The Jaded Gamer

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My Pet Hates #2 - "King Maker!", the favourite complaint of the poor loser.

Alec Chapman
United Kingdom
Lincolnshire
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"She said the same thing about waffles."
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One of the great things about having a Blog is that you can concentrate on the things that you actually care about. I am extremely grateful to everyone who has thumbed my recent posts (especially those who did so despite disagreeing with my opinion) as it gives me encouragement to keep on with them.

Today, let's look at another phenomenon that makes my blood boil.

Let's be clear, to start with, what I am annoyed about. I am not angry about people who determine the outcome of games when they cannot win. I am annoyed by people who insist on making this a big deal - accusing the crucial move as "king making".

Firstly, and to avoid being disingenuous, the phenomenon the accusation relates to definitely exists.

Of course, all this represents is a single instance of a truism: the play of non-winners also affects the overall outcome of the game. This would seem self evident to me but as we shall see, many people seemingly do not understand how games work - leading to the epithet that annoys me.

So let's be very, very clear.

The accusation of "King Making" is never, in my experience, used to describe what actually happens in games. It is used as a complaint, translated as "I/Player X would have won if you hadn't done that, how dare you do that".

BGGers have come up with a few ways for the players who cannot win to avoid being a "kingmaker" and choosing the winner (e.g. as long as you are gaining more points, etc) - but I say that's misdiagnosing the problem and the REAL issue is not with the "kingmaker" but the accuser.

Basically what the call amounts to is an abdication of player responsibility.

So let me be unequivocal for a moment - If you're in the position where another player can choose whether you win or lose, it's your fault*.

I am required by the demands of reason to say that you can't necessarily have avoided it in all cases it by simply playing better, maybe you did almost everything right, but the fact your victory is not in your hands is down to what you did in combination with the plays you allowed the other players to make.**

Let's take the extreme case where you did everything right as the toughest test of my point of view. All it takes is for somebody else to do everything right as well for you to be in a potentially low control position.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
As an aside many modern (style) multiplayer games make it very possible for everyone to play well and reach similar scores without bashing each other through the use of different "paths to victory". It is not hard to believe two players can play a game equally well, but in different ways, thus leading to a low control situation.


So what happens in a "kingmaking" situation? Well, let's look at the options:
a. Player C performs an action that benefits Player A
b. Player C performs an action that benefits Player B
c. Player C performs an action that benefits Player C
d. Player C performs no action.

The important thing that we need to remember is that NONE of these exist in isolation. Unless the game is very, very low interaction - where Kingmaking wouldn't be an issue anyway - anything you do OR the choice to not do anything (if available) has an effect of some kind. Player C doing nothing can be just as influential as Player C benefiting player A. By NOT benefiting Player A, Player C indirectly assists Player B, etc etc.

Even more importantly than that - everything you have done FOR THE ENTIRE GAME has had an effect on the current situation. in the three player set up above, the four options available could have taken place at any time. An identical action two turns earlier probably received no comment and may be the actual determiner of victor in some cases - even where the accusation of king making is not made at all.

Now, I am not denying that some people attack one potential winner just to be assholes.
(Often this person is used to this style of play and if they have a regular opponent in the mix it's probably that person who got it in the neck.)

I am saying that anyone who wants, purely because they couldn't get a big enough lead by the last turn, to alter the way someone else plays and accuse them of being somehow a bad person if they don't agree is just as big an asshole.***

Spoiler (click to reveal)
(To the player in the kingmaking position I would say this: be true to yourself, don't be vindictive, remember that you may want to play with these people again. But it is YOUR decision. Ignore the haters.)


The winner of any game is determined by a sequence of decisions made by each player for an entire game, not by the final action of the player coming in third, fourth or lower. Grow up and accept it.


Here endeth the lesson.




* I tried to think of something less mean than "it's your fault", but everything I thought of involved too many words. basically, it is down to your play.
** Of course, it's important to remember in that case that maybe you missed an opportunity to play suboptimally, but damage your opponent(s) more than this suboptimal play damaged you, but hey, whatevs.
*** As it happens I don't think either is a particularly BIG asshole in the scale of Saint to Saville, but you get my point. People in glass houses shouldn't get naked, etc etc (I think that's the saying? ).
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