Chance vs. Fate

We all remember fondly those board games of our early years: Parcheesi, Sorry!, Chutes and Ladders, and so forth. They were easy to play and a lot of fun, but in the end we outgrew them and perhaps took up other games that involved more thinking. In this article, though, I tell you a simple way to add more strategic depth to the same old games, by replacing “chance” with “fate.”

To be sure, there’s still strategy in many games of chance. In Parcheesi and Sorry!, for instance, you must decide which piece to move after you throw dice or draw a card. This allows you to make your pieces help each other, like the balls in croquet. But still you don’t know what’s in the cards until your draw. But what if you did? Surely, if you knew what was coming, like the next piece in a game of Tetris, you’d be preparing beforehand and you’d be able to take better advantage of the chance.

Enter “fate”, which is nothing but chance that is known beforehand, without losing its random character. You can convert dice chance into dice fate, for instance, by throwing the dice a number of times and recording the result, before you actually use the values. Things get even more interesting if the other players also know what’s coming your way, and can prepare for it.

To illustrate the point, I’ve written this set of instructions for using fate with a standard Sorry! game. Gameplay is pretty much like the original, but instead of drawing unknown face-down cards you draw face-up cards from a deck that is fanned for everyone to see what’s in it. I’ve also written this little app, which generates a whole bunch of decimal or hexadecimal digits, letters, or dice values by pressing a button. You can use it to make decimal “fates” for Sorry! for each player at the start of the game. Then you write them all on a piece of paper, and use the digits as card values in strict sequence, crossing them out from the list as they are used.

The change in gameplay is spectacular. With fate, you can prepare for an opponent being able to take away your best-placed piece. You can distribute your movement points among your pieces much better, so you can place them more accurately where you want them to be, but so can your opponents. It becomes a strategy game.

As it turns out, the idea is not entirely new. This post talks about some Sorry! players having tried just that (look for “Tortuga”) with similar results. So give it a try with Sorry!. Try using fates with other games that include an element of chance. Maybe you’ll like them better than the originals.

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