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Subject: Handicapping - playing with newcomers rss

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Neil Figuracion
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It seems that one thing that can be said about Caylus is that it rewards players who play it again and again. Although this is quite a wonderful treat for players who return to the game, it can be quite frustrating for players who are about to play for the first time. It seems as a remedy to this, would it be helpful to create a system of handicaps? Or is there some better way to ease a newbie in to this game?

Any thoughts?
 
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Andrew Schoonmaker
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The obvious handicapping system would just be to give the weaker player(s) some number of VP at the start of the game; this has the benefit of changing the actual play of the game very little (the weaker player may lose points in some situations where ordinarily they wouldn't, because they wouldn't have any to lose).

You could give the weaker player more resources (cash, cubes) to start with. This might allow some things earlier than they would otherwise be available, but the late game would probably be similar to a standard late game position.

More lasting advantages: the weaker player could have base income increased, or could be given an extra worker. Or possibly the stronger player could play with only five workers, rather than six. Altering the count of workers does affect the dynamics of order of passing (e.g. the weaker player might get to play first *and* still be guaranteed to be able to pass last) and might change the play of the game in a significant way.

The weaker player could be given one or more royal favor track advancements prior to the beginning of the game, with or without receiving the attached rewards (of course, if they're not receiving the rewards anyhow, they may figure why not take the building track, which may not be what you want).

Anyway, some food for thought.
 
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Brian Bankler
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Rather than give a flat VP fiat (or other bonus), I usually just declare that I am taking X% off my score. (X varies with # of players and how much they've played, but with general new players, I'll typically trim my score by 1/n (where n = total number of players).

A percentage works well because with just straight VP it really matters if the game goes an extra turn or two.
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Dave Eisen
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I don't know that I like that kind of handicap. Does make clear who won and who lost and "winning" by getting 20 VP added on doesn't do a lot for me.

I was at one time playing with the idea of giving the better player a smaller starting packet. Depending on the strength difference, maybe one less pink cube and two more dollars. Or one less cube and one more dollar. Would make the game a real challenge for the better player ---- starting out with less stuff would change the game enough to make it interesting.
 
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Andrew Schoonmaker
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Bankler wrote:
Rather than give a flat VP fiat (or other bonus), I usually just declare that I am taking X% off my score. (X varies with # of players and how much they've played, but with general new players, I'll typically trim my score by 1/n (where n = total number of players).

A percentage works well because with just straight VP it really matters if the game goes an extra turn or two.

That's a good point. Also the player giving the handicap will want to steer the game towards a more wide-open resource-heavy game, since scores being higher all around makes X points a smaller fraction of the total.

Taking half off your score in a two-player game has to be rough, though!
 
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Neil Figuracion
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I think the idea of a percentile handicap would probably be very mathematically helpful. On the other hand, I think it would probably add a bit of abstraction that would make the game that much tougher for a newbie. For instance, would the player know exactly how much they needed to make a certain goal, or would they have to do the math?

The idea that I'm considering right now (in the interests of both fairness and growing my skill) is to try to play using less-tested strategies. So far I've been fairly good at using the building track, but haven't much played the prestige and money tracks. How would the game play differently if I never used the building track?

Would the gameplay be more balanced between new and experienced players if we disallowed the use of the building track in a group's first game?

It seems like the biggest break in score balance is the building of the prestige buildings. That is, experienced players may or may not have a plan about how to get them built, while newbies often have to have the option pointed out.

More thoughts later...
 
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Ururam Tururam
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Newbie bonuses that could be used:

1 For the first game at the beginning of the game the newbie gets three royal favors (second, third and fourth row, no prestige).

2 For the second game at the beginning of the game the newbie gets two favors (the second row, and the fourth one).

3 Until his/her first victory at the beginning of the game the newbie gets one favor (fourth row).
 
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Neil Figuracion
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I mentioned my idea to another player who suggested that if I were to play without the building track, then I wouldn't be playing my best game. On the one hand this may be true but on the other, perhaps there are things that could be explored along the other tracks. As well, in playing games with beginners, I feel that more is to be gained by getting them eager to play the game than there is to be gained from beating them with a seemingly impossible score.

Another player suggested that beginners tend to mimic other players play, so playing strong can be okay. I think that this depends entirely on the personalities involved. It's probably best to play it by ear.

But I'm liking the no building track (for experienced players) option. It gives the game an edge, without stating blankly that beginners may be completely out of their depth. It's a quiet handicap, and that works just fine for me.
 
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Boris Dvorkin
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Your motive in doling out handicaps is to decrease frustration amongst newbies. The motive is what's important here, not how efficiently you can cripple the advanced player. For example, if you give the newbie +10 VP's at the start of the game and he proceeds to get crushed by 20 points, did your handicap just make things better or worse? Much worse, because getting creamed isn't nearly as bad as taking a head start and still getting creamed. If the newbie wins by 2 points, is there any satisfaction in that victory? Well, some, but losing your first game of Caylus by only 8 points is pretty damn impressive. So in the best case, the VP handicap does nothing to increase the newbie's satisfaction; and in the worst case, it makes his dissatisfaction worse.

The handicap you give to the newbie must become "hidden" as the game goes on so that its influence on the outcome of the game isn't blatantly apparent at the end. The VP handicap is a great way to give the newbie an edge, but it utterly fails to achieve the goal that was the reason for implementing a handicap in the first place. The resource handicap is also suspect -- if your opponent begins the game with less resources and/or money than you and has an overwhelming economic advantage by mid-game (as is likely to happen), how are you going to feel?

Frankly, I think there are many bigger obstacles to a newbie's enjoyment of Caylus than the possibility of getting whipped. Caylus is long and complicated for a euro, and that plus the complete absence of luck is going to alienate a lot of people. Someone who likes the mechanics of Caylus will understand that getting mauled in a spectacular fashion is to be expected when first playing a game of such skill. Conversely, someone who isn't disposed toward this type of game won't magically be made to love it just because you cheat the rules to let them win.

I don't think handicapping Caylus is going to improve anybody's chances of liking the game. The handicap would either have to be so big as to rob the newbie of all satisfaction, or so small that it wouldn't have any noticeable effect. The best advice, as another poster suggested, would be to play ordinary Caylus and "go easy" on the beginner by taking on a strategy unfamiliar to you.
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Brian Bankler
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Boarass wrote:

I don't think handicapping Caylus is going to improve anybody's chances of liking the game. The handicap would either have to be so big as to rob the newbie of all satisfaction, or so small that it wouldn't have any noticeable effect. The best advice, as another poster suggested, would be to play ordinary Caylus and "go easy" on the beginner by taking on a strategy unfamiliar to you.


Well, some people love Caylus (and games like it) because they have no chance of winning the first time they play against experienced people. The game rewards thought, study, and attention.

Those people don't really need a handicap.

There are those who will only love games they can win. They'll need a handicap, and depending on their personality you may have to hide it from them, or minimize it.

The motive is important, but the new player's state of mind is the real issue.
 
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PenumbraPenguin
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When I was taught Caylus just recently, a guy who knew how to play got three of us who didn't, explained the rules, watched and corrected rules misunderstandings for a few turns, and then left (ie, to play another boardgame nearby). That was a fine way to learn.
 
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Mauricio Arruga
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I've posted this suggestion and it's been working very well.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/160153

 
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Adrian Larson
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played a 4 player game Friday. Two players played only like once before (but like the game) so I consider them new players. Refreshed / retaught them the game. Scored over 100 PP for the first time. Don't know how common that is for a experience group playing caylus but it's not in my group.

Having said that, I don't like handicapping when I'm playing a game for the first time (or when I just suck). So, throw nOObies to wolves I say and fight it out.

I was in glee going over 100PP, I WILL admit it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm going to get killed at BGG.con. I'm fine with that.

Later,
Adrian
 
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