Bottom line: Your statement is wrong and you should feel bad for making it.
The difference was he didn't quote you and directly challenge you on a point that was patently true with a silly counter argument.
Right after I replied to your flawed logic challenge (by quoting me and asserting I was wrong), I calmly continued to have an intelligent conversation with Kingsley on the Cato Deck thread (check the post times), conceding many valid points he made. I am happy to be proven wrong as I constantly want to self-improve. But don't be surprised if you blithely challenge people with silly comments and then (shockingly it seems) you incur their exasperated ire.
But you are assuming that being able to handle planets in whatever order they come requires less skill than being able to hand a specific set of ten. You're also belittling everyone else's opinion as silly... Being force to deal with more randomness and still win can create more show of skill. As you said, the current set up already allows a player with initiative to bully win the first tri-icon planet. Adding more randomness to the deck won't change that, if anything it will make players plan their long term deploy strategies more carefully. The big problem I have with it is more 7th planet draws will occur.
This, sir, is a big topic worthy of discussion - so thank you for bringing it up. I would have replied earlier but work got busy (so inconvenient) then Friday after-work drinks at the pub tradition here in the UK. Nevertheless, I shall try to do this topic justice.
When designing a game, the designers would have decided what level to pitch it:
1. How much strategy
does it require? By strategy, I mean planning before the game even begins, understanding the stratagems available.
2. How much tactics
does it require? By tactics, I mean the ability to improvise the right play to overcome challenges and opposing play.
3. How much diplomacy
does it encourage? In 2 player duel games, this only ever translates to bluff, reading tells and misdirection.
4. How much luck
does it involve? By luck, I don't mean opportunities or risks that require tactics to leverage or bypass. I mean an advantage or disadvantage gained purely due to happenstance that is entirely out of your control.
Now, in the current game, we already have a random element - drawing cards. But this random mechanic tests your tactics, your ability to optimally use randomly drawn cards from a seeded deck based on the game state, your ability to improvise.
Strategy in customisable card games is obvious: deck-building is strategising. It includes cards that grant advantage against current prevalent strategies in the meta (which again tests another strategic skill, reading that meta correctly). It's all the forward planning that you do before the game, even trawling forums for inspiration and advice.
Almost everything else is luck.
Let's look at some popular card games you may know.Summoner Wars
is a card game with 2 random elements - card draw for your options and dice rolls for combat. Because a game can hinge on whether you roll 4 or less on a d6, I view the luck in that game as quite high. However, it has a spatially-testing tactical dimension (battle board) that many card games don't have, similar to simplified minis with cards. So this added skill compensates.Doomtown
is a card game with 2 random elements - card draw for your options and card draw for combat. But at least you can build your deck to be good at the combat mechanic (poker hands) so, whilst not as spatially tactical as Summoner Wars (there is a chess-like moves element), it is far more strategic (deck-building) so again the skill compensates. Though because decks can be built by anyone, it's easier for a player to do well with someone else's well-built deck.Netrunner
is a card game with 2 random elements - card draw for options and card draw for a successful exploratory hit by one side (access). However, it has a very tight action/economy engine that tests your resource management skills, making it a game of skill mainly because it has strategy, tactics and diplomacy (bluff, reading tells etc). Nevertheless, every dog can have his day. Anyone of a certain level can get lucky. That's why it's so popular because not everyone can be great at this game but everyone will score a win occasionally - which is very satisfying to its consumer base when it is considered a game with a high skill quotient.Game of Thrones
is a card game with just 1 random element - card draw for options. Instead of adding any more random element, it chose to be better than other games and give the player full control of what he plays from his Plot Deck. The interaction of Plots revealed simultanoeusly and cards drawn and chosen to be played is how the game tests both strategy (deck building) and tactics (improvising your play based on game state) whilst minimising luck's influence. If they had made the Plot decks random, like Objectives in Star Wars, it would be a far more random game and not the challenging high end game that it is.Mage Wars
is a card game with just 1 random element: it rolls lots of dice for its attacks (which because there are lots, creates a flat bell curve). It does not have card draw - you pick your cards! In addition, like Summoner Wars, it has a battle board that adds the tactical manoeuvering dimension. Now it could have done away with combat dice but that would have made the game into chess. Instead, they gave players an option to play decks (spellbooks) that have creatures with a special d12 effect die. If you want to test your luck, you can. Other players (like me) will shy away from that cruel mistress who often lets you down. In this way, it cleverly markets itself to the OCD strategiser (your spellbook has singletons of so many situational cards in a toolbox that you pick from), the minis tactician (battle board, mostly predictable attack rolls) and a casual player who may play a more luck-dependent build and win with it occasionally.
I mention all these games (in ascending order of skill in my opinion, but this is entirely subjective) because the designers of Conquest are facing a big question when they finalise their tournament rules: at what level of skill and luck-dependency are they pitching the tournament game?
As an example, what if in Conquest you rolled 1d6 for each point of ATK and inflicted 1 damage on 3-4 or 2 damage on a 5-6. That would be adding far too much luck, yet another random element to the game. Whilst making it 1 damage on a 2-5 and 2 damage on 6 may flatten the randomness but now adds an extra unneeded complication and game delay.
If you add too many random elements into Conquest (like random planets), the game becomes too much of a lottery so there will be no kudos in winning tournaments - which attract the hyper-competitive gamers, versed in Sirlin.
So currently we have random draw that is intrinsic and already tests our tactical skills to improvise with what we draw based on the game state. Do you think it's good to add even more luck in skilled tournament play with random planets that influence who wins? (See the Sun Tzu thread, I will write a new article on ROI soon.) Maybe there are too many skill games in the market like Thrones, with its precise play of controlled Plot Cards, and Mage Wars with its precise picks for every card draw. The designers need to decide where to market the game and pitch the game to its market. If it's for kids and casual players, then random planets makes sense. If it's for game theorists who don't want to feel predestined to lose due to bad luck, then they would be better advised to follow Thrones and empower players with the ability to customise a planet deck.
Recently, FFG released a very accessible but clever Game of Thrones themed Eurogame based on building a pyramid of HBO character cards, designed by the reputable Reiner Knizia. This product was aimed specifically at a market different to the other 2 products: the biggest and most complicated LCG and a lengthy diplomatic multi-player boardgame that is too treacherous for many tastes. Whilst the latter is a "headline" game at a gaming Sunday, the new Eurogame Game of Thrones is a throwaway "filler". In this way, FFG build up a portfolio of games with their Game of Thrones license so as to appeal to any level of gamer.
The question is: where do they pitch Conquest? Studying the rules, I feel confident that this is a deep "gamer's game" (unlike Doomtown which is frothy fun). This would also make sense with the skin given to the slick mechanics (hey, it could have been skinned with Dune if the Herbert estate had played ball, who knows?). The lovely gothic space horror WH40K universe already attracts gamers that are used to sophisticated rules. So why dumb it down by adding unnecessary random elements to such a polished design? It would be perverse if they did so.
If we assume that they do want to make the tournament game more attractive to heavyweight card gamers craving a new challenge (there is snobbery among gamers, just go look at stimhack), what then should they do with planets, especially when they are begging to be expanded and customised?
Many ideas have been suggested.
#1 PRECISE OFF-INITIATIVE PLACEMENT
My initial idea was based on a minis tradition - if one players gets to set the battlefield's terrain before a game, then the other gets to choose which side to deploy at and has the first turn (= initiative). Hence each player chooses the planet (terrain) where the opponent will have default initiative (a battle advantage) when it becomes First Planet.
Each player brings a deck of 7 planet cards with them, holding all in hand for planet placement.
X and Y roll for initiative. X starts with initiative.
Y puts 1 of his planets as First Planet face up.
X puts 1 of his planets as #2 face up not matching others face up.
Y puts 1 of his planets as #3 face up not matching others face up.
X puts 1 of his planets as #4 face up not matching others face up.
Y puts 1 of his planets as #5 face up not matching others face up.
X puts 1 of his planets as #6 face DOWN not matching others face up.
Y puts TWO of his planets as #7 face DOWN not matching others face up.
When it comes to revealing #7, use the top face down planet if it does not match #6 else the other.
In this way, you try to spread icons to make it as hard as possible for your opponent when he has initiative in First Planet Battles. You also mitigate the fact that X has initiative on 4 First Planet Battles including the key first one when kit is sparse and the key last one which wins the game.
I certainly don't fail this idea on grounds that it means "mixing cards" - by that grounds, you will never play negative attachments like excellent Suffering or (less so) Dire Mutation. If this was an issue, Netrunner's stealing of agendas format would never have made it the number #1 LCG.
However, judging it fairly, whilst it is precise in its intent to balance alternating initiative with alternating opponents choosing planets (7 card hands means its impossible to duplicate), it's just too inelegantly precise. Yes, you could have an alternating orientation of planets so they face their planet deck owner (who may need to collect at game end - hardly difficult to ensure you leave a game with your 7 planets). Perhaps it's the way that I described the player placements - very precise and controlled. It just seems to be too dry and chess-like. In short, it may be pitching Conquest too high on the scale of games listed above. Sometimes, you want a bit more messiness, a bit more randomness.
Dre2Dee2 had the elegant idea (in the Sun Tzu thread) of simply drafing a full pool of planets. Forgive me if I've changed it a bit but the gist as I would execute it would be this.
1. One player always brings a copy of all the planets in the game.
2. Randomly split all the planets evenly (so always have even number of planets in the game)
3. Draft, picking and passing until each player has chosen 5, discarding the remaining cards (so draft is not overlong).
4. Roll for initiative afterwards.
5. The player with initiative contributes 3 cards face down and his opponent adds 4 cards face down.
6. The remaining cards drafted are put aside without being revealed.
7. Shuffle the 7 face down planets and place the planets as per the rules, 5 face up and 2 face down.
8. Reveal your warlord (players do not reveal their warlord prior to this!)
This method has hidden subtleties. Say you are playing khymera swarm. Do you negatively draft Atrox Prime (1 damage) or bluff it by passing it to your opponent who does not know what you are playing. After all, you can only safely negatively draft 1 planet of your 5 choices as you don''t even know if you will be adding 3 or 4 planets during the 5-card draft. I like the double-bluffs and the "gambling on the card wheel" that a draft promotes.
On the negative side, it does add a bit of extra time to the game. But as FFG are belatedly learning, everyone loves a draft.
#3 ASYMMETRIC SEMI-RANDOM
Asklepios came up with alternating double placements. Unfortunately, I feel the ability to choose planets when it would be your initiative as First Planet is just too strong. However, I felt he had the start of a nice idea there and I would modify it as follows:
1. Players bring a Planet Deck of 7 different planets to suit their strategy.
2. Players dice for initiative.
3. The player without initiative shuffles his Planet Deck and places 1-5 face up randomly like normal, placing aside the last 2 cards.
4. The player with initiative goes to his Planet Deck and secretly chooses 2 planets not already face-up and places them face down at 6 and 7.
This changes the game dynamic radically as it creates an exciting asymmetry (the reason why games like Twilight Imperium III, Dune and Netrunner are popular are partly because of their asymmetric design). It prevents a player dictating which specific planet will be in a position in the flop and it gives the starting First Player an incentive to not just snowball but also plot for a long game. using his initially exclusive fore-knowledge of 6 and 7, the latter being a possible exciting Winner Takes All battle. (Everyone does realise there are no draws, winner of 7th Planet always wins?)
I feel giving one player (it would have to be the player slightly disadvantaged for not starting with initiative) full control of all 7 planets but with placement order random as spit-balled above would be too much of an advantage (just to keep planets owned by one player yet are still split when planets are won). This would change the balance of many builds and put far too much emphasis on the initiative coin flip. So I haven't considered it viable, sorry.
Personally, I like the random terrain set-up of Settlers of Catan
: it asks you to stop and analyse the set-up. However, I feel there is so much depth that can be added to Conquest by accommodating new planets via tournament rules that promote skill. I like the idea of a customised secondary deck (that a draft does not have) but I also like draft mind-games.
I think in the end, I like Dre2Dee2's draft idea (which I've fleshed out a bit above) best out of those listed so far. One reason is due to originality (yes, we all play 7 Wonders
) as so many LCGs already have a secondary customisable deck but mainly because it introduces that 3rd dimension of diplomacy (in the bluff interactions of a draft) that makes Netrunner so appealing to many and so far seen in this game only in the feints of deployment interest.
As for fears of lengthening games, a game is c.45 minutes according to Patrick Brennan. Adding a few minutes for a quick 5 card draft (and no agonising over a precise card placement) is not going to prevent rounds being 55mins max. within an hourly rounds schedule. Unfinished tie-breaker would be most total icons (2-2-0 beats 2-1-1, 2-1-0 beats 1-1-1, 2-0-0 beats 1-1-0) but I can't see any game lasting that long among tournament experts.
And that's another reason why planet luck has to be minimised: because game length means it will be best of 1 like Thrones (unlike 2 in Netrunner and 3 in Magic). So like Thrones, you really need to minimise all the random elements outside of card draw for a tournament. Else it loses credibility.
So, does anybody have any better ideas for how to add a modicum of skill to currently random planets for the tournament game without making it too dry and chess-like? As you can see from my endorsement of the draft, I am very open to other people's sensible suggestions...