Classic Games Redefined blog

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Approaches for balancing games with uneven sides by tweaking of game conditions.

Richard Hutnik
United States
New York
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The game A Few Acres of Snow received a lot of critical praise and had a number of fans. The game won awards. The application of deckbuilding in a new area, and unbalanced sides, got interest. However, there is now concern about the game being broken. In this, it is believed the British side can always win the game by apply the "Halifax Hammer" strategy. This has caused things to be seen as troubling, and the quest is on for a fix.

I have pondered the nature of this situation, can came up with a number of ideas. However, a more fundamental approach to dealing with this is worth looking at. The issue is: How does one try to balance, as evenly possible, game conditions when the sides aren't balanced or knows which side has an advantage? Is it possible to have an answer?

Several approaches are possible, with the application of the pie rule being the last one to be looked at here. Approaches:
1. Have players play both sides and then evaluate their play of both side. To use this approach, there must be a way to evaluate progress of one side against the other side.
2. Have players bid for side. This approach leads to one side being handicapped a number of points. The point advantage can go either to a side or a player in the game.
3. Bid to win the the game in X number of turns. This approach works in a game where it isn't played for points, and there is a "checkmate" type position for a sudden win. If this win in X turns is to apply for a game based on points, then a player needs to reach a certain target score, or have more than their opponent.
4. Bid to pick side with the other side getting a time advantage on the clock. In a game using a chess clock, the player who picks their side of choice would have a disadvantage in time.

In bidding, players would alternate turns, or do it blindly, engaging in brinkmanship with their opponent. Some of them can work only with two players, while others work with more than 2 players.

Ok, now a look at the pie rule approach. I proposed that in this thread here:

The basics of how the pie rule works is one player proposes a set of game conditions for each side in the game, and the other player ends up picking which side they want. Variations on this end up being for the right to pick a side getting a disadvantage.

The pie-rule approach, as opposed to the bidding approach is a take it or leave it approach by one player for the other, that has one player forcing to try to be balanced as possible, or at least rig it so the side they want is available for them. This approach is pretty much suitable only for 2 player games. The approach can work in a tournament also, with players playing two games (see the description above) with there needing a way to evaluate play over multiple games.

Edit update: Added a post for a game that would use this as part of its core. See blog post here for info...
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