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Subject: Use of timers in multiplayer games rss

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John
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There was some discussion of timers in games in another thread. Since that thread isn't really about timers & OP of that thread didn't want to discuss there let's have a new thread.

gojaejin wrote:

We need a culture of using game timers.

Players of so-called "lifestyle games" like Chess or (in my case) Scrabble, almost always use timers even in non-tournament social games. It doesn't prevent us from chatting a bit, eating our sandwiches, drinking our beers, etc. But it does stop us from absurdly overthinking our turns, which both keeps our minds sharper for the future, and allows us to get more games into the session.

[snip]

The DGT cube is a solid, affordable 6-way game timer, but if you don't want one, there are pretty elegant apps.



russ wrote:
RobertBr wrote:
russ wrote:
Of course timers work fine in 2-player games for making the too-slow player lose and the unique other player win.

But you can't just remove a player from most multiplayer games and expect the game to continue undisrupted. So how do you appropriately penalize a player who uses too much time?


A points penalty.

But then everyone needs to decide upon and agree to how a "points penalty" should work -- unlike the simple natural 2-player timing rule "If your time runs out, then you lose the game and your (sole) opponent wins the game", there is no single obvious natural answer for how to handle someone using too much time in a multiplayer game.

And what do you do if it's a game without points? (E.g. a race game where the first person to move a piece onto the final goal space wins, or a building game where the first person to construct a magic widget wins, etc.)


Are there any games where it works? Can it work in all games?
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Russ Williams
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(I'll propose up front that this is about how to use timers in multiplayer games, for people interested in using them, and not about whether to use them -- I'm pretty sure it's already well-established and obvious that most people are usually not interested in using timers in games...)

Quote:
Are there any games where it works? Can it work in all games?


Recapping from the other thread: in 2-player games they of course work fine in a simple obvious natural way: if your time runs out, then you lose, and your opponent wins.

In most multiplayer games, this simple approach doesn't work. You typically can't say "Bob loses, and the rest of us are still in contention." Does that mean that Bob keeps playing but can't win, perhaps acting simply as a spoiler/kingmaker? Or Bob no longer participates in the game? In that case, what happens to Bob's stuff, occupied spaces, etc in the game? Whatever you do with Bob, it will probably disrupt and alter the game for the remaining players, possibly giving a big advantage (or disadvantage) to one of the remaining players.

So you could say that Bob keeps playing and competing, but suffers a penalty of some sort, e.g. Bob loses victory points for exceeding his time, or loses money. But how, specifically? Appropriate penalties surely depends on the game -- and on the group's sense of "how much analysis paralysis is too much" -- and must be decided and agreed upon. And what if it's a game without victory points or money?

Thus I think it really needs to be resolved on a case-by-case basis for multiplayer games, and there's not a clear obvious policy like "if your time runs out, your opponent simply wins" for 2-player games.
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Sven S.
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If you have a regular gaming group, you can just hand out a social penalty. When you exceeded your time, you have to provide the snacks/host and cook/bake a cake for the next game night. After all, the timer is mostly a reminder not to take ages for your turn. There doesn't need to be a competitive disadvantage attached to it.
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John
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russ wrote:
(I'll propose up front that this is about how to use timers in multiplayer games, for people interested in using them, and not about whether to use them -- I'm pretty sure it's already well-established and obvious that most people are usually not interested in using timers in games...)


Sounds good. Personally I would be prepared to use timers in 2p games but I doubt it'd work in most multiplayer games. I agree with your conclusion and think there are probably too many possible knock on effects for it to be worth doing, though I'm interested to hear other opinions.

[Clearly I'm doing the internet wrong and should be taking a more argumentative tone ]

russ wrote:
In most multiplayer games, this simple approach doesn't work. You typically can't say "Bob loses, and the rest of us are still in contention." Does that mean that Bob keeps playing but can't win, perhaps acting simply as a spoiler/kingmaker? Or Bob no longer participates in the game? In that case, what happens to Bob's stuff, occupied spaces, etc in the game? Whatever you do with Bob, it will probably disrupt and alter the game for the remaining players, possibly giving a big advantage (or disadvantage) to one of the remaining players.


Yes, even in games with player elimination adding a new method of player elimination won't necessarily work. In a game like Risk if a player is eliminated conventionally that means one or more of their neighbours has attacked them. Elimination will effect their former neighbours and potentially have knock on effects across the board but that's part of the game and stems from the decisions that all the players made.

If Bob is eliminated and becomes a neutral, only defending himself when attacked that could have a big impact on his neighbours - they potentially have a buffer from attack, but equally they might find they have trouble expanding into Bob's territory if he had built up troops on the boarder and another neighbour might be able to easily take over territory from another relatively undefended boarder.

Other possible factors:

Time pressure might change the strategy space - in some games people pursuing certain strategies need more time on their turn so people will be less likely to use these strategies.

In some games it may be possible to put the player next player (in turn order) under time pressure without them being able to do much about it.
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Russ Williams
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Another problem with using a timer perhaps worth noting that in very asymmetrical games, some players (i.e. positions/sides/factions) legitimately need more time (e.g. they have many more units to move) and so it's not obvious how much time each player should be allowed. But this can be true in asymmetrical 2-player games also, so isn't really fundamentally a multiplayer issue.

====

Another possible issue in multiplayer games is timing in situations where a subset of the players (more than just one player) are active. E.g. if 2 players are taking a long time to haggle a deal in Catan, the other 2 players may be bored and wish they would get on with it. But how should a clock be used to handle that? Make both active players lose time? (Do any clocks have that option?) Or would it be fairer to make them both lose time, but at half speed? (Do any clocks have that option?)

In a 2-player game, if the 2 players are doing something that actively involves them both (e.g. resolving an interactive battle rolling dice back and forth) they can just pause the clock.
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Andreas Pettersson
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One possibility is that the AP-prone player might not even be aware of how much time is used. In that case, use a timer that adds up the time for each player without any penalty.
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Posthumous Jones
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As much as AP bugs the crud out of me, I’d have to run anyone who brings a timer out of the house immediately.

Points penalty? And people wonder why board gamers have a rep for being bad at social cues.
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John
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russ wrote:
Another possible issue in multiplayer games is timing in situations where a subset of the players (more than just one player) are active. E.g. if 2 players are taking a long time to haggle a deal in Catan.


Just have the time running for the player whose turn it is. They can run the negotiations quickly. In Catan I think it's the responsibility of the player whose turn it is to keep the game moving and I don't think haggling should take too long. Of course in games with more complex negotiations a different approach might be needed otherwise players might deliberately enter complex time-wasting negotiations with the active player to run their clock down.

In a game like Risk where you're rolling dice for combat I'd stop the clock otherwise you might discourage attacking play.
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Drift Marlo wrote:
As much as AP bugs the crud out of me, I’d have to run anyone who brings a timer out of the house immediately.

Points penalty? And people wonder why board gamers have a rep for being bad at social cues.


- I'm not taking this thread very seriously (even if it might sound like I am, it's more a theoretical discussion).
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Russ Williams
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Drift Marlo wrote:
As much as AP bugs the crud out of me, I’d have to run anyone who brings a timer out of the house immediately.

Points penalty? And people wonder why board gamers have a rep for being bad at social cues.


Relax, no one's proposing using a clock with people not interested in using a clock.

As noted upthread, "I'm pretty sure it's already well-established and obvious that most people are usually not interested in using timers in games..."
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Bill Cook
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There are per game timers and per move timers. Per move timers make more sense in multiplayer games when you are trying to move things along. Ideally, you don’t need a penalty, when the timer runs out thinking time is over and the player must take their turn. If that’s not enough, you could have the player forfeit their turn.

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M Smith
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The timer in Space Hulk (third edition) simulates the tense decisions you have to make on board the derilect spaceships and work great within the theme.
Perhaps incorporating one in an AP prone game would help somehow?
If you are running two or three options and can not decide then this timer will help you pick one OR lose a turn.
Let’s face it many of the early roll and move boardgames of yesteryear had you miss a turn through a poor unlucky random roll. At least this way you choose to make a timed move or miss a turn.

Bit harsh maybe but we can and have to be more direct in deciding what to do in other leisure activities, especially when we are intertwined with other players precious time that they want to share with us.

How do timeouts work in sports? , do you have a set Amount? Are they so many minutes long? can they be used for a boardgame.
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    Timers are just a horrible idea, unless you're more interested in spending your time with the game on the table than you are the people across from you.

    Gaming should nurture the soul, not stress it. That's why you play.

    Bring whiskey instead. The game will take longer, no one will care.

             S.

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Russ Williams
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Sagrilarus wrote:

    Timers are just a horrible idea, unless you're more interested in spending your time with the game on the table than you are the people across from you.

    Gaming should nurture the soul, not stress it. That's why you play.

shake
"Why do people not enjoy games the same way I do? Don't they know that they're doing it completely wrong?"

--

Timers are just a wonderful idea. I've had some great fun and excitement and laughter with people playing in timed games. Isn't that why you play? If you hate timers, you obviously hate fun!

(Sweeping hyperbole is fun too!)
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Jamie Hankins
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Sagrilarus wrote:

    Timers are just a horrible idea, unless you're more interested in spending your time with the game on the table than you are the people across from you.

    Gaming should nurture the soul, not stress it. That's why you play.

    Bring whiskey instead. The game will take longer, no one will care.

             S.


I played Kitchen Rush recently, in which sand timers are an integral part of the game; it's the time pressure that makes the game fun. I don't know if it 'nurtured my soul' but I enjoyed the game anyway.

If there are players with severe AP that can't be avoided, then I can understand why people would want to see that addressed in some way, and timers might work (with particular groups of gamers).

 
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A M
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Is the penalty aspect of it really all that necessary? If the point is just to make sure that an AP-prone player (I may be that person whistle) doesn't hold the game up forever, I imagine the expiration of the timer would be enough of a cue to generally move things along. Just basic social pressure should do the trick ("okay, time's up - make your move"). Maybe I'm being naive.

Moreover, adding a penalty seems an awful lot like making an afternoon of games into . . . maybe a tournament? Nothing wrong with tournaments, but they're totally different animals - I don't think you can implement a timer penalty on a multiplayer game without fundamentally transforming the experience.

(As a side note, played New Angeles over the weekend, and much as I loved it, that game desperately needs a timer. Simultaneous action phase + open negotiation + voting = neverending story.)
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Nick M
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There is an Android App called Mattle Clock where you set either a "per move" or "per game" limit. You get a code and other players put in the codes and each player just taps the screen when ending the turn and the next players timer starts. It counts negative too, so you can see how much time you've gone over on your turn/game.

We've toyed with using this to institute some penalties (e.g. for every 3 minutes over your per game time you lose 1 point) to try to limit AP. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) our group's AP has been low enough we haven't felt like we needed to use this much, so I don't have any data to say how helpful this actually is.

Edit: typos
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marc lecours
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psson73 wrote:
One possibility is that the AP-prone player might not even be aware of how much time is used. In that case, use a timer that adds up the time for each player without any penalty.


This is a great idea.

In my group there is a "player A" who complains about "player B" taking too much time. But I am convinced that "player A" takes roughly as much time as "player B".

People are generally not aware of just how slow they are.

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marc lecours
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I have played a lot of 2 player games with clocks. I love using them.

They encourage both players to think on their opponent's turn ! ! !

If you think on the opponent turn then there is no longer any downtime. The problem with analysis paralysis is not only the slow player. The problem is also the fast players who are not thinking during the slow player's turn. This is when the feeling of downtime skyrockets. When you use clocks, suddenly you WANT to think as much as possible when the opponent's clock is running. This happens even if the amount of clock time is very generous.

As pointed out above...it is very difficult to implement clocks in a multiplayer game. What will be the penalty if you exceed the time limit. I don't have a general solution to this.

Some simultaneous multiplayer games have time limits (galaxy trucker). But turn based games generally do not.

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Wight1984 wrote:
Sagrilarus wrote:

    Timers are just a horrible idea, unless you're more interested in spending your time with the game on the table than you are the people across from you.

    Gaming should nurture the soul, not stress it. That's why you play.

    Bring whiskey instead. The game will take longer, no one will care.

             S.


I played Kitchen Rush recently, in which sand timers are an integral part of the game; it's the time pressure that makes the game fun. I don't know if it 'nurtured my soul' but I enjoyed the game anyway.

If there are players with severe AP that can't be avoided, then I can understand why people would want to see that addressed in some way, and timers might work (with particular groups of gamers).



    I understand some games have time as an element, I'm talking about games where people are getting impatient because of "Analysis Paralysis". (Thank God there's a pithy rhyme for the concept.) I play in a group where there's usually good conversation, often about the game itself and players attempt to bend each others' decisions with table talk during the game. Putting a timer in removes a lot of what we get from the game. Each of us has a different reputation on how we approach that aspect, and that's a factor of our play as well.

    That may be the result of playing with the same people since 1992. At a convention with strangers the game has to be the heart of the session, because it's the only thing you have in common.


russ wrote:

shake
"Why do people not enjoy games the same way I do? Don't they know that they're doing it completely wrong?"


    That's just like Jeff Bridges saying "that's just an opinion, man" in The Big Lebowski. It's kind of a get-out-of-jail-free card. I'm not sure what you're expecting to find in an Internet chat group other than opinions, that's sort of how a debate works.

             S.

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murjani1 wrote:
Just basic social pressure should do the trick ("okay, time's up - make your move").


I don't think during a slow player's go is the best time to remind them to speed up. I'm sure it works for some people but not for me. If I'm being slow taking my move then speaking to me or trying to hurry me up will have the opposite effect. I may well forget what I'd worked out and then take longer. This only applies to games where there is something complex to work out (I'm thinking late game in Impulse).

If it's the kind of game where I could make an almost instance decision decision (like which role to select in Citadels) then it's probably fine, but I'm usually fairly quick at those kind of decisions these days.

On the other hand I do want to make sure games don't take too long so we can play more games (or actually fit longer games into an evening).
 
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rubberchicken wrote:
psson73 wrote:
One possibility is that the AP-prone player might not even be aware of how much time is used. In that case, use a timer that adds up the time for each player without any penalty.


This is a great idea.

In my group there is a "player A" who complains about "player B" taking too much time. But I am convinced that "player A" takes roughly as much time as "player B".

People are generally not aware of just how slow they are.



The reason I thought about it was that a generally AP prone player once took four minutes to deliver the first question in a three player round of Spyfall. I really should have accused him of being the spy but 1) he is that AP prone and given to endless rephrasing and 2) I was sort of curious as to how long it would actually take. He was genuinely surprised that half of the eight minutes had gone by. The third player (the spy) also was pretty happy about time slipping away.

That and other episodes like that led me to think about using a timer in the way mentioned.
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Sagrilarus wrote:
I understand some games have time as an element, I'm talking about games where people are getting impatient because of "Analysis Paralysis". (Thank God there's a pithy rhyme for the concept.) I play in a group where there's usually good conversation, often about the game itself and players attempt to bend each others' decisions with table talk during the game. Putting a timer on the table removes a lot of what we get from the game. Each of us has a different reputation on how we approach that aspect.


It sounds like timers aren't a good idea for your group with the games you like to play. The problem is that you've generalised your experience and preferences to all other groups playing all games.

I mentioned Kitchen Rush because it's an example of how time pressure can be used to focus people on the game in a way that many people will find fun; when you're playing Kitchen Rush, you're not taking part in idle chat or otherwise relaxing - your attention is on the game and you are trying to wring the most gameplay possible out of every moment. That can be a lot of fun.

However, I also find the same can be true in other games. If I'm playing seven player Caverna (or some other long multiplayer solitaire style game) then I definitely enjoy a faster pace of play because the game will be spread quite thin if I have to wait for six players with AP to then take my own very short turn (having sat through six other player's turns, there's not much excuse for not having some plans about what I want to do in my own turn)

Again, maybe that's not your preferred approach to playing games and that's fair enough... but it doesn't mean that everyone who enjoys games differently is wrong. If you don't like the idea of timers in your games, then this thread isn't really aimed at you.

Sagrilarus wrote:
russ wrote:

shake
"Why do people not enjoy games the same way I do? Don't they know that they're doing it completely wrong?"


That's just like Jeff Bridges saying "that's just an opinion, man" in The Big Lebowski. It's kind of a get-out-of-jail-free card. I'm not sure what you're expecting to find in an Internet chat group other than opinions, that's sort of how a debate works.

S.


'You're having fun wrong' is an opinion but, as you say, there's no get out of free card for opinions. 'You're having fun wrong' is almost always a silly opinion to hold. If a group of people find that their enjoyment of a board game is improved by having timers, then timers are not a 'horrible idea' for that group.
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zabdiel wrote:
murjani1 wrote:
Just basic social pressure should do the trick ("okay, time's up - make your move").


I don't think during a slow player's go is the best time to remind them to speed up. I'm sure it works for some people but not for me. If I'm being slow taking my move then speaking to me or trying to hurry me up will have the opposite effect. I may well forget what I'd worked out and then take longer. This only applies to games where there is something complex to work out (I'm thinking late game in Impulse).


Hmm . . . that's a fair point. I wonder if you could implement some kind of notation for games with lots of steps per turn? I'm thinking of something derived from what Diplomacy does. For example, if you have ten units to move, and five minutes to complete your turns, you write down tentative moves as you go (secretly, if you wish). At the end of the time, what you've written down goes through, and you have to make your other moves on the spot.

This might be a cure worse than the disease, though that might also be the case for the whole timer issue altogether.
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murjani1 wrote:
This might be a cure worse than the disease, though that might also be the case for the whole timer issue altogether.

Agree regarding timers. I might actually consider writing down possible plans in Impulse. In general my solution is:

Drink beer instead. The game might take longer, no one will care.

(Misquoting Sagrilarus)

Sometimes drinking beer speeds up my play, sometimes it slows it down.
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