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Author Topic: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?  (Read 833 times)

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TerrySpeed

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Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« on: March 24, 2021, 07:58:55 pm »
+1

I like Dominion, but luck plays a considerable role in who wins.

My friends and I came up with the following variants to make the game more fair:

(1) If the game would end with the starting player having had more turns than the last player, the last player gets an extra turn. This ensures everyone plays the exact same number of turns.

(2) Players select their first starting hand from their deck - meaning they can either pick 4/3 coppers or 5/2 coppers, their choice. This limits the impact of drawing 4/3 when the board is very favorable to 5/2 hands, and vise versa.

Both variant are simple to implement, and diminish the impact of non-skill factors (starting player, starting hand) without affecting the strategy of the game.

Are there other variants out there to make the game more fair?
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mathdude

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2021, 09:15:25 pm »
0

Admittedly, luck does play a role. It's part of this (and most) games. And you can make whatever changes you want within your games, because that helps you have more fun. But I'll address both of your concerns anyway.

1) The game already has a mechanism for addressing first player advantage... sort of (as long as there are no attacks). In a 2-player game, there are 8 provinces (4/ player). With 3, there are still 4 each. With 4, 5, or 6, there are 3 each.

Let's say there is an ideal way to get provinces fastest. Everyone does it (and they all draw the same cards every turn). Pile runs out and everyone has the same number and it's a tie. But if someone doesn't play ideal (in a 2 or 6 player game or anything in between), and there's a chance someone could get more points. But let's say there still ends up being a tie. If the person who bought the last one had one more turn than the other, the game says that person loses.

Of course, it's still not that simple. There's a 3-pile ending possible. That may be fine/fair with 2 or 5 players. But with 3, that first player has an advantage to get one extra village... or laboratory, smithy, etc. And then attacks change things too... first player has a better chance of drawing their purchased attack first, giving an even bigger advantage. It's not perfect.

So some tournaments I've heard play multiple games between the same 2 players determine a winner of each round (for example, 6 games total with each starting 3 games). They can still go 3-3, but the chances of 4-2 or 3-2 and a tie (or others) definitely help break most ties.

Our own house rule is that whoever wins one game goes last the next... playing multiple games the same day or even if it's a week later. If I win, the player to my left starts the next game. It's okay if one person has a slight advantage because someone else likely will the next game.

You can still continue letting people play after the game ends until everyone had equal turns (likely giving people at least a chance to buy a duchy). It's a house rule, like putting money in the centre for Monopoly and collecting it when you land on Free Parking (that's not actually in the rules!)

2) Much shorter answer here. I believe also in some official tournaments, players have been able to choose their starting copper split. It makes sense since some boards strongly advantage one over the other.

It's even more powerful with some cards... Pooka (with Cursed Gold heirloom) and Fisherman are two I can think of. Imagine drawing 5-then-2 with Fisherman against someone else who draws 2-then-5.

I like the randomness in the starting draw. It adds an additional challenge when starting with a non-ideal opening. Although, now I'm thinking we should probably let my daughter (6 years old and loves playing, competitively too!) the chance to choose her opening to balance it out a bit.
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TerrySpeed

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2021, 10:14:12 pm »
+1

1) The game already has a mechanism for addressing first player advantage... sort of (as long as there are no attacks). In a 2-player game, there are 8 provinces (4/ player). With 3, there are still 4 each. With 4, 5, or 6, there are 3 each.

The mechanism is insufficient. The game often ends up with the first player winning and getting an extra turn, while the second player could have won if only they had had the opportunity to buy a Duchy on their turn.

You can still continue letting people play after the game ends until everyone had equal turns (likely giving people at least a chance to buy a duchy). It's a house rule, like putting money in the centre for Monopoly and collecting it when you land on Free Parking (that's not actually in the rules!)

That Monopoly rule breaks the game, mine makes it less luck dependent.
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pubby

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2021, 10:21:40 pm »
+6

I think the game is less interesting if you can open 5/2 every time. A better implementation is to have the first player shuffle, then have all players match their opening (so if they open 4/3, everyone opens 4/3).
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TerrySpeed

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2021, 10:39:02 pm »
0

I think the game is less interesting if you can open 5/2 every time. A better implementation is to have the first player shuffle, then have all players match their opening (so if they open 4/3, everyone opens 4/3).

I think both variants are interesting.

Having the first person shuffle, then have all players match the shuffle, is more interesting when 5/2 (or 4/3) is clearly the superior option.

Letting the player choose either 5/2 or 4/3, is more interesting when both openings are roughly as good.
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mathdude

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2021, 11:46:59 pm »
0

1) The game already has a mechanism for addressing first player advantage... sort of (as long as there are no attacks). In a 2-player game, there are 8 provinces (4/ player). With 3, there are still 4 each. With 4, 5, or 6, there are 3 each.

The mechanism is insufficient. The game often ends up with the first player winning and getting an extra turn, while the second player could have won if only they had had the opportunity to buy a Duchy on their turn.

I find the vast majority of games I play that whoever buys the last province wins (if the game ends with province pile empty).  But it's not a majority that it's the first player doing it.  Consider the match-style play I discussed earlier.  That was based on ideal/perfect draws of cards, but "on average" it would work similarly in real games.  If 1st player has bought a province, 2nd probably should be doing so as well (and 3rd, if playing, and 4th...)  In a 2-player game, if you both have 3 provinces and the 1st player buys a duchy, they are now 3 points ahead.  You (if 2nd player) don't buy the 7th province, because then if 1st player buys the final province, they win.  You match-play... if they bought a duchy, you buy a duchy even if you have $8, unless you're fairly confident they can't buy that last one (maybe you've played a militia and they are unlikely to get it with 3 cards in hand).

But that's part of what I find as the beauty of the strategy of this game.  Figuring out what to do, and when.  Do you (and if so, when and how many) trash some/most of your initial cards?  Do you go mostly money or more Action cards?  Do you buy Province at your first hand with $8 even if you've only bought 1 gold (or even none yet)?

Most games, I try to track points (at least roughly) in my head as we're going, to see if we're even, or if someone's ahead by "about" 3 or 6 or 9.  That helps influence when I buy what kind of green cards.  Ideally, I try to stay slightly ahead.  But as a minimum, I try to stay close to even (unless someone has clearly started buying greens too early... or if we're going for different strategies, like one for Provinces and the other for Gardens).

Here's a strategy article that's a good read.  This is just one of the many things to consider... that whole idea about buying that 2nd last Province is a part of the game design.
http://wiki.dominionstrategy.com/index.php/Penultimate_Province_Rule
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Chris is me

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2021, 12:10:20 am »
+4

the best variant to make the game "less luck dependent" is to play multiple games. like hands of poker, it's best not to judge an individual game as an absolute arbiter of skill. variance is fine!
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LastFootnote

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2021, 12:12:03 am »
+4

Our own house rule is that whoever wins one game goes last the next... playing multiple games the same day or even if it's a week later. If I win, the player to my left starts the next game.

That's actually an official rule in the rulebook.
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LastFootnote

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2021, 01:04:54 am »
+13

"The goal of Dominion is not to have the most points when the game ends, but to end the game when you have the most points." - Tables

The problem with equal turns in Dominion is that the game isn't on a timer (12 turns, or whatever) and players have a massive amount of control over how close the game is to ending. If you institute an equal turns rule, then the last player is often playing a very different game than the others. They can know whether ending the game will cause them to win. The other players have no such certainty. So this rule likely replaces a mild first-player advantage with an often even more significant last player advantage.
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segura

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2021, 05:55:38 am »
0

Indeed. I'd even argue that in terms of creating player interaction this is the most important element of the game.
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The Alchemist

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2021, 10:08:20 am »
0

The first rule doesn't work in practice. I and many others have had the exact same idea, but it doesn't work.

What the first rule essentially says is only the 2nd player is allowed to win the game by pileout. Considering around 30% of games are won that way, you've just replaced a 10% first player advantage with near total second player advantage.

As for the second rule, it doesn't work with any of the cards that change your second hand, like noble brigand or cavalry.
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GendoIkari

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2021, 11:09:58 am »
0

As for the second rule, it doesn't work with any of the cards that change your second hand, like noble brigand or cavalry.

Well you can always implement it as "each player can arrange their starting deck as they want".

I think the real problem with that rule is that there's really nothing special about the arrangement of your starting deck compared to the arrangement of your deck after any shuffle... I think people tend to think of it as different probably because the shuffling happened during the game setup rather than during the game itself. But what order your cards are in when you shuffle for the first time (usually at the end of turn 2) generally matters more than the starting order does in terms of luck. So if you are going to allow players to order their starting deck, why not allow them to order their first shuffle?
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LastFootnote

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2021, 11:31:06 am »
0

As for the second rule, it doesn't work with any of the cards that change your second hand, like noble brigand or cavalry.

Well you can always implement it as "each player can arrange their starting deck as they want".

I think the real problem with that rule is that there's really nothing special about the arrangement of your starting deck compared to the arrangement of your deck after any shuffle... I think people tend to think of it as different probably because the shuffling happened during the game setup rather than during the game itself. But what order your cards are in when you shuffle for the first time (usually at the end of turn 2) generally matters more than the starting order does in terms of luck. So if you are going to allow players to order their starting deck, why not allow them to order their first shuffle?

And continuing down that line of thinking, why not allow players to order their deck whenever they "shuffle"?
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silverspawn

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2021, 11:59:27 am »
+1

You can also play chess instead of dominion. Solves all randomness issues.
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Wizard_Amul

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2021, 01:02:26 pm »
+1

You can also play chess instead of dominion. Solves all randomness issues.

Yeah, if you want to avoid randomness entirely, Dominion isn't a great game.

I highly recommend Prismata--only randomness is the unit pool available for purchase (like Dominion's random kingdom). One of the initial design ideas was to make something like a deck-building game where you always have your whole deck in hand--avoids randomness of draws. It doesn't really feel like a card game, but I recommend trying it out. It was called MCDS in development, which stands for Magic, Chess, Dominion, and Starcraft.
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silverspawn

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #15 on: March 29, 2021, 01:51:45 pm »
+1

Yeah Prismata is excellent
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GendoIkari

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #16 on: March 30, 2021, 04:41:59 pm »
0

As for the second rule, it doesn't work with any of the cards that change your second hand, like noble brigand or cavalry.

Well you can always implement it as "each player can arrange their starting deck as they want".

I think the real problem with that rule is that there's really nothing special about the arrangement of your starting deck compared to the arrangement of your deck after any shuffle... I think people tend to think of it as different probably because the shuffling happened during the game setup rather than during the game itself. But what order your cards are in when you shuffle for the first time (usually at the end of turn 2) generally matters more than the starting order does in terms of luck. So if you are going to allow players to order their starting deck, why not allow them to order their first shuffle?

And continuing down that line of thinking, why not allow players to order their deck whenever they "shuffle"?

Well sort of. At a certain point, you can say that you make your own shuffle luck... building a consistent deck that doesn't get screwed by bad shuffle luck is part of the skill. And to an extent, that exists in the first shuffle (don't buy 2 terminal draw cards in your opening), but for the most part you don't have any control over deck consistency yet.
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TerrySpeed

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #17 on: April 01, 2021, 10:27:15 am »
0

The first rule doesn't work in practice. I and many others have had the exact same idea, but it doesn't work.

What the first rule essentially says is only the 2nd player is allowed to win the game by pileout. Considering around 30% of games are won that way, you've just replaced a 10% first player advantage with near total second player advantage.

How is that the case? The first player can still win by pileout, they just no longer get the unfair advantage of an extra turn.

Even if pileouts are specifically a problem, the rule could be amended so the extra turn only applies on province depletion.

I think the real problem with that rule is that there's really nothing special about the arrangement of your starting deck compared to the arrangement of your deck after any shuffle...

The starting hand is special: since no decision was made prior to drawing the initial hand, the randomness can be eliminated without reducing strategy in any way.

And continuing down that line of thinking, why not allow players to order their deck whenever they "shuffle"?

Contrarily to the ordering the starting hand, ordering any subsequent hand impacts the strategy of the game.
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GendoIkari

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #18 on: April 01, 2021, 06:03:27 pm »
+4

The first rule doesn't work in practice. I and many others have had the exact same idea, but it doesn't work.

What the first rule essentially says is only the 2nd player is allowed to win the game by pileout. Considering around 30% of games are won that way, you've just replaced a 10% first player advantage with near total second player advantage.

How is that the case? The first player can still win by pileout, they just no longer get the unfair advantage of an extra turn.


If the first player has a way that he can empty 3 piles while also being ahead by a couple of points, then he would no longer be able to win that way, because all the second player has to do is buy a Duchy. In fact, it would be almost always impossible for the first player to ever win a game by only a couple of points; player 1 would have to not only end the game while ahead, but end the game while ahead by a comfortable lead. Meanwhile, second player can continue to do things that involve getting ahead by a single point and ending the game for the win.

Quote
Even if pileouts are specifically a problem, the rule could be amended so the extra turn only applies on province depletion.

The problem would be more common with pileouts simply because it's more common for a very close game to end that way; games that end on Provinces often have at least a 12 point difference in the score. But it's still the same issue with a Province ending... if player 1 buying the last Province would put him ahead by 2 points, then he can't safely do that because he probably won't win. Player 1 can only buy the last Province if it puts him ahead by more points than player 2 can get with the remaining turn.
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LastFootnote

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #19 on: April 03, 2021, 11:23:41 am »
0

The starting hand is special: since no decision was made prior to drawing the initial hand, the randomness can be eliminated without reducing strategy in any way.

Not special! Only special in your mind.
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silverspawn

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #20 on: April 03, 2021, 11:52:46 am »
+1

pretty sure 'special' isn't precisely enough defined to determine whether or not it's special.
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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #21 on: April 03, 2021, 02:23:33 pm »
+3

I think the real problem with that rule is that there's really nothing special about the arrangement of your starting deck compared to the arrangement of your deck after any shuffle...

The starting hand is special: since no decision was made prior to drawing the initial hand, the randomness can be eliminated without reducing strategy in any way.


Contrary to popular belief, reducing randomness does not mean increasing strategy. Part of the strategy of Dominion is responding to the randomness the game gives you.
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LastFootnote

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #22 on: April 04, 2021, 05:52:56 pm »
0

Contrary to popular belief, reducing randomness does not mean increasing strategy. Part of the strategy of Dominion is responding to the randomness the game gives you.

Adding randomness to a game may not "reduce strategy", but it absolutely does reduce the degree to which good strategy leads to victory, and for some people that is unacceptable.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2021, 10:51:16 am by LastFootnote »
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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #23 on: April 05, 2021, 02:07:42 pm »
0

Contrary to popular belief, reducing randomness does not mean increasing strategy. Part of the strategy of Dominion is responding to the randomness the game gives you.

Adding randomness to a game may not "reduce strategy", but it absolutely does reduce the degree to which good strategy leads to victory, and for some people that is unacceptable.

Depends on sample size. If you are playing a single game, sure. If you are playing a series of games, much, much less so (depending of course, on how much the variance has increased). Some people prefer variance, too, so it isn't just good vs. bad.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2021, 02:08:55 pm by DunnoItAll »
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LastFootnote

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Re: Variants to make the game more fair & less luck dependent?
« Reply #24 on: April 05, 2021, 02:25:45 pm »
+3

Contrary to popular belief, reducing randomness does not mean increasing strategy. Part of the strategy of Dominion is responding to the randomness the game gives you.

Adding randomness to a game may not "reduce strategy", but it absolutely does reduce the degree to which good strategy leads to victory, and for some people that is unacceptable.

Depends on sample size. If you are playing a single game, sure. If you are playing a series of games, much, much less so (depending of course, on how much the variance has increased). Some people prefer variance, too, so it isn't just good vs. bad.

Agreed. Personally I'm a fan of the variance.
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