Random Elements

Random elements are interesting, because they introduce information into the game that is hidden from all of the players. When random elements are included, you need two attributes to perform well, some ability with basic statistics, and luck.

Settlers has a large random element, resource production is determined by the roll of the dice, the sum of two six sided dice to be precise. Now, I'm going to assume that everyone is aware of the probability distribution of the sum of two six sided dice, but you'll notice the link if you aren't aware of the breakdown. Settlers has some complexities to it that make a simplistic analysis dangerous, but I'm going to do that anyway.

I think it would be fair to say, that a Settlers player will see an advantage if they have resource production that occurs on the role of a six or an eight. These numbers are the most common (barring seven, which has special meaning and does not produce resources). If you produce resources with these common rolls, then you are acting to mitigate the effect of the random element, via statistical analysis.

Whilst we expect the totals six and eight to occur most often, there is no guarantee that this will actually occur over the course of a given game. This is where you must rely on luck to aid you. If you produce resources on a roll of 3 or 4, and this total is rolled often in the game, then you have gained an advantage from your luck.

If a game is influenced too greatly by luck, then this will tend to detract from its interest to the serious gamer. We seek games that reward skill and ability during play, and a large element of luck will reduce the impact of skill on the game.

Why are random elements included in games, they introduce luck, and reduce the skill of play?

Firstly, they encourage the use of different skills, statistical rather than deterministic analysis. Not everyone can be a superb Chess player, we recognise this, and design games that require different skills.

Secondly, they introduce an unpredicatable element to the game. Once you are clearly winning in Chess, the game may as well be over, once you are clearly winning in Settlers, it is always possible the dice will turn against you, and never allow you to produce more resources.

Finally, rolling dice and flipping cards is exciting, and that is something that is always worth considering, we are playing games after all.


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