Games Without Luck

Chess is a game with no luck. Everyone starts with the same setup and pieces. Each of those pieces has the same abilities. Each person has the same parameters and win condition. There are no random factors in chess. Though it isn’t random, chess isn’t high or many people’s list of family games. Why? Because it involves a large amount of skill to play well against opponents of equal skill.

Last time, I wrote about the concept of luck in games, and how it can change the game’s dynamics. This time, I want to look at games that don’t include luck as a major factor and why they are good games. Chess is the game most people think of when they think “no luck. ” There are many others that are more family friendly because of their lower skill level. The mechanics of a game can make it more accessible to a family as well.

One example is the game Splendor. This game involves collected colored jewels, some of which contain points. The first person to 15 points wins. There are a few random elements. The type of jewels that appear and the points cards are random. The game bases everything else on the player’s remaining choices. It is very easy to learn and is great for children. It causes you to make long-term decision and associations between several elements.

Another example is the game Rampage (or Terror in Meeple City) which is a dexterity game. That game is fun because you set it up and break it down. You are a monster, and you get points by destroying the building and people in the game. The only skill element is how good you are at dropping or flicking your monster onto things. It is lots of fun, and there is no luck at all – at least there shouldn’t be.

The conversation about luck in games is a moot one if you like luck. If you want there to be an element of change in your games, play those games. Luck brings variety but decreases skill needed (most of the time). It’s a matter of what your group, or family will tolerate.

What level of luck is appropriate for your group? What games do you play that represent that?

2 thoughts on “Games Without Luck”

  1. I like having luck in my games. Don’t get me wrong, GO is one of my favorite games, and that game has NO luck, but I also don’t play GO that often.

    Luck is not the enemy of games like most people seem to think. The best way to handle it (I think) is to give players ways to mitigate the luck. Luck usually makes games more exciting, you just want to make sure that you reward players for having good strategy. If their choices dont really matter, then I think that is where luck becomes a problem.

    Check out Richard Garfields talk about this. I think it is very inciteful.

    1. “Luck is not the enemy” is quotable for sure. I like luck when it is used well. I don’t like to be beaten by it, but I love it when it mixes things up for every player. Also, like you said, giving players ways to mitigate luck is also a great way to handle it.

      Thanks for the Garfield link. He’s the master at balancing things other people think are “hands off.”

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