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Problem with three-player scoring mechanic

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fecundity
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I need help with a three-player trick-taking game. The original idea was that each hand pits one player against two of the others. The actual strategy within each hand works well, and I thought the game was complete. In tonight's playtest, however, we discovered a degenerating problem with the endgame.

I'll explain the bidding and scoring, and then I'll explain the problem with it.

At the beginning of each hand, one player opens with a bid of the number of tricks they think they can take. The next player may either bid higher or pass. And so on. It keeps going around until there is a settled highest bid. Then the tricks are played, with the other two players trying to stop the high bidder from making the bid. If the bid is met, the high bidder gets points equal to the bid. If the bid is not met, then the other two players each get points equal to half the bid.

The original rule was that the first player to accrue 31 points wins. This created a problem; for example: Player A has 29 points, and Players B and C have only ten or so points each. Bidding results in a high bid of 5 by Player B. In order to get points from this hand, Player C needs to work with player A to stop Player B. If C does this, however, A will get the points needed to win. So C either has to give the game to A or play the hand so that B makes the bid and gets points. If C does not give the game away, then the hand really ends up being the bidder and one non-bidder against the points leader - not the original idea at all! This dilemma will continue until two or even all three players are one hand away from winning.

One suggested fix was change the end condition, so that in order to win a player must win a bid after having accrued 31 or more points. This means that Player C could help Player A defeat Player B without making Player A win immediately. However, it means that a player could stop anyone from winning by always making insanely high bids. The other players would get points for stopping the high bidder, but it would never trigger the end game.

So - any suggestions?

Relexx
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You could make the scoring

You could make the scoring based upon # tricks won plus bonus if you win the number of tricks bid. The winning bid is 5 tricks therefore if they win 6 tricks they would get 6+X where X is the fixed bonus. If they win 4 tricks they still get 4 points. Where as the loses would get to share tricks won + Y where Y is the bonus for defeating the bid winner. That may combat the problem, as the person that is on 29 need only win two tricks to win the game, and stops the high bid to stop win tactic.

stubert
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Joined: 01/26/2009
Fixing the 3-player scoring

It appears to me that you have 3 players all trying to defeat opponents that they MUST (at some point, eventually) have a temporary conditional truce with. This is present in several games (and I particularly enjoy this mechanic).

There are 2 options I see right away (I'll think about it some more, though) that will fix this

OPTION 1:

Weight the scoring for defeating the high bidder.

If you gave half of the bid points to ONLY THE PLAYER WHO SCORED THE MOST TRICKS among the other two, then in the above scenario PlayerA would only score the 2 points IF they won MORE tricks than PlayerC.

This may change the dynamic, however, since it would pit the two players in a truce against each other (PlayerA and PlayerC in this case) in a "sub-battle", but it would definitely keep PlayerC from throwing the hand in favor of PlayerB.

OPTION 2:

Make the losing high-bid player choose from the following 2 options:

a) the two other players each GAIN 1/2 of the points bid,

OR

b) the high-bid player LOSES the full points bid.

This would fix the problem, in that (presumably) the high-bid player will never throw the game. This option WOULD create a slippery slope toward the endgame, but this is not uncommon, especially in games like Backgammon, Chess, Stratego, Risk, etc... Even Bridge, Hearts and Spades get difficult to win near the endgame if something like this sways the score.

It would also give the option for, say, the INVERSE of this rule, in which the winning high-bid player may opt to have the other two players LOSE 1/2 of the bid points. This would allow a player who was behind to gain a fighting chance near the endgame.

**NOTE: Either way, (win or lose) the high-bid player would choose the scoring each round.

(This will also make bids slightly higher, in that the high-bid player not only has high scoring potential, but MUCH MORE control over the flow of the game - which could lead to upsets if the high-bid player gets greedy, needing scoring control, and overbids for the hand... ultimately leading to higher bids ovreall in an attempt to gain scoring control)

(Example - PlayerA and PlayerC each have 27 points, and PlayerB has 12. PlayerB bids 8 and wins. he can gain 8 points, but this will put the score at 27-20-27, which will make playing the next hand just as tense for PlayerB, since each of the other players needs to score only 1/3 the amount of points that PlayerB does in order to win. By choosing to have the other two players LOSE 4 points each, the score becomes 23-12-23, giving PlayerB at least one more round to gain ground before the situation becomes tense again.)

I think that the rule where you must win a bid AFTER 31 points could ultimately lead to stalls, since until EVERY player is above 31 points, there can be no guarantee for endgame. I will think about it though, because it DOES seem to fit the feel of the mechanics, and could potentially work.

ReneWiersma
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What if you just play X hands

What if you just play X hands (say X is seven) and the player with the most points after the last hand is the winner.

Another idea: rather than the other two players each getting the number of points equal to half the bid, let the losing bidder lose his points. I do think you need to combine this with a fixed number of hands, otherwise the game might never end ;)

ReneWiersma
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stubert wrote:OPTION 2: Make

stubert wrote:
OPTION 2:

Make the losing high-bid player choose from the following 2 options:

a) the two other players each GAIN 1/2 of the points bid,

OR

b) the high-bid player LOSES the full points bid.

Great minds think alike? ;) What if there's no choice and instead you make the rule like this:

The two other players each GAIN 1/2 of the points bid, unless that would result in one (or both) of them of having 31 points or more in which case: the high-bid player LOSES the full points bid.

I guess that would make for a tense and interesting end-game, because you can only win by winning a bid and then winning the hand. A potential problem is that the game takes very long before one player is finally able to manage to get to 31 points.

Pastor_Mora
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KIS!!

Keep it simple !!
If the winning bidder doesn't play enought tricks to meet his bid, all other players get 1 point

KT!

DogBoy
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Joined: 12/15/2009
Traditional games...

...which pit one player against 2 others, like Calabresella:

http://www.pagat.com/tresset/calabres.html

and Klabberjass:

http://www.pagat.com/jass/klabberjass.html

seem to solve this issue by playing a fixed number of hands.

fecundity
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Thanks for the helpful

Thanks for the helpful suggestions. Definitely some things to try for the next playtest.

One problem with allowing negative points rather than positive points is that it makes infinite loops of scoring possible. The game should be forced to end eventually.

DogBoy wrote:
...solve this issue by playing a fixed number of hands.

I had probably read about traditional two-against-one tricking games at some point, but I have never played any of them. So I wasn't thinking about them when I designed this one.

One problem with a fixed number of rounds is that the game might be resolved - or pretty well resolved - several hands before the end. Suppose Player A has enough points that it is only mathematically possible for Player B to catch up in the games remaining and strictly impossible for Player C to catch up.

A playtester suggested that this could be solved by making later rounds worth more points. For example: Three hands with normal scoring, and then three more where values are doubled.

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