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Trickerion Tricks Analysis: Which Trick Type Reaps Most Rewards?

Wow, what an day this has been. Sometimes you set off to do a board game analysis and it is relatively easy to do. Other times…well…other times it turns out to be insanely complex indeed.

A close friend and I recently played Trickerion: Legends of Illusion together, and it has led to a lot of lunchtime discussion. Now, this is going to be a long article, so I don’t want to spend too long introducing it, but needless to say we have discussed a lot whether a game like Trickerion can be optimised as a game. Is it possible to optimise play? If so, then the question becomes: “How?”

Well, there are a few different ways to take the question. The first way we are going to approach it, with this article, is with the Trickerion tricks and whether those tricky Trickerion tricks can trick us tricksters into tricky tries to triumph totally. In other words – is one of the Trickerion trick types totally dominant over the others when it comes to the amount of reward yiu get back?

To do so, we are going to break each of the core 32 tricks down, not including the Dark Alley expansion, to see:

  • How many different types of each component type they need (basic, advanced, or superior)
  • How much those will cost in total
  • How many of each reward type they get
  • What the total number of rewards they get are
  • Finally, what sort of ROI they get for total cost of components to total reward generation.

Now, for this we are going to make a few assumptions in order to actually be able to analyse them. These are:

  1. We are going to make the assumption that all tricks need to be paid for in full. What this means is we are assuming that all components need to be bought outright, and you can’t use any components from earlier tricks to make them. This is obviously not ideal, but there are so many combinations that realistically it is near impossible to compare them all. There could be a further analysis looking at whether trick types can form chains with components within their group, but since I have spent a good few hours getting this far, we are not going to look at that in this article.
  2. We are going to make the assumption that all rewards are equally weighted. The only base reward that can be taken at face value are fame points. Otherwise coins are as good as the best thing you can spend them on, and shards are as good as what you spend the excess energy on. Since we thus can’t definitely say which is best, we are going to weight all three the same…as “1”. Thus, this means we are actually counting the number of rewards rather than the value of those rewards. Now, there is an in-game scoring system based on the end game, where in Fame = 1 point, Coins = 0.5 points (or 1 point for 2), and Shards = 1 point. This is for the end game though, so it doesn’t help work out the mid-game ROI of each.
  3. We are only looking at the base game and not the Dark Alley expansion. This is simply because I haven’t played with the Dark Alley expansion yet.

For those who are interested, before we begin, the total list of cards in Trickerion is this – not including the Dark Alley expansion, and where FT is Fame Threshold –

  • Enchanted Butterflies (Optical, FT 1)
  • Rabbit from a Hat (Optical, FT 1)
  • Pub in a Bottle (Optical, FT 1)
  • Card Manipulation (Optical, FT 1)
  • Shattered Mirror (Optical, FT 16)
  • Fishing in the Air (Optical, FT 16)
  • Self Decapitation (Optical, FT 16)
  • Paper Shred (Optical, FT 16)
  • Stocks Escape (Escape, FT 1)
  • Burning Mummy (Escape, FT 1)
  • Water Tank Escape (Escape, FT 1)
  • Barricaded Barrels (Escape, FT 1)
  • Walled (Escape, FT 16)
  • Wolf Cage (Escape, FT 16)
  • Prison Break (Escape, FT 16)
  • Zig Zag Lady (Escape, FT 16)
  • Spirit Hand (Spiritual, FT 1)
  • Mind Reading (Spiritual, FT 1)
  • Window to the Otherworld (Spiritual, FT 1)
  • Breath of Life (Spiritual, FT 1)
  • Floating Table (Spiritual, FT 16)
  • Ghost Trap (Spiritual, FT 16)
  • Pepper’s Ghost (Spiritual, FT 16)
  • Future Sight (Spiritual, FT 16)
  • Linking Rings (Mechanical, FT 1)
  • Chinese Sticks (Mechanical, FT 1)
  • Levitation (Mechanical, FT 1)
  • Living Piano (Mechanical, FT 1)
  • Bullet Catch (Mechanical, FT 16)
  • Sawing the Assistant in Half (Mechanical, FT 16)
  • Mechanical Hornet (Mechanical, FT 16)
  • Vanishing Bird Cage (Mechanical, FT 16)

Now the admin is out of the way – let’s begin –

Trickerion Board

The Trickerion Board

Which Trickerion Trick Type Is Best (Or At Least Yeilds The Best ROI So Far As Rewards Are Concerned)?

Okay, so let’s jump straight in. The first thing we need to do is determine where there is any symmetry in the cards or whether every card is unique. Likewise, we need to determine what the costs of each card are.

To do this, we are going to break the tricks down into their component families, and this can be done by looking at the Fame Threshold 1 and Fame Threshold 16 sets individually, as well as then comparing them.

Fame Threshold 1 Components

There are 16 Fame Threshold 1 cards within the game, and immediately we can see there are very few similarities between tricks. In fact, there are only four tricks that have the same number of components, and those are Enchanted Butterflies (Optical), Barricaded Barrels (Escape), Mind Reading (Spiritual) and Linking Rings (Mechanical). These are the only four cards to have any form of symmetry, as the quantities with the other cards tend to vary a lot. Coincidentally (or more likely – completely by design) those four tricks are the only tricks you can start the game with based on the resources you get. All the other tricks massively vary – on one side there is something simple like the Tickerion trick Rabbit in a Hat (Optical), and on the other side there are Fame Threshold 1 tricks like Levitation (Mechanical).

These get even stranger when we look at the rewards for each Fame Threshold 1 trick, as we see even more variety.

Fame Threshold 1 Rewards

As you can now see, there are now only two tricks that have similar rewards – and those are Barricaded Barrels (Escape) and Living Piano (Mechanical). This seems more like luck than design, since Living Piano costs twice as much as Barricaded Barrels in regards to the coin value of the components.

So, the Fame Threshold 1 cards vary a lot – what about the Fame Threshold 16 cards?

Fame Threshold 16 Components

Well, with the Fame Threshold 16 cards we can see there is absolutely no symmetry. All the cards are different. This pattern continues through to the rewards that are possible to be reaped in return.

Fame Threshold 16 Rewards

As you can see, some offer great rewards, like Pepper’s Ghost (Spiritual) get loads of rewards, whereas something like Self Decapitation (Optical) don’t get many at all. We see a tiny bit of symmetry with the rewards, but again this seems more like luck than design – Wolf Cage (Escape) and Ghost Trap (Spiritual) give the same rewards. This is because trapping a ghost and escaping a wolf are the same in the eyes of the adoring public.

What we can see, through analysing the tricks like this, is that there is very little symmetry, and instead everything varies. This is a really interesting choice, as where it adds variety to the game, it can also make it difficult to balance.

So, let’s take a closer look.

Trickerion Market Row - Filled with Resources

The Marketplace in Trickerion

Are the Trickerion tricks well balanced when it comes to physical reward generation (#)?

Now comes the real tricky bit. In order to properly understand if tricks are balanced or not we need to work out ROI (or Return on Investment). What this means is we need to understand how much each trick costs, and work out the return in regards to the number of rewards.

(Of course, it is worth pointing out at this point again that we are only looking at the number of rewards and not a reward value. Thus they may be perfectly balanced in benefit, even if they aren’t in number.)

To work out cost, there is a relatively simple formula. All Basic components in the game have a base cost of 1 coin. All Advanced components have a base cost of 2 coins. All superior components have a base cost of 3 coins. That means, when laid out in an Excel sheet, the formula was this –

=(E2*1)+(F2*2)+(G2*3)

That is where the number of Basic components was in E2, Advanced in F2, and Superior in G2.

Off the back of that, we can look at the cost of cards per trick type.

Trickerion Escape Tricks Breakdown

Trickerion Mechanical Tricks Breakdown

Trickerion Optical Tricks Breakdown

Trickerion Spiritual Tricks Breakdown

As you can see, there is a lot of variety.

With that in mind, the next step is to work out the total number of resources gained per type of trick.

Trickerion Escape Tricks Reward

Trickerion Mechanical Tricks Reward

Trickerion Optical Tricks Reward

Trickerion Spiritual Tricks Reward

Now, we have rattled through a large number of graphs at some speed there, and I’m sure you can draw a fair few of the conclusions yourself. There are, in my opinion, two things really worth pointing out though.

Firstly, Mechanical tricks return very few shards. I’m not 100% sure what the point is behind that, but it is worth pointing out.

Secondly, as with before, there is very little consistency. Every card really is unique, and that is cool, but, as mentioned before, can be difficult to balance. So far we have been layout out and simplifying the facts. The real challenge is yet to come.

Working Out The ROI of Trickerion Trick Types

Now we actually have all the pieces of the puzzle (or this of many many Trickerion puzzles) we need to start putting it all together. Now the games can truly begin.

Okay, so we can take the total reward and divide it, per trick, by the total cost. This gives us a Return on Investment where 1 is the best it can be in this case. These can be divided by Fame Threshold 1 and Fame Threshold 16 again.

Fame Threshold 1 ROI

Fame Threshold 16 ROI

Likewise, I made this by accident, but it shows the ROI of all 32 tricks next to each other.

All Fame Threshold ROI

Again, there is very little pattern, bar the four starting tricks (as explored earlier) that have an ROI of 1. They all cost two resources, and they all give 2 rewards in return. The worst trick in the game for ROI is Ghost Trap (Spiritual), closely followed by Chinese Sticks (Mechanical).

Now we have broken it down by trick, we can look at it by trick classification, class, or type.

Firstly, we can look at them by resources needed.

All Trick Components vs Cost

As you can see, Escape tricks require the least resources overall, and Spiritual tricks require the most.

All Trick Reward vs Total Rewards

Next, we can see a similar style graph for rewards. Escape get the least reward for spending the least money. Instead, Spiritual have the highest earning potential. That seems fair.

This doesn’t really help though. Yes, it seems clear cut, but what about the actual Return on Investment as a solid number?

All Tricks ROI

Well, here it is. Yes, Spiritual earn the most; however, them requiring to spend the most means their ROI is actually pretty poor when it is looking at getting a physical number of things back in return. Escape, on the other side of things, have a really good ROI.

What Does This Tell Us? (The Problem With This Analysis)

So, this is the bit where everything kind of falls apart. What we’ve basically established over the past 1,700 words and 19 graphs is that you get better return on investment through Escape tricks if you…well…just want to earn things. There are a load of different flaws in this, and there will need to be a follow up article. Flaws include:

  1. Tricks can be performed multiple times before needing to be re-prepared, so what is the value in the use of the meeple/character per preparation step. Likewise, how many times can each trick be performed as a maximum throughout the game?
  2. What if the rewards aren’t equal, and fame/coins/shards aren’t worth 1/1/1? There is an end-game scoring system, as mentioned earlier, and in hindsight it makes sense to look at this in that way to some degree. That being said, in order to be 100% accurate we need to know what every resource can be used for at every point in the game. This would be some insane feat of mathematics that is well beyond this simple analysis. There are literally millions of combinations.

So, all-in-all, the outcome is interesting to see in regards to coins and purchasing for physical return of rewards; but the actual in-game ramifications of this may vary a huge amount.

So, realistically speaking, now we know this and now we know the flaws in this analysis, we can follow up with more articles to try and fully understand the tricks in the game.

In the meantime – what are your thoughts? As I pointed out, there are huge flaws in this analysis – so if you have an ideas on how to do it better, please let me know in the comments below. What would be good experiments? How can we work it out? Let me know below.

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