Raiders of the North Sea – Offering Tiles – Analysis
You have to love a well balanced game. There are so many games out there that require more play testing when first released, so much so that you have to really appreciate games that are near perfect when they come along. Raiders of the North Sea is one of those near perfect games. It is sharp and smooth and crispy and crunchy and tastes like chicken. It is a masterpiece.
What is more, it is a beautifully balanced game when it comes to points, and this is something we are going to be looking at today.
Raiders of the North Sea is a game in which there are lots of different ways of scoring points. You can build your defences, you can hire specific crew, you can kill that crew off in glorious battle, you can raid, and you can make offerings to your local chieftain. Recently, I became a bit obsessed with this final option and found myself playing an entirely offering game. Needless to say, it didn’t win (when presented with the lovely points salad of Raiders, you don’t win by eating only lettuce) but it did bring a few things to light that I thought I would share in this article today.
Yes, in the great tradition of taking one aspect of a game and looking at it really really intensely, we are going to take a closer look at the Offering Tiles in Raiders of the North Sea. Let’s explore the intricacies of bribing authority with cattle.
Exploring and Analysing the Offering Tiles
Okay, so let’s start with the basics. There are 16 offering tiles in Raiders of the North Sea, all of which require you to pay resources to the chieftain in return for points. Those points range from 2 to 6 per tile, and each requires a mix of silver, gold, iron, and livestock.
After spending a happy 15 minutes in Excel, I can tell you that, if we look at the data, it looks like this:
As you can see, I have very imaginatively named the Offering Tiles “One” through “Sixteen”. They are in descending value of points.
Now, from this we can immediately make a few deductions based on the laws of averages. Those are:
- The average value of a tile (Mean) is 4.0625 vp
- The Median value is 4 vp
- The Mode value is 4 vp
All-in-all, odds are your offering tile will be worth around 4 points, give or take two points either way (said he, pointing out the blindingly obvious).
Now, already these are signs of a well balanced game; however, things do go deeper. For instance, what happens when we graph all sixteen tiles?
Well, if we do that we end up with a graph like the above and from there a few things can be deduced. When seeing the numbers laid out it is easier to determine value to each type of resource. For instance, if we look at Offering Tile Ten and Offering Tile Nine we can deduce Gold is worth two victory points when in Offering Tile form. Pretty neat, eh?
Now, using that logic, and with one exception (more on this in a bit) we can extrapolate the value of all the resources when traded in for an Offering Tile –
- Gold = 2 vp
- Iron = 2 vp
- Livestock = 1 vp
- Silver = 0.5 vp
The reason this is so interesting is because, in the end game, left over resources are only worth half as much. Gold and Iron are worth 1 vp, Livestock is two for 1 vp (or 0.5 vp each) and Silver is worth nothing.
Again, we can graph those results… because everything looks better as a graph.
The Offering Tile that Breaks The Rule
This so far is completely and beautifully balanced; however, there is one exception, as mentioned earlier, that needs recognising. There is one Offering Tile that breaks the rule.
Yes, if you take a look at the graph, or take a look at the data, Offering Tile Eight actually messes with the math. Offering Tile Eight is worth four victory points, and yet it is made up of three livestock and one silver – which, using the concepts explored in this article, are worth 3.5 vp rather than 4, or just a tiny 1 vp at the end of the game.
Now, what this does is skew the averages. The Mode and Median would still be the same if we took that tile as 3.5 vp and not 4 vp – however, the Mean reduces. Now the average (Mean) is only 4.03125…oh the scandal!
Okay – so drama aside – there is no practical difference. If you want to get completely mathematical and ignore common sense, the game balance has been shifted by around 0.74% when rounded up.
Offering Tiles and Balance
You know what, I really like it when games are balanced. As someone who analyses board games for fun I am always finding myself looking for the complex twists or turns in the numbers. Those number can be really exciting.
But then, occasionally, you have to look at some of the simple things and you have to really admire them for what they are. The Offering Tiles in Raiders of the North Sea are simple and effective. They use a secret currency, attributing points to each type of resource, to create a system that not only makes sense but is also really fluid. There is an elegance about that, a beautiful simplicity, that is incredibly well done.
And it is for that reason, amongst several others, that Raiders of the North Sea is a game that I can see on our shelves for a long time. It is a worker placement game with a twist – incredibly well thought through and elegant. It is smooth, and, in a world where all too many games need to be playtested more than they have been for the sake of balance, something as incredibly effortless as Raiders of the North Sea needs to hold its head high. Brilliant.
So, there we have it – a relatively simple (and oddly quick to put together) article looking at the balance and numbers behind the Offering Tiles in Raiders of the North Sea. What are your thoughts? What games do you believe are beautifully balanced? Let me know in the comments below.