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Terra Mystica» Forums » Organized Play

Subject: Fire & Ice tournament - Four or five players rss

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Daniel Åkerlund
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A separate Fire & Ice tournament will start on the tmtour site on September 1st. More information about this will be posted in a separate thread. There has been a discussion on the forums on whether this new tournament should be played with 4 or 5 player games. In this post, I intend to go through how a five player tournament would work and the potential problems with it. I will then provide a poll to get a feeling for how the community feels about 4 player vs 5 player games.

The use of five player games would have some implications for the league system. The options are:
* 6 players per league, 5 games per player, play against each other player four times. 1 player promoted, 2 players relegated, 3 players stay.
* 11 players per league, 5 games per player, play against each other player twice. 2 players promoted, 4 players relegated, 5 players stay.

According to statistics from Juho, 5 player games on average take about 40% longer to complete than 4 player games. This would increase the risk for games not finishing in the 2 month season, which in turn would require significantly stricter time limits.

There are some problems with using 5 player games:
* A shorter time limit may scare some people away who would otherwise want to participate.
* There is an increased risk that games will not finish inside the 2 month season time limit, compared to using 4 player games.
* With 5 players in a game instead of 4, there is an increased risk for each game to have at least one player dropping from the game, resulting in a bad and often unfair game experience.
* With the original and F&I seasons overlapping each other, all players participating in both tournaments must be prepared to handle games from both tournaments simultaneously. This happens if games from one tournament take more than one month to complete. The probability of a five player game not completing in less than one month will be higher than for a four player game. So with 5 player games, it will be more common with situations where a player needs to handle up to 9 games simultaneously.
* It is easier for players to understand how the Fire & Ice tournament works if it follows the same principles as the original tournament (4-player games, 7 player leagues, 4 games per season). It would also be somewhat easier to implement and administrate.

Whether you like 4 or 5 player games more in a tournament setting is of course a matter of taste. The question is, given the problems that exist with 5 player games, would you prefer a 4 or 5 player F&I tournament.

Poll
1. Given the potential drawbacks of a five player tournament described above, would you prefer a Fire & Ice tournament to be played with 4 or 5 player games?
4 player games
5 player games
2. If you would not have to worry about any of the potential problems with five player games described above, would you prefer a Fire & Ice tournament to be played with 4 or 5 player games?
4 player games
5 player games
      76 answers
Poll created by Bjolletz


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Rolster IEM
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it doesn't have to be either or. Although it would mean less games, if you slightly increase the time before a drop so lessen the chance of that and then just increase the time between F+I tournaments to every 4 months instead of 2, then you won't be hard pressed to finish in 2 month time span.
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James Wolfpacker
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While I'm fairly sure that 4p will win a poll, I can tell that 5p on the fire and ice side 1 with fire and ice factions and a final scoring tile will be better than a 4p game.

In the 4p game you can easily afford to intentionally target another player without costing yourself the game. This is not possible in a 5p game.

In fact I have intentionally targeted the Giants in this game.
http://terra.snellman.net/game/4pFireIceTestS2D2L2G05/max-ro...

I'm still getting FAV11 and had no issues roping off ansonkit 's stronghold. I think he'll probably be able to fight back some, but he is definitely hurt by it.

If I do that in a 5p game, I'm going to probably lose FAV11. Also in a 4p game a player can still go for FAV11 and FAV10 because they can still get enough power actions to make up for the income. Power actions in a 5p game are more contested and this gives players a more difficult choice.


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C TK
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With respect to the 4p vs 5p F&I discussion, I agree with much of what mikaeljt has said here.

I haven't played as many 4p F&I games as I have 5p F&I, and I think there are many players who have played more F&I games in general than I have. I'm not claiming to be a pro in the format, this is just speaking to my limited personal experience and intuition. Everything below is assuming fire and ice side 1. The classic map is too small and the different regions vary in quality too greatly for 5 players to cohabit equitably - this is specifically with regards to the "larger" F&I side map, more on that comment below.

That all being said, my only major disagreement with mikaeljt is how much influence one has in a 5p game and how that differs from a 4p game.

There is in essence a limited amount of "good stuff" in TM. First round act6, fav11, tw6, first place in network, first place in additional scoring, certain bons in round 1 (bon1, bon6 especially), certain bons in the late game (bon9, bon10, bon7), certain hexes (such as round 1 E6 on base map for example), act4, and so on. If one player gets a disproportionate amount of the "good stuff" they will almost certainly win. In fact, TM strategy in it's very essence could be viewed as a competition to get more of the "good stuff" than your opponents.

As an aside, in some games it is possible to identify a player who is a threat, even early (in this case the Darklings, who had a clearly superior line of "send p to water. burn 4. action act4. upgrade e10 to sa."). In this particular example, act4 was maybe a second best or third best play for me. But if I allowed the Darklings, who were in a great position, to pull of the above play, they were probably going to win - I'd played a similar position to massive wins on multiple occasions. As a result, I stalled a turn and then once the Darklings committed their priest to water I took act4, forcing Darklings into the ugly but necessary play of "burn 3. convert 3pw to 3c. upgrade e10 to sa." This is an example of where I denied the only good option my opponent had - in many cases, however, this is not possible because opponents will have multiple good actions. For example, the Darklings could not have done the reverse to me as I had multiple playable lines from this position.

Now, the more players there are, obviously the more the "good stuff" will be spread out. As an example, in 4p, if the first three players rush fav11, player 4 gets act6, and now player 1 gets act5 in addition to fav11 and has a (fairly small) advantage. On the other hand, if players deviate from the fav11 rush this could enable player 1 to safely secure both fav11 and act6, a massive advantage in some circumstances. The first turn plays of the Chaos Magicians and Witches essentially handed the victory to Halflings - the Darklings never stood a chance this game as they were in no position to ever deny anything to Halflings.

However, with 5 players, it's unlikely a player would secure such a strong start without making other concessions (such as losing hexes, or having few neighbours).

In the Nomads game above, I was congratulated on my victory in early round 5, when it was clear that nobody could do anything to stop me. In another 4p F&I game, Engineers were congratulated on 4 towns (in a town round!!) at the start of round 6 - because, again, nobody could stop them (I mean, I guess I could have thrown to prevent it...).

So, the way I see it, there's two ways that one can influence a game. One way is to influence your own game. Yes, in 5p you have less control over how your own game plays out. You can get around this by playing a robust, flexible game. For example, here I clearly needed to get another dig on I7 to build an additional 3!! dwellings in the D round (I7, I8, H9), not only for the points but also to produce workers for the spade round. Nobody else could reach I7, so I was safe that way, but what if Yetis took act5? (a player in the game commented I was lucky it didn't get taken). However, in fact I had planned for that outcome: I could have taken act3, advanced dig, and then done a hard dig to turn i7 to black for 2 workers (from act3), leaving me with 3 workers, just enough to build the 3 more dwellings I needed.

However, you can also influence a game by interfering with others, whether intentionally or not, which I've attempted to show above. This often happens organically - when you take the "good stuff," you're interfering with your opponents by default. In some circumstances, you may need to go slightly out of your way to do so, and in those cases you need to evaluate if it's worth it or not.

Returning for a moment to my earlier comment about the F&I map being "larger." Of course it has the same number of hexes, so in theory it's the same size. But in practice, the various areas are more balanced. In the base map, some areas of the map (the east, the centre) are better than some other areas (the north, the south, and the west) and much better than others (the corners). But on the F&I map, the different regions are much more balanced relative to each other. There are much fewer "dead" hexes where nobody ever wants to build. So when I make reference to the F&I map being larger, it is because it has 70+ viable hexes whereas the base map probably only has about 60. Obviously this varies depending on how strict a definition of viable you use, but in all cases F&I has more usable land.

Now, this makes land (hexes) less valuable in F&I relative to the base format assuming the same player count. In the base map (with 4 players), land is one of the most effective resources to deny an opponent. On F&I though, with 4 players, there is more than enough land to go around, so it becomes much harder to strategically deny opportunities to an opponent. And because it's more difficult to effectively threaten land, this frees your strong rival to secure other "good things" and worry about the land later. Obviously, with 5p land is once again a top priority, which makes it much harder for one player to get a lot of the "good stuff" and run away with the game uncontested.

My prediction is that a 4p fire and ice league will have much more frequent incidences of one player just running away with the game. How does one lose if one gets 30+ points in network scoring and secures fav11, and plays a semi-competent game otherwise? And at high levels, I suspect there will be a strong correlation between pick order and performance, with specifically last player being at a large disadvantage.

In summary, I personally feel that on F&I map 1 there just isn't enough opportunity for counterplay when there are only 4 players. Someone is going to get a lot of end game points and usually (statistically speaking) that will be one of the players who got fav11. This player will probably win. F&I with 5 players ensures that all players are going to have to make tough decisions, nobody is likely to get everything they want, and this allows a variety of different strategies to win. For example, I won one of my first 5p F&I games with 0 points from favour tiles. On the other hand, I've also won in 5p with a more balanced strategy where I didn't rely too much on endgame points and just earned more throughout the game.

So while some may say that 5p is more chaotic, and it's harder to execute a plan - this is true. But I contest that this is a good thing, that will benefit the stronger, more robust players who can employ a variety of strategies and adapt to changing board conditions more effectively than their opponents. Although the sample size was small, certainly the test leagues did not offer too many surprises in terms of overall outcome - in both the high and low leagues, the expected strongest players were often the ones who performed the best. I expect the correlation may actually be less in a 4p league, as the board will be easier to play for less experienced competition who will occasionally be dealt strong setups (either due to start position or colour distribution).

Hopefully this is coherent. I wrote 2/3rds of it a month or more ago and then got really busy and never finished it...
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CTKShadow wrote:
*mic drop*

surprise

It's worth the long read, everyone!

And thanks for the insight, CTK. It's great to glimpse the way you approach the game.
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Matthias Reitberger
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JamesWolfpacker wrote:
In the 4p game you can easily afford to intentionally target another player without costing yourself the game. This is not possible in a 5p game.

In fact I have intentionally targeted the Giants in this game.
http://terra.snellman.net/game/4pFireIceTestS2D2L2G05/max-ro...


In a 5player game you would just have to take e8, because nomads would block D5. Much better for you.
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Silly Words
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I have played quite a few games on the F&1 map, mostly with players >1200. I will do an analysis of the points differentials on the weekend to see what CTK says is true or not. My gut feeling is that the 4p differentials on the F&I map are no different to the 4p differentials on the old map.

That said, I believe the true factor for F&I scoring and run-away victories is that (mostly) big networks are rewarded twice in F&I scoring. There is an obvious correlation between network size and your chance to win clusters or distance. There is almost certainly a positive correlation between winning edge and your network size. The smallest correlation, although almost certainly positive, is sash distance.

That means to me, that if you get a good network going, you are likely to dominate in F&I scoring. Getting a good network in 5p is hard for multiple people to do, that is why I don't like it. Your chances of getting screwed are much higher, and with five factions grabbing hexes, there is really no plan B possible.

But like I said, I will do a stats analysis of my games over the weekend sometime.

cheers

SW
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Space Trucker
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Bjolletz wrote:
According to statistics from Juho, 5 player games on average take about 40% longer to complete than 4 player games. This would increase the risk for games not finishing in the 2 month season, which in turn would require significantly stricter time limits.

Is there any prediction how those strict time limits could look like?

4 player tournament is already 5d + 1.5d/r @8h for the new season (and I guess some players will already be surprised by the difference between 8h and 12h).
Would sth. really strict like 2d + 1d/r @8h be a format that a majority of players want to join?

Here's a 5 player game with 2d + 1d/r @12h which is still running (so no comments on the game, please ):
http://terra.snellman.net/faction/CTK702/nomads/

We have players from all 3 major time zones (Americas, Europe, East Asia), which is worst case, but not very unlikely with 5 players. While the time budget is already pretty strict and there's only one slow-ish player (not really slow, really slow player would drop in this setup), the game is already running for ~46 days now. Add a second player who's not fast and the game will already not finish in time.

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Rolster IEM
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I just want to ask, are we tunnel visioned into thinking tournaments must finish in 2 months?
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Daniel Åkerlund
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SpaceTrucker wrote:
Bjolletz wrote:
According to statistics from Juho, 5 player games on average take about 40% longer to complete than 4 player games. This would increase the risk for games not finishing in the 2 month season, which in turn would require significantly stricter time limits.

Is there any prediction how those strict time limits could look like?

4 player tournament is already 5d + 1.5d/r @8h for the new season (and I guess some players will already be surprised by the difference between 8h and 12h).
Would sth. really strict like 2d + 1d/r @8h be a format that a majority of players want to join?

Here's a 5 player game with 2d + 1d/r @12h which is still running (so no comments on the game, please ):
http://terra.snellman.net/faction/CTK702/nomads/

We have players from all 3 major time zones (Americas, Europe, East Asia), which is worst case, but not very unlikely with 5 players. While the time budget is already pretty strict and there's only one slow-ish player (not really slow, really slow player would drop in this setup), the game is already running for ~46 days now. Add a second player who's not fast and the game will already not finish in time.



I would say something like that would be required yes. To me this is the single biggest issue with a 5 player tournament.
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Daniel Åkerlund
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seleCT wrote:
I just want to ask, are we tunnel visioned into thinking tournaments must finish in 2 months?


I believe that is what would work best for the tournament. My gut feeling is also that most player would prefer a 2 month 4 player F&I tournament over a 4 month 5 player tournament, if those were the available options.

Having games that drag on for too long would also increase the number of simultaneous games that players involved in both tournaments would need to handle.
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Matthias Reitberger
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seleCT wrote:
I just want to ask, are we tunnel visioned into thinking tournaments must finish in 2 months?


A alternative would be to go for 3 Months, starting in the middle of a month. Playing in 2 Leagues will make an overlap very likely anyway.
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Space Trucker
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1869 wrote:
A alternative would be to go for 3 Months, starting in the middle of a month. Playing in 2 Leagues will make an overlap very likely anyway.

Pro:
- 5 player tournament could be played with the time limits 4 player tournament has now.
- The quicker 5 player games will be finished when 4 player starts, most 4 layer games will be done once 5 player starts.

Con:
- Players would need more time to climb in leagues
- Players are more likely to lose interest in the tournament if the breaks between seasons take longer.
- 3 month is a long time to play one game and to stay focussed on it.
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Robert
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SpaceTrucker wrote:
1869 wrote:
A alternative would be to go for 3 Months, starting in the middle of a month. Playing in 2 Leagues will make an overlap very likely anyway.

Pro:
- 5 player tournament could be played with the time limits 4 player tournament has now.
- The quicker 5 player games will be finished when 4 player starts, most 4 layer games will be done once 5 player starts.
Really?

Let's assume the 5p league starts 2015-Aug-15 and then every three months (2016-Nov-15, 2017-Feb-14, 2017-May-15, ...), while the current tournament sticks to the two months schedule starting on the 1st of even months.

2016-Aug-01: 4p start
[2 weeks]
2016-Aug-15: 5p start ==> all except the fastest will still play their 4p games for another week or three, so ca. 80% players with 9 games
[6 weeks]
2016-Oct-01: 4p start ==> many 5p games will be finished, but many won't (or the whole "5p games won't finish in two months" argument is wrong), so about 50% of players will have 9 games for a week or two
[6 weeks]
2016-Nov-15: 5p start ==> 80% of 4p games will be finished, so about 25% players with 9 games
[2 weeks]
2016-Dec-01: 4p start ==> all except the fastest will still play their 5p games for another 2+ weeks, so ca. 90% players with 9 games
[2 months]
2017-Feb-01: 4p start ==> 5p games had 10 weeks, so most will be finished ==> ca. 10% players with 9 games
[2 weeks]
2017-Feb-15: 5p start with same circumstances as on 2016-Aug-15

So in these 6 months, there will be two times (2016-Aug-15 and 2016-Dec-01) where 80+ % of players will have 9 games going on, and another time (2016-Oct-01) where that's true for about 50% of the players. 2016-Nov-15 and 2017-Feb-01 will find only a minority of players with 9 games.
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Space Trucker
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DocCool wrote:
SpaceTrucker wrote:
1869 wrote:
A alternative would be to go for 3 Months, starting in the middle of a month. Playing in 2 Leagues will make an overlap very likely anyway.

Pro:
- 5 player tournament could be played with the time limits 4 player tournament has now.
- The quicker 5 player games will be finished when 4 player starts, most 4 layer games will be done once 5 player starts.
Really? Let's assume the 5p league starts 2015-Aug-15 and then every three months (2016-Nov-15, 2017-Feb-14, 2017-May-15, ...), while the current tournament sticks to the two months schedule starting on the 1st of even months.

I missread Matthias' post and thought he had suggested to switch both tournament to 3 month.
2 month for the classic tournament and 3 month for the FI tournament of course wouldn't work very well.
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Matthias Reitberger
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I wouldn't change the system for the normal tournament.
If you sign up for 2 Tournaments you have to know that you might have to play them simultaneously. No one can gurantee that any of your league games finish within a month.
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Jordan Lewis
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One more needlessly nuanced vote in the discussion:

I prefer the F&I tournaments at 5p as it offers a more distinct experience from the existing tournament. To me, a little more chaos is, for better or for worse, core to F&I. Those who are playing TM primarily for its low randomness should stick to the original tournament.

I ask that the preferred way to address the time issue is to keep the F&I tournament at 2 months but containing move times. 5 days + 1.5 days/rd + 8 hours grace period would be fair, though I would also join a even tighter window. Games that drag on 1.5-2 months are less enjoyable and should be reduced for their own sake.

In the foreseeable future, we can expect an F&I tournament to have fewer entrants than the original tournament. It is just fine to have a "main" tournament and another that skews more veteran, and slightly more chaotic. None of us can truly say that the original format perfectly crowns the better players anyway.

Let's create a new experience! I have enough data thanks to JamesWolfpacker and other volunteers to predict it won't be total madness
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James Wolfpacker
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CTKShadow wrote an excellent analysis regarding the Fire and Ice Side 1 map and the differences between 4p and 5p on it.

A tighter time window for 5p should have a large up front time and a small addition per round.

We tried 5 days + 1 day/round + 12 hr grace. It worked and finished even with 4-5 slow players in an 11p league. This might work well for an 11p league size.

RD Time
0 5 days
1 6 days
2 7 days
3 8 days
4 9 days
5 10 days
5 11 days


I tightened the window for the second test to 5 days + 1 day/round + 8 hr grace. We will see if the 5p F&I with a 6 player league size works better with a tighter time clock. I think for a 5p tournament the chess clock should be 5 days + 0.5 days/round + 12 hr grace.

RD Time
0 5 days
1 5.5 days
2 6 days
3 6.5 days
4 7 days
5 7.5 days
6 8 days


If there is a slow player in the smaller league size, that 1 player is in 5 games out of 6. This player will probably get dropped quickly because all games that player is in will go to his turn and drop him. Then the league can finish all of the games on time.
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Robert
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Why should some clock setting for 5p games work better/worse in a 11p league than in a 6p league?
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James Wolfpacker
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When there are 11p in a league one player is only in 5 games out of 11 and there are 6 other games and has influence in 45.5% of the games. With 2 slow players then 8 games out of 11 games will be slowed. Granted, the slow player influence is less because more time is taken by having more players.

For a 6p league size one player is in 5 games out of 6 games and each player has influence of 83.3%. In a league size of 6 the time necessarily has to be tighter because 2 slow players will halt the entire league, but if they get dropped quickly, the entire league will finish quickly.

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Robert
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One very-slow-but-just-not-so-slow-he's-dropped player will taint five games in a league and potentially prevent them from finishing within two months, regardless of whether these games are part of a 6p league or 11p league.

So the differences would be that with such a player
1) only one game in a 6p league would finish, whereas in an 11p league six games would finish - three per player. I presume your argument is that the latter is the preferrable version since promotion and relegation are based on more than just one game.
2) if the slownik drops instead of dragging out the game, in a 6p league five out of the six "5p" games would become actually 4p games, whereas in an 11p league, only five out of 11 games suffer from this effect
3) in an 11p league a slow player (dropping or preventing a timely finish) affects 10 players who suffer from the slownik, whereas in a 6p league only five players are affected.
4) the probability of a second slow player amongst the others is twice as high in an 11p league than in a 5p league. Two slowniks in a game extremely increase the probability of not finishing in time.

It seems to me that with 5p, the choice is between making five players suffer really hard from a slownik in their league, and making ten players suffer quite a bit.

But all of this is true regardless of the clock settings. Which clock setting would be more suitable for 6p leagues, and which for 11p leagues?
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James Wolfpacker
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I think it should be tighter for the smaller league size, but we'll see how the results look from the test leagues.
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Robert
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JamesWolfpacker wrote:
I think it should be tighter for the smaller league size, but we'll see how the results look from the test leagues.
Sorry, I don't get why it should be tighter in the 6p scenario.
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Juho Snellman
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Speaking as someone who has played 120 5p games, I would probably not sign up for a tournament that uses 5p games. Even if you ignore the issues with game length, the format does not feel well suited for competitive play due to being too chaotic. It's a fun way to play casually with friends, but it's pretty hard to justify "serious" 5p play.
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James Wolfpacker
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Juho, what amount of 5p games you have played are on the Original or Revised map and which are on the F&I Side 1 map? Are they with or without final scoring? Were Fire and Ice factions available?

I played only a few 5p standard games on the original map. They were horrible and I would agree with you that 5p on the original map would not work. I think these initial experiences have soured you and many others on the idea of 5p being viable for a tournament.

However, the 5p games on the Fire and Ice Side 1 Map with final scoring and F&I factions seems to work very well for a tournament format. The small scale test I created showed that in an 11p league the player ratings fell almost exactly in order of league finish. There were a couple of blips, but that was all.

The 5p game might feel more chaotic, but the data so far has not shown that it is. I've watched the TV Series Brain Games, and I will tell you some of the stuff our brain makes us feel, see, hear, or think is literally mind-blowing. Confirmation bias and optical illusions are just scratching the surface!
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