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Subject: The 370th Edition of the TGIF Poll rss

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Ben Lott
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If you want updates on when new TGIF polls are posted, or want to look at the results of past polls go to The TGIF Poll Subscription Thread.

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Poll: The 370th TGIF Poll
How do you feel about catch-up mechanisms built into games?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
Love them
4.3% 13
Like them
42.7% 128
Indifferent to them
44.0% 132
Dislike them
8.7% 26
Hate them
0.3% 1
Voters 300
Do you think that a game is flawed if it becomes obvious who is going to win well before the end?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
Absolutely
9.0% 27
Kind Of
45.8% 137
I don't know
8.4% 25
Not Really
33.1% 99
No Way
3.7% 11
Voters 299
Do you think a game is flawed if a first-time player has just as much chance to win as a player with a ton of experience?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
Absolutely
14.1% 42
Kind Of
34.9% 104
I don't know
9.1% 27
Not Really
34.9% 104
No Way
7.0% 21
Voters 298
This poll is now closed.   301 answers
Poll created by Blott
Closes: Fri Sep 9, 2016 6:00 am


4. Have you ever played a game where experienced player(s) completely dominated you? What game? How did it feel?

Any discussion is encouraged.
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Stephen Miller
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Answers for 2 and 3 vary greatly from game to game - In a light, family, chaotic game then I don't think it's a flaw at all if a new player has an even chance against an experienced one, while #2 is mostly a problem if all players are about even experience. It really varies from game to game on those questions.

Catchup mechanisms? Can be done well, can be done badly, can result in a game of jockying for position on the leader board which in turn can be a great experience or a bad one depending on how well the game feels to support that.

4 - Not really?
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2. I think it depends on the game, it reminds me of risk where at a certain point you know someone is going to win but if a player doesn't concede the game could go on for 30 more minutes. Also if you know someone is absolutely going to win at a certain point well before the game ends then what's the point of playing the game.
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4. I felt so disheartened when I was playing Android: Netrunner for the first time. I just got rolled over, time and again. I just couldn't get what was going on at all. I felt bad for the guy teaching me because he was so happy about crushing me so ruthlessly... And his eyes were twinkling like these devastating defeats would help me see just how wonderful this game was... I actually won a copy of Netrunner from FLGS, and it's still in shrink, because I don't know what to do with it... I can't even open it because of the PTSD that I feel from even the thought of it.
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Eric Brosius
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My answer is: it depends on how they are implemented. But the most prominent examples of catch-up mechanisms are ones I dislike, such as the one in The Scepter of Zavandor.

On the other hand, I don't mind the turn order mechanism in Power Grid.

For me, it's okay for a first-time player to win a light game. However, if a game is billed as a highly strategic game, I'm suspicious if first-timers often win. (There are exceptions, like when Brian Hanechak won his first game of Puerto Rico against experienced players, but he's really smart, so that didn't make me think the game isn't strategic.)

Examples of games where I lost badly to experienced players are Paths of Glory and Yspahan. In both cases I said to myself "so that's how you play that part of that game!" In these situations, I often ask the experienced player for strategy tips after the game is over.
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Joe Huber

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Blott wrote:
4. Have you ever played a game where experienced player(s) completely dominated you? What game? How did it feel?


I consider this a _requirement_ for a reasonably complex game. If I can play the game, completely new, and win - I don't think much of the game. I got crushed at 18xx for ages before I became mildly competent; that's how it should be.

(This is related to my concern with many "middleweight" games - if they're simple enough that a new player can win, then why not play something lighter and more inclusive? Or something with real meat and a marked learning curve to it? Either seems preferable to me.)
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Kyle
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I generally don't mind catch-up mechanisms, but it depends a lot upon how it's implemented.

When it's something subtle, like a small bonus for being behind like the balanced sled bonus in Snow Tails, or a clever manipulation of turn order like in Power Grid it works well.

When it's some totally random thing that completely screws over the leader, like blue shells in Mario Kart, it's usually not a good thing. (It works in Mario Kart only because of the nature of the game, but something similar in most board games would be a serious problem.)

-----------

If a game reaches a point where it's obvious that one player will win no matter what anyone else does, there's no harm in ending it at that point so you can start another game. Dragging out the ending for another hour or more is worse than ending early.

-----------

I don't mind if a new player has a reasonable chance of beating an experienced player, but again it depends on the game. If there are a lot of dice to roll, cards to draw, or random tiles to place it shouldn't come as too big of a surprise if a new player is in the running at the end or even wins.
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Christopher Yaure
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My view varies based on whether the game is multi-player or two-player and the length of the game. A multi-player game where a mistake on the first turn can subject a player to hours of irrelevance is a fail (I'm looking at you 18XX). Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization solves this problem by allowing a player to withdraw honorably.

I played lots of tournament Chess in the mid-1970s to mid-1990s. There it is accepted that you will resign if you have a lost position (and frowned upon if you do not resign). As a result I am fine with 2-player games where the winner can be seen early - if the result is clear, resign and play again or move on to something else. And if you cannot tell you are losing, keep playing and you may learn something.

A short game, multi-player (e.g., Yspahan) or 2-player (e.g., Famiglia), by definition does not involve a long period of irrelevance.

As for the mechanisms that are used:
1. Hidden victory points (not hidden victory conditions - those I love) so you are not sure who is actually winning or by how much - dislike them if the points are revealed, then hidden (e.g., Thurn and Taxis); ok if the points are not revealed until the end (e.g., Oregon).
2. Games with diplomacy where ganging up on the leader is a legitimate strategy (e.g., Atlantic Storm) - ok.
3. Games that allow low probability strategies that may result in a comeback (e.g., War of the Ring (second edition)) - love them.
4. Games that subject the leader to an arbitrary chance of losing (e.g., Talisman - strongly dislike.
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Two railroad genres, Steam iterations and 18XX are especially notorious for being nasty to first-timers. Much of the strategy is just not that obvious and early decisions are crucial in determining the outcome.

Still love both genres, but they are very tough on newbies.

Edit: half ninja'd by Christopher above
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Kyle
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I still haven't won a game of TtA in with more than 2 players, and one of those 2 players I didn't teach the game (they quickly start beating me). It is great
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I generally like games that reward skillful play and allow those not in the lead limited opportunities to catch up and win. I'm guessing very few enjoy hours of continued gameplay when it is obvious they have no chance of winning, and I am definitely not among those who do. However, games that can be decided early are not necessarily flawed. Usually games that require the kind of thought I like to put into games reward skillful play and punish sloppy play to the point that one can loose the game in the first few turns.

Games that allow a first timer a similar chance to win as a seasoned veteran is not necessarily flawed either, but I would likely be bored playing it if it lasts more than 30 minutes.

Most of the games I like to play can be dominated by experienced players (vs. novices). When I'm new to one of these games, I expect to be dominated by the experienced players, and that's the way it should be. If they play well, I will learn from their example.
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Ben Lott
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I suspected I might have unpopular answers to these questions:

1 - In general I don't enjoy a catch-up mechanism in a game. However, if it is designed in such a way that I can't see it, then I won't complain. There are ways of subtly punishing players in the lead or helping players behind without making it obvious to everyone at the table. My brother will recognize that the inspiration for this poll is a game of Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King where the game literally hands you cash for being behind, and I won in part because that mechanism handed me 18 coins for always being in last place until the very end.

2 - I absolutely see this as a flaw, unless it's a once in a great while occurrence. If I'm going to sit around bored for the next 30 minutes or more because everybody at the table knows that George is going to win, then why is the game still going on? And if we decide to abort and quit early because victory is a certainty, then it's more than a flaw...it's a failure. (I feel there's a slight contradiction between my first two answers, which is why I thought this was a fascinating topic for a TGIF Poll.)

3 - Not even slightly. Where's the joy in playing a game supposed to come from if I can't play competitively my first time? "Oh, you'll get better at it with more practice" is not a fun way to end your first play of a game. I'm not saying that every game has to be built this way (I do enjoy several games where experienced players could dominate) but when it's possible for newbies to compete with the experienced players I don't think it's a flaw in any way.

4 - I remember being put in checkmate after only 4 or 5 turns in a game of Chess. It was embarrassing, frustrating, and I've never wanted to touch a chess board since that day.
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Interesting how I completely disagree with Blott here above me

1. I only like good catch-up mechanisms. I like the one in Eclipse where being ahead makes it progressively harder to do much. Not so much a catch-up mechanism as a mechanism preventing a runaway leader.

2. Not really. Of course a tense game is more fun, but artificial tension is just that, artificial. If someone dominates me, I'd rather have it be obvious

3. Terrible, terrible, terrible. Where's the fun in a game if there's no point in getting better at it? Might as well roll a die to determine the winner if skill matters so little that a first-timer has the same chance of winning as an experienced player.

4. Many, many games of Go are like this for me. And it's one of the main reasons why I love the game so much
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4. I have two thoughts about domination. The first is about games that are 'contained' and happen only on the table, by which I mean the 'metagame' is not a huge part of the game. (I exclude 'thinking' about games, because, hey, how can you not?)

If I'm sitting down to play a game that is played entirely on the table and I feel I learn from the trashing and know that I'll have a better chance next time, then that's fine. I think things might differ if the expert player gloated too much, but I've never experienced such.

If it's an 'iceberg' game, where 90% of the game is away from the table, setting up decks and such, then I just don't have patience for these. Some of the people who play these games invest a lot of time and effort, for which their reward is trashing people like me. For some, it's no fun because they like a challenge and I'm just wasting their time. For those who just like to win regardless, that's no fun for me. I've had some experience of gloaters in this kind of game, but nothing like the horror stories some have related.

I like the idea of Netrunner. I like Netrunner. I just don't like playing Netrunner. When my kids are a bit older, I'll play with them and we can develop together, hopefully without any of them obsessing. Games are games and part of my life; but they're not a lifestyle.
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A. Mandible
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A catch-up mechanism that's just a retroactive handicap-- here, have some points!-- is no fun. If it lets me find opponents more easily for a game I love, okay, but it's still unsatisfying.

A catch-up mechanism which exists so that losing players aren't also stripped of the ability to do anything in the game, like in Isle Of Skye, strikes me as better than leaving weak players out to dry. But then arguably it's not a catch-up mechanism, just an actual piece of the rules to use to your advantage.
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Mike Jones
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I prefer a game where a first time gamer (that is experienced in gaming) can be competitive. It is no fun crushing someone just because the rules are too convoluted for a first time play to understand the 'basic' dynamics.
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A game where a person can't plausibly have a chance of winning until like the 5th game finds its way immediately to the not-gonna-play-it pile.
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Mike Jones
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I have a bit of a problem with the question about a leader early in the game.

I can't tell you how many times some has started whining about this person or that person is way ahead and we should just confused the game. Only to play through and someone else win. Too often, people are too quick to give uo.

But, I do like hidden victory points just do that you can't make that claim.
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Blott wrote:
If you want updates on when new TGIF polls are posted, or want to look at the results of past polls go to The TGIF Poll Subscription Thread.

We also have a microbadge available for those who enjoy the polls mb.


4. Have you ever played a game where experienced player(s) completely dominated you? What game? How did it feel?

Any discussion is encouraged.


I wish the Lions had a catch up mechanism built into their game, Ben.
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Ron
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Guantanamo wrote:
I prefer a game where a first time gamer (that is experienced in gaming) can be competitive. It is no fun crushing someone just because the rules are too convoluted for a first time play to understand the 'basic' dynamics.


bippi wrote:
A game where a person can't plausibly have a chance of winning until like the 5th game finds its way immediately to the not-gonna-play-it pile.


There is a big gap between 'can't plausibly have a chance of winning' or 'can('t) be competitive' and 'have an equal chance of winning'. In some games it can be nice for a new player to be somewhat competitive, but if their chances of winning are equal to an experienced player it seems like a game I wouldn't enjoy much.
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Emma Willis
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4. Agricola. And it kind of permanently put me off.
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Mike Jones
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Wormaap wrote:
Guantanamo wrote:
I prefer a game where a first time gamer (that is experienced in gaming) can be competitive. It is no fun crushing someone just because the rules are too convoluted for a first time play to understand the 'basic' dynamics.


bippi wrote:
A game where a person can't plausibly have a chance of winning until like the 5th game finds its way immediately to the not-gonna-play-it pile.


There is a big gap between 'can't plausibly have a chance of winning' or 'can('t) be competitive' and 'have an equal chance of winning'. In some games it can be nice for a new player to be somewhat competitive, but if their chances of winning are equal to an experienced player it seems like a game I wouldn't enjoy much.


That's why I said competitive.
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Jerry Wilkinson
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4. I'm playing a game of Dominion, and a buddy who was also experienced completely beat me, by a score of something like 94-17. But that beating showed me how to play Dominion better. So it was worth it.
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Brian Bankler
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huber wrote:
Blott wrote:
4. Have you ever played a game where experienced player(s) completely dominated you? What game? How did it feel?


I consider this a _requirement_ for a reasonably complex game. If I can play the game, completely new, and win - I don't think much of the game. I got crushed at 18xx for ages before I became mildly competent; that's how it should be.

Exactly. I think I went bankrupt for my first five 18xx games. Then went another ten or so before winning. I taught a group then told them to play it half a dozen times and then I'd play it again, or they could just lose to me a half dozen times.
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Shaun Morris
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4. Yes. Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King

I was okay with it because the experienced player explained it would likely happen and that it's typical of your first game. That said he was surprised we did as well as we did. It's a really good game and I ended up buying a copy.
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