TaKtiX: Chris Dyer

Chris Dyer is a lead playtester for Warlord, has been UK Champion in both Open and Campaign formats at the same time; he placed 2nd overall at his first KoHIT (2004) and highly in the second KoHIT (2005).

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Luck of the Irish

Straight away, I want to quash any rumours that Warlord is a game about luck. It's not. It's a game involving luck. If it was all about luck you wouldn't see the same names appearing consistently in the cuts of tournaments: these guys aren't there because they're blessed with good luck, they're there because they're great players. By the same token, people who say "I never win games because I'm always unlucky" are most likely poor players, using a time-honoured excuse for their losses rather than actually look at why they're losing.

Now, all card games involve luck, because you have little to no control over the cards you draw from your deck. Warlord has another random element to it, the D20. In theory that means that luck may play a slightly bigger part in this game than others, but it's not that huge a differance. Why not?

It's all about probability. (Bear with me, I gave up Maths when it all became too complicated.) Good players tend to eliminate the dependence on luck from their games. It's why Ar'tek is a popular Warlord: when you're looking to hit AC 12 and have +14atk it doesn't matter what you roll, barring a 1. It's the same principle throughout the game: if you have 5 chances to roll 15+ to win the game you're going to have significantly better odds of winning than if you've only got 1 chance.

What you are going to come across is clutch dice rolls. These are literally dice rolls that can win or lose you a game. Often these will be initiative rolls, but many times it's something like a small attack against a Warlord who's about to kill you. Now, if you roll the 18 that you need with your Brine Fiend then it could be argued that you were lucky. However, if your opponent was truly on top of their game then you wouldn't have that dice roll to win. Similarly, if you miss are you unlucky? No, because if you were playing well you wouldn't be in the situation where you're relying on one 15% dice roll.

I'm going to illustrate what I mean here with three examples of my play experience over time. First of all, let's rewind to June 2004. I was at Midlander, the first UK CE championships. Only SK and CE was legal at this point, so it was all pretty basic. I was playing a Garn Hearthstone mega heal kind of deck, and had got through to the final, where I was playing Mat Ledgerwood's Uthanak. We'd split the first two games, and the third had swayed backwards and forwards. We arrived at a point late in one turn. I'd managed to kill a lot of Mat's big fighters, and the only real offence Mat had was a Kul of Clan Tergoth, who had a pile of items, sitting in rank 2. I had only a ready Cobalt Gargoyle and a Sky, Mat has managed to exhaust all my considerable healing for the turn. Mat moved Kul forwards, I attacked and killed him. That dice roll effectively won me the championship: I'd removed the last real threat to my army for the next two turns, and from then on I finished him off pretty quickly. Was I lucky? Not really. I'd built up a fairly dominant board position and the dice roll was only about a 6+. Moreover, if I'd missed I wouldn't necessarily have lost the game, in fact I still may have won, but it would've been a lot harder.

Fastforward five months to KOHIT 2004. Sneak attack was now legal, and I was playing in the semi final of the singles against Rich "Kerebrus" Carter, in a Dezi'crah mirror match. Again, the game had gone to 1-1. Rich got the better start to the game, and killed large swathes of my army, before I managed to stick two wounds on him late in the turn with a Sniper Shot. Next turn, Rich tumbled my ranks, but missed that I'd fallen a Yemat to rank 2, and left Dezi'crah rank 1. I took the shot and rolled the 14 I needed to kill him. So was that lucky? Yes. I had only a 35% chance of hitting that shot, and I was lucky to get what I needed. On the other hand, the opportunity to make that dice roll only came after a fairly serious play error from Rich, (To be fair, it was about 10:30 and we were both half dead from fatigue by this point) who should never have given me that chance. Also, I might still have been able to steal the game later on.

For my final example, jump forward a year to KOHIT 2005. I'm playing my Albrecht against Luca Corridini's Raziel in the round of 16. I'm 1-0 up, and in a fairly dominant position. However, I'd all but spent out for the turn, with only a Jiyacin Fret ready. Luca chose to stun Raziel forwards after my attacks, and play a Ciane from hand. I attacked and killed Ciane, needing a 10+, leaving Luca in an I formation, and proceeded to wrap up the game next turn. Afterwards, Luca showed me his hand from that turn, which contained 2 copies of Tresven and a Eirlas, none of which he'd been able to play because Ciane's death had crippled his rank structure. My dice roll had effectively robbed him of 6 potential wounds. Was I lucky? Again, not really. I was in control of the game, had cards in hand and was 1-0 up. The 1 dice roll had secured the game, but it was far from over if I missed.

What I'm trying to communicate with these three examples is that the dice are in your hands. If you're relying on slim dice rolls to win then you've only got yourself to blame. If you're allowing your opponent dice rolls to win then you're inviting the chance to lose the game. Clutch dice rolls only exist when you've created a situation where the entire game hinges on one dice roll. Good players and good decks try to minimise the number of times these situations occur.

One other point. I fully admit that some games are completely decided by luck. If your opponent rolls nothing less than 15 and you roll nothing more than 5 you're going to struggle to win. However, these games are few and far between, and shouldn't stop a good player making a cut in a tournament. That's why we have a Swiss system: it removes a lot of the luck from a tournament. Also notice that all three of my example occured in matches in the cut. That's because the cut is far more of a lottery than Swiss, and good dice rolls and good draws can actually knock people out. It's the getting there that counts.

So, to use a cliche, we make our own luck. Apart from Rich Carter, who makes his via some sort of probability warping luck sucking device.


At Thursday, May 18, 2006 1:59:00 pm, Blogger TaKtiX said...

Have you read Paul's luck article on the original TaKtiX?

A bit more basic, but still fun...

At Thursday, May 18, 2006 3:01:00 pm, Blogger Chris Dyer said...

Yeah, I've tried to steer reasonably clear of what he said in that one, because I don't see the point in overlapping too much.

Any article that takes the piss out of Mike is fine in my book.

At Thursday, May 18, 2006 11:52:00 pm, Blogger Rich Carter said...

Luck Magnet has entered the building.

The best part of the 2004 Mirror Match with Chris was when we wrote up decklists that morning next to each other and noted the differences; then said "see you in the finals" - it was semi-finals, but it was still a nice call.

At Friday, May 19, 2006 10:10:00 am, Blogger Chris Dyer said...

Yeah, that was a really good game. The decks had enough differences that they played in really unique ways, but it was massively complicated to think through (as all Dezi mirrors are)

Hope you and Lil Kerebrus are keeping well.



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