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When would you consider a game to be broken?

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AbErRational
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I delved into that issue with my recent design. The game works just fine and is fun and interesting to play. The only shortcoming is that with two players there's a possibility in a certain situation to make decisions that can break the game. That situation occurs approximately every 20th game, so 1 in 20 games might be broken.

Of course if someone doesn't actually want to play and wants to mess up the whole game for everyone, it can be done too, but only with two players.

I could avert these problems with a couple of rules, but generally I don't want to make a lot of rules that need to be remembered. So I haven't yet decided what to do to it.

After all these problems arise only if someone starts to pursue such an outcome intentionally.

So what do you think? How would you describe a broken game?

harmon89
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What do you mean by the game

What do you mean by the game breaks? The game becomes a draw? Someone will always win in a particular scenario?

Also, how long does the game take to play? If the games are only 15 minutes, I don't think it is a huge deal. If players have hours invested in something that ends up being broken, that's a greater concern.

Lovac
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bug or exploit of strategy?

I would say the game is broken if you have a situation which cannot be solved by your rules logically, or if the game can be exploited for overwhelming easy victory, or if maybe you have only 1 legit strategy (the best one compared to others) to win the game, so players have to make the same decisions every time. That's maybe not broken game but boring :).

As he said, if the game takes 3 hours than such an outcome is a catastrophe :), if it's a short game it could be fun, you could even integrate few different ways to win in such a way.

If the concern is victory, you just said break the game...it becomes unplayable or it's easy victory?

X3M
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Most people will think of

Most people will think of "broken" as "imbalanced". I think this is almost correct. At least, it can be a possible cause.

When players will find out what the best strategy is. More and more will try to play that strategy. Eventually, all play the strategy without trying something else. A part of the game "breaks" of "physically".

And once it is clear that one player is going to win with that dreaded strategy, while every one plays THE strategy. The game ends "mentally". There is no need to play till the end. Thus a chunk of game time "breaks" of.

The game can break in several ways.

No doubt others can explain it better.

Tbone
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Find it and Kill it

What will determine my approach depends entirely on what type of environment the game has created. Although, for me, I like to find the main mechanism that is at fault and immediately remove it. So for your example, if lets say in a two player game there is an outcome where you can't attack after awhile because a certain mechanic allows you to gain too much defense, rendering any opponents' attack useless (I'm curious as to why it is just two player???); just as an example. I would remove the mechanic that allows you to build up defenses so fast and refine it. It looks like you have a multiplayer game that is trying to squeeze into a dueling atmosphere. That can be dangerous. Typically when you test a game you start with two players so I am interested as to why you neglected to counter the issue. Of course, the mechanic must be well hidden as it only happens 1 out of 20 games. Its a shame, but just think of how streamlined it will be when you remove and refine! It might be even better in multiplayer because of it.

Remove and Refine

So, to answer your question, a game is broken when it, like anything else, doesn't do what its supposed to do. The basics are to have fun and enjoy fellowship with one or more people. The rest is really up to you. If your game is SUPPOSED to be strategic and there is something stopping that, even in some cases, I'd say its broke, or maybe just not efficient. I'll narrow down my definition even further: a game is broken when it doesn't cater to the primary needs of a game (competition, entertainment, fellowship, etc.) and is not efficient when its secondary needs are not met (strategic, social interaction, interesting decisions, etc.)

questccg
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Quit hiding behind the bush

And TELL US what happens every 1 out of 20 games!!! It's stupid for us to "guess", we have no knowledge about your game. Other than you saying 1 out of 20 games is broken.

Sheesh - would have saved all these comments until AFTER he tells us HOW the game becomes "broken".

And in my opinion a game is "broken" if there is a SINGLE strategy that will effectively work every time the game is played. If that is the case, the game is "broken" in that there is no need to PLAY the game -- the puzzle is solved.

Note: To counter this, all you need is to reduce some of the determinism by adding dice, shuffling or other forms of randomization which break a sole strategy that may be used by a player to "exploit" a defect in a game...

FrankM
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Yes, need more info

Personally, I consider a game broken when one of my kids loses or destroys an important component :-)

There are lots of issues that might be described as "broken," and the ways to address them are too varied for anyone to give useful advice absent more detail.

Sometimes a designer can see an unintended outcome as being broken, while players just see it as pleasantly weird. In the original Diablo videogame, there were three different items that the Rogue could wear that blocked half of the damage from a trap. Wear one of them and you take half damage. Wear two of them and you take no damage. Wear all three and you get healed from springing a trap. Probably something that should have been caught during QA, but leaving it in didn't cause any serious problems. Eventually the opportunity cost of forgoing better armor limited the exploit's usefulness anyway.

My guess is that you have a more serious balance issue, and I'm also curious why it only emerges with two players. Could this malicious player target a single opponent this way with other players present, even if it meant the malicious player gives up any chance of winning? If so, the mechanic needs to be removed/refined as stated above. If it's some strange artifact of having exactly two players, the easiest solution might be to put "3+ Players" on the side of the box!

AbErRational
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questccg wrote:And TELL US

questccg wrote:
And TELL US what happens every 1 out of 20 games!!! It's stupid for us to "guess", we have no knowledge about your game. Other than you saying 1 out of 20 games is broken.

Sheesh - would have saved all these comments until AFTER he tells us HOW the game becomes "broken".

And in my opinion a game is "broken" if there is a SINGLE strategy that will effectively work every time the game is played. If that is the case, the game is "broken" in that there is no need to PLAY the game -- the puzzle is solved.

__Note:__ To counter this, all you need is to reduce some of the determinism by adding dice, shuffling or other forms of randomization which break a sole strategy that may be used by a player to "exploit" a defect in a game...

It hasn't happened yet, but mathematically the probability should be around there.

The game is broken if someone manages to get the best combination of cards during first half of the game. If that same player is also in an inferior position against the other player, he might begin to reduce his card hand down to as low as he can get it before the game ends. During this first phase the hand card amount is reduced by discarding them out of the game. If the situation arises around the mid-game the opponent can try to counteract this by speeding up the game so that the other player might not have enough turns to achieve his goal. Speeding up will not work during the first rounds.
During the second phase, the player who first runs out of cards ends the game and no more cards are allowed to be played. Now the player with highest score wins.
Most of the cards are interdependent, but there's one card type without dependencies and one card type to counteract that independent card type. This independent card type is the primary cause for the game to be broken at times. Both of those cards are required so they are not going to be thrown out of the game. The counteracting card type mostly fixes the problem, but not completely. 1/20 probability is related to dealing of the cards. If a player gets one or more of the counteracting cards, the problematic strategy is rendered useless for that player. The counteracting cards have around 1/10 chance to solve the problem if it arises. In the beginning of the game, no-one has any cards and the cards are aquired during the first phase of the game.

In other words, if a player wants to ruin the game, he just doesn't try to get the highest score, but only the very best cards and then play them during the second phase. Mostly it ain't easy to get them and also no-one knows how many and which cards aren't available at all during the game. So these randomness layers make it useful strategy only if a certain situation happens during the early game and there's a player with weak to no plan for the second phase at that moment.

The game takes around 15 minutes to play with two players so the problem isn't as bad as it could be.

The game box contains a set for two players and those sets can be combined to get more players into the game.

questccg
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Oh boy!

Man this sounds like the most CRYPTIC "exploit" I have ever heard of. I think this is less likely than you think. It requires so many components, like 1st half the best cards, 2nd half uses those cards... Aren't BOTH players competing to get the "BEST" cards???

Perhaps it should be a simple warning like:

"During the first half of play, players should be building the best possible deck of cards as possible... In order to use those cards during the second half of play."

This way BOTH players will be doing the same thing, reducing the odds that only ONE (1) player gets all the best cards.

Is this not an elegant and simple solution?!

Update: If you need to mitigate scoring points at the same time... I would rewrite it as:

"During the first half of play, players should balance the building of the best possible deck of cards and scoring victory point... You need to manage scoring more points during the second half of play by using the best possible cards."

Something like that...

larienna
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If starting hand is so

If starting hand is so important, you could force players to exchange hands, discard, exchange with a third hand cards from their hand to make sure they do not win or lose because of the starting card configuration.

There are various card manipulation options for this.

AbErRational
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questccg wrote:Man this

questccg wrote:
Man this sounds like the most CRYPTIC "exploit" I have ever heard of. I think this is less likely than you think. It requires so many components, like 1st half the best cards, 2nd half uses those cards... Aren't BOTH players competing to get the "BEST" cards???

Perhaps it should be a simple warning like:

"During the first half of play, players should be building the best possible deck of cards as possible... In order to use those cards during the second half of play."

This way BOTH players will be doing the same thing, reducing the odds that only ONE (1) player gets all the best cards.

Is this not an elegant and simple solution?!

Update: If you need to mitigate scoring points at the same time... I would rewrite it as:

"During the first half of play, players should balance the building of the best possible deck of cards and scoring victory point... You need to manage scoring more points during the second half of play by using the best possible cards."

Something like that...

You're right about the likelihood of the problem to arise. I must add that the game makes players pretty focused on playing it as intended. Of course that depends a lot from the players, but typically it does so.

I think the right choices are either do nothing or fix it properly. To decide on that, it would be nice to hear opinions about mechanically broken games and why they are broken. There's already some good viewpoints in this thread. Especially it would be intresting to hear reasonings about almost broken games if anyone has encountered such a thing.

Rick L
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It sounds like your game

It sounds like your game allows a rare chance to "shoot the moon", which is considered a valid alternative win strategy in a lot of card games. If no one really can tell that your taking a chance on that strategy, then even better! Keep it!

If it quickly becomes obvious that a player has the hand they need to make this alternate win, and there's nothing they can do about it, then it's no fun to continue the game - everyone will just give up. If that's the case, fix the issue - either make a way to keep this Strategy hidden longer, or add more counter cards to eliminate possibilities of this occurring.

But if your game is allowing a player to be sneaky and shoot the moon whenever they get this "sweet set" of cards, then it sounds like a fun game to me!

AbErRational
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Rick L wrote:It sounds like

Rick L wrote:
It sounds like your game allows a rare chance to "shoot the moon", which is considered a valid alternative win strategy in a lot of card games. If no one really can tell that your taking a chance on that strategy, then even better! Keep it!

I think it is close to that description, but has some irritating elements if exploited efficiently.
If someone exploits the "broken" strategy during the first few rounds of the game, it is an easy way to victory (if it is available and not countered). After that the "broken" strategy starts to become a risky one and during the last few rounds it can easily lead to failure if someone figures out whats going on. And it is not too hard to figure it out. But if a player is not aware enough of other player's plan, he might have a great combo for the second phase, but then ultimately fail to use it miserably.

AbErRational
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questccg wrote: Perhaps it

questccg wrote:

Perhaps it should be a simple warning like:

> "During the first half of play, players should be building the best possible deck of cards as possible... In order to use those cards during the second half of play."

Funnily this made me realise that in its core, the game is kind of a deck builder. The differences to common deck builders are that the deck is used only once when it is ready and so during the game the engine is not used but only constructed.

X3M
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AbErRational wrote: I think

AbErRational wrote:

I think it is close to that description, but has some irritating elements if exploited efficiently.
If someone exploits the "broken" strategy during the first few rounds of the game, it is an easy way to victory (if it is available and not countered). After that the "broken" strategy starts to become a risky one and during the last few rounds it can easily lead to failure if someone figures out whats going on. And it is not too hard to figure it out. But if a player is not aware enough of other player's plan, he might have a great combo for the second phase, but then ultimately fail to use it miserably.

How about a flag that this strategy is an option in development?
Thus in the first phase, when someone starts with this strategy. A requirement would be that one of the cards has to be shown already.
Like a nuclear silo, the player builds a big hole. So the opponent knows what might come.
This way, a part can be used as distraction too.

AbErRational
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X3M wrote:AbErRational

X3M wrote:
AbErRational wrote:

I think it is close to that description, but has some irritating elements if exploited efficiently.
If someone exploits the "broken" strategy during the first few rounds of the game, it is an easy way to victory (if it is available and not countered). After that the "broken" strategy starts to become a risky one and during the last few rounds it can easily lead to failure if someone figures out whats going on. And it is not too hard to figure it out. But if a player is not aware enough of other player's plan, he might have a great combo for the second phase, but then ultimately fail to use it miserably.

How about a flag that this strategy is an option in development?
Thus in the first phase, when someone starts with this strategy. A requirement would be that one of the cards has to be shown already.
Like a nuclear silo, the player builds a big hole. So the opponent knows what might come.
This way, a part can be used as distraction too.

It won't work in this case. I'm not so much looking for ideas how to fix it, more like IF it should be fixed. Your first take into that problem was very helpful, tanks a lot about that. If other designers here agree with your theoretical basis of being broken / not efficient, then I can make my decision by analysing the game through those guidelines.

Edit: Whups, it was actually tbone who said that..

AbErRational
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I recalculated the

I recalculated the probability and the major problem isn't actually that frequently possible. The real probability is somewhere between 1/100 to 1/200. However, there's an another issue too. It is a forced tie. I think it is minor issue though. It requires that a player is not pursuing to win anymore, so that player has effectively quit playing anyways and decisively gets rid of his cards. But what kind of a player would do that? It is hard to imagine such an unplaying taking place in reality.

saluk
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It doesn't sound any

It doesn't sound any different to Always Buy Coin.

Most games have exploits, and they remain interesting to a player as long as those exploits are not found. With Dominion, the fact that they kept releasing new sets of cards that change the strategy, it kept things interesting. Always Buy Coin is certainly a decent strategy in some card configurations, but it's the wrong strategy in most of them I would say.

I think exploits like this are best countered not with rules, but with strategy. Can you tweak the game in such a way that a player attempting that exploit is very likely to be countered or shoot themselves in the foot? Some other mechanism that dissuades them from that path?

Other than that, I think this is complex enough that you really can't answer many questions about it with theorycrafting. Try a few playtests where you secretly tell one of your testers to pursue this strategy. Maybe even stack the deck so that the cards are right in the first half. See if it's even viable. Have 20 normal playtests and see how often players actually luck into the exploit on their own.

FrankM
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Dissuading them

saluk wrote:
I think exploits like this are best countered not with rules, but with strategy. Can you tweak the game in such a way that a player attempting that exploit is very likely to be countered or shoot themselves in the foot? Some other mechanism that dissuades them from that path?

MISCELLANEOUS RULES
You may be wondering why the game includes a hefty 2x4 studded with rusty nails. That is in case your opponent attempts the exploit the following speed-deck strategy...

saluk
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It just might work!

It just might work!

cignox1
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It is not clear to me how

It is not clear to me how easy is to win if you try to pursue this strategy: it seems to me that the right cards won't make you win automatically: your opponent must also ignore that untill it is too late.
If that is the case, and the chances to have the right cards are really as low as you estimated, I don't think this is something that needs to be fixed. Its kind of a gamble: you have a rare opportunitiy and its up to you to catch it or not.

And the player must know your game well enough to know thit trick anyway...

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