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Granular scoring

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jwarrend
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In one of my games, players score points by acquiring scoring cards, which say "Receive X VPs if you have Y of [whatever]", eg "Receive 5 VP if you control 4 Territories". There are several categories of scoring cards, and each category has several cards, with each card getting progressively better as you go further into the deck.

Here's the issue. In a solo playtest the other night, the final scores were 59/58/57/32. The player with 32 VPs was holding a scoring card that was worth 22 points, but the actions of another player invalidated the conditions of the card, so he didn't score points for it. Interfering with another player's position to make his scoring cards untrue, thus depriving him of the ability to score, is supposed to be part of the game. The concern is that each player is only going to score 1-3 cards each scoring round, so failing to score points for a card could really hamstring your scoring.

My concern is whether a player who is deprived of scoring in this way will feel unsatisfied with the outcome of the game. I don't necessarily have in mind the sort of player who doesn't want his scoring interfered with by the other players -- of course that sort of person won't like this game. But rather, I have in mind the person who will say "my score was so much less than the other players' scores, it doesn't reflect how well I really did in the game, and all because of the huge swing of that one card." In other words, I think this scoring mechanic does an acceptable job of selecting a winner, but it does a terrible job of giving an accurate picture of how close the other players were to winning. Does this matter? Are there other games that have big swings in scoring like this where failing to score leaves you way at the back of the pack in scoring?

I guess it's a bit like failing to get a colonist down on your large building in Puerto Rico; small factors can lead to big point swings. But in this game, by the late game, everyone is trying to score big cards, and so the difference between scoring a card or not scoring will be a big difference in points. I'm curious as to how much this would bother players.

I welcome discussion of similar considerations in other games that folks are working on.

(I might have raised this issue several years ago, but I figure it's worth bringing up again)

Black Canyon
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A suggestion

I'm not sure if you're interested in suggestions, but what if you just reduce the numerical values of those score cards? Losing by 22 points looks and feels much worse than losing by two points. If the final scores were more like 10, 9, 9, 7, it would have felt like a much closer game.

Is that possible with your current design?

Rick-Holzgrafe
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Dream Big, Fail Big

I don't think there's really a problem. There's a lot to be said for games where you can say you came this close to the big score that would have won you the game, and went down in flames. There's an awful lot of drama and tension in that sort of thing, and I think it's all for the good.

Big random swings would not be good, of course. But if, as you say, the scoring system does a good job of picking a winner, then I think you're okay.

jwarrend
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That's a good suggestion to

That's a good suggestion to navigate the issue, but unfortunately, it doesn't work in this case. In this game, there are 6 decks of scoring cards, and each deck has 7 cards. So in one deck, the 7th card may be worth 20 points but the first card may only be worth 1 point. So there's really no way to simply scale the math to make the numbers smaller. The broad range in card values is also important to be able to balance the rewards of the cards.

What you say, though, is really the question about player psychology I'm trying to get at -- if you didn't win, why does it matter whether you came within 5 points or within 20 points of winning? Why isn't it equivalently meaningful to say "I was within one action of winning (or in this case, 'placing respectfully')"? ie, do players look to the scoring system to crown a winner, or must it also provide all players with a "report card" of how well they did?

Thanks for your suggestion.

Pastor_Mora
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End Game Balancing

It took my attention that you can score 1/3 of your final scoring in your last turn. That looks unbalanced at first sight. Maybe your game just takes 4 turns per player, so it could be ok nonetheless. But the feeling I get is that players will pretty much go along the inital and mid game just waiting for the final turn to come, where the real scoring is. Is it possible that a player does better in the first/mid turns but looses because that single action lost in the last turn? That could be upsetting. Anyways, if the game usually finishes as close as you mentioned (2 points difference between the first and the third) it seems that a 22 points difference is way too much. Especially if it meant you failed a single action in your last turn.

In "Roman Emperors", I have players portraying the Roman Emperor one over the previous, so they build cummulatively. It is fair to say the last player will have more resources in their hands that the previous, so I used different scoring in every turn for achieving the same things. That is to say something like "the same objective pays less as the game progresses". I don't know what your game is about, but maybe you could do something like that?

Keep thinking!

PS I leave you the link to the wonders cards of Roman Emperors (turn objectives). It depicts the amount of resources you need to complete it (progressively higher) and the amount of Victory Points it awards you in each turn if you do (progressively lower). Check http://www.bgdf.com/node/3173

jwarrend
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Pastor_Mora wrote:It took my

Pastor_Mora wrote:
It took my attention that you can score 1/3 of your final scoring in your last turn. That looks unbalanced at first sight. Maybe your game just takes 4 turns per player, so it could be ok nonetheless. But the feeling I get is that players will pretty much go along the inital and mid game just waiting for the final turn to come, where the real scoring is.

It's a bit more subtle than this: a lot of scoring happens in the final scoring round (of 4), and almost no scoring happens in the first round, but that's because the further you go into the scoring decks, the more lucrative the cards are, BUT, they are also harder to qualify for. So, it isn't until late in the game that you're potentially eligible to score for the most valuable cards -- it takes the entire game to get into that position.

Quote:

Is it possible that a player does better in the first/mid turns but looses because that single action lost in the last turn?

In fact, that's exactly what happened here -- the player had the lead for the first 3 scoring rounds and then had his scoring card invalidated in the final action of the game, depriving him of his points. But as Rick surmised, the game certainly has a "swing for the fences" effect; in this case, the player could have chosen a smaller, safer card, but chose to take the risk of a bigger card, exposing him to the possibility that it could be made untrue by the other players.

Quote:

In "Roman Emperors", I have players portraying the Roman Emperor one over the previous, so they build cummulatively. It is fair to say the last player will have more resources in their hands that the previous, so I used different scoring in every turn for achieving the same things. That is to say something like "the same objective pays less as the game progresses". I don't know what your game is about, but maybe you could do something like that?

This is a good point; there are (more or less) three models of progressive payout structures: payouts can be flat as the game progresses (the same action always brings the same number of VPs), payouts/scoring can accelerate, or payouts/scoring can contract. My game uses the second of these, which makes the late game more consequential, but the flip side is that the early scoring becomes very minimal. In my game, the early game is more about positioning yourself, so it's ok with me if it doesn't make much of an impact on the final outcome. But there is a different approach, which would be that the payouts get smaller the further up you go, BUT the easy cards become unavailable as the game progresses, so you're forced to scramble harder for a smaller and smaller reward. I think this can be appealing in a different way. I've never really considered it for this game but it does work well in some games (eg Castle Merchants by Z-Man), so it's worth thinking about. On the other hand, the very high value cards in my game are supposed to be very difficult to achieve and the idea is that players should mostly be fighting over the middle-of-the-road cards, with a single-minded one-dimensional strategy occasionally able to reach the highest cards. But their presence also means that a player who is trailing can at least hold out hope of coming from behind by going for the hard-to-achieve cards.

Thanks for your thoughts!

CloudBuster
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I like it

I like this mechanism just fine as it is. As long as everybody has the potential to score big cards, I don't have a problem with it at all. For me, losing by 2 points and losing by 22 points doesn't really matter all that much. It's still a loss. (But maybe that's just me...I know for a fact that it matters to my daughter VERY MUCH on the "closeness" factor. I guess the loss doesn't sting as much if she was within striking distance of the winning score).

Have you ever played a game called Quandary? It's out of print now, but basically it played like a stock exchange game. Each player placed a colored value tile and picked up a "stock" tile. Now...without getting too much into the rules, you could pick up lots of a single color and if the value of that color was worth a lot at the end of a round, you racked up the points. However, if the value of that color was low at the end of the round, you got hammered. It was truly a risk vs reward type of situation and that's where the Quandary was for the players: Do I screw with the values of other player's stocks, or do I improve my own position? Scores in this game were VERY similar to the one you mentioned where you could have very close scores (within 1 or 2 points) for the top scoring players and huge gaps for the lower end because of just one round where someone played a perfect screw value.

How long does a game take? If it's a fairly quick game, and if it's fun I think people will want to play it again to see if they can improve.

-CB-

scifiantihero
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well . . .

. . . it only seems like it's a problem if there's some variance in when people get to mess with the other people's plans. If I get chances to do it in the first three rounds, but a couple of my opponents end up with the ability in the final round . . . well guess who seems to not be winning anytime soon!

Also, it probably depends on how easy it is to mess with someone, and how easy it is to defend against it. If it's a sure thing that whoever is in the lead will be getting a goal nuked . . . it sounds not very fun. If you can hedge against it, it is probably better.

So it COULD be a problem.

Kinda depends on how it goes.

jwarrend
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I appreciate the replies so

I appreciate the replies so far.

I just finished another solo test last night and it reveals another interesting consequence of the scoring system. The final scores were Blue 51/Red 46/Black 38/Purple 33. In addition to scoring, the game's ending is uncertain and is decided by a die roll, whose probability of hitting increases as the final round progresses. In what turned out to be the final turn, the players knew there was a 1/6 chance that it would be the final turn, but the three trailing players failed to end up in position to score a second card (everyone scored one card). This cost the players:

Purple: 15 points (had a card, but was one resource short of being able to pay for it)
Black: 14 points (gambled on a bigger card than he could score, hoping to have one more turnto meet its conditions)
Red: 4 points (didn't grab an additional scoring card)

So the final scores, with one more turn, would have been: Black 52/Blue 51/Red 50/Purple 48

I can just picture the debates this kind of effect would provoke somewhere like BGG. On the one hand, players might complain that had the game lasted that one more turn, they could have scored that additional card and won/came closer to winning. On the other hand, it can be said that variable length is one of the game's considerations, and the outcome was fair -- Blue scored the most points in the 28 turns that this game lasted. It doesn't impugn the game's overall fairness that the outcome of a 29 turn game might have been different. I actually like this about the game; as Rick says above, it lets the non-winning players console themselves with what might have been.

So, granular scoring combined with variable game length -- I'll be interested to see how players react to this aesthetically and whether they'll like it or find it off-putting.

scifiantihero
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I . . .

. . . really kind of don't like variable turn length, within a set turn length game.

Vegas showdown is kind of like that. You know the game is very likely to end in 4-5 rounds, and are often faced with the choice to consolidate gains, hoping it ends sooner, or gamble that it will end later, and set up a big play. I end most of those games where I was in the lead or contending for the lead thinking "if only I'd had one more/less turn" or "gee I sure was lucky the game ended just then."

So, hearing only the issues with your game, it definitely sounds unpalatable.

I'm sure it has good things you aren't needing to talk about, though!

:)

jwarrend
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Well, let me turn you off to

Well, let me turn you off to the game even more by pointing it out that it takes about 3 hours to play! "You mean we've been playing this game for 3 hours and I lose because the die roll says that the game ends now instead of letting us go one more turn?"

It's not a bug, it's actually a feature. If I know that this is the final turn, and I come after you in the seat order, I can hit you knowing there's nothing you can do about it. Maybe I even do something completely athematic in the process -- eg, maybe I empty all of my territories of armies and drop them all in your territory to win that battle. Etc. The uncertain ending tempers this to an extent by preventing you from knowing with absolute certainty when it's the last turn. And, it's bounded. You know for certain once the final "epoch" begins, you're going to get at least 6 turns and at most 9, and statistically speaking, you're probably going to get about 7. Not only that, but when the 5th turn ends, you know exactly what are the odds that the game will end in the 6th turn vs continue. And at that point, you've had about 28 turns to have done whatever you were going to do. So the difference between 6 and 9 turns is the difference between 28 and 31 turns overall.

I say all this to say that the mechanic is carefully constructed to permit risk-reward considerations, and to make it rare you'll have a sure thing, but at the same time to avoid having the game be decided by luck. But I'm not sure whether players will see it that way.

sedjtroll
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jwarrend wrote:I say all this

jwarrend wrote:
I say all this to say that the mechanic is carefully constructed to permit risk-reward considerations, and to make it rare you'll have a sure thing, but at the same time to avoid having the game be decided by luck. But I'm not sure whether players will see it that way.

As you say, this could be disappointing for some players... but I think the real issue isn't the semi-random game end - it's the combination of that and the all-or-nothing-ness of the scoring.

If that "just 1 more turn" is the difference between "all" and "nothing" - that could be disappointing, but if it's the difference between "all" and "most" then that might not be.

scifiantihero
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If anything . . .

. . . I think I would mind a Semi-random game end LESS in a longer game.

Twilight Imperium's mechanic of ending the game at some point if no-one has won yet never got on my nerves, but I'm not sure I remember it happening as often, so maybe it's not a very good comparison.

I'm trying to think of other games with a set end, but the players don't know exactly when the end is . . .

Anyway, I think, as the poster before me suggests, that it's the combination of the two things that might be offputting, and as long as it's scaled right it shouldn't be too bad, and as long as the game is good, it shouldn't be a problem.

And with three+ hours, there must be some territory grabbing or engine building or something else fun going on! (Yeah, I mostly just want to hear more about it!)

ReneWiersma
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jwarrend wrote:...And at that

jwarrend wrote:
...And at that point, you've had about 28 turns to have done whatever you were going to do. So the difference between 6 and 9 turns is the difference between 28 and 31 turns overall.

But because of the accelerating scoring the difference between having 28 or 29 turns might be the difference between winning or coming in dead last.

Quote:
I say all this to say that the mechanic is carefully constructed to permit risk-reward considerations, and to make it rare you'll have a sure thing, but at the same time to avoid having the game be decided by luck. But I'm not sure whether players will see it that way.

Well, you played the game with people. What were your playtesters' reactions? Did they like the game and how it ended? Was the game end climatic or anti-climatic to them? Afterwards, did they analyze the game's mechanics (= bad) or did they analyze it's strategy and how they would do things different next time (= good)? You can rationalize your design decisions if you want, and you might be even right from a technical point of view, but if your players don't feel the same way, then your design just isn't good enough, because the player experience is all the matters in the end.

About the semi-random ending - is it possible to have something else determine the end of the game? I'm thinking of a resource running out, a depleted deck of cards, etc. Something that is triggered by a player taking a certain action, rather than a random device (dice are evil!), will go a long way towards satisfying players about the game end.

Just from reading your posts I do get the impression that the scoring is too much all-or-nothing. A 20 point swing on average scores of 50 is huge. Compare this to Puerto Rico where having a colonist on a big building or not can typically mean a swing of seven points on average score of around 40 which is less drastic.

I can understand why you don't want a fixed game end, because it would introduce a kingmaking effect. You want players to continue to play like there is still another turn. However, this conflicts with the scoring cards where estimating/gambling how much time there is left is of crucial importance (this may be the crux of the problem now that I think of it!). Is there another way to fix the kingmaking problem, for example, by making the scoring cards secret (or semi-secret, such as: I know you have a territory scoring card, and I don't know for sure which territories you need, but I can make a guess)?

You might also want to consider having a less steep scoring mechanism. Instead of having scoring cards running from 1 to 20, why not let them run from 6 to 25? This will make the early game relatively more important scoring wise, while still allowing for game changing swings in the end.

jwarrend
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sedjtroll wrote:As you say,

sedjtroll wrote:
As you say, this could be disappointing for some players... but I think the real issue isn't the semi-random game end - it's the combination of that and the all-or-nothing-ness of the scoring.

I think you're right, at least in the sense that these taken together do exacerbate the "problem" to the extent that there is one -- you effectively are required to contingency-plan both for "what if my scoring card is invalidated?" AND "what if the game ends sooner rather than later?"

I think it would be easy enough to change the scoring cards so that instead of thresholds, each card shows ALL the payouts for the different levels of achievement in that category, and you receive whichever payout is true. So instead of a separate card for 4 territories, 5 territories, 6 territories, etc, you'd just have a card that says "Territories", and if you get 4 territories you get 1 VP, 5 territories you get 2 VP, etc.

This would at least mitigate the destruction effect -- screwing up another player's scoring conditions would simply bump you down to the next level but wouldn't prevent you from scoring outright. So maybe it's a 5 point swing instead of 20.

But I've resisted making this change for a couple of reasons. First, I really enjoy, as a player, the need to choose whether to go for the big score, accepting the risk that it brings, or play it safe and take a card that you're sure you can score. I think that choosing your scoring category and then just receiving whatever payout you're entitled to based on your level of achievement takes some of the fun out of the decision of what cards to go for. Second, this mechanic is supposed to represent an emperor boasting about his empire's exploits. It seems more thematic for those boasts to be specific -- "I controlled lands from Spain all the way to India", not "I controlled some lands, I'll leave it to the historians to sort out which". But this isn't that big a concern.

I could see perhaps having a hybrid of these two approaches, whereby each scoring card has several levels of achievement, say 3 each, and you score for the highest one on the card that's true. So there is still a need to pick one card as opposed to another but the stakes of failing your card are lower. That could work pretty well, although it's a little more complicated.

jwarrend
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scifiantihero wrote: . . . I

scifiantihero wrote:
. . . I think I would mind a Semi-random game end LESS in a longer game.

That's definitely interesting. My assumption would have been that something that is perceived as iritating will be more hated the longer a game gets. But maybe it's just a matter of accepting a game for what it's trying to do. Axis and Allies has all sorts of flaws from a pure design standpoint but I still think it's fun to play.

Quote:

Anyway, I think, as the poster before me suggests, that it's the combination of the two things that might be offputting, and as long as it's scaled right it shouldn't be too bad, and as long as the game is good, it shouldn't be a problem.

The reaction may be similar to the digging mechanic in Thebes -- some players think it's a great simulation of how difficult archaeology is, while others think it's too random and therefore a bad mechanic, thematic or no. Players may react similarly here. In my game, the end of a turn respresents the death of a ruler, and so the variable ending makes thematic sense. But whether that makes it forgivable or not is a separate question.

Quote:
And with three+ hours, there must be some territory grabbing or engine building or something else fun going on! (Yeah, I mostly just want to hear more about it!)

Yes, all of that and more. I wrote quite a bit about the game at the old site; here's a link to the design journal: http://archive.bgdf.com/tiki-view_blog.php?blogId=22. Note that posts are in reverse order. It's a couple of years out of date now but it at least gives an overview.

jwarrend
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ReneWiersma wrote: But

ReneWiersma wrote:

But because of the accelerating scoring the difference between having 28 or 29 turns might be the difference between winning or coming in dead last.

True; my point is simply that you knew the game was going to last 28 turns, and you could either make sure you were prepared to score after 28 turns or gamble on the game lasting longer and accept the possibility of losing.

Quote:

Well, you played the game with people. What were your playtesters' reactions? Did they like the game and how it ended? Was the game end climatic or anti-climatic to them?

No one has really commented much on this aspect of the game in post mortems, but that could simply be because they had bigger concerns with other issues.

I've been solo-testing a lot lately, and while this works well to see the game play out, I don't get emotionally invested in one position rather than another, so seeing Blue throwing a body-block that deprives Red of some points doesn't frustrate me in the way that it might if I actually were Red.

Quote:
You can rationalize your design decisions if you want, and you might be even right from a technical point of view, but if your players don't feel the same way, then your design just isn't good enough, because the player experience is all the matters in the end.

In this case it might just be a case of which way the consensus lies. I like the way the game plays now, so from that standpoint, it's a success. But it remains to be seen whether players in general like or dislike these aspects of the system.

Quote:

About the semi-random ending - is it possible to have something else determine the end of the game? I'm thinking of a resource running out, a depleted deck of cards, etc. Something that is triggered by a player taking a certain action, rather than a random device (dice are evil!), will go a long way towards satisfying players about the game end.

That's a good idea, and there is one technology players can acquire that lets you modify the die roll, so it is possible to have some control. I think putting it fully within player control might be difficult, simply in the sense that I'm not sure what condition should bring about the end. But I'll give it some thought. The die roll at present simulates the death of your emperor and I like that this isn't entirely within your control but is somewhat predictable.

Quote:

Just from reading your posts I do get the impression that the scoring is too much all-or-nothing. A 20 point swing on average scores of 50 is huge.

True, but there is an element of player choice at work. For example, a player who pursues a 20 point card is probably following a one-dimensional strategy (generally either conquest or culture) and is putting all his eggs in that basket. And, he can choose to take a less valuable card that he is more confident he can hold, or go for a better card and hope that he can meet its conditions. But a more balanced strategy, pursuing a couple of lower-valued cards from a couple of different categories, is advantageous both because it's easier and because it's more difficult for other players to take away all of your scoring potential.

Quote:

I can understand why you don't want a fixed game end, because it would introduce a kingmaking effect. You want players to continue to play like there is still another turn. However, this conflicts with the scoring cards where estimating/gambling how much time there is left is of crucial importance (this may be the crux of the problem now that I think of it!). Is there another way to fix the kingmaking problem, for example, by making the scoring cards secret (or semi-secret, such as: I know you have a territory scoring card, and I don't know for sure which territories you need, but I can make a guess)?

That might be easy to implement, actually. That might be worth a try!

Quote:

You might also want to consider having a less steep scoring mechanism. Instead of having scoring cards running from 1 to 20, why not let them run from 6 to 25? This will make the early game relatively more important scoring wise, while still allowing for game changing swings in the end.

That's worth a thought. When you score a scoring card, you get to hang on to it for the next turn and it gives you some tokens over the course of the next round. So early in the game, even though you don't get many points, you're getting tokens, which you use to buy technologies. So even though the early game scoring isn't very impactful on the final scoring, it impacts how you set up for the rest of the game. In the game I mentioned from the other day, the player who came in second place chose not to score the first two scoring rounds, choosing instead to set himself up to make big scores in the final rounds. It didn't work but he at least got close.

kriscook2
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...Granular Scoring

"My concern is whether a player who is deprived of scoring in this way will feel unsatisfied with the outcome of the game."

My experience is that several factors affect how people will view this situation.
1. Is the invalidation of scoring cards revealed during play, or at the end when scoring takes place?
2. How long does the game take to play? If you've invested 2 hours in a game to be hosed at the end, a certain
degree of bitterness is likely to ensue. If it's a 30-minute game and you can play several in an evening, no big.
3. Does the mechanic work evenly (or at least in a balanced manner), for each category of scoring card and each
game postiion (first player, last player, in between), or is there a tendency for a particular play or player to be
impacted (What we call the SA Factor, for "Screw Art", in honor of a player in or group who seems inordinately
likely to be the victim of any game mechanic imbalance).

All of these factors need to be taken into acount when considering how players will feel about a certain mechanic.

jwarrend
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Quote:1. Is the invalidation

Quote:
1. Is the invalidation of scoring cards revealed during play, or at the end when scoring takes place?

At the end, more or less. You can see immediately when someone has invalidated your card. For example, if you're holding a card that says "Had a population of 30", and someone attacks you forcing you to lose a few population, you can see that you're not in position to score the card. But, scoring only happens at the end of the round, so you might have a little bit of time to fix things to make the card true again.

Quote:

2. How long does the game take to play? If you've invested 2 hours in a game to be hosed at the end, a certain degree of bitterness is likely to ensue. If it's a 30-minute game and you can play several in an evening, no big.

It's about 3-4 hours, but this will probably only happen in the final scoring round, so there's no effective elimination where you're sitting around for a long time with no hope of winning. In some sense, it's the big climax at the end of the game -- do I get to score my cards or will someone try to screw them up at the last minute?

Quote:

3. Does the mechanic work evenly (or at least in a balanced manner), for each category of scoring card and each game postiion (first player, last player, in between), or is there a tendency for a particular play or player to be
impacted

Pretty much; some cards are a bit more difficult to invalidate, but generally they're mostly the same for this purpose. Probably the player in the lead is most likely to get whacked, but among savvy players, probably the person who is holding the most points in scoring cards will be a target. Since scoring is all open, good players should be able to readily see the consequences of their attacks.

As I think about it more, I realize that my question is really "will this mechanic be objectionable to such a majority of people that it isn't worth bothering with it?" But I think ultimately, it seems some people will dislike it, some won't mind it, but it will depend on how it fits in with the rest of the game. I think I'm ok with that.

clockwerk
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I like the ideas in this game.

Hi Guys,

First post here, but this topic inspired me to join. I've read the OP and all of the responses.

I have to say, if there's no such thing as being "truly out of it", I think the game has a core problem (for the type of game it is as far as I can tell). If it all comes down to the last turn, then the things I do prior have no intrinsic value. Everything I do is in service of that last move.

That's not necessarily a problem...until the game becomes a 3 hour affair. I personally love the idea of the random ending. Wagering against probability is a favourite mechanic of mine. (Hell, it's called poker right?). Having to balance the possibility of the game ending against development goals and future uncertainty sounds compelling to me. So I like the idea of the tension that creates.

I don't think hard and fast limits need to be set. Really I just think it needs to be balanced into a 30 minute game. That way I can still have all the tension and drama of that last turn, and the uncertainty, but not spend my whole night just to find out I got screwed. There is a way, certainly.

Finally, on a slightly different note, how random is the ending? Are there certain cards that absolutely WILL knock a certain player out, or cards that are LIKELY to get countered versus the others? It can't be random. At all. No one is going to play "Heads or Tails" for even 5 minutes straight, to then wager it all on the last flip.

jwarrend
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clockwerk wrote: First post

clockwerk wrote:

First post here, but this topic inspired me to join.

Welcome to BGDF!

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I have to say, if there's no such thing as being "truly out of it", I think the game has a core problem (for the type of game it is as far as I can tell). If it all comes down to the last turn, then the things I do prior have no intrinsic value. Everything I do is in service of that last move.

Not exactly; you have to be in position to score big on the last turn to come from way behind, which is no small feat. But it's theoretically possible, which is important. If it's possible to be effectively eliminated an hour before the game ends, this is is widely frowned upon.

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I don't think hard and fast limits need to be set. Really I just think it needs to be balanced into a 30 minute game. That way I can still have all the tension and drama of that last turn, and the uncertainty, but not spend my whole night just to find out I got screwed.

Heh heh heh. As much as I've tried to whittle the length of this game down, it's definitely not a 30 minute game. The excitement of the last turn comes in part because it's the culmination of the last 2.5 hours of gameplay, so it's the exciting climax at the end. You need the development to be able to appreciate the exciting climax, although how much development is required for it to be enjoyable is an open question.

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Finally, on a slightly different note, how random is the ending? Are there certain cards that absolutely WILL knock a certain player out, or cards that are LIKELY to get countered versus the others? It can't be random. At all. No one is going to play "Heads or Tails" for even 5 minutes straight, to then wager it all on the last flip.

I'm not sure what you mean; the scoring cards are chosen by the players, and you can voluntarily choose which category and level you want to attempt to score points for. So, you can choose to play it safe and take "Owned 7 Territories" for 10 VPs, or go for the gusto and try to score "Owned 8 Territories" for 15 VPs, and accept the risk that gaining and keeping those 8 territories will be more challenging than owning 7.

You can balance this somewhat by taking several small cards from different categories, which is more stable but requires you to be more diversified. The game steers you more toward specialization, and if you go that route you're likely going to try to score for a big card in a single category, which makes your scoring more "fragile", but the payoff is also bigger. It makes sense thematically (this is a civ building game) -- "He conquered all of Europe and Africa" is more interesting than "he built a couple of moderately impressive buildings, and he had a medium-sized population".

Thanks for your comments!

clockwerk
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Joined: 06/07/2010
Ok, I see now, so basically,

Ok, I see now, so basically, you are building a civilization, and you can select cards that represent a status on the board (owns 8 whatevers) and trying to make that condition true to score points.

"...how much development is needed to enjoy it (the climax) is an open question..."

Well, sex can take 2 minutes, or it can take 30 minutes, but I guarantee you no one wants to screw for two hours straight just to have an orgasm. Why? Too much work for a short term pay off. If you're going to build an effort that long into it, the payoff at the end, the wow factor of that last turn, it had better be better than sex.

Yes I'm being cheeky, but you really might want to think about this.

Remember, tension and "wow" aren't built on time, they're built on dynamics and contrast. In other words, the payoff is NOT dependent on how long the game takes. Not at all. Settler's is only 30-45 minutes, and that game gets very tense.

As for the Puerto Rico comparison (like not getting a colonist on you big purple building), remember, in that scenario, I likely didn't get knocked into last place because of it. Or if I did, it's ALL very close. More likely, I finished in second, and am still pretty happy with my performance.

In the end, it's your game, I would just seriously caution against investing that much time for something that can hinge on a single play.

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
clockwerk wrote:Ok, I see

clockwerk wrote:
Ok, I see now, so basically, you are building a civilization, and you can select cards that represent a status on the board (owns 8 whatevers) and trying to make that condition true to score points.

Pretty much. Also important is that there are four such opportunities to score points during the game, so it isn't just "play for 3 hours and only then do you get any feedback on how it's going".

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Remember, tension and "wow" aren't built on time, they're built on dynamics and contrast. In other words, the payoff is NOT dependent on how long the game takes. Not at all. Settler's is only 30-45 minutes, and that game gets very tense.

I understand the point your making, and even the fact that I've never been in a 30 minute game of Settlers notwithstanding, my response would simply be that it's not very realistic to suggest that every game is reducible to an equivalently interesting 30 minute game. Not that you're necessarily suggesting that. But just look at the difference between San Juan and Puerto Rico -- SJ is the 30 minute version of PR, and it's enjoyable but in an entirely different way. They provide different player experiences. There are some player experiences that take 3 hours of development to unfold. The point of the development and unfolding in my game isn't JUST a contrivance to give rise to an exciting ending -- if that were the case, your admonishment to pick up the pace and get to the good part faster would indeed be applicable. And it is a good general principle.

In this thread, though, the question I'm asking is, assume for the moment that the experience of playing a game is enjoyable and satisfactorily occupies 3 hours; would the possibility of a potentially big swing of fortune right at the end be a deal-breaker?

But I think the suggestion to cut its length down by 5/6 is basically the same as saying "make a completely different game than the one you're making." And sometimes, that's great advice! But in this case, I think I'm close enough to the end that I don't really want to start over with an entirely different kind of game. Worst case, I'd rather adjust the scoring model to conform to people's preference, if there was a strong consensus that my current approach was loathed, then try and keep the scoring model and build a different game from scratch around it.

Thanks again.

clockwerk
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Joined: 06/07/2010
Ok,To answer your question

Ok,

To answer your question directly, if I play a game for 3 hours, and in the last move, the guy who's in dead lat manages to make a huge play and win, I definitely might have a problem with that. If my entire 3 hours of superior play wasn't enough to put him down for the count, what was the point?

I think you summed up your issue well enough in you last paragraph "I'm close enough to the end...". It seems that you've gotten really far into the development process, and just as you saw the finish line, you realized there was a big issue you hadn't considered. Obviously, you recognize it as an issue, as you felt the need to reach out and ask the community at large.

Here's my question to you (from a compositional standpoint):

What's the hook of your game? What makes it unique and special? Is it the civ. development? The scoring? The random ending? Take the hook, develop it, and put the focus on that. Sometimes (a lot of the time) people try to do too much. Like a piece of music with too many movements that just drags on, or a novel with too many characters and too many sub plots.

Having never played your game it's hard for me to form any real opinions or say anything truly constructive with any certainty. I'm just going off of your description, but somehow, I get the feeling that the game has problems, and that you know it has problems, and you're looking for a way to fix it without having to disassemble and rebuild the whole thing.

What if you amputated the "Civ building" and replaced it with a simpler building/area control scheme, then rebalanced the cards against that scheme. If you did that, and created cards that would take multiple turns to accomplish, you would then create a legitimate risk/reward scenario where a player is forced to wager on his likelihood to comlete the given task before the game ends.

Now the focus would be clearly on the game's on the game's two hooks: The Cards, and the Random ending. Balance the gambit and I think you could be on to something here.

*EDIT:

Please note my suggestions are based on the assumption that the cards and the random ending are the primary unique features of your game. If they aren't, then of course disregard that stuff and simply ask yourself what is.

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
clockwerk wrote: It seems

clockwerk wrote:

It seems that you've gotten really far into the development process, and just as you saw the finish line, you realized there was a big issue you hadn't considered. Obviously, you recognize it as an issue, as you felt the need to reach out and ask the community at large. ... but somehow, I get the feeling that the game has problems, and that you know it has problems, and you're looking for a way to fix it without having to disassemble and rebuild the whole thing.

I do appreciate that you're trying to be helpful, but I really don't find the attempts at mind-reading to be very productive. It would be quite inaccurate to say that "I know it has problems" -- quite the opposite, the game is almost exactly the game I've been trying to create for the 7+ years I've been working on the game. But having gotten to this point, I'm simply trying to take a step back and get a preliminary read on how players might react to certain aspects of the game. Of course, the opinions of players who have played the game will carry more weight, but my suspicion was that people might have a gut reaction to this mechanic in isolation, and that has indeed been the case, and I've appreciated the responses to the thread.

But in a similar vein, suggesting "why don't you take your 3 hour game and turn it into a 30 minute game" is not a very serious suggestion. It's sufficient to say that this mechanic probably wouldn't appeal to you in this game, and therefore you probably wouldn't care for the game in its present form. It's speculative in the extreme whether a 30 minute version of the game would be remotely interesting or even playable. It's not something I have very much interest in contemplating.

I do think you make some good general suggestions that might be good general principles for other designers to keep in mind.

Taavet
Taavet's picture
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Joined: 08/15/2008
Seems like enough info...

But I figured I would throw out my 2 cents anyway.

'as long as the person losing still feels they were within striking distance' (not exact quote).

I think this statement is key to the player psychology. If I lose, even after 3 hours and I see where I could have done better to ensure victory I want to play again and do better. So, whether its 2 points of 50 points striking distance depends on the circumstances of the game. It's still the players performance that dictacts how they do and what strategy they pursue.

Other comments about risk/reward and variable ending made me think about Ticket to Ride. The final round is variable although you can determine approximately when it will occur. Players have the option of risking a draw of more Destination cards in hopes there are some quick easy ones to complete or they can play it safe and just connect random cities to score points. It is the players choice here what to do so I don't think it causes any issue when they can't complete their new destinations and get negative that many points. I think this might be a good comparison to your game because, although you can't directly attack another player, you can make an educated guess at where they are going and block their route. This amount of screwing them over usually only works in the final round(s) when they can't take an alternate path.

To sum it up for your game:
The players play to get at the point they are in the end,
The players choose which cards they will pursue,
The players decide to damage other players at the risk of harming their own standing,
They players can see all the information and play the probabilities if they choose,

The players do not know exactly when the final round will be.

If they only bit of randomness you have to the ending is when the actual final round will be but players can know it is between 6-9, 7 on average I think you are fine and don't have anything to worry about.

I don't think, based on your description, that they game is placing an undue amount of luck/randomness on the end game and victory conditions.

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