News! New Rule For Going First and Choosing to Go Second

Posted: November 7, 2016 in News, Rules
Tags: , , , , ,

Greetings Fellow Dice Fans!

 

Earlier this morning, we had WizKids drop a new rule change on us. While many are welcoming the new rule, the timing is questionable. The first round of WizKids Open events are still going on, and the new rule goes into effect on Friday – the day before the next batch of WKO events. While I agree that the timing is pretty bad, a majority of the community has been begging for a fix to the first turn advantage issue so this isn’t a bad thing. It shows the community that WizKids is listening and trying to fix things that could be a potential problem.

Personally, I’m not crazy about the new rule, especially since the official playmats have a ‘Dice Bag’ section and no spot for ‘Out of Play’ which would be incredibly useful. Our locals did a test of the first turn rule when we heard that WizKids was looking into it. You can find our results, here.

Here is the official New Rule Announcement text:

Dice Masters – New Rule Announcement

Hey Dice Masters fans!

As part of our efforts to improve Dice Masters and communicate with our player base, we wanted to give some insight into how we have processed feedback from the community and are addressing a growing concern. Most importantly, we wanted to highlight a change to the way the game is played.

New Rule: The player who goes first in a game of Dice Masters, on their first turn, only draws 3 dice from their bag during their Clear and Draw Step, and places 1 die from their bag out of play.

How did we get here?

Many Dice Masters players felt that going first was a big advantage. The fact that going first in a heads-up game is an advantage isn’t a surprise, but many players felt the magnitude was too severe. They felt like losing the random chance of going first put them at such a severe disadvantage, with all other things being equal, that they would still lose to a less skilled player. Were they right? That was our first step to investigate.

We had a small number of playtest groups focus on trying to determine how likely the first player was to win when two aggressive teams faced off in a mirror match? Depending on the particular mirror match in question, we were seeing the first player won somewhere between 72% and 76% of games. In total, our playtest groups logged over 100 games just trying to determine the current state of the first turn advantage.

Across many, but not all of those games, we collected notes about what was creating games where the second player would win in an upset. Between those notes and the rate at which the first player was winning the game, we were confident that going first was actually, and not just anecdotally, too much of an advantage. This led to an important question: how can we fix this?

There were a few different options that were available to us, some of which are below:

  1. The first player only draws 3 dice on their first turn
  2. The first player only draws 3 dice on their first turn, and places a die from their bag out of play
  3. The second player rolls 5 dice on their first turn
  4. The second player gains an extra energy on their first turn

There are tradeoffs in each of these approaches. Some options emphasize giving the first player less, and others emphasize giving the second player more. One of our goals was to change the probability of winning to be as close to 50/50 as possible.

Problem: Changing the flow of bag refills

Experienced players understand that timing their purchases to when their bag is going to refill is a fundamental skill of Dice Masters. Option 1 and 3 both have a big impact on how your Sidekicks and purchased dice flow through your Used Pile and bag. Normally, rolling an extra die in a future turn will cost you an energy now. Part of the advantage of such an effect is that, when used early, the quality of the dice you’d be drawing from your bag greatly increases. Changing the flow of bag refills with options 1 or 3 would restrict future card designs.

A subset of this problem happens when the second player rolls 5 dice on their first turn. This means that player 2 would potentially have access to a 5 cost character on their 2nd turn, which at that point in the game might mean dropping a huge bomb on their opponent. While certain strategies may exist to combat this, players shouldn’t feel obligated to pack those into every single team or risk getting run over by an incredibly quick 5 cost character.

Problem: Memory effect

Option 4 captures part of the idea of option 3 by giving the second player more energy to spend, but it creates the need to remember you have an energy you can’t see, as well as having an inelegant feel to it. Experienced players may be used to extra energy from what’s often called “bag burn” but by the time they first experience or capitalize on that rule, they’ve probably played dozens of hours’ worth of Dice Masters. Someone experiencing the game fresh is significantly more likely to forget they had that invisible energy to spend. Perhaps they remember after it’s too late to spend the energy – in that case they were not just more likely to lose, but they’d also feel bad about a mistake they made.

As for elegance, having the second player do something different from a normal turn instead of the first player doing something different creates a full turn of the game for each player to forget about that difference.

The winning option from our internal testing and theories was Option 2, to have the player who goes first start with a single die out of play and only draw 3 dice from their bag. We found that there was a marked improvement for the second player’s chance of winning, but we wanted to make sure that it was still true for players out in the wild, not just in the Dice Masters Lab. WizKids selected some stores, and set experimental tournaments into motion.

We found that across all the games at those tournaments, the first player won only 59% of the time out of over 250 games. We believe this average to be representative.

When will this change take place?

For official tournaments, the new rule for going first should be applied as of Friday November 11th, 2016.

For tournaments, other than WizKids Open events, stores may choose to implement the new rule by either unanimous player consent at the beginning of the event, or by including the “New Rule” text from the beginning of the article in their WIN event listing at least 1 full week prior to hosting the event.

This new rule supersedes existing rulebooks. Due to the rapid pace we work at, the Marvel Dice Masters: Iron Man and War Machine Starter Set and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Dice Masters: Heroes in a Half Shell Box Set do not include this update to the rules. Our upcoming DC Comics Dice Masters: Superman and Wonder Woman Starter Set will include the new rule for going first as part of its text.

I’m very happy that WizKids is listening to the community. This is definitely not a bad thing, even with the odd timing. I had hoped that we would have seen the rules change drop after the first WKO season, since it had already begun, but I suppose they released it as soon as they could.

At least the rest of this batch of WKO’s will be consistent with the next round of WKO’s in 2017. Only one weekend of WKO’s was able to slide past the new rule. There is a week to test team adjustments, which will probably just be learning purchase order for first turn. This is a minor adjustment compared to say, a whole set dropping and being legal just in time for a major event.

Thanks to WizKids for the work that they put into this issue and for implementing a fix for it, even if the timing is weird. Communication from WizKids is always a positive no matter how minor. Even if it’s only a simple answer on the rules forum to a question that isn’t super complex, it’s still communication and shows effort.

I also wanted to mention one of the answers that WizKids gave on WORF. I’ve seen the question popping up more and more so I’m really glad they answered this. I’ve seen several folks ask if they win the die roll/coin flip to go first, can they choose to go second? The answer is, absolutely – you get to choose. You can find the ruling, here. This is important going into the next batch of WKO’s since the new rules will be in effect.

Good luck to all those testing for and playing in the upcoming WKO events!

Roll on, Dice Masters!

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