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Subject: Is saying a game is 'broken', broken? Poll rss

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Scott McKay
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Is the claim that a game is 'broken' too common?
No, there are lots of broken or very unbalanced games.
Maybe, but it leads to good discussion about strategy.
Yes, just learn to play the damn game already!
      276 answers
Poll created by Darth Gamer


So what does 'broken' mean? In the following poll, assume that the games are supposed to be balanced, ie not designed to be more difficult for one player to win. Also assume statistics are taken from a large pool of results of games with players of equal skill. (Even as I type that, it sounds ridiculous...)

Poll
1. 1. I would consider a 2 player asymmetric game to be broken if the same side/faction won:
55% or more of games
60% or more of games
65% or more of games
70% or more of games
80% or more of games
2. 2. I would consider a 2p game to be broken if a particular strategy would always win unless one specific counter strategy was used.
Yes
No
3. 3. Take a 4 player game with a dominant strategy which all players can employ. I would say the game is broken if the sole player using that strategy wins:
30% or more of games
35% or more of games
40% or more of games
50% or more of games
60% or more of games
80% or more of games
Boring but not broken
4. 4. Continuing the previous example, for whatever answer you chose, would you still say that the game is broken if multiple players taking the 'dominant' strategy interfered with each other? (eg. fighting for the same resources)
Yes
No
5. 5. In a 4 player game with different starting player powers/factions, I would say one of them is broken if players with that power/faction won:
30% or more of games
35% or more of games
40% or more of games
50% or more of games
60% or more of games
80% or more of games
Not broken
6. 6. In a 4 player game, I would consider a particular card, etc. that can be acquired during the game by any player to be overpowered if the player who gets that card, etc. wins:
30% or more of games
35% or more of games
40% or more of games
50% or more of games
60% or more of games
80% or more of games
Not broken
      194 answers
Poll created by Darth Gamer


I know my questions are not perfect, especially that last one since you have to take into account that the player must already be doing well to be able to buy that tile or whatever. Try to think of it in terms of how much your odds of winning go up by getting that power rather than another for the same cost.

Please feel free to add more questions.
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David Fair
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I find it really hard to put a quantifiable number on the questions you have asked. Game brokenness is like pornography; i know it when i see it.
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Brad Miller
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Yes, A Few Acres of Snow is totally broken.
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Duncan Russell
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I sometimes hear that a game is broken when a particular strategy is used, but I don't know whether it's true.

ie although they are very highly rated, I've heard both Istanbul and Russian Railroads are broken. Maybe it boils down to badly balanced strategies. Or a perception of badly balanced strategies. Those people who don't use particular strategies would argue the game isn't broken.

I'd like some definitive answers from the designers.

Also, there are examples of designers accepting there are unbalanced strategies and fixing the game. So it is definitely an issue.
 
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Ratimir Ismailobrat
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To a large extent it comes down to managing expectations. A game (especially an assymetric two-player) can be designed to be insanely tough on one side and still be fun, provided that the players are aware of this ahead of time.

It's fun to battle against the odds. It's not fun to expect a fair fight and get totally outgunned.
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Sweetgotham
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ratimir wrote:
To a large extent it comes down to managing expectations. A game (especially an assymetric two-player) can be designed to be insanely tough on one side and still be fun, provided that the players are aware of this ahead of time.

It's fun to battle against the odds. It's not fun to expect a fair fight and get totally outgunned.


Haven't played yet (it's on my 'next to buy list') but that's what I've heard about Raptor, but I am going into it knowing that and ok with it (more than ok, hell yeah I'm playing the raptor even if it it's 'weaker'!). As someone who currently almost exclusively plays 2p games, 2p with asymmetrical sides gives us variety to play vs out favorite euros and we just switch sides as the mood strikes. Since we don't play any one game a lot, we don't get tired of this version of 'brokenness'.
 
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Scott McKay
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BeyondMonopoly wrote:
I find it really hard to put a quantifiable number on the questions you have asked. Game brokenness is like pornography; i know it when i see it.


Yeah, but like pornography, different people see it differently. That seems to be what leads to most of the arguments. Any threads in which an attempt has been madee to define it? I'm having trouble with that.
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Bruce Gazdecki
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I really wish the poll would've had 70% as an option for the questions. 60 seems a little low, but 80 is too far past the line for me.
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Duncan Russell
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Bruiser419 wrote:
I really wish the poll would've had 70% as an option for the questions. 60 seems a little low, but 80 is too far past the line for me.

The survey is broken!
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Scott McKay
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Yeah, that's fair feedback. I thought most of the replies would be in the lower ranges. I'm surprised how spread out the results of the last two questions are; no wonder there's so much disagreement on what makes a game broken!
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Scott McKay
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The results for question 5 blow me away. So, in a game like Terra Mystica with only 4 factions, if 1000 games were played with people of equal skill and the Gnomes won 700 times, a third of those polled would say Gnomes are not broken/overpowered?!?
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Thom0909
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Quote:
I would consider a 2p game to be broken if a particular strategy would always win unless one specific counter strategy was used.


I would certainly say it is broken if no counter strategy could beat it. But one may be enough. If that one strategy deters people from always using the "dominant" strategy, then isn't that enough?
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Trent Boardgamer
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One also has to consider the difference between broken and solved. Tic-tac-toe is solved, but not broken. Broken to me is when a certain player will win due to some aspect, like starting and winning regardless of what the other player/s can then do from that point on.

Having a dominant strategy isn't broken, unless it can't be stopped in anyway. I normally just consider games which have one dominate strategy boring, not broken.

As far as something swinging a win percentage (amongst evenly skilled players) unless it creates a 100% win result, it's merely poor design due to poor balance but not broken.

All that said whether broken, solved or won by one dominate strategy I generally consider them all boring games.
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Eric Brosius
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Brokenness is situation dependent.

For example, basketball was broken before they put in a rule against goaltending, if the teams were tall enough and skilled enough to swat away all the opponents' shots. (Many people today don't realize that there wasn't a rule against goaltending until the 1940's, so that the game was played for several decades without such a rule.) The growing ability of players to goaltend effectively (most notably, George Mikan) meant that virtually every shot was being blocked. I'd say that basketball is "broken" if you can't score baskets.

However, if a team of people like me were playing, the game wouldn't be broken even if goaltending were still legal. I can't get high enough to goaltend.

In the same way, brokenness in a boardgame depends on whether the players are able and willing to play in such a way that the brokenness comes out. To give two extreme examples:

Tic-Tac-Toe is broken for many gamers because they can play in such a way that it will always be a tie (and an uninteresting one, at that.) But it is not broken for people who don't know the trick yet (especially young ones.) [Note: I think a game that always ends in a tie, in an uninteresting way, is broken. It doesn't have to be a guaranteed win for one player.]

Chess would be broken for an all-powerful supercomputer that can calculate all the moves. There is either a guaranteed win for one side or the other, or a guaranteed draw, given best play. Not interesting. But for humans, and even for today's computers, that guaranteed result is not computable. So not broken for them.

I didn't answer the poll, because it's not how I think. To me, imbalance doesn't mean broken. I could play a game even though I was playing a side with only a 10% chance of victory, as long as the struggle was interesting. I'd be 5 times as happy when I won as if I won a balanced game, so for me it'd all wash out.
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michael dorazio
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Broken is not synonymous with Overpowered as I see those terms. Overpowered status of a player power is kept in check by the other players in a 3+ player game. If Khorne wins most of your games of Chaos in the Old World, well, the other players aren't doing their jobs.

Trickier in a 2-player game, of course ...

Broken pretty much means not playable (fun/competitive).

Edit - so, yeah ... what the previous ninjas wrote.
 
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Eric Brosius
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Suppose the best winning strategy in a game was to pass every turn. And suppose that if everyone played this strategy, the winner would be determined randomly, with everyone playing it having an equal chance to win.

[For example, here's a game:

"Players take turns. On your turn, you may either pass or place a token on the board. If you pass, you flip a fair coin and get 1 point if it comes up heads. The game is over after each player has had 10 turns, and the player with the most points wins."]

This game is fair, and the best strategy is to pass every turn, because placing tokens doesn't help you win.

I'd consider this game broken, because it's of no interest once you make the fairly obvious observation that the thing to do is pass.

[I'll also note that this game has a lot in common with LCR, but that's another discussion.]
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Joe Huber

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No game is broken for every player.

I suspect all games are broken for some player.

In my opinion, broken is not a fixed, universal state, but a personal statement. For example, I consider Insider completely broken _for me_; I would not play the game again because for me it completely fails to work. Others love it, and probably think it silly that I call it broken.

While broken games generally are not of interest to me, there are games which I find both broken and interesting. For me, Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar is broken - but I still enjoy the game, and rate it an 8 because of that enjoyment.
 
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Eric Brosius
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Windopaene wrote:
Yes, A Few Acres of Snow is totally broken.

Not for two people like me. I don't know the strategy that ruins it.
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Juan Valdez
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Eric Brosius wrote:
Windopaene wrote:
Yes, A Few Acres of Snow is totally broken.

Not for two people like me. I don't know the strategy that ruins it.


Exactly. I don't know that strategy, none of my usual opponents know it, all of them are more interested in playing interesting games with interesting people, and none of has a Win At All Costs attitude. I expect we'll enjoy A Few Acres of Snow quite a bit.

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Scott McKay
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Another factor is that some powers are acquired more often by better players rather than that power on its own making players win more often. But I was trying to come at it from all else being equal. Like if a leader in Through the Ages gave +20 military, everyone would take it if they could. Who got it would just depend on timing and we would probably agree that the game was broken.
 
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Curt Carpenter
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Question 3: If all players could employ the strategy, but only 1 did, are the other 3 players stupid? Or do they value trying someone less likely to succeed as high priority than winning? There's something missing in the question. And what happens if two people choose the strategy? It doesn't make sense as is, and thus as written the only answer I can come up with is N/A.
 
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Posthumous Jones
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Eric Brosius wrote:
Windopaene wrote:
Yes, A Few Acres of Snow is totally broken.

Not for two people like me. I don't know the strategy that ruins it.


Agreed. One person, a rabid wargamer, found the exploit after roughly 100 plays. That doesn't sound broken.
 
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Yes, saying a game is broken is broken, ergo, problem solved!
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Andrew Bartosh

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Bruiser419 wrote:
I really wish the poll would've had 70% as an option for the questions. 60 seems a little low, but 80 is too far past the line for me.


Yeah, I am really confused as to why we skipped 70%.

We also have the problem that the poll questions where you go below 50% actually posit the option for being broken on both ends: unplayably weak vs overpoweringly strong.
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Darth Gamer wrote:
The results for question 5 blow me away. So, in a game like Terra Mystica with only 4 factions, if 1000 games were played with people of equal skill and the Gnomes won 700 times, a third of those polled would say Gnomes are not broken/overpowered?!?


While the gnomes might be overpowered that doesn't outright mean the game is broken. In some ways it might be an ideally balanced in a group where one player always lags behind the rest. Though for a 4 player game like that it would be best if there were 4 equal factions along side some easier and harder faction to play.

Another way to look at it is that there are many asymmetrical 2 player games where one side intentionally has a clear advantage. Rather than broken those games are as intended.
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