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I've done it now - designed a game I can't win.

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nickdanger
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Joined: 12/31/1969

This is a first for me and play testing. Normally during any play testing I find myself cautiously playing so as to not "overwhelm the competition" and skew the play testing. It seems reasonable that it would be so. I designed the game. I understand the mechanics and how they all mesh together pretty damn intimately by the time I bring the game out for a "public" appearance. As such, I come into the game with a pretty large head start in strategies to follow.

Fact is, my won-loss record for games of my own design is quite obscene, with one of them giving me a near perfect record of only one loss in close to a hundred games. However.....

I'd been working on a newish design the last couple of weeks and finally hammered it into a workable game which we've been playtesting daily since. The odd thing (as if you couldn't guess by now) is that I have yet to win the darn thing! I had been only half-heartedly playing at first, more just observing how things were working but I have actively been playing to win the last few games and still nothing!

It's a very strange experience, and to be honest I'm not sure what it means or how to feel about it. Has anyone else come across this? If so, were you able to draw any conclusions from it?

--
Nick

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
I've done it now - designed a game I can't win.

It's an interesting problem you're facing. For me, your experience (not being able to win consistently) with this game is the norm. I find that I win my own games no more frequently than any other games, and sometimes less often. Part of that, I think, might be that I tend to focus more on observing the game than on really trying to play it, but I suspect that things wouldn't change all that much even if I was trying really hard.

To be honest, I'd be WAY more worried if I found myself in the other situation you mentioned, where you have a 100-1 win ratio in a game you designed. If I saw that happen, I'd have to conclude that I was either playing with weak players, or that the strategies in the game were extremely opaque. I wouldn't mind racking up a few easy wins as the newbies got assimilated, but if people don't become "veterans" to the point where they can beat me within 100 games, it would be a bad sign for me. It might also suggest that I had "forced" the design too much. The ideal state of affairs is when players formulate unique strategies that you hadn't ever envisioned. If, when you're first playing the game, you already know all the strategies, I'd say it's highly likely you've overspecified the design, and it may not have a high replay factor.

In a "designer can't win" situation, maybe it's something simple, like there's more luck in the game than you're aware of, or that the other players are seeing strategies you hadn't seen, or something. Can you evaluate what it is that's enabling others to beat you?

Good luck with your game!!

-Jeff

nickdanger
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Joined: 12/31/1969
I've done it now - designed a game I can't win.

jwarrend wrote:
To be honest, I'd be WAY more worried if I found myself in the other situation you mentioned, where you have a 100-1 win ratio in a game you designed. If I saw that happen, I'd have to conclude that I was either playing with weak players, or that the strategies in the game were extremely opaque.

That game is one I designed around the "I splt, you choose" mechanic:
http://www.regnadkcin.com/ddesigns/granprixjumping/index.htm
I love that mechanic and I just seem to have a knack for making splits that people choose exactly what I want them to. If anything, it's probably that I "know" the people I play with too well and can steer them right where I want them. Plus, I know the game so well, and the card mix by heart, that I can make much more informed splits and choices than the "casual" gamer.

Anyway... to get back to the game in question:

Quote:
In a "designer can't win" situation, maybe it's something simple, like there's more luck in the game than you're aware of, or that the other players are seeing strategies you hadn't seen, or something. Can you evaluate what it is that's enabling others to beat you?

This is easily the most interactive game I've designed yet. Darn near everything you do affects the other players. I notice that for some reason I tend to adopt a "playing in a bubble" attititude where I don't take into account what the other players are doing as much as I should. It's a completely open information game and no real "luck" as much as player initiated chaos of a sort. I'm not really worried about it - yet, more just curious as it's something I've not run across before.

If it keeps up, I'll need to look into some serious re-design so I can win!

- Nick

nickdanger
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Joined: 12/31/1969
I've done it now - designed a game I can't win.

Update -
I was able to pull out a victory finally, mainly through the use of Jedi mind tricks. Hey, I didn't exclude their use in the rules!

Hedge-o-Matic
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Joined: 07/30/2008
I've done it now - designed a game I can't win.

I never hold back while playtesting. I use all of my insight into the mechanics and game flow to defeat my opponants every time I play. I exploit every weakness they display.

Some quotes from a recent playtest I did with my wife:

Her: "What, are you an idiot?" (Proceeds to win the game on turn two.)

Later:

"I can't believe you just did that!" (Proceeds to dismantle the carefully constructed formation I'd "discovered" to be so strong during solo playtesting.)

And still later:

"I like this game." (Proceeds to a win so total, so completely crushing, that we had to pring additional scoring counters into play, since I didn't think anyone could lose by as much as I just had.)

Marriage is bliss, I tell ya.

Lor
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Joined: 12/31/1969
I've done it now - designed a game I can't win.

For me, it depends on how sharp the opponent, how quick on the draw. Some are plodders, some absorb the rules quickly and move right ahead. When I'm testing, I am in observation mode. During initial practice round (abstract strategy in this case) I may point out a situation opponent could play which would devastate me-- and occasonally I'll do the same to the opponent. These are ways of introducing advanced moves.

But that's only for the practice round!

OutsideLime
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Joined: 12/31/1969
I've done it now - designed a game I can't win.

Quote:
During initial practice round (abstract strategy in this case) I may point out a situation opponent could play which would devastate me-- and occasonally I'll do the same to the opponent. These are ways of introducing advanced moves.

I do the same thing sometimes... it's hard to maintain the patience necessary to allow a new player to discover the exploitable nuances of a game naturally, a process that would usually require several playings-through for the new player to do. If your game is a long one, that patience can seem almost impossible. "Are you sure you want to move THAT piece?"

The premise here is not always to assist the new player towards a victory... it is to make them aware of the strategic and tactical options (dubiously beneficial though they may be) that exist in the game. New players generally run through a game in a "comprehending the rules" sort of mindset for varying periods depending on the complexity and depth of the game... most first-timers to Settlers Of Catan actually verbally declare "ok, NOW i get it" sometime during the game.

Helping players to achieve that epiphany is OK by me... I don't feel that I'm "robbing" a player of the natural learning curve of the game, more like I'm introducing them to a clearer, more smoothly-designed curve.

~Josh

Lor
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Joined: 12/31/1969
I've done it now - designed a game I can't win.

Josh writes-
["Are you sure you want to move THAT piece?"]

Gulity!

Knowing full well that the most effective way to playtest is to plop the box on the table, step back and watch. You learn all sorts of stuff by seeing how they unpack it and go for the rulebook.

Its the acid test for rule comprehension-- you're not really there at all. The Prime Directive-- non interference. I've done that too. You have to, ultimately.

[ I don't feel that I'm "robbing" a player of the natural learning curve of the game, more like I'm introducing them to a clearer, more smoothly-designed curve. ]

Exactly, it's how one player teaches another how to play so it's valid. It's getting that first player's comprehension which involves the Prime Directive, and we all have to test for that.

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