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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

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Zzzzz
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This week we tackle runaway leader and leader bashing!

Run-away leader

Runaway leader, when one player surges ahead (based on completed game goals) of the other players during a game and continues to pull away from the these players, eventually claiming victory.

Acquire is an example of a game that can turn into a Runaway Leader. It usually occurs from poor play on the parts of the other players, but yet, once that one player gets a lead.... not much can be done to stop their victory.

Risk is another game which tends to result in a Runaway Leader. From my experience it seems that many games of Risk result in that one player getting just enough resources, armies or cards, that allows them to jump well ahead of other players. At which point there is little to nothing that the "losing" players can do to stop the onslaught of the current leader.

The comment I stated above about stoping the current leader brings a up an important point that many articles (across the net) seem to touch on; that being, does a game that contains a means/mechanic that allows players to stop, hinder or interrupt the current leader, remove the runaway leader issue?

Some might feel that if there are ways to stop/hinder the current leader, then a game may not have a Runaway Leader problem. I'm not sure if I believe this to be true or not. I feel that even with means/mechanics in place to help attack the perceived leader, there might be times when the leader will continue to run away. My reason, in the case where players start using their time/resources/turns attempting to stop the leader, they most likely do not have the ability to hinder the leader and catch up to the leader at the same time.

Run-away leader questions:

1) Is runaway leader a game problem? If so, what type of problem is it(design, player or other)?
2) How does Run-away leader help/hurt a game?
3) What can be done to add/remove runaway leader from games?
4) Do games that contain mechanics for attacking other players, have less runaway leader problems?

Leader bashing

Now onto Leader Bashing, basically it comes down to players making choices that negatively effect the currently perceived leader.

Settlers is a good canidate for leader bashing. Many players will determine who they feel is the current leader, and reduce trade or hinder resource generation (placing the robber) on that opponent.

You can even consider a simple game of UNO, whomever has the least amount of cards is perceived as the leader. Is this always true? Not sure, but it tends to cause tension for the other players, and switches the mind set to stopping(or bashing) that leader.

Leader bashing questions:

1) Is leader bashing a game problem? If so, what type of problem is it(design, player or other)?
2) What can leader bashing bring to a game?
3) What causes one player to bash a perceived leader?
4) What can be done to reduce leader bashing? And do you really want to reduce leader bashing?

Couple generic questions about both topics:
1) Is leader bashing a result of having a runaway leader?
2) How does leader bashing effect runaway leader?
3) Does leader bashing or runaway leader cause other problems in a game(like kingsmakiing?)?

GeminiWeb
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

Thanks Zzzzz for a great start. I'll be back with my own thoughts ... when I get some ;)

Until then, the following journal entry at BGG is of interest and might stimulate some further discussion:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geekjournal.php3?action=viewcomments&journalid=1527

jwarrend
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

Thanks for a great opening essay! We put these seemingly separate topics together because, to me at least, they're two sides of the same coin. The key issue with these problems is that both render a significant portion of the game superfluous. With a runaway leader, the early part of the game dominates and the late stages are unimportant to determining the outcome of the game. With leader bashing, it's just the opposite; the early stages of the game are insignificant, since the player who leads in that stage will be hit and brought back to the pack.

These are a bit of a generalization, but I think they stem from a core idea that in general, the whole game should matter; after all, if the winner is known by the third turn, why play 10 more turns? Similarly, I've played far too many games in my group where the dominant strategy was "don't be leading in the first half of the game", since doing so would make you a target and the 2nd place player would just win. Now, certainly, to some extent, "leader bashing" is a player flaw; if players collectively gang up on one player, only to pave the way for another to win, then perhaps they shouldn't have hit the leader quite so hard. Still, philosophically, it just never sat well with me that the point of many games was to be "average" up until the very end. I just didn't find that fun in general.

There's also a "leader bashing" problem in games where one person can end the game by winning. Games like Illuminati have this problem; "If Joe succeeds doing [such and such], he will win, and the game will be over, so let's all hit 'Joe'". Then, after Joe gets brought back to the pack, it's Mike's turn to get hit, and so on. This is a slightly different problem, because it can really drag the game out.

I think the key to solving these problems is to make every part of the game important (but not necessarily equal in importance...)

1. Use accelerated scoring. In other words, scoring opportunities late in the game are more important than scoring opportunities early in the game.
Otherwise, someone who can pick up an early lead can basically maintain it as the game goes on.

2. To score early (and become the leader), some long-term scoring opportunity must be sacrificed. Carcassonne has a nice element of this with giving you a limited number of Meeples for deployment, which means you have to balance short-range scoring like cities with long-range scoring from Farms.

3. Make some of the scoring secret. This helps to make leader identification difficult, which doesn't always guarantee that players won't try to hit the leader, but that it will be sufficiently hard to identify who the leader is that people should use some caution when doing so.

I'm sure there are other ways to reduce these problems, but to me, the key is making the whole game matter; crack that, and these problems should be greatly reduced.

-Jeff

Verseboy
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

jwarrend wrote:
I think the key to solving these problems is to make every part of the game important (but not necessarily equal in importance...)

1. Use accelerated scoring. In other words, scoring opportunities late in the game are more important than scoring opportunities early in the game.
Otherwise, someone who can pick up an early lead can basically maintain it as the game goes on.

One game that can frequently have a runaway leader problem is O Zoo le Mio (ZooSim) http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/4218. This game is played through 5 rounds, and in each round the scoring is accelerated (X1, X2, X3, X4,X5). The problem here is that it is a bidding game, and you get to replenish your chips based on the number of tiles you've won. So the person with the most tiles get the most chips to bid on the next group of tiles and thus earn points at an acceperated rate. It is possible to come from behind with this setup, but it's also possible to get buried with the outcome of the game determined after 2 rounds.

On another topic within the topic, one thing I hate is when there is a runaway leader and one player elects to not take on the leader, leaving the other players to do the dirty work while he picks up the pieces and wins the game. When I see this happening, I usually stop challenging the leader, thus handing the game to the leader. I don't like being anybody's stooge. If someone isn't willing to fight their own battles, I don't want to fight those battles for them.

Steve

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My thoughts

One of the problems I see sometimes with Runaway Leaders is in games where some sort of currency (money, VPs, etc) is used to buy resources, and the purchasing of said resources leads to more currency. This cyclical trait can lead to serious runaway leader problems. Let's face it, players like it when the game rewards them for making good game decision; however such a system that rewards for supposed good gameplay and penalizes (or simply doesn't give a reward) for 'bad play' can create a huge gap between the player(s) who are doing well and who are not rather quickly. Steve's Zoosim explanation is a perfect example of what I'm referring to. Somehow we as designers need to sever the direct link between game currency and game resources, or at least find a good method for providing better payouts to the underdog and lessened payouts to those players who are further ahead.

Just my 2 pence.
-Darke

jwarrend
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

Verseboy wrote:

On another topic within the topic, one thing I hate is when there is a runaway leader and one player elects to not take on the leader, leaving the other players to do the dirty work while he picks up the pieces and wins the game.

This problem is one that is often amplified by the seat order effect we discussed last week. If Joe is running away with the game, frequently the job of "Joe-stopper" will fall to the player immediately before Joe in the rotation, since he is the "last line of defense". I think that this isn't inherently a bad thing, except in the situation where "taking one for the team" also takes you out of contention in the game. So, when a game forces you to choose between hitting another player or helping yourself, I think that game could potentially have some problems.

-Jeff

Jebbou
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

Good morning everyone,

My girlfriend bought me last year a game called "Samurai & Katana". Although the game is in French, it has an interesting game mechanics regarding leading players. At the start of each turn, the player who has most honor points (VP of this game) receives the "Shogun" title. Having one free movement per turn is the only benefit of having this title. He has one big disadvantage though: whenever he loses a battle, he loses one honor point. The player with the least honor point receives the "Emperor" title. The emperor has the ability to decide the play order. These rules may not prevent a "Bash the leader" effect, but make part of the game evolve around this.

I would also like to add to Jeff's comments in regards to hidden victory points. Having hidden personnal objectives can prevent players from knowing exactly which player is leading. I used to play a game called "Labyrinth Master" when I was younger. In this game, you start the game by picking a card which gives you three objectives, treasures you must find in the labyrinth. A player gain points for each treasure found, but if he has that treasure in his secret list, he recieve even more points.

In Serenissima, I have seen odd things occur during the last turn. It was the complete opposite of the "Bash the leader" theory: "Leaders bash the weak". Leaders attacked the loosing players, in hope of gaining more victory points. It is more rewarding to strike at someone defenseless than someone with a large fleet.

I do not really like games where the "Runaway leader" situation occurs. I think one should always have a chance to come back. It is not about keeping a low profile during the first part of the game, but about players who, although they have tried very hard, have not had a chance to grow as much powerful as other players, but managed climb up to victory. I have seen many games like that in Settlers.

Darkehorse also mentionned to sever resources from currency. I would add to that: Sever resources and currency from game objectives. Give players a choice: "Do I score now, or invest so that I can score later". This could provide some interesting dilemas.

Well, there goes my first post :) Feel free to msg me if you have any comments about the post itself.

Have a nice day,

Jeb

DarkDream
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Interesting Topic

The runaway leader and bashing the leader dilemma.

The one thing I think is really important is to be able to keep players with a possibility of winning even though it may be remote. With the runaway leader syndrome it gets to a point that players have no chance of coming back and effectively give up (at that stage the game has essentially ended for them).

In such a case, I think there needs to possibly be some equalizing methods to help the laggers to catch up. Here are some things I've seen designers do:

1) Keep the game random enough where a player can still have the opportunity of drawing a powerful card or make a crucial die roll that can swing the balance of the game suddenly in their favor.
2) Artifical rules where a player lagging behind four squares (a racing game) gets a little extra movement. Conversely, rules that a leader can only move a maximum amount of squares where the laggers have no maximum.
3) Cards that are drawn can only be used against the leader (encouraged leader bashing).
4) Hidden victory points.
5) Hidden information on the player's current state (player may have a come back card or something).
6) Disproportional victory points or money award based on current state (leader earns less from acheiving the same goal as a lagging player).
7) An inherent penalty is acquired for becoming the leader.

That's all I can think of now, but the mechanisms I pointed to above are either the introduction of specific rules to make things closer, or mechanisms to prevent players from gaining enough information as to be able to clearly tell who the leader is.

Another good point as jwarrend pointed out is to have different scoring at different stages of the game (more points to score as the game goes on). This is another good idea as a player loosing badly in the initial sections of the game can still win the latter stages and pull even or even ahead.

Leader bashing in my estimation is no way as bad as the runaway leader syndrome. Some games actually encourage players to bash the leader; it can be used as an equalizing force. I think where the leader bashing gets out of hand is when players feel that a good move or play on their part is inconsequential as what ever advantage would have been gained would be immediately nullified by other players.

Really I feel the whole issue is a balancing act. You want to reward players with making good moves while at the same time not awarding the player so much that no one else can come back. Players need to feel they are making progess and that their move cannot be totally nullified.

I think as game designers we should be aware of these difficulties, and when we see them occur in our game with playtesting, we should look for ways to mitigate it. I think there has been some good suggestions here on how to do that.

--DarkDream

Johan
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

Hello

I believe that "Run away leader" is one of the major problems in games.
A game that has a "Run away leader" early in the game will normally be considered boring.

We have also the other side, that I call the "Speed bump" problem. That is when a can not win and the player is reduced to a "speed bump". Nothing he/she will do will effects the game. That is another but related issue.

Why do we have a "Run away leader"? Is the "Run away leader" an effect of:
- Skill
- Experience (I use to dived skill and experience in two categories, one will normally give the other but not always).
- Luck.

If the reason for "Run away leader" is based on skill or experience, then we can introduce some kind of handicap in the game. Normally that will work fine.
Luck is something that has to be build away in the design.

Let see how some games have solved the problem (see it from the other side):

King Me! and Magic Realm has hidden goals. You will not know who is winning until the game is over.
Ticket to ride has half of the score hidden (the goals give around half of the final score) You have can see some scoring but not all of it).
In History of the world, the player with the lowest score draws the next civilisation first, and keeps it or gives it to any player around the table. The leader will probably not get the best civilisation this time.
In Kremlin, the goal is not hidden, but your playing pieces are.
Knightmare chess, Go, ASL and Magic Realm has handicap systems.
In Ave Cesar can the leader not use all his cards.
Advanced civilisation has a system where all players benefit from when more players can trade.
In Republic of Rome the game itself is a player and can win (there is a common enemy and the leader will also lose if the game win).
In Talisman you don’t have to be the strongest player to win, just the player that has the courage to face the danger can win.

I have also experimented with campaigns (in WHFB) where the winner gets less and less resources (representing that the winner will go longer away from home base and get less reinforcement). This work well both as a handicap system and if somebody join the champion later.

// Johan

Johan
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

Hello

… and now to "leader bashing". I think that this can be a problem, but it is not a major problem. This can be a used as a component and it is also a neutral thing in games (If a player can win the next turn, I have to stop him). As long you have some kind of interaction between the players you will have this build in to the system.
Leader bashing is the other side of "King making". (If I can help someone to be a king, I can also try to prevent someone to be a one).

It is always a design issue.

- One way to solve this is to have the possibility that the bashing can backfire (the leader will gain something from it and you will lose something).

// Johan

Scurra
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

One disturbing manifestation of the problem is the "no apparent leader" issue (although there may well be a runaway leader, they are hidden.)
This occurs in one of two ways. Either there is a scoring mechanism which disguises player positions (a classic example of this would be Ticket to Ride, although I find the otherwise enjoyable San Marco to be my own personal bugbear.)
Or the game is structured in a series of phases such that it requires a positive action to push the game forwards (e.g. Power Grid) which often results in the first player to bite the bullet being badly burned and frequently knocked out of contention.

Anonymous
keep it short

A partial answer to that run away leader problem is to keep the games short. The problem is lessened at least if a game lasts under an hour, and the leader doesn't start to pull ahead until mid-point or later. No one wants to be "out of the game" when there is still hours to go.

No apparent leader is bad in my opinion. One needs feedback that they are doing well, or not. One needs to know if their strategy is "working" or failing. If I play a game and an hour later I have no idea why I won or lost the game that is bad.

I think the designer has to design the game according to the "type" of game and their original goal. So that in a racing game having a clear leader makes sense and a player should be rewarded for playing well, but in a war game if you lose a few big battles you should lose.

Having a longshot chance only makes sense, when it makes sense (which sounds like a Yogi Berra quote admittedly).

Zzzzz
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

Just to chime in again,

I think we agree that Runaway Leader produces many issues for a game, but are there cases where Runaway Leader is a good thing?

I dont think so personally, but just thought I would ask for input on this...

As for Leader Bashing, I dont truely care for games the call out or target only one specific player. But games that offer an antagonist(the leader), add to the emotion of a game.

Not many players want to see someone else win, so allowing people to target (be it a leader or another player) using a balanced set of mechanics can add so much to a game.

The this for that factor., the emotional highs and lows. I feel that these types of interactions are what help make a game exciting and fun.

Torrent
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

Both of these problems also lead to an emotional problem in games. In a game that has a runaway leader, there are two effects. The non-leaders can feel like they are playing for no goal (they cannot win). The leader may equally feel that either he cannot be caugt or, in my group, a few lucky plays gave him the in.

Bash-the-leader tends to be more exciting as each player feels able to win, but there is the timing thing. The winner is the leader that was at the the end of the game. Again a lucky break tends to win.

Solutions to this...
As has been mentioned before, timing seems to be a good way of dealing with this. Especially if a game has a 'break point' where the runaway woull begin and the bashing would commence. This might be a good point to either end the game or at least move to a different part of the 'arc', so the rules subtly shift.

My favorite method is the hidden agenda. Points that you invest in for the long term that are hidden and revealed at the end. A mixture of tortoise and hare as it were. Also as has been mentioned an overrun of this leads to a no-apparent-leader issue.

Other issues..
I'm not sure it has been mentioned but, games that are a race to an end-point are inherently a runaway game. Settlers is just a race to a point total. I'm not reallysure you can do much to a race game to make it not a runaway; at least not without adding the frustration of never being able to maintain a lead by playing well.

The second thing I notice is that in many german-style games the direct player interaction is low. The idea of multi-player solitare exists. In such a game the runaway leader is almost a different animal. When you are limited in your interaction, the decisions between making the best play for yourself and the best play against another can be quite wide. The math majors abound trying to calculate the best move to narrow or widen a gap.

So the nature of the leader issue is as follows. A player who plays the best Should win most of the time. In general, I feel that consistant good play should win more than sporadic, and lucky good play. A certain amount of leader obfuscation helps as the decision of who to bash isnt as easy, and more importantly not knowing that you are lagging badly helps with the emotional piece as well. Lastly, the nature of the interaction (race, multi-solitare) will greatly affect the feeling of the coping mechanics. An equalizer in a race game will feel more artificial.

zaiga
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

Although leader bashing is often used to mitigate a runaway leader problem, I do think runaway leader and leader bashing are two seperate issues.

Runaway leader

I think that a runaway leader problem typically occurs in games where you use the game's resources to accumulate more resources, which you use to accumulate even more resources and so on. Once you fall behind in this rat race it can be hard to catch up. This is a problem, because players who are behind know they cannot win the game long before it is actually over, which is not fun. It makes the beginning of a game very important and the endgame pointless, which is not a good tension curve.

Then again, "empire building" games, where you use previously attained resources to get even more and/or better resources and expand your "empire" this way, are among the most satisfying of strategy games, so it would be nice if there were some way to implement this mechanism without the nasty effects of a runway leader. There are many ways of doing this.

I think it is often a wise idea to seperate the resources from the winning condition. If you have a design in which you use money to make more money, and the player who is the first to get to $1000 wins, then that is a good recipe for a game with a runaway leader problem. If you seperate the resources from the winning condition, then the player has to think about when to convert his resources into winning conditions. A player who starts off well resource-wise may mess up when he tries to convert these resources into winning points and a player who does this more efficiently may be able to catch up and win.

It also helps if the difference between the amount of resources the players get at each point in the game is relatively small. This sounds kind of vague, but "Puerto Rico" is a good example. Whenever the "Mayor" is chosen everyone gets a few colonists, when the "Builder" is chosen everyone gets to buy a building, when "Settler" is chosen everyone gets a plantation. Sure, there is some difference in what each player gets, but the increments are small. The roles that do sometimes make a huge difference are the "Trader" because of the limited space in the trading house, and the "Captain" because of the limited space on the ships and these are the roles that create the most tension in the game.

Another great trick is, as Jeff already noted, to have increased scoring as the game progresses. This doesn't solve the problem of runaway leader, if there is one, but it does keep the game exciting until the end. It is of course important not to make the end scoring so important that the early rounds become useless.

"Taj Mahal" is a great example of increased scoring. Whenever you win a commodity, you get one point plus one point for each commodity of the same type you have won in previous rounds. This means that one player can get ahead in the scoring by winning a lot of different commodities early in the game, but that may be overcome by careful play and specializing in a particular commodity, for big scores in the late game.

"Puerto Rico" also has increased scoring. Special buildings, such as the Wharf, Harbor and Small Warehouse can produce some big point swings in the late game and the "big" buildings can do the same. This means that a player who gets the best or most resources out of the early game, could still lose if he is outplayed in the late game. This gives other players an incentive to keep playing.

Is runaway leader always bad? For most multi-player strategy games the answer to that question is yes. However, there are some situations where you actually want a runaway leader, because otherwise the game would never end, or end in a stalemate.

A good example of this is Chess. If one player is able to get an advantage over the other player both in material and position on the board then that player will be able to use that advantage to get even a better board position and win more material and this will ultimately lead to a win, barring any silly mistakes of course.

Does this mean that Chess is a bad game? I don't think so. Chess is a 2-player game, so if one player is losing, he can simply give up. This is something that is "not done" in multiplayer games. A lot of stuff that doesn't work in multplayer games is OK in 2-player games and vice versa and a runaway leader is one of those things.

Leader bashing

I don't think that leader bashing is always a problem. In any multiplayer game where you have interaction, you will be able to hurt who you think is the leader in some way. This isn't bad, but you will have to think about how much leader bashing you want in your game.

"Settlers" and "El Grande" are two games where you can actively mess with other peoples resources, so those two game have lots of room for leader bashing. Then again, those are two very popular games and I wouldn't be surpised if that is because of the overt interaction. I think there are a lot of players who like that kind of interaction. That reminds me of a line from a very bad horror movie: "I may be bad, but I sure feel good". I think a lot of people feel that way when they send the Robber your way during a game of "Settlers".

So, I don't perceive leader bashing as a design flaw per say, but rather as a feature which, as a player, you may or may not like.

- René Wiersma

Scurra
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

The "switch" point is definitely a good example of how to address the runaway leader problem. In Puerto Rico and St Petersberg it is the point at which you change from cash generation to VP generation (although obviously those two games tackle this in very different ways!)

I must admit that I find it hard to structure a game in such a way that different strategies reach the switch point at different times. It's relatively easy to have the game impose the switch point for you (take Power Grid for example, which has specific conditions required to progress into the later phases, and those phases do require slightly different playing approaches, albeit not dramatically different) but obviously harder to build it into the design itself without it being accused of being "broken" as players find an apparently unbeatable strategy and it sometimes takes a while to discover a different "switch" point. This does, of course, make playtesting hell. But hey, whoever said life was easy? :-)

daddyhasgames
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

I don't mind a runaway leader if I know there is a good reason, like skill or good luck verses bad luck.

I like the runaway leader to be able to win the game in a reasonable amount of time.

I always try to balance fun and time when making a game

Torrent
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

Scurra wrote:

I must admit that I find it hard to structure a game in such a way that different strategies reach the switch point at different times. It's relatively easy to have the game impose the switch point for you (take Power Grid for example, which has specific conditions required to progress into the later phases, and those phases do require slightly different playing approaches,

Maybe this needs a different topic, but I'll reply here for now.
My idea of switch point is different I think than yours. Think Carcasonne(Hunters Gathers is what I play). When you get down to the last few turns, playing farmers/hunters becomes a better strategy. So you need to make a decision as to when to start committing your resources. There are also 'little' switch points where when you run out of resources (meeples) you must play a slightly different strategy.
So if you have a limited set of resources that are renewable, you can set up strategy points. By over extending yourself you can be the leader, but will have to be slowed down to recoup those resources. This helps slow the runaway leader, and prevents the need for bashing.

Andy

Anonymous
Leader bashing

I think that Settlers has perhaps the most elegant "bashing" mechanisms, as someone mentioned earlier: the embargo and the Robber. Everyone participates in slowing down the leader, no matter what kind of gamer they are, psychologically. Those who like playing politics can refuse to trade, but even the nice, non-confrontational types are forced to place the Robber somewhere. (In other words, my wife and her brother...)

I find this accomodates a wider style of play than, say, the forced pricing system of Power Grid.

zaiga
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Re: Leader bashing

tomchaps wrote:
I think that Settlers has perhaps the most elegant "bashing" mechanisms, as someone mentioned earlier: the embargo and the Robber.

Funny. I actually think it is a very inelegant mechanism. I'm not sure if it is true, but to me it seems as if the Robber was a mechanic that was implemented later during the design of the game to tone down the runaway leader problem. So, instead of remedying the cause of the problem, the designer prefered to fight the symptom. I prefer games that don't have an explicit runaway leader and therefore don't need any tacked on mechanics to combat the problem.

- René Wiersma

Anonymous
mulit-player solitaire...

It may not be a solution to bash the leader, and often the term "multiplayer solitaire" is used as meaning "bad". But a game that is designed without any sort of overt leader bashing can be good. Meaning if everyone makes their choices almost in isolation, they will always feel in the game.

Velociryx
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

I'm not convinced that "runaway leader" is (much of) a problem, really. In and of itself, it seems more of a symptom of an underlying design issue than an outright problem (that being, there needs to be one more mechanisms in place that make it increasingly harder for the leader to maintain--much less widen--his position, whilst players in the back ranks, should have an easier time of it.

This can be best illustrated via games that have "research" requirements to them. The leader (the person who makes a key discovery first) must pay full price to do so, but everyone that comes after him pays an increasingly cheaper price.

This same basic mechanic can be used in nearly any gaming situation to rapidly close the gap between players.

For example: In a territorial acquisition game, the leader (largest player, and probably the largest army) can be hobbled by unrest, upkeep, and administrative nightmares (especially in a fixed AP scheme) to such an extent that he spends most of his time holding onto what he's got, and relatively little in furthering those gains.

WRT leader bashing...I don't think this is a problem in the least. Rather, it is a simple side effect of putting 2+ competitive people in a competitive arena. Everybody wants to win.

If you're winning and I'm not (or more to the point, if I THINK you're winning and I'm not), it's quite natural for me to do everything I can within the framework of the game to attempt to stop you, *even while* playing to the best of my abilities to enhance my own position.

I think that's just part of any competition or competitive environment.

-=Vel=-

FastLearner
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

Velociryx wrote:
WRT leader bashing...I don't think this is a problem in the least. Rather, it is a simple side effect of putting 2+ competitive people in a competitive arena. Everybody wants to win.

If you're winning and I'm not (or more to the point, if I THINK you're winning and I'm not), it's quite natural for me to do everything I can within the framework of the game to attempt to stop you, *even while* playing to the best of my abilities to enhance my own position.

I think that's just part of any competition or competitive environment.
I disagree. There are games where you can spend most of your time trying to build yourself up and make points and only a small amount of time having to ensure that the leader isn't getting too far ahead, and there are games where you have to spend most of your time nailing the leader even though you'd like to be spending it advancing your position. The first type I call fun and the second type I call bad. Even worse are games where even the player in last place has to focus on keeping the leader from advancing at the cost of ensuring his own loss. Games like Munchkin, in the last 1/3 to 1/2, are plagued with the need to bash the leader in lieu of building yourself up.

I've played many fun published games that were very competitive, and many unfun published games where constant leader bashing was the only way to have any hope of winning, and definitely see it as a problem.

-- Matthew

Velociryx
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

Hmmm...well, I'd say the design is bad only if you had to choose one or the other, but in many cases (if not most), hurting the leader's position is nearly identical to enhancing your own position (if the end result of your machinations is that you and said leader are now closer in overall power than you were before, then it can rightly be said that your efforts have succeeded in enhancing your position--that is to say, you're now a step closer to taking the lead yourself (for example, if I steal resources from the leader and gain them for myself, the leader is weaker--fewer resources--and I can use them to enhance my position this turn--close the gap.

True, this is a different mechanic than simply focusing on my own game (now I have to be aware of everyone's relative position), but these are the games I tend to prefer anyway, over the "group solitaire" type, where everybody is pretty much left to focus on their own individual position/condition.

I admit, however, that there are other types of games (and gamers) where this thinking will clearly not apply.

-=Vel=-

jwarrend
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

Velociryx wrote:

True, this is a different mechanic than simply focusing on my own game (now I have to be aware of everyone's relative position), but these are the games I tend to prefer anyway, over the "group solitaire" type, where everybody is pretty much left to focus on their own individual position/condition.

There's no necessity that a game without leader bashing must necessarily be seen as multi-player solitaire. Puerto Rico is but one of many games that provide substantial player interaction, but don't have an explicit leader-bashing mechanic. Think of it as the difference between speed skating and roller derby. Both have a strong ingredient of interaction, in the sense that you're racing against your opponent, but roller derby adds a "leader bashing" element. Obviously, it's part of the appeal of the sport, but in gaming, leader-bashing is generally a bad thing if it drags out the end game. A classic example of this is the game "ThroneWorld", whose end game can drag on for hours.

In general, I prefer "catch the leader" mechanics to "hit the leader" mechanics, but I know there are some who don't like those either, and for good reasons. I think mild "hit the leader" mechanics are ok, but when it becomes a cycle of "one player goes for the win, he is beaten into oblivion, then another player goes for the win, repeat endlessly", it's just not good. So maybe the problem isn't with leader-bashing alone, but (for me at least) when it results in a neverending game.

-Jeff

Velociryx
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

Oh, I quite agree! In re-reading what I wrote, I can see that I certainly gave that impression tho...apologies for that! :(

I guess my opinion was arrived at as a function of the types of games I tend to gravitate toward (typically being competitive strategy (war) games, then in those cases, the phenomenon of "leader bashing" is simply a part of the competitive landscape, and thus, not really a problem per se, but rather, a natural byproduct of a competitive environment (and obviously, in the case of cooperative games, this thinking would not apply...then again, I doubt there's much leader bashing in cooperative games...I can't think of any examples, in any case)

-=Vel=-

EDIT: And the most common way I have seen in those games for "getting around" the endless game cycle revolves around two things:

Adroit defense and skill at diplomacy.

In the first case, it is a matter of knowing that said attack is coming, and allocating sufficient resources to deal with it and hang on for the win.

In the second, it's more a matter of misdirection...BE the strongest, but make sure that someone else LOOKS the strongest...;)

-v

FastLearner
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

Velociryx wrote:
Hmmm...well, I'd say the design is bad only if you had to choose one or the other, but in many cases (if not most), hurting the leader's position is nearly identical to enhancing your own position (if the end result of your machinations is that you and said leader are now closer in overall power than you were before, then it can rightly be said that your efforts have succeeded in enhancing your position--that is to say, you're now a step closer to taking the lead yourself (for example, if I steal resources from the leader and gain them for myself, the leader is weaker--fewer resources--and I can use them to enhance my position this turn--close the gap.

You'll note that I referred to games where you must bash the leader in lieu of enhancing your own position as the unfun ones. If you can only effectively maintain stasis for yourself (or even have to slip behind) and must hit the leader in order to prevent an unstoppable win, I don't see the fun in it.

You mention wargames, and I think you're missing an important consideration when you do so: in almost any two-player game bashing the leader is improving your position. Leader bashing isn't hardly a problem at all in two-player games (unless it can put the game into a form of stalemate where every advance must be countered and you can never make any advance of your own, and even there some wargames are just fine like that, especially if your goal is to do something like "hold the bridge" or "repel the invaders").

It's in multiplayer games where it becomes a problem. If I have to hit the leader in order to prevent him from winning but the end result is effectively to help everyone else just as much (or more) then frustration begins to set in. That's the "problem" of leader-bashing games.

-- Matthew

Willi_B
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

I prefer methods that help one catch the leader without sacrifice to the catching player, and, with little detriment to the leader.

Ex: A card that reads "Play this only if you are in last place: gain 5 victory points." However, I don't encorage poor play to get advantage from such cards... I'd probably throw in some card that would negate such cards.

I think it's important to not let 1 or 2 mistakes in a game end your chance of winning for games that wish to attract a larger audience. Unfortunately, that is one of Settlers drawbacks.... poor placement can kill you... experience tells me to just show newbies the best spots.

I really like multi-player games, but because of a combination of skill and poor sportsmanship (haha), I am the guy most likely to get ganged, all things being even. That's why I love Richard Garfield's CCG Jyhad (now known as Vampire: The Eternal Struggle). In that, you randomly seat players. A person that is removed automatically scores a virtory point for the person on the right (attack left, defend right scenario). The only other virtory point goes to the last person in the game... at the end, highest total victory points wins. This formula keeps the focus of the game to attack left, defend right.... helping to accomplish anything else does you no good, so people will cut down on politic levels as compared to other games (though that game has plenty of politics as well).

It's probably my favorite multi-player game outside of Diplomacy ;)!

Velociryx
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

FastLearner: I think we more-or-less agree then. Yes...if you must choose between advancing your own position and holding the leader back, then it's a game mechanics issue that needs to be addressed, but keep in mind that there are many (perhaps even a slight majority of?) wargames that are not the two player variety (Axis and Allies springs to mind as the most commercially accessible example, but my closet shelf is filled with others). I also agree that most any two player game is gonna see some level of leader bashing (either direct (hit him) or indirect (denial)), but this is not problematic in and of itself, given the two player design.

So yes...I concede that leader bashing CAN BE a problem, but only for a fairly specific sub-set of games. Taking gaming as a whole....I don't buy it.

-=Vel=-

FastLearner
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

I can only suspect that we just play very different games, then. It's a potential problem in probably 80% of the games I play, though it's only an actual problem in about 10% of those because the games are generally well-designed. In addition, we must have played very different wargames in our histories as well, since the vast, vast majority of the ones I've played are two-player. It's really weird, but life is nothing if not subjective.

-- Matthew

zaiga
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[TiGD] Runaway leader/leader bashing!

Velociryx wrote:
... wargames that are not the two player variety (Axis and Allies springs to mind as the most commercially accessible example, but my closet shelf is filled with others).

Axis & Allies is basically a 2-player game. Yes, you can play it with more players, but there are still only two-sides in the conflict.

Leader bashing is never a problem in a 2-player game, but in almost every true multiplayer game it is a potential problem that has to be addressed.

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