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Subject: Is very rare effective elimination acceptable? rss

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Channing Jones
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I have a game design (a space 4X) in which effective player elimination is theoretically possible and happens although very rarely (about 2 in 100 games).

The rules do not encourage this, meaning it is not a winning strategy to beat down on a losing player. Nevertheless this seems to happen to beginning players (both because they don't know how to defend properly yet and because they don't recognize that attacking a losing player is not an effective strategy).

By effective player elimination I mean a player could be beat down so much that he or she has no more chance of winning the game. The game does not actually have player elimination.

How acceptable would such a rare case be for you for in a game?

The problem is I cannot fix that (at least I don't see how) without adding extra, rarely used rules that would be quite unelegant and look obviously like a fix.


 
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Jason J
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This can happen in a lot of popular games:

-I played Blood Rage at a convention and after 30 mins 1/2 the players were basically eliminated because they had 0 chance of winning.

-I have seen games of Catan where someone got boxed in within 15-20 mins and had 0 chance to win.

-I have heard that in Food Chain Magnate
you can get screwed over pretty quickly.

**I think being essentially eliminated early on can happen frequently in games of geometric growth/area control type games. If things go wrong early on (your numbers aren't rolled, your resources get taken, you can't expand much more, etc) then it is nearly impossible to catch up when others are each round further increasing the gap between themselves and you.

The best way to mitigate is probably some combination of:

-Catch up Mechanics

-Short game length (who cares if the game is short. Much bigger issue if someone is eliminated in 20 mins and are stuck doing meaningless actions for 4 more hours)

-Find ways for the eliminated player to still make meaningful game decisions that truly affect the game
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roger miller
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At that level of frequency I would ignore it.
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Pelle Nilsson
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Elimination can be better than to just sit around waiting for an unavoidable loss.

The risk of elimination motivates players to avoid that.

Elimination is not always bad. I do not thin something that happens 2/100 games should be ignored however. That sounds frequent enough to guarantee some bad reviews from upset players if this id not one of the games were player elimination works. I would make sure it did work or remove it.
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Jason J
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If it is truly not a tactic that helps one to win and is only done by new players, then couldn't you address this in the Rule Book?

Many rule books have a tips or whatever section. You could briefly explain how doing so is a noob mistake and explain how to avoid it/why it doesn't benefit other players.
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Mageant wrote:
By effective player elimination I mean a player could be beat down so much that he or she has no more chance of winning the game. The game does not actually have player elimination.

How acceptable would such a rare case be for you for in a game?

So, Settlers of Catan?

I won't play that game. But if I do, and I get in that spot, I will Kingmaker the 2nd place player by giving them ALL of my resources for FREE, unless I there are pure "interference" plays available.

If I'm forced to play a game where I can't win, and I can't quit, you bet I'm going to play spoiler. Now, if that's how you want players to play, that's fine. Otherwise, you need to consider meta play.
 
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Glenn Ford
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Well it depends. Are you okay with 2 in every 100 games being really terrible? So 1 in 50. Are you okay with that 1 in 50 games being a major reviewer and them hating your game, and being right in hating it. If so then don't fix it. This is an age with a lot of competition in boardgames and I'd suggest that 1 in 50 games being terrible is probably too much.
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Simon NIghtingale
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1 in 50.... not a massive chance, but still it is there and will happen sooner or later. Most games, though, have some form of effective elimination. So, why not mitigate the possibility of a player having no chance of winning with other mechanical tweaks? You could for example use the elimination of a player as an end game trigger. When a player is reduced to a certain level, the game ends. There will still be a winner, of course. But this might discourage styles of play which are likely to lead to elimination. Or give a player who is in a situation where elimination is looking possible some way out. Resources, maybe. Or immunity to aggression from others players; an escape door of some sort.
 
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Mark Helton
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In a space 4x game this is going to happen occasionally. A run of bad luck by one player, coupled with a run of good luck by another player, will produce this in various 4x games, such as Eclipse, and even in Space Empires: 4X, although not as often.

A 2% chance does not seem too bad, IMHO.
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Richard Smith
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Let us say that fairly often there is a vote, (or something), where every player, even if in a bad place, can contribute equally. They have something meaningful to do, and other players can bribe them or help them to gain their vote.

That said, how much time the player will be hosed is the key question. If they will have to sit around for 3 hours, that is pretty bad. If they only find out that they have no chance in the last 20 minutes of a 3 hour game, it is not so bad.

Warm regards, Rick.
 
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Comboteur "Crazed 'Beastface' Survivor" Fou
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I find "players are unable to come back", when it's visible, unacceptable in games. It is one of the reasons I do not play some anymore, when it's clear on turn 1 or 2 that one player has lost with no way of coming back.
Yes, some games have that.

To me it's a sign of poor design.
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Corey Batten
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GrauGeist wrote:
So, Settlers of Catan?

I won't play that game. But if I do, and I get in that spot, I will Kingmaker the 2nd place player by giving them ALL of my resources for FREE, unless I there are pure "interference" plays available.

Technically against the rules. You can't trade resources for nothing. With that said, you can still do super unbalanced trades, just not "free".
 
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Ryan Keane
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markhelton wrote:
In a space 4x game this is going to happen occasionally. A run of bad luck by one player, coupled with a run of good luck by another player, will produce this in various 4x games, such as Eclipse, and even in Space Empires: 4X, although not as often.

A 2% chance does not seem too bad, IMHO.

Agreed. In a 4x game, I expect that players are always under threat of being effectively if not completely eliminated. It’s kind of the point. It’s not just luck - if your neighbor is building up the troops and tech to start taking your planets/territory and you don’t prepare accordingly, expect to be effectively eliminated. But rarely is it in that opponent’s interest to invest the resources needed to completely eliminate you.

In fact 2% effective elimination rate seems low to me and indicates that it’s either too easy for players too defend, not enough reward for attacking other players, etc. I would say in the majority of our Eclipse games with 5+ players, at least 1 player will be effectively eliminated before the final round.

The key is is the game still fun to play when you know you can’t win. Do you still get to make interesting decisions, develop your tech further, be a thorn in the side of your bigger neighbors? If not, then I won’t want to play the game even when I’m winning.
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Flagaster Montefiore
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GrauGeist wrote:
Mageant wrote:
By effective player elimination I mean a player could be beat down so much that he or she has no more chance of winning the game. The game does not actually have player elimination.

How acceptable would such a rare case be for you for in a game?

So, Settlers of Catan?

I won't play that game. But if I do, and I get in that spot, I will Kingmaker the 2nd place player by giving them ALL of my resources for FREE, unless I there are pure "interference" plays available.

If I'm forced to play a game where I can't win, and I can't quit, you bet I'm going to play spoiler. Now, if that's how you want players to play, that's fine. Otherwise, you need to consider meta play.

I think the designer can rest safely assured that most people are better sports than that.
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Flagaster Montefiore
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Razoupaf wrote:
I find "players are unable to come back", when it's visible, unacceptable in games. It is one of the reasons I do not play some anymore, when it's clear on turn 1 or 2 that one player has lost with no way of coming back.
Yes, some games have that.

To me it's a sign of poor design.

It's an integral part of the design of many games. Some very popular games. Maybe not your type of game, but definitely acceptable to a huge part of the market.
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Flagaster wrote:
Razoupaf wrote:
I find "players are unable to come back", when it's visible, unacceptable in games. It is one of the reasons I do not play some anymore, when it's clear on turn 1 or 2 that one player has lost with no way of coming back.
Yes, some games have that.

To me it's a sign of poor design.

It's an integral part of the design of many games. Some very popular games. Maybe not your type of game, but definitely acceptable to a huge part of the market.

I think the best way to mitigate it is not by changing the design, but just by putting strategy advice in the rulebook (plenty of people won't read it, but you don't have to care about those people.) Jet Set almost scripts your first two turns for you, and tells you in the rulebook that if you don't do a close variation of these turns to set yourself up for income, you'll probably be behind for the next 90 minutes of game.

If in your game when a player wastes their time trying to eliminate another player, it's inevitably a murder-suicide, put it in the rulebook.
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Channing Jones
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Ryan Keane wrote:

Agreed. In a 4x game, I expect that players are always under threat of being effectively if not completely eliminated. It’s kind of the point. It’s not just luck - if your neighbor is building up the troops and tech to start taking your planets/territory and you don’t prepare accordingly, expect to be effectively eliminated. But rarely is it in that opponent’s interest to invest the resources needed to completely eliminate you.

In fact 2% effective elimination rate seems low to me and indicates that it’s either too easy for players too defend, not enough reward for attacking other players, etc. I would say in the majority of our Eclipse games with 5+ players, at least 1 player will be effectively eliminated before the final round.

The key is is the game still fun to play when you know you can’t win. Do you still get to make interesting decisions, develop your tech further, be a thorn in the side of your bigger neighbors? If not, then I won’t want to play the game even when I’m winning.

pharmakon wrote:

I think the best way to mitigate it is not by changing the design, but just by putting strategy advice in the rulebook (plenty of people won't read it, but you don't have to care about those people.) Jet Set almost scripts your first two turns for you, and tells you in the rulebook that if you don't do a close variation of these turns to set yourself up for income, you'll probably be behind for the next 90 minutes of game.

If in your game when a player wastes their time trying to eliminate another player, it's inevitably a murder-suicide, put it in the rulebook.

Thank you for the all suggestions!

I agree with this sentiment.

In fact, in almost all games shortly before the end, there are some who know they will not win anymore. The important thing is that this does not happen too early in the game.

In my game I'm trying balance it on the point in that attacking another player can be useful in certain circumstances, but is certainly not always so. It should also almost never be an effective strategy to go fully against a specific player. This on the other hand can tempt some players to become neglectful in their defenses.

I have already added a strategy chapter to the rulebook giving advice on this.

I will also playtest an additional catchup mechanism that gives a small boost to someone who is far behind. But I think the effect will be more psychological than effectively allowing somebody who is that far behind to win (though in rare cases I imagine it might be possible).

What do you think about a catchup rule like this that would only be rarely used?

It would be an "emergency reserve" of ships that become activated when somebody drops far behind due to being attacked by another player. The amount of ships would not be so great though, not enough to reverse the situation entirely.
 
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Arvid
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It doesn't sound particularly problematic to me, but it also sounds very much that the likelihood of this occurring very much depends on the players. If beating down on the losing player doesn't serve an in-game purpose I wouldn't worry too much.
 
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Ryan Keane
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I tend to not like non-thematic catch-up mechanisms, especially if they're rarely used and likely feel tacked on in a gamey way. I like catch-up mechanisms that are thematic and ingrained into the whole game system. Some 4x-type games have some type of maintenance cost/supply issues/etc, where a weakened player can more efficiently build/bounce back. In practice, this often allows an effectively eliminated player to quickly build a strong defense so that the cost vs reward makes it not worth it for a stronger neighbor to push further.

On a tangent, something I think could also be very interesting is mechanisms where a player risks losing control of home territories to internal NPC's if they continue to push harder into an opponent's starting or near-starting territory. Basically, that your citizens are ok with your government taking/retaking neutral territory from an enemy, but trying to eradicate them/commit genocide could result in uprisings and the player starting to lose control of their own empire. Or you have to start spending more resources on suppressing revolts in your own empire, reducing what you can spend no foreign invasions and defenses.
 
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ElasticPanda wrote:
GrauGeist wrote:
So, Settlers of Catan?

I won't play that game. But if I do, and I get in that spot, I will Kingmaker the 2nd place player by giving them ALL of my resources for FREE, unless I there are pure "interference" plays available.

Technically against the rules. You can't trade resources for nothing. With that said, you can still do super unbalanced trades, just not "free".

Sorry, "FREE" is simply a clearer way of explaining "extremely unbalanced" to most people.
____

Flagaster wrote:
GrauGeist wrote:
Mageant wrote:
By effective player elimination I mean a player could be beat down so much that he or she has no more chance of winning the game. The game does not actually have player elimination.

How acceptable would such a rare case be for you for in a game?

So, Settlers of Catan?

I won't play that game. But if I do, and I get in that spot, I will Kingmaker the 2nd place player by giving them ALL of my resources for FREE, unless I there are pure "interference" plays available.

If I'm forced to play a game where I can't win, and I can't quit, you bet I'm going to play spoiler. Now, if that's how you want players to play, that's fine. Otherwise, you need to consider meta play.

I think the designer can rest safely assured that most people are better sports than that.

I think a game that plays that badly for any player deserves whatever that player chooses to do within the scope of the game. If there aren't rules against playing spoiler or kingmaker (and there shouldn't be), then nobody should be suprised when a player chooses to take on either of those roles. Playing spoiler and kingmaker teaches the players more about competitive multiplayer gaming than making a completely impossible attempt to catch up.

The fact of the matter is that it's a bad game with bad design, precisely because it doesn't allow the player to simply walk away from a guaranteed loss the table with a simple "I concede".

To label legal play as poor "sports" is naive. Perhaps, you would rather I simply flip the table and rage quit? Is that the alternative you are hoping for?

Or is it an issue that you can't handle metagame play? Or that you wouldn't be the anointed player to receive the benefits of kingmaking?
 
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Ryan Keane wrote:
In a 4x game, I expect that players are always under threat of being effectively if not completely eliminated. It’s kind of the point.

Totally agreed. In a 4x game:
1. players should be able to create formal alliances for group wins,
2. players should risk total eliminatation (difficult, but possible).

Proper design has upkeep costs for size, and supply cost for distance. Crossing the galaxy to take out a player's homeworld can look like Napoloeon's march on Moscow:

 
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Corey Batten
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GrauGeist wrote:
Sorry, "FREE" is simply a clearer way of explaining "extremely unbalanced" to most people.
____

It's not "clearer" since it's wrong. That's pretty much the opposite of "clearer".

GrauGeist wrote:
I think a game that plays that badly for any player deserves whatever that player chooses to do within the scope of the game. If there aren't rules against playing spoiler or kingmaker (and there shouldn't be), then nobody should be suprised when a player chooses to take on either of those roles. Playing spoiler and kingmaker teaches the players more about competitive multiplayer gaming than making a completely impossible attempt to catch up.

The fact of the matter is that it's a bad game with bad design, precisely because it doesn't allow the player to simply walk away from a guaranteed loss the table with a simple "I concede".

To label legal play as poor "sports" is naive. Perhaps, you would rather I simply flip the table and rage quit? Is that the alternative you are hoping for?

Or is it an issue that you can't handle metagame play? Or that you wouldn't be the anointed player to receive the benefits of kingmaking?

Even if the game had a mechanism for quitting, by your logic, a player shouldn't be faulted for kingmaking without any intention of winning right for the start, right? Because it's legal within the scope of the game?
 
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Martin Larouche
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Virtual player elimination is worse in games than actual player elimination.

Games where you have no hope of winning, but keeps you in the game for another hour (or two) of tedium.

I'd rather be eliminated so i can go do something else while the game goes on. Fetch munchies, get a coffee, whatever than continue playing a game where nothing is working for me just because it keeps me alive artificially because the designer did not want the term "player elimination".
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ElasticPanda wrote:
GrauGeist wrote:
Sorry, "FREE" is simply a clearer way of explaining "extremely unbalanced" to most people.
____

It's not "clearer" since it's wrong. That's pretty much the opposite of "clearer".

GrauGeist wrote:
I think a game that plays that badly for any player deserves whatever that player chooses to do within the scope of the game. If there aren't rules against playing spoiler or kingmaker (and there shouldn't be), then nobody should be suprised when a player chooses to take on either of those roles. Playing spoiler and kingmaker teaches the players more about competitive multiplayer gaming than making a completely impossible attempt to catch up.

The fact of the matter is that it's a bad game with bad design, precisely because it doesn't allow the player to simply walk away from a guaranteed loss the table with a simple "I concede".

To label legal play as poor "sports" is naive. Perhaps, you would rather I simply flip the table and rage quit? Is that the alternative you are hoping for?

Or is it an issue that you can't handle metagame play? Or that you wouldn't be the anointed player to receive the benefits of kingmaking?

Even if the game had a mechanism for quitting, by your logic, a player shouldn't be faulted for kingmaking without any intention of winning right for the start, right? Because it's legal within the scope of the game?

It's pointless to discuss that with you

A game is what the player makesnof it. The fact that it forces unwinnable play is a fundamental flaw, aand no amount of nonsense changes that.
 
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Jake Staines
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GrauGeist wrote:

I think a game that plays that badly for any player deserves whatever that player chooses to do within the scope of the game. If there aren't rules against playing spoiler or kingmaker (and there shouldn't be), then nobody should be suprised when a player chooses to take on either of those roles. Playing spoiler and kingmaker teaches the players more about competitive multiplayer gaming than making a completely impossible attempt to catch up.

More to the point: if there's three players A B and C, and B ensures that C cannot win by performing a perfectly legal move (boxing them in), why shouldn't C ensure B cannot win by performing a perfectly legal move (massively unbalanced trades to benefit A)? If "sportsmanlike behaviour" should prevent C's actions, why shouldn't it prevent B's actions as well?

If it were still possible but hard for C to win, then sure - spitefully disadvantaging B just to "get them back" isn't particularly sportsmanlike. But if they know they definitely can't win then constructing their own goals to work towards (e.g. "make sure the player who stopped me winning also can't win") surely is better than just walking away from the game and leaving A and B unable to continue properly as well? Does "sportsmanlike" behaviour on A and B's part include "force C to keep playing a game they're not enjoying and stand no chance of winning just for A and B's amusement"?

By which I essentially mean that I agree with this:

deedob wrote:
Virtual player elimination is worse in games than actual player elimination.

Games where you have no hope of winning, but keeps you in the game for another hour (or two) of tedium.
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