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Subject: Euros for Odd Players rss

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brian
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Maybe this has been discussed before but I couldn't find it throuogh a quick search. It is a topic that frequently pops in my head and I would be curious of the thoughts of others on the Geek.

What is the rationale for most Euro games to be designed for 3-5 players? I can understand on the lower side of most games where trading or auctions take place. It is rather difficult to implement a 2-player version without some extensive rework of the basic game. But I am thankful for the publishers that do eventually publish official variants for 2 players - as over half my game time is with just me and my girlfriend.

But on the higher side, why always and odd number of players? My only guess are that Europeans (or Germans in particular) on average have 3 kids or less making a perfect family of 5 or that they just want us hooked on the game so they can sell a 6th player expansion and make more money later.

The reason I gripe is that my gaming group consists of young married/dating couples from our church. Most of them don't have kids at this point. So when we get together, it is always in pairs. So if we every get a reasonable group together of 6 players (3 couples for those not following the math ), then we eliminate a lot of the games in my collection: Caylus, Ra, Puerto Rico, Cleopatra and the Society of Architects, Pirate's Cove, and the list goes on and on. Even the original card games of Bang! and Citadels are meant for 7 - which are our standby for when we get a group of 6 - and thankfully with the expansions, we can get up to 8 players without a problem. But this seems to be the exception.

And not to make this a eurogame vs ameritrash debate, the Ameritrash games are also at fault here. Axis and Allies, Fury of Dracula, and probably a few others I own are for 2 to 5. But at least in those games, players assume multiple rolls so you don't feel like you are missing a key element of the game. A 2-player game, though tighter in coordination still plays about the same as a 3 to 5 player game. Unlike Caylus, which is radically different based on each player added. Regardless, I just seem to notice it more in the games of european origin.

So my question is: why not just design with 6 in mind? That seems to cover the families of 5 but also encourages multiple couples to get together. Or is there some mystery solved out in the world that 5 or 7 players is the perfect set-up for a game? Or is it really just about making money on the expansions?
 
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Joe Huber

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BrianMola wrote:
But on the higher side, why always and odd number of players? My only guess are that Europeans (or Germans in particular) on average have 3 kids or less making a perfect family of 5 or that they just want us hooked on the game so they can sell a 6th player expansion and make more money later.


Actually, most games are designed to - first and foremost - work with 4 players. This covers the two couples case, and the family of four.

There is also an impression that games which don't handle fewer than four players won't do well in the market, leading to a number of games (Loewenherz, for instance) which most agree are really only for four players, but which have rules for three.

Having covered less than 4 - and many games work well with 2 - the next space to cover is more than four. Here, there are multiple issues to deal with - manufacturing cost and dead time high among them. But it's often (though not always - think of how many games such as Pillars of the Earth, Arkadia, and Euphrat & Tigris there are that max at 4) reasonable to provide for a fifth player. Allowing for a sixth is often impossible (in which case you won't see an expansion), or too expensive (in which case you will, if the game is successful).

I find that in designing games it's often very difficult to allow for a sixth player - the game bogs down, or the number of components needed explodes, as it's often super-linear in proportion to the number of players.
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BrianMola wrote:
My only guess are that Europeans (or Germans in particular) on average have 3 kids or less


And thank God for that laugh

I guess an even number of players leads itself easily to equal numbered blocks opposing each other. An even number of players asures an additional player, which can turn the tides in any conflict, and therefore needing a more balanced play. Just a guess.
 
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If Actions Speak Louder Than Words, Then Actions x2 Speak Louder Than Actions
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"Euros for Odd Players" and "Euros for an Odd Number of Players" have two entirely different meanings.

False advertising.

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Philip Thomas
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When you have 6 players in this situation one option is to split into two groups of three. This means splitting up a couple, probably you and your partner so both tables have someone who knows the game.
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Andy M
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insert AT comment: "All Euro Players are Odd" here.
 
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Like Philip stated previously, in our typical game night, six is easily two 3 player games. 5 is the loneliest number, as it is easier to find a game that is 3-4 players than 5.
 
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brian
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Philip Thomas wrote:
When you have 6 players in this situation one option is to split into two groups of three. This means splitting up a couple, probably you and your partner so both tables have someone who knows the game.

I hear that quite a bit but I just don't find it beneficial. It's more a point of getting together for the social aspect. Plus the girlfriend doesn't take kindly to be split off. When we really want to play one of the above mentioned games, we just have to have a sepearte game night with one other couple.
 
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Philip Thomas
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In that case I guesss you need a 6 player game. Power Grid? Haven't played it with 6 though. Vinci? should work ok. I'm guessing you don't want to exceed 2 hours.

Settlers of Catan with 5-6 expansion is also good.
 
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BrianMola wrote:

I hear that quite a bit but I just don't find it beneficial. It's more a point of getting together for the social aspect. Plus the girlfriend doesn't take kindly to be split off. When we really want to play one of the above mentioned games, we just have to have a sepearte game night with one other couple.


There in lies the crux of your issue, not the games themselves.
 
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Alex Bove
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BrianMola wrote:
My only guess are that Europeans (or Germans in particular) on average have 3 kids or less making a perfect family of 5


Average Europeans are having nowhere near 3 children per family. Population growth in most of the developed world is, quite sensibly, nearly zero. If Europeans were having 3 children per family, we would have even more to worry about viz a viz global population growth (already a problem that will have catastrophic consequences if we don't convince the developing world to control births very soon).
 
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brian
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Philip Thomas wrote:
In that case I guesss you need a 6 player game. Power Grid? Haven't played it with 6 though. Vinci? should work ok. I'm guessing you don't want to exceed 2 hours.

Settlers of Catan with 5-6 expansion is also good.

Which we play, along with Carcassonne and other games.

I guess this is going off topic of what I intended. I am not necessarily looking for options for 6 players. I have a few games that fit the bill and know how to look for more like them.

I guess what I am trying to say is I want to play the games I have with more than 5 people. So I am looking at the philosophy of why 5 seems to be the target max of players.

I can understand the design issues that Joe Huber pointed out. I have never played 5-player Caylus, but I have heard it gets wacky at the number of players. But to me, something like Carcassonne could easily accomodate a 6th player; and they obviously did do just that with Traders & Builders.

So what I want to know is the philosophy. Is 4 the real target number, as Joe pointed out, and the 5th player a buffer? Or are games intended with 5 in mind from the beginning.
 
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brian
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montu wrote:
BrianMola wrote:
My only guess are that Europeans (or Germans in particular) on average have 3 kids or less making a perfect family of 5


Average Europeans are having nowhere near 3 children per family. Population growth in most of the developed world is, quite sensibly, nearly zero. If Europeans were having 3 children per family, we would have even more to worry about viz a viz global population growth (already a problem that will have catastrophic consequences if we don't convince the developing world to control births very soon).

Um, OK.... Little off topic.

Last time I checked (which has been a few years), the average per US family was 2.3 kids. I believe at 2 kids per family, the population should stabilize as the newest generation replaces the oldest.

But anyway, I just floated it out there as a theory as why 5 seems to be the number most euros shoot for.
 
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Mike Compton
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Some of the reasons why games have the particular range of players that they do have already been addressed here in this thread. Here's my two cents:

If it's a two player game, then usually it's either a completely abstract, perfect information game (like the GIPF series, chess, go) wherein it's a matter of trying to see long range patterns and possibilities due to the number of pieces the other player controls - or luck supplies the intrigue (draws of tiles as in Carcassonne, draws of cards as in Saint Petersburg, dice rolls as in 2-player Settlers). However, the very elements that allow a game to play for just two players often restrict the total number of players that can play to a maximum of four.

On the other side of the coin, often the intrigue of various game mechanics depends on what I refer to as "triangulation" - meaning, in order for the mechanic to provide a significant level of interest with respect to the decisions required, there has to be a certain amount of unpredictability in the mix of the game's gears - which often means that there has to be at least 3 players for intrigue to be present in a game. A classic example of this idea was already pointed out: auctions. Auctions with two players just isn't very interesting. Also, with a "triangulation" based mechanic in the game, the game can accomodate a larger number of players (i.e. 5). Thus, most games that play 2 players max out at 4 and most games that require a minimum of 3 players max out at 5.

I would imagine that, from a game publisher's standpoint, they probably wish that all of their games could accomodate from 2 to 8 players reasonably. After all, the wider the range of players the game can play, the more likely it is to appeal to a wider range of people. However, the intrinsic mechanics of most games just don't allow for it without some significant modifications - which results in a very real business dillemma. Take a game that has already been mentioned: Settlers. In order to scale it properly for a 5th or 6th player, the size of the board has to be rescaled, the chips for the numbers have to be changed, and two more colored sets of pieces have to be included. That's a significant component requirement to allow for such scaling. From a marketing standpoint, if Mayfair were to simply include the 5-6 player expansion as part of the basic game and then up the price of their basic Settlers game, sure it would say 2-6 players on the box but the overall price of the game would be higher - thus preventing a significant portion of people from trying the game due to the higher initial cost of investment. My guess is that Mayfair can sell more games by providing the basic game at a lower price and the expansion as a seperate purchase rather than trying to combine them and charge a higher initial price.

So, I see the issue as being a result of a combination of how many players a game's mechanics can handle and also the business side of things: cost of production versus increased liklihood of purchase by the consumer.
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Philip Thomas
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Quote:
Average Europeans are having nowhere near 3 children per family. Population growth in most of the developed world is, quite sensibly, nearly zero. If Europeans were having 3 children per family, we would have even more to worry about viz a viz global population growth (already a problem that will have catastrophic consequences if we don't convince the developing world to control births very soon).


I think there may be a statistical confusion here. When one measures the number of children in a 'family', one is not measuring the number of children per 2 members of the population. This is because, by definition, a 'family' excludes single people without children. So the number of children per 'family' can be quite high at the same time as there is minimal population growth, because there are large number of single people without children.

More off-topic information available on request.
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J C Lawrence
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BrianMola wrote:
montu wrote:
Population growth in most of the developed world is, quite sensibly, nearly zero. If Europeans were having 3 children per family, we would have even more to worry about viz a viz global population growth (already a problem that will have catastrophic consequences if we don't convince the developing world to control births very soon).

Um, OK.... Little off topic.

Last time I checked (which has been a few years), the average per US family was 2.3 kids. I believe at 2 kids per family, the population should stabilize as the newest generation replaces the oldest.


National populations are still growing. The growth is slowing to be sure, only the impoverished parts of the world still see rapid population growth.

From http://www.census.gov/population/www/pop-profile/natproj.htm... :

Quote:
Fertility in the middle series was assumed to remain almost constant, near the current fertility level of about 2.1 births per woman. For the low and high assumptions, levels of 1.9 and 2.6 births per woman were used, respectively.

...

The U.S. population is growing larger.

Based on the middle-series projections, the Nation's population is projected to increase to 392 million by 2050 -- more than a 50 percent increase from the 1990 population size. During the 1990's, the population is projected to grow by 27 million, a 10.8 percent increase. This assumes that fertility, mortality, and net immigration would continue to reflect recent trends. Only during the 1950's were more people added to the Nation's population than are projected to be added during the 1990's. Using the lowest assumptions, the population would grow slowly, peak at 293 million by 2030, then gradually decline. Conversely, the highest series projects the population to increase quite steadily over the next several decades, more than doubling its 1990 size by the middle of the next century.

The U.S. population growth rate is slowing.

Despite these large increases in the number of persons in the population, the rate of population growth, referred to as the average annual percent change,1 is projected to decrease during the next six decades by about 50 percent, from 1.10 between 1990 and 1995 to 0.54 between 2040 and 2050. The decrease in the rate of growth is predominantly due to the aging of the population and, consequently, a dramatic increase in the number of deaths. From 2030 to 2050, the United States would grow more slowly than ever before in its history.


More interesting is UNFPA http://www.unfpa.org/6billion/facts.htm :

Quote:
Asia’s fertility fell sharply in the last 50 years, from 5.9 to 2.6 children per woman. Sub-Saharan Africa’s has dropped much more slowly, from 6.5 to 5.5. Latin America and the Caribbean have seen a decline from 5.9 to 2.7, North Africa and Western Asia from 6.6 to 3.5. Europe’s fertility rate fell from 2.6 to 1.4, well below replacement level. On the other hand, Northern America’s fertility fell from 3.5 in 1950-1955 to 1.8 in the late 1970s, and then rebounded to the 1.9 to 2.0 range, where it has remained. It is projected to stay around 1.9 to the middle of the 21st century.
 
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Eric Brosius
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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I remember when El Grande came out and we were delighted to have a game that really worked with 5 players. If you have 6, you can split into two groups of 3, but when you have 5, you really, really need a game that works with 5 (unless 2 of you want to play a 2-player game.)
 
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Matthew Proper-Lee
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I think downtime in 6 player games tend to drag things out too much in many Euro style games. Power Grid sort of works since the turns are threaded, but as much as I love the game, sometimes it does take a long time between turns there. Alhambra is unplayable with 6 due to downtime, and I feel Settlers is also unplayable at that size as well.

Card games seem to handle larger numbers of players with their mechanics with less downtime. Bohnanza, Saboteur, Bang!, and Citadels come to mind.

My guess is that limiting the players to 4 or 5 limits the chaos/luck factor to a tolerable degree. My problems with Alhambra and Settlers is along those lines.

Alhambra is slow going and by the time it is your turn, you can just turn off untl the player just before you goes because the tile mix and money mix is significantly different than your last turn, so long term planning is nearly useless with regards to the market.

Settlers takes forever between turns with 6 players, and without the squeezed in option to build on another player's turn, the accumulation of resources makes the robber even more irritating when the 7s are rolled.

 
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