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Subject: Should boardgames have a set # of Players (ie 4 players) ? rss

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james napoli
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1-9 players
Stretch goal, play with teams of 3!
To play solo, first remove every 3rd green card and then pretend there are 3 other players sitting at the table...
Two player variant, put the board away you wont be needing that...

I was once excited to see games that had varying player counts, 2-5, oh perfect it will work for the wife and i, it will work when we have a full group, it can work when it's just the boys...The reality is it works with 4 players. 2 players is a completely different and unfun game, 3 players is way too wide open to be interesting, and with 5 players...well that 5th player aint winning.

Thus, i'm here to ask what the community thinks about the topic of player counts. Would you be ok if your favorite games reduced it's number of players to ensure the optimal gaming experience?
Of course there are some games that can scale well, and God bless them, but i would rather designers focus their time and efforts on perfecting a game for an optimal amount of players or adding in more content than trying to stretch a 2 player game into 3,4. My wife has gotten smart to this over years, and when i evangelize a new game for us to play she always asks 'wait is this a 2 player game or one of those games where you need to read all kinds of special rules to make it work, and then it doesnt?'

Let me know your thoughts, and i would love to hear from designers, as if i've read between the lines over the years this seems to be an issue in our industry of trying to include the 1-5 player count on the box to ensure sales, but the reality is the game works at it's best with 4. With literally 1000's of games coming out every year wouldnt you rather just play your games with exact player count the designers had intended?


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James



 
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I do like my games to be playable at a variety of player counts because it lets me play a game with a variety of groups. Having said that, I feel like games should have a player count and "variant" player counts, if not on the box, at least here on BGG. For example Star Realms would have a player count of exactly 2 and variant player count of 1 to 6+. Sentinels of the Multiverse would have a player count of 3-5 (even if 4 is ideal) and variant player counts of 1-2 (since you are playing multiple hands).
 
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Austin Andersen
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I too used to like games that are playable by different numbers of people, but have found that almost all games are best suited at a particular player count. I for one will not play some games at player counts where I know the experience will be not be pleasant or sometimes sub-optimal. I have enough games in my collection where I have been allotted great freedom of choice.

Jamaica - will not play with less than 5.
Citadels - will not play with more than 4.
Puzzle Strike - only for 2 players as far I'm concerned.
Chaos in the Old World - mainly for 4, will play with 5.
Mage Knight Board Game - primarily a solo game, will play with 1 other.
Lewis & Clark - best with 3.
Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game - 4 is the way to go, 3 works.
Wiz-War (eighth edition) - 4 players.
Forbidden Stars - 2 or 3.
Assault on Doomrock - 4 players, game has serious balance issues at all other player counts, even at 4 game has issues.
Sentinels of the Multiverse - some villains require more than 3 heroes.
Gears of War: The Board Game - I say 2 player game, even though box says it supports up to 4.
Robo Rally - will not play with less than 5.
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Erik Andersson
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I don´t mind if a game says 2-5 on the box but is best with 4. I search BGG and read about every game I buy.

But some games should come with a big warning sign: WARNING uses dummy players!

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Paul DeStefano
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bbblasterfire wrote:

Robo Rally - will not play with less than 5.


I won't play with more than 4.
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Jeff Rietveld
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darlok wrote:
and with 5 players...well that 5th player aint winning.

I actually find that in most 5 player games, four players aint winning. We must be playing wrong.
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Geoffrey Burrell
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Sequence can play with 3 teams of two each. There are some games that have optimum number of players to provide the proper game balance.
 
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Joe Salamone
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The only thing that bothers me (somewhat) is when the rules for two players turn it into a very different game. Read the 2-player rules for Aztlán and you'll see what I mean.
 
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Greg Lorrimer
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I think games are so sensitive to player counts that by opening them to numbers that don't work well, boardgames significantly undermined themselves.

It's not that easy to get new people playing in the first place, and if their first and second experience is at poor numbers then the neophyte is lost; at least until the next time they feel reluctantly obliged.

I make a point of looking up BGG ratings for player numbers and NEVER playing where 'not recommended' is above 10%.

I can see why the game sellers are tempted, but they are shooting themselves in the foot.
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Paul Evans
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I sympathise with the designers/publishers trying to increase the appeal. I always research on BGG, and find the "best" player count a good steer. Some games do scale well and others don't.

I think Agricola is a good solo, awesome 2-player, great 3-player, awesome 4-player, and okay 5-player.
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Jason
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Variable player counts helps me with making purchase decisions. If I can buy a game that works well with 2 and with 4 (or 5), then that's much more valuable to me than a game that only works with a set number of players.

With that said, I'm not a fan of when games become clunky or unbalanced to fit player counts. I usually see this when a game tries to work at a 2 player count.
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Julien K
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One potential issue is, even the designers may not have the same way of thinking as the players.

It reminds me of what I heard from Antoine Bauza about why he decided to make a 2 player version of 7-wonders: because so many people he met told him that they played 7 wonders 2-players. Was it his original intent ? Surely not. But that's how things ended.

And then, there's the fact that everyone's taste is different. I would have hated missing some great games to play 2-players just because the designer/the publisher/someone else decided that the game was only playable with 4 players.

In the end, the poll for best/recommended number of players on each game page in bgg is also a great help.
 
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Chris Laudermilk
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To answer the OP title question: No.

Too short? OK.

There are some games where a specific number of players is the sweet spot, or the only number (off the top of my head, nearly all wargames are 2p. Period. I gather Churchill is 3p. Period.). However, there are many games that can accommodate different player counts; some give different, yet still good, experiences at differing numbers of players. For example, one of the current top of attention games, Scythe works fine at all the listed player counts (1-5). I've played at every one and they all work.
 
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Greg
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I think some games are stronger for a fixed player count, but not every game would benefit from it.

I've also made the mistake in the other direction - Wizard's Academy says 2-5 on the box, but I've had loads of people write to me and say they're having a great time with it as a solo game. I didn't test or intend for it to be played that way but it's great people are enjoying it
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Pete
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eatem wrote:
I don´t mind if a game says 2-5 on the box but is best with 4. I search BGG and read about every game I buy.

But some games should come with a big warning sign: WARNING uses dummy players!

I don't see why you have to call me out explicitly like that.

Pete (tries his best)
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jujulautre wrote:
One potential issue is, even the designers may not have the same way of thinking as the players.

It reminds me of what I heard from Antoine Bauza about why he decided to make a 2 player version of 7-wonders: because so many people he met told him that they played 7 wonders 2-players. Was it his original intent ? Surely not. But that's how things ended.

And then, there's the fact that everyone's taste is different. I would have hated missing some great games to play 2-players just because the designer/the publisher/someone else decided that the game was only playable with 4 players.

In the end, the poll for best/recommended number of players on each game page in bgg is also a great help.


There is no game police that is going to come to your house and beat your children because you did not follow the rules of the game as the designer had intended. This is about what player count the publisher prints on the box. I assume that 7 Wonders is listed as 3-7 players, but it does not mean that you cannot play the game with 2 players or solo.
 
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Dan Winnowski
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I generally think the best designed games work well with a variety of player counts. That said, I wish player counts on the box use the optimal player counts ("best with" on bgg). Many games use too wide a range where the gameplay experience is lacking.
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Pete
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Part of me wants to answer yes. When I play a game, I typically notice that it works better with a particular player count, and is rather awful with other player counts. Primary example: I only like to play Catan with exactly four. With 3 the map is far too "open," ruining the tension of the game. The 5-6 player expansion with the special building phase irritates me and breaks the flow of the game, and with 5, again the map is too wide open. BGG bears this out...76% of the respondents say "Best with 4."

For me, Catan plays 4. Period.

But some people might like a more open game, with less blocking and competition. Some people might enjoy special building phases and their tendency to help you avoid the robber baron. Would I affirmatively state that NOBODY should play Catan with a player count other than 4? Absolutely not.

Pete (sees no real merit in limiting people's options, and is happy with BGG telling him what the real best player count is)
 
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james napoli
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plezercruz wrote:
Part of me wants to answer yes. When I play a game, I typically notice that it works better with a particular player count, and is rather awful with other player counts. Primary example: I only like to play Catan with exactly four. With 3 the map is far too "open," ruining the tension of the game. The 5-6 player expansion with the special building phase irritates me and breaks the flow of the game, and with 5, again the map is too wide open. BGG bears this out...76% of the respondents say "Best with 4."

For me, Catan plays 4. Period.

But some people might like a more open game, with less blocking and competition. Some people might enjoy special building phases and their tendency to help you avoid the robber baron. Would I affirmatively state that NOBODY should play Catan with a player count other than 4? Absolutely not.

Pete (sees no real merit in limiting people's options, and is happy with BGG telling him what the real best player count is)


i would agree, i think that a plays best with # on the box would be helpful, or a note from the designer with what the spirit of the game they were after is included or noted.

If(when)i was a game designer, i would hate for a new player to have a bad first experience with my game b/c of the player count. My first game of agricola was at a convention, with the german game(marked up with english) and i went last. that was horrid experience for me for what is now one of my favorite games, but i dont think it works well with 5.






 
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Shirley Sheak
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Best with 4 or not, works well with 5-6 or not, I do like to have an option to support 1 or 2 more players for the 4 players games.

Chances are you always have someone in the group who would want to bring an extra friend, then my 4 players games would be gathering dust most of the time.

For example Takenoko and Castles of Mad King Ludwig only support 4, but I think it's capable to include 1 more player therefore I looked up forum and played with the 5th player variant, although to most people the game would take longer, but it worked well and the group was enjoying it: So as Catan with 5-6 players expansion.

In my situation, it's often not the "best with 4" that I can take control of, it's that 1 extra unexpected person that I have to take into consideration.

IMO may be having the "more than best with x number of players suggested" would make the game longer or more chaotic, but having that option means I can bring a good game to the table more often (of course I'm not crazy enough to suggest something as heavy as City of Iron to go beyond 4, but some light to medium games are capable of that. I.E: I'm glad Sushi Go! can now support more players).

That said I wonder why some short filler games only support 4.
 
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Kaleb Belveal
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The only thing that I don't like is when a game has to have a minimum of 3 players. It hasn't happened often to me personally, but it's a hassle when it does. Especially when I seem to have pretty good luck with 2 player variations being more entertaining to me. Dead of Winter for example, I had much more fun playing the 2 player variant than I did with a full party of 5.
 
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Rick
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Setting the numbers of players for a game certainly changes the design space for a game. Balancing for a set number of players is easier. If the market wanted set player numbers designers would design for it. But I think the only case for that is 2 player games.

I like the range. As some people have mentioned they "won't play game X unless it is with Y players". Many people hate 2 player Power Grid - but my wife and I really enjoy the 2 player game.

There are also some games where the range is... well.. interesting. I'll take my current hotness: Council of Blackthorn. The game plays 2-6 players. The 3+ player game requires no changes, while the 2 player has a variant. There is a "3rd player" but really they don't act like a player.

Many people will just not play it 2 player (Vasel basically said don't even bother with it). However, 2 player in my opinion is better than the 3 player game. Something about 2 vs 1 that can happen in the 3 player game that can't in the 2 player game. And then when you get to 4+ players that balances out again. I prefer the game:
- Most as 4-5 player (sweet spot)
- Then closely as 2 player (game plays VERY quickly and you get to pull off interesting combos that you can't in the 3+ player game)
- Then 6 player (6 is fine but it gets a bit long between turns)
- Then 3 player
The game can actually handle more players (I know of a group that played it 8 player). The game doesn't change it's just REALLY long between turns.

I'm always impressed with games that range 1 to 4~5 players. Designing a solo game vs a game for 5 players can be vastly different, but some games (Agricola) manage to pull it off.

I guess what I'm saying is: I like the range and you need to design for the market which currently demands a range.
 
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Jeff Rietveld
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For the most part, adding a higher player count will mean more copies sold.
 
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Pete
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JRietveld wrote:
For the most part, adding a higher player count will mean more copies sold.
Definitely true, but the most egregious examples tend to be games that really don't play well with 2 being marketed as if they do.

Pete (thinks if your game doesn't play 2-player you lose a ton of sales)
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James Lautermilch
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plezercruz wrote:
JRietveld wrote:
For the most part, adding a higher player count will mean more copies sold.
Definitely true, but the most egregious examples tend to be games that really don't play well with 2 being marketed as if they do.

Pete (thinks if your game doesn't play 2-player you lose a ton of sales)


Since almost any two player (within reason and I'm talking mostly wargames here) can be played solo I see no reason for a company to limit themselves by at least not being designed for two players and I think Pete is spot on with regards to sales. I also agree with the three player analysis which I don't think can produce the same results in a five player game especially if the two players in the three versus two scenario are the strongest players.
 
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