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Subject: METW: Luck vs strategy rss

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Ender Wiggins
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One of the things some CCGs have been criticized for is that players with money to build decks of super-cards are at a distinct advantage. In other words: he who has the most money wins, because he can buy the best cards. Not totally true (because players also need to play their cards well), but you get my point. I have heard that this is not as much the case with Middle Earth, although I am sure it still plays some role, right?

But how about if this factor is entirely eliminated, and all players have access to the same cards? To what extent is the winner then going to be determined by luck or skill, since no player has the unfair advantage of superior cards? In such situations, what plays a greater role: luck or skill?

As I see it, the skill can play a role in two respects:
1. Building a deck (assume that all players have access to the same cards).
2. Playing the cards in hand.
Luck plays a role in two respect:
3. Which cards are turned up.
4. The roll of the dice.

Assume that two players have equally good decks - to what extent is the outcome of a game between them going to depend on skill or luck? Is it 50% skill and 50% luck? Will the skilled player always defeat the medium player?

Now throw in the option of deck-building - will that significantly increase the skilled player's chances of defeating the medium player?

What is more important: the skill in building a deck, or the skill in playing the cards in hand? And to what extent is this skill limited by the luck-of-the-draw in terms of which cards are turned up, and the dice rolls?

I'm trying to understand to what extent strategy plays a role in Middle Earth the Wizards. The answers of METW players to the above questions would certainly give an indication of how much strategy there is, and whether it is mostly in the deck-building or the deck-playing stage.

Thanks in advance for any input on this!
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John Richert
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Re:METW: Luck vs strategy
I would say in METW the key is in the strategy of building a deck that can always do something. Beginning players often make the mistake of trying to get too many killer combos, because they work in other CCGs. Sure, if the draw comes up right, you can trounce your opponent, but what happens if they do not come up right?

Not only that, but in METW, you have to cycle your deck. Yes, you are playing for points, but there is not a set number of points you have to have to win (to call the council early you do, but that still requires cycling the deck once.). As a result, luck does play a factor, but how you construct your deck and what you do during the game matter more.

For example, both of us are using the same deck, and both of us have a major and greater item we wish to play. One of us decides to go to the Stones, and then move to the Barrow-downs the next turn. The other decides to head to the Lonely Mountain and Gold Hill. Which is going to fare better? The first player because he is taking an easier path. However, let's assume that they both choose the same path, don't forget that one player can influence another player's item, faction, or character away! So how you use your actions during your turn is very important.

Also, the order of playing your hazards are very important, if you play a card that taps one character in a party, typically, your opponent will choose his weakest character to tap, leaving his big buff guys to face the dragon you play next. But, if you play the dragon first, you might be able to get some licks on the little guy first, and then tap another character, etc.
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Chris Farrell
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Re:METW: Luck vs strategy
Quote:
Assume that two players have equally good decks - to what extent is the outcome of a game between them going to depend on skill or luck? Is it 50% skill and 50% luck? Will the skilled player always defeat the medium player?


If both players play challenge decks, which are reasonably well-balanced, I would expect the experienced player to beat a newbie 90+% of the time. I would expect a more experienced player to win 75% of the time or more against a less-skilled opponent.

There is a fair amount of skill to the play of MECCG - hoarding vs. playing hazards, deck cycling, risk management, etc. Far more than Magic or Netrunner or most other CCGs, which are mostly based around the collectibility element, MECCG seems to have been designed mainly as an interesting tactical game.

Quote:
Now throw in the option of deck-building - will that significantly increase the skilled player's chances of defeating the medium player?


Absolutely. But a player skilled at playing the game can easily beat a good deck-builder who doesn't know how to manage cards using a Challenge Deck. In general, skill at playing the game will trump deck-building skill, although the two are obviously intertwined to a great degree. Straightforward deck designs (mostly C/UC cards, focussed on high frequency-of-play hazards and straightforward resource gathering) will easily beat almost all player's first attempts at more convoluted decks; it'll take a little bit before you can build a deck that's reliably better than a Challenge Deck, which contains only 3 rares.

Quote:
What is more important: the skill in building a deck, or the skill in playing the cards in hand? And to what extent is this skill limited by the luck-of-the-draw in terms of which cards are turned up, and the dice rolls?


Both are critical. And most reasonably strategies involve mitigating the luck of the draw and dice. Like Settlers, you can build decks that have high variability but a high potential payoff, or less-risky, more reliable decks. When building complex decks (One Ring decks, or decks focussed around other multi-stage cards like Anduril or the mission cards in Dark Minions), most of your effort will go into mitigating the various risks.

This being a game with chunks of randomness, you will lose games to bad dice and bad cards. But good players will cope with this, because they have a backup character with the required skills available, or their deck can win even if a crucial card or cards never comes out, while lesser players will have banked everything on certain events and have no backup plan.

My opinion is that game like Magic are at least 80% deck building skill, 20% play skill. MECCG is much closer to 50-50, and until you've significant experience with the game, deck-building is an even smaller percentage of winning (although it gives the game a lot of its fun factor). I also feel that MECCG is overall less subject to the luck of the draw (which it better be, given the playing time) than Magic or L5R or whatever, even though it appears more chaotic, because it gives you more tools to deal with the chaos.
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