There's a popular co-operative board game called Pandemic. Although largely strategic it has one key random element, a deck of cards that determines where new diseases will spring up.

While player choice plays a big part in determining whether the group wins, it's possible for a loss to be pre-determined by the shuffle of the deck. If certain cards are close to one another, a victory is essentially impossible before the game even starts.

This has always put me off playing the game. Yet last night I played a variant called Pandemic: Fall Of Rome which has the same deck mechanic but also introduces dice. This is a second element of luck which is no "more or less lucky" than the cards yet I felt much happier playing the game.

What annoys me about the card deck is that it's pre-determined: the deck "knows" whether we're on an auto-loss before we play. Whereas the dice are not pre-determined, their "luck" waits to be revealed until they are rolled.

Statistically, of course, is this a nonsense and one kind of "luck" is no different from the other. But I wondered whether this perception of pre-determined "luck" as unfair compared to active "luck" was a known psychological phenomenon, whether it had a name, and whether there were any studies investigating the reasons for the difference in perception?


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