Violet and the Grumpy Nisse

Designer: Pedro Pereira
Artist: Karina Duncan
Publisher: Agie Games
Year: 2022
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Violet and the Grumpy Nisse is an asymmetric trick-taking game for 2 players. One of the player is Violet, must travel through a forest to meet her friend the troll at the end of the path. The other player, Torech, must catch Violet before she reaches her destination.

Violet board

Report Insights

These are the main findings of this study:

Full Report

Unless stated otherwise, the tables and plots described below result for playing 900 games of Violet and the Grumpy Nisse with our automatic agents. We have used 3 types of agents: weak, medium and strong, all playing against all and both as Violet and as Torech. Therefore, for each of these combinations, 100 games have been played.

Most of the points discussed below were requested to be investigated by Pedro Pereira, designer of the game, although we added a few extra measures we found interesting.

Player Win Rates

As Violet and the Grumpy Nisse is an assymetric game, it is interesting to analyse the win rate of each agent. We show results per player type and strength. These games are played without setting any restrictions on what Torech tiles are available for Torech for drafting at the beginning of the game.

The following plot shows the victory rate for Violet, when the player that controls her has a different skill level, against player skills of any level:

Our results align with what Pedro, the game’s designer, anticipated:

Now the victory rates for Torech players:

A more detailed view shows the victory rates on the 9 configurations played, with different skills for each one of the two players. Percentage shown is the winning rate of the row player, playing as Violet:

Violet Win percentages Weak player Medium player Strong player
Weak player 23% 1% 0%
Medium player 73% 29% 28%
Strong player 94% 63% 43%

and playing as Torech:

Torech Win percentages Weak player Medium player Strong player
Weak player 77% 27% 6%
Medium player 99% 71% 37%
Strong player 100% 72% 57%

Torech Tile setups

An important aspect of the game are the tiles that Torech can use to manipulate light, hands of cards and Violet’s path. Torech drafts these tiles at the start of the game and picks three (out of a random deal of 5) to play with, in a specific order. These become available as Torech advances in the game chasing Violet.

The following plot shows the win rates for Torech, as played by our stronger agent, when each one of the tiles is in play in the game:

The specific win rate values of each tile are shown in the Table below:

Tile Torech Win rate
TrickUpSleeve 72.22%
StormBrewing 62.5%
FaeryRing 60%
Adapt 58.62%
Resourceful 58.33%
OffTrack 56.67%
GustWind 55.81%
HowlNight 54.84%
ScentFear 51.22%
PlanningAhead 45.45%

This data strongly suggests that Trick Up Sleeve is a very strong tile Torech should pick often when available. This tile allows Torech to swap one card from his hand with one from the drafting Tableau, which allows this player to improve his hand or prevent Violet from picking a strong card in the next drafting phase.

Specific tile setups

The game’s designer was also interested in exploring the effect of particular combination of tiles, which are shown next. Using 5 different players with different strengths and skills, we played 500 games for each one of the following tile triplets. Note we indicate winning percentage for Torech in two modes: when the order of the tiles is as specified (with first named tiled being the first one to be collected by Torech) and when the order is randomized for each of the 500 games:

Torech Tiles Torech win rate (fixed order) Torech win rate (random order)
Trick up the Sleeve, Faery Ring, Gust of Wind 55.6% 49%
Trick up the Sleeve, Planning Ahead, Resourceful (Hand Manipulation set) 55% 50.2%
A Howl in the Night, A Storm is Brewing, Gust of Wind (Light Manipulation set) 53% 53.6%
The Faery Ring, Adapt, Off Track (Board Manipulation set) 52.8% 47.4%
A Howl in the Night, Resourceful, Planning Ahead 49.2% 49.6%
Off Track, Storm is Brewing, The Scent of Fear 48.6% 49.6%

These games reveal interesting insights: again Trick Up Sleve rates higher as one of the most useful tiles, which correlates with the findings of the previous section. It’s also clear that, for the 2 top settings, the order of tiles matters to provide a higher chance of winning to Torech. Finally, these results are useful to verify one of the designer’s intuitions on the game: that the first of the tile triplets (Trick up the Sleeve, Faery Ring and Gust of Wind) is particularly strong for Torech.

Duration of the game

The average duration of all games played is of 27 rounds. We understand a round as the period between two different card draftings, thus each player plays approximately 27 tricks per game.

It is interesting however to observe that the duration of the game varies depending on the winner. The following table shows durations in rounds depending on which player wins and the skill level of both players:

Winner Any skill Weak players Medium players Strong players
TORECH 23.32 16.69 31.01 19.19
VIOLET 30.67 26.74 38.24 27.05

This provides an interesting insight: longer games tend to favour Violet, while shorter games end more often with a victory for Torech. Considering Violet has a stronger capacity to control the pace of the game, this data suggests that it’s in Violet’s best interest to make the game as long as possible (and vice versa for Torech).

Player distances from the goal

Another interesting measure we can extract from this game is the distance of each player to their goal (the end of the path for Violet, Violet’s position for Torech) when the games end.

In games where the Torech player wins, we can see the segment on the path in which Violet is caught:

In more detail, we can see the actual distance in position for different players to the end. The plots below show Violet’s distance to the end when Torech wins, for weak (left) and strong (right) players.

We can see how games with stronger players become more tight, with fewer games ending with Torech catching up with Violet too early. Stronger players are more skilled when playing Violet then novice players. The plots above show that when weaker players play as Violet, they are captured more uniformly across the path. However, stronger players are caught more often towards the end, showing their ability to reach farther in the game. Similarly, the distance from Torech to Violet is larger when more skilled players play the game.

Other Game Measures

Ordep’s Helpers

Along the path, Violet can find 4 “Ordep helpers”, placed at the beginning of each segment of the path. These helpers prevent Violet from losing fuel when, standing on them, she wins a trick. Can we find out if there is a relation between Violet’s victories and the little helpers?

First, the table below shows the average number of helpers used by Violet when winning and losing the game:

Winner Player Helpers used by Violet
Violet 1.55
Torech 0.64

But a more interesting measure is shown below, where we can see the percentage of games won by Violet in relation to those games where the number of helpers used, ranged from 0 to 4.

Number of Ordep Helpers used Violet % games won
0 20.8%
1 40%
2 60.27%
3 74.3%
4 80.7%

This data suggest that there is a clear and positive correlation with order helpers. Therefore, Violet should try to use these helpers as much as possible!

Finally, we can see how this varies for different player skill levels. Stronger players are able to use a higher amount of helpers per game than medium and weak players, which again correlates with the higher winner rate better players show with Violet.

Advantage tokens

Violet can collect advantage tokens if she does not refill the lantern during complete segments of the path (crystal area, mountains, mushroom, and lake). However, if the lantern is refilled, the token goes to Torech. An advantage token allows a player to discard all cards in the drafting tableau and replace them with new ones from the deck, therefore providing some control over the available cards for both players.

Do advantage tokens have a relation to victory? The following table shows the average of Advantage tokens (out of 4 available) obtained by each player, separated by game winner:

Winner Player Tokens Retrieved by Violet Tokens Retrieved by Torech
Violet 0.63 1.6
Torech 0.83 1.19


An important factor in this game is the Fuel left in the lantern at the end of the game. Does Violet consume most of her fuel trying to reach the end? How does this correspond to which player wins?

The plot above shows the amount of fuel left (from a maximum of 20) when Violet wins (in blue) and when Torech wins (in orange). There is a clear correlation between the amount of fuel left and how much Torech is able to advance in the path. The less fuel remains in the lantern, the faster Torech moves - so this is expected, and suggests that a good strategy is to try to keep the lantern as full as possible when playing with Violet.


Another interesing aspect is to find out the proportion of tricks that each player wins in a game. Note that Violet advances both when she wins and when she loses tricks, but it makes a big difference in terms of how much Torech is able to move.

The following table shows the average number of tricks won by Violet when winning the game (playing against players of similar strength):

Player strength: Weak player Medium player Strong player
TORECH 3.08 0.94 2.86
VIOLET 7.35 3.72 7.86

And when Violet loses:

Player strength: Weak player Medium player Strong player
TORECH 9.43 14.1 10.84
VIOLET 11.65 15.28 11.14

Clearly, this data suggests that these players have a better chance of winning as Violet if they win tricks more often than not.

Card powers

As mentioned above, cards have powers that can be used after a trick is resolved. We explore now the number of times (per game) that each player uses each card power.

The following plot shows the card power that is used the most by both players. The MultiSuit power (matches current trump suit) is the power that is used most often by both players, while Swapping from the Discard Pile is the least utilized.

We can also observe this data by separating the powers used by each player, which reveals further insights:

Violet players prefer the MultiSuit power most, which has a good chance of winning the hand, but also not losing by a large margin, as it sits right in the middle of card values at 5. The oppositve is true for Beats-9 which, although able to beat the highest card in the game, it will lose to all others with its own value of 1. Most of the differentiation in powers usage comes from Violet, as this factor is more uniform for Torech. This may suggest that Torech benefits more from playing cards for their value rather than their power.