Game Design

How to create variety in a deterministic game

last updated 2023-09-06

One of the most common argued benefits of randomness in games is variety: having some randomness in a game ensures that every match is fresh, or so the argument goes. But you actually don't need to wreck the competitive fairness of a game to do this.

A little bit of randomness is not okay

Dominion and Prismata are two modern games that have incredible variety by randomizing a single set of units or cards for *both players to have access to* before the game. After that, there's no randomness in Prismata (Dominion has other randomness and that's a flaw). This keeps the game fair and deterministic while playing but still fresh every time.

An older example is Chess960, which shuffles the back row of pieces to achieve the same effect. It actually goes back over 200 years under the name "Shuffle Chess". Rule changes that accomplish the same thing are trivial to come up with for most deterministic games. One I've thought of for Go is having "holes" in the board which act like the edge but are scattered throghout the middle and placed randomly at the start of the game. This would also defeat mirror Go.

Mirror Go

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