Two Different Attitudes Toward Chance


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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9 Responses

  1. My son and I were talking about this and I think there’s a third vector of games. There’s an entire class of games that require you to pay attention to things (and Tic Tac Toe does have some of this element). Slapjack, Memory, War, Solitaire – all of them penalize players for missing details or inattention in ways that directly affect the outcome of the game. Beyond chance and strategy, attention does affect the outcome of games.

    Great piece! I enjoyed it BTW!Report

    • Another type of memory thing: for YEARS, no one in my family would play Trivial Pursuit with me, or, would only play it if I had to answer only “Sports” questions. I have one of those weird brains that latches on to dumb random facts (like: Tootsie Roll was the first commercially-sold wrapped candy and came out in 1896).

      And yet, can I remember what I went to the store to buy? NOOOOOReport

      • As probably will not surprise you, I had the exact same problem. While it’s slipping now I used to know the hugest and most random assortment of crap that rendered me an unstoppable Trivial Pursuit killing machine. But yes when it comes to things like remembering the phone call I was supposed to make or did I pay the water bill, not so much

        Also – Happy Birthday! I had to step away from the Twitters because I have several essays to finish but I was thinking about you and hoping it was a nice day. 🙂Report

        • it’s tomorrow….you didn’t miss it just yet. Though tomorrow is also my longest day AND they scheduled a faculty meeting during my one 45 minute break (aka “lunch”) so I will be eating my sad cup of yogurt while trying hard to figure out the most politic way to say “not it” on writing up the hellacious Program Review document for next year.Report

    • Aaron David in reply to Kristin Devine says:

      Hearts requires this also. My grandfather was ruthless at it, as he had a very good memory. He had one of those pre-computer computer jobs (he was a gear estimator for a ship building firm.) We would play with two decks of cards, so twice the number of hearts (26 possible) and two Black Maria’s and he would still be able to shoot-the-moon.

      And with Trivial Pursuit, I would often play against my first wife teamed with her sister and mother. I would still win most games as I have a good memory for minutia. But like fillyjonk, I can loose my glasses on my face.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kristin Devine says:

      War? I thought that War was pretty predetermined by the deck?

      Additionally, I’m trying to categorize Rock/Paper/Scissors and it’s a chance game that feels like worker placement.Report

      • Kristin Devine in reply to Jaybird says:

        If I didn’t notice who had the higher card my mom just kept going (so I missed my chance to do War) so I had to pay very close attention. I guess I thought that was part of the game and it’s always how I played it with my own kids.Report

  2. veronica d says:

    The Piquet series of miniature wargames handled the chance-versus-strategy thing in an interesting way. There were three components:

    One player at a time had “initiative,” meaning they could act. The other player could fire in response, but couldn’t necessarily “reload.” This initiative was random. Basically, each player rolls a d20. The player with the higher roll gets the difference in “initiative pips,” which they could spend to do stuff. Usually the winning player had a few pips, maybe 4 or 5. Sometimes they had 19. They could win initiative over and over again. You could never depend on getting initiative.

    However, the “things you can do” were determined by a card deck. If the current showing card was “movement,” then you could move. If it was “reload,” then you could reload. It costs an initiative pip per unit to do that thing. You could only spend that point once per unit per card. It cost an initiative pip to turn the next card.

    Combat results were highly random, but tended to be extreme. You didn’t “chip away” at enemies. You did a lot of damage, or none at all.

    People complained that it was stupidly random, but the point was, you could never feel safe in your plans. Each initiative roll, each card turn, each combat roll, could change everything.

    That said, the game still has a lot of opportunity for strategy. It’s not pure randomness. The decisions you make matter a lot.Report