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Subject: The 'Everybody Loses' Mechanic rss

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Ian Taylor
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What do people think about (non cooperative) games where, if a certain condition is met, everybody loses?

I first encountered this mechanic playing Chrononauts over 10 years ago. At first I thought it was quite cool, but in practice it never quite worked. Board games (and board gamers) are competitive by nature and whenever we played this game, it seemed like the preference of results for each player (me included) was always:

1. I win (best outcome)
2. Nobody wins
3. Somebody other than me wins (worst outcome)

So once it was clear someone was about to win, or someone felt they couldn't win, often the timeline would be disrupted just enough so that everybody lost. I'm pretty sure this is not the behaviour the designer envisaged when they created this mechanic.

Now, fast-forward to the present day, I have heard a number of reviews of games where this mechanic has been employed. Sometimes, like with Chrononauts, it is put into a competitive game as an alternate game end condition. Other times it is a more overt 'semi-coop' where the players are encouraged to cooperate... except that at the end, if the collective goal is achieved, one person wins. While on the surface this seems completely different, in practice it seems nearly identical to the Chrononauts case. I imagine if we played this a lot of people would rather lose the whole scenario than complete it but with another person taking the win.

What are other people's experiences with this mechanic? Do you like or dislike it in general? How does your game group usually generally react to concepts of group loss versus individual loss?
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Steve B
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I love it. For example, Zombicide, which is definitely one of my top 3 games (Twilight Struggle, Combat Commander, and Zombicide would be tied for first) uses this mechanic in many scenarios. For example, if a scenario says "all survivors must reach the exit zone", and then one of your buddies gets killed, then all of you have lost. Great mechanic. Encourages everyone to be really attentive to each other and just adds a bit of tension.
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Andi Hub
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bradelli wrote:
I love it. For example, Zombicide, which is definitely one of my top 3 games (Twilight Struggle, Combat Commander, and Zombicide would be tied for first) uses this mechanic in many scenarios. For example, if a scenario says "all survivors must reach the exit zone", and then one of your buddies gets killed, then all of you have lost. Great mechanic. Encourages everyone to be really attentive to each other and just adds a bit of tension.

But Zombicide is a cooperative game to begin with, so there cannot be a single winner. What you mention is just a losing condition in a coop game.

I have only played CO₂ and Archipelago, which have this kind of Semi-coop element. In my plays of CO2 there was never the need of cooperating, since the pollution was well below the threshold. In Archipelago we always played with getting VPs for helping. It worked, but I am not especially fond of the mechanic in general. Without any reward, it may happen that players earlier in turn order do nothing and force the last player to spend resources and save all. I would hate that.

I think you can play semi-coops only semi-competitive. By that I mean you have to value "an opponent wins" higher than "all lose" and also once in a while contribute to the greater good, even if this puts you in a worse position to anyone else. If this is not your cup of tea, stay away from this mechanic. I certainly would play such games only once in a while.

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Kris Van Beurden
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It works great in The Republic of Rome.

I love this mechanic - having to work together just good enough to keep Rome alive, but still draining as much of its treasury into your own pockets & making your own senators the bigwigs of Rome.
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Steve
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I also love this setup in Republic of Rome. I think the conflict comes in the perception that "Nobody Wins" is a better outcome than "Somebody else wins."

Better a Roman Citizen under a tyrant, than a the victim of a barbarian pillage.

If you can see "Somebody else wins" as better than "Nobody wins" then this game works great.

[edit]And to further develop this point. If you play with a group with members from the two different perspectives, someone's going to be horribly disappointed.
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Kris Van Beurden
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slashing wrote:
I also love this setup in Republic of Rome. I think the conflict comes in the perception that "Nobody Wins" is a better outcome than "Somebody else wins."

Better a Roman Citizen under a tyrant, than a the victim of a barbarian pillage.

If you can see "Somebody else wins" as better than "Nobody wins" then this game works great.

[edit]And to further develop this point. If you play with a group with members from the two different perspectives, someone's going to be horribly disappointed.


Oh, no, the interesting thing is that how better the game is going for you, the more you need to invest to keep Rome alive. If you are on track for consul for life, you'll pay through the nose to bribe the other players around my table to organize enough legions to hold down the barbarians. Yeah, we lesser parties want Rome to survive, but we also want a bigger slice of the cake (Then again, we once discussed 30 minutes over the initial Censor proposal of the game)
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Michael Hovan
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Divided Republic has this mechanism - if no one wins the election of 1860 outright, civil war occurs and all lose. It forces each to go for it. I like the game.
 
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Chris L
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Cutthroat Caverns has this mechanic and it's inherent in the design of the game. It creates the tension requiring that you cooperate enough to have someone survive, but not so much that you risk other players winning.
 
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Bryan Thunkd
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I don't really care for the semi-coop mechanic. I played a game of Archepelago where it was pretty clear that one of two people were going to win... when it looked like player x had a slight advantage, player y tanked the game so that everybody lost.
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Enrico Viglino
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piemasteruk wrote:
What do people think about (non cooperative) games where, if a certain condition is met, everybody loses?


I like them, but not particularly in this format:


Quote:
1. I win (best outcome)
2. Nobody wins
3. Somebody other than me wins (worst outcome)


I prefer the 'everybody loses' to be a worse fate than someone else winning.
Basically by doing so, they can serve to depress the tendency towards
binary win/loss dynamics which occur far too often in gamers' minds.
Most real-life situations do not mimic that kind of gameplay paradigm -
usually a person is out for themselves, BUT not at the cost of ruining
the world for everyone else.
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Enrico Viglino
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slashing wrote:
I also love this setup in Republic of Rome. I think the conflict comes in the perception that "Nobody Wins" is a better outcome than "Somebody else wins."

Better a Roman Citizen under a tyrant, than a the victim of a barbarian pillage.

If you can see "Somebody else wins" as better than "Nobody wins" then this game works great.

[edit]And to further develop this point. If you play with a group with members from the two different perspectives, someone's going to be horribly disappointed.


Actually, taken from the other perspective, the best move might be to
destroy Rome's chances from the very beginning, in order to lessen your
chance of a bad showing. Generally, if someone sees it as a draw, it's
far too likely that everyone will lose.

The rules define two states - winning and losing. Since losing is only
defined as what happens when Rome falls, it strikes me that there is
a third state (which exists in all games until conclusion anyhow), and
that fits your (and my) perception of how bad the actual situation is
for Roman citizens.
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Michael Weber
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Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game offers this mechanism. Either or all player loose by being defeated by the system or one player (tchnically) wins by the amount of VPs he collected. There is no mechanism in the game that allows a player to deliberately pull the trigger so that everybody looses.

Zombie State: Diplomacy of the Dead kinda offers the mechanism in question as well. Either one player wins by keeping his territory clean of Zombies or, if the mutation markers reaches 15, the game ends as well as the mutation virus goes airborne and there is no hope left for mankind. Now, there will technicallx still be a winner by the exact phrasing of the rules, but it does not feel like winning at all...

Alcatraz: The Scapegoat is a very special contender in this category. In this game ALL but ONE player have to escape from the prison. So in this game you have either one player LOOSING or all players loosing (if noone escapes in time). A fantastic wheeling and dealing game
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Ian Taylor
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calandale wrote:
piemasteruk wrote:
What do people think about (non cooperative) games where, if a certain condition is met, everybody loses?


I like them, but not particularly in this format:


Quote:
1. I win (best outcome)
2. Nobody wins
3. Somebody other than me wins (worst outcome)


I prefer the 'everybody loses' to be a worse fate than someone else winning.


Absolutely, I am certain that was the mindset that the designers of such games hope players will adopt when playing. And judging by the responses in this thread so far, it seems some people at least are able to achieve that. And I try to when I play, but I just can't help it. A group win with one player 'winning more' just doesn't feel like a win, no matter how much I want it to. And it can feel more like a loss than when everybody loses.

Quote:
Basically by doing so, they can serve to depress the tendency towards
binary win/loss dynamics which occur far too often in gamers' minds.
Most real-life situations do not mimic that kind of gameplay paradigm -
usually a person is out for themselves, BUT not at the cost of ruining
the world for everyone else.


It's these very same thoughts which give me so much cognitive dissonance on the subject. In real life I consider myself very much a team player. At work I frequently help people out with things so they can get credit for something. And I get a lot of satisfaction from doing so. I just can't translate that mindset to the gaming table.

I guess there are a lot more dynamics in play in real life. If you improve someone's life at little cost to yourself it feels good. And, more selfishly, maybe you hope that they will similarly help you in the future, or mention to other people what a great and unselfish guy you are. I honestly don't know, these are things that you compute subconsciously when making these decisions. Board games, on the other hand are more of a closed system, with only a few binary variables. Regular games, you either win or you lose. Coops (which I have no problem with) you either all win or all lose. This idea of a 'sort-of-win' doesn't really compute that well with me.
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Emile de Maat
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I've created a list of games that feature such a rule: We Will All Go Together When We Go.

In general, I like the mechanism. I don't like it when a single player can pull the plug and make everyone lose. I think it works when it is employed as a catch-up mechanism: the players that are doing well have the biggest interest in keeping the game alive. So, they have the burden of saving it, giving the players that are behind a chance to catch up.

slashing wrote:
I also love this setup in Republic of Rome. I think the conflict comes in the perception that "Nobody Wins" is a better outcome than "Somebody else wins."

Better a Roman Citizen under a tyrant, than a the victim of a barbarian pillage.

If you can see "Somebody else wins" as better than "Nobody wins" then this game works great.


I try to see the game as having two outcomes (for me):
- I win; or
- I lose.
So, "somebody else wins" is on the same level as "nobody wins" - I lose. So, when I am losing badly, I won't go out of my way to prevent everybody from losing (because it doesn't alter the outcome for me). But I won't try to tank the game either, because that doesn't alter the outcome for me either.
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J M
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I suppose that if the "I win less than they do" aspect isn't appealing, then maybe games can go the other way too- "We all lose, but you (who helped the least) lose biggest."
 
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Darrell Hanning
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calandale wrote:
slashing wrote:
I also love this setup in Republic of Rome. I think the conflict comes in the perception that "Nobody Wins" is a better outcome than "Somebody else wins."

Better a Roman Citizen under a tyrant, than a the victim of a barbarian pillage.

If you can see "Somebody else wins" as better than "Nobody wins" then this game works great.

[edit]And to further develop this point. If you play with a group with members from the two different perspectives, someone's going to be horribly disappointed.


Actually, taken from the other perspective, the best move might be to
destroy Rome's chances from the very beginning, in order to lessen your
chance of a bad showing. Generally, if someone sees it as a draw, it's
far too likely that everyone will lose.

The rules define two states - winning and losing. Since losing is only
defined as what happens when Rome falls, it strikes me that there is
a third state (which exists in all games until conclusion anyhow), and
that fits your (and my) perception of how bad the actual situation is
for Roman citizens.


Granted, my memories of my playings of RoR are fuzzy now (having last played it 8 years ago), but my overall impression of the game has always been that someone becoming a certainty to win doesn't happen until a) you get ahead of the "power curve" of barbarian invasions, and b) only shortly before they do, in fact, win the game. That is, it's pretty wide open for each player (assuming roughly equal competence in the game for all players) in this game - fortunes can swing quickly (assassination and death in combat can do that). As Enrico points out, if you're so sure you're not going to win, and thus are in favor of Rome falling, then you should be doing that at the earliest opportunity, so everyone can start playing something else that much sooner.

Taken from another tack, any 3-player game of a strategic-level, WWII game covering the European Theater is going to have a western Allies player, an Axis player, and a Soviet player.

Obviously, both the Soviets and western Allies must defeat the Axis to win. Who does better of the two usually hinges on their individual degree of success against their common foe.

And yet for all the times, in several decades, in which I have played just such games, I have never once watched someone as either the western Allies or the Soviet player "throw" the game in favor of the Axis, because they felt that they couldn't be the ultimate winner. I guess you have to be of a mindset that is faithful to the game being played, or you essentially hose the entire experience for everyone, and that's being pretty selfish.

Fortunately, I tend to play with a mature group of gamers, who don't put personal victory in games above everyone having a good time. There have been such in our group at one time or another, but we've always weeded them out.

If you can't wholeheartedly embrace a game's premise or intent (such as everyone cooperating to the point that somebody can win), then you have no business playing that game with others.
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Ian Taylor
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DarrellKH wrote:

Taken from another tack, any 3-player game of a strategic-level, WWII game covering the European Theater is going to have a western Allies player, an Axis player, and a Soviet player.

Obviously, both the Soviets and western Allies must defeat the Axis to win. Who does better of the two usually hinges on their individual degree of success against their common foe.

And yet for all the times, in several decades, in which I have played just such games, I have never once watched someone as either the western Allies or the Soviet player "throw" the game in favor of the Axis, because they felt that they couldn't be the ultimate winner.


The massive difference here being the Axis is actually a player.
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This was very well used in an old card game called Nuclear War. The first time we played it, I blew up the world, proving no one wins in a nuclear war.
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Darrell Hanning
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piemasteruk wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:

Taken from another tack, any 3-player game of a strategic-level, WWII game covering the European Theater is going to have a western Allies player, an Axis player, and a Soviet player.

Obviously, both the Soviets and western Allies must defeat the Axis to win. Who does better of the two usually hinges on their individual degree of success against their common foe.

And yet for all the times, in several decades, in which I have played just such games, I have never once watched someone as either the western Allies or the Soviet player "throw" the game in favor of the Axis, because they felt that they couldn't be the ultimate winner.


The massive difference here being the Axis is actually a player.


How is that different? In either case (player or non-player), throwing the game requires one of the two players facing that faction to consider that if they can't win, then it's okay to throw the game.
 
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Hilaryg wrote:
This was very well used in an old card game called Nuclear War. The first time we played it, I blew up the world, proving no one wins in a nuclear war.


Actually, what you proved was that nobody wins when playing the card game, Nuclear War, with you.
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Ian Taylor
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DarrellKH wrote:

How is that different? In either case (player or non-player), throwing the game requires one of the two players facing that faction to consider that if they can't win, then it's okay to throw the game.


Well unless I'm misunderstanding the game, this is a three-player game where one of the three players will win right? So if you're playing the Soviets, barring out-of-game influences, you have no reason to want the guy playing the Axis to win over the guy playing the Western Allies. Either you buy into the concept of the semi co-op - in which case you would consider a WA win preferable to an Axis win. Or you don't - in which case either scenario represents you losing and 'someone else' winning, neither of which is preferable to the other. So what reason would anybody have to throw the game?
 
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I guess I'm glad some people like this sort of thing, because designers sure enjoy doing it, but I hate it. Nothing is more dissatisfying than a competitive game that produces a wipe out. It makes the whole experience feel like a waste of time. Worst offender: Kingsburg: To Forge a Realm, in which a totally random card draw can just kill the game. It's about the same as if the dog knocked the board off the table and we had to start over.
 
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Joe Salamone
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I thought the "everybody loses" mechanic was when a highly-anticipated game becomes available, gamers trample each other to buy a copy for $59.99, the game ends up getting an average rating of 5.5 on BGG, and a year later all the online retailers are selling it for $19.99.



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piemasteruk wrote:
What do people think about (non cooperative) games where, if a certain condition is met, everybody loses?

I first encountered this mechanic playing Chrononauts over 10 years ago. At first I thought it was quite cool, but in practice it never quite worked. Board games (and board gamers) are competitive by nature and whenever we played this game, it seemed like the preference of results for each player (me included) was always:

1. I win (best outcome)
2. Nobody wins
3. Somebody other than me wins (worst outcome)



The mechanic isn't broken. The players are.

Look at it this way. It's relatively easy to prevent one particular player from winning in most euro games, if you start with that as your goal. However, if Bob always plays game X so that Joe loses, the problem is not with game X, but with Bob. Maybe Bob is a small child, who needs to learn gaming etiquette. Maybe Bob is an adult who never learned certain basic aspects of social maturity.

This is the same thing. If you play an everybody loses game, you must inculcate in yourselves the idea that everybody loses is worse than someone else winning. If you can't do that, you should point out, out loud, to the group that you, as players, are broken, or at least not mature enough to play this game. Then you can ask what you can do to fix yourselves.
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Paul Aceto
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FYI - Mark Herman is finalizing play-testing on Churchill which has this very mechanic. The players are Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, and if they don't cooperate enough to defeat the Axis they all lose. I participated in one play test and was very impressed with the design.

Mark also has a very good design blog on the game: http://www.e-markherman.com/blog/

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