Random thoughts on randomness in deckbuilders

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by pkt-zer0, Apr 8, 2012.

  1. pkt-zer0

    pkt-zer0 Well-Known Member

    To preface things: my exposure to deckbuilding games is very limited, as in 3~4 games of Puzzle Strike and Thunderstone, so it's entirely possible that my statements are inaccurate. That's one of the reasons I'm writing this, in fact, to see if I'm missing something.

    So, the standard deckbuilder mechanics seem to result in a lot of randomness. You discard everything at the end of a turn, and with hand sizes being relatively small compared to your (usually ever-increasing) deck, the chances of getting what you want in your hand is rather low. Maybe that's what the game is: make the most out of what you draw, and build your deck so good draws are more likely. And that's fine.

    But! I like combos, and there's not much room for them here. If you don't draw your whole combo in a single turn, it means you've wasted the cards you DID draw, as you won't see those again until you go through the rest of your deck. Traditional MtG-like games also have luck of the draw, but there you have control over the cards you do keep, so mitigating randomness becomes a choice you can take.

    So why don't deckbuilder games give you more control over the randomness? Would that have some unintended, negative consequences for the gameplay, perhaps? PS has features like this, with the piggy banks - but it's on a chip, so you essentially need a combo (pig + whatever you want to keep) to set up a combo. Thunderstone adds two standard actions, where you can destroy one card in your hand, or keep any number of them for the next turn, which I think are really cool additions. More games should have that.

    Then again, as I said in the beginning, it's also possible that the solution to my woes would be to suck less at deckbuilding.
  2. Delha

    Delha Active Member

    1. Odds
    Your odds of seeing any given 4-of in your opening hand is roughly 40%. After that, you're seeing one card per turn (barring draw effects, obv). In contrast, you are pretty much guaranteed to see every chip in your deck within 4-5 turns (and that's late in the game). It's feasible to draw every single chip in your deck every single turn, and Degrey is practically built around this concept.

    Let's say your average non-tutorable singleton in Magic has a 50% of showing up in a game. A singleton in PS though (say one of your character chips) will probably show up at least three or four times each game.

    Look at it this way: By the second turn, you will have seen 10 chips vs the 8-9 cards a Magic player has on his. This gap only increases over time.

    2. Pairing
    Let's say you take a poker deck and trying to get a pair of Aces. The Magic way, you're flipping singletons after your initial hand (which is proportionally actually less than seven, since it's got 52 cards vs a 60). In PS, you start off drawing half your deck, which breaks out to 26 cards per turn. Yes, that proportion diminishes over time, but with the pile bonus, odds are you'll never drop below seeing 25% of your deck at a time.

    3. Hand Size
    Your average hand size in Magic is actually smaller than in Dominion. You start the game with seven cards, but inside of the first dozen turns, you're probably down to 2-3 cards. In comparison, Dominion will always see five card hands. You are never topdecking in the traditional sense. PS pushes this further via pile bonus. I'd argue that the typical hand size here is probably 6 or 7 cards.

    4. Pigs
    :pspig: are probably far more effective at deck manipulation than you realize. Let's say your deck is about 15 chips, and you've got a pile bonus of +1. You're seeing 6 chips (40% of your deck) per draw, and we'll assume you're on the first hand of the cycle. If you've got a :pspig: and you don't have a combo piece, that means there are nine chips left in the deck and you'll be seeing six of them next turn. Note that a +:pschip: here bumps your odds further (if you draw a combo piece, you'll pig it, if not, you cut out some chaff).

    Alternately, let's say you've got 4 chips in the bag, combo piece A in the discard, and the piece B in hand. You can :pspig: one of your non-combo pieces, which will mean that during cleanup you'll keep 1 chip, draw 4, then reshuffle and draw 1 more. Your odds of hitting a combo piece on that single draw are slim. Assuming you don't, you've effectively created the same situation as before: 9 chips in bag, and you're going to see 6 of them on the next draw.

    5. Density
    A singleton magic card is 1/60th of your deck. A playset means that copies of that card make up 1/15th of your deck.
    Your max number of a given puzzle chip in deck is one higher in PS, and your deck size is typically going to be less than half of a Magic deck. Yes, you're often competing with the opponent for buys, but also bear in mind that having just 2 copies in a 30 chip deck is comparable to having a 4-of in a 60 card deck. From there, consider that your deck will typically be far fewer than 30 chips, that your opponent won't always want the same chips as you (so you can buy them unopposed), and that when they do you'll often be the player who has 3/5 instead of 2/5.

    Edit: Grammar is hard :(
  3. Proven

    Proven Active Member

    Delha covered it so comprehensively that no one else posted...

    To add in two cents anyway, Puzzle Strike is a great game specifically because it gives you more control over that very randomness compared to other deck building games. From being able to choose your character instead of in say, Dominion, where you have three cards that are just useless to start off with, all the way to the ways to get extra draws, save chips for later, and even remove chips from your bag so you can see the chips you need more often...

    The randomness that's left over is essentially that 5-10% damage spread you might see in certain video games that adds that extra bit of spice and excitement.
  4. Fenrir

    Fenrir Well-Known Member

    I like that one of the points mentioned to reduce randomness is to play econ and just draw your entire deck every turn.

    It really does work!

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