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[TIGD] Kingmaking (Common Problem #2)

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Horoku
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Joined: 12/31/1969
My sentiments exactly... well almost

Trasa wrote:
Maybe you could reduce the effect of kingmaker by using the effect of kingmaker to reduce the distance between players. Something like catching crooks with crooks:). Let's say one player has 2 points another 4 and the third player has 6 points. By using an bidding system (maybe you could also make other applications) and making the player with 4 points the bidding master he could choose between giving the player with 2 point cheap commodities or whatever or let the player with 6 points pay a lot of money for the goods. In order to implant this there must be some mechanism wich says that the second highest player must be the bidding master. i don't know or it would work but maybe.

I had the same idea, sort of... I think what Trasa is hinting at is adding kingbashing to the game mechanics themselves, because as I read these posts, (many good ideas btw) I seemed to see that keeping the game close is key to avoiding kingmaking. I was inspired with the idea of having "tiered" scoring. What this basically means is that different players get different point values for the same actions. Now before you say, "But what about when the leader is clearly a more skilled player? Wouldn't this just be a way to benefit poor players for their poor playing?" Trust me, I am 100% against giving incentives for poor play. However consider this example of what I mean.

In the trading game "traders" we'll call it, the basic way to score is buy and sell commodities. However, a rudimentary "economic" structure exists so that players with strong economies have higher prices for the goods they sell. At the same time, weaker economies sell the same goods for lower prices. This encourages players to buy from weaker players, thus making them stronger. It also brings the stronger player's prices down, as their demand drops.(To calulate simply, "if you have the most points out of everyone during the trade you get 1 pt, 2nd most pts gets 2 pts...least points gets 5 pts...etc") To curb the negative, give the stronger players the ability to invest in goods that are always high priced, but expensive initially, that way a "better" player won't simply find his/her hands tied until dropping to a lower rank, but will also be unable to leave others completely in the dust. You can also have a "shop" where all players must go to gain items that help them. The greedy game will ask a higher price of wealthier clientele. (The way U. S. income taxes would work if rich people weren't allowed to evade them...) This will help to balance out the overall available funds. At the same time however, side-missions a-b-c etc. exist, without tiered scoring, so while they are more difficult to get, the stronger you are, the better your chances of being successful. These "un-tiered" missions will be weighted to be more important to winning, so that a skilled player is checked by the game, not punished, as this would essentially just move the role of kingmaker from losing players to the game itself. You could even go a step further and restrict "helping" in the game by making trading with the same people less profitable over time. (1st time 5 pts, 2nd time 3 pts...etc)

Granted, this entire game is really just a very rough sketch of some possible solutions by making it harder to advance the better you play, but hey, I figured that since I've seen what kingmaking can take away from a game, I thought I'd take a stab. I dunno, maybe none of these ideas would work at all, but hey, this IS a public forum right? :^"

ACG
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[TIGD] Kingmaking (Common Problem #2)

I'm afraid my Junkyard Wars may have a kingmaking problem as well. I'm not sure what to do about it though. I've done a little, but I don't think it's enough.

The winning score is 75 points. One guy has 70 points, one has 65 points, and one has 20 points. The 70 point guy is one piece of junk away from winning, and it happens to have been taken by the 20 point guy. Furthermore, there is only one such piece of junk.

The 75 point guy asks for a trade. If the 20 accepts, he effectively gives the 75 point guy the game. If the 20 refuses, the 75 guy can't win because he's missing a piece, which will give the 70 point player the game. No matter what happens, the 20 point player determines who wins.

The way I tried to work around this is as follows: even after the trade, it is still not 100% certain that the 70 point guy will win. Yes, he may make his machine, but there are two issues: (a) his machine could fail, in which case the 65 guy has on the average of four more turns to catch up, or (b) his machine could suffer a major malfunction (5% chance) which would not earn him points but damage all the components -- and half of the components, the quality D ones, will become nonfunctional if they are damaged. Suddenly, if unique component was quality D, the presence of the nonfunctional component automatmically drops the odds of a successful test (required to score points) to 5%. The 70 point guy can still win, but he will have to get VERY lucky.

Triktrak
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[TIGD] Kingmaking (Common Problem #2)

This doesn't address anyones problem directly, but I think Kingmaker Insurance mechanic would be an interesting concept (I don't know of any game that uses this. What if at the beginning of a game you could invest a certain number of future points for the kingmaking situation. If someone screwed you out of a victory because of a king making situation, you could cash in your Insurance points and move ahead whatever number you invested by. This of course should remain secret, so that the kingmaking player wouldn't know who his decision would benefit most. At the end of the game any player who didn't actually get to cash in his insurance will have to pay the premium they determined at the beginning of the game.

cbs42
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Re: Random Kingmaker thoughts and a 'solution'

jwarrend wrote:
Quote:
In the first example in this thread, I did not see any wrong in the kingmaking situation. Two players are equal, the third player can chose how he should act and his action will have consequences.

I couldn't disagree more; to play for three hours and have a third player choose the winner is not significantly different from playing for 3 hours and rolling a die to decide the winner. If that's what it was going to come down to, why not just roll the die from the beginning and get it over with?

Because, presumably, the process of playing the game is the fun part.

Your statement implies that the primary purpose of a game it to determine a final ranked winners list. But if, like myself, you enjoy the mechanics and process of the game throughout the course of its play, then those 3 hours were not wasted.

An analogy: You sit down for a meal and you have a very tasty salad, followed by a luscious tender steak and warm fresh bread. Then, unfortunately, the dessert that followed was not to your liking. A sour ending to a wonderful meal, to be sure. But did it spoil your entire meal, or was that steak still juicy and delicious, despite the lousy dessert?

jwarrend
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Re: Random Kingmaker thoughts and a 'solution'

cbs42 wrote:

Your statement implies that the primary purpose of a game it to determine a final ranked winners list. But if, like myself, you enjoy the mechanics and process of the game throughout the course of its play, then those 3 hours were not wasted.

I think this sets up a false dichotomy. Of course the experience of playing the game may be fun, but we're speaking as designers here, not as players. If your game has a kingmaker problem, some players are going to be unhappy about that. You can't just tell them "don't worry about it, the game was fun to play" -- you have to fix it!

We don't play games solely to find out who the winner is, but the game itself does do precisely that -- it should reward the player who played most skillfully. The kingmaker problem takes the victory decision out of the skill realm and into the realm of the whimsy of one player. That isn't fair, and it's not satisfying. It's not just about who wins and loses; I'd rather lose a hard-fought game than win because of an arbitrary decision by another player. Does winning matter in the grand scheme of things? No. But what have we been doing these last three hours if not trying to harness the game's mechanics to achieve victory? There are plenty of fun ways to spend 3 hours that are non-competitive. Wanting a game to coronate a winner in a fair manner isn't asking something unreasonable; gaming is a competitive activity, and part of the fun is the build-up to the resolution when players find out which played the "best". If that resolution fails to deliver, then the build-up seems less satisfying in retrospect.

Quote:
An analogy: You sit down for a meal and you have a very tasty salad, followed by a luscious tender steak and warm fresh bread. Then, unfortunately, the dessert that followed was not to your liking. A sour ending to a wonderful meal, to be sure. But did it spoil your entire meal, or was that steak still juicy and delicious, despite the lousy dessert?

Here's a better analogy. You watch a movie whose first two hours are great -- they set up a riveting story which unfolds in a really exciting fashion. But then, the last ten minutes are totally lame -- the ending is totally predictable, it's formulaic, it's weak, and it leaves many unresolved questions. Now THAT is frustrating, and it DOES spoil the rest of the movie -- this thing that you've become invested in didn't give the exciting resolution that it seemed to be building up to. That's exactly what it's like when a game that has an extended development phase feels like when the game's end is decided arbitrarily. Such is my big complaint with Illuminati. Though it doesn't suffer from a kingmaker, its ending is quite arbitrary, and therefore anticlimactic. That's pretty much what the kingmaker situation is; a big anticlimax. It's worth trying to keep such a flaw out of our games if possible.

-Jeff

Shellhead
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[TIGD] Kingmaking (Common Problem #2)

Personally, I believe that all analogies are false. One thing is not truly like another, or else it would actually *be* that other thing.

On topic, another possible way to avoid the Kingmaker problem is to have the game end at an unforseen point in time. Yes, that probably means random.

The end of the game could be contingent on a specific event, like in Acquire when the a corporation exceeds a certain number of continuous tiles on the board. With other games, the end is reached when the deck of cards is exhausted. But both of these situations are definite enough that there could still be a kingmaker situation at the end.

So make it a little random. Instead of ending the game when the deck is exhausted, make the ending based on the appearance of a specific card that is left out of the deck until after the first time it is exhausted and then insert that card while re-shuffling the deck.

FastLearner
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[TIGD] Kingmaking (Common Problem #2)

I was talking to Friedemann Friese about this issue a couple of months ago. He'd recently led a discussion on the topic at a game designer's meeting held each year in Germany, and had some interesting insights.

One of them is that lots of published games have a kingmaker situation, but that the designer has pushed it far enough back in time that players don't realize that's what it was. In a 10-turn game, one player can function as kingmaker in turn 6 or 7, but because it was so far from the end, no one connected that move with the game win, especially in games with slightly (or very) opaque scoring.

He suggested that one real option to a kingmaker problem is that if you can't get rid of it -- the structure of many games makes it impossible to remove -- then you can push it back in time. One turn helps, two turns helps more, and three turns can make it completely invisible.

For better or worse. :)

-- Matthew

johant
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[TIGD] Kingmaking (Common Problem #2)

Very interesting subject.

Just beacuse the kingmaking isnt as obvious early in the game doesnt make it less of an issue. kingmaking in the last round is of course too obvious not to notice and the idea of having it earlier in the game should be enough for family gamers.

I dont see how a kingmaking problem early in a game cease to be a problem later in the game though. If its not a problem then why should it be a problem earlier?

I have both won and lost a game of caylus due to kingmaking, not very satisfying...

I guess that most games that will stand the test of time will be 2 player games just because of the problem with kingmaking.

Imagine Chess with 3 players?

//Johan

Shellhead
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[TIGD] Kingmaking (Common Problem #2)

We've already established that kingmaking can only take place in a multi-player game. Isn't one aspect of a multi-player game the social aspect, where you try to persuade other players to collaborate with you towards certain goals during the game? So if the game comes down to a kingmaking situation, the player who played a better social game may come out ahead. Of course, there are often stronger factors outside the game experience that will influence the kingmaking, especially if there is spouse or significant other in the game.

FastLearner
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[TIGD] Kingmaking (Common Problem #2)

Some folks play with the social aspect, others strictly forbid that kind of talk.

On moving kingmaking back in time, there are many games where it's simply impossible to not have a kingmaking effect. The more interactive the game, the more likely I'm going to make a move that inadverdently -- and unknowningly -- gives the game to player B instead of player C.

Imagine a game like Power Grid and the way cities are built out. If I build to a city in one direction instead of another this turn and, unknowingly, make it just cheap enough for player B to build out to one more city next turn, I may have given him the game 5 turns from now. If I'd gone the other way then player C would have been able to reach another section of the board cheaply and the game would have been his. These things happen all the time in multiplayer games, but we only feel it's unfair when it happens at a point when it's clear that it's too late for the other player to do anything about it.

zaiga
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[TIGD] Kingmaking (Common Problem #2)

FastLearner wrote:
On moving kingmaking back in time, there are many games where it's simply impossible to not have a kingmaking effect. The more interactive the game, the more likely I'm going to make a move that inadverdently -- and unknowningly -- gives the game to player B instead of player C.

I think it's important to make a distinction between having an interactive game, and kingmaking. Of course, in an interactive game there will be moves that decide the future winner. However, players will make these moves because they believe it will improve their own chance of winning the game, or at the very least their standing in the game, even if in the end it turns out that it didn't. So, this is not really "kingmaking" in my book.

Johan
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[TIGD] Kingmaking (Common Problem #2)

King making is an interesting subject, but (as I wrote a year ago or so) this is a consequences of having interaction where you have choices that effects the other players. I have never seen king making as a bad component in the game (and I know that a lot of you disagree with me). There are however in 3 situations I hate king making.
- Between friends (especially in competitions when a table contains friends, I always check this before the game). The same goes with bitter enemies.
- When someone play in a way that a child will win (just to make the child happy). I have never let my daughters win (if I can avoid it). They know that the most important thing is not to win the game; it's to crush and humiliate the competition. Therefore they will never give up (even if they will loose). They try to make get as good position as possible.
- The ring of control. Where you have girlfriends, boyfriends, married couple and so on: where one part is helping the other just to keep piece.

King making is also a way to promote or punish a player or a style at the table:

Example:
Several of years ago I played a tournament of Advanced Civilization. I manage to get my favorite starting position (Africa). The Egypt player was aggressive and started to attack in turn 3 (wanted to have all of Egypt and Africa as his own territory). All other players around the table protested but he continued with his war act against me.
The other players started to help me in there trades and if they had spare forces, they started to attack him. I was soon back on track and ended third in the game. (When I was back in the game, I was treated as just a player and did not get any special help).
As an unspoken collective agreement among the other players, they decided that he should have the last position. He also received it.
In this case, the other players did a king making act since they decided what position a player should have without gaining anything from it.

// Johan

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