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Subject: Designers Notes: Luck, Dice and Decks rss

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Brett Murrell
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The test manufacture of Duel of Ages II is in the works, to be followed hopefully soon by the full manufacture. The files for the full manufacture are ready to go, the game testing is complete, GenCon was a big success, and so there’s time to kick back and chat as we await the release.

To that end:

Luck, Dice and Decks


Luck and the magic 80/20 level

The luck design goal of DoA and DoA II has always been the 80/20 level – a good player can win against an average player 80% of the time. This balance both satisfies the better player’s ego and keeps a lesser player encouraged.

Luck factor in game design is commonly misunderstood. I cringe when someone calls a game a “dice-fest” as a way to say there is too much luck. A game that contains dice (or tiles) but uses them sparingly is not “limiting” luck but actually increasing it. Like any random sample, luck evens out with greater use, not less. “Dice-festing” therefore allows for the 80/20 level of luck.


The DoA II Challenge Decks

I’m personally a dice fan. As a proper gamer I possess my own weight in dice, half of which do not have six sides, and I buy them by the batch, not the pair.

However, DoA II will come with a Challenge Deck (a second deck is included in the Master Set), and I personally prefer to use the Deck. The Deck provides certain small advantages:

1. The game plays a little faster, because resolving a Deck result takes less time than a die roll.

2. The Deck contains other random factors such as adventure Amaze results and rating improvements (called “leveling up”), allowing more flexibility and compactness in the design.

3. When playing with one Deck per team, the luck factor is reduced because the bell curve of the results are more evened out.

4. DoA II generally takes up the whole table, so dice being thrown around can hit things.

5. Using the Deck requires less head-math. Granted, it’s bonehead math.

Given these subtle advantages, it is important to begin with the Deck as the standard. Dice-lovers can then easily move on to dice if desired. There are several advantages to dice:

1. Dice, for true dice-lovers, add more excitement to the game.

2. When using the cards, players often see a Dismiss draw as less important than a Hit draw, for example. So they groan when a good card appears for dismiss. This is a mis-conception, however: the good cards contai the Gold Domes, which are most common, and where you appear in the game is often more important than a Hit result.


Using Dice in DoA II

To conduct a Challenge (Hit, Damage or Adventure):
The attacker rolls 1d10 (0=0, not 10) and adds the result to his rating.
The defender does the same. (The defender of an Adventure is anyone on the opposing team that wants to take his hard-hitting dice skills to the enemy).
Compare the results:
-- Equal = Squeak (hits; causes one less Damage)
-- Attacker is greater = Pass (hits; causes normal Damage)
-- Defender is greater = Fail (misses; causes -2 Damage)
-- Attacker better by 6 or more = Amaze (hits; causes +1 Damage)
-- Defender better by 6 or more = FOPP (misses; causes no Damage)

Critical Result

If the attacker rolls a 9 and the defender a 0, the result is automatically Amaze.
If the attacker is 0 and the defender is 9, the result is automatically FOPP.

Dismiss and Banish
The Domes are numbered 0-9. Roll 1d10 and go to a matching Dome.

Luck
Luck equals the attacker’s die roll.

The dice method produces the exact same bell curve, containing every possible combination of die rolls in its 100 cards. Odds of a Squeak or better are as follows:

You are 8+ worse: 3%
You are 7 worse: 6%
You are 6 worse: 10%
You are 5 worse: 15%
You are 4 worse: 21%
You are 3 worse: 28%
You are 2 worse: 36%
You are 1 worse: 45%
You are 0 better: 55%
You are 1 better: 64%
You are 2 better: 72%
You are 3 better: 79%
You are 4 better: 85%
You are 5 better: 90%
You are 6 better: 94%
You are 7 better: 97%
You are 8+ better: 99%

And this bell curve is one aspect of the game that drives the 80/20 balance – a good player works that 19-point swing in odds between 1 better and 1 worse.


DoA II’s Flexibility

We wanted to build exceptional flexibility into the game, both at its core and to allow for mods, and that includes determining the level of Luck desired and the mode desired. Here are several options possible as mods. We do not officially recommend these, but the game design graciously accepts them.

Team Choice

One team can use the Deck while another uses dice. The Deck-using team uses 1d10 when rolling against the other team, but otherwise uses their Deck.

The Low-Luck Option (for the truly Luck-Averse)

Instead of using d10’s, each team rolls 1d6 instead. Critical results are not possible, and you use the Deck for Dismiss and Banish. This greatly reduces Luck, as follows:

You are 6+ worse: 0%
You are 5 worse: 3%
You are 4 worse: 8%
You are 3 worse: 17%
You are 2 worse: 28%
You are 1 worse: 42%
You are 0 better: 58%
You are 1 better: 72%
You are 2 better: 83%
You are 3 better: 92%
You are 4 better: 97%
You are 5+ better: 100%



And So...

In DoA II, we intend to make a landmark statement in game design. Luck – and the manner in which you apply it – is one of those aspects where we wanted not just a designed level, but the ability by the game system to allow players to actually choose or devise a different level of play.
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Awesome! Thanks for the info, I can't wait for this!

I am a DoA veteran although it has been a while. This clears up a lot of questions for me, I was interested in how the odds would work, especially without the 2d6 bell curve from DoA1.

Everything seems to be well thought out (no real surprise there) so I am very optimistic.

I was a huge fan of the colour system for stats and the dice too. However, I can see the appeal of using cards for the dice roll resolution and moving away from colours. Sometimes the mental process to resolve a hit / challenge etc could feel a little cumbersome, especially after a large number of them -

Old Way:

1) My rating colour?
2) Your rating colour?
3) Squeak rating:
- Difference between colours? (Not exactly complicated but could require a mental translation to compare the colours and get number delta. Worse with modifiers and tiredness)
- Apply delta to 7 to get squeak.
4) Dice Roll
5) Compare number rolled to squeak. Occasional mental "math" to figure out AMAZE / FOPP.

Compared to:

1) My rating number?
2) Your rating number?
3) Calculate difference. (simple math, no translation)
4) Draw card and get result.


It looks like this approach will be more straightforward and streamlined, allowing players to keep their head in the action/tactics and achieving faster turns.

It is a shame that it had to come at the expense of the colour system, but I can also understand the benefit of a larger range of abilities for character differentiation.

One bit that I can't quite figure out is what you mean by:

"a good player works that 19-point swing in odds between 1 better and 1 worse."

Are you are referring to the reduction / increase in odds that each increment of difference provides, especially around when in the middle of the curve?

Looking forward to more juicy details!
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Dennis Gadgaard
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What I got from the the 19-pont swing was that it's a major source of shifting luck to work in your favor.
Compared to a situation where you're on even ground with your opponent, if you can secure a difference of just 1, you have swung the probability 19% in your direction, which over a lot of rolls, erh card draws adds up to a quite favorable advantage.
So - a good player looks for ways (who to send into the adventures, who to use which weapon etc.) to get as many 1-point advantages as possible.

...or the simple quick answer; yeah, I think you're right
 
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Oh yeah! Thanks, I see now that there is a 19% difference between -1 and +1.

It strikes me that with the wider range of rating values introduced with DoA2, that there will be slightly less benefit to a +1 increment. It will (obviously) be important to look for the better odds of a +2 or +3 difference (and beyond).

Of course it is always wise to play the characters to their strengths
 
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-=::) Dante (::=-
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DenGad wrote:
What I got from the the 19-pont swing was that it's a major source of shifting luck to work in your favor.
Compared to a situation where you're on even ground with your opponent, if you can secure a difference of just 1, you have swung the probability 19% in your direction


Unless I'm misunderstanding, the 19% spread is between -1 and +1.

It's actually a 9% swing in your favor to secure a difference of 1.

Wouldn't it take securing a difference of two (specifically between -1 and +1) to secure the 19%?
 
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David desJardins
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SpitfireIXA wrote:
The dice method produces the exact same bell curve, containing every possible combination of die rolls in its 100 cards.


The dice don't give the same results as the cards when the attacker's advantage is very large or very small. For example, I had an attack in the last game I played where I was +15 to Hit. This should be an Amaze 99% of the time (except for the auto-Fopp result); for example, if I roll 0 and the defender rolls 8 then I'm still better by 7. But there's no Amaze result on the 08 card, so I can't get that result with that card, no matter how big my advantage is.

Is this difference between cards and dice intentional? It doesn't happen very often that the attacker has an advantage greater than +9, but it's certainly possible.
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Brett Murrell
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Correct, the cards cap out extreme numbers and limit the advantage to 9, effectively keeping success to a Pass on certain cards. This is intentional in keeping the cards consistent, sticking with the range 0 to 9. While this is a fairly rare event -- one must have over 9 advantage and then draw one of the 20% of cards that would cap the success to Pass -- it is a variance from a dice roll method.
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