There have been pieces of thoughtful discussion on other various threads about this topic, and I thought it might be helpful to start a unique thread to focus discussion around how to measure “success” in LOTR LCG.

Opening caveat: some will say that “success” in this game has nothing to do with winning or loosing – it’s all about having a fun and adventurous time. It’s all about theme. It’s all about story. And that is a very fine way to play. In my opinion, that is also a way of evaluating “success.” It’s just not quantifiable – it’s not measurable. Also, by choice, it ignores FFG’s suggestions for how to score games and track results in the quest log. That’s certainly an option. However, for those of us who wish to honor (or are at least intrigued by) the scoring part of the game design and enjoy attempts at measuring (read as quantifying) “success,” here we go…

For the sake of this discussion, let’s imagine you decide to take a week and see how successful you can be while playing a given scenario. (Sound familiar? ) When playing a given scenario, there may be a variety of ways to measure success. Let’s start by exploring two:

1) Lowest Possible Score – no matter how many games you play of the given scenario, no matter how many you win, no matter how many you loose, the bottom line is… how low can you go?

Commentary: This model encourages tracking and scoring wins. Losses become irrelevant (unless you never win). In its extreme, this model by itself inherently encourages deck building with a biased toward calculating the precise combination of cards needed (both in hand and in the encounter deck) that will mathematically result in the lowest possible score. The odds of achieving this low score could be a million to one, but if you play a million times, by the odds, you will eventually obtain that lowest possible score at least one time.

2) Highest Win Ratio – as you play the scenario, you track your number of wins verses your number of losses. The most successful result would be to go undefeated. The least successful result would be to loose every game. Success would be measured in fractions or percentages.

Commentary: This model encourages tracking every single game played – both wins and losses. In its extreme, scoring wins simply becomes a curiosity. When it comes to deck building, the main point (the primary bias) is to obtain a win and avoid defeat in every single attempt. Scoring the win is an interesting afterthought. Surviving every time (or as many times as possible) is the main goal.

Extended Commentary (about Options 1 and 2): In my opinion, I feel uncomfortable with the extreme forms of either of the above options. In the extreme, Option 1 minimizes losses, and Option 2 minimizes the scoring mechanic. Interestingly, I feel that the current FFG scoring system and quest log places premium on Option 1. In all of the formal instruction from FFG, obtaining the lowest score is what seems prized. Period. Feel whatever you like about it, but there has been no serious FFG directive track your win-loss ratio. That said, I think most of us who have been involved in this conversation are not fully satisfied with either of these options (or with FFG’s seeming bias toward Option 1). I think what we are really after is…

3) Hybrid: Highest Win Ratio + Lowest Possible Score – as you play the scenario you log every single game, tracking your wins, losses, and the scores of your victories.

Commentary: This model values wins, losses, and final scores. However, it also requires combining two separate measuring systems and the formation of a new way of ranking player results that factors in both of the measuring systems. Further, there are options on this variant to value score averages and/or your lowest achieved score. Both are interesting, and in some ways land the discussion right back to a renewed version of the debate between Options 1 and 2 from above. Hmmmmm…

And this is where I am left considering. I am hoping that it’s possible to find an elegant way of ranking player results that will factor in both win-loss ratio and final score. I believe it can be done. I would imagine that in the entire history of the world of sport, this kind of problem has been tackled before and met with some reasonable and pleasing result. I’m just not settled on it at the moment, and so I’m hoping that anyone who reads this will be inspired to consider ideas and possibilities and share your thoughts. Perhaps together we can find a more satisfying way.