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Subject: Does a game always need a winner? rss

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Dan Andrew
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I'm hoping for some advice. I have been working on a card game and I really like the theme but the mechanics are causing me a headache. Part of the issue is the actions the cards encouraged were too limited and repetitive, which I need to rework. But the other issue the play testers had was that they didn't like the concept of not playing to win but playing to not be the person eliminated.

I'd thought this idea might cause tension in the game as you tried not to play the card that would eliminate you and end the game. Part of the mechanics I was aiming for was to encourage you to try and keep track of who had the card.

The game is suppose to be quick, like Love Letter and like that game I had worked out different longer games that would allow you to play multiple hands to work towards an ultimate winner.

Does anyone know of any games with similar mechanics? Do all games have to have winner?
 
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Bruce Gazdecki
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I think if you have a way to "win" it's not a big deal, a la RoboRally.

If all you are doing is trying to avoid not losing, then yah, it is not quite as fun IMO.
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Mario Lanza
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See Pairs. There's just one loser.

I think a game is valid as long as it is fun and there is some winning goal (e.g. we've succeeded at accomplishing what we set out to accomplish -- that is, not to be eliminated).

Even games like Apples to Apples which are arguably just the glue of a social gathering will appeal more to some if there's some target, even if people don't take it all that seriously.
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Philip Becker
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I think playing to not be eliminated can totally be fun if you can actively knock players out and protect yourself. I mean if that's your game, make it fun to do THAT, don't let it be a side effect.
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Paul DeStefano
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DungeonQuest rarely has a winner...
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Sturv Tafvherd
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Koldfoot wrote:
Your game has been played and loved by millions. It's called Old Maid.


I know another one: Hearts.

Yes, the game does have a winner (the guy who scored the least points).

But in my game circle for Hearts, we didn't care who won. Each of us were more concerned that we wouldn't be the player who scored more than 100 (which is when the game ends).

edit, added link to Hearts
 
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Mike Jones
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If you ask my daughter "co-ops are stupid, if it doesn't have a tie breaker and allows sharing of victory it's a co-op. There must me a winner!"

On the other hand, my favorite game is Nuclear War
 
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Kevin Garnica
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High Society sort of has that mechanic...

It's an auction game, and at the end of the game, the person who has securely won the most points wins. However, the person who ended up spending the most money throughout the course of the game is eliminated outright and doesn't even have a chance at being the winner. This means that the person with the ACTUAL most points could very well be the person who spent the most money - in which case the "second place" player is the winner.
 
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Greg
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Have you looked at Alcatraz: The Scapegoat. It gets away with it by being a coop game that gets you to balance between trying to cooperatively win while avoiding being the scapegoat.
 
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Stijn Hommes
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Funatorium wrote:
But the other issue the play testers had was that they didn't like the concept of not playing to win but playing to not be the person eliminated.
A concept like that is perfectly valid. Heck, in "Werewolves" you play to win, but people tend to play to avoid their elimination as well.

How many different playtesting groups did you have? It might just be that the limited group of players you asked isn't into it, but that doesn't invalidate your idea. Get more data from other people.
 
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Russ Williams
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Another example of a game where there is simply a sole loser Cockroach Poker.


A potential problem with such games is that if one player starts to fall behind, that player becomes an obvious target: the other players have clear incentive to hurt that one losing player more ("the poor get poorer") to ensure that they themselves won't end up the loser.

I.e. once one player is losing, it's in everyone else's interest to cooperate and end the game quickly, preserving the current pecking order.

So the game should be quick and light. Or there should be no way to directly affect other players significantly (but then it's potentially boring "simultaneous solitaire").

===

pacman88k wrote:
High Society sort of has that mechanic...

It's an auction game, and at the end of the game, the person who has securely won the most points wins. However, the person who ended up spending the most money throughout the course of the game is eliminated outright and doesn't even have a chance at being the winner. This means that the person with the ACTUAL most points could very well be the person who spent the most money - in which case the "second place" player is the winner.

Hmm? But there is still a unique winner. You're playing to be the unique winner; you're not playing to avoid being the sole loser.
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Jake Staines
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Guantanamo wrote:
There must me a winner!


Freudian slip? :3
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Dan Andrew
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Erluti wrote:
I think playing to not be eliminated can totally be fun if you can actively knock players out and protect yourself. I mean if that's your game, make it fun to do THAT, don't let it be a side effect.


Thanks for the great responses.

Erluti, I think you're spot on. I think the problem with my game is that it's focused on trying not to get eliminated but there should be the fun dynamic of trying to eliminate others as well.

I'll check out the games you've all mentioned. I've heard of Old Maid but never played it.
 
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S. R.
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One game you could look at more closely would be Aye, Dark Overlord! The Red Box. One could argue that it is not really a game, but it is a heck of a lot of fun. The idea is that one player (the "Dark Overlord") has sent his minions to do something, and they fudged it up big-time. Now it's all about who's to blame, and shifting blame back and forth, until one cannot weasel out from under the dread gaze, and gains the Evil Eye. Gaining the Evil Eye thrice will make you the loser.
Apart from a certain situation where you cannot shift blame anymore (happens quite often), the game is totally unfair and unbalanced. Oh, and the Overlord can hand out his stare if he deems it appropriate (whatever that means).
It is also more a storytelling game than an actual game itself...

...but the whole is absolutely hilarious, and filled with so much Schadenfreude, and creativity, and fun...

This might be very far from what you are aiming at, but it goes to show that a game where NOT BEING THE LOSER is the sole, the single thing, can be absolute fun.
 
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Corsaire
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The all time classic would be Russian Roulette.

No one's ever complained about losing at it.

I wouldn't disregard your playtesters. But testers may not understand the root of their dissatisfaction and point to a standout feature.
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Oh you seekers of the new who run terrified from history into the clutches of an eternal life where no electric shaver can be built to last.
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    A game needs a goal and the ability to obtain both a successful and an unsuccessful result. "Winning" is a fine goal, but there can be others. Couched appropriately I think your approach is valid, but you may need to manage your users' expectations with the game's thematic elements.

             S.


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Oh you seekers of the new who run terrified from history into the clutches of an eternal life where no electric shaver can be built to last.
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Corsaire wrote:

No one's ever complained about losing at [Russian Roulette].


    This can be read two ways by the way.

             S.


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Koen Hendrix
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A lot of 'pub games' tend to have a single loser -- usually someone with the least or most point after multiple rounds -- the idea being that the loser has to pay the drinks.

Another famous single-loser example: Jenga.

I think the benefit of your system (as compared to keep-eliminating-players-until-just-one-is-left) is that there's no downtime for eliminated players; just start a new round. Everyone is always playing.

That said, to keep the tension in your game, I think it's important that multiple players can be on the brink of elimination together. That way, even if you're close to elimination, you might still escape. If there's just one 'death' card that goes around, it's too on/off. Ideally I'd want everyone gradually progressing towards death, and simultaneously struggling to stay at the back of the crowd, if you know what I mean.
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S. R.
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Jumping on Khendrix's approach - how about you make the players accumulate "stains" or someting. And only if they have a certain amount of stains can they suffer from the death card...

This way, there is more competition, more screwing over different player, while a single player cannot get kicked out that easily by chance.
Now, without knowing anything about the game, I don't know if that would in any way fit your system, so might be I just suggested something absolutely stupid...
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Glen Dresser
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I think there can be a lot of problematic design concerns with playing to not lose, but nothing that can't be overcome with good design. I can imagine it being a really intense and fun experience. This is sort of related to an issue I'm working on in one of my games so I've been thinking about it a lot lately.

A couple concerns are... how easy is it for players to understand everyone else's position? How easy is it for players to work together? You don't typically want a situation where players can identify and go after the weakest player... it would suck to already be losing and then have everyone go after you.

On the other hand, a situation where losing players are more powerful can balance this out, or at least the losing player should have some serious options to turn the tables. If I'm the losing player, I'd be satisfied if I felt like I was really close to jumping into an advantageous position but made an error in judgement; if, at the end of the game I feel like my fate was sealed due to an early mistake or bad luck, I'd be pissed off at the game.
 
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Joe Mucchiello
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Chess can end in a draw. If it's a good enough result for such a well-known, frequently played game, it can work for you too.

How about Diplomacy where you can have shared victories with distinct losers as well?
 
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Brook Gentlestream
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As long as the game doesn't end in a draw, I'm fine with it. Your game sounds fine.
 
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Pablo Schulman
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I don't have a problem with a game where there is only a loser, but I suppose it depends on the game and the players. I can see it working in a quick, light game.

Have you ever tried playing it "last man standing" style i.e. when a player loses he is out, and game keeps going until there's a winner?
 
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Dan Andrew
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Dumon wrote:
One game you could look at more closely would be Aye, Dark Overlord! The Red Box. One could argue that it is not really a game, but it is a heck of a lot of fun. The idea is that one player (the "Dark Overlord") has sent his minions to do something, and they fudged it up big-time. Now it's all about who's to blame, and shifting blame back and forth, until one cannot weasel out from under the dread gaze, and gains the Evil Eye. Gaining the Evil Eye thrice will make you the loser.
Apart from a certain situation where you cannot shift blame anymore (happens quite often), the game is totally unfair and unbalanced. Oh, and the Overlord can hand out his stare if he deems it appropriate (whatever that means).
It is also more a storytelling game than an actual game itself...

...but the whole is absolutely hilarious, and filled with so much Schadenfreude, and creativity, and fun...

This might be very far from what you are aiming at, but it goes to show that a game where NOT BEING THE LOSER is the sole, the single thing, can be absolute fun.


Dumon, that sounds related to the theme I had. In the game I'm working on each of the players try to avoid being sent to their death and have one of the other players be sent on the mission instead. I'm still trying to decide whether to make it about Redshirts in a Trek-like universe or the Henchmen of an Evil Genius or Super Villain, any genre where the players would be expendable background characters. I've been calling the game Expendable.

Will check out Aye, Dark Overlord.
 
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Jason Gough
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As long as the game is FUN. FUN is the important ingredient.

You could have alternate rules, (house rules).

Maybe you continue to eliminate in the same way until there is only one player.

Maybe once the first player is eliminated whoever has the most points or some other type of determining facter wins.
 
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