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Subject: Angst of Multiplayer Wargames. rss

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suPUR DUEper
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Hey All,

I loooove playing Here I Stand. I want to love the COIN series. The asymmetric methods and strategies available to each participant is quite appealing.

Problem is, the more I play these games, the more.... um, unsettled I feel.

In a two player game, when I play well, it is usually at the expense of the other player's position. I get stronger, he gets weaker.

In the multiplayer games, if I do well and start to break from the pack, the pack has this really annoying habit of reeling the leader back in.

It seems in COIN and HIS, if you are playing with competent (or at least equal and aware) players, what ends up happening is a subset of players gradually gets in range of the victory marker and then fate decides the winner (i.e. the person who goes right before a propaganda card or the guy who holds Copernicus, etc.). Your strategy becomes one of being eligible to win versus winning. Does that make sense?

Maybe my history as a WWII gamer is getting in the way here. Grind the opponent into dust was the order of the day in WWII. HIS and COIN are different (it seems). In those games, you aren't going for a domination win, you are going for a timing victory. It is hard to be dominant because the pack will always drag you down....

So maybe I don't like "timing" games as much as I think I do....

Thoughts?
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Russ Williams
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Agreed, though I'd generalize it to most interactive games, not just wargames.

Besides the timing & "bash the leader" effect you mentioned, there's also the (to me more serious) problem that in a 2-player game, if you make a stupid move you only hurt yourself - fair enough! - but in a multi-player game, when you accidentally shoot yourself in the foot, you can also hurt some other "innocent victim" as "collateral damage" at the same time, leaving a 3rd player to profit and win through no particular skill of their own.
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Mark D
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In HiS, I think your forgetting about Diplomacy. There was one guy I played with a good amount who was able to continually convince the group that someone else was an eminent threat. If your going in with the idea of just grinding down your opponents and strengthening your own position, your going to get ganged up on.

Instead look to sometimes help out other players, even one ally can be very helpful in HiS. Most of the combat modifying cards can be played by anyone (sorry if I'm remembering this wrong). Someone who thinks you've helped them and will help them in the future might be willing to put up a 1 or 2 ops card to help you out.

Also if your being ganged up on, try to convince some of the minor partners of the alliance that they have nothing to gain from you being obliterated.

The same probably goes for most multi-player games. There's a certain diplomacy at the table, and if people just think your out to grind them down and win the game, they'll probably be less willing to not jump in on you.
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James
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There aren't really any winners in A Distant Plain. Morally, anyway.
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WebBard wrote:
In HiS, I think your forgetting about Diplomacy. There was one guy I played with a good amount who was able to continually convince the group that someone else was an eminent threat. If your going in with the idea of just grinding down your opponents and strengthening your own position, your going to get ganged up on.

Instead look to sometimes help out other players, even one ally can be very helpful in HiS. Most of the combat modifying cards can be played by anyone (sorry if I'm remembering this wrong). Someone who thinks you've helped them and will help them in the future might be willing to put up a 1 or 2 ops card to help you out.

Also if your being ganged up on, try to convince some of the minor partners of the alliance that they have nothing to gain from you being obliterated.

The same probably goes for most multi-player games. There's a certain diplomacy at the table, and if people just think your out to grind them down and win the game, they'll probably be less willing to not jump in on you.



Very important points above.

The games work great when you have engaged players trying to out car sales each other - a competitive Auction like atmosphere is the key to get the most out of them.

"Hey, if the Ottomans get this card and based on where he is, you better be ready."

"better watch you Ally over there, he is about to score a win"

"Man, them Frogs look threatening. We can't let them win."

"Look, you want some easy VPs; they left that wide open!"

"Just saying, you know, for the sake of better play."

"Oh Jeesh, I just won!"
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Michael Taylor
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Ted,

Not to be picky, but I'm not sure if any of them are really wargames. Wargame-like, I guess.

For HIS, I ink its more about the game experience, honestly, then about the winner. Seems likea losers point of view, I guess, but the game is just a really good time.

COIN games seem more like a worker placement game to me, with some wargame like elements. Think about when we've played Struggle of Empires. Not the same result as what you describe above. Maybe that's the mechanism of the game, though.

We need to get some wargames to the table.

Mike.
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Ron A
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A couple if items...

As others have mentioned, when playing something like COIN, you've got to act like you're playing Diplomacy. Yes, you're going to face 'stop the leader' coalitions, so you need to derail those. If you can get 2 other players fighting each other, you can ask one of them for help to foil their "main" enemy.

If you're really not into the whole 'diplomacy' type of multiplayer game, why not try a more team based multiplayer game? Something like It Never Snows, or Close Action (definitely a non-exhaustive list), where it isn't every person for themselves.
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TedW wrote:
..... if you are playing with competent (or at least equal and aware) players, what ends up happening is a subset of players gradually gets in range of the victory marker and then fate decides the winner (i.e. the person who goes right before a propaganda card .....


This certainly sums up my impression of the two games of 'A Distant Plain' that I have played. As it is very difficult to force a win against the entire table you are simply trying to remain in contention for a victory and hoping that the cards will deliver the opportunity for a final push across the line that the others are not presented with the ability to stop. There is obviously some skill in taking actions that keep you in contention to be able to take the opportunity but the crossing of the finish line feels a bit random.

I didn't think HiS was quite so bad in this regard, although I did have other issues with the game, as the geography means that not everyone can get at everyone to be able to haul them back, unlike in ADP where it's nearly always possible for any faction to hurt another faction in some way.

I'm hoping that 'Fire in the Lake' is better suited for 2-players which will avoid the problem as I quite liked ADP in concept.

for me Successors has been the best multi-player wargame I've played - like HiS the geography partly prevents the whole table being able to actively drag you back but it avoids the other issues I have with HiS.
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SBGrad wrote:

A couple if items...

As others have mentioned, when playing something like COIN, you've got to act like you're playing Diplomacy. Yes, you're going to face 'stop the leader' coalitions, so you need to derail those. If you can get 2 other players fighting each other, you can ask one of them for help to foil their "main" enemy.

If you're really not into the whole 'diplomacy' type of multiplayer game, why not try a more team based multiplayer game? Something like It Never Snows, or Close Action (definitely a non-exhaustive list), where it isn't every person for themselves.


I would throw Angola into the good multi player wargame mix.
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suPUR DUEper
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Wilhammer wrote:
WebBard wrote:
In HiS, I think your forgetting about Diplomacy. There was one guy I played with a good amount who was able to continually convince the group that someone else was an eminent threat. If your going in with the idea of just grinding down your opponents and strengthening your own position, your going to get ganged up on.

Instead look to sometimes help out other players, even one ally can be very helpful in HiS. Most of the combat modifying cards can be played by anyone (sorry if I'm remembering this wrong). Someone who thinks you've helped them and will help them in the future might be willing to put up a 1 or 2 ops card to help you out.

Also if your being ganged up on, try to convince some of the minor partners of the alliance that they have nothing to gain from you being obliterated.

The same probably goes for most multi-player games. There's a certain diplomacy at the table, and if people just think your out to grind them down and win the game, they'll probably be less willing to not jump in on you.



Very important points above.

The games work great when you have engaged players trying to out car sales each other - a competitive Auction like atmosphere is the key to get the most out of them.

"Hey, if the Ottomans get this card and based on where he is, you better be ready."

"better watch you Ally over there, he is about to score a win"

"Man, them Frogs look threatening. We can't let them win."

"Look, you want some easy VPs; they left that wide open!"

"Just saying, you know, for the sake of better play."

"Oh Jeesh, I just won!"


Well, I tried to exclude the diplomacy thing with my original post by saying "competent" players (i.e. those who can see through diplomatic Jedi mind tricks.).

I think the COIN games illustrate the problems best. It is very difficult to strengthen your board position because as you do the other players put a beat down on you. Conversely, if you are playing bad, you tend to get ignored and can rehabilitate your position.

Maybe said a different way, the structure of the game tends to keep pulling everyone back to the mean. And I am not sure I like that "mechanic".
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suPUR DUEper
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gvchief wrote:
Ted,

Not to be picky, but I'm not sure if any of them are really wargames. Wargame-like, I guess.

For HIS, I ink its more about the game experience, honestly, then about the winner. Seems likea losers point of view, I guess, but the game is just a really good time.

COIN games seem more like a worker placement game to me, with some wargame like elements. Think about when we've played Struggle of Empires. Not the same result as what you describe above. Maybe that's the mechanism of the game, though.

We need to get some wargames to the table.

Mike.


Yeah, don't get me wrong, I love playing HIS. I just have this nagging feeling that the real object of the game is to get close to winning and hope for a timely surge. As opposed to a two player game (or more accurately a two sided game) where victory is more about breaking the enemy versus timing a win.

I agree about the more wargames thing. Unconditional Surrender, baby.
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Ron A
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TedW wrote:


Well, I tried to exclude the diplomacy thing with my original post by saying "competent" players (i.e. those who can see through diplomatic Jedi mind tricks.).

I think the COIN games illustrate the problems best. It is very difficult to strengthen your board position because as you do the other players put a beat down on you. Conversely, if you are playing bad, you tend to get ignored and can rehabilitate your position.

Maybe said a different way, the structure of the game tends to keep pulling everyone back to the mean. And I am not sure I like that "mechanic".


I've played a LOT of Diplomacy, and even with all sharks on the table, believe me, the Jedi mind tricks can, and do, still work. I'm not saying it is easy, but it happens. ...however, to be fair, Diplomacy has 7 players, so it is easier to cut one or 2 from the herd and bend them to your will. With only 4 players it will be harder to find somebody who has NO chance of winning (typically your best bets for finding Diplomacy puppets, minor allies) and will be receptive to your overtures.

It is hard, very hard work. As I said, if you main goal for a multiplayer game is to move forces and blow things up, switch to a full-on hex and counter wargame.
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Jim F
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This thread sums up why I'm not a big fan of 'multiplayer' games. However I really enjoy the larger wargames with more than one player a side, which I play quite regularly. Although there is some dependency on your team mates I like the camaraderie and teasing the opposition when things go wrong for them. It also means when you lose it feels a little less personal, taking what I call the 'memoirs' excuse. I was magnificent, shame about x being a bit of a bungler
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Quote:
Well, I tried to exclude the diplomacy thing with my original post by saying "competent" players (i.e. those who can see through diplomatic Jedi mind tricks.).


Diplomacy requires competence - I prefer to surround myself with Very Smart People, and I succeed at that very well - now imagine 5-7 extremely competent wargamers being competent diplomats and funny guys.

Jedi Mind Tricks on other Jedi, so to speak.

------------------

I also get that that is not everyone's cup of tea - and we rarely play them ourselves these days - our best multiplayer experience to date is either Case Blue (Operation Uranus) and Last Chance for Victory.

Naval games make for great multiplayer as well. Flying Colors is great.

Would love to one day get into a big old frenzy of play with Close Action
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suPUR DUEper
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Wilhammer wrote:
Quote:
Well, I tried to exclude the diplomacy thing with my original post by saying "competent" players (i.e. those who can see through diplomatic Jedi mind tricks.).


Diplomacy requires competence - I prefer to surround myself with Very Smart People, and I succeed at that very well - now imagine 5-7 extremely competent wargamers being competent diplomats and funny guys.

Jedi Mind Tricks on other Jedi, so to speak.


Exactly, so let's play this out. Let's play Here I Stand.

These really smart guys and great diplomats are pretty good at accurately assessing who is winning; they are good at being persuasive; and they are also good at realizing when someone is trying to spin them ('cuz, you know, they're really smart).

So, as someone starts to break from the pack, these really smart guys accurately assess what is going on slowly start reeling him back in. Some other poor guy blew an attack or some such and is doing poorly so others ignore him. He is able to get back toward the mean because others aren't working to retard his progress.

As the game progresses, each power within striking distance of victory is in turn brought back into line by the pack. Simultaneously, each power is inching closer to the magic 25 VP's. Then, about turn 4 or 5 (or whatever) 3 or 4 powers are now a couple of VP's away from glory. Then it happens. Somebody draws Copernicus. Or Henry the VIII wins the baby lottery. Or some player makes a faux pas and hands the game to someone. Or the Pope burns Calvin on a massive die roll. Or two players hit the 25 but a third player can stop either one of them and chooses. The game ends. Win or lose, it feels like fate was the crucial factor above all else.

I truly enjoy every minute of playing HIS. The problem is, when the game ends I feel just a little.....deflated. Like I just spent 8 hours and it ultimately came down to a card draw or a die roll.



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Michael Taylor
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So we need some multiplayer wargames where you are in charge of your own fate, not leaving it up to the groupthink.

Successors seems to fit that bill, we need to get that to the table again.

Or a multiplayer wargame that accommodates more than one per side.
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Dan Cunningham
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gvchief wrote:
Or a multiplayer wargame that accommodates more than one per side.


Angola is a fantastic 2v2 game. We need to carve out enough time to play this (8 to 10 hours for a first playing).

The Guns of Gettysburg has some interesting sounding optional 2v2 rules. Essentially splitting up the activities of each side into two separate parts and limiting the communication and information between two partners.

Wellington and Kutuzov are 2v2; although in the end there is a way in each game to determine one winner between the two on the winning side - so there can be some internal tension on each side fighting for key victory spots.

And then there are games like It Never Snows or The Devil's Cauldron that are simply large enough that each side could be broken down and played by multiple players.

Looking through my collection Warparty is another fantasy type war game that is strictly 2v2. And Space Empires is another one that can be played 2v2 (or 3v1, or however you want really - very customizable).

Lots of nice looking options. At the same time, I'm not totally against the diplomatic issues that arise in the other mulitplayer games. It just creates a different kind of game. In some games it can be a lot of fun riding out the diplomatic waves to land (or be given by fate or another player) a victory. For example Cosmic Encounter, Rex, and Maria. All are very tight and the diplomacy is very much an essential element of the game.

Too many games to play....

Dan
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gvchief wrote:
COIN games seem more like a worker placement game to me


I don't think that phrase means what you think it means.
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Actually, I think the beat-the-leader aspect of COIN is exactly how most real insurgencies play out at least in the early stages -- lots of reaction to the enemy, and staying in that mode leaves the outcome to chance. The U.S. in Vietnam never really abandoning the "body-count" strategy is a good example of it. Colombian COIN started out that way and seriously struggled for a long time, but then they were able to build a reliable COIN machine that isolated insurgents from their resources and built up legitimacy and support in rural populations such that insurgents couldn't operate effectively.

Playing Andean Abyss, I've noticed that pounding on the leader is a strategy that will bite you eventually because most of the time the frontrunner's lead is paper thin, and beating on him usually means neglecting your own agenda. The guy who advances his agenda based on a solid foundation will consistently win.

P.S. But let's just say that everyone plays well and it does come down to a final chance. If one is feeling "deflated" because of a final dice/card, try: http://fortressat.com/articles-analysis/4542-that-final-dice...

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Back in the day we used to distinguish between multi-player games (where each player is playing against all others) and multi-commander games (where a two-sided game is well-suited to play by two 'teams', as is often done in naval games and monster games).
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spartax wrote:
gvchief wrote:
COIN games seem more like a worker placement game to me


I don't think that phrase means what you think it means.


I am pretty sure every turn a player decides to either pass or place his token (worker) on one of the three action spots and then chooses an action from a menu. The placement of his worker denies choice to the player(s) that follow. I don't know, seems kind of like a worker placement mechanic to me.

It shares more in common with Dominant Species than you probably care to admit. whistle
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TedW wrote:
spartax wrote:
gvchief wrote:
COIN games seem more like a worker placement game to me


I don't think that phrase means what you think it means.


I am pretty sure every turn a player decides to either pass or place his token (worker) on one of the three action spots and then chooses an action from a menu. The placement of his worker denies choice to the player(s) that follow. I don't know, seems kind of like a worker placement mechanic to me.

It shares more in common with Dominant Species than you probably care to admit. whistle


That's absurd.
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moujamou wrote:
There aren't really any winners in A Distant Plain. Morally, anyway.

Why so serious....whistle
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wifwendell wrote:
TedW wrote:
spartax wrote:
gvchief wrote:
COIN games seem more like a worker placement game to me


I don't think that phrase means what you think it means.


I am pretty sure every turn a player decides to either pass or place his token (worker) on one of the three action spots and then chooses an action from a menu. The placement of his worker denies choice to the player(s) that follow. I don't know, seems kind of like a worker placement mechanic to me.

It shares more in common with Dominant Species than you probably care to admit. whistle


That's absurd.


Really?

Both games are about placing and manipulating cubes in order to gain victory points
Both games have the worker placement mechanic. In ADP you have one worker; In DS you have 3. In ADP you have more turns with less workers; In DS you have fewer turns with more workers.
In both games choosing an action denies/limits the choice to another player.
Both games allow you to pass to change the turn order
Both games play one against many.
Both games have a wide variety of actions to choose from
Both games have event event cards that can alter the game state outside the normal rules
Both games are very chaotic which makes long term planning almost impossible
In ADP each area has two dimensions control and support. In DS it is control and domination. These two dimensions in both games account for the lion's share of VP distribution.

As far as manipulating your cubes:
-In ADP you march/transport to adjacent areas; in DS you migrate to adjacent areas
-In ADP you rally/train/surge; in DS you speciate
-In ADP you assault; in DS you compete
-In ADP you terrorize to disrupt the status quo; in DS you glaciate to do the same
-In ADP you conduct civic action, govern or Sharia to make the area more palatable; in DS you choose abundance

In ADP, Warlords thrive in non Pashtun; Taliban in Pashtun. In DS species most thrive in areas with the several elements
In ADP each side has asymmetric abilities; ditto DS. Even some of the abilities are similar: Coalition air lifts, birds fly; Taliban ambushes, spiders have a free compete; Warlords cultivate, insects have a free speciate.


Okay, your turn. Tell me how the comparison is "absurd"

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TedW wrote:
Hey All,


It seems in COIN and HIS, if you are playing with competent (or at least equal and aware) players, what ends up happening is a subset of players gradually gets in range of the victory marker and then fate decides the winner (i.e. the person who goes right before a propaganda card or the guy who holds Copernicus, etc.). Your strategy becomes one of being eligible to win versus winning. Does that make sense?

....

Thoughts?


I agree very much. Although I think COIN as a system has a whole set of other problems in that it becomes quite automatic in later turns, HIS to me feels very much like you describe it. Same goes for Sword of Rome, Virgin Queen and many other multiplayer (war)games as someone else pointed out. I think that's why I always enjoyed Successors 3rd quite a bit. It's swingy throughout the game that I don't even get the illusion that I can really build up to victory solely by playing competently.

Maria has largely managed to avoid the problems you describe but it's 3players only. For four players +... I don't know. It's probably a matter of hiding the problem behind a compelling narrative.
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