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Mob Ties, Tigris & Euphrates, and Acceptable Levels of Direct Player Interaction

Jesse Dean
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In case you have not seen I wrote a review of Mob Ties: A Million Gangland Murders. Please check it out if you have time!

One thing that playing Mob Ties, and also revisiting Tigris & Euphrates, has made me reexamine is my overall stance on acceptable levels of player interaction. In the past I have been a fairly strong proponent of games that are mechanically meaty yet still have fairly high levels of player interaction, games like Dominant Species, Eclipse, or the various 18XX, where you are putting together an intricate web of actions that can have a big effect on both your own position as well as that of other people. For the most part, I still am a fan of those sorts of games, but playing Tigris & Euphrates and Mob Ties has made me realize that I do have an outer bound on my tolerance for direct player interaction, and both of them are outside of it. The fact that Tigris & Euphrates is outside of this bound is particularly disappointing to me, as it was probably my first “favorite board game” once I started to truly engage in hobby board gaming, and now I have to accept the game is mostly not interesting to me anymore.

In Mob Ties, you have five pawns called mobsters, each of which has varying respect levels and capabilities. These mobsters are used to collect income, due to votes based on respect levels, and are also required to directly affect another player’s mobsters, through the playing of action cards that are used for attacks. The first part of this interaction, where you maneuver for votes and can threaten, bribe and cajole each other in order to work out deals during the various situations in which the game requires votes to determine results, is pretty neat. Unfortunately the card-based interaction pushes the game out of my comfort level. Since it is fairly easy to eliminate each other’s mobsters, and because you have so few of them, it is almost trivially easy to be knocked out of the game by someone else misreading the game situation and making a poor decision as a result of that. The elimination of mobsters is not in of itself a problem, it is the overall level of impact that the elimination has on your position that makes me uncomfortable.

In Tigris & Euphrates my problem is similar in that you can affect each other’s positions casually with a great impact on the overall game state, though in this case the casualness of the ability to affect each other’s position matters to me more than the overall impact of the effect. In Tigris it is incredibly easy, sometimes requiring little more than the placement of a tile or two, to start a conflict that will end up benefiting a third party much more than it helps either the instigator or their target. I have seen countless games won or lost based on these decisions to start external conflicts, as players do not think out the secondary consequences of their actions and give a big windfall to a third party.

It can be argued that in either instance that skilled play among all players can pretty much resolve these problems, and push them into an entirely new level of challenge and entertainment and that is true, but I am not part of a highly skilled group of players for either game, so that argument is invalid for my particular situation and getting to that point is simply not going to happen with Mob Ties thanks to a negative reaction from my local playing group. For Tigris & Euphrates I have pretty much ruined the game for any local play by playing it a couple of hundred times on-line, so I am probably going to simply not play it anymore, since there are other games that I find more enjoyable, even with groups that have mixed player skill levels.

So playing Mob Ties and revisiting Tigris & Euphrates has made me realize that while I like for players to be able to effect each other’s position in games with more than two players, I prefer to make it so they have to work to do so. Making it so that you need to work to have a big impact on someone else’s position is much more acceptable to me then being able to do so casually.

What are your own personal limits for player interaction?
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Subscribe sub options Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:30 pm
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