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  • To Random or Not to Random?

  • Johnathan Proctor

    July 26, 2021 at 7:41 pm

    So I’ve hit one of my first real design questions/options for my board game. I’m developing a more or less abstract board game based off of the Colonel Blotto challenge from classic game theory. Each player will have 25 troops to distribute along different objectives. There’s a strategy and an execution, and players also have the opportunity to allocate resources to “Intelligence and Security” or “Acquisitions and Recruiting.”

    I’ve hit my fist real question on which direction might be best. This week I need to design the “Acquisitions and Recruiting” cards. These will be a series of cards that provide some sort of bonus to a players number of troops or their ability to maneuver with some limitations. For example, it might be “add two troops to any city playing space” or “you may reinforce a front from any space on the board” (instead of just from some special ones that are adjacent to the area being contested).

    Originally, I had thought of making each card a set value of 2-4 extra troops. However, I wonder if it might be interesting to add a random element of a special dice roll. I thought of adding a roll of a (1-2-2-3-3-4) die for some of them. The average value of any roll is 2.5, which equates to a 10% increase on average. For example, I could do an “Airstrike!!” card that has you roll the die to see the effect. This can simulate some of the randomness of actual combat where not every bomb hits the target dead on or some recruits don’t perform as well as others. I can even add an “Special Operations Training” to “Add one die to any single roll.”

    I’m curious what other people think. Eventually I think the correct answer is “play test both systems and see what you and the players think.” I’m also curious about the other experiences of folks here though and where you have found adding die rolls to be valuable or detracting to the overall experience. I’d say there’s already a random element in the card draws, but I don’t know if that would still count as a “Euro” style game since it really comes down to your ability to create a strategy and then adapt that plan during execution.

    I thought about posting this to the Facebook group, but it seemed like this long of an explanation would work better here, and I guess I’m sort of rooting for the community here to take off.

  • Emily Bekius

    July 28, 2021 at 9:48 pm

    I would say a dice roll makes sense for the type of cards/actions you’re describing. I think if enhances the theme and experience you’re trying to create then that’s what you should do! Things you think will be great in theory might not work as well once you play test, but you’ll never know unless you try it out!

  • Grant Kerwood

    August 9, 2021 at 8:32 am

    some things to be aware of when determining whether something should be randomized or not:

    For randomness:

    adds tension

    makes the game more luck based

    lets the other players participate in the ambition of the roll

    For pre-set values:


    makes the game more strategy based (be aware this does not mean your game is more strategic)

    easier to plan ahead

  • Anthony Broussard

    November 18, 2021 at 7:46 pm

    One mechanic I loved in the Shadowrun RPG was the concept of a “glitch”: your roll could succeed but something bad could happen in the process.

    Maybe 1/6 of the time a bad situation happens that doesn’t reduce any of the main success. For example, you did an airstrike but your plane got shot in the process and now future support cards cannot be played next turn, or you damaged your own supply line by accident.

    “since it really comes down to your ability to create a strategy and then adapt that plan during execution.”

    One school of thought favors emphasizing input randomness and minimizing output randomness, meaning the situations you get in are unpredictable but the outcome is reliable.

    Personally I prefer input to output randomness though emphasizing output randomness is very thematic for a war game.

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