The Jaded Gamer

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Kingmaking: The Conclusion

Alec Chapman
United Kingdom
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ALGO wrote:
Folk seem to be saying that people should feel free to keep playing a game they can't win, just as long as they do so in a non-kingmakey way. Could anyone who holds this view please be clear on exactly what this means, for me? I don't want to argue against a strawman.
Eric the GM wrote:
The loose consensus is that Kingmaking is when a losing player begins making moves that would not be rational if the player was still in contention.
ErsatzDragon wrote:
For me, it means continuing making moves / choices as though I was able to win. That is, I should continue playing as though I haven't noticed that victory is actually out of reach.
First, thanks to these two users for answering my question

It seems that "kingmaking" then has a very narrow definition indeed, considering how often the term is used. It must be:

1. During a game with more than 2 players/teams without elimination
1a. During a game where being mean to other players isn't the whole point
2. A deliberate action by a losing player
3. Proximate to the outcome of the game
4. "Irrational" in terms of maximising points/position

But.. wait a sec... surely we see now that all of these could apply to any move on the last turn apart from the winning one?

To really hit a unique point you'd have to add
5. Vindictive

And I simply refute any notion that 99% of the use of the term includes that last part of the definition. And then by definition you cannot "accidentally kingmake" nor could games be "prone to kingmaking".

The problem of claiming "irrationality"

Also, and more importantly, I dislike part 4 of this definition immensely and it is where me and most of the posters in that thread part ways.

You can't win, so how is playing as if you could win defined as "rational" when it is irrational by definition? At best "playing politely" would seem a better word.

The presence of actors with no rational goals simply now needs to be accounted for by winning players' strategies. As I stated in an earlier blog, in a lot of games there are ways to maintain an illusion of contention or to defend against such actors etc etc.

A player put in an unwinnable position will also obviously, in many cases, continue to play sub-optimally whatever their intent. Just think of it as "unintentional irrationality" to relate it to the points above.

Obviously they will, in fact, since that why they have ended up in a position they can't win from. Let's be clear: the fact they have not fully understood the path to victory is why they can't win! How can you expect them to suddenly make nothing but sensible moves now?

However, when they continue to play in an honest way they may still get labelled with a mild slur and some social negativity just because the other players left them with the power to affect the game's outcome but, crucially, no stake in that outcome?

Calling the game

Venser wrote:
Earlier I mentioned my group normally ends the game the minute an absolute winner/loser is identified.

If a group insists on playing with players in these positions, I'd expect the loser to take actions that terminate the game in the most expedite manner possible. Their position is untenable to winning regardless of their actions.

Kingmaking or propelling the leader further ahead are two possible outcomes, and I'm fine with that if others insist on finishing the game.
Calling the game as soon as anyone can't win, or the bolded approach above is just as damaging* to the "natural" outcome as any other alteration of approach.

The early end does not allow anyone's long term strategies to pay off and the loser trying to end the game sees their actions change now they can't win, therefore the final outcome is altered as well.


For the vast majority who don't give a monkey's about my blog I will just reiterate here that I think Kingmaking is just an ill defined, very loose slur used in relation to whichever late-game moves a potential but unsuccessful near-winner didn't like. Therefore, what I believe it refers to is simply the act of someone else taking their turn... and therefore doesn't really need its own word and certainly that word shouldn't be used to low-key insult your fellow players (let alone the player who actually won now feels like crap).

It is taking a subjective expectation about how your opponents "should" act, and trying to impose an objective authority with it and crying when reality doesn't match with opinion.

The illusion of Kingmaking seems to be caused by an action's proximity to the final outcome, despite the fact an identical action taken ten turns earlier and with an identical impact on the final outcome is never accorded anything like the same level of importance.

We play games with people.

People are flawed, people are irrational, people are wonderful. Don't slam them for their mistakes and don't belittle games where people can affect the final outcome throughout as if it's a bad thing.

That's what these games are - we sit down and create an outcome together.

Just have fun, for goodness' sake**.

*Important note: I don't view this as "damage" at all, in fact, but that's the position of others.
**If you cannot have fun in these circumstances, may I introduce you to the hundreds of fantastic two player games out there where a resignation is actually often the most polite and acceptable end?
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