Tod Andrew
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Hi

I am interested in thoughts about how losing teams and/or individuals in semi coop's can be discouraged from trying to ensure that all players lose, because they thought that they could not win.

I am not specifically discussing Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game, but I understand that it has a MORALE TRACK, which relates to what I am talking about.

If a semi coop game has 'normal' and 'hidden traitor' players with alternative win conditions, but also an overall indicator such as a morale track, then either team which feels that it is losing badly could deliberately reduce such a morale track simply to stop the other players from winning.

What sort of things could be implemented to discourage and/or prevent such behaviour (being successful)?

Thanks in advance
Tod
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Dezza
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Proper play shouldn't be 'If I can't win, I'll make sure no one wins'. That problem lies more with the players.

A simple wording in the rules that whoever causes the fail condition to be reached 'loses' might reduce the issue, but may not be thematic.

In the Dead of Winter example, I'm not sure, but does the traitor, once voted out, actually have an effect on the morale track?
Not letting the traitor be able to affect the end condition might help, giving them only a win condition. Of course, this only works if the traitor has been revealed.

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Jeff Warrender
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I think the solution is simple (but not necsessarily easy) -- all players must have, or at least believe they have, a chance to win right up until the end. At whatever point it's obvious who will win (or that only oneplayer has a chance to win), the game should end. Specifics will vary from game to game but that general rule is, I think, always true with no exceptions. If players are worried about how to engineer a group loss, they're playing a different game than the one you've designed!
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Graham Charlton
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If you are playing with someone who is liable to tank the game the moment it looks like they can't win, exile them. Simple really, the game already handles it.

Note however that it's rare in DoW that a player can find themselves in a position where they can't win. If you haven't completed your win condition but the other players have you need to stall the game, not kill everyone. The challenge is convincing people that you need a little more time and you really aren't the traitor.
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Stephen Williams
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First off, I agree with others who have said this sort of behaviour is really a player problem, not a game design problem. I wouldn't spend too much time trying to anticipate how poor sports might ruin the game I was designing, personally. (I'd spend some time, just not a lot.)

I'm not thoroughly versed in "semi" co-ops, so this suggestion might be entirely out of place, but my solution personally would be to make all/most traitor victory conditions independent of the "group loss" conditions, and allow a traitor to claim victory whether or not the group has officially lost. Thus, tanking the game ensures the whole group will lose, but does not prevent the possibility of a traitor win by itself.
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James Ryan
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I would argue that it is NOT a player problem. If you design a game that allows a losing player to make everyone lose, you can't then blame them for exercising that option. Nor can you say they are playing a game different than the one you designed since you in fact did design a game that enables their choice. If this is something that comes up regularly in play testing then you my want to think about whether the mechanism could be cut or modified.

DoW seems to handle the balance well.
I think Archipelago might be another game worth looking at that pulls off a collective loss condition.
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Wesley M
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williamj35 wrote:

I think Archipelago might be another game worth looking at that pulls off a collective loss condition.


Yeah but the problem with Archipelago is the player who chooses not to contribute to the crisis will be much better off than any who do contribute.. So it turns into some players trying to keep everyone afloat while others just play to win themselves and wind up in a much better position.
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Meghan Naxer
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I have had great success with playing Archipelago, both as a 2-player with my husband and with groups. Many of the people I play with view the group crises as a puzzle: we know they're coming and we generally know what kinds of things can come up. So how can we play to our individual goals and supply the markets with goods we can collectively use? We generally find in that game specifically that the crisis mechanic encourages us to utilize the market boards, which is such a fun and important part of the game.

For another game and mechanic to address the original question, I love to approach to semi-coop in Shadows Over Camelot. By incorporating several "mini-games," players (and teams) can feel accomplished by completing quests, even if they lose the larger game. The first few times I played I came away thinking, "Well, we didn't win, but we got Excalibur and won two battles against the Druids!"

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Stephen Williams
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williamj35 wrote:
If you design a game that allows a losing player to make everyone lose, you can't then blame them for exercising that option. Nor can you say they are playing a game different than the one you designed since you in fact did design a game that enables their choice. If this is something that comes up regularly in play testing then you my want to think about whether the mechanism could be cut or modified.


The OP will correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that's exactly why he started this thread - he's trying to correct for this issue because he doesn't want it in his game.
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Michael Dillenbeck
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I think the "make everyone lose" in a semi-cooperative game is not a failure of game design per se but a failure in human nature. Can you think of any real-world instances where one side is not getting the victory they want, so they sabotage a system so as to cause it to fail?

A semi-cooperative game models systems where people might be willing to cause a system wide failure if they don't get what they want out of it.

However, games usually lack one key element that the real world does - consequences due to persistence. Therein may be the answer to your question of "how does one discourage a semi-cooperative player from causing a loss when they cannot win?" Simple: create persistence between games. This, however, introduces the different challenge of how to handle persistence in a game where the players may be varied.

Sorry, its not much of an answer because ultimately what you are looking to do is have people behave differently than in their nature. I think this is possible when it is "just a game" - but I find a lot of people are willing to be far more vicious to each other because its "just a game" (rather than playing nicer, which is what you seem to want). Still, I hope my response has given you pause to consider what experience you are trying to model in your game and how the mechanics of the game shape that experience.
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Aswin Agastya
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As another board gamer used to say:

Solo Victory > Collective Victory > Collective Defeat > Solo Defeat.

Calling it a failure in human nature is a bit of a stretch because, just as you said with very good explanation, it's a game.
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Philip Becker
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Maybe the solution is some mechanic where players can just become villains and join the problem side. Maybe it's by voting out players or a certain action the player can take. But if the player thinks they can't win, let them become the bad side so they can still "win" by defeating the players. Then you can design to accommodate the losers.
 
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Stephen Williams
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Erluti wrote:
Maybe the solution is some mechanic where players can just become villains and join the problem side. Maybe it's by voting out players or a certain action the player can take. But if the player thinks they can't win, let them become the bad side so they can still "win" by defeating the players. Then you can design to accommodate the losers.


A perfectly good solution, as long as everyone can't unanimously agree to "turn evil" and end the game in "victory" at a moment's notice.
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John Breckenridge
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You could have some kind of token that a player gets whenever he takes an action to help the team, then there would be a kind of consolation prize: "Yeah, we all lost, but I got more Good Guy Points than you so you lost worse."
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Galen Brownsmith
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Verbosity wrote:
I think the "make everyone lose" in a semi-cooperative game is not a failure of game design per se but a failure in human nature. Can you think of any real-world instances where one side is not getting the victory they want, so they sabotage a system so as to cause it to fail?


Kindergarten.

Suicide Bombers, Kidnapping for Ransom, and other acts of terrorism.

Suicide by Cop.

Pretty much everyone in the current US Congress.

Most acts of Civil Disobedience, including mass protests, sit ins, and strikes.

Tabloid Media.

Internet Trolls.

Various celebrity meltdowns.

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Billy Lumiukko
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erluti wrote:
Maybe the solution is some mechanic where players can just become villains and join the problem side.

I had that in a game of Betrayal at the House on the Hill. In one of the scenarios, we were overrun by undead and trying to kill them. We knew how to win but not what is the winning condition for the undead player (as in all scenarios in the game). We I died and transformed into an undead myself, I found out that I could still win by killing another living character. The other players were quite surprised to see me then so eager to kill them whereas I was so eager to defend them seconds ago...
In the end I won with the bad guy, but not all undead won because they hadn't killed anyone. Of course it might have played different had we known that we could still win by going to the bad side.
I think it was great
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Maarten D. de Jong
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williamj35 wrote:
I think Archipelago might be another game worth looking at that pulls off a collective loss condition.

Actually, Archipelago gets it utterly wrong—although the problem is really not in the collective loss, but in the fact that there are two win conditions, of which one is defined to be strictly better than collective loss so that noone should actually pursue loss. Recently there has a long thread about this which I'm too lazy to dig up.

@OP: if people believe for whatever reason that they can no longer win, then as far as 'playing to win' (not as a dork, but in the spirit of good-natured competition) is concerned those people are now rogue elephants. They no longer have the same goal to aim for as those who are still in the running, so the only thing which keeps them in line is either the threat of group expulsion or some personal goal and/or moral—the game no longer cares. Keep in mind that if the game still needs to go on for several hours that this is overasking.

The solution: always make sure that no matter what the circumstances, players are able to win in some sense. This gives you control over the purpose of their actions; the moment you relinquish this is the moment the design goes belly up. (At least for those groups who play to win.) If that means giving in to the Dark Side for example, or becoming infected to eradicate the humans, then so be it. Collective loss doesn't, cannot even, fit in here. What also doesn't fit is strict adherence to the subject in that, for example, the good guys always have to win. Only in a more or less victoryless RPG do you have the freedom to ask players to remain in their role no matter what the odds. So in a sense this is also a solution to your problem, but you had best take very great care that the players know what is expected of them prior to playing the game: you cannot pretend a game containing rules about winning is suddenly not about winning, for example.

The game which I'm thinking of which does seem to work well is Liberté. It's not a semi-coop as we know it, but in order to pull off an alternative victory condition you must to a large degree cooperate with a fellow player.
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G Rowls
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You can't fight Human nature players put as much effort into enuring that they don't lose or if they do lose they aren't the only ones as they do to win.
 
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Daniel Blumentritt
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Quote:
Proper play shouldn't be 'If I can't win, I'll make sure no one wins'. That problem lies more with the players.


In some games, such as Android: Infiltration that should be proper play.
 
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Agent J
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This is the part of human nature that turns a game into an experience, and gives you a bit of a window into the soul of a person by how they play the game.
 
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Rood Bird
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I agree with many posters saying that tanking is a player issue. However, I think elegant game design should negate it. After all, aren't 'hidden traitors', at least in part, there to solve the 'alpha gamer' problem?

I think if you remove the betrayer element from Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game altogether you still have a pretty good semi co-op, all be it with the tanking issue. If you removed the general objective and instead only had hidden objectives that overlap the result would be semi-co-operation. Not everyone would necessarily win and each player wouldn't know how to tank it for others.


Also, take a look at Escape from Colditz. This game from the 1970s was a semi co-op way ahead of its time. One player takes the role of the German guards and each other player takes control of an allied escape team, (American, British, Dutch etc). Only one player can win: either the Allied team with the most successful escapees or if no-one escapes the German player wins. Escaping is a lot easier if the allied players co-operate by swapping equipment, making simultaneous escape attempts and generally distracting the German guards. Of course by having 1 player as the Germans an allied player can't tank the game if they won't win since it'll hand the win to the German. This might not be your idea of a semi co-op since 1 player isn't part of the co-operation but it isn't 1 v many either. I'm sure the idea could work with an AI guard.



RB
 
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Pete Goch
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Stewi wrote:
First off, I agree with others who have said this sort of behaviour is really a player problem, not a game design problem. I wouldn't spend too much time trying to anticipate how poor sports might ruin the game I was designing, personally. (I'd spend some time, just not a lot.)


If it's possible for a "losing" player to tank a game then he's playing the game as it was designed. In a case like this judgments of "poor sport" are spurious at best.

In a semi coop where one player can tank the game it's up to all players to find ways to make sure every player believes they have a shot at winning. If one player shoots too far ahead everyone else should drag him back down to parity. If one player drops too far behind everyone should lift him up to parity.
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Pete Goch
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Stewi wrote:
williamj35 wrote:
If you design a game that allows a losing player to make everyone lose, you can't then blame them for exercising that option. Nor can you say they are playing a game different than the one you designed since you in fact did design a game that enables their choice. If this is something that comes up regularly in play testing then you my want to think about whether the mechanism could be cut or modified.


The OP will correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that's exactly why he started this thread - he's trying to correct for this issue because he doesn't want it in his game.



Then he should remove the group loss condition. You can't have it both ways.
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Daniel Blumentritt
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He wouldn't have to remove it necessarily...

Quote:
In a semi coop where one player can tank the game it's up to all players to find ways to make sure every player believes they have a shot at winning.


Just make sure there are ways in the game for the players to do this - such that if the losing guy self-destructs everyone else with him, it's the other players fault for not using those mechanisms. That way, it's like "If you don't want Player X, who feels he has no chance at winning, to force everyone to lose, you should have taken steps Y and Z to make Player X feel like he had a chance."

It's a bit like The Napoleonic Wars where if none of the coalition powers choose to forfeit a card draw to stop France from winning, sometimes it's the fault of one particular player who didn't help out his allies enough while France was beating them down mercilessly.
 
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Pete Goch
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To make this sort of thing work I think you need to create incentives for players to both: Take down a "runaway leader" and to help players lagging behind.

Allow actions that, when taken by more than 1 player, can efficiently knock down a third player. If players are allowed to collude against a runaway leader without slowing themselves down too much they'll do it. If it requires collaborative action on the part of multiple players it prevents any one player from abusing it.

Give bonuses or exemptions to players who take certain actions that help the player in last place. Again, if players get a certain net benefit while helping the keep the lagging player(s) in the game they'll do it.
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