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Can a game be only for 4 players?

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dr_Edge69
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Joined: 12/31/1969

I was wondering, if it's a good idea to create a game having in mind that i'ts for four players and afterward try to make some variant to transform it into a 2-3-5 player game?

Is it a good idea to let it be only a four player game because it's optimized for this number of players and offer no variant?

Have you already think abour that in your past creation?

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Can a game be only for 4 players?

Nobody will stop you from creating a game that only works for four players, of course. However, such a game will be tougher to sell. If you are thinking about trying to get the game published some day you might want to try to cook up some variants to make it work for a different number of players as well.

I usually start to design my multiplayers games for four players, but I do keep in mind that it should work for another number of players as well. I avoid mechanisms where you need exactly a certain number of players in the game. When I feel the game works well for four players, I look for ways to make the game work with 3 and 5 players as well. Typically this means that the 5 player game needs to be "loosened up" a bit and the 3 player game needs to be "tightened up" a bit.

It's almost impossible to make a game feel exactly the same with each number of players, but you should make sure that the game still plays well. For example, Puerto Rico plays well with 2 to 5 players, but it feels slightly different with each number. Personally, I prefer it with 4 players.

Some games are really easy to tweak for a different number of players, other games are really hard to tweak. For example, one of my tile laying games ends when 7 tiles of a certain kind have been drawn in a 2 player game, or 8 in a 3 player game, or 9 in a 4 player game. This stretches the length of the game a little, so that players still roughly have the same number of turns in each game. I didn't have to change a single other thing to make it work with each different number of players. That was an easy one.

Puerto Rico has a different setup for each different number of players. I bet that one was a bitch to tweak for each different number of players. Especially when you consider that even the value of the abilities of the special buildings changes with a different number of players. For example, the Wharf and Construction Hut are much better in a 5 player game than they are in a 3 player game.

Citadels has different rules for each different numbver of players (and it plays from 2 up to 7) and almost feels like a different game with each different number of players.

So, in short, there are many ways to tweak a game to make it work with a different number of players. There is nothing wrong with making a game work only with a specific number of players, but it does hurt its "marketability".

- René Wiersma

Scurra
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Can a game be only for 4 players?

I agree with zaiga there: but I would say that you shouldn't necessarily be discouraged if you come up with a design that only works with four players. This has happened to me a couple of times, and although the resulting games weren't necessarily "marketable", I learned a lot from the development process. (One of them might be the best thing I've ever done, but hey ho...)
However, it's rare to find yourself in such a position; often you'll have a design that works with four but could be played with more or less, but the "tuning" process to get it to work with different numbers is not easy. All I can say in those circumstances is to test, test, test. Which is pretty obvious, I know, but you can't say it too often...

Anonymous
Can a game be only for 4 players?

Make sure you don't make a game that's only good with 4 players, then create broken variants for 2, 3, and 5, and put "Players: 2-5" on the box. This would upset a lot of people.

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Can a game be only for 4 players?

Sure, you can make a game that only works for 4 players; nothing wrong with that. A great example is New England, which is brilliant with 4 players but doesn't work with any other size (the box says 3-4, but I hear it doesn't play well with 3.)

I agree with zaiga that in general, games will "feel" different with different sizes. Another example of this is Acquire, which is playable from 2-6. With 2-3, the system is a bit too "open" -- you can pretty much do whatever you want. With 5-6, it's way too chaotic; the board state changes too fast before it gets to your turn again. With 4, it's just about right. (and 3 or 5 are basically ok, too, just leaning a bit in the "wrong" direction).

On the other hand, some games design this in as a feature. Lord of the Rings by Reiner Knizia is very cleverly balanced so that in a game with fewer players, achieving things like getting enough life tokens and individual players having enough shields to call Gandalf are easier, to counterbalance the additional difficulty of fewer players (and thus, fewer cards in the game); for larger groups, on the other hand, things are "easier" for the group as a whole but tougher for the individual player.

In a sense, I feel that playing with different sizes in Lord of the Rings actually gives you a more fleshed-out picture of the richness of the system; it lets you more fully appreciate the interplay between the different variables and systems. I think a truly great game is like that; where there isn't a single "optimal size", but rather, the game has to be played with all available sizes to reveal all of its depth.

But not all games can (or should!) aspire to being a "gem" in this way; making a game that plays great with one group size is hard enough, and it's best to focus on that, but also keep in mind ways that you could extend the game to other sizes, just so people can play the game with bigger or smaller groups. It's interesting, but speaking for myself, I often come into game night not thinking "I want to play the optimal game for whatever group size we have", but rather, "I want to play [Game X], and I'm willing to tolerate a slightly less satisfying experience at that game if we don't have the optimal number, simply because it's that game that I want to play."

Best of luck,
-Jeff

Joe_Huber
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Can a game be only for 4 players?

jwarrend wrote:
Sure, you can make a game that only works for 4 players; nothing wrong with that. A great example is New England, which is brilliant with 4 players but doesn't work with any other size (the box says 3-4, but I hear it doesn't play well with 3.)

IMHO, it plays just fine with 3 - it's just a more open game.

In general, it seems to be very difficult to sell a game that:

1) Only supports a single number of players, unless that number is 2.

2) Only supports a minimum of 4 players, unless it's a party game.

I have 1052 games in my database (games I've played since 1996, when I started tracking). Of those, the exceptions (ignoring public domain games such as Bridge):

Exceptions to rule #1: The Great Dalmuti, Lifeboat, Falling, Hoax, Bang, Wheedle, Hattrick, The Corporate Shuffle, Yukon Company, Mit List und Tuecke, ...und Tschuss!, The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game, Democrazy. Total: 13 games.

Exceptions to rule #2: Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (4), Victory & Honor (4), Age of Arguments (4), Njet! (4), Tichu (4), Cosmic Eidex (3). Total: 6 games (of which 5 break both rules).

19 games out of 1052, or something under 2%

For comparison, 165 games out of the 1052 handle precisely 3-5 players (perhaps 130 after removing prototypes & public domain games).

Quote:
But not all games can (or should!) aspire to being a "gem" in this way; making a game that plays great with one group size is hard enough, and it's best to focus on that, but also keep in mind ways that you could extend the game to other sizes, just so people can play the game with bigger or smaller groups.

...which is why publishers want the game to work for other numbers, even if the game doesn't, really. A good variant for 3 players can make a big difference.

rkalajian
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Can a game be only for 4 players?

Sometimes it's just hard to get 4 players together to play a game. If I really love a game I want to be able to play it and not have to worry about scraping together enough people to play.

Maybe a mechanic would be needed to automate a player if you can only get 2 or 3 people together? This probably is an exreamly hard task to pull off, but if it worked well that it would be amazing.

SVan
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Joined: 10/02/2008
Can a game be only for 4 players?

I agree with those that have said, don't make the game open to a certain amount of players (say 2-5) unless the game can be worth playing with all of those numbers. Carcassonne is a great example of a game that can be played with all of those numbers and it is worth playing with any of them.

Settlers of (insert name) can be played with 3 players, but I don't really are for it. But it still could be a decent game with three players, so 3-4 is ok with this game.

Cosmic Encounter, however, is worthless as a three player game. The newest Hasbro version doesn't even allow more than 4 players (which was a horrible mistake.) That is a game that one, should not have had three players written on the box, and two, should have had more players.

I think it is ok, if the game specifically says that it is for 4 players, that it can be made for those many players in mind. People won't be too turned off if they aren't fooled into thinking the game is good for more or less than 4 players. Yes, they will prefer that the game could be for more (or less) players, but if it can't be done, but the design is great, then people will find the right number of players that is needed to play that game.

-Steve

dr_Edge69
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Can a game be only for 4 players?

Quote:
Maybe a mechanic would be needed to automate a player if you can only get 2 or 3 people together? This probably is an exreamly hard task to pull off, but if it worked well that it would be amazing.

i'm thinking about this kind of stuff or because the game i'm creating uses four color for the majority. And in a four player game every player has one color. I can't get rid of any colors so, I was thinking that in a three player game maybe one color will give point to no one but will be used to block other players majority.

And with two players i was thinking about player playing two colors at the time.

But i'm affraid this kind of rules really sound like a bad variant made for a game that is not really for these numbers of player... I think this will disgust some players.

Do you think so?

If i could add some ghosts player simulation in the three players game it would be perfect... but it's something i should really think hard about...

Zzzzz
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Joined: 06/20/2008
Can a game be only for 4 players?

dr_Edge69 wrote:

i'm thinking about this kind of stuff or because the game i'm creating uses four color for the majority. And in a four player game every player has one color. I can't get rid of any colors so, I was thinking that in a three player game maybe one color will give point to no one but will be used to block other players majority.

And with two players i was thinking about player playing two colors at the time.

If two people are playing and they select a color, is there any reason why the other two colors just do nothing?

I ask, since you comment about the 3 player game, stating that the fourth color might block, or give points to no one.

If that works, is there any reason why a two player game couldn't have two colors that block or give out no points?

dr_Edge69
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Can a game be only for 4 players?

Quote:
If that works, is there any reason why a two player game couldn't have two colors that block or give out no points?

Yeah that's true maybe that would be interresting, but i was wondering if players would prefer to control two color but this look more like a patch variant than your idea.

I think i prefer the idea you gave, playing two color and having two blocking color. Maybe i could give these two blocking color some special caracteristic too.

Thanks

Joe_Huber
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Can a game be only for 4 players?

dr_Edge69 wrote:
i'm thinking about this kind of stuff or because the game i'm creating uses four color for the majority. And in a four player game every player has one color. I can't get rid of any colors so, I was thinking that in a three player game maybe one color will give point to no one but will be used to block other players majority.

One suggestion - if you're not already familiar with it, find at least the rules for (but ideally a copy of) Carat, by Dirk Henn. It deals with a similar problem very effectively; so effectively, in fact, that I think it's better with 3 than 4.

dr_Edge69
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Can a game be only for 4 players?

Quote:
One suggestion - if you're not already familiar with it, find at least the rules for (but ideally a copy of) Carat, by Dirk Henn.

oh that looks a lot like how i count my majorities... i didn't knew about this game :o

Hopefully theire is some difference between my game and his hehehehe :)

thanks for the tip

I think i'll try is ideas for the variant for now:
1 neutral color for 3 player
players play 2 colors for 2 player

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