Luck or Skill? (Part Three)

This is the final installment in our discussion of the role of luck and skill in Warhammer Underworlds. We are going to wrap things up by looking at the factors that are completely outside of your control as a player. These are the things that definitely come down to luck and they can be source of major frustration, if you don’t know how to deal with them.

Thankfully, it’s a pretty short list, so without further ado, let’s get on with it.

First, there’s no way you can control the order in which you draw our objective and power cards. Unless you are cheating and stacking your deck, this should be completely random. I am sure we’ve all had that amazing hand that comes at just the right time and seals our victory. Equally, there are just as many times when the cards come out in the ‘wrong’ order and make the game seem unwinnable. I can recall several games where I spent a lot of activations hoping to draw the one card I needed to win, only to find it lurking on the very bottom of my deck. If I had been a little more lucky, I could probably have won.

Second, you have no way of influencing the ‘initiative’ roll-off that takes place at the start of Turn Two and Turn Three. Both players have an equal chance of winning this roll, so it comes down to pure luck. When you are consistently losing these roll-offs, it can seem like you are fighting an uphill battle. The opponent will often choose to take their activation first and may be able to kill one of your fighters before you have chance to respond. This can be particularly demoralizing if it’s a fighter that was in a prime position to score some objectives and gain some glory. If only you had won the initiative roll-off, things might have been different and you could have taken the lead.

Third, in a tournament setting, you have no control over who are to matched-up against. It’s entirely possible that in the first round you will face the hard counter to your warband and deck, potentially ending your chances of winning the tournament immediately. This can be an exceptionally tough break if you have spent a lot of time preparing for the tournament and refining your tactics. All that practice time can seem like it was for nothing, simply because you had an unlucky tournament match-up. If only you could have dodged that one warband, maybe you could have taken home the glass.

And, to be honest, that’s pretty much it. Aside from these three factors, you have some degree of influence or control over everything else in the game. To recap:

Things You Can Control

  • Choice of Warband
  • Deckbuilding
  • Board selection.
  • Fighter Placement
  • Hand Size

Things You Can Influence

  • Combat Dice Rolls
  • Objective Placement
  • Starting Hand
  • First Round Initiative Roll

Things That are Random

  • Card Draw Order
  • Second and Third Round Initiative Roll
  • Tournament Match-Ups

So, as we can see from this list you have some degree of control over most of the important things in Warhammer Underworlds. Most of the time, player skill rather than player luck, will determine the outcome of a game. Of course, there will always be outliers and crazy games, but these occur far less often than we probably believe. After a hard loss, it’s much easier to blame ‘bad luck’ than to analyze the decisions that put you in that position in the first place. And as competitive gamers, it’s particularly fun to berate the dice over a beer. But if we want to improve as players, we have to be honest and take ownership of our decision-making process. The choices we make before the game and during the match typically have much more influence on the outcome of a game than the roll of a dice.

Indeed, we can even take action to manage the things that are completely random, so that luck has a less of a decisive impact on our games. The randomness of card draw order will be less painful if we have multiple cards with similar effects and don’t pin our hopes on drawing that ‘one card’. Losing the Second and Third Round initiative roll will be less important if we don’t place our vulnerable fighters in positions where they can be taken out easily. Bad tournament match-ups will be less of a factor if we don’t build a deck that has an obvious hard counter.

When all is said and done, there’s a lot we can do to put ourselves in a favorable position and make sure we are on the right side of the odds. In the end, Warhammer Underworlds is more a game of skill than a game of luck. And if you don’t agree, then maybe we can have a roll-off.

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