on a straight die roll (yes their final hour I'm looking at you).


That's true enough. Wargame chats tend to follow a bell curve or at least not give a binary result. This means luck is easier to factor into decision making. In any event it is like comparing Apples to Oranges, there is usually considerably more complex factors affecting results in a wargame than a Euro. There is little luck in tic tac toe but that does not mean much.
 
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Steve Gilbert
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Rishi wrote:
How many people enter the Euro events as opposed to the Wargaming events? More players = less of a chance for a repeat winner.

Also, the Euros you named are multiplayer. The wargames are two-player. It's more difficult to consistently win a multiplayer event.


Those were my thoughts at first too, but on analysis that doesn't hold up very well.

If you only have 30 players in a 2-player wargame event vs 100 in a multiplayer Euro, that doesn't explain how the same 3 guys won the last 9 "The Russian Campaign" WBC championships. They represent 10% of the players base so they odds of them winning 9 times in a row is about 100,000,000 to 1.

In short the statistical odds are outrageous for both 2-player wargames and multi-player Euro's so that leaves me wondering is luck dictating the winner in Euro's over skill?

Similar 2 guys have won the last 7 times in "Hammer of Scots" and both "War at Sea" and "Victory in the Pacific" (which are frequently called the derisive name "Dice at Sea") have multiple repeat winners.
 
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Brandon Tibbetts
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Caylus is pure skill, zero luck. If you won, it's because you played better than the other players, period. If you lost, it's because of your mistakes, period*

There are definitely Caylus "legends" on BSW who consistently beat sub-legendary experts almost without exception.

This example shows that the amount of luck involved in a Eurogame is entirely in the hands of the designer. If a Eurogame has some luck or is mostly luck, it's because the designer chose to make it that way. There is absolutely nothing at all about the genre that dictates a game must involve luck.

*An exception to this rule has to be made for multiplayer games where 2 inferior players have ganged up on a superior player. This is unavoidable in any strategic game with more than 2 players that involves player-to-player interaction.
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Steven Backues
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schmanthony wrote:

*An exception to this rule has to be made for multiplayer games where 2 inferior players have ganged up on a superior player. This is unavoidable in any strategic game with more than 2 players that involves player-to-player interaction.


I think this is the key point. Most wargames are played with 2 players. Most Eurogames are multiplayer. In any multiplayer game, other players can engineer the defeat of an otherwise superior player. Or even if it is not deliberate, bad play by one player could keep a second player from winning, instead handing the game to a third.

Are these sorts of dynamics "luck?" I don't consider them to be, but some people do, and not without reason. In any case, I think they are the major explanation for the discrepancy you noticed between the tournament results for Puerto Rico (which, while not "no luck" like Caylus, does have less luck than any wargame I've ever come across) and those other games.

Another possible explanation might be the depth of the game. While Puerto Rico is a deep game, which I certainly have not mastered, it may be that in fact it is more easily masterable than some of the wargames you mentioned. It is also an extremely popular game; in either case if there is a large number of people who are playing at a more or less optimal level then the winner among those is going to be determined by the luck in the game (which, though small, is significant) or the multiplayer dynamics I mentioned above.
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Steven Backues
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ekted wrote:
In euros, the randomness is almost always pre-action or action (do something to the board, draw cards). In wargames, it's almost always post-action (roll for results).


This difference in when the luck happens is very important to me personally, as it greatly affects my perception of luck. I don't like luck, period. That said, post-action luck is much more annoying than pre-action luck, because I feel don't have a chance to respond to it, and therefore feel more helpless.

I don't play many wargames, and one of the main reasons is that they generally have too much luck for my taste. I do play a number of Euros, as well as many abstracts. Most Euros also have more luck than I would prefer, although there are a few, like Caylus or Puerto Rico, that are suitable in this regard. But even for those that do have too much luck, like Settlers, I am more tolerant towards it than I am in wargames because it is pre-action luck.

One other contributing factor for me is game length: for me, the tolerability of luck in a game is inversely proportional to the length and complexity of the game. If the game is light and over quickly, then I don't mind too much if luck played some role. But if the game is long and deep - if I have made a significant mental investment in it - then essentially any luck is too much. Eurogames, of course, are on average somewhat shorter and lighter than wargames, which is another reason why the luck in wargames particularly turns me off.
 
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Jim F
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One thought why the same players may win wargame tournaments is that wargamers are more likely to play a game obsessively and 'specialise' in a particular one. This gives them the thorough knowledge/ability to exploit their (often complex) rules.

Rules for euros meanwhile tend to be shorter and more accessible, so perhaps this is less of a factor,

I say all this as a tournament winning wargamer who plays very few eurogames and none if given a choice.

For what it's worth, those eurogames I have played seem to be designed to reduce the element of luck as much as possible, (which is part of the reason I don't enjoy them).
 
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Michael English
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In the past I've collected statistics in order to analyse the amount of luck or skill in various games. Repeat wins was just one of seven parameters I used for analysis. The whole subject is extremely complex and looking at a single parameter can be misleading. For example, it is quite common for situations to exist where Player A tends to beat Player B, Player B tends to beat Player C and Player C tends to beat Player A. This effect can make the number of repeat wins observed in a series of skilful games lower than might otherwise be expected.

Another important factor is that it is possible for a game to clearly have a high level of skill, but to be so complex that the moves of any human player include some luck. In the extreme moves by human players become in effect random. Anyone for 11 dimensional Tic-Tac-Toe on an Order 12 board or blindfold Fire In The East?

Other posters have quite rightly noted that the number of tournament entrants must also be taken into account because this will effect the expected number of repeat tournament wins for a particular level of randomness in a game.

I personally believe that it is impractical to determine whether one particular game genre is more or less skilful than another because of the very large range of games in each genre, some very much luck dominated, some skill dominated in each case. It is however possible to compare individual games provided the problem is approached in a mathematically rigorous way and that uncertainty is properly taken into account.

My final point is about the question itself. In all games I know of, luck does play a part. For example, in a single game of both Chess and Puerto Rico the seating order is important and this is determined by a random draw. In my view what the question is about is the relative balance of random factors and the opportunity to exercise skill so that a more skillful player generally beats a less skillful player. i.e. How much better at Chess do I need to be to beat my opponent when I'm playing black? The question in my view is not really about the amount of luck in a game, but about the opportunity the game affords to allow you to overcome bad luck. Of course in any game where you are playing someone of exactly the same skill level as yourself, all other things being equal, the outcome will be a matter of chance.


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Jack Smith
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Elendil wrote:
ekted wrote:
In euros, the randomness is almost always pre-action or action (do something to the board, draw cards). In wargames, it's almost always post-action (roll for results).


This difference in when the luck happens is very important to me personally, as it greatly affects my perception of luck. I don't like luck, period. That said, post-action luck is much more annoying than pre-action luck, because I feel don't have a chance to respond to it, and therefore feel more helpless.

I don't play many wargames, and one of the main reasons is that they generally have too much luck for my taste. I do play a number of Euros, as well as many abstracts. Most Euros also have more luck than I would prefer, although there are a few, like Caylus or Puerto Rico, that are suitable in this regard. But even for those that do have too much luck, like Settlers, I am more tolerant towards it than I am in wargames because it is pre-action luck.

One other contributing factor for me is game length: for me, the tolerability of luck in a game is inversely proportional to the length and complexity of the game. If the game is light and over quickly, then I don't mind too much if luck played some role. But if the game is long and deep - if I have made a significant mental investment in it - then essentially any luck is too much. Eurogames, of course, are on average somewhat shorter and lighter than wargames, which is another reason why the luck in wargames particularly turns me off.


I suspect you do not enjoy the concept that the amount of luck is a result of previous decisions you made. It's that element of luck management that people enjoy rather than the luck itself. It's also why some players always do well as they are good at understanding that and playing to it. For me, if done well in a game design, it adds a lot of depth to a game a Euro never has.

Wargames are all about managing your chances of success which is reflected in real life decision making made by commanders at the time. Chaos (luck) is a very useful game concept and disliking it would cut down considerably the number of games you enjoy (your choice of course)

In a Wargame I can manage luck. In a game such as Puerto Rico I can't. The difference between the two is vast and must be considered when evaluating a game. This is why I think the Ops discussion is like comparing Apples to Oranges.

I find when luck is discussed the concept of mitigation, partial results, variable results, results type (binary or otherwise) or applicability to what the game is trying to represent is sometimes ignored. These ideas can never be ignored as they are features in all games.
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Darrell Hanning
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As a wargamer for over forty years, now, I'm going to take a different spin on this.

For all the hundreds of counters, and for all of the hundreds or thousands of hexes on a wargame map, most wargames are rather patterned in their play. This is because the definition of victory is usually rather narrow, and almost always absolute. (In contrast, victory in most Euros is relative, and can often be achieved through multiple means, or a combination of those means.)

To that end - and in conjunction with the near-complete lack of a metagame (in two-player wargames, at least those based on a historical situation, if not also in other wargames) - optimal play can be patterned, for a given wargame. Variables can be assessed in an absolute fashion, again, because there is only one other player.

This not to say that the average wargame is not more complex than the average Euro - it most certainly is. But for all their complexity, their design focus is still on historicity, and this is going to dramatically force optimal play down specific channels. This is not the case with most Euros.

While the potential decision space for a wargame is huge, the working decision space for a given iteration of the game is not all that huge, nor all that divergent from that of the previous play, or the next play.

On the other hand, the decision space defined by the rules in a Euro is comparatively small, but it is multiplied by the metagame forged between multiple players, and this metagame can (and often will) change dramatically, from one playing to the next - particularly in a tournament environment, wherein you play a different group of players every game.

This is one of the things I like about Euros - the ability for the decision space to change dramatically from one playing to another, and the freedom for taking largely divergent paths in strategy that is common to many of them.

What I love about wargames differs. While initially highly complex, there is a "comfort", if you will, in the reduction of wildly divergent paths, in the design's pursuit to model history to a faithful degree.

* And in an effort to summarize, I think these attributes about each type of game lead to wargames often having the same player come out on top, wherein the outcome of a Euro is often as much a factor of who is in the game, as anything else.

* - Edited for making my damn point.
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Jim Cote
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DarrellKH wrote:
This not to say that the average wargame is not more complex than the average Euro - it most certainly is. But for all their complexity, their design focus is still on historicity, and this is going to dramatically force optimal play down specific channels. This is not the case with most Euros.

While the potential decision space for a wargame is huge, the working decision space for a given iteration of the game is not all that huge, nor all that divergent from that of the previous play, or the next play.

On the other hand, the decision space defined by the rules in a Euro is comparatively small, but it is multiplied by the metagame forged between multiple players, and this metagame can (and often will) change dramatically, from one playing to the next - particularly in a tournament environment, wherein you play a different group of players every game.

I guess I have to disagree with your overall idea here. One of the reasons I often hear as to why euro gamers do not like wargames is because they are "too open". That is, euro gamers like to choose, for example, one of three things. Wargames tend to have tens of units, each of which can do many subtle things. And all of these subtle things in interaction with each other create an incredibly varied experience hugely open to individual style of play and strategies. There may be only one way to ultimately win (eg capture the city, kill X units, etc), but I find the paths to victory to often be orders of magnitude beyond the most complex euros.
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Steve Gilbert
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Elendil wrote:
[q="schmanthony"]
q]

Another possible explanation might be the depth of the game. While Puerto Rico is a deep game, which I certainly have not mastered, it may be that in fact it is more easily masterable than some of the wargames you mentioned. It is also an extremely popular game; in either case if there is a large number of people who are playing at a more or less optimal level then the winner among those is going to be determined by the luck in the game (which, though small, is significant)


I personally think this has a lot to do with it. IMO euro's speed play generally via fewer rules, fewer inputs per turn, and fewer strategic options. Given that criteria combined with a highly skilled gaming community like at the WBC leads to luck being the primary factor in determining the winner.
 
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ekted wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:
This not to say that the average wargame is not more complex than the average Euro - it most certainly is. But for all their complexity, their design focus is still on historicity, and this is going to dramatically force optimal play down specific channels. This is not the case with most Euros.

While the potential decision space for a wargame is huge, the working decision space for a given iteration of the game is not all that huge, nor all that divergent from that of the previous play, or the next play.

On the other hand, the decision space defined by the rules in a Euro is comparatively small, but it is multiplied by the metagame forged between multiple players, and this metagame can (and often will) change dramatically, from one playing to the next - particularly in a tournament environment, wherein you play a different group of players every game.

I guess I have to disagree with your overall idea here. One of the reasons I often hear as to why euro gamers do not like wargames is because they are "too open". That is, euro gamers like to choose, for example, one of three things. Wargames tend to have tens of units, each of which can do many subtle things. And all of these subtle things in interaction with each other create an incredibly varied experience hugely open to individual style of play and strategies. There may be only one way to ultimately win (eg capture the city, kill X units, etc), but I find the paths to victory to often be orders of magnitude beyond the most complex euros.


Well, you're basing your objection on the notion that the average Euro gamer can accurately describe what it is they don't like about the games they don't play. I think that I personally would prefer the opinions of those who have extensive history with both types of games.

The average Euro gamer will most likely see a wargame as being too "open", as they are looking at (as I described) the potential decision space, having no experience at all with how much pursuit of the fixed, historical objectives, with the given set of units and fixed terrain, actually narrows things down by a substantial amount.
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Steve Gilbert
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DarrellKH wrote:
ekted wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:



The average Euro gamer will most likely see a wargame as being too "open", as they are looking at (as I described) the potential decision space, having no experience at all with how much pursuit of the fixed, historical objectives, with the given set of units and fixed terrain, actually narrows things down by a substantial amount.


If the assumption is you play a historical game to exactly reproduce what happened historically then yes your options are narrow. I personally don't know anyone who would play a game that way. Yes the historical objective help define the victory conditions but how you achieve them is not historical except in a strategic sense.

If you were truly reproducing history you'd have to be very granular. For example:

On turn 8 the first division must be on hex 3238 and second division must be on hex 3239 so they can attack hex 3328 on turn 9.

No one plays that way.

Instead they play... if I can capture Moscow by December the rules say Stalin surrendurs and I will win. Now, with the units available, how the heck can I get to Moscow?
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Anjohl wrote:
Lofl, nice try.

Wargames = Dice

Euros = Rondels, Variable Turn Order, Worker Placement.

/Thread


As I said... I play both... but the WBC results make me wonder if most Euro's are not just a cleverly disguised coin toss.
 
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Anjohl wrote:
Lofl, nice try.

Wargames = Dice

Euros = Rondels, Variable Turn Order, Worker Placement.

You can jazz it up, and try to obfuscate the essential truth, but the bottom line is that dice are antithetical to strategic play, since you cannot properly weight possible decisions, due to a lack of knowledge about what outcomes will be available after your choice. In Caylus, if I choose the Mason as my first worker, I know that you cannot. In Liberia Descent into Hell, if I attack your smaller force with several of my leaders, and you fluke into enough hits to decimate my squad, I have wasted my turn, as the net result is negative gain.

I appreciate the argument that the dice in wargames are similar to the lack of knowledge of the opponents next move, but wargames have variable moves as well, so that nullifies the argument. ANY game with Dice or a similar mechanic (Ra, Chit Pull, World in Flames, Carcasonne, etc) is more random than one without, such as Chess, Caylus, Imperial.

/Thread


Common misconception about wargames. The luck has absolutely no bearing on foreknowledge about possible outcomes. It simply forces you to manage the likelihood of any individual outcome. Therefore, you must play toward an "ensemble" of outcomes. I fail to see how this relieves you of the burden of using a strategy. This is of course true in any game that possesses a randomized mechanic.
 
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Anjohl wrote:
sgilbert wrote:
Anjohl wrote:
Lofl, nice try.

Wargames = Dice

Euros = Rondels, Variable Turn Order, Worker Placement.

/Thread


As I said... I play both... but the WBC results make me wonder if most Euro's are not just a cleverly disguised coin toss.


The only valid comparison would be to take the same number of players of wargames and euros, with similar levels of experience, and have them play a tournament of only euros/wargames for 2 players, and another consisting of games voted on here as best with X.

If you saw more repeat wins on either side, you could argue that the games have more VARIABLE results, but RANDOMNESS is imbedded in the design/mechanics, win results do not indicate randomness. Many games have intentional catch-up mechanisms, which players might not catch on to right away, thus skewing the results.


I agree that the above would make for a better comparison but as I mention above, the results at 100,000,000 to 1 are statistically unlikely enough that something else is in play here. True the odds on the Euro might be 1,000,000,000 to 1 but either way the result is the same at WBC. Namely wargames have repeat winners and most euro's don't.

 
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Elendil wrote:

While Puerto Rico is a deep game, which I certainly have not mastered, it may be that in fact it is more easily masterable than some of the wargames you mentioned.


I don't think this is necessarily true. Complexity and depth are two different beasts. I do not think that means that wargames are any harder to master.

Like another poster said, many wargames share common design tenants, which can allow one to used mastered techniques almost from the first play to achieve the mastery. While I have found that some Euros like T&E are extremely difficult to play well, especially from the beginning. I certainly feel as if I have mastered wargames that are (perhaps) more complex than T&E, but it will be a long while before, or if, I master that one.

But I think you are spot on about tourney winners in Euros. I do not think it is valid to look at WBC wins and draw a conclusion. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that, for most games - luck or no luck, the superior and/or more experienced player is MUCH more likely to walk away with a win.
 
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Steve Gilbert
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Xookliba wrote:
[q="Elendil"]
q]

But I think you are spot on about tourney winners in Euros. I do not think it is valid to look at WBC wins and draw a conclusion. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that, for most games - luck or no luck, the superior and/or more experienced player is MUCH more likely to walk away with a win.


A couple of comments:

Substitute "skilled player" for "experienced player". There are games I've played dozens of times that I don't get (e.g. Acquire) and there are games I play twice and I understand their subtleties almost immediately.

I'm not so much drawing a conclusion as trying to formulate a theory. If luck was an equal factor in Euro's and Wargames then you would expect similar statistical results at the WBC. Instead it seems pretty clear to me that repeat winners of Wargames are more common than repeat winners in Euros. In both cases repeat winning is extremely unlikely, so why does it happen in one case but not the other?

Currently the best theory I've heard is the one that there is a smaller set of optimal moves in Euro's so once everyone has mastered the game then luck/chance/randomness becomes the decider.

 
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sgilbert wrote:

Currently the best theory I've heard is the one that there is a smaller set of optimal moves in Euro's so once everyone has mastered the game then luck/chance/randomness becomes the decider.


Now you are embarrassing me for having proposed that. It might be true, but I myself don't have that much confidence in it. I think that the effects of multiplayer dynamics (most wargames being 2-player) are probably more significant. I don't think you have specifically commented on that idea - what do you think of it? Do you think it is a likely alternate explanation, or probably not relevant, or do you think that multiplayer dynamics pretty much count as luck, or what?

(A useful piece of data, if anyone had it, would be how successful people are at repeatedly winning Diplomacy. My guess would be - not too much, because if anyone started dominating they would become a huge target in future games).
 
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