Killer Croquet features luck in a very prominent way: you roll dice, you draw cards, there are elements that are beyond your ability to control.
Luck is a common element in board games, but it is a tricky beast to control. A game with very little luck is prone to being solvable, or an early mistake can doom you from the very beginning of the game. On the other hand, a game that relies too heavily on luck makes players feel like they don’t really have control over the game, and if you don’t control the game, why play?
Chess has zero elements of luck in it, and as a result An amateur has no chance against a pro. Candy land is purely luck driven, there is no decision you can make in Candy land that will influence the game. Most of the board games that are considered truly great and entertaining fall somewhere on that spectrum.
For a game as wacky as Killer Croquet, I want players to take luck-based elements and be able to influence them with strategy and positioning.
When you hit a ball you can use three different options: the blue dice (1,1,1,2,2,3 ), the red dice (1,3,4,5,6,8), or both dice added together.
The primary goal of the game is a race, pass each wicket in the correct direction and the correct order to gain a benefit. There is a little strategy in choosing dice, but the first bit of the puzzle comes from choosing direction.
First, getting closer to the wicket is never as important as getting on a direct line with a wicket. With a couple big swings you can cross a lot of territory in very few actions, but you really have to line up the shot.
Secondly, other players provide targets beyond the primary objective, and these target can provide additional actions.
Different paths that players can choose quickly become calculations in odds. One direction has a 2:3 chance of putting the player on line to a wicket, while another direction only has a 1:2 chance of a good line, but has a handful of other targets along the way. Once players have experienced this, they begin to act defensively themselves to put their ball and player out of harms way.
Mitigating luck is all about giving players options to enact a strategy, and for that strategy to pan out within predictable parameters.
While luck figures predominately in the first stage of the game, a race to the midway point. The second stage of the game ramps up the strategy of the game significantly. After players reach the mid point of the game, they are presented with a variety of options.
-Knock out opposing balls for points.
-Knock down opposing players for points.
-Complete the course in reverse for a very large number of points.
With these three objectives in mind, a players’ options become increasingly varied. Going for player knockouts can be a quick way to shut out other players, but carries the risk of someone pulling ahead in the race. Going for the full course complete is a safer bet, but takes longer and gives other players chances to catch up.
While luck still plays a major role, players are given significant tactical options to pursue or disengage a variety of possibilities. Even till the very end, there is always a chance of a come from behind victory, but the better you play, the better your odds become. I try and take cues from the actual game of croquet, a pro should be able to do well, but an amateur should always be able to have fun.