Back in my college days, I ran across Space Hulk that gamers were playing. The game got my interest with the minis and I asked about it. Found out the players said the space marines didn't win that often. I asked then why play it, and the players said, "But when you win the marines, it is a thrill". Maybe this is not true about the game, but I used story as a segue into a discussion on balanced sides.
One thing that gets valued as important by players is that they can play all sides in a game and have an even chance to win. I have to question whether or not it is really important or not. Why does it matter? I understand if one is doing a tournament, and there be a sense of fairness. But is the solution to this need for fairness to try to balance sides, or maybe come up with some other game rules that can be added on a meta level to the game. For example:
* Have players bid for sides, using the bidding as a mechanism to give the weaker sides and advantage, or handicap the stronger side. This bidding is a game unto itself of sorts, and challenges players to evaluate sides.
* Have players play all sides and evaluate the differences in how the sides were played.
* Play the game teams and use a duplicate format. In games with luck, like cardgames like Bridge on a tournament level, to account for the inherit unfairness of the luck, they use a duplicate format where the same conditions pass around and players play them all and they are evaluated. Unlike the last idea, where individuals play all sides, this is done team style.
* Fixed handicapping of one side, by giving it less resources or time to play, or one side to count a draw as a minor victory.
* Use the pie rule. In this option, one player configures the game conditions and the other player(s) then pick what side they want to play. This also provides a game of sorts, where you try to figure out what would be fairest in set up, and then decide what is the best options.
So, again, it is asked, is it really that important that the sides in a game have as close to the same chance of winning, or maybe a better idea is to add balancing mechanisms of some sort to end up weighing the outcome of a game based upon what sides were played. Maybe to add this mechanism to a game, and have good balancing mechanisms, there would be less of a need for tweaking sides forever, for something I believe has been shown to be possible.
I could also add that handicapping also connects to this. When one player is clearly stronger than another player, some games, such as Go provide a handicapping mechanism. In a game like Chess, the play clock is used to handicap.
Anyone have any thoughts they care to add here regarding this, on balancing mechanisms, and also what is an acceptable level of favoring one side or another in play?