Saturday, March 27, 2010

RNG and certainty

How much RNG (Random Number Generator) is a good thing?  I have been debating this back and forth with myself about FMB for awhile now - it has been a difficult thing to nail down.

The classic example of an RNG game is War.  In that most classic and terrible of games there is in fact no skill or player input whatsoever.  The cards come out in a particular order and the winner of the game is predetermined.  Most people find War to be absolutely pointless and suitable only for children.  The best examples of the opposite type of game are Go or Chess, in which there is zero randomness aside from who goes first and yet the games are incredibly complex and not even remotely solved.

My issue has been:  How much randomness do I want in FMB ideally, and more generally how much randomness do I like it my games?  I played an awful lot of Magic:  The Gathering in high school and university and loved that and I am a bit of a fanatical fan of board games with low randomness.  I also enjoy poker which is surely an example of mixed luck and skill.  I suppose a good measure of the randomness of a game is an expression of how often a professional player will lose to some random guy who has only played the game twice before.

Chess/Go - 0%  (The professional *could* lose, but it is far less than 1 in a million)

Magic/Poker - 10%  (No matter how good you are sometimes you get manascrewed or rivered out)

Puerto Rico - 20%  (Games with multiple players are prone to people playing kingmaker, otherwise would be lower)

War - 50%

So what is my ideal number?  I surely don't want the situation of War where the rube beats the pro half the time, but I don't think I actually like the Chess/Go ideal of nearly guaranteed victory for professionals either.  The best player losing to buffoons occasionally is fine as long as they will consistently build up a winning record over time to my mind and that ideal number lies somewhere between 20% and 5%.  While something in the back of my brain insists that a game should be pure and following the right strategy should lead to victory I don't seem to actually love games that embody that philosophy.  I like the possibility of pocket aces, I enjoy comboing my opponent out on turn 3 and I love snagging the Gold Mine with a lucky roll of a 6.

I suspect that everyone has a level of randomness that they are most fond of in games and that they tend to gravitate towards that level in their game choices.  I think I am happiest with games that allow me to rack up a winning record against a rube virtually every time after 10 games but occasionally not after 1 game; I don't mind losing a match to a sucker as long as  I have all of his money by the end of the night.  I experimented with some different rules in FMB  looking at options where no dicerolling occurred at all and ended up deciding that my game needs to fit my game preferences:  You roll some dice, and the better player wins most of the time.

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