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Diplomacy in 2 player games

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ElKobold
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Hi everyone,

I would like to talk about diplomacy mechanics in strategy games.

Suppose you have a 4x strategy. If you're playing with 3+ players, chances are you don't even need any mechanics to simulate diplomacy (which is integral part of the theme) - players will form alliances based on positioning / resource requirements / personal charisma etc.

This stops working, however, as soon as you only have 2 players. Since in a zero sum game, there's no reason to ally with your rival.

So, to simulate diplomacy in a 2 player game, some sort of mechanics is needed.

My 1st variant was a drafting mechanic. Players would be dealt +1 card and in turns would remove one card each. the remaining card would be the politics card for the round which would influence the game rules in a way that would benefit some players and hinder the others.
It was fun and worked fine but added quite some time to a game time as every player had to read what the cards do and then decide which one he likes the least, to remove it.

Care for some brainstorming on the subject? (Note: it should work in a similar way both for 2 players and for, say, 6 players).

questccg
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Code Red: My second expansion

I'll just share with you my "political system" which is planned for the 2nd expansion of my game "Tradewars - Homeworld".

So in "Code Red" (Yes - I know it's a Mountain Dew flavor - I still like the name...) the idea is for two (2) players, each player maintains a line going from -2 to 0 to +2. So there are five (5) possible "disposition".

Each one (disposition) has specific cards which a player can choose to play. So let's say if your opponent is "Hostile (-2)" and is continually attacking you, you can use a card such as "Temporary Ceasefire" which means for X amount of turns your opponent cannot attack you. Not sure about how many turns, but this is game specific.

So that's what I am doing with "Code Red"... As you can see you can have different actions you can choose from that you would not normally have with the base game. This expansion will "boost" (for lack of a better term) the game's fundamental core and add a new way to play the game...

Zag24
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There's an old game called

There's an old game called Dragon Quest, with a Risk-like territory control as part of its mechanic. There are also orcs who control some of the territories, but they are not controlled by any player. Instead, there is a mechanic by which they increase in number, and when there are too many on a territory they "frenzy" which means they attack their neighbors in a specific order until they are down to only a single orc on the territory.

In that game, the orcs attack based strictly on the territory number, always attacking the lowest, I think. However, if you have anything like them in your game, you could have one of the stats that is managed per player be that player's diplomatic relationship with the non-player factions. When the mechanic says that the non-player faction should attack, it chooses where to attack by which player it hates the most.

Players could use some of their actions, money, cards, whatever, to improve their relationships with the different non-player factions. When the non-player factions decide to attack should be somewhat predictable but not perfectly so, so that players have some times when they can safely ignore a faction, some times when they feel some pressure to improve relations but hope to get lucky, and some times when it is nearly certain that the NPF is going to attack so they'd better get more friendly than the other player.

The NPF attacks should be serious, but not completely maiming. However, if two players are close in strength, then spending a little extra to be less hated by the NPF means they attack the other guy, leave him weak, and you can mop up.

gilamonster
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I agree with Zag24's

I agree with Zag24's suggestion of a non-player (NP) faction. I might include a small "NP control deck" of cards which randomly affect the actions and attitudes of the NP faction. Each card would probably have multiple possible effects, with some dependent on the current game state (eg. declare peace if at war, or declare war if a player is within a certain distance/has a certain size army/whatever). Perhaps a new card would be drawn when any of a set of "trigger" events occurs. Is there trading in your 4x game? If so, I would also make it possible to trade with the NP faction if you're not at war with them, but at somewhat random (and probably slightly expensive) rates, so that it might be better to trade with your opponent if they are willing, but you have another option. The trade rates could be one of the things set by the NPC deck and also affected by the player's standing with the NP faction (which should be tracked and persistent, though alterable by events and the NP deck. And trading with the NP faction could also strengthen it if it declares war. There are lots of possibilities along these lines.

ElKobold
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Some nice suggestions

Some nice suggestions there.

Not every game, however, can support full-blown NPC faction.
Also, maintaining such faction would probably add to the game length.

I have something like this in mind:

There are 2-4 mission cards which indicate what different neutral factions want in return for their support. (In my case, it can be 'collect X of resource Y this turn'). And the same amount of 'Resolution cards'.

If a player completes the mission, they gain support of that faction and gain a number of vote tokens.

Votes can be then used to place with either "for" or "against" side up on the "Resolution cards" which affect the entire board if certain amount of "for" tokens are placed on the card. (Resolution would affect all players and have a text like 'this turn players can't attack each other' etc)

Both mission cards and resolution cards are dealt randomly, or through some sort of mechanism.

What do you think?

gilamonster
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That sounds great! Very much

That sounds great! Very much in the spirit of what I had in mind, but much more streamlined and elegant, and probably more original. One question: when you say 2-4 mission cards, do you mean that number are in play at any time, or that's the entire deck? If the latter, I might be inclined to increase the deck size (maybe 6-10) cards - which would add a little more variation between games without seriously increasing the playing time or complexity. If they're part of another deck (ie not a dedicated mission deck) then this probably isn't true.

ElKobold
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gilamonster wrote:That sounds

gilamonster wrote:
That sounds great! Very much in the spirit of what I had in mind, but much more streamlined and elegant, and probably more original. One question: when you say 2-4 mission cards, do you mean that number are in play at any time, or that's the entire deck? If the latter, I might be inclined to increase the deck size (maybe 6-10) cards - which would add a little more variation between games without seriously increasing the playing time or complexity. If they're part of another deck (ie not a dedicated mission deck) then this probably isn't true.

Thanks!

I'm thinking maybe 15 mission cards. (since these would not change, normally, though there might be a "Disband the senate or something" resolution, which would force new cards to be drawn (new factions come to power))"

And some 45 resolution cards for healthy variation. 3-4 of those are in play at any given time, once any of them gets approved or declined, it's replaced with the new one from the deck.

Zag24
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ElKobold wrote:Not every

ElKobold wrote:
Not every game, however, can support full-blown NPC faction.
Also, maintaining such faction would probably add to the game length.

Of course. I didn't know whether such a thing made sense in your game, but you definitely shouldn't add it just for the diplomacy aspect.

ElKobold wrote:
I have something like this in mind:
... [missions to gain vote proxies]

I like it! It wasn't clear to me whether or not the vote proxies apply only to the next vote or if they are sticky until someone else gets better favor with the faction. Either way works, I think; it depends on whether you want the game to revolve around this whole mechanic. Assuming you do, here's an idea:

There are several NPC factions, each with a number of votes, AND each faction has certain goods that they supply. You track the level of favor for each player for each faction, and the favor affects the cost of their goods (or even whether they will trade at all), plus whoever has the highest favor for a faction has that faction's voting proxy.

Mission cards are available which increase favor with some factions while decreasing it with others. (i.e. "Build a foundry" makes the dwarves happy with you but makes the elves unhappy.) Missions that are difficult to perform tend to have a net positive opinion, but there are also missions that are difficult to avoid performing, which have a net negative opinion. (i.e. Performed if total Army size is above X.)

The votes are used to activate and deactivate Resolutions, as you said. However, these are not 100% binding. Any player can ignore a Resolution, it's just that he will lose favor with all the factions for doing it. (This is why you need to have a second effect -- the trading aspect -- of the faction favor; because otherwise someone could just ignore all Resolutions all the time.)

It's just a thought. Feel free to use the idea if it makes sense in the direction you're headed, or not (of course).

ElKobold
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Zag24 wrote:It's just a

Zag24 wrote:
It's just a thought. Feel free to use the idea if it makes sense in the direction you're headed, or not (of course).

So, slightly modifying your idea, to better fit the existing design (i`m leaning towards "influence is a one-time thing"):

I will make '...and do not gain influence with any other faction' a part of the mission card for some of the less-friendly factions.

I.e. missions can be both of the "do this to gain influence" and "do NOT do that to gain influence" kind. So certain combinations of factions will randomly lead to situation where if you gain influence with one, you lose an opportunity to gain it with the other.

Trade is a tricky thing, since in the current design it works like "If you hold 2 points producing resource A, you count as having access to resource A".

So there's no actual trade as in I give you some of this and you give me some of that, but trade as a diplomatic leverage can be simulated with a mission card saying if "you have a resource X, and no-one else does, gain 2 influence".

Trade deals, however, can be a sub-type of resolution card which are not discarded after one round, but instead remain in play and provide additional resource sources to whoever had most "For" votes on it when the resolution was passed.

I need to keep things simple though. Since the game, being a 4x, and already has quite a few systems going. Yet I was able to achieve ~15 minutes per player mark so far, and would like to keep it this way.

I`ll try what I've described above and will let you know how it worked out. Thanks for helping me brainstorm this one!

pelle
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Zag24 wrote:There's an old

Zag24 wrote:
There's an old game called Dragon Quest, with a Risk-like territory control as part of its mechanic. There are also orcs who control some of the territories, but they are not controlled by any player. Instead, there is a mechanic by which they increase in number, and when there are too many on a territory they "frenzy" which means they attack their neighbors in a specific order until they are down to only a single orc on the territory.

This sounds exactly like Wizard'z Quest (Avalon Hill, 1979), so either you was thinking about that game or there are two very similar games with similar names.

jrc5639
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2PD

There are two approaches to 2 player diplomacy.

The first is to add neutrals to the board which player influence and gain temporary control of either by a combination of their actions and luck.

The other method is with secrecy. By hiding how valuable various resources are to the different players you can create a strange game of diplomatic guessing with concessions. I seen very few attempts at this.

Which ever method you choose you need to build in some mechanism so that war is not the dominate strategy. Too often in 2 player 4x one player has a stronger military and their best move is just to conquer the opponent. In real history many nations work to maintain a balance of power, but in your game you could have a series of events that punish aggression 'maybe'. Like the chance of an invasion by some horde army, loosing neutral allies, or revolts/anti-war protests.

The point is they could get away with attacking that territory or there could be some random unknown penalty.

Zag24
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pelle wrote:This sounds

pelle wrote:
This sounds exactly like Wizard'z Quest (Avalon Hill, 1979), so either ...
Yeah, that's the name.

ElKobold wrote:
So, slightly modifying your idea, to better fit the existing design ...
Looks good!

ElKobold wrote:
I`ll try what I've described above and will let you know how it worked out. Thanks for helping me brainstorm this one!
It's my pleasure. The brainstorming is the fun part! I would like to know your results.

ElKobold
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jrc5639 wrote:The other

jrc5639 wrote:
The other method is with secrecy. By hiding how valuable various resources are to the different players you can create a strange game of diplomatic guessing with concessions. I seen very few attempts at this.

Good concept, but it doesn't work for two players, I`m afraid.

In a zero sum 2 player game, if I`m offering you something (even if you don't see the exact benefit I`m getting from the deal) there is no reason for you to agree to the offer, since any kind of advantage I might get, will bring you back and vice-versa. So with value of the deal apparent, or not apparent, if there are only two players, I expect both players simply declining any kind of deal. I would, at least.

pelle
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This might or might not be

This might or might not be slightly off-topic, but thinking about two-player diplomacy makes me think of the possibility of having a two-player coop game with a possible-traitor-mechanic. I think that might work as a way to create some meaningful diplomacy, and also make other two-player games more entertaining. Give it say a 33 % chance/risk that the other player is actually not aiming for the same goal that you are and will suddenly backstab you, but until then players keep a straight face and have to try to work together against NPC enemies or whatever obstacles they face.

Have to write that down for a possible future project, eg the bgg 2-player game design contest next year. I am sure you can do something interesting with coop/traitor/diplomacy with 2 players that makes it different from when you are more players. Somehow.

ElKobold
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pelle wrote:Give it say a 33

pelle wrote:
Give it say a 33 % chance/risk that the other player is actually not aiming for the same goal that you are and will suddenly backstab you

That's actually a very cool concept.

jrc5639
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You are right that would be a

If you assume both players can win, then cooperating is an option.

However is this really 'diplomacy' or a game of trust/don't trust It is debatable.

Not that the concept is bad at all. I just feel it move into a semi-cooperative game.

Zag24
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ElKobold wrote:pelle

ElKobold wrote:
pelle wrote:
Give it say a 33 % chance/risk that the other player is actually not aiming for the same goal that you are and will suddenly backstab you

That's actually a very cool concept.


Hahaha! But 33% is WAY too high. At that rate, I'd assume that a backstab is coming, and would preemptively backstab as soon as I thought I had a decent chance to finish on my own.

And the problem is that to make it even conceivable that someone could win in spite of being backstabbed, you'd have to make it pretty easy to win in the cases where there isn't a traitor.

Possibly you could somehow make it such that in cases of a traitor, the non-traitor picks up some significant power when the traitor is revealed. This would have two effects: it would mean that there's no benefit to a pre-emptive backstab as I mentioned above (because then you wouldn't get your extra power) and it would make it such that the traitor has to wait as long as possible and try to be subtle about betraying until as late as he can push it. Or maybe there's a game trigger that reveals the status, and neither player knows until it happens.

ElKobold
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Zag24 wrote: Hahaha! But 33%

Zag24 wrote:

Hahaha! But 33% is WAY too high. At that rate, I'd assume that a backstab is coming, and would preemptively backstab as soon as I thought I had a decent chance to finish on my own.

Not if backstabbing the innocent person would carry huge penalties.

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