The Jaded Gamer

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Kingmaking: The Continuation

Alec Chapman
United Kingdom
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Another response to the post on Kingmaking expanded too far, so here it is.

Some people in the thread had been saying that the only goal of importance is the win and that wherever you end up on the leaderboard other than 1st is equal in the big picture. Therefore the goal of moving from third to second isn't a valid one to set yourself.

Someone (I think Pete) even said that sometimes they will call the game at the point somebody cannot win, since the potential of disagreeable actions by that player affecting the eventual outcome is undesirable.

That seems... odd... to me, but each to their own.


Yeah from the Kingmaking debates we can exclude 2 player games, multiplayer solitaire* games and 2 team games. Kingmaking in those games is analogous to simply "making a game losing error".

First off, it's totally valid if your game group has agreed to value winning above everything else; it's your life and your salmon.

The social contract of my game groups has never been and will never be "to endorse the victory of whoever wins", it's always been to "have fun with other people while playing a game".

It horrifies me that anyone would say that if you can't win then your choices can only ever affect the game outcome for other players in a disagreeable way.

When the win slips away I will act as I want within the rules and you will have to deal with the consequences - it's called "playing games with other people".

I also accept that sometimes people will do this at my expense as the very minimal cost of their companionship.

This approach was obviously the designers' intent because otherwise there would be player elimination at the point one could no longer win.

I've seen several suggestions as to what should can do when you can't win:

1a. Play as if you can win
1b. Play to maximise points
1c. Play to move up the leaderboard

These are similar, but not always analogous

2. Continue playing but just not in a kingmaking way
I have never had a satisfactory definition of what this means. I have asked and we will see what they come up with

3a. Concede the game and refuse to continue
3b. The group ends the game at this point and determines the winner
This is really problematic in multiplayer games where the leader / eventual winner is not clear. It's totally acceptable where everyone has lost the option of winning, but that's not what we're discussing

4. Only play games where nobody is ever out of the running

Well this leads to a playing a bunch of of games where only the last move ever matters, or they are characterised by an inherently unfair catch-up mechanism. YMMV on how much this matters

5. Set yourself a new in-game goal and be true to it, regardless of its impact
This is generally what I do. My groups are all pretty cool with it, but again YMMV

6. Just go out of your way to punish the other players by making the game less fun or roadblocking everything anyone does etc. for no reason other than to troll the table because you lost
This isn't kingmaking for me, it's being a dick. Don't be that guy. Unless you're playing Cosmic Encounter, in which case do be a dick. That's the whole point.

I hope it's clear that I believe (EDIT: the common complaint) about Kingmaking to be a phantom; A complaint that some nebulous social contract is broken by not letting the rightful winner achieve that transitory and meaningless distinction on their own.

But here's the thing: as soon as you agreed to sit and play a game with other human beings, you ceded some of your credit for AND control over its outcome. Every decision anyone made in the whole game is a factor in its eventual final scoring - if you don't like this, there is a whole world of fantastic alternative options out there.

Why people who believe that any player who cannot win should concede all control are playing anything at a higher player count than 2 is beyond me.

There are hundreds and hundreds of fantastic 2 player games in the world. Why on Earth are you trying to impose a "winning is the only goal that matters" outlook on a game in which the majority of players will not (and some perhaps cannot) meet that goal?

I love the cut and thrust of a 2 player zero sum game. I love the constant back and forth flow and flux of multiplayer games. Neither of these things is better than the other for me. Though I generally prefer playing with multiple people, this is more about enjoying the company of friends than enjoying those games more than 2 players.

It's just... the approaches one takes to these two things are not particularly mixable. Whatever type of game you like, it's important to understand that when you agree to be part of a group, it's the group that determines the outcome - nobody wins or loses alone and by themselves in this situation; once you let that go, Kingmaking is a will-o-the-wisp and is blown away in the laughter of a table having a good time.

And hey, if that game ended unsatisfactorily, why not set it up again and play some more. That's what I want to do.

Have a great day, guys.


*The term "multiplayer solitaire" is extremely overused and usually incorrectly. I guess you could put a lot of independent optimisation games and non-contact racing games here, but the label is usually appended to games based on "feel" rather than "fact". My intention here is to use it in the literal sense. You can't kingmake if nothing you do affects anyone else until you tot up scores at the end.
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