July 28, 2005

More considerations

So, after further thought and testing, I'm definitely revising Nil downward, most likely to 20 points.

Two other considerations lie on the board for me:

First among them is the Hold round, where no passing occurs. On the passing schedule given in Rules of Ambition, I have the 4th and 6th rounds set as Hold rounds. I'm considering getting rid of them. They're more chance-driven than the other rounds, and I don't see what they add to the game (if anything) justifies the increased role of card-luck.

Many of the early rules of Ambition were inherited from Hearts, and discarded when found not useful in the new game. For example, there was a originally a rule against playing the K, or spade honors (the 6 was not introduced yet) on the first trick. In November 2003, I discarded this rule. The analogous rule in Hearts was useful; in Ambition, it was not. Likewise, I feel that the Hold rounds are more useful to Hearts than Ambition.

If I'm going to remove the Hold rounds, the question remains: With what, if anything, shall I replace them? I'm in the process of testing out a "Request" mechanic, and may introduce that if successful.

My second consideration concerns Slam. I'm considering making an even more drastic scoring revision: Slam scores 25 points. However, other players score no points for the round (but no strikes). Since this eradicates any difference between a 57-point Slam and a 75-point Slam, the round might as well be ended (in this case) as soon as Slam is achieved.

This revision won't alter, by much, the value of a Slam to the Slamming player. What it will do is eradicate some of the pesky complications Slam introduces for the other players. Consider a round that splits 57-29-5-0. Three players get decent outcomes (36 for Slam, 29, 20 for Nil) and one gets the shaft: a 5-point understrike. We must ask the question: why does he (or she) get punished especially? After all, the Nil player contributed as much to the Slam as the 5-point understriker. My view is that, if a Slam is made, the three other players ought to share equally in the punishment.

It's not completely "fair" for a person to score an understrike during a Slam round. A Slam usually happens when, near the second half of a round, one player is able essentially to take total control of the round. This means that the understriking player failed to take enough points, but effectively had half a round in which to do so. Moreover, it seems dubious to reward Nil in this case, when it is (from this perspective) only the accomplishment of having taken no tricks in a partial round. For these reasons, I feel that those things happening in the round aside from the Slam, in truth, are not always representative of how well a person played.

A Slam changes everything about a round of Ambition: cards that might normally be end-of-round winners become losers, for example. This means that a hand that could usually be played for ~20 points can become a 5-point understrike. This adds to the risk of taking one's first points (and forfeiting any opportunity for Nil). So, the threat of a Slam encourages Nil. This is not what I want. That Nil facilitates Slam is desired; that aspect of the game seems to work as designed, but that Slam encourages Nil is somewhat problematic (for no other reason, because said Nil further facilitates Slam). For this reason, I feel that it's overall for the best that, in the event of Slam, players share the same outcome: a 25-point loss relative to the Slammer.

So I am likely to implement these changes in the future.