Good RNG, Bad RNG

I feel kinda bad for having sung the praises for Hearthstone’s Tavern Brawl mode right as they released perhaps the worst iteration of it possible. This past week’s Brawl is “Encounter at the Crossroads,” and follows the (intentional?) pattern of every other week’s Brawl giving you a deck to play with. Instead of being filled with Webspinners, your deck is filled with completely random garbage cards, and up to three Legendaries. It ends up being 15 Neutral cards and 15 Class cards, for the record, and they are completely random – Mad Scientists in decks without Secrets, cards that trigger off of dragons without a single dragon in the deck, and so on.

My utter disgust with this week’s Brawl got me thinking: what’s the big deal? There is RNG everywhere, so why hate this kind? What’s so worse about this RNG as compared to the Webspinner Brawl or the spell one the week before?

I think my biggest problem is that this was Blind, Lingering RNG. Last week, you didn’t know what kind of creature you would summon… other than that it’d be an X mana cost one, it would come before the spell resolved, and you knew what was in the rest of your deck. You knew how much removal you were packing, you knew what synergies existed, you kinda knew what to expect from your opponent.

With a Crossroads deck, you know nothing Jon Snow. You didn’t even know whether to mulligan your shitty opening hand; if you threw anything back, chances are you’d get something even worse.

Spoiler alert: I lost this game.

Spoiler alert: I lost this game.

One of the benefits to RNG is the very thing that people often complain about: RNG can determine games. Yes, there will be games that you lose to coin flips. Yes, it feels awful when you’re winning to suddenly fall behind through no fault of your own.

At the same time… randomness can make things interesting. Randomness can challenge you, present you with scenarios you’ve never encountered before, and allow you to overcome defeat through judicious use of probability. Do you play around that 10% chance that the Piloted Shredder pops out something that destroys your strategy, or do you play it safe? That sort of thing is (or can be) an interesting decision, and different people have different thresholds of comfort when it comes to percentages.

I mean, imagine the opposite case with no RNG. Losing from your opening hand. Or at least your only hope being that your opponent has as bad a hand as you do. It feels bad, man.

This is what this Brawl has felt like all weekend long – inevitable lingering losses. I played in the neighborhood of twenty games to complete my dailies, and I was never blessed with those same insane, on-curve openings that I would routinely experience the sharp end of. In most of the games, I would have been better off conceding in the first two turns. Could you imagine someone feeling the same in the Spell-Minion or Webspinner Brawl? Don’t get me wrong, you could get way screwed out of nowhere in those Brawls. But that’s the thing: it’s immediate. It’s more fun, even on the receiving end. At least in comparison to being behind, with nothing good to play this turn, and knowing you have a 99% chance of drawing into even more garbage the next turn.

There’s RNG and then there’s RNG. This is the latter, it sucks, and I hope Blizzard never does it again.

Advertisements

Posted on July 20, 2015, in Hearthstone, Philosophy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I know you’ve seen the Kind Acts of Randomness article by Mark Rosewater, and even though it’s not the perfect rule in all cases, “randomness at the start, less over a game session” is probably something that needs to be followed with a card game.

    Like

    • Thanks for the link, as I didn’t actually read that one before. In the case of my post, I think it’s pretty aligned with his first point, which is randomness with upside. In my case, I knew I had a crappy hand, the opponent had a good start, and I had no idea what would be coming in my next card draw. That’s pretty much all downside.

      On the other hand, upside for one player is frequently downside for the other, so things get tricky.

      Like

      • That’s crazy. I ran across the Mark Rosewater post from following the @TL_monk/liquidhearth link in this post.

        Whenever I hear an argument that randomness in a game (and I board game) is an essential part of what makes it function, I now have to judge it by how it varies from the principles in that article and how fun it is if it does vary drastically. Sometimes radical randomness is great, sometimes even a little is terrible, so it’s not a hard and fast rule, but it is a good place to start IMO. In a competitive card game I’d argue that the rule almost always holds true though.

        Like

      • That’s crazy. I ran across the Mark Rosewater post from following the @TL_monk/liquidhearth link in this post.

        Damn, I just got fact-checked!

        I used to read Rosewater’s posts pretty religiously back in the day, especially since I was still mentally involved in M:tG despite not having anyone to play with in meatspace. At some point along the way though, I stopped. Looking at the M:tG sets, it was likely around Shadowmoor, which was 2008. So despite having linked to that other article that pulled from the 2009 Rosewater article, I don’t remember actually reading the source material separately.

        Like

      • Lol, I just figured you had read it, and didn’t want to come across as “hey, go read this amazing article I found.” ^_^

        Like

  2. I enjoyed this brawl, even though some classes were clearly stronger than others (poor shaman). It was basically arena without the draft, and features all the same tendencies of that mode. Weird cards, synergy cards minus the synergies, first person to drop a huge minion probably wins, etc.

    By contrast, the webspinner one was just kind of terrible. Every game felt the same, probably because there just aren’t enough beasts to make it a good variety. It’s odd because I thought I’d enjoy that one. The hunter naxx challenge can be fun, but maybe there it’s more fun because the opposing deck isn’t a mirror.

    RNG can be fun when it isn’t too overpowering. Piloted shredder RNG is actually fine, outside of a couple of edge cases like doomsayer. On the other hand, bane of doom RNG is just stupid, and unstable portal certainly has its moments. The classic example of bad rng though is probably ragnaros.

    Like

    • Well… I don’t actually like Arena anymore, for precisely that reason. At least, it feels like the card quality has taken a major nosedive since GvG strictly in terms of being presented with three bad options and no AoE removal, ever. It kinda makes me think that eventually Blizzard will need to limit the cardpool of Arena in another expansion or two, else start reprinting cards. In M:tG, they reprinted staple cards every major release for precisely that reason (i.e. Draft).

      As for Ragnaros, I’m fine with him. Yeah, he’s random and often leads to coin-flipping finishers. At the same time, when Rag doesn’t immediately end the game, you are left with a lot of interesting decisions to make. Do you flood the board with creatures and hope for the best? Do you throw all your creatures into him and save your removal for something more scary? Win or lose, I feel better about dying to Rag than I do dying to, say, some Frothing Berzerker or Gromm or OTK Priest combo.

      Like

  3. I think the All Random deck was bound to come to Tavern Brawl eventually, and I am not unhappy that it did. It was fun for a while. The shine soon wears off though, I’ll agree, and I would never want to see them do it again. Once was enough.

    Like

    • Which is typically what happens when you do the All Random thing; it’s fun a few times, but wears out its welcome very quickly, especially if it’s inherent to the “fun” of the game or session in question. The Munchkin games are similar in that there really isn’t an underlying structure that makes you want to play (it’s a very unsophisticated game), it’s the novelty, theme, and anarchic randomness that is attractive. So IMO it makes for a good game once a year or so, but I really can’t play it much more often.

      This isn’t to say that injecting randomness at regular (or even irregular) intervals is inherently bad, contra the Rosewater article I linked up-thread. Monopoly is the worst game ever, every copy should be burned, and in large part that’s because after about 3 times around the board, everyone knows who’s likely to win, and unless you are one of the top two, you know the game is over for you. With no way to shake things up and no catch-up mechanism, it’s nothing more than a long slog after that. The board game Urban Sprawl on the other hand has all the good parts of Monopoly (building and acquisition) but has both catch-up mechanisms and constraints on the lead player, and randomness injected at later times in the game. Randomness can be useful without being unfair, but overuse can make things unfun.

      Like

  4. You should go take a look of Kripp’s video for this brawl. He got a ridiculous number of legendaries legendaries in a match, so I don’t think there is a 3-max limit.

    Like

%d bloggers like this: