Luck, Chance, and Skill. Is there a best “mechanic”?

Although many games incorporate different elements of luck, chance, and skill, there are certain percentages of these “mechanics” that make a game a lot more fun and interesting. Depending on the kind of gamer you are, or even the kind of mood you’re in, you may want to play a game that relies more on luck and less on skill, or a game that is all skill and leaves nothing to chance. I really want to say that I enjoy games that have all varieties of these mechanics, but I’d be lying to myself. 

For me, a game that solely relies on luck is incredibly boring and can become frustrating when you have zero control over what your next move is. In luck heavy games, players cannot plan ahead. This may help act as a “feel good” mechanic for newer game players, as they won’t feel a disadvantage going up against veteran players. However, luck heavy games often shy away strategic players because there’s no strategy available for them to form. Given the recent events of life, I would recommend people to avoid luck heavy games, as it is good to feel like you have some kind of sense of control in our current environment. Many card games involve heavy luck mechanics. Each player is randomly dealt a hand from a deck of cards and has to deal with the consequences of that hand. For a moment, let’s talk about War. Each player is randomly dealt out the whole deck (minus jokers) and cannot even look at their hand. Players flip over their cards and whoever has the highest cards starts raking in the rest of the deck. Eventually, you end up with one player that has all the high cards except a couple, and it becomes a long unending game of the high cards getting passed from player to player until one person finally gets the entire deck. Obviously there aren’t competitive War clubs because it’s a game that’s just meant to pass the time, and that’s what all luck games should be marketed as. In luck heavy games, players don’t really get anything meaningly out of it, besides a player wide feeling of regret for starting the game. 

Chance heavy games greatly increase the level of enjoyment from luck games. Chance is a game mechanic in which certain things can happen in a game based on what has previously happened in the game. Take a deck of cards, for example. When you pull out the Ace of Spades and do not put it back in, you know that there is less likelihood that the next card you pull is an Ace, but there is a higher likelihood you will draw a Heart. Any game that has a draw without a replacement deck also has chance mechanics. Sushi Go is a great example of the chance mechanic. On the very first turn of each round, you do not know what cards are in the other players’ decks. Based on your deck alone, you have to make a decison of what you want to play, and you have to leave the rest of your moves up to what other players choose to play. Although each player individually gets the choose what they want to play, they also have to leave it up to chance to decide which cards are dealt out from the deck and which cards other players choose to play into their own scoreboard. Because a lot of Sushi Go scoring is based off the number of the amount of each card you get, players have to hope that other players aren’t going for the same types of cards as them. Chance heavy games like Sushi Go can also offer players the chance to also form a little bit of strategy, but not too much that new players feel they’re at a disadvantage. In these current times, everyone can find comfort in playing chance heavy games. 

Skill heavy games can be very intimidating to newer players. Skill heavy games require players to have a knowledge of how the game works as a whole and be able to create a multiple turn long plan as to what the player’s next move is. As somebody who has been playing games for a couple of years, I enjoy skill heavy games, but it is at its maximum enjoyment when playing against players at a similar skill level. You will never catch me playing any kind of competitive deck builder. Deck builders, like all games, are easiest to learn when taught by somebody who really knows the game. Unfortunately, in deck builders knowing the cards and how to engine build in that game is a huge advantage. It can take new players multiple games to figure out how to build a successful engine and repetitively losing the same game is really discouraging. One of the most popular deck builders is Dominion. There are a lot of different cards to choose from and a lot of different components to the game. In my very first game, the person teaching me chose cards that he knew worked well together and I did not. Yes, the cards were explained to me and for the most part I understood the basics of how I needed to build, but I was still barely keeping up and I ended up losing horribly to him. In any skill heavy game, this is the norm for many newer board game enthusiasts and they may shy away from these types of games because they don’t want to constantly be the underdog. Because skill heavy games typically take up longer amounts of time, this would be a great hobby to introduce to the family during quarantine. If you are a veteran player, however, I would recommend possibly scaling down your skill level for the first games just to encourage newer players to continue playing.

All in all, yes, all of these different “mechanics” can be enjoyed by different players. I think that as players “age” in their board game career, they tend to start from luck and chance heavy games and soon learn to appreciate more skill heavy games. Regardless of my personal feelings about these mechanics, games are meant to be enjoyed by all players and should be built that way, regardless of luck, chance, or skill levels.