Kim Brebach
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I’d love some contextual opinions on this question. So here’s the context;

My latest design “Monstrous – the game of mythical smackdown” is a pretty light but tactical 15 minute dex game. It is an intentionally broad game for a 10+ audience and gamers looking for some quick combinational smackdown fun.

Greek gods (players) compete with each other to throw hordes of monsters at upstart human cities, sending them flooding back to the temples to generate the Faith which sustains the gods. There are all sorts of fun monster and location powers to use to mess with each other along the way, but ultimately the god who gains the most Faith wins Zeus’ favour and the game.

In 50+ playtests I recall perhaps 1 tie at most, and it not being a problem. But as Faith scores range from 5 to 25 its gonna happen sometimes.

Early feedback on my rules has seen some kindly game designers react negatively to the possibility of ties, before they have played or seen the game in context.

Because the game is intentionally light and quick, I’m personally fine with the possibilities of ties, and rematches. I have assumed others will be too. I also think it is thematically logical for Zeus to say ‘no clear winner means no god wins!’

But then, obscure countback victory conditions, that I never understood or factored into decisions while playing, have always failed to impress me (win or lose). I understand they matter more in longer games of course. But I worry that I’m atypical and am not seeing the importance of having a clear winner in even a light game’s design.

I have presumed that as games tend towards brevity and lightness it is more acceptable to have the possibility of ties. Am I wrong? I’ll certainly seek the opinions of those who shared their fears after they play…

So what are your gamer AND game designer opinions on this issue?
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Nathan Larsen
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I think it depends on the game. I don't mind ties sometimes, but there are times when a winner just makes more sense.
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Kim Brebach
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qiagen wrote:
Ties never bother me. I don't think a game ending in a tie is a bad thing - one should play to win, but ultimately the victor is not important; it's the experience that counts, surely?

It might be a cultural thing, though; football (as in soccer) games often end in draws, which I once heard is off-putting to Americans more used to (American) football? (please feel free to correct me). I don't know where Australian rules football factors into this (and I'm massively out of my depth here)...!


I'm with you and am not bothered at all by ties - unless someone kingmakered me into a tie - but its the kingmaking that bothers me then.

Sports mad Australians play 4 codes of football and all of them can have draws.

The feedback I had about a distaste for ties in game wins were from 2 Australians though.

So while there may be cultural dispositions towards draws influenced by sports, I'm not sure we can extrapolate to games.
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Jeremy Lennert
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If ties become too common, then the game can feel predictable, and it may indicate that your scoring system is not granular enough (since it's not doing its job of determining who played best). But I wouldn't worry about 1 tie out of 50 games.

Most victory-point-based games have at least some chance of a tie (or avoid it only by breaking ties in a way that has nothing to do with gameplay, such as by chance or by who went first).
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Jeremy Lennert
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qiagen wrote:
It might be a cultural thing, though; football (as in soccer) games often end in draws, which I once heard is off-putting to Americans more used to (American) football? (please feel free to correct me). I don't know where Australian rules football factors into this (and I'm massively out of my depth here)...!

I'm not a sports person, but the complaint I've heard about soccer was not that it has too many ties, but that it has too few goals. I particularly remember one person complaining about a high percentage of games ending either 0-0 or 1-0.
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Karl
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Never understood the necessity of tiebreakers in games. Especially multi layered ones. If both players are on equal fields today then let them be. Why this obsession on one particular winner, even for long games?
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Alan
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When I watch sports, I am just warching. I have no influence over the score, judge, players, tatical stuff and soon.
When I play, I can change everything, and honestly, I hate draws. I don t care if I win or lose, but ties make me angry. It feels like playing for nothing.
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Sturv Tafvherd
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I'll put it this way: I don't like ties in TicTacToe. Yes, i admit, that's a strawman example. The point is: if the game ends up with more tied-up situations than winners/losers, then it starts to become not-fun.

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Steve Zagieboylo
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I prefer there be a tie-breaker rule, but only if it 'makes sense.' That is, it should be something that relates to points, and the players are likely optimizing for, or else something that means the points were harder won.

In the first case, cards/tokens that are available to play but didn't yet make a meld represent potential points that likely would have been scored on a subsequent turn. Or number of workers in a worker placement game represents more future scoring potential. etc.

In the second case, suppose that each score is roughly the same difficulty to make, but the amount of the score includes a luck factor, then the tiebreaker could be the number of scores, if it is still known. The one who scores the same amount in fewer scores just was luckier.

However, tie-breakers that are just arbitrary, based on something no one would even care about while playing the game (other than rules wonks who knew it would come up as a tie-breaker) are, IMHO, just annoying. I'd rather have a tie.
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Jay Treat
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Whether a game should allow ties depends primarily on the expectations the theme and mechanics set. In a friendly game where we all just want to score as much as possible, ties make perfect sense. In a cutthroat game with tiebreakers in mid-game actions, an end-game tie is a slap in the face.

If your game is light, ties are probably fine. If the theme of the game is to be the most worshiped god, a tie doesn't tell a satisfying story.

A final consideration is how awkward the tiebreakers are. If you can name one tiebreaker that will always break the tie (and it's predictable to players, because it's a good alternate measure of their success), that's great. If your tiebreaker requires a system of if-then statements or a formula, it's probably not worth it. Worst of all is a tiebreaker that can still leave the game in a tie after it's resolved.
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Glen Dresser
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I think the appropriateness of ties is also based on transparency of game state. In chess, for example, the game state is totally visible to both players, both should have an idea of who has the advantage, and so a draw is going to feel like a victory for the player who was losing and a defeat for the player who was winning. A game in which a losing player can play for the tie is okay, but what you don't want is something where a losing player can play for a tie-scenario and then win on a tie-breaker technicality. You wouldn't want to give chess a tiebreaker that black wins to make up for first-move advantage (because then black could play for a draw the whole game).

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Jon Moffat
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I don't mind ties all that much, but in my experience many players will interpret it as being tantamount to a loss.
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John-Paul Treen
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In light games it shouldn't matter at all.

I think it's possible that games designers see a game that generates too many ties as inelegant, and tie-breakers as kludges to smooth over cracks. I disagree with that. Sometimes a tie is the right result.
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Jason D. Kingsley
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I recently revisited this for Ophir. It's light enough for some to be considered a family game and ties aren't common, so I wondered whether or not a shared win would be more appropriate. Ultimately, the decision came down to the fact that having a clear winner gave more meaning to the last few decisions of the game.

So, I'd guess it probably depends on the game and whether or not it makes sense in context to declare a tie.
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Kim Brebach
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jtreat wrote:
Whether a game should allow ties depends primarily on the expectations the theme and mechanics set. In a friendly game where we all just want to score as much as possible, ties make perfect sense. In a cutthroat game with tiebreakers in mid-game actions, an end-game tie is a slap in the face.

If your game is light, ties are probably fine. If the theme of the game is to be the most worshiped god, a tie doesn't tell a satisfying story.

A final consideration is how awkward the tiebreakers are. If you can name one tiebreaker that will always break the tie (and it's predictable to players, because it's a good alternate measure of their success), that's great. If your tiebreaker requires a system of if-then statements or a formula, it's probably not worth it. Worst of all is a tiebreaker that can still leave the game in a tie after it's resolved.


Great answers and varied perspectives so far. Thanks all. I agree with many of the sentiments expressed. And not so many 'I hate ties no matter what' answers as I expected. Is good.

In my game's context, winner ties are extremely rare. Zeus is thematically pitched as the judge over the god / players misery inducing Faith restoring efforts, and he expects the Gods to gain the most Faith by smacking down humans and each other's monsters along the way. Thematically I imagine him to not be interested in 'ifs and buts' excuses about ties, so I think I can make ties stand up themalogically.

Currently the rules state:

"If there is a tie, Zeus is displeased and orders the gods to play again until there is a clear winner. Zeus really hates count back victories and his word is final."

That's changeable of course...

The obvious thematically justifiable countback options (least cards in discard pile, deck ie the most monsters in play) can still result in ties. So that fails the 'no ties possible in tie breaker count backs' test laid out by several above.

I'm most interested in thematically justifiable fun.

One fun possibility (thanks packrat), is utilising the game's Kraken Tentacle cards (usually used when Releasing the Kraken! to spectacularly clear the board), to have the tied winners simultaneously dual out till Kraken Tentacles have discarded a differing number of tied god's monsters, thus changing the endgame Faith / victory calculations. I think this would be fun, at least for the tied gods, although it too has a mathematical possibility of ties if the Kraken is evenly destructive to tied god's monsters until there are none left.

Hrrrrn.

Might be no choice but to live with ties.
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John-Paul Treen
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I think ties are fine with your theme. Immortal gods have no need for tie breakers. Of course they fight again and fight on until there is a clear, glorious victor to write stories and sing songs about.
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