Skip to Content

Chat Transcript: Player Scalability

16 replies [Last post]
Joined: 12/31/1969

The topic for the November 24th, 2003, Monday Night Chat was Player Scalability, adjusting your design to work with a variable number of players.

The chat was well-attended, though many people were quiet during the first half. Towards the end the topic changed to dice decks.

I edited the chat to clump conversations somewhat, and removed the pleasantries (greetings and such). The end portion (where the topic changed) isn't edited much and so may be a bit more difficult to follow.

Please feel free to add additional thoughts!

FastLearner: Ok, let's get started. Tonight's topic is Player Scalability, as suggested by Scurra (who won't be here tonight, ironically).

FastLearner: It's pretty clear that offering a variable number of players is important to the success of games, at least financially. If all games had a set number of players I doubt many would be sold, and it would always be an awkward decision figuring out what to play.

FastLearner: First, does anyone have any opening thoughts?

FastLearner: Ok, then let's focus on some of the subtopics I suggested on the home pager here and see what comes of it.

FastLearner: One of the major challenges I have in my designs is trying to standardize game length, at least somewhat.

FastLearner: It's not uncommon for a first revision of mine to take, say, 30 minutes per player, making 4 and 5 player games way too long.

FastLearner: What are some of the techniques y'all use to try to smooth that out?

FastLearner: (Or that you see?)

tjgames: One way is real time games, but it can't be applied to all game

FastLearner: Good point.

FastLearner: Another of the most commonly used techniques that I see is variable number of turns. Many games have a set number of turns and that number changes based on the number of players.

tjgames: Another is piece distribution which thins out with more players.

FastLearner: The issues I see with changing the number of turns is that are (a) it only works if you have a set number of turns and not some other game-ending mechanism, and (b) it can be kinda tricky to balance out the "goals achieved" side of things.

FastLearner: Which is to say that if, say, you've got a world conquest game then it's tough to give each number of players enough time to do some real conquest. I guess a lot of it has to come out in playtesting.

Darkehorse: track what takes the most time in a turn and find a way to limit the time hog

tjgames: Good point

FastLearner: Ok, guys, this is the most quiet chat we've ever had. I'm not up on a soapbox here.

Darkehorse: also realize that in some cases, it is OK for a turn to take a long time (such as your world conquest game example).

Darkehorse: FL: do you mean a standard game length no matter how many players? or an average mins per player?

theicemage: In Age of Mythology, there's a mechanism to end the game after a set amount of time, but since each player gets a full turn in that time anyway, it lengthens considerably with more players.

theicemage: I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes, it's okay to increase the amount of time a game takes when you increase the number of players.

FastLearner: Aye, AoM seems to kinda break down for that reason.

FastLearner: TJ mentioned thinning out piece distribution.

DarkDream: The first question is how long a game should ever be? To me this is never over an hour and a half?

tjgames: Depends on the game too

theicemage: How long should a game be: As long as it can be and still captivate the players!

FastLearner: I agree that increases are good, but it can get badly out of hand.

theicemage: I don't think there should be an upper limit to it.

tjgames: That my thought too

DarkDream: Within reason, but six hours is no good.

Foolster41: Yeah, some of the really realistic army games take about 5 hours

FastLearner: I'd say that 90 minutes is a good limit for most games in the "German" tradition. Wargames obviously can last a lot longer.

theicemage: Well, okay, there should be a reasonable limit to the game. If everyone is sitting around wondering who's finally going to win, is it because the game is so long or because it's a weak design?

tjgames: 6 hrs and I'm out if here.

Foolster41: (I have one such game, but not the patience to finish it)

theicemage: Some folks LOVE Age of Renaissance, which is a minimum 4 hour game from what I've seen (longer with less experienced players)

theicemage: But with these folks, it gets repeat play whenever they can fit it in because they really get into the game.

FastLearner: Part of the beauty of short games -- as I see it -- is that if someone's either (a) in an unstoppable runaway leader position (due to design or good play) the whole table isn't bored to tears, and (b) if you're in a position where you can never catch up a long game is hell.

docbrown: I'd say max 2hr. It's hard to keep people's attention beyond that, unless it a really interesting game (look at movie length).

tjgames: I usually go for 2 or less

FastLearner: Plus if it's a new game to you and it turns out you don't like it you're not obligated to 4 hours of disappointment.

DarkDream: With the world it is today and in the U.S. not many people have 5-6 hours to play a game.

Foolster41: I like some of the longer games like Catan which is going to take about 1 or 2 hours to play, but I also really like the short games like trading card games which usually take about 20-30 minutes.

docbrown: icemage - maybe give the other players something to do during the "playing" players turn? That way, they wont get bored.

FastLearner: I think it's been true for probably 50 years that the only people who have 5-6 hours for a game are students and the obsessed (aka gamers).

tjgames: Little side game

Foolster41: That's why there is such an open market for little "quick" games

DarkDream: In my opinion, games should not be for a specialized audience but normal everyday people.

DarkDream: Besides game length, is an important factor the length of a game turn? If it is too long, won't players get bored?

theicemage: DarkDream - depends. If everyone has something to do at a given time, then it's not so bad. I think what you're pointing out is player down time. If it's considerable, people will drift away and lose interest.

DarkDream: Yes, icemage I was talking about down time.

theicemage: That may help. Look at Puerto Rico - someone takes the Captain, everyone's involved. Someone takes the Craftsman, everyone's involved. The downtime is minimized through this participation.

Foolster41: Games you can also easily play anywhere are also a plus

DarkDream: As such, they should be reasonably short.

theicemage: How can you keep someone engaged during the potential down time?

docbrown: I don't see increasing game length for more players as an issue.

DarkDream: I don't see it too much as an issue as long as the overall game does not go over 2 hours max.

FastLearner: Regardless of the overall length of the game, do you see it as an issue that a game might take 60 minutes with 3 players and 120 minutes with 5?

FastLearner: Or is that ok?

tjgames: It might depends on my down time

FastLearner: Aye, that's a huge part of it, I agree.

FastLearner: Speaking of which...

FastLearner: Let's move to Ameliorating Downtime

tjgames: Can I use that time to figure out and refine my strategy

FastLearner: Multi-phase games like Puerto Rico don't suffer downtime issues, but some games certainly do.

DarkDream: The best way to reduce downtime (and overall length) is to make the turn as short as possible.

tjgames: true

FastLearner: If there's really nothing to do while the other guy is playing then it can be awful in a game with, say, 6 players.

DarkDream: A way to do that is to offer some constraints on the amount of decisions made.

FastLearner: I agree, that's a huge part of it.

FastLearner: Action point games generally offer a ton of possibilities.

FastLearner: I think that's why I hear complaints about Tikal, Mexica, and Java...

FastLearner: Analysis Paralysis can really slow those games down, and the more players the worse it gets.

FastLearner: As the boards become more crowded and the number of people making decisions between your turns increases.

tjgames: That why I have a timer for certain players

fotw: eek

DarkDream: I think it is important to have possibilities and competing decisions but not too much.

DarkDream: Look at chess for instance.

DarkDream: Due to these ideas I think it is important to keep a game as simple as you can.

FastLearner: What about chess?

DarkDream: After you get past the opening, literally there is millions of variations. As such, with the great players they take tons of time. A tournament level game lasts at least three hours or more.

FastLearner: Aye, true, which is a great segue into Modifying Resources and Goals.

docbrown: In some games, more players means fewer resources/cards/etc, and fewer choices for moves. That may compensate for the slowdown of more players.

FastLearner: Ah, so true.

FastLearner: What are some games where modified resources seems to work when changing the number of players?

DarkDream: I have not played too many games personally, I can't think of any off the top of my head.

FastLearner: Well, Puerto Rico is a quick and easy one, as the coins your receive at the beginning change based on the players, as does the number of potential VPs and colonists.

tjgames: Fresh Fish adds resources when the number changes

docbrown: Fluxx, maybe. More people means there are fewer Keeper cards to go around. Doesn't seem to speed the game up much, though.

FastLearner: What do you see as the designers' goals in these examples?

DarkDream: So the basic idea is with less resources per player as the players go up, the less decisions and downtime?

FastLearner: I think that's part of it.

FastLearner: But it's also a balancing issue in terms of ensuring that the later players aren't effectively screwed by the earlier ones.

FastLearner: That if the earlier players have too many resources then they'll build up too much of a lead before the later players get a chance to play.

DarkDream: You are saying that with less resources more competition and therefore less likely for one person to hoard everything?

FastLearner: In part, yes.

FastLearner: I played Attika for the first time the other night and in the case of a 4-player game the first player gets 4 resource cards, the next gets 5, then 6, and then 7.

docbrown: Why the different number of cards? I'm not familiar with the game.

FastLearner: In the case of Attika the first player gets the choice of starting his/her building anywhere on the board (which has different resources in different places). The choices obviously go down from there so the additional cards help balance that out.

docbrown: Ah. That makes sense.

DarkDream: Do you think this design decision makes the game better of having different number of cards?

FastLearner: I think the change is small enough to not imbalance anything but large enough to compensate, so yes, in that case it works well.

tjgames: Carcassonne has a set number of tile that get spread out between players so It has a limited amount off resources

DarkDream: By limiting the resources, does this lead to an overall different feeling to the game?

tjgames: I don't think so

FastLearner: I think it depends on the game. In some cases you need to modify your strategy based on those changed resources, but in others it balances itself out because of the player count change.

DarkDream: In other words, like with Carcassonne, how does it affect the game: make it shorter, more fierce competition and so on.

FastLearner: In Carc the game length doesn't change much based on the number of players.

FastLearner: If there are 90 tiles to draw and place then if there are 3 players in the game it's 30 tiles each and with 5 players it's 18 each, but the total time spent drawing and laying is still about 90 tiles.

super: it gets longer because the players are like whose turn is it?

Oracle: Is it necessarily good to keep the game length fixed regardless of the number of players? It means with more players each person does less overall in the game. The changes in PR are designed to make the game longer with more players.

FastLearner: Oracle that's one of the earlier things we discussed. My take, anyway, is that some increase is good but if it's, say, 30 minutes per player then the 5 and 6 player games just get too long.

DarkDream: What is a possible advantage then of limiting resources when creating a game?

super: look at AOM

super: age of mythology it's limit affects game play in a major way

FastLearner: One of the things I've not been able to successfully do with my designs is allow for a two-player variation when I designed the game for 3 to 5.

FastLearner: Auctions pretty much fall apart, for instance.

super: that's interesting

FastLearner: As does anything that involves alliances.

Oracle: I should post the 2 player playtest result from city builder to that new forum if you want to see how bad a 2-player variation can get

FastLearner: LOL. I can only imagine.

super: I rarely make games for over 2 players

FastLearner: That eliminates a lot of these issues then, I'd think.

FastLearner: Who here has designed a partnership game?

docbrown: Not yet.

docbrown: I playtested an early proto-type game last week that seemed to work much better with 3 players instead of 2. It actually made the game run faster, and seemed to make the players more aggressive in their play.

super: well three players lends it's self better to human interaction

FastLearner: So true.

FastLearner: I'd guess that with 3 you can sort-of "spread out" your aggressive moves (if any) and can "attack" someone while knowing you've still got a potential ally left.

super: as the amount of people playing will allow for attention switches

docbrown: Exactly. In this game, you have an additional target with 3 players. Plus, the dice rolls affect the game board, which deteriorates during the game. 3 players accelerate that.

FastLearner: Makes sense.

FastLearner: Let's look at how strategies can change as the number of players does. Certainly one part is that human interaction we were just talking about.

super: more players also blocks vision in an interesting way

FastLearner: Good point.

theicemage: I read through the chat that I missed, and wanted to bring up a game I'm working on now. It requires cards to choose from. People work at taking those cards, and through the game, they are replaced. The draw deck is composed of 8 cards per player.

Foolster41: I gotta go in like 5 min. Actually what I was most interested in is balancing possible strategies.

docbrown: More than 2 players allows for players to "gang up" against another player, especially someone in the lead

FastLearner: So true.

Oracle: Has anyone played WarCraft the board game? It seems like a good example because with 3 players, nobody can fight; any 2 that do will become a lot weaker than the 3rd

FastLearner: That's partly true in Age of Mythology, too.

docbrown: Oracle - Interesting. Does that mean that 2 of the players gang-up against the third? Or just set up "non-aggessive" pacts?

Oracle: I haven't played it yet, but I'm thinking of buying it. In the computer version there's the fog of war so you don't know what the other 2 are doing. That way if they fight and weaken each other, you won't know that it's the perfect time to attack.

Oracle: in the board game (or computer one) you can have 2 gang up on the 3rd, but that's just poor sportsmanship and you can do it in almost any game

docbrown: I've played previous versions of the computer game, and that fog-of-war helps keep the game balanced. Unfortunately, it also means you don't know how tough the guy you're attacking is.

Oracle: not knowing how tough he is is part of the game though...where's the fun if you can make sure you enemy is weaker before you attack?

docbrown: I guess it depends on your tactics. Sometimes I prefer to pick on weaker players and build my power slowly. With WC, I usually underestimate another player and get wiped out quickly.

Oracle: that's the point though; in WC if you're a little bit weaker you can get wiped out quite easily, so it's important to make it harder to exploit the weakness, that's also where good scouting comes in

docbrown: true.

theicemage: In that game, there is also a trade mechanism, but it's more than just trading with other players. You can trade with the bank (costs more). In fewer-player games, players are more likely to take advantage of this more expensive trade with the bank.

FastLearner: Age of Steam is a good example of a game where your strategies have to change based on the number of players. As the number increases the odds of building a big long track that you can pass a ton of stuff over exclusively goes down considerably.

super: or the two players take the easy target and kill it

FastLearner: So you focus on figuring out how to also use the tracks of people you don't mind giving a few points to while seriously avoiding the tracks of those doing well.

Foolster41: I really hate that in games, where tw gang on one

theicemage: Is it allowable to make it so that with fewer players, the turns go more quickly, and that's the balancing mechanism? In other words, maybe it goes a little too fast, but it's tolerable, and in bigger games, it feels closer to "just right" on pacing?

Darkehorse: I like games where you are 'attack' one player over another but it's really not so brutal as to take the other person out of the game.. It just hinders them a bit.. Like the thief in Settlers

Foolster41: A version of shogi has a rule to help the "beat down" player

theicemage: One of the balancing mechanisms of Settlers is the die roll. You can't target that. Now that's not to say you can't get screwed by the dice, but at least it's random chance doing it, not the other players.

FastLearner: I've heard that The Game of Thrones boardgame has a large element of that... that in some games one player just becomes the "feed store" for his neighbors.

Darkehorse: LOL.. in multiplayer gaming we call that being the 'medkit'

FastLearner: And the more players you have the more likely someone will be selected as the "medkit"

Darkehorse: I think it's a huge balancing act... You don't want someone to be knocked out of the game by bad luck, but on the flip side you don't want to baby them throughout the entire game

FastLearner: What haven't we touched on in scaling games? I've hit the subtopics I had.

sedjtroll: did you talk about 'teams" or partnerships/alliances?

FastLearner: We kinda skipped over it because no one had designed a partnership game. But I'd love to talk about it.

sedjtroll: like I kept referencing Scurra's idea

sedjtroll: in which there are the 4 Musketeers

sedjtroll: and like 2 "bad guys"

sedjtroll: and there are some questions along the lines of- how do you divvy up the players? What are their goals, individually? What are he goals of the 'team'?

fotw: that's just plain mean to pick on a weak player

docbrown: It's only a game. And my regular group is usually very bloodthirsty, so if I don't do it to them they'll do it to me.

sedjtroll: that's not mean, that's how it goes sometimes

fotw: no challenge in that

super: How do you guys get screwed by the dice in settlers?

Darkehorse: put your settlement on 8 and never have eight rolled the entire game - dice screwage

super: It's kind of really easy to work past it. You get to place your two settlements that gets you six productive numbers.

Darkehorse: Hmmm I just thought of an interesting variant on settlers... Have a deck of dice cards with each card having a 1 to 6 on it (multiples of each but in equal quantities).. Instead of rolling each turn you simply draw two cards..

FastLearner: I'm not sure that would make too much difference. Some, obviously, but not as much.

fotw: hmm, then it wouldn't be random darkhorse?

Darkehorse: sure it would.. you shuffle the cards beforehand

tjgames: I played settler with a deck of dice. Didn't like it as much

sedjtroll: it would sort of be random (shuffle the cards)

FastLearner: It wouldn't be as random, though

tjgames: Maybe it was the way we used the deck of dice

sedjtroll: does a 'deck of dice' have equal numbers of each value (1-6)?

sedjtroll: well, if you are on an 8, and 8's not coming up, you know it will start to

FastLearner: Because with dice, for example, one die could roll a 5 or a 6 every single roll, while with single die cards there will be a limited number of 5s and 6s.

tjgames: Yes

docbrown: fotw - you could give each player a "hand" of cards that they could use instead of rolls. Adds more tactics, maybe.

FastLearner: Sedj: no, normally a deck of dice has 2 - 12 on it.

Darkehorse: Sedj: theoretically yes.. But you'd have to keep the quantities low to ensure equal distribution

super: out of 11 possible rolls (9 likely rolls) your six numbers are bound to show up. a creative player can always get 10 points

fotw: ?

Oracle: Seth: it has 36 cards, each with a black die and white die. It has all 36 possible combinations for the 2 dice

fotw: that I can understand Oracle

FastLearner: That's commonly what is meant by "a deck of dice"

theicemage: I saw it at Gaalemacon recently.

Darkehorse: Hmm I have never seen this dice deck.. What I was proposing was each card having 1 to 6 dots and you just draw two

theicemage: That's a great way to do hidden information in a game as long as you trust your opponent.

theicemage: What game is it where your opponent knows where you are, but you don't, and vice versa? It's an orienteering game.

FastLearner: tim, I've not played it.

theicemage: (or there's some mechanism in place that makes it so that you don't have to necessarily trust them)

tjgames: How many cards would be in the deck DH

Darkehorse: ice: or some way to look back later and confirm the revealed information

super: or you could just use Double six Dominos and remove the ones with blank areas

Darkehorse: tj: well... you could keep it as low as 12...

Oracle: Darke: I thought you were proposing a variation on what I just described. I'm not sure there's a difference in practice

FastLearner: super: good point.

FastLearner: There's a major difference between a standard deck of dice (all 36 combos) and a deck of dice with 1-6.

fotw: yes

tjgames: So you woulduse the cards with the die? DH

FastLearner: With the former every possible combination will come up

Darkehorse: oracle: well... with 36 cards theres a chance you might not go through the entire deck.. or if you do, you will only be partially into the deck after the second shuffle

Oracle: FL: but if you've got multiple copies of each number and you draw 2 cards

fotw: no, all cards need to be in the deck for each draw

Darkehorse: tj: no you would juse use the cards.. the cards would replace the die

Oracle: you'll slightly reduce the chances of getting doubles

FastLearner: But the 1-6 dice you could, for example, always draw pairs.

FastLearner: Or you could always draw low cards with other low cards, and high cards with other high cards.

fotw: Or the chance of a certain number changes with each draw.

Darkehorse: fotw: no they don't... you draw two cards and discard.. the next person does the same.. when your out of cards you shuffle them to make a new deck

FastLearner: Not so in a 36-card dice deck.

fotw: but that changes the chance of a certain number coming up

fotw: the game would change

Oracle: FL: okay, good point. Darke's idea is more like just using real dice than like the deck of dice

Darkehorse: fotw: that's the whole point!

FastLearner: True

FastLearner: And a good card counter could easily calculate the odds of his next "roll".

FastLearner: Whereas those who don't count may as well be rolling dice

fotw: Hmm, I like the starving rule (after a few nothing rounds, you get something)

Darkehorse: the bad thing about dice is it's possible never to roll a 1.. with the dice deck I propose, ones WILL come up..

super: thats why you take out three cards before you play

fotw: eww, hate counting

fotw: 1 on 2 dice is not possible

fotw: I've won before producing on 2s

FastLearner: Darke: true, but what will they come up with? Every 1 could be paired with a 6, for example, so you always get a 7. In a full "normal" dice deck a 2 total will always come up.

Darkehorse: no... a 1 and something else.. like 1 and 6 or 1 and 5

sedjtroll: why wouldn't the deck of dice just be 36 cards... 1 "2", 2 "3s", 3"4s", 4"5s", 5 "6's"

sedjtroll: etc?

tjgames: I When we played with deck of dice the card counters where at a advantage, and of course they didn't like my idea of reshuffling the deck before it was empty

FastLearner: Sedj: that's what a normal dice deck is.

fotw: that could work

sedjtroll: 6 7s, 5 8s, 4 9s, 3 10s, 2 11s, and a 12

Darkehorse: FL: yes.. but in order to get 2, you have to roll two 1's. With dice, you might not ever roll even a single 1, with the deck it's guaranteed

sedjtroll: oh

Oracle: seth: it is, but the "official" deck of dice shows images of the 2 dice that make up the roll

fotw: only if you toss cards and that changes the odds, I don't like that

FastLearner: Darke: but a "2" total isn't guaranteed at all.

Darkehorse: FL: no but it's more likely =)

FastLearner: So it doesn't really matter if you never roll a 1.

theicemage: Maybe I'm slow, but what was the topic tonight?

FastLearner: I don't think it's more likely at all. I think the odds are identical.

tjgames: Yer the deck of dide have to die on them making up the 36 possible combos of two dice

FastLearner: The topic was Player Scalability but it's pretty much come to a close, with dice as the current topic.

tjgames: Another customer be back shortly

Darkehorse: FL: Actually you are right. but the distribution is a whole lot more even than a set of die rolls.. I guess that's my point

fotw: hmm, maybe I'm not seeing the problem that you are in Settlers

Oracle: fotw: it doesn't change the odds, it just forces the results to follow a bell curve even in the short term

sedjtroll: so anyway, did anyone read Scurra's journal?

sedjtroll: re: All for One

fotw: but it doesn't need to be

Darkehorse: oracle: bingo

fotw: if it forces the bell curve, then counters are at an advantage, I HATE counting/tracking

FastLearner: Only a full dice deck forces the bell curve. The 1-6 version doesn't change it at all.

Darkehorse: fotw: no.. it doesn't need to be... but it averages out the randomness

Oracle: fotw: but sometimes with real dice you might get 8 4's in 10 rolls which will pretty much guarantee whoever's built on 4's wins. the deck of dice makes sure that won't happen

Darkehorse: FL: u sure?

FastLearner: When dice decks are used in Settlers, for example, it's not uncommon to put a "reshuffle" card in the deck as well so that counters are thwarted.

sedjtroll: you could shuffle the deck before each draw...

fotw: and I see no problems with that FL

sedjtroll: to eliminate counting

fotw: er that was meant for Oracle

Darkehorse: seth: that would defeat the purpose

sedjtroll: Darke: I know ;P


FastLearner: Darke: Yeah. Imagine the shuffled deck. It's possible, for example, that the cards are in this order 1 6 2 5 3 4 4 3 5 2 6 1. Every time someone draws two cards he'll get a 7. No curve at all: perfectly flat.

fotw: however strange it may be in the short term

sedjtroll: whjat's wrong with counting?

theicemage: Some folks that I game with hate randomness in the game, as it seems (to them) to work out against them.

FastLearner: They could instead be 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 5 6 6, in which case an odd number would never come up.

fotw: I'm bad at it

Darkehorse: FL: with the deck I propose.. if you were to roll 6 times.. you would get 2 1's, 2 2's on up to 2 6's

fotw: if I wanted to play a counting game, then I wouldn't be playing Settlers

theicemage: Now, I have my share of bad luck, but I don't take it out on the dice/cards! They're much more vocal about it.

theicemage: I think that's why there's minimal dice use in the current prototype I'm working on.

Oracle: fotw: that's your opinion then...I'm not saying the deck of dice is better, I'm just describing it. Some people like it, some don't

FastLearner: Darke: How is that a bell curve? I don't follow you, I think.

Darkehorse: the total for 6 rolls would always be 45...

Darkehorse: not a bell curve per se

Darkehorse: hold on

Oracle: fotw: in settlers, I don't see why counting is an issue with the deck. By the time you notice you're half way through the deck with no 5's showing up it's too late to build to the 5 before the deck is exhausted

fotw: but you could place the robber

Darkehorse: pardon.. it would be 42

fotw: with dice you don't have that information

fotw: changes the game

Darkehorse: which averages to 7 =)

Darkehorse: which makes sense

FastLearner: Darke: Yes, but each individual roll isn't going to fall on the curve... like I said, every draw of two could be a 7.

Darkehorse: the point is the distribution of #'s is equal...

Darkehorse: the average is perfectly set at 7

Darkehorse: if you rolled the dice 6 times.. the average SHOULD be 7.. but it might not be..

FastLearner: Aye, fotw, but I would certainly argue that that's less of an issue than the randomness built into Settlers. If I build my first two settlements on a 6 and an 8 and neither is ever rolled then the game is, imo, ruined.

tjgames: You'll just have to play test it a few times

FastLearner: No question that the rolls will average.

Oracle: fotw: like I said, it's a matter of opinion, is that worse, or is the possibility of a non-uniform short term distribution worse?

fotw: yeah, but for the player who doesn't get near a 6 or 8, then thye might as well not play if you want to remove the randomness

FastLearner: I don't disagree. Maybe both are why I don't play Settlers anymore.

Darkehorse has rolled a d6 and gets 6, 1, 1, 3, 2, 1

Darkehorse: point proven!

FastLearner: It appears that the chat has wound down, so I'm gonna take off. I'll put the edited transcript up asap.

FastLearner: Take care, all.

Joined: 12/31/1969
Chat Transcript: Player Scalability

FastLearner: One of the things I've not been able to successfully do with my designs is allow for a two-player variation when I designed the game for 3 to 5.

One mech that I've seen used really well in this case is that each of the 2 players plays 2 postions each like you were playing a 4 player game with one player being player 1 and 3 and the other is player 2 and 4. When the game ends your score is based on the weaker of the two players you controlled. This makes it so you have to play both of your players as balanced as you can.

Joined: 10/02/2008
Chat Transcript: Player Scalability

I probably won't be able to chat for a while, but I wanted to add my 2 cents. I have tried to make a partner ccg game and have a mechanic in it that needs to be "ironed out." Not a partner game, as in hearts and euchre, but as in you are being attacked and any person can help you out (well they get to fight on trying to protect was basing the CCG on Tenchi Muyo, and if anyone has seen the show, you know that the women would beat each other just to protect Tenchi or some of the others.)

I loved the mechanic, but it needs to be reworked and i would prefer using it in a non collectable card game (right now I'm done with trying to create CCG's; they just take too much time and are not worth it in my eyes.) The Tenchi CCG I made probably was one of the original ideas I ever did, and I would like to incoporate all of the ideas from that into one or more games.

Anyways, I've blathered enough without making sense. I think it was FastLearner who was asking about partner games, but i couldn't find it again in the chat. If it was tell me what you were thinking of.


Varied Points Everywhere...

Couldn't make the chat, but I'll add some things that haven't been beat to death, (hopefully).

One thing in a large multiple player game you can do is add variable winning conditions, or ways to achieve victory points etc. That way, just because you add players to the mix, the game doesn't run into a bash the leader problem. The leader has multiple routes to achieve the same goal and can shift focus to reach the end result or victory.

I think as previously mentioned Game Length is another thematic design issue, if I'm playing a game based on the 100 years war I hardly expect it to last only 6 minutes. On the other had, Downhill Ski racing probably shouldn't be a 2 hour plus game. The balance that I strive for is not letting the game lose it's sense of immersion before a player reaches the end goal. The end should always come before any player wants to leave the table. Players should always be lingering a couple minutes after the game officially ends wondering "What if I did this, or did that, not "Thank God it's over."

Finally, using a Deck of Dice in Settlers of Catan would ruin it for me, since the game is based on picking settlements based on probability numbers to begin with. With a Deck of Dice there would be little to no difference if I placed my city on a twelve or a six sense it seems that both have the chance of being rolled only few times. In all honesty though I've never tried that variation so it might be fun and more ruthless.

Joined: 10/02/2008
Chat Transcript: Player Scalability

Good point Mind4u2c, about game lengths, although some games, even great ones like Axis and Allies and Diplomacy shoot themselves with the amount of time it takes to play them. Granted they were created in another era...but those things help us make a better game now.

Also...on another note...I'm sorry if I stole your icon, but nothing else is as good looking as it...but maybe I can find something that fits me too...

Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Varied Points Everywhere...

Good comments, thanks.

Mind4u2c wrote:
Finally, using a Deck of Dice in Settlers of Catan would ruin it for me, since the game is based on picking settlements based on probability numbers to begin with. With a Deck of Dice there would be little to no difference if I placed my city on a twelve or a six sense it seems that both have the chance of being rolled only few times. In all honesty though I've never tried that variation so it might be fun and more ruthless.

I don't quite follow you. With a dice deck you're playing the precise odds instead of the hoped-for odds. Every 42 turns the twelve will come up once and the six will come up five times, both precisely. With the actual dice in those same 42 turns the six might come up twice or might come up 16 times.

However you're still playing the odds with the deck of dice, as they'll come up in a random order. That said there's still a huge difference between placing your city on a twelve or a six with a dice deck.

-- Matthew


You are right I wasn't thinking. I was thinking of earlier in the chat where someone implied to write the numbers 2 to 12 a couple of times each and draw that way. Then it would skew the odds because each one would be in there only twice, while the Deck Of Dice is something completely different. It only transposes the results of actual dice rolls into the paper format, thus eliminating the problem I was trying to point out in that statement. Thanks for setting the record straight.

sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Re: Varied Points Everywhere...

FastLearner wrote:
With a dice deck you're playing the precise odds instead of the hoped-for odds. Every 42 turns the twelve will come up once and the six will come up five times, both precisely.

Do you mean every 36 turns? Or am I bad at math?

I also wonder what effect if any it has on the game, knowing you're not producing any more wheat no matter what (untiol the deck runs out).

- Seth

Torrent's picture
Joined: 08/03/2008
Chat Transcript: Player Scalability

One of the things I was thinking about in all of this is what sorts of mechanics cause substantially longer names for more people. In alot of my projects I tend to like to adjust the length and depth of games based on the number of players, but what seems to happen is that I get squared-time.

Basically if I say ok, play a number of rounds equal to the number of players. And each round you can play one time on each other player's area including your own. Or a whole play each other player once in a mini-competition. So in a 2 person game it is 4 actions, which is really short. 3 players it gos to 9, which is nice. At 4 players you get 16 and 5 you get 25. Not only do those seem to run really long, but I start running out of cards in the standard set.

Basically my point in all of this.. Are there mechanics or mathi-mechanical considerations when designing a game with respect to player number? I guess I claim that scaling things along the number of players can be bad because you get into a Square number of actions which grows really quickly.

Second thing I wanted to say is this. I think that 2 player games are distinctly different in feel than multiple player games, even for games that don't require different rules to do 2 players. Considerations for playing with 2 seem so different that you see a lot of games either being distinctly for or against the 2 player game. Several companies have entire lines of 2 player games, and a lot of the more popular games are 3-4 or 3-5 players. I don't exactly know where I'm going with this, but maybe that the break between 2 and more than 2 in gameplay is not somethign you should try to span. Because even if you do they will be different games.

It is great if your game does play well with 2-5 ( or 2-whatever), but a game playing well with 3-4 should not be scrapped or altered just to show-horn it into 2.


sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
On that note:

With 8/7 Central we initially had a 2 player game in mind, and we tried to keepour minds open to multiplayer so it could "maybe be tacked on later"...

Turns out the game is actually a lot better and more fun with 3 than it is with 2. I would say it's a 2-4 player game, with the 2 player game being more strategic and cutthroat while the 3-4 player game is more light and fun. 5 or 6 players would be possible, but I think the game would take WAY too long in that case.

With our playtest set of 50 programs and like 80ish cards, it's not quite enough for a 4 player game (not enough programs anyway), but it's a good number for 3 player and of course enough for 2 player. In the new set of cards I was going to make like 100 programs so we could try 4 player.

- Seth

Joined: 10/02/2008
Chat Transcript: Player Scalability

I think it is nice to have a different experience when playing a game with different numbers of people (although a CCG, Lord of the Rings did this well.) Games that can only have a certain amount of players to make it work can be hurt by that, especially if the number of players is higher than 4. (For example, Cosmic Encounters is not worth playing with 3 players, but with 4 it is one of the best 4 player games out there. Diplomacy probably needs 5 or more players, and 7 to make it feel complete.)

I think it's important to remember the amount of players that you think the game is best for, but not to worry over it if the game is good enough to not worry about the amount of players.

Joined: 12/31/1969
Chat Transcript: Player Scalability

SVan wrote:
I think it's important to remember the amount of players that you think the game is best for, but not to worry over it if the game is good enough to not worry about the amount of players.

I would think that depends a lot on whether you would like to have it published one day (in which case number of players is really important) and whether you'd like to be able to playtest it sufficiently.

A game that only works with precisely 4 players will sell some copies but you'll have an extremely difficult time getting it published. If you can just get it to play with 3 or 4 you've broadened your potential market by a ton. If you can work out 3-5 or 3-6 then you've broadened it even more. If you can figure out a decent 2-player option as well (e.g. Puerto Rico's 2-player optionnal rules) then you've opened it up even more.

I absolutely agree that you shouldn't ruin a game to get it to work with, say, 2-7 players, but I also feel that you absolutely need to consider what happens to your game as differing numbers of players are involved and modify it to work with at least a reasonable range.

-- Matthew

Joined: 10/02/2008
Chat Transcript: Player Scalability

Excuse my previous post...I should be fined for not making sense... 8O

Anyways, what I meant, if the game you're working on is good for 2-4 players, don't fret about it, but if it's only good for 4 players, then I think you need to see what you can change to make it better for a larger range of players.

So I agree totally with what you said, Matthew...

Joined: 08/03/2008
Chat Transcript: Player Scalability

This is an interesting subject, but I wonder whether the issue here is a fundamental game design issue or a marketability issue. I'm really not sure.

i think many games have a natural size that they really shine with, and this need not be seen as a bad thing. For example, although you technically can play Acquire with 6, it's not at all fun compared to playing with 4.

I think there's a scalability threshold when you get to 2 players. I don't think you necessarily need to think of ways to make your games playable for 2; 2 player games really are fundamentally different than multiplayer games, and given that there are lots of great 2 player games, it need not be seen as a weakness for a game to not be playable with 2, particularly when doing so gives you a "forced" set of rules (like "each player plays 2 teams", which works but does feel kind of forced to me). On the other hand, some games like Carolus Magnus or Carcassonne really do work well either with 2 or with a bigger game.

I think that it's nice when a game can be played by a group of a couple of different sizes, but I typically design my games, at least to start, with a specific group size in mind and after it's "done", will modify the relative values of things when it's possible and appropriate to make the game playable for a different sized group. But I don't see that as an obligation. New England is a great game that really only plays well (as published, anyway) with 4, and that's ok. Diplomacy only plays well with 7, and that's ok. It doesn't bother me when a game system isn't robust enough to handle different sized groups if the system with the target size works really well! But as Fast points out, a game will be able to come out on the table more if it permits groups of different sizes. But I game in a group with a good number of people and a lot of games to choose from, so we just play whatever we have a good sized group for. It was more of a bummer in the "old days" when we'd have between 4 and 7 players show up in a given week, and the games we had access to changed dramatically depending on who showed up...


Scurra's picture
Joined: 09/11/2008
Re: Specific Player numbers

FastLearner wrote:

FastLearner: Ok, guys, this is the most quiet chat we've ever had. I'm not up on a soapbox here.

It was only because I wasn't there :)

I think it's a given that a number of genuinely great designs have been lost to posterity because they only worked with a specific number of players (and I'm talking about >2 here.)
For instance, my playtest group played a terrific prototype game this week that could only possibly work with 4 players - even if it was possible to scale the game, it would almost certainly lose the factors that made it work so well.
I've got a game like that too, and I genuinely don't know whether to pursue the development with it as it stands (and produce what might be a great game but only playable by 4) or to abandon it and rework the concepts into a more flexible design.

It's a horrible dilemma.

Joined: 12/31/1969
4 player only games

:) Our 4 player only game was due to the square, quadranted, symetrical board and combination of effects from the 3 other players actions (a la Bridge). There may be cases for accomodating for 3 players + 1 dummy (using random dummy actions) although in some games decisions can't be altogether automated. More importantly, the loss of the spirit of the game/humour value from 4 players cannot be replaced :)


Joined: 08/03/2008
Re: Specific Player numbers

Scurra wrote:

I think it's a given that a number of genuinely great designs have been lost to posterity because they only worked with a specific number of players (and I'm talking about >2 here.)
For instance, my playtest group played a terrific prototype game this week that could only possibly work with 4 players - even if it was possible to scale the game, it would almost certainly lose the factors that made it work so well.
I've got a game like that too, and I genuinely don't know whether to pursue the development with it as it stands (and produce what might be a great game but only playable by 4) or to abandon it and rework the concepts into a more flexible design.

It's a horrible dilemma.

I don't think it is, really. New England, as published, is really only playable with 4 (or so I hear; haven't tried with 3 but I understand it loses a lot), yet it was Games magazine's Game of the Year, and probably rightly so! (I couldn't say it's the "best" game of the year, not having played all the others, but I do think it's great). There are lots of games that have a "best" size, and I don't think you should abandon a good game simply based on this. To be honest, I think that for some publishers to put player group size ranges is to be a bit dishonest, because some games clearly work better with one size than another. Or you have a different situation like Carolus Magnus or Who Stole Ed's Pants where the game can be played with different group sizes, but it's played under different rules (and that's ok too).

So, if you have a great 4 player game, well, there are lots of groups with 4 players out there, so go for it! I would worry more if the game only worked well with 6, but even then, games like Dune and Diplomacy show that big group games still have their place...

Go for it!

Syndicate content

forum | by Dr. Radut