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Subject: What qualities of a game makes it fun to lose? rss

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Amnykon -
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In order to make better games, I believe one should know what qualities of the game should be considered to make a good board game. I want to start several threads to discuss what these different qualities are so that I and others may improve on their game designs.

In an Interview with Donald X. Vaccarino The designer of Dominion said:
Quote:
An example of an overall [game design] philosophy would be, it has to be fun to lose.
What qualities of a game makes it fun to lose?
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Kelly Bass
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I think games where you have built something interesting are fun, even if I lose. For example: Castles of Mad King Ludwig, The Princes of Florence, Big City
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Benj Davis
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In my experience, being able to do things, and feeling that they just didn't achieve victory, rather than not being able to do things.
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Joe Fatula
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When you can look back and see how your own decisions led you to lose.

It's not fun when you feel like you lost because of a throw of the dice, or because everyone else ganged up on you -- but when you can see that your own strategy wasn't sufficient, it feels reasonable.

And if you can see how to improve your strategy, that's even better. A loss this game turns into a way you might be able to win next game.
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Dan
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Fun to lose:
I built something
I was able to make some interesting choices
I was able to do some cool combos (Glory to Rome)

Not fun to lose
Game requires years to master (Go, Chess)
Game is heavily luck dependent
Game is basically a giant spreadsheet and required onerous calculations and long downtime between turns
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jay
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Agree on all points with a caveat. I love it when randomness makes stupid funny things happen. Take Camel Up, winning and losing is complete luck and dice rolling and very often your sound choices based on probabilities Just fall apart. It's fun because to lose because it's fun to see things fall apart.
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John "Omega" Williams
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Define fun?

No. Really.

What one player thinks is fun may be brutally boring or actually unpleasant to another. Some players take any sort of loss as "not fun" even if it was an exciting end. They still hate it.

For some winning is the only fun. You'll never be able to please them. And personally I find these sorts of players to be UN-fun to game with.

Example: I think Pocket Civ is really fun to lose. From comments in the threads. Some others... dont.
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M. Shanmugasundaram
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It doesn't really matter whether I win or lose a game.

Fun is a nebulous concept. It's heavily dependent on both the crowd you're with, and your general temperament during any given play.

It's not very likely that the game itself will put me in a good mood, regardless of company or my starting temperament.

A game that makes me WANT TO PLAY again. That's what I really want. You'd think that'd be the same as "fun," but sometimes it's not. A game that I want to play can become fun, but if I eventually figure it out, or figure out my (or the game's) limitations, it can become "not fun." I can still want to play, but the fun isn't quite the same.

But to try to answer the qeustion, I want to play a game I lost if I can answer at least some of the following questions "Yes:"

Can I figure out WHY I lost? (knowledge-granting/inspiring)
Do I have the feeling that victory wasn't stolen from me? (out of control)
Was the process of losing FUNNY? (humorous)
Did the game help me tell a good story? (engaging outside of the rules)

Also, for the record, I haven't played a Vaccarino game I've really enjoyed, win or lose. Philosphy-wise, he hasn't managed to succeed with my temperament.
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Jared
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Omega2064 wrote:
Define fun?

No. Really.

What one player thinks is fun may be brutally boring or actually unpleasant to another. Some players take any sort of loss as "not fun" even if it was an exciting end. They still hate it.

For some winning is the only fun. You'll never be able to please them. And personally I find these sorts of players to be UN-fun to game with.

Example: I think Pocket Civ is really fun to lose. From comments in the threads. Some others... dont.

Fun = not having to define fun
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Paul Agapow
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djn1981 wrote:
Fun to lose:
I built something

This was once said by Paul Lister: even if you lose, a game in which you get to build a town / engine / trading routes etc. gives you the satisfaction of having at least built something. Even in Agricola (which I am shit at), at least I've kept my family alive and built a bit of a farm. This should be used in more newbie games.
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Billy Lumiukko
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Another way to approach the same question is to ask: what makes a game NOT fun when loosing?

- when you know your loosing way before the end and there's nothing you can do about it: the game end conditions are not well designed
- When you are eliminated long before the others and are left with nothing to do until they end the game
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Andreas Pettersson
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buffalohat wrote:
When you can look back and see how your own decisions led you to lose.

It's not fun when you feel like you lost because of a throw of the dice, or because everyone else ganged up on you -- but when you can see that your own strategy wasn't sufficient, it feels reasonable.

And if you can see how to improve your strategy, that's even better. A loss this game turns into a way you might be able to win next game.

I agree although I seem to have a slightly higher tolerance for luck. As long as it is not blind luck I'm OK with losing to a bad card draw or die roll.

Example from Eldritch Horror: needing 2 successes (5 or 6 on a d6) it's mostly useless to send someone that rolls just one die. On the other hand the person with 10d6 and the ability to reroll some of those dice is pretty good odds (but there are still spectacular failures.)

Also in EH there are desperate situations where you send that measly 1d6 investigator to an all but certain doom just in case that single health point on that monster will be decisive.

In that case the game also tells a story which makes it worthwhile. If I didn't enjoy that thematic aspect, I'd just play Pandemic and Flash Point instead (which I do, really like those games as well.)
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Comboteur "Crazed 'Beastface' Survivor" Fou
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A game is fun to lose to me when I was able to create silly combos, to try new paths to victory, even though they didn't work.
It is fun to lose when the difference between the players is not huge. When I didn't lose because of utter randomness.

It is not fun to lose when there was not much I could do, when it was too random for my taste, when the difference between the players is too important, unless some players played exceptionally poorly, or when player elimination happened a long time before the game ended, or, in case of a solo game, player elimination happened at the beginning of the game.

Exemples of not fun games to lose:
- Early player elimination: Sylvion, Castellion
- Random: Ascension Dawn of Champions
- Extreme VP difference between players: Ascension Rise of Vigil
- Couldn't achieve much: M:tG against a control deck you're not armed against

Exemples of fun games to lose:
- Onirim, Onirim with the Book of Lost Steps expansion - because decisions
- Gloom - because of the story telling
- Ascension Chronicles of the Godslayer - because it is balanced enough that games usually are close
- Aeon's End and Sentinels of the Multiverse - because you're fighting a desperate battle the best you can, so player interaction + a lot of decisions. But SotM can have cheap losses too
- Seasons - because you tried something anyway

More would come to mind if I could play more often, though.
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Candace Mercer
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A good example in my opinion is Galaxy Trucker: The Big Expansion, you have fun watching your ship get blown apart. You tried, you did!

Dialing in on that, it is a game that does not take itself too seriously, that has humor as part of it. RoboRally also comes to mind - doing the robot dance to figure out directions only to be pushed off in some crazy direction.

I think of Pictionary as well. You lose, you still had the fun experience of laughing with your buds. I am dying to play Ugg-Tect for the same reason.

Dungeon Fighter is a dexterity game, I am not big on them, but I played this and, since I am not the most coordinated person, it was fun to see how bad I sucked, or exciting when I didn't suck.

So I think the experience has to have a high level of fun built in. Defining fun - that is the slippery part. I have fun playing heavy games, but they are not fun to lose because I have poured my heart in. Not that I do not try hard in games like Pictionary or GT, or DF, it's just hard to take the results as a referendum on how hard I played, how much of my brain I put it.
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Andreas Pettersson
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outlier wrote:
Even in Agricola (which I am shit at), at least I've kept my family alive and built a bit of a farm

Razoupaf wrote:
A game is fun to lose to me when I was able to create silly combos, to try new paths to victory, even though they didn't work.

Also agree with these. If the game invites exploring different paths, I get a satisfaction from trying out different strategies, setting up engines etc even if the engine ultimately isn't efficient enough to win.
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Perry Fergin
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I love losing when I can truly appreciate the strategy my opponent used to defeat me. This is what I find enjoyable about games like Chess and R: even if I lose, if my opponent beat me through a creative, clever way, I enjoy the brilliance of the move. Seeing things like that is what the game is about.
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Mike Cooper
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Gil Hova said it best for me - "Incentivize Interesting Behavior". If there's something you can do in a game that's different from what anyone else is doing while still working towards the same goal, even if you lose you probably learned something.
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jbrier
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Whether the game is interesting/fun and whether I win or lose have little to do with each other.

Of course, winning is satisfying- it means I have accomplished my goal. But the journey towards the goal is where the interest/fun is at (or not). The satisfaction of winning is just a fleeting sensation at the end, a minuscule portion of the game experience.

In sum I reject the premise of the question.

That being said I'm not naive- I know people whose assessment of a game depends heavily on how well they did. This attitude annoys me because I feel incentivized to just let them win if I want them to like a game I'm showing them. It's rather silly and a bit contemptible.
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P.D. Magnus
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verandi wrote:
That being said I'm not naive- I know people whose assessment of a game depends heavily on how well they did. This attitude annoys me because I feel incentivized to just let them win if I want them to like a game I'm showing them. It's rather silly and a bit contemptible.

But there are games that feel different if you're winning than if you're losing. My rule of thumb is never to decide how I feel about a game until I've lost it at least once.
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Comboteur "Crazed 'Beastface' Survivor" Fou
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verandi wrote:
That being said I'm not naive- I know people whose assessment of a game depends heavily on how well they did. This attitude annoys me because I feel incentivized to just let them win if I want them to like a game I'm showing them. It's rather silly and a bit contemptible.

It depends on how much they lose and what kind of gamers they are.

I played an introductory GOSU Tactics game with a friend who knew the game and one who didn't. I asked permission before going in an insane combo, so that I wouldn't make the new player uncomfortable. I did not even win. But I would have felt dirty if I had taken advantage of my knowledge of the game to utterly crush that new player. Here, I just wanted to try something crazy that I never had the opportunity to try before. Turned out that player liked the game anyway and saw this as a kind of example of what you can do.

But being crushed, or unable to do stuff in your first game isn't fun. Control, resource denial, counterdraft... It's all fine with experienced players, but not with a lot of other players. I would not feel contempt towards someone who hated Colt Express because their hand were full of wounds all game long. I would just say that it's a bad game because it allows that. And because the other players weren't very kind to the new player.
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Phil Hendrickson
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lifelesspoet wrote:
Agree on all points with a caveat. I love it when randomness makes stupid funny things happen. Take Camel Up, winning and losing is complete luck and dice rolling and very often your sound choices based on probabilities Just fall apart. It's fun because to lose because it's fun to see things fall apart.

This is similar to games like Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension or Stockpile. In both cases, players must try to guess what their opponents are going to do in order to take productive actions. When things go wrong in unexpected ways, it can be quite entertaining. I would not want to play either of these games if they lasted for two hours, but for a short, fast-paced game, they are very fun - even when losing.

So one facet of the answer to the OP is to consider the weight and length of the game. Smart, productive decisions are crucial in longer or heavier games, but a bit of lively unpredictability can make a lighter game quite fun for all players.
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Ryan M
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psson73 wrote:
buffalohat wrote:
When you can look back and see how your own decisions led you to lose.

It's not fun when you feel like you lost because of a throw of the dice, or because everyone else ganged up on you -- but when you can see that your own strategy wasn't sufficient, it feels reasonable.

And if you can see how to improve your strategy, that's even better. A loss this game turns into a way you might be able to win next game.

I agree although I seem to have a slightly higher tolerance for luck. As long as it is not blind luck I'm OK with losing to a bad card draw or die roll.

Example from Eldritch Horror: needing 2 successes (5 or 6 on a d6) it's mostly useless to send someone that rolls just one die. On the other hand the person with 10d6 and the ability to reroll some of those dice is pretty good odds (but there are still spectacular failures.)

Also in EH there are desperate situations where you send that measly 1d6 investigator to an all but certain doom just in case that single health point on that monster will be decisive.

In that case the game also tells a story which makes it worthwhile. If I didn't enjoy that thematic aspect, I'd just play Pandemic and Flash Point instead (which I do, really like those games as well.)

I tend to agree. However, I have lost a ton in EH and only won a handful of times and we keep coming back to it. I think this is because the variability in who you can fight makes the game feel different without changing the gameplay much. Also, the fact that the game can be very hard and challenging, means we typically come very close to winning most of the time but just can't pull it off. That "so close" aspect of the game makes me want to play again and play more...even though the results are often the same. You feel like you've accomplished something even though you lost because you were "so close".

On the other hand, I've played one game of EH that went 4.5 hours and we got crushed without ever beating a singly mystery. That game was NOT fun for me to lose. I've also played only one game against the elder things that went probably 5 hours (played with 6 people) and we won without ever breaking a sweat. I didn't feel that great about that game even though we won because it was way too long and didn't feel like much of a challenge.
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Anthony Ferrise
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Games I've always enjoyed even when I lose are games that gave me:

a) The ability to build/produce something that I can tangibly see at the end of the game.

b) Interesting decisions the whole way through and decisions that had clear meaning - so I (kind of) understand why I won and/or lost.

c) The ability to keep playing until the very end - those WITHOUT a 'knock-out' mechanism.
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Justin Strickland
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No game is fun to lose, but a lot of games are fun to play.

Edit: and as far as what that entails, it's different for everybody.
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Alexandra M
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For me, I love losing if I can see, strategically, why my opponent bested me. I love to be beaten if it means that someone legitimately played better than I did - it means I can respect it, and modify my strategy in the future and learn from it!

There's just something so satisfying about being bestest by better strategy and being challenged the whole game through.
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