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Monster Keep — Removing Player Elimination

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questccg
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So a FLGS Store Manager suggested that I think about "removing" Player Elimination in the 4 Multiplayer Games. In 2 Player Duels, it makes sense that a player who drops below 0 Morale Points (MPs) is automatically the "losing" player...

However in a 4 Multiplayer Game, when any player drops below 0 MPs, what happens is they need to ROLL for control of their units. The random test consists of rolling 1d4 and the player whose number is rolled, controls the units and can initiate a skirmish with one of the other players.

What do you Game Designers think of this "mechanic"???

I think it's a pretty fair way to "remove" Player Elimination, all the while having a very "crippling" mechanic for control of your units.

Let me know if you have concerns, feedback, questions...

Cheers.

questccg
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Another important point...

Is that in the game, you can make an OPPONENT LOSE "Morale Points" (MPs) or YOU can GAIN MPs! As the card pool for the game will GROW, I intend to add cards that provide a BENEFICIAL outcome to "skirmishes".

So this means if you are at -2 MPs and you roll a "2" (And you are Player #2) you can maybe use a unit to EARN +4 MPs giving you a +2 MPs... For example...

This will depend on how you build your deck and collect more cards to drive up the Morale level of your army.

Ultimately if you build a deck with some "negative fail-safes", you could be back in full control with just the right card in your play area...

let-off studios
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Design Goal?

What is the object of the game: to eliminate your opponents, or to gain the most Morale Points? Or something else?

Personally, determining where "mercenary" units go seems like a big headache. It also opens the door to "winners keep winning, losers keep losing," particularly if you depend on a single die roll - which can be brutal. In my experience, this leads to most players disengaging and not really having fun - instead of embracing the randomness as "just one more chance to come out on top."

If MP are some kind of currency, here's a suggestion. I'd penalize the player with 0 or less MP by forcing them to permanently discard a unit of their choice (a unit deserts due to low morale), then immediately go back to 5 MP (the dissenting unit leaves, stabilizing remaining forces).

ceethreepio
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What about a 'push-your-luck' mechanic?

As an alternative to the 25% chance thing, how about you use a push-your-luck to gain control of your units? I'm a fan of this type of mechanic as it can be exciting to play.

So, when a player drops below 0 MP, they roll the dice. If they roll a 1-4, they get control of one unit. They may then also choose to roll again to increase their control to two units. If they are successful again, they may choose to roll again, and again etc. If they roll a 5-6 at any time their turn immediately ends without controlling any units they previously 'won'. After any successful roll they may also choose not to roll again, and instead control the number of units they have 'won'.

Now you have a chance to get back as much army as you dare, whilst also risking getting 'just one more unit...'

questccg
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Hmm... pretty neat idea!

let-off studios wrote:
...If MP are some kind of currency, here's a suggestion. I'd penalize the player with 0 or less MP by forcing them to permanently discard a unit of their choice (a unit deserts due to low morale), then immediately go back to 5 MP (the dissenting unit leaves, stabilizing remaining forces).

I like it. Instead of "discarding", a player gets to FLIP one or several of his cards in play (in "The Keep"), in order to get a POSITIVE Morale. Since cards fluctuate and are on average 10 points, you could lose position in The Keep, in turn earning a player extra points to restore you over the 0 Morale Points (MPs) limit...

Makes 100% sense. As I said earlier: "I like it!"

And you could ONLY do this when you drop BELOW 0 MPs.

questccg
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Only one (1) unit can defeat one (1) opposing unit.

ceethreepio wrote:
As an alternative to the 25% chance thing, how about you use a push-your-luck to gain control of your units? I'm a fan of this type of mechanic as it can be exciting to play...

I applaud your idea of using an "exciting" mechanic ... But on a player's turn he may ONLY "defeat ONE (1) opposing unit". So just being able to use one card to battle is ENOUGH.

Turn order goes like this:

1. Draw a card from your Deck.

2. Defeat one opposing card (skirmish).

3. Play one of your cards into play.

It's very simple... But deceptively HARD TO MASTER. It's not chess, but the "Area Control" mechanic is similar to Chess. What I mean is that you can "secure" areas in play to YOUR advantage. What this means is IF an opponent plays one of his cards in one of YOUR "secure" areas, that card will probably be defeated unless a stronger point alternative exists...

questccg
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The scoring looks like this...

Early on in the game there will be some battles based on cards played... When the middle part of the game is reached (let's say turn 5 or 6) usually the skirmishes stop and then it becomes about "Area Control" and how to best secure the play area to FORCE your opponent into playing one of HIS cards into an area controlled by YOU. Usually this happens later in a game (let's say turn 11 or 12)...

What you need to understand, is that it's NOT always Battle-upon-Battle... An early streak followed by a later one is pretty normal from the games that I have playtested.

Cheers!

Note: I have played one or two games where there was continuous skirmishes... Usually the score would be like 5 to 3 (for example). I depends on the cards drawn and your starting hand. But like I said most follow a Early/Late flow but it can happen at times that the skirmishes are occurring each and every turn...

Fri
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How big of a problem is this?

I admit player elimination is usually not a good idea, IMO it may be okay in this case. Is it always in the last ten minutes or so of the game? I think if that is the case most players would be accepting of being eliminated. Just another alternative to consider.

questccg
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To answer your question, here are some figures

Fri wrote:
I admit player elimination is usually not a good idea, IMO it may be okay in this case. Is it always in the last ten minutes or so of the game? I think if that is the case most players would be accepting of being eliminated. Just another alternative to consider.

Okay so for 2 Player duels, if one (1) of the players drops below 0 MPs ... that player loses the game. SIMPLE and easy to understand since there are ONLY two (2) players. And TBH it doesn't happen very frequently either. But it does happen when a player makes a couple of bad decisions with powerful cards.

Now when I say "powerful" there is a dichotomy. And why this is TRUE is because STRONG cards need to be paired with WEAK ones in order to make "costly" battles. Average cards tend to be good in giving that extra boost in close matches... But usually what may happen is a player may not anticipate a move that could be very expensive (by placing a card in the wrong position).

So for 2 Player duels it happens in maybe 10% of games where one of the two players get eliminated.

In 4 Multiplayer games ... I don't have figures as of YET. But TBH again, I can picture one of three players getting "beat on" by his opponents. Could happen ... Maybe again 10% of games.

When can this kind of "elimination" occur??? Maybe 75% of the game and I would say after 30 minutes in a 45 minute game. It's not instantaneous and the games themselves are usually rather quick (10 minutes per player).

With these kinds of figures... What do you think @Fri??? Do I have enough of a problem that needs some kind of remedy ... or do you think losing in the last 10-15 minutes is something which is acceptable in most games?!

I guess the fact that this is a MICRO "Game" too which is rather quick to play too... I just figured that a "nice" way to stay relevant in the game where you can still harm other players as "payback" might be interesting... It's like directly "messing" with one or several of your opponents. TBH not sure.

Please let me know of your thoughts...! Or if you have questions, feel free to ask away.

questccg
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Bonus in terms of the game itself...

One other "aspect" that I failed to mention is that when all four (4) players are "in-the-game" they control all their cards. If a player gets eliminated there are two (2) concerns:

1. What to do with all the cards from that player that are in play?

2. If a player is eliminated, the game will not play out to 49 cards.

This is because each player has a MICRO Deck of twelve (12) cards. And there is one (1) Nexus card which governs the scoring (per se).

So in reality, I DON'T WANT "Player Elimination" because the game doesn't play out as it would normally... Having a player who was ravaged early doesn't mean that the player cannot land the final blow that decides who the "real winner" is.

I know in most cases, "The Keep" has 25 or 49 cards. Looks great on the playing surface, you can take a picture and use the Online Scoresheet to SAVE the game and how it progressed (from a scoring standpoint).

Anything LESS than that... Could lead to some "confusion" as to HOW to treat the "Eliminated" Player's cards, etc.

So while Player Elimination is maybe not the "End All" ... It introduces some difficulties in resolving "game-related" issues WHEN THERE IS "Player Elimination"...

Therefore my conclusion is: to avoid "Player Elimination" because it kind of "mucks-up" the neatness of the design.

Does this sound logical???

Tim Edwards
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For me, if you're in, you

For me, if you're in, you should be IN - with an ability to play the game properly and a chance, however slight, of winning.

And if you're out, you're out and free to make the tea.

What I don't like is the idea of someone being relegated to a kind of pointless (other than meta-game mischief) existence where he can't win - but he's been given certain ghostly powers to get 'involved' in the game to keep himself amused while the others try to win it.

If you need to solve the Risk evening elimination problem (or especially if the problem is because your game system doesn't handle a drop in player count), I think you have to allow the Knackered player to play towards a victory condition.

Perhaps you have 2 choices there:

Knackered players don't die, but they receive a disadvantage (but not something cripplingly systemic which they can't possibly recover from)

or (and this might be the more interesting choice)

Knackered players DO die and become ghosts - with different powers - and perhaps different victory conditions to those of the living? So, not pointless poltergeists messing with the REAL players, but actual entities with real objectives. Their objectives should be hard to fulfil - or everyone would want to die - but not impossible to work towards, and probably not dependent on what they did while they were alive (you don't want dying to become a strategy...probably...although...maybe!)

questccg
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Remember only about 10% of games

My estimates are that approximately 10% of all games will see one of the four (4) Players falling to a score of less than 0 MPs. This is a very small minority of games. And furthermore this occurs in the last 10 to 15 minutes of a game (usually).

So we are talking about the last quarter or third of a game. Since four (4) player games play in about 40 to 45 minutes and is a rather quick game, I don't think a small penalty of losing ONE (1) card in play is the "End of the World" for a player who finds himself going into a negative MP score...

If a simple choice of "trashing" a card in play results in about +10 MPs... That to me sounds rather realistic and the game can continue along until it is completed "normally".

The basic idea is that you voluntarily concede "Area Control" by sacrificing ONE (1) of your cards in "The Keep". It's similar to losing a battle or SKIRMISH: again you would flip over one (1) card, earn POSITIVE MPs and then the game continues...

Nothing overly complicated or DIFFERENT from a normal "skirmish" where one player defeats another player's unit. I don't want to create a separate style of play just because 10% of games may have one player elimination, quite the opposite, I want the problem to be resolved quickly and as easy as possible. Flipping a card and earning +10 MPs seems to be a just way to get back into the game.

Cheers!

questccg
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That's part of the reasoning too...

Tim Edwards wrote:
For me, if you're in, you should be IN - with an ability to play the game properly and a chance, however slight, of winning...

Exactly, however if you are the lowest scoring player... In a game WITH "Player Elimination" it would make 100% sense to REMOVE a player who is still in play.

But if there is no "Player Elimination", why would you WANT to go after a player who currently has the LOWEST score???

See, it doesn't make sense. If a player is already the lowest scoring player, the is no real incentive to continue to attack this player. Strategically it would make a lot more sense to attack one of the OTHER players who have more Morale Points (MPs)... Such that YOUR score exceeds theirs (to win the game).

It is clear that WITH "Player Elimination", your goal would be to focus on ONE player and keep attacking until that player is eliminated. After this happens another victim is chosen and the process repeats itself. When there are only two players remaining, the it's a duel to see who will be crowned the winner.

However this type of game play is BORING. It's much too predictable and not really what I want as an "experience". By having all players in a match means that even if you don't win, you can play a major role in determining who the winner will be. Another positive point to this general "style" of game play.

And no "rince and repeat" when it comes to eliminating players!

Cheers.

Tim Edwards
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I didn't fully understand

I didn't fully understand your post, but a general observation: I wouldn't assume that any game with player elimination always requires a goal of focusing on one player, knocking them out, and moving onto the next.

Anyway, I wasn't advocating against player elimination. The "if" of "if you're in"...

To your idea of keeping players "in" (but not really in, since they can't win - if I've got that right) - I think it's dodgy. In Diplomacy, people will keep playing in hopeless positions to effect the outcome because it's the nature of the game that grudges run very deep - and many hate it for that! And even there, any power that breathes actually still has a hope of turning it around - and because of the nature of the game, that really can happen.

If I understand you, your hoping that players will accept the role of AI components to keep the game interesting and unpredictable.

You might be able to pull that off, but it will be tough. Ultimately you'll probably need to create something which exploits metagame emotions as Diplomacy does, which will create quite an intense game experience, especially if, in your game, it will be PURE across the table grudge with no hope of winning.

Fri
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Hard cap of 0 MP?

I was wondering if you can just have a hard cap of 0 MP? Meaning that player morale can't go below 0 for any reason. It would serve as a kind of catch up mechanism for the person that is probably in last. It also makes sense to me thematically. I can rationalize 0 morale but not negative morale. This was inspired by a recent game of suburbia that has hard caps on income and growth at -5 and 15.

Good luck with your game.

questccg
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I didn't fully understand either ... But now I do! TL;DR

Let's just talk some more about the game, it's depth of strategy and some of the things that make the game work.

To begin, let me talk first about the two (2) Player Duels.


The thing about the duels is that either you win or you lose. It's binary. There are no other influences except your card play and the "luck" in the draw of the cards for your hand.

The "randomness" of Deck Shuffling and Drawing a card each turn, can pace the game SLOW or FAST. What I mean is depending on what cards you get, you may be continually defeating an opposing card OR you could be "turtling" and simply playing for "Area Control" and controlling the area of play (to eventually force your opponent to make a mistake or run out of options).

But the important factor to remember is that "Weaker" (From a deck construction point-of-view) need to pair up with "Stronger" cards to score the most amount of damage to your army's Morale. And just because you faced a big upset does not mean that on your NEXT turn, you can inflict the same or more damage to your opponent's Morale... It's a real dichotomy.

So IF you reduce a player's Morale Points (MPs) to ZERO (0) or below... Well there exist two possibilities:

  1. End the game declaring a winner.

  2. Give the player with the negative balance a chance to "sacrifice" a card and continue playing until the end of the twelfth (12th) round.

Both points are valid in a two (2) Player Duel.


Four (4) Multiplayer games are far less "predictable". With three (3) other opponents, it becomes more challenging to figure out who to skirmish with and when to do so.

"Area Control" is less obvious also. Again you have to worry about more cards in play since the board is almost 2x the size (49 vs. 25 cards).

Now what I am about to say, might sound weird but bare with me.

If a player OPENS UP the table to high scoring opportunities he does this as if it were a double-edged sword. As I explained in the 2 Player section, it's all about "pairings". So the problem is you may be on the LOSING END of a pairing and lose -15 MPs in one skirmish. That is like 1/3 of your total with one attack. If it happens with one player, it COULD happen with a second player too. So you could lose -45 MPs by playing the wrong card in the wrong place at the wrong time...

Sure there is a question of TIMING. It's ALL ABOUT "Timing"! And some hand luck too... My previous statement about losing -45 MPs because of one card is possible. Highly unlikely, but possible. And if YOU are the one on the end of receiving such crippling attacks, the conclusion is that you will probably NOT be the winning player. Are you OUT??? Let's assume not. But focus shifts on the other players and their cards. With 5 MPs can you WIN? I've seen games of 5 vs. 3 MPs happen... So it's not IMPOSSIBLE (Notice I don't have 4 Player experience YET... this is all academic thinking).

Are you OUT of the game? No. You can play your cards as normally. Take a NORMAL card turn. But point-wise, you are at a disadvantage.

So do you be-grudge your other players ... because they capitalized (combined with real bad luck — it's possible but not probable) on one mistake in time and in position to BLAME the other players. It was a real bad move... And it was costly. But IF there is no "Player Elimination", the other players will naturally shift their attention to the other players.

And you can continue to "chip-away" at one of the leading players... With NO "Player Elimination" that player becomes a pain... Because he's one of the reasons you must overcome if you are expected to WIN!

Again nothing prevents the weakest player from ACING one of the leaders later in the game... If it happened to that player, there are ODDS of it happening to another player (and what I mean a loss of -15 MPs not -45 MPs...)

So NOBODY becomes AI. And NOBODY gets removed from making invaluable decisions in future rounds. As I mentioned it's just unfortunate one player made a real bad move which everyone else "exploited" and resulted in a poor Morale score.


What does all this mean???

Clearly it means that more and more, I think the game SHOULD play out to twelve (12) Rounds for both Duels and Multiplayer games. Why not? With the simple sacrifice of one (1) card makes for a reasonable way to continue the game until it is completed 100%.

I don't think this is a GRUDGE creating game.

But EPIC ERRORS will definitely be REMEMBERED! And, TBH, why should it not be this way???

Thanks @Tim for your insight... It got me wanting to post more about what it is that COULD happen... And since it's only a 40-45 minute game for 4 Players... I think it becomes more forgiving in terms of the outcome.

Cheers!

questccg
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Negative MPs = deserter(s)

Fri wrote:
...I can rationalize 0 morale but not negative morale...

Negative as @Stephen (Let-off) said is the desire to "abandon" a player... To no longer be interested in fighting for that player. More commonly what is known as "deserters".

The whole "sacrificing" one card is like choosing to have one "deserter" from your area of play. Someone who leaves the area of play ("The Keep") and in turn weakens your overall "Area Control"...

Fri wrote:
Good luck with your game.

Thanks!

Note: I also left out in the earlier post that some skirmishes give YOU a "Boost" in Morale (Positive outcome +x MPs). So that's another way of propelling yourself back up the ladder in terms of scoring. You could "sacrifice" a card and earn a "Boost" getting you right back into the game. This depends on your "Deck Construction" and the cards you choose to use...

Remember you ONLY get a twelve (12) card Micro Deck per player... Just enough cards for "variability" and being able to "UNDERSTAND" how to construct a deck. My goal is to "Make a Game" and then allow the players to customize afterwards.

So once you become familiar with the "core" cards, you can branch out into other "expansions" and construct different types of decks. Obviously there is a simplification (in terms of "how" you construct a VALID deck) and that was done to HELP players involved somewhere in the MIDDLE of the process (no customization vs. full customization).

The goal is to take something ULTRA COMPLICATED and add some rules to make it VERY UNDERSTANDABLE. From there you can take it one step further and have even more "customization"... not 100% "free of rules" ... but still a Card-By-Card type of "customization"!

Tim Edwards
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I played a lot of Diplomacy.

I played a lot of Diplomacy. It's not what I would call 'fun' when the game has become unwinnable (even with that glimmer of hope that something insane will happen....) I, and other players, continue to play under those circumstances for 2 main reasons:
1 - we know that quitting can unbalance the game and spoil it, so we continue to maintain a good reputation within the club
2 - we feel really angry at someone and take some bitter quasi-satisfaction (this is not what I would call fun or enjoyment!) in helping them fail

It actually becomes a relief when someone finally eliminates you and puts you out of your misery. I - and others - have begged players to take our last centres and eliminate us so we can exit the game.

I just think it will be very difficult to create something where players will be invested (in a nice, fun way) in the outcome when they lack hope.

Anyway, see how your players feel when you play test it. Maybe you can crack the problem.

questccg
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I don't think my game is in any way "similar"

TBH the game is light on theme and heavy on "strategy". But sometimes the way you play cards can "backfire" on you... Especially early on. As I mentioned earlier, because at the start you are feeling out the competition and determining if you should be defensive or offensive, what card is the best to be played to help you get "ahead" but at the same time, does NOT "penalize" you by being a target for the other players.

So it's not like the opposing players "screw you over"... No it's more like: "You played the wrong card in the wrong place at the wrong time." And that can lead to a loss of Morale.

You can definitely SEE if a player is more "offensive" or "defensive" based on HOW and WHICH cards he plays.

Therefore 50% (I would say) is your own decision making which could be wrong at any given moment in time. The result of a "bad decision" can be bad to brutal depending on the cards involved.

I know for sure that it's not "petty" game play. Quite the opposite, most players are IN it for "real" until the very last twelfth (12th) round. I really don't see that same type of "bad karma" in Diplomacy as compared to "Monster Keep" (MK).

Cheers!

questccg
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@Tim: Can you explain why the hesitancy???

Tim Edwards wrote:
...I just think it will be very difficult to create something where players will be invested (in a nice, fun way) in the outcome when they lack hope.

Anyway, see how your players feel when you play test it. Maybe you can crack the problem.

What give you the "feeling" that "Monster Keep" (MK) will not be engaging and not an "unfair" game? You seem to be making an assumption that MK is like "Diplomacy" and the games are extremely different from each other:

  1. Diplomacy is a board game with parts similar to Risk. Monster Keep is a "Customizable" Card Game (CCG).

  2. When you buy and play Diplomacy, you do so based on what the "standard" board offers you and the various countries being controlled. Monster Keep allows players to build a "dynamic" play area known as "The Keep".

  3. Diplomacy is a Faction-based game with various countries. Monster Keep is flexible to support nine (9) Races each with their own distinctive flavor and unique blend of abilities.

I don't see where there are similarities between Diplomacy and Monster Keep. The two (2) games couldn't be diametrically opposed from one and the other. There is no "lack of hope" when controlling the space in "The Keep" ... it all depends on the cards you draw, when you draw them and where you play them. A very different game experience (if you ask me).

So please do share with me you "insight" in how you can compare the two games, mentioning that how one game resolves the "status-quo" of a four (4) player competitive game...

Right now that's the ONLY link that I see: both games are competitive games.

Tim Edwards
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There seems to be a miscommunication here, Questccg

I wasn't suggesting for one minute that your game was anything like Diplomacy.

The point about Diplomacy is that this thing about keeping doomed players in the game to effect the outcome SORT of works - for Diplomacy - because of the particular (and, for many people, quite unpleasant) way that Diplomacy keeps players emotionally invested in the outcome - i.e. it's brilliant at fomenting grudges and real-life anger :)

The problem I see with your idea is precisely what you said - your game is nothing like Diplomacy.

And I would fully understand if you didn't want it to be! It's a very marmite-flavoured game experience.

It's just a point of view based on my own preferences I guess. Perhaps I am missing something that will work for you. I'm not saying your idea is bad. I'm just expressing why I am dubious about it. You know more about design than me. Perhaps you can make it work.

Edit: I've noticed that now your concept is that Knackered players actually do still have a chance of winning? If so, all my doubts are academic. Forget them. :)

I was posting about the original idea where you were interested in ways of keeping players playing - even though they were effectively dead as far as winning goes.

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