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Subject: In which game does luck play a higher role? rss

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Marc Lanctot
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I invite you to be subjects in a social experiment.

Assume 2-player Dominon, base game, with 10 randomly selected kingdom cards. Assume 2-player Stone Age (no expansion).

Poll
In which game does luck more strongly affect the outcome?
Dominion
Stone Age
      118 answers
Poll created by sharky6000


I'll explain the purpose of the experiment once I've got 50+ replies.
 
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David Debien
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I voted Stone Age. That said, I believe either game will be won almost all of the time by the player that made the better choices.

On reflection, Dominion may be the more luck filled game depending on the kingdom cards, such as Treasure Map.
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Lacombe
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Stone Age lasts so long and has so many opportunities to get points that a single instance of poor luck won't do much. One good or bad shuffle in Dominion can put you squarely ahead or behind the economic engine growth curve the other players are riding, and there just isn't that much time in the game for you to catch up in.
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Chris Stanton
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I'm with Nate on this.
Irrespective of which game has more luck involved, the fact that Dominion is the shorter game means that any single instance of extreme luck has a much 'higher role'
 
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J Weintraub
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I'm assuming in my vote that the choice of kingdom cards is part of the luck in Dominion.
 
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August Larson
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I voted Stone Age. Even though there is probably more randomness in Dominion due to the variety of Kingdom cards and cards in your deck, I still FEEL like I have more power over the outcome in Dominion than I do in Stone Age. I just felt like I couldn't rely as much on the outcome of my gold panning or hunting as I wanted to.






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Marc Lanctot
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Cool, thanks for all the votes.

Since we're not at 50 yet, let me pose another question to the people who chose Stone Age: if I changed Dominion to Lost Cities (a single game of Lost Cities), would you change your answer? If so, why? If not, why not?
 
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Marc Lanctot
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And to anybody still interested, another poll. Assume again, both are 2 players and it's a single game of each (no tallying points between games.)

Poll
In which game does luck more strongly affect the outcome?
Lost Cities
Can't Stop
      54 answers
Poll created by sharky6000
 
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Josh Bodah
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Hard choice, but I'd say Dominion too. A strong opening hand with the kingdom right cards can be brutal to go up against. An early Council Room/Silver for example can have you getting Gold pretty much every turn. The order in which your cards come up matters a lot too. It's pretty hard to get the hand you want a lot of the time if you don't play right, but that IS the game and is what makes it fun.

Stone Age also has a lot of randomness, but you generally have enough workers to where you can account for any randomness. It's really more about luck mitigation (or playing on the edge if you are losing). Unlike Dominion, you can store your extra resources for later turns which is a pretty big deal. That said, I think turn order is much more important in Stone Age.

Lost Cities is, in my opinion, least affected by luck. A lot of the strategy in Lost Cities comes from the push-pull with the opponent of exploiting the middle discard piles. Luck only comes into play when you get totally screwed by the cards or your opponent gets the game handed to them with draws.

Can't Stop on the other hand is literally all luck. Fun, but 100% luck. You can do some quick math in your head and find the optimal expected probability of turns you can go with rolls. It's a lot harder to do that with the other games mentioned.
 
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Scott Hill
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sharky6000 wrote:
I'll explain the purpose of the experiment once I've got 50+ replies.


I reckon it's to see if you can get 50+ people to answer a pointless poll...

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Scott
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Scorpion0x17 wrote:
sharky6000 wrote:
I'll explain the purpose of the experiment once I've got 50+ replies.


I reckon it's to see if you can get 50+ people to answer a pointless poll...



Which would mean his poll would have a point which means that this poll can't be the poll to find that out at which point lack of paradox buffers cause my CPU to explode. In the mean time, number of respondents has reached 50 so all shall be revealed.
 
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Kevin Shillinglaw
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I'm looking forward to knowing what this is all about.
 
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Lacombe
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Deathstroke wrote:
I'm looking forward to knowing what this is all about.


It's pretty obvious now that it's about some perceived difference between card draws / shuffling and die rolling, but he's going about it the wrong way choosing games for the poll that everyone knows and already understands in regard to the role luck plays in the game. He ought to be presenting us two sets of rules that are functionally equivalent, yet cleverly disguised so as to appear wholly different, one with card draws and one with a die roll.

 
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Justus
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Following nates thoughts, I think that Dice has been unnecessarily denegrated in eurogame design. There is something pure of doing an action and knowing you have a 1/X chance of it succeeding or not. Cards allow two levels of complexity 1) you have to keep track of that shit and 2) you can now customize the hell out of them -- its possible to do that with dice (either customized dice or intricate CRTs) but if you have lots of different custom results, its just cleaner with cards.

But in the end randomness is randomness. Some games give you ways to manage it carefully, some games cut it out altoghether, and other games just let it rip.
 
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Marc Lanctot
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Ok, thanks for everyone who voted. To those who spent a few seconds of their lives answering what they think is a 'pointless poll', I please hope you find in your your hearts to forgive me for this tragedy.

I believe that people have built a negative bias toward dice, thinking that the existence of dice in the game necessarily means that luck plays a large(r) role in that game. IMO, it is quite clear that luck more strongly affects the outcome in Dominion vs. Stone Age. I'm amazed at how many people chose Stone Age. I do think that the bias toward dice is playing a role here, and that's what I wanted to see.

@Nate: I had to choose two games that people were familiar with to make my point. Sure, it'd be more scientifically proper to have an identical game where one uses cards and the other uses dice. But then (a) it'd have been way too obvious, and (b) people answering the poll would not be familiar with the games and could not submit an informed opinion based on game plays. And, I would argue that people do not know the role luck plays in these games. That's what the poll shows: almost half of the votes were for Stone Age, which (I believe) could be due to a negative bias toward dice.

The Lost Cities vs. Can't Stop is a lot less clear, but I do believe there's some negative dice bias there too. I think the strategy involved with the middle row is overestimated. I think what cards to play (and not play) to the middle is quite obvious (don't give them 8s, 9s, and 10s) and as for the smaller cards, you can spend one turn putting one there to see if your opponent is interested in that color. You often have to choose a color to start and just hope that you'll pick up the right numbers in the order later. If your opponent gets them first, then you're toast. If you've already picked up a few smaller numbers in one color, this allows you to delay and was purely due to luck. In Can't Stop, I would argue that it's not easy to compute the optimal time to roll vs. stop and humans are generally bad at doing the 'simple math'; doing this well requires more skill than deciding what to put in that middle row of Lost Cities. I agree that there's a lot of luck involved in Can't Stop, but having played both lots of times, I feel that there's more variance in Lost Cities, which is why we have to play 3 games and add the points-- a single game doesn't work.

Anyway, thanks again, and I'm curious to see if people have encountered this negative bias toward dice in their gaming circles as well.



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Kevin Shillinglaw
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I should have seen that for myself - I blame the lack of coffee.

For the record, I voted for Dominion and Lost Cities.
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Bryan Thunkd
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So the luck in Stone Age come from the dice obviously. But there are ways to minimize that luck. Mainly buying more tools and pooling more workers so that any one die is averaged out. Given those factors and the length of Stone Age, I don't feel it's a particularly luck based game.

Dominion on the other hand tends to be influenced to a much greater degree by luck.

That's a big part of why I prefer Stone Age over Dominion.
 
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Nate Wasser
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There are a few problems remaining:

(a) It's not likely you'll ever be able to tell which game is "luckier", so the question remains if others have a negative bias towards dice, or you have a positive bias. (Or a negative bias towards cards.)

(b) Stone Age is a really bad choice of a "dice-game", imho. It contains too much card luck in both what cards are available and what card could be drawn as an extra card.

I chose Stone Age, by the way. I don't think it is a particularly luck-driven game, but neither is Dominion. Both will have the more skilled players winning close to 100% of the time. But the luck element in Dominion happens (mainly) only directly after shuffling your deck. Once you've been dealt your lucky (or unlucky) hand, you can adjust your strategy based on what you know will be coming next. In Stone Age rolling 5 sixes on gold doesn't change what you will roll later on.

I do agree with you that dice are branded as luck more so than cards for the simple reason that it is usually easy to see what the best roll is and view that as lucky: "You rolled 5 sixes, damn that's lucky." Whereas it isn't quite as easy to see what the best setup of a deck of cards is in most cases: "You had both silvers in your deck in the same hand and then were able to draw more cards and get an action to get two buys and thanks to the additional cards that let you..." Was that lucky? Who knows...
 
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Nate Wasser
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Oh yeah, I also prefer Stone Age, but I don't think that has anything to do with my opinion as to which game contains more luck. Stone Age is just way more fun.
 
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Andrew Foerster
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Thunkd wrote:
So the luck in Stone Age come from the dice obviously. But there are ways to minimize that luck. Mainly buying more tools and pooling more workers so that any one die is averaged out. Given those factors and the length of Stone Age, I don't feel it's a particularly luck based game.

Dominion on the other hand tends to be influenced to a much greater degree by luck.

That's a big part of why I prefer Stone Age over Dominion.


The game-defining luck in Stone Age comes from how the Civ cards come out, primarily. Secondarily in how the huts come out and the die rolls work out.
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Marc Lanctot
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Nate Wasser wrote:

(a) It's not likely you'll ever be able to tell which game is "luckier", so the question remains if others have a negative bias towards dice, or you have a positive bias. (Or a negative bias towards cards.)


You're right that proving it is too hard, so yes I admit this is not a truly scientific investigation. Fear not, I will not be publishing any papers using these results.. my use of "subjects in an experiment" was mostly sarcastic. I was just curious to see it for myself. That aside, IMHO, it is quite obvious to me which one is the clear choice and I believe that the people who chose Stone Age did it mostly due to their perceived luck from the dice, not the cards. I am making this conclusion based on the fact that I've spoken to many people who claim that Stone Age is "too random" due to dice rolls.. and those same people then claim to love Dominion. I just don't get it.

Nate Wasser wrote:

(b) Stone Age is a really bad choice of a "dice-game", imho. It contains too much card luck in both what cards are available and what card could be drawn as an extra card.


Not when compared to Dominion, IMHO. Dominion has "card luck" every turn and those cards you're picking up define what you can and can't do. And, you have no very little control over what the opponent picks up. A few bad draws means you're pretty much done unless the other player also gets unlucky.

In Stone Age, this card luck is mitigated by the fact that everything is fair game, and the luck comes more from the turn order. And even then, you can often see what's coming up next turn. The ability to get the good card is based on the opponent's decisions, how many resources you can get based on how many people you have and how you've stored/spent them in previous rounds.

I don't think it's fair to use the single extra card drawn. There are only 2-3 of these in the entire deck and you can just as easily get an awesome card for 1 wood by going first that round. Either way, it doesn't hurt you as much as a bad draw in Dominion which pretty much costs you an entire turn.

Edit:

I chose Stone Age specifically because, in my experience, I feel that it is unfairly classified as "too lucky due to it being a dice game". This does not seem to be true of Yspahan, for example (but that also has cards). It's quite hard to find a "dice game" that is quite clearly not as affected by luck as Dominion, hence my follow-up question with Can't Stop, but even then luck more strongly affects the outcome of Can't Stop (probably more so than Dominion). Maybe Liar's Dice would have been a better choice as a dice game but I stand by Stone Age.

For those who didn't choose Stone Age due to card luck, I'd like to know why, or if the arguments here have convinced you otherwise.
 
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David Buckley
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NateStraight wrote:
Stone Age lasts so long and has so many opportunities to get points that a single instance of poor luck won't do much. One good or bad shuffle in Dominion can put you squarely ahead or behind the economic engine growth curve the other players are riding, and there just isn't that much time in the game for you to catch up in.


I voted for Stone Age but your argument above has persuaded me that I was wrong.
 
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David Buckley
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sharky6000 wrote:
That's what the poll shows: almost half of the votes were for Stone Age, which (I believe) could be due to a negative bias toward dice.



Although I now believe luck plays a bigger role in Dominion I did vote for Stone Age at the time. However I consider that most of the luck in Stone Age is due to the cards rather than the dice so I don't think negative bias toward dice had anything to do with my decision. I can't speak for the other Stone Age voters of course.
 
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David Buckley
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aaarg_ink wrote:
Following nates thoughts, I think that Dice has been unnecessarily denegrated in eurogame design. There is something pure of doing an action and knowing you have a 1/X chance of it succeeding or not. Cards allow two levels of complexity 1) you have to keep track of that shit and 2) you can now customize the hell out of them -- its possible to do that with dice (either customized dice or intricate CRTs) but if you have lots of different custom results, its just cleaner with cards.

But in the end randomness is randomness. Some games give you ways to manage it carefully, some games cut it out altoghether, and other games just let it rip.


In general I prefer dice over cards because the order of cards is rarely truly random. Consider Ticket to Ride as an example. If you simply put the cards back into the pile in the order in which they are played, you will get clumps of the same colour, when people buy themselves a track. When it comes to the shuffling it is highly unlikely that this will be thorough enough to seperate out all those clumps. This can of course be mitigated by laying out the played cards in multiple stacks but that's not really random either.
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Nate Wasser
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sharky6000 wrote:
Either way, it doesn't hurt you as much as a bad draw in Dominion which pretty much costs you an entire turn.


See, I'm just not sure that's such a bad thing. Losing a turn due to a bad draw should also mean a later (or earlier) draw was really good, allowing you to do more than an average draw would. Of course I'm sure we can debate what is better, two average draws or one really good one, but the point is that part of the game is trying to have a deck that will give you good plays, both in good average plays as well as good awesome plays.

An element of luck in a game doesn't make luck play a large role unless you let it. (Ok, sometimes the element of luck is so large it obviously does, but I don't think any of these games have that much luck.) If you play Stone Age without tools and only ever send one worker to get stone and gold, you're letting luck play a large role. If you don't take into account what your deck will look like in Dominion, you're letting luck play a large role. But in both games you can plan ahead and play to reduce the luck factor. (Or realize that you're behind and need to rely on luck to win and play risky on purpose.) But even planning on bad luck won't save you in Stone Age if you have a really, really bad run of the dice. In Dominion if you have a really, really bad run of the cards, you've made a mistake somewhere along the line.

I guess it sort of depends on what you mean by: "In which game does luck play a higher role?"

Do you want to know which game's outcome has more to do with luck? Or do you want to know which game forces you to change your strategy more often due to luck?
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