Thursday, 10 May 2012

Randomness In 6th Is A Terrible Idea

First and foremost, this is a response to this article from Galaxy In Flames. In aforementioned article, Big Jim, a man as firmly entrenched in the 'fun' side of 40k as I am, perhaps more, gives his opinion on more randomness in 6th edition. I shall now give you mine.

Despite the article title, this is NOT a rant. I DO NOT DO RANTS. I do hyperbole, which is more fun and professional. Now, let us begin with a diagram showing the sliding scale of randomness.

Random As Frak                              Somewhere In Between                           What's Randomness?
Snakes And Ladders                                   Most TCGs                                                      Chess

Chess is a good game. It has to be really, otherwise it wouldn't have survived, along with the Odyssey, the Amores and all my favourite classical literature. People like it. But it doesn't really work as a pick-up game, as for a pick-up game to work properly, both players must have a similar chance of winning.

On the other hand, both or more players have an identical chance of winning Snakes And Ladders. If you buy the game in a box, it might even say on it "Fun for all the family" or something similarly false. In my oh-so-frank opinion, S&L is a stupid game and we should encourage our children to play something that doesn't really annoy children who despise losing as I did. I can accept losing when I know I could improve my game in some way. Unfortunately, neither my five-year old self nor I know how to bribe Lady Luck, so this is impossible. Therefore, as a pick-up game, S&L, which is one letter away from a naughty catalogue when I say it like that, is arguably worse than Chess.

I have a fair bit of TCG experience, mostly Yu-Gi-Oh! and the lesser known Duel Masters. You have a carefully prepared strategy or several, but the luck of the draw is still important. That said, there is usually some kind of card that allows you to manipulate the luck of the draw and give you better odds. I like this power.

Anyway, the point of this is things like random psyker powers and random charge range fall squarely into the Snakes And Ladders school of luck. If you're going to insist on this, I suggest you give me some method of Lady-bribing as a countermeasure. If not, you're ruining my nice pick-up game.

Now, I wrote this as a response, didn't I? I suppose that means I have some actual responding to do. I shall do this in the usual manner of quote-pinching.

"Dealing with randomness like this really gives you many more opportunities in the risk verses reward type of game play on the tabletop and in my opinion 40k has lacked this kind of depth for too long."

Agreed, so long as your opponent falls under the same traps as you do. Which isn't going to happen, because whoever heard of uniform randomness? Risk versus reward works when the risk is genuine. Under chance, the risk is hypothetical, therefore the reward must also be hypothetical. I don't like putting my resources into a ghost of a goal. On the other hand, if I can definitely charge Unit X and possibly contest, the reward is more realistic. If I might fail to reach Unit X I don't even get the chance to try for that reward. I hope this makes sense to me a few hours after writing...

"Well implemented randomness changes the focus of the game from worrying about winning; it brings the focus back the process of playing and having fun. You become more interested in seeing how things will play out on the tabletop, and less interested in who actually won."

I agree with the preceding paragraph to this regarding Terrain. I suppose Jim would argue that S&L is not well implemented randomness, which I would also agree with. Mind you, he never states that random charge and suchlike is well-implemented randomness. I don't know what to make of this paragraph. I could take "Random Charge Length Is Well Implemented" as a hidden premise I suppose. But that makes no sense to me. Because it isn't. Overall, I agree with this point so long as that hidden premise isn't meant to be there.

"Randomness can really help generate some unpredictability that lends itself to great story telling."

Hmm. I'm pretty sure losing all your money at roulette and being homeless is a really sad story. I dislike sad stories. In fact, a lot of sad stories involve bad luck. On the other hand, lots of happy ones involve good luck. But sometimes good luck is a badly-implemented Deus Ex Machina, which is bad storytelling. This could go both ways. However, here's a story that might swing it for me.

"My Tau Fire Warriors charged the Avatar of Khaine. Miraculously, one survived and held up the Avatar for a crucial turn, allowing my Kroot to retain a vital objective."

What would have happened if those Fire Warriors couldn't charge the Avatar because of randomness. Well A) we wouldn't have this unlikely fun story and B) the odds of this story happening decreases. For random miracles to work, the chances need to be just realistic enough. Think the Discworld million-to-one chance. Too much more randomness, and these stories may not come as often.

Oh grief, this article is too long. Anyway, I'll end with a quotation from the American philosopher Richard Taylor (whom I incorrectly named as Roger Taylor, Queen's drummer, in my Higher Philosophy final exam. D'oh!) on libertarianism, which holds that determinism (cause and effect controls your whole life, basically) doesn't exist:

"While libertarianism avoids the puppetlike man of the determinist, man is replaced with an even less human like image; an erratic, jerking phantom who behaves without without rhyme or reason."

I don't know about you, but I don't imagine my armies as such phantoms.


Brian said...

Well said -though I prefer Roger Taylor, myself.

Master Bryss said...

I won't be surprised if it ends up in an obscure book of funny exam mistakes. That's luck for you.