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Playing for placement

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jwarrend
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Ok, I'll start this one.

The issue has come up in the GDW about how players might, through poor sportsmanship, 'wreck' a game, and to what extent a designer ought to take that into account and design around it.

For example, players who are going to cheat can probably ruin a lot of games, yet that can be notoriously hard to design around.

For the specific issue at hand, we were talking about whether a player who is clearly losing might "give up" and try, if it's possible to do so, to accelerate the game end, thus freeing himself from the burden of playing.

Seth also pointed out the issue of "playing for placement" rather than playing for the win. I think this is ok in some cases and not ok in others. My personal feeling and expectation is that each player will, in each of his actions, attempt to maximize his position relative to the player he believes will win the game. I don't feel a player is necessarily obligated to "hit the leader", particularly if (a) he doesn't think that player will end up winning and (b) doing so wouldn't make him more likely to win the game.

The issue only comes up, I guess, in the kind of situation where a player can perhaps make a risky move that if it succeeds, will win him the game, but if it fails, will drop him lower than his current position. Here is the kind of scenario where I think it really matters whether you're "plaiying to win" or "playing for placement". Personally, I think it hangs a lot on how well you can calculate the likely out come of your move, and the likely way other players will respond. If you can be pretty sure that the move that would net you the win has only a 5% chance of succeeding, I wouldn't necessarily take it, since I think maximizing your score relative to the leader is what is important but this will almost certainly reduce your score. But, if it's the only possible imaginable way of winning? Maybe then, you really ought to go for it, since if you don't, you come in 4th rather than 2nd, maybe.

It all depends what you put in your personal trophy case. To me, I feel pretty good when I come in 2nd; I feel less good when I come in 4th. But I generally rate myself more on relative performance based on score. If first place had 51 points, then I want to know how close I came to 51 points, not what my ordinal position was. If the score breakdown is 51/49/46/45, then I would probably be happy with whatever position I got. If it's 51/26/24/10, then probably only winning would feel terribly satisfying. So for me, "how close was I to winning" is usually the question I ask more than "what place did I come in?", and I think that's a little different than "playing for placement".

So in conclusion, I think I think that a player ought to try to maximize his score relative to the person he thinks will end up in the lead, assuming things continue to go the way they are going. If each player does that, I won't generally complain about another player's actions, particularly if he fails to take down the leader just so I can become the leader!

Just my take on the situation...

-Jeff

FastLearner
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Playing for placement

I think in my post in the other thread I may have misunderstood "playing for placement."

To me it's good sportsmanship if every player consistently plays to place as high as they can, always attempting to win even if the game system makes it clear that s/he really can't get first place. Not only do I think it's not the duty of anyone to bash the leader, I think it's the duty of everyone to not bash the leader unless it's going to help their own position. Bashing the leader if it doesn't help you (if you have no chance of winning) is just kingmaking.

If "playing for placement" means knocking the leader down so that he does more poorly than the current #2 person but it's not going to put you in a better position then it sucks. I always assumed it meant that you were playing for the highest place if you knew you couldn't win.

FastLearner
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Playing for placement

To add to this, I had a problem with a game of Citadels I played a few weeks ago.

One player was very clearly in 3rd place (out of something like 6). He knew there was not only no way he could win, but that there was nothing he could do to get into 2nd place. He specifically acknowledged this.

On his next-to-last turn he had the option of either building his own position to ensure he kept 3rd place or to attack one of the two leaders. He chose the Warlord and one of the leaders was immune (I forget which role that is) so he attacked the other player, ensuring that the protected player would win.

The attacked player got pretty steamed since he was no longer in contention, now cemented in 2nd place. Was the attacking player "playing for position" or just kingmaking?

(BTW, he ended up in 4th place, but would definitely have kept 3rd if he had played to help himself instead.)

sedjtroll
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Playing for placement

FastLearner wrote:
If "playing for placement" means knocking the leader down so that he does more poorly than the current #2 person but it's not going to put you in a better position then it sucks. I always assumed it meant that you were playing for the highest place if you knew you couldn't win.

You were right, I think Jeff misunderstood me.

Playing for position means once you determine you cannot finish first, you do what you can to finish 2nd. Or 3rd. Or whatever is the best you can do.

This seems to jive with everyone's opinion up to a point, and that point is this:

Assume we're playing Puerto Rico, and you are firmly in 3rd place. Looking at the board and everyone's position you determine that the longer the game goes on, the more the 4th and 5th players will gain on you (and eventually surpass you), and you don;t think you can beat out the 2 leaders. You decide based on that that the best you can do is finish 3rd, and rather than fall to 5th you do what you can to end the game before you get passed up by the 4th and 5th place players.

So you succeed, endiong the game earlier than it might have had you tried to somehow catch up to players 1 and 2. Because of this, the second place finisher didn't have quite enough time for his new Wharf and abundance of corn to catch up with the builder's victory points. Even 1 turn more and the Shipper would have won.

Should the Shipper who finished 2nd be angry with the 3rd place player for sabataging the game and stealing a victory from him? Did the 3rd place player effectively give the game to the Builder because he didn't give the Shipper a chance to catch up? If you're the Shipper, did the game just get spoiled for you? If you're the Builder, do you feel unsatisfied because you could have lost if player 3 didn't play for position?

This is the crux of the matter, and it happens all the time.

- Seth

jwarrend
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Playing for placement

sedjtroll wrote:

Playing for position means once you determine you cannot finish first, you do what you can to finish 2nd. Or 3rd. Or whatever is the best you can do.

I don't think we're on the same page yet. I think "playing for position" means when you go into the game, you are going to try to go for the highest place rather than go for the outright win.

If a person has determined they can't win, why shouldn't they try to finish 2nd? What do you want them to do instead? Or are you taking issue with their determination that they can't finish 1st?

Quote:

Assume we're playing Puerto Rico, and you are firmly in 3rd place. Looking at the board and everyone's position you determine that the longer the game goes on, the more the 4th and 5th players will gain on you (and eventually surpass you), and you don;t think you can beat out the 2 leaders. You decide based on that that the best you can do is finish 3rd, and rather than fall to 5th you do what you can to end the game before you get passed up by the 4th and 5th place players.

This is a psychology excercise at this point, because it's pretty clear to me that someone who is "stuck" in third might as well end the game; if further play isn't going to move him forward in the game, why not try to end it? What we're objecting to in different ways, I think, is the motivation for ending the game. You're saying it's bad if the player is only ending the game so as not to risk falling out of 3rd. I agree, but only insofar as its still possible to advance. If a player can't hope to gain in position, why not end the game?

My objection with the kind of people Fast was talking about is that they give up without even trying to win, and try to sabotage the game by ending it as quickly as possible. That's just being a poor sport.

But again, if someone does all they can to maximize their score relative to what they believe the winning score will be, I just don't see anything to object to there...What am I missing?

sedjtroll
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Playing for placement

jwarrend wrote:

You're saying it's bad if the player is only ending the game so as not to risk falling out of 3rd.

No, I'm saying a player is "Playing for Position" if they end the game so as not to fall out of 3rd.

I have already said that to me playing for position makes no sense to me without further incentive such as ratings, rankings, or pizes. To me, it's first place or lose in a one-off game.

Quote:
My objection with the kind of people Fast was talking about is that they give up without even trying to win, and try to sabotage the game by ending it as quickly as possible. That's just being a poor sport.

Where do you draw the line? When is someone being a poor sport and when are they acting in their best interest? In some cases (in a way) being a poor sport IS in their own interest- if the other option is to sit miserably for an hour...

Quote:
if someone does all they can to maximize their score relative to what they believe the winning score will be, I just don't see anything to object to there...What am I missing?

Doing so may "screw someone out of a win" or "hand a win to someone" which has been complained about.

- Seth

Anonymous
Playing for placement

I think it's a human condition to want to spoil things for others if you realize that no matter what you do you can't win. Some people I've played with do this, others just flat out quit... which unfortunately takes the desire RIGHT out of the sails of everyone else playing and the game usually ends then and there.

Perhaps if there was some way to reward players for second and third, rather than discounting them altogether. Even if it's a simple rules statement like "Tally up all victory points to determine the first, second, and third place winners" could go a long way to help.

Or if the game is a short game, and it's quite common to have two or three games banged out. Then you could put it so that some victory points carry over, or maybe the first place winner get's +1 vp next game, second get's +2, or whatnot.

However, ultimately, I don't think you should have to design this way. I think that players who play games with a group of people should be prepared to accept a loss. People take games too seriously some times and get genuinely upset by getting anything but 1st. It's all fun and games to me, win/lose doesn't matter as long as I had some laughs and had some good interaction with the other players.

jwarrend
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Playing for placement

sedjtroll wrote:

Where do you draw the line? When is someone being a poor sport and when are they acting in their best interest? In some cases (in a way) being a poor sport IS in their own interest- if the other option is to sit miserably for an hour...

Here's an example from a recent game of Wallenstein I played. Player A could have attacked player B (the leader) or player C (me). The attack on player B was risky, 50-50 chance of success at best, and would have cost B one territory (1 pt) and thus gained A one territory (thus, +2 pts over B total). In contrast, the attack on C (me) was almost a sure thing, and gained him a territory, a building, and as a result of the building, a 1 pt bonus. This gave him 3pts instead of the 1 he would have gotten from attacking B. It was a 4 pt swing relative to me.

Now, the effect on this for me was effectively to take me out of the game. Had he attacked B, I would have been up 4 points rel to B in the transaction, but instead, I ended up 3 points down out of this one. Yet, how could I reasonably object to what A did? He did what was in his own best interest, and even though he didn't directly hit the leader, he maxed out his own score relative to the leader.

So, in multiplayer games, sometimes, stuff is going to affect you adversely. You can't take that personally.

There's a very obvious line of demarkation between someone who is doing their best but is convinced they are going to lose, and someone who is throwing the game. I don't think it takes very much experience being around people to tell the difference; I'm sure you can. The latter is usually accompanied by whining, complaining, rolling of eyes, etc.

I agree with you that if there's a chance to win, you should go for it. What I dispute is that if someone takes a different route to try to do that then you want them to take, that they are necessarily throwing the game. What I also dispute is that in a case where they legitimately have no chance to win (like in your PR example), they are somehow morally wrong to simply try to do their best as measured (I gather) by position. I'm still not sure what you think the person in your PR example ought to do differently. If everyone is scoring more points than him every turn, why shouldn't he try to end the game?

All of this is definitely convincing me that these are things worth thinking about in game design, and I think there's certainly something to be said for a game end condition that is out of the player's direct control, as the "poor sport" effect could happen. I still don't really want to design around that, though...

I don't think there's any need to "reward" 2nd, 3rd, etc. We all have our own personal trophy case, and we all put our own monuments to ourselves in there. It's totally subjective. To me, as I said, I feel happy when my point total was "in the mix" with the other players. Some people only feel happy with a win. Some people like to beat "the really good gamer" from their group. Just like preferences, game satisfaction criteria are entirely subjective. The designer isn't obligated, in my opinion, to create criteria by which people can feel ok about losing. His role is to create a structured way for people to interact and, to the extent that this interaction is competitive, a criteria by which one player can be judged to have performed relative to another at the end of the activity. But what people want to do with that information, and how they want to approach the task of deciding where in the designer's scheme they want to find themselves when the game ends, are really things that are out of the designer's control.

Or at least I think so...

-Jeff

if someone does all they can to maximize their score relative to what they believe the winning score will be, I just don't see anything to object to there...What am I missing?

Doing so may "screw someone out of a win" or "hand a win to someone" which has been complained about.

- Seth

Ken
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Playing for placement

I've seen this topic tossed about a fair bit, and can see that it is an issue for people (who really wants to have their fun spoiled by someone else?) ... but I have to wonder if this isn't taking things a bit too seriously. [As I believe was already mentioned]

If you as a designer were to try to close up every little loop-hole in the rules so that some bozo can't do something to tick somebody else off, then what would be left would look more like the tax code, than a game. (And it would likely be about as much fun too.) Half the fun of any game is the fact that you get to do exactly what you know the other player(s) don't want you to do!

Again, as I believe was already mentioned, do your best to make sure that no one is left sitting on the sidelines for an hour and a half while everyone else is having fun, and let jerks be jerks.

The only other solution I can offer comes from a very smart woman [my mom] "If they won't play nice ... then you don't play with them anymore."

sedjtroll
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Playing for placement

jwarrend wrote:

So, in multiplayer games, sometimes, stuff is going to affect you adversely. You can't take that personally.

Correct. Lets not forget where this discussion began. Something about rules to help the guy in last place get back in the running.

Quote:
What I dispute is that if someone takes a different route to try to do that then you want them to take, that they are necessarily throwing the game.

Right. which is why I ask "where do you draw the line?"

Quote:
What I also dispute is that in a case where they legitimately have no chance to win (like in your PR example), they are somehow morally wrong to simply try to do their best as measured (I gather) by position. I'm still not sure what you think the person in your PR example ought to do differently. If everyone is scoring more points than him every turn, why shouldn't he try to end the game?

I don't think he should do anything differently, necessarily. If it were me, I would look for some way to come back, find something I might have overlooked that would earn me extra points relative to the leaders. And if my initial assesment that I can't win (see, the trick is, I try not to think "I can't win") was correct then I would end up in 4th or 5th place. Or perhaps I would do screw something up and accidentally end the game early, thereby finishing 3rd. I don't think there's anything wrong with playing for position (in this case finishing 3rd with the builder winning rather than finishing 5th with the Shipper winning). I just think it doesn't make sense. Why give up trying to beat the leaders if the prize for 3rd is the same as the prize for 5th? What if you were wrong that you couldn't win, and end up coming in 1st or 2nd?

You seem to agree with me on that- that people should keep fighting for first until they either get it or lose trying. But there are other people, maybe these are people with better foresight or something, who say "yup, I can no longer win." and some of those people would rather end up 3rd than 5th. Me, I say "what's the difference?"

Quote:
The designer isn't obligated, in my opinion, to create criteria by which people can feel ok about losing.

Exactly. That's exactly what I was saying about the "help the last place" rules.

- Seth

P.S. I get the feeling you're ascribing these arguements to the way I play or feel about other players. I am merely expressing on the one hand that the games don't need to comfort the losers for losing (or help them keep from losing), and on the other that there is a discrepency between "Playing to win" and "Playing for placement."

For the record, I presume people who play for placement actually begin the game intending to try and win.

FastLearner
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Playing for placement

Ken wrote:
The only other solution I can offer comes from a very smart woman [my mom] "If they won't play nice ... then you don't play with them anymore."

Which is precisely what my regular group has done: if you quit in the middle of a game because you're just being a whiny baby then you can be certain we're not going to play with you again. Some whining is ok (though it can be pretty unpleasant), but out-and-out quitting mid-game -- especially in a game that's only a 90 minute game anyways -- is simply not tolerated.

For the record, btw, I don't advocate creating a bunch of rules (or any rules) to keep people from being spoilsports (besides kingmaking), sore losers, or cheaters. When you have a choice, though, between a couple of different ways to implement something, ways that are more or less equal, I always try to choose the path that will be more likely to prevent someone from spoiling the game or from cheating. I mean, why not?

phpbbadmin
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Solution

Ok here's a solution:

STOP PLAYING STRATEGY GAMES! If you'd stick to Beer & Pretzel games then you wouldn't have this problem as no one takes them so seriously..

LOL..

-Darke

hpox
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Playing for placement

It goes to show how the "boardgaming experience" may be different for each person depending on the games, situations and players.

Should we design with the perfect group in mind or the worst ? Would it be accepted to have a little "etiquette" paragraph ?

zaiga
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Playing for placement

It seems that there a few issues mixed up in here.

On robustness: I design every game with the idea that players will want to try and win the game. However, the mechanics of the game need to be fool proof, meaning that the game doesn't hang up or breaks down when players do something illogical or stupid. This is more difficult than it sounds. Heck, some published games break down even when th eplayers play normally (Balloon Cup for example). I think this is the sign of poor designing and playtesting and should be avoided at all costs. Always consider what would be the worst case scenario for your game and how it would behave under those circumstances.

On kingmaking and leaderbashing: Sometimes, when playing a game there will be a situation in which a player will not be able to win the game or when his chances of winning have become very small. This player may then either try to take a huge gamble to try to win the game still, he may play it safe and try to consolidate his position or he may decide to play kingmaker (perhaps so that his spouse can win or whatever). As a designer, I don't care for these kind of meta-decisions, I believe it is up to the players to handle such situations. Even in great games such as Taj Mahal, Ra and Puerto Rico it is possible to screw over another without helping yourself (kingmaking).

That doesn't mean that you should not design a game with kingmaking or leaderbashing in mind. Sometimes a player is forced to play kingmaker, without being able to help it. There are certain tricks to avoid this or to lessen it somewhat.
- The game shouldn't end when a player reaches X points and winning the game simultaneously. Instead let the game end when the deck of cards run out, after the 12th province has been auctioned, when the VP chits run out or when a player builds his 8th building. This doesn't elimate kingmaking per se, but does lessen it's effect somewhat and avoids that the game bogs down at the end, when everybody is trying to avoid that player X wins the game.
- The effects in the game should not specifically target a single player. Having the option of singling out one player and screwing that player in a certain aspect of the game heightens the ability of leaderbashing and kingmaking.
- Make the ending of the game or scoring rounds somewhat random. This way, you never know for sure if this turn is going to be your last turn or whether you get another one. This also lessens the effect of kingmaking a bit. The ending should not be totally random of course, but a little uncertainty is certainly a good thing. Examples: Euphrates & Tigris, Ra, Union Pacific.
- Make certain factors or holdings or VP's hidden or semi-hidden. This way you can never be sure who is in the lead and by exactly how much points. For example, in Taj Mahal you score points for cards in hand at the end. You usually have a clue about how much points a player has in hand, but never exactly. Same can be said for E&T although there the information is trackable, but you need a very good memory. Hiding stuff also avoids analysis-paralysis up to a certain extent.

I see a game as a set of rules through which the players can interact in a structured way. What they with this set of rules is ultimately up to the players and not the designer.

Just some thoughts.

Anonymous
Playing for placement

Interesting topic.

We had a fairly poor-sport player in our gaming group, who managed to finally eject himself by standing-over and screaming at another player after being nudged out of a win by them at Risk.

After this incident, we develpoed a really simple house rule to avoid a game being taken too seriously:

At the end of the game, each player shakes hands and says, 'Good Game' (regardless of whether it was a total whooping for them or not. ;)).

I think that these things are often the best ways for poor sportsmanship tobe dealt with; not actual mechanics of the game itself (and, a lot of the time, the same can be said for cheating). I myself don't really think of any kind of 'placement' when I'm just having a casual game (although I think much differently if I'm playing in any kind of tournament or for winnings of any kind) - we just do it to socialize most of the time, effectively.

If I'm 'locked' in '2nd place', as a couple of examples have suggested, and there's not much more I can think to do that'll allow me to press forward, my reaction on the following turn is quite simple:

'Alrighty guys; I'm more or less locked down over here. Looks like it's time to advance in the other direction. Good game.' *handshakes*

I still sit around to chat and watch (if I can't win, the least I can do is watch what the other folks did that I didn't so I can learn a thing or two for next time). Perhaps we're just a little different than most gaming groups, but it's not usually an issue of any sort when somebody sees that continued resistance is futile and forfeits so the prime contenders can finish slugging it out.

Quote:
Ok here's a solution:

STOP PLAYING STRATEGY GAMES! If you'd stick to Beer & Pretzel games then you wouldn't have this problem as no one takes them so seriously..

No kidding. ;)

Sincerely, as someone having played at many, many tournaments and pre-releases for the ever-infamous 'Magic: The Gathering', there's quite a bit of merit in these kind of jests. Sure, winning feels great; but in the end, you're just playing a game. You aren't a better or worse person for winning or losing (you may have learned something by playing, but that happens regardless of your standing victories) - yet there's always so much frustration and yelling from 40-50% of the players (there's a little bit of justification in the case of a CCG, I suppose. You did just spend $90-$600 on a deck, and I can see it as a bit of a frustration to see it fail). If I, as a designer, could avoid this in a design I surely would do my best to try - but as was said earlier, this seems like something that falls on the shoulder of the player to address, not on the game's creator.

Just out of curiousity, because I myself don't understand the frustrations that people get when they lose a game (even if they suspect that someone 'sabotaged' their strategy (which, in Magic, happens quite a lot - via 'Burn' or 'Counter' decks, or that someone cheated), how many of you folks do get genuinely frustrated when things like this happen? Why does it frustrate you (...presuming that it isn't a case where you'd have otherwise won a prize, in which case the cause for frustration is quite obvious. ;)).

- Ender

FastLearner
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Playing for placement

I don't get frustrated when I lose. If I did then a single day of gaming would have stroked me out by now. :)

I do get a bit frustrated when game mechanics (combined with my initial poor playing) make it impossible for me to win or even place well and we're only a third 99of the way through the game. I always play through, and with good humor I think, but boredome is a bit of an issue, along with a wee bit of frustration.

The only thing that really every ticks me off when playing is when someone is being a really poor sport and is sabotaging the game for the heck of it. I get every so slightly peeved at players who paid no attention during the teaching and consistently make illegal plays, especially if they still refuse to learn the rules.

Those things rarely happen, though, and 99% of the time I'm as happy as a little girl.

zaiga
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Playing for placement

I also played Magic at a competitive level. I spend quite a lot of time and money on it and played many tournaments. I never had any problems losing against an opponent that simply outplayed me, but there were a few things that could tick me off:

- Making mistakes myself. Playing high-level Magic with and against finely tuned decks leaves little room for mistakes. Still, there are so much information to keep track of in Magic, that a mistake can be easily made. I always hated it when I made an obvious error that caused me to lose the game, such as forgetting to do something in my upkeep or simply overseeing a card in play.

- Luck of the draw. In Magic you can have the best deck, play it very well and still lose against a bad opponent with an inferior deck, because sometimes you just get manascrewed or whatever. I don't mind luck that much in casual games, but in a highly competitive environment it is just plain frustrating.

- "Hoser" cards and metagame decks. Sometimes, a player draws card X and you can do nothing about, you just lose. Period. A whole metagame revolves around creating the best decks, then creating the best anti-decks with hoser cards for the best decks, then creating decks that win against these anti-decks, etc. By making a bad metagame choice you can sometimes lose a tournament before it has even started and that can be very frustrating.

Now I have quit playing Magic and started playing boardgames. Even when playing boardgames my goal is to win and I expect that my opponents try to win also. However, I can enjoy a hardfought game, even when I don't win, because in the end it is about the social experience and not about who wins the most.

Luckily, I play with a group that is also fairly competitive and most of our games are tense and hard-fought, but no-one ever whines about losing. Playing a game to win is something we enjoy and provides us with an outlet to test our wits in a competitive setting and it is this experience that we enjoy not necessarily the winning of a game itself.

Since I design boardgames with my own playing group in mind, most of my games are "gamer" games, with a low luck component and high on strategy, tactics and tough decisions. I don't think I could design a true "beer and pretzels" game, because that is something I rarely play.

sedjtroll
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Playing for placement

FastLearner wrote:
I don't get frustrated when I lose. If I did then a single day of gaming would have stroked me out by now. :)

I do get a bit frustrated when game mechanics (combined with my initial poor playing) make it impossible for me to win or even place well and we're only a third 99of the way through the game. I always play through, and with good humor I think, but boredome is a bit of an issue, along with a wee bit of frustration.

If the game is "good," and if people have fun "even if they lose" (as people keep saying they do) because the game is so wonderfully fun or because they're such enlightened gamers or whatever, then I don't see how it's an issue.

Either you like to play and have fun even if you don't do well, or you like the game to give you a chance to win, even if you had a bad start. They're not EXACTLY mutually exclusive, but close...

- Seth

sedjtroll
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zaiga wrote:

- Making mistakes myself. Playing high-level Magic with and against finely tuned decks leaves little room for mistakes. Still, there are so much information to keep track of in Magic, that a mistake can be easily made. I always hated it when I made an obvious error that caused me to lose the game, such as forgetting to do something in my upkeep or simply overseeing a card in play.

Tell me about it. I wasn't on the pro tour because I forgot to pay upkeep on Masticore in the finals of a PTQ. In fact, various misplays with that card in particular lost me other games in other top 8's as well. But as much as I'd like to complain abou tit, it's my own damn fault.

Quote:

- Luck of the draw. In Magic you can have the best deck, play it very well and still lose against a bad opponent with an inferior deck, because sometimes you just get manascrewed or whatever.

Unfortunately, that's part of the game, and it's also why matches are "best of three" and tournaments are swiss format. Some people who get mana screwed a lot simply aren't playing with enough land in their deck.

Quote:

- "Hoser" cards and metagame decks. Sometimes, a player draws card X and you can do nothing about, you just lose. Period. A whole metagame revolves around creating the best decks, then creating the best anti-decks with hoser cards for the best decks, then creating decks that win against these anti-decks, etc. By making a bad metagame choice you can sometimes lose a tournament before it has even started and that can be very frustrating.

That's even more a part of the game than mana screw. In fact, that's most of what tournament Magic is about. Can't complain about that.

Well, I realise this response is only barely on topic. But the point is, even when things appear to be arguable, they're only superficial arguements. Many people complain about those same things in Magic, yet the big money winners are the same people every year. So either those people are really, really lucky, or they may be better at factoring in all those elements into their decks/games.

- Seth

zaiga
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Playing for placement

sedjtroll wrote:
Unfortunately, that's part of the game, and it's also why matches are "best of three" and tournaments are swiss format. Some people who get mana screwed a lot simply aren't playing with enough land in their deck.

I agree Seth, but even when you play enough land you can still get manascrewed sometimes and losing a close match because you get manascrewed in the third game can be really frustrating.

Quote:

That's even more a part of the game than mana screw. In fact, that's most of what tournament Magic is about. Can't complain about that.

Well, I realise this response is only barely on topic. But the point is, even when things appear to be arguable, they're only superficial arguements. Many people complain about those same things in Magic, yet the big money winners are the same people every year. So either those people are really, really lucky, or they may be better at factoring in all those elements into their decks/games.

I agree that the best players will win the most *eventually*, but the luck factor in the game is still large enough that even the world's best player sometimes fails to make day two at the Pro Tour. I imagine it must be extremely frustrating to know you are the best player in the world, spend tons of time and money in preparation and travel and then failing to make any money because you have some bad luck at the start of a tournament.

If I would spend that amount of money and time and energy in a game again, I would chose Chess. At least in that game you are almost guaranteed to win if you are the better player and would make it less frustating to lose. At least, that is my perspective.

sedjtroll
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Playing for placement

zaiga wrote:

At least in [Chess] you are almost guaranteed to win if you are the better player...

That interests me. IS it "almost"? If so, then where do you draw the line?

- Seth

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Playing for placement

sedjtroll wrote:
zaiga wrote:

At least in [Chess] you are almost guaranteed to win if you are the better player...

That interests me. IS it "almost"? If so, then where do you draw the line?

I think it is yes. It's hard to say where you draw the line. I would be never able to win a game against Kasparov, that's for sure. However, I can imagine a situation where a slightly better player might get caught in an opening sequence he has studied less than his opponent and thus is handicapped a bit or that he simply is a bit fatigued, and sometimes even good players simply make mistakes.

Then again, if there is a great difference in skill-level of the opponents than the worse player simply doesn't stand a chance.

Anonymous
Playing for placement

I opened a thread very similar to this one a while back entitled First Place, First Loser, Second Loser.... In that thread, I, like many of you, indicated that I always like to vie for position (of course, only after I've determined that I can't take first place or it would be near impossible). To me it doesn't make sense to slap the leader just because he's the leader. I want to finish as high in the rankings as possible. Sometimes that might mean slapping the guy just behind the leader. Some people get miffed by such play, but that's the nature of games. My goals and philosophies won't conicide with everyone else's, nor should they. I'm entitled to play to seek out my own interests.

What bothers me is that some people get knocked out of the running and they end up playing haphazardly trying all kinds of crazy crap with no firm objective or goal. They figure, they're out of it, so they just want to see what havoc they can stir up. This bothers me a little. I figure everyone should always be playing in their own interests; however, because I ask others to afford me my own right to do as I see fit, I have to affort these guys the same. At the end of the day, it's all just a game. Almost always, regardless of outcome, I have fun!

Mario

Anonymous
Playing for placement

I re-entered this discussion a little late, but it did pique my interest and I'd like to add a few more points to those I've already mentioned...

Jeff said, "My objection with the kind of people Fast was talking about is that they give up without even trying to win, and try to sabotage the game by ending it as quickly as possible. That's just being a poor sport."

I agree. As long as the person is playing in his own best interest to achieve his own personal goal (whether it's an outright win or the best placement possible), I have no objections to whatever he does. Yes, although I may have played a superb game myself and one of my gaming friends makes a decision to whack me for reasons on his own agenda, whereby he doesn't win and neither do I, those are the breaks. That's the nature of the multi-player arena.

Jeff continues, "But again, if someone does all they can to maximize their score relative to what they believe the winning score will be, I just don't see anything to object to there...What am I missing?" and then he later went on to back it up with a pertinent Wallenstein example.

Again, I am following wholeheartedly. Each player is entitled to meeting whatever goals he sets out for himself. (I completely agree with Jeff's assessment of his Wallenstein example.) On the whole, Jeff and I seem to be in agreement. I only get miffed when a player who is out of the running becomes whiny or disgusted and he starts doing crazy, senseless things to end the game, to screw purposelessly with the positions of others, and so on. It's at this point that the player has dropped all personal self interest in either victory or the highest finish and has, instead, decided to make the game his own personal playground. When this happens, it wreaks havoc with everyones game so that the outcome has nothing to do with a measure of skill. That's where I draw the line. Do what you want, whatever you want, so long as it's in the name of your own self interest, so long as you're still making an attempt at exercising intelligent decisions, and I won't complain.

I'll say it again. It all comes down to self interest. So long as a player is making a move or decision based on achieving some goal that he feels will increase he chances of success--however he equates success--we have no right to complain. It doesn't matter if we agree with none of his logic or if the move is completely foolish or seems completely random, he's entitled to make it as he sees fit. All you have to determine is whether the player is still seeking after his own self interest.

The issue with kingmaking is also an issue of self interest. Sometimes a player will find himself in the unique situation where he can make move that will either award victory to John or to Mary, he decides. No one wants to be in that position; however, we can't always avoid it. In this case, the player should decide which move will result in his best outcome and take it without regarding who the game will be given to--this goes back to the unspoke law of objective of playing games: to win. If the player assesses that he can't win, he may decide to accept the best possible placement, or, if he thinks he has a chance, he may decide to go for it. In either case, he's free to choose.

Bandecko said, "I think it's a human condition to want to spoil things for others if you realize that no matter what you do you can't win. Some people I've played with do this, others just flat out quit... which unfortunately takes the desire RIGHT out of the sails of everyone else playing and the game usually ends then and there."

Well said. This goes back to the fact that the spoilsport has lost all self interest and is merely making the game his own personal playground or is abandoning it altogether. He's robbing everyone's fun.

I'm just the sort of player who, once knocked out of the running, might choose to vie for position. As a result, I may end up attacking someone other than the leader, even though some responses in this thread seem to be against this. Disagree with my logic if you will, but you can't disagree that I have the right to decide what my "self interests" are. You might not like them if I smack you while you're in second place (and have a descent shot at first) in order to attain my own self interest which is to attain a higher final placement. You may not like it, but that doesn't make me a spoilsport, just different than you. I think it's easy to define a spoilsport. The spoilsport drops all self interest in personal outcome and seeks an alternate means of pleasure: ending the game sooner or wreaking havoc just for fun.

Fast chimed in, "For the record, btw, I don't advocate creating a bunch of rules (or any rules) to keep people from being spoilsports (besides kingmaking), sore losers, or cheaters."

Yes, Fast. This would be an utter waste of time. Why write rules to stop humans from exhibiting human-like character?

I think I know the root of the whole argument about going for first or for best placement. Some of us have been in a position whereby we might have pulled out of second to win a game EXCEPT for the guy who decided to whack our position so that he could achieve a better placement. It's almost as if some are arguing, "Well, although I do have a chance, I'm not the frontrunner, so go ahead and whack him, but not me."

Get over it. There are psychological factors that enter into the gaming equasion. Although I know little about him, I'll bet Napoleon, knew quite a bit about psychological warfare. People who can understand and predict how events will steer others will have better chances of winning.

First, the issue we've been discussing--about whether a player should go for first place or best placement--exists only in the multiplayer environment where a sense of fairness comes into question. Take any game and play it with just two players and, although the game won't be as much fun, this issue dissolves. In one-on-one bouts there's no debate about fairness (except to blame the cards or one's luck). Your opponent can make foolish decisions or pursue any crazy goal and we won't care a bit. It won't affect our chances of winning; in fact, it'll probably increase them.

When we're looking at a multi-player environment, on the other hand, trying to create fairness can become a big issue. I say, screw fairness! Life's not fair and you shouldn't expect the deity of fairness to come down from his heavenly cloud to enforce the laws of fairness in your strategy board game. You should only expect ethics and good sportsmanship at the game table.

First, your friends have usually chosen to join game night because they like playing competitive thinking games and because they're fun. Second, there is an unspoken law and objective of playing games--to win--and it's the key to this who discussion. No one would be happy if Tom's wife Marissa sat down and exclaimed, "I don't really like playing strategy board games, but I usually play so that I can spend my resources helping Tom win." No one would want to play that game. Why? It's against the purpose of playing games. If people created games where there were no winners and no losers, there wouldn't be a hobby called "gaming"; no one would bother with it.

If we can agree on the fact that all the players at a game table, at the outset of the game, should have the objective of winning, and I think we do, that doesn't mean everyone will necessarily agree on what a player's objective should be come mid-game. Sure, it should still be to win, if possible. The problem is that, a player might decide that winning is no longer attainable, or if it is, that it's unlikely. In this situation, no one has the right to declare a fallback objective that all players must assume. Each player gets to decide for himself based on his own values. The player can freely decide to take a risky shot at first place or a more certain shot at a better position. It may largely depend on whether the player values high finishing positions other than first.

Now, let me take all of my wordiness and restate my points:

First, the unspoken law and objective of playing games is to win. Once a player assesses that he is unlikely to attain or cannot attain that goal, he may pursue any other self-interest-seeking goal according to his values--namely taking an unlikely chance at victory or taking steps that will likely result in a better final placement.

Reddjackk
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Put "end-game" out of your mind.

Regarding strategy games, particularly ones with a rich theme, where you can easily slip into "character", my response to being out of the first place running in a one-off game is a simple one: I imagine the end-game doesn't exist. With this in mind, pursuing my personal interests (for a theoretical eventual assault on first place) remains the only valid course of action (for me, at any rate).

Anonymous
Playing for Future Position in Strategy Games

One idea that I have been thinking about is coming up with a rating system that gives the winner of a game a higher rating than 2nd place, which is higher than 3rd place, etc. The ratings are (maybe) percentage based, and a players rating is based on their total games played. So a player that plays well all the time might have a rating of 87 while a player that does poorly all the time has a rating of 31. At the beginning of each subsequent game, each person begins with an advantage that reflects their rating, or alternatively each person is handicapped or assisted because of this rating. So for example, the highest and lowest rated players receive the others starting advantage or disadvantage.

With this system, all players would be encouraged to play for the highest position possible, especially when it means that your starting position in the next game will be affected by how well you play during the current one. New players would also get an advantage that might make them feel more "in" the game.

One problem that I can see with this is a player might play to lose badly, so that they can gain a better starting position in the next game, when using a kind of handicap/assist system. However, I can't see someone doing this as a matter of course, because if the strategy of "I'm playing to lose so that I can win the next game" pays off, they will win the next game and their rating will go up.

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Playing for placement

Mario wrote:
First, the unspoken law and objective of playing games is to win. Once a player assesses that he is unlikely to attain or cannot attain that goal, he may pursue any other self-interest-seeking goal according to his values--namely taking an unlikely chance at victory or taking steps that will likely result in a better final placement.

We're in complete agreement.

(In my example, btw, it wasn't a matter of the "spoiling" player improving his position -- he in fact made his position worse to play kingmaker. That doesn't fit within the parameters you mentioned.)

Anonymous
Playing for placement

This issue comes up frequently in our games of Settlers. We (my wife, my cousin, my cousin's roommate, and whoever happens to be in town that weekend) generally play with both Cities and Knights, and Seafarers, with 4 or more players. Often, due to poor placement (the player's fault), irregular dice rolls (some number coming up more than statistically expected), or a lucky progress card draws, by mid game there are 2 people who are almost assured of losing, and 2 or 3 vying for the leader position. In fact, the last game we played on Saturday I was mathematically eliminated due to the fact that I had nowhere left to build, and all of the metropolises were clinched.

In reality, the player is almost always to blame; there have been few times where a 2 or a 12 has been rolled more than a 6, but those are extremely rare. Most of the time the player either chose poorly, or took a risk (such as trying to hoard 1 or 2 resources and denying themselves others) that didn't pay off.

The important part is based on human psychology, however: regardless of the cause, when you are only 45 minutes into a 90- or 120- minute game, and you know that you have lost, a lot of the desire to play is lost. We don't usually have a problem with 'kingmaking' per se, but players will quit paying attention as much, and watch TV or read a book when it is not their turn.

In our case, it may help to establish either a long-term ranking system based on your placement of each game, so that coming in 2nd means more than finishing 4th, or give some benefits to the 2nd (and possibly 3rd) place finisher. Not sure what those would be at this point... just thinking out loud.

I think the main element necessary to prevent whining and chaotic play with the intent to ruin the fun is to either 1) design the game so that any player could theoretically win, no matter how far behind they are, 2) design a game where placement matters (the Great Dalmuti comes to mind), 3) have the players add this on their own, in the form of a ranking system or ladder.

1) sounds ideal to me at first, except that if you are way behind because of your own bad play, why should the game try to compensate for that?

Because some of the games take so long (often we only have time for one game), each game stands alone; that is, players get the mentality "if I don't come in first, what's the point." I realize that this is somewhat childish, and nobody really minds losing to the point they act like a baby, but if we were to implement idea 3) then this might alleviate that issue.

I realize that I'm somewhat rambling now, so I'll stop for now. Just my two cents.

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