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Most of my favourite games, such as Diplomacy, have little or no element of luck - either via dice rolls, hands dealt, or other methods.

What other games can you recommend that rely on 'skill' alone?

One game per answer, game name formatted as header and link to more information. Vote for your favourite if it exits already.

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Of course, there are some positions in Diplomacy where there is some luck involved - e.g. where you are attacking an opponent and there are two possible sets of orders for each of you; you just have to guess what your opponent will choose. In those situations, it's random in the same way that rock-paper-scissors is random. This is, of course, true of any imperfect-information game. –  Richard Gadsden Nov 4 '10 at 11:54
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I came here to ask a similar question. Your question, however, is ambiguous: By "no element of luck" and "rely on skill alone", do you mean there is absolutely no chance involved at all? Or do you mean all players begin (or are affected by) equally random influences? To differentiate, Chess and Go are examples of the former, while Set is an example of the latter (all players access the same random board). To me, it would be helpful if the two were in separate questions. –  Mark C Nov 23 '10 at 0:49
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@RichardG The "luck" you are talking about is a matter of semantics. Guessing at another player's hidden information is not "chance" as long as the generating process does not bring in random chance (unlike card games). Stratego is a good example of educated guessing with no random generation. –  Mark C Nov 23 '10 at 0:52
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41 Answers

Axis and Allies Chess

Years ago there used to be whole websites devoted to describing the rules to Axis and Allies chess, which is a no-luck version of the popular board game, but Google seems unable to find the rule set I remember, which I think was originally developed by the A&A club at MIT.

The basic modification from the standard game is to replace rolling with a deterministic combat model. The standard model is to roll one die per unit and score hits against a unit specific threshold (i.e. an attacking tank hits on a 3+). In A&A Chess, the attacking or defending values are summed and divided by 6. Remainders of 4 or less are discarded and remainders of 5 or considered hits. For example, four attacking infantry can't do any damage, but two tanks result in one casualty.

Although theoretically this model would enable a player to work out a complex combat round in their head, this is impractical: first, it's too much math to keep in your head for multi-round combat; second, you don't know how the enemy will respond to taking casualties and/or if they will retreat (if attacking).

Anti-aircraft guns are resolved by the same rules: meaning an AA gun is ineffective against 4 or less aircraft attacking at once, but will automatically record (at least) one hit against 5 or more.

Typically chess does away with tech research, but it would be easy to set a price for each technology.

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DVONN

I haven't played the other Project GIPF games, but DVONN reminds me of a variation of chinese checkers -- but each time you move a piece, you affect how it can later move. You also sometimes sacrifice some of your pieces to take out the opponents pieces by disconnecting from the red DVONN pieces.

Um ... this explanation is probably more confusing than helping make the case, though.

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No Dice has no luck as one of it's selling points.

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Easter Island

Two player abstract strategy game with no element of luck.

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18xx

The only randomness is seating order. Utterly brilliant games.

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Terrace

From the wikipedia write-up:

Terrace is an award-winning strategy game played by two, three, or four players on a multi-leveled 8×8 (or, more recently, 6×6) board. It is most widely known for also being a prop in the American television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

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Martian Chess is another Icehouse game with no element of luck. It's not as deep as some of the other assorted games mentioned, but since I prefer light games that doesn't bother me. ;)

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Mancala has no luck. Some might debate that if you are using irregular sized pieces and don't keep strict track of how many stones are in each space there is luck in picking the right space to "move". However I'm not sure that applies, as it is simply a matter of counting to keep track the quantities of stone and the entire game state...

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Blam!

A fun little piece-placing, abstract, unit management game... No luck. No hidden knowledge.

You'll want one Icehouse stash per player. Two to four players.

Rules online: http://www.invisible-city.com/play/29/blam

Asynchronous, online, at SuperDuper Games: http://superdupergames.org/main.html?page=listgames#blam

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Genesis

A bit of randomness in the startup. Pieces are placed in the order of oldest first and he/she is the one who starts the game. After that you make your move in clockwise order. The first player marker moves every round creating a supprising new level of strategy where you also needs to consider at what point in the current and the next turn you will make your move.

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