Blocked game question

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ACG
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Joined: 12/31/1969

Hi! I'm working on a game where people have to accumulate groups of items. For the time being, suppose we have a Scrabble tile distribution and the objects are letters.

One player has to get one of the following three words: FIX, BOX, or JUNK. He sees that one of his opponents has the X and the J. He is allowed to ask for a trade to get the J or X. Remember that there is only one X in the game and one J.

Clearly, he is right to ask for a trade as he'll need one of those two letters to proceed. However, how can I set up the rules to indicate that the opponent HAS to trade with him to prevent him from being blocked? Although in general people can decline trades, such a trade CANNOT be refused by the person with the J and X. There is absolutely no way he can win the game unless the opponent deals with him.

The tricky part is that the opponent has no idea which words the blocked player is trying to form, and therefore has no idea that the other player is blocked!

How do other games handle this?

ACG

Hedge-o-Matic
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Joined: 07/30/2008
Blocked game question

If the player's objective are secret, than some other mechanism is needed to dislodge important pieces. If you give items values like scrabble letters have, for instance, than you can just say that a player must have a maximum value in their hand. Holding two of these important pieces should automatically put a player over this limit. The player would have to choose one tile to give up. Now, they might be able to hold on to these tiles with the risk of being caught at it and paying some penelty for hoarding, but that's the player's choice.

Using this idea, players aren't forced to accept trades at any time, but they might have some incentive to do so anyway.

ACG
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Blocked game question

There's already a limit as to how many pieces the player can have at a time. I figured that would help. However, I'm still figuring that it's still physically possible for the problem to occur during a game (though unlikely).

Zzzzz
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Joined: 06/20/2008
Blocked game question

ACG,

First a simple question, is it possible for multiple players to need the X or J?

If so, and if you only have one of each letter (X and J) in the game, you might never be able to fix the issue. For example, if you need the X for a word, but so do I, or maybe another player. Why would I want to trade that X to any player since it might lead to one of my opponents winning the game?

From my vague understanding it seems like this situation might show signs of a kingsmaking problem.... but again I dont fully understand your game so this is just a gut feeling.

On the other hand, if an opponent needs this letter, and it wont help me achieve my own game goals, there is a good chance I will trade with the opponent that can help me achieve my goal. So in this case you might need the X, but I might only trade it to an opponent who has the J that I need to help me complete part of my game goals. If this is the case, your game might be fine the way it is.

Another quick thought you need to ponder, if your players dont wish to trade you have the potential for a stalemate game!! Is this something you want? I dont think so, but maybe this means you need to consider some other optional paths to victory, that players may choose to use in case of this stalemate (no trade) situation. Most games allow for multiple options to victory and this seems like you might not have that option in your game.

johant
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Blocked game question

Remember that there is only one X in the game and one J.

Why?

multiple player will most likely need the X or J!!!

ACG
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Blocked game question

The rules as they are right now are this.

If one player believes that he cannot make ANY of his goals (there are three "words" he can use -- I figured I'd try that to prevent a blocking situation) and finds that one person is blocking all three [if multiple players are blocking him in different ways, he's got more options so it's less likely that we'll have a kingmaking issue since the opponents do not know he's blocked], the following situation occurs.

At the moment one player is blocked by one other player, he declares that he is blocked (I'm debating having him reveal his hand). Once that happens, the game is effectively suspended until he is unblocked. NOBODY can continue constructing their machines ("words" -- this is Junkyard Wars) unless the blocked player makes a deal which makes it possible for him to continue working towards building his machines. The deal MUST be fair, and the ability to block all players makes sure no one else takes advantage of the situation.

If all people in a position to unblock the first player cannot do so without blocking themselves, all players throw out their current machines and take three new ones -- the only time people can replace their machine cards.

If there is absolutely no way for the player to unblock himself (this is possible -- the "J" and "X" could not be in the opponents' hands, for instance -- they could have been removed from the game -- everyone takes new machines.

Originally, only the blocked player(s) would take new cards. This would leave him at a disadvantage, however, as the tiles he already has probably won't do as much good with his new machine goals in mind. The other players, who get to keep their tiles and their current goals, would be at an advantage since the tiles were chosen with those goals in mind.

ACG
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Blocked game question

More stuff to consider:

There may be one "J", but there are also blanks. A blank may be set once by each player. So a complete block is more difficult (but if all the blanks in use or defined by the blocked player, there's still a problem).

I'm debating instead of having 100 tiles, 200 tiles -- two exact copies of the original 100 tiles set with two tiles on each square. No one player can possess more than half the tiles of any type -- for instance, there would be two J's in the game (and four blanks), and no one player can have both J's or more than two blanks at a time.

Toughie!

ACG

Emphyrio
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Joined: 02/10/2010
Blocked game question

The mandatory trade to get rid of a blocking situation seems very fiddly to me. I would consider an alternative mechanism to either prevent the blocking situation from arising in the first place or making it not actually blocking.

For example, in Scrabble, if your opponent has the X and J, you aren't blocked, because you can still make words with other letters. Maybe in Junkyard Wars (I don't know anything about it) it would be possible to have something else substitute for the X or J in a pinch, perhaps not as well or with some side effect or an increased cost. Or you could have a "wild card" like the blank tile in Scrabble.

Another possibility would be to allow you to steal the X or J from your opponent -- obviously there would need to be limitations or consequences on this to keep it from happening all the time, but it could reinforce the theme if done well.

It might also be possible to prevent the blocking situation from arising. For example, if players were able to bid on the X and J, then you could make alternate plans if you didn't win the auction.

ACG
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Blocked game question

Emphyrio wrote:
The mandatory trade to get rid of a blocking situation seems very fiddly to me. I would consider an alternative mechanism to either prevent the blocking situation from arising in the first place or making it not actually blocking.

For example, in Scrabble, if your opponent has the X and J, you aren't blocked, because you can still make words with other letters. Maybe in Junkyard Wars (I don't know anything about it) it would be possible to have something else substitute for the X or J in a pinch, perhaps not as well or with some side effect or an increased cost. Or you could have a "wild card" like the blank tile in Scrabble.

Another possibility would be to allow you to steal the X or J from your opponent -- obviously there would need to be limitations or consequences on this to keep it from happening all the time, but it could reinforce the theme if done well.

It might also be possible to prevent the blocking situation from arising. For example, if players were able to bid on the X and J, then you could make alternate plans if you didn't win the auction.

There are in fact blanks -- I've been doing what I can to prevent the blockage (but if you don't have a blank, you're in trouble). In all likelihood, the probability of a blocked game is VERY low (it's unlikely one person can block EVERYTHING), but we need to plan for it. Letters coming from blanks are always of lower quality than letters not coming from blanks.

Also, it *is* possible to steal the X and J to some extent. You can only hold 10 tiles at a time, so if you have a full junkyard and want to bring something in, you have to drop something to make room. This something can be picked up by anyone.

I was debating a rule at one point where opponents could steal your 10 chosen tiles if the zone where tiles were kept did not have any people in it so no one was guarding it. That didn't seem appropriate, however.

How about this? You're allowed to pay \$250 or something like that (you're starting out with \$1000) to get another option for a machine. If you're blocked on three, you pick another -- it's even less likely you'd be blocked on four. The catch is you may have no money, and people realizing this won't want to give you any money.

Or this? People get points for building machines/words. You can throw in your three cards prematurely for a cost of 50 points and get three more. But an opponent could still force you to do that.

Or the nuclear option: If an opponent blocks you COMPLETELY, you WIN! Blocking people is good because it makes it harder to make machines. However, do it TOO MUCH and it's not fair. I don't think that will help, either.

Finally, consider this option: you can replace one letter with another in a machine/word, but the probability of that machine working is automatically 5%. It makes it possible to get unblocked, but it will take a long time. But it's possible.

ACG
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Blocked game question

One final idea -- you can trade in ALL your tiles for the points associated with your cheapest machine and get three more machines. Yes, you get the points and the game is unblocked. However, you are put at a MAJOR disadvantage because one of the key features of the game is that you can reuse existing components when you get a new set of machines. In effect, it's free points for a disadvantage. How many points you get could depend on how many tiles you trade in.

I never thought things would be this tough to iron out.

ACG
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Blocked game question

I've got it. It's simple.

If ALL of the instances of the letters required to finish your word are either out of the game or in your opponents' hands (which you are always able to see), you have one of two choices.

1. Reveal your word, have the opponents agree that you are blocked unless a trade is made, and trade it in for new word. You get no points, but you are no longer blocked.

2. Ask one of the players for a trade. This will allow you to continue working on your word (without revealing it). You will be able to get points if you finish your word, so this is to your advantage. However, the opponent you are trading with will get something in return as well.

The opponent also isn't in as powerful a position during the negotiations because you can always throw the word out if the price is too high.

What do you think? This will encourage late-game trading.

ACG