The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Warriors of God and the Sorites Paradox

I played Warriors of God tonight, and enjoyed it. I’m just going to give my initial thoughts, but there’s an excellent review of the mechanisms by Tom Hancock. Come back when you are done.

OK, some thoughts:

  • Dead easy rules. There’s some complexity in how the sequence of play, a few typos (that aren’t obvious at all and deal with the counter manifest), some ambiguity (the ‘flypaper rule’), but I explained the core quickly after having only read the rules.
  • Elegant action rounds — You either move 1-3 leaders from A to B (the limits being shown by the border). You can’t move away from an engagement unless you leave an equal number of leaders behind. (A control marker counts as a leader), or you can remove control (if you outnumber on leaders) or you can pass.
  • Simple combat — You get one die per troop (and leader) capped at the leader’s battle rating. The leader with the higher bravery gets to add the difference to each die, and sixes hit. Some complexity (particularly archers), but not bad.
  • The initiative mechanism works nicely. One player gets the first and last move (and one extra), the other player gets to pick one of two neutral leaders first, and sweep up leaderless troops in neutral areas first. Both sides have advantages.
  • Tough decisions — The simple rules give options. In our game, we had people moving in extra troops to battle to switch out a key stack (necessary because of flypaper rule), careful manuevering to avoid making a nincompoop the leader in an important battle. Deciding to take a siege (risking everything on a single die) vs. standing and fighting. Which leader to take? Ransom a troop, or hope he dies in jail?

But let me turn to a criticism voiced by Chris Farrell:

In general, the game doesn’t make you pick up the die unless you’re rolling for something really important. Sieges … are resolved on a single die roll … The initiative die roll will dictate whether the turn has 3 or 8 impulses … And you can only gain control of provinces at all on a 1:2 or 1:3 die roll.

This last thing actually is really the only thing that sort of bugged me about the game. Controlling provinces is the key both to winning, and to forming some sort of territorial coherency for your kingdom and therefore managing troop mustering and getting some sense of strategy beyond raw opportunism, and the difficulty of gaining control of provinces is kind of odd. You can only roll once per turn, which represents ten years, so it’s possible to send a leader milling around somewhere for 30 or 40 years (assuming he lives) and never actually be able to control the region. For me personally, this was almost a die roll too far.

For some reason, this got me thinking about the Sorites paradox. If you have a game decided by rolling a tough roll (a ‘1’ on a d6), that’s bad. But if you need to roll well, but throw lots of dice, that’s ok. How many dice is lots?

Well, if it were only area control rolls, then not many. But you have siege rolls, death rolls, initiative rolls. (Combat itself uses reasonable number of dice each round, so we’ll skip those). And you have up to 12 turns. In our game, we had ~6-8 leaders on the board most turns, plus a few area control rolls and a siege or two. So 2 (Initiative) + 14 (leader death) + 1 siege roll + 3 area rolls. Twenty important single die rolls a turn. Now, some of these are really coin flips, but still.

Some are more important, but the game clearly can hinge on some combination of rolls.

In our game, I invaded England with a brilliant leader (I forget who, a 4/3 Two Star leader) and enough troops to outlast the english. (I was rolling 4 dice hitting on 4-6). Since it was hopeless, the English accepted a siege. On a 3-6, I kill everyone and capture the leaders, on a 1-2, I have to disperse (and lose my troops because I don’t have enough space to go). I make the siege.

But more good luck is needed to cement the victory … on the next turn I have to take Brittany with my king (a coin flip) and not have any of my leaders die in England (which would free up troops that can be snapped up by new english leaders …). So I had a rather lucky combo, each roll relatively likely (except the coin flip for Brittany), but combined a fairly lucky combination. Other combinations would also have won quickly, but I’m not sure I could enumerate them.

Early on, I was consistently failing to acquire territory via rolls (which Chris mentions), but my leaders didn’t die young (or worse, get captured in their dottage and then unexpectedly survive, costing a VP or two). So for the first 5 turns (until the Siege of England), the game ran almost even.

So, coming back around — how many big rolls is enough?

I have no idea, but I suspect Warriors of God has enough to claim a heap. But WoG deals with managing risk. Your leaders will die out. You’ll lose troops. If you have 20 rolls where 1/6th of time bad things happen. you and your opponent should each get one bad thing a turn (and one more will bounce between you). If they only happen to you, you’ll lose. But since it’s a two player game you can concede if it gets out of hand.

I think I’ll get a few more games out of it; it’s enjoyable, and seems good.

It may actually be great. Too early to tell.

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Written by taogaming

March 31, 2009 at 12:45 am

Posted in Ramblings, Reviews

Tagged with ,

8 Responses

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  1. Hmm… haven’t played but would like to. Can you bring to GoF?

    I hear where Chris is coming from, though, and I wonder if the area control rolls are an example of trying to keep the dice rules too simple and linear. My impression is that the 3 rated leaders are the ones who founded new dynasties, etc. I can well believe that the 1 and 2 politcal leaders shouldn’t have much of a chance to grab control quickly, though, over time they may succeed. Giving the 3 a +1 on the area control roll (only) will still make it uncertain whether they will grab control in one turn, but they would become very likely to do so in 2 (8/9) or 3 (26/27) turns.

    tom lehmann

    March 31, 2009 at 4:06 am

  2. And you can only gain control of provinces at all on a 1:2 or 1:3 die roll.

    This is not entirely true — Leaders automatically get control of their home provinces. I’ve found, especially as France, to form your powerbase you must let your secondary leaders spend a turn “at home” to consolidate power.

    Scott DiBerardino

    March 31, 2009 at 11:30 am

  3. Re: Tom’s copmments

    I certainly understand the complaint … 10 years is a fairly reasonable amount of time to take control. (Then again, look at Alsaice-Lorraine, the various german states, etc etc. These things don’t happen quickly). The historical thoughts don’t bug me. My thought was perhaps all leaders should get +1 (so the worst leaders have a 1:3rd versus 1:6 shot), but the idea of only kings getting +1 seems fine.

    I don’t own a copy, so can’t bring it to the GoF. I’m sure one will be floating around, though.

    Re: Scott — True. I was referring to the times you roll, not automatic takeovers. But there aren’t leaders for all regions. For example, as France I got Lexumbourg, Burgundy & Orleans automatically, but could not get Champaign for the first 5 turns (fifty years), which meant I had two distinct areas and could redeploy troops easily. (Despite having the King camp out there two turns, and lesser leaders the other 3).

    Side note — There’s another important roll, the die/capture/rout roll for leaders after a battle.

    Brian

    March 31, 2009 at 11:41 am

  4. If you can simplify the assumptions a bit, you can answer the question of “how many dice rolls are enough” by using a binomial distribution.

    For example, let’s say there are a bunch of 50/50 die rolls in the game. Further, let’s assume that you’ve found that if one of the two players wins more than 60% of the die rolls, they’re practically guaranteed victory. How many die rolls does the game have to have so that there’s a 75% chance or better that the outcome will be determined by the players’ skill and not by the dice? Turns out you need about 40. To give yourself a 90% chance of player control, the number of die rolls jumps to around 70.

    With a little work, you could probably modify this procedure to deal with more complicated circumstances, but the method should stay the same.

    Larry Levy

    March 31, 2009 at 12:51 pm

  5. If you can simplify the assumptions a bit, you can answer the question of “how many dice rolls are enough” by using a binomial distribution.

    For example, let’s say there are a bunch of 50/50 die rolls in the game. Further, let’s assume that you’ve found that if one of the two players wins more than 60% of the die rolls, they’re practically guaranteed victory. How many die rolls does the game have to have so that there’s a 75% chance or better that the outcome will be determined by the players’ skill and not by the dice? Turns out you need about 40. To give yourself a 90% chance of player control, the number of die rolls jumps to around 70.

    With a little work, you could probably modify this procedure to deal with more complicated circumstances, but the method should stay the same.

    Larry Levy

    March 31, 2009 at 12:51 pm

  6. Personally, I think it’s all about a sense of control rather than balance. As I’ve mentioned before, a 50-50 die roll in which a bunch of the decisions the players made ended up pegging the risk at 50%, or a 50-50 die roll that the player can mitigate by planning for negative results, both are OK. If it’s just a crap shoot I can’t mitigate or plan for, then it’s frustrating.

    The death rolls are OK. I know the leader is at increasing risk of death, so if he’s a good one, I have pressure to use him. I can respond to that pressure or not. The decision to accept siege or not is reasonably nuanced even if it comes down to a stark die roll.

    The province control rolls, though, just felt lame. There isn’t much I can do to fiddle the odds, the fall-back plan tends to be to roll again next turn, and the bottom line is that for me anyway, it’s just boring. There had to be a better way.

    Chris

    March 31, 2009 at 4:12 pm

  7. The game doesn’t provide a sense of control. I agree that there isn’t a fall back plan, and that’s partially why I thought that a general +1 might be a good idea.

    I do think that the loss of an extra VP here and there isn’t a terribly big balance issue (the capture rolls and death rolls on capture are often just as important. But you do have some control over putting people into battle).

    Actually a non-boring idea is to add up all the leaders stars (and subtract mercenaries from all leaders used). That would provide option and be non-boring, but it would also mean that getting a bit luckier on death rolls would translate to even more VPs.

    Brian

    April 1, 2009 at 10:30 am

  8. The game doesn’t provide a sense of control. I agree that there isn’t a fall back plan, and that’s partially why I thought that a general +1 might be a good idea.

    I do think that the loss of an extra VP here and there isn’t a terribly big balance issue (the capture rolls and death rolls on capture are often just as important. But you do have some control over putting people into battle).

    Actually a non-boring idea is to add up all the leaders stars (and subtract mercenaries from all leaders used). That would provide option and be non-boring, but it would also mean that getting a bit luckier on death rolls would translate to even more VPs.

    Brian

    April 1, 2009 at 10:30 am


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