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Subject: How important is a fifth player? rss

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Stefan Alexander
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I'm working on several game designs, mostly "euro-style" and usually they end up being best with 4 players. I can often add more players, but sometimes it takes a LOT of extra considerations, player-specific rules, and components. For example, the design I'm working on that led me to ask this question, I would need to use a 165-card deck instead of a 110-card deck, and an extra region on the board. I'd need extra tokens (naturally), but I'd also need to add a few other balancing rules that just aren't needed with 2-4 players. The problem is this makes the 2-4 player game a little more fiddly.

So here's my question: Is a 5th (or even 6th) player SO GOOD that I should always add it if the game still works? Or is it of questionable value?

Just to clarify, I'm NOT talking about a game that doesn't work well with 5 players. There are some games, in my opinion, that are terrible with more than 4 (like Settlers), so that's a separate issue. I'm only talking about those situations where the game is still great with 5, but requires a LOT more components and exceptions.
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CHAPEL
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"that's a smith and wesson, and you've had your six"
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5 players is the magic number. 6 can always break into 2 games of 3, and most groups I've played with like mor socialization than 2 player games have to offer.

So 5 is the magic number.
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Jeff Hinrickson
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MWChapel wrote:
5 players is the magic number. 6 can always break into 2 games of 3, and most groups I've played with like mor socialization than 2 player games have to offer.

So 5 is the magic number.


Could not agree more.
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Paul DeStefano
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Three is the magic number.

Schoolhouse Rock told me so, so it is true.

Three is a magic number,
Yes it is, it's a magic number.
Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity
You get three as a magic number.

The past and the present and the future.
Faith and Hope and Charity,
The heart and the brain and the body
Give you three as a magic number.

It takes three legs to make a tri-pod
Or to make a table stand.
It takes three wheels to make a ve-hicle
Called a tricycle.

Every triangle has three corners,
Every triangle has three sides,
No more, no less.
You don't have to guess.
When it's three you can see
It's a magic number.

A man and a woman had a little baby,
Yes, they did.
They had three in the family,
And that's a magic number.

3-6-9, 12-15-18, 21-24-27, 30.
3-6-9, 12-15-18, 21-24-27, 30.
Multiply backwards from three times ten:

Three time ten is (30), three times nine is (27),
Three times eight is (24), three times seven is (21),
Three times six is (18), three times five is (15),
Three times four is twelve,
And three times three is nine, and three times two is six,
And three times one is three of course.

Now take the pattern once more:
Three! . . .3-6-9
Twelve! . . .12-15-18
Twenty-one!. . .21-24-27. . .30

Now multiply from 10 backwards:
Three time ten is (30 - Keep going), three times nine is (27),
Three times eight is (24), three times seven is (21),
Three times six is (18), three times five is (15),
Three times four is twelve,
And three times three is nine, and three times two is six,
And three times one...
What is it?!
Three!
Yeah, That's a magic number.

A man and a woman had a little baby.
Yes, they did.
They had three in the family.
That's a magic number.
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Mike Jones
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I prefer games that work well at the 5 player range.
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Dave Eisen
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I am more comfortable omitting the fifth player if that stretches the game too far. It does impact group management in the ways discussed above, but really, I prefer to play all of my games at their ideal player count and some get played specifically when I have 4 in my group, some when I have 5. It is rare that the same game is played in both situations. Your game would fall in with Ursuppe, Lowenherz, and Brass as specificlly 4-player games and that's just fine.
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Dawn Howe
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I have a family of 5, so it is very important to me. I give games as gifts and most recipients have 3 kids, so for these families, I only look for games that play at least 5. Given a choice of gifting a 4 player game or 5 player game, I'll choose the 5 player game unless the 4 player game is much better (e.g. I recently gifted Dominion for Christmas, even though it only plays 4).
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Scott Nicholson
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Do not add a fifth player if it makes the game not work. I'm talking to you, Le Havre.

If the game plays great with 4 and is much less fun with 5, then leave it at 4.


The more important question for you to consider - how many sales will you lose if it is a 4 player max game? How many people would say, 'Well, I really like this game, but since it can't handle 5, I won't buy it?'

Is the profit you would make from those sales offset by the cost of your extra work?

Here's another consideration:

When a game is new and is brought to a game day, everyone wants to try it. So, it gets played at capacity. If the max-player experience is much less enjoyable, then you will lose many potential customers who had a bad experience. (I'm talking to you, Arkham Horror with 8 players...) Will you lose more customers that way than if you had capped it at a 4 player game?

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Chris Jones
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My game group rotates from 4 players (loads of choices) most game nights often getting up to 5 which starts to limit great games options.

The potential number of people who could come is 7 (no real options at all - Citadels possibly and a few others) and even with 6 people there we struggling (Power Grid).

I'm pushing Dominion to 5 players on Wednesday and buying the 5 player expansion for Race for the Galaxy (very excited). Settlers is a favourite (though buying the expansions cost a packet) as is Carcassonne. We made an extra play mat for Pirates Cove!

When I buy a game I prefer 2-6 playability, otherwise I really don't consider buying.

Gotta go to 6, and so few do.



 
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Daniel Winterhalter
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I frequently attend/host game evenings, and have noticed that a majority of the games capped at 4 players get significantly less play time than games that can successfully play 5, and especially 6. Almost every game gets played at capacity.

So, what I'm trying to say is that if your game works for 5 or 6 as well as it does for 4, I'd pay more to have the option to play 6. If game play suffers, then it's better to stay at 4.
 
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Davido
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Another commons situation. 2 couples and a 'fifth wheel'. Our friend LOVES games, but is single. So with '5' as the 'sweet spot' we tend to play those types of games and she is SO grateful to fit into the mix (vs. say Bridge or 4p games). Again, if the game still works but just costs/needs more, go for it, but if it breaks at 5, then design the game that YOU feel is best. but yeah, me likey 5P a lot.
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Stefan Alexander
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snicholson wrote:

The more important question for you to consider - how many sales will you lose if it is a 4 player max game? How many people would say, 'Well, I really like this game, but since it can't handle 5, I won't buy it?'


It really comes down to this question, I think. Although it's the publisher who's going to be making that call (since I'm licensing, not self-publishing), if he has a choice of equally good games but one game supports 5 players, it seems like that might be the tipping point.


snicholson wrote:

Is the profit you would make from those sales offset by the cost of your extra work?


No... But the profit from designing games in the first place will never offset the cost of my work

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Ed Sherman
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There are four other people I regularly game with, so I'm always on the lookout for games that play as well for five as they do with four.
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Stefan Alexander
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Thanks to all who have responded so far - I'm surprised the support has been overwhelmingly for the value of a fifth player. I guess now I need to print out another 55 cards...
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Abraham Drucker
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davido wrote:
Another commons situation. 2 couples and a 'fifth wheel'. Our friend LOVES games, but is single. So with '5' as the 'sweet spot' we tend to play those types of games and she is SO grateful to fit into the mix (vs. say Bridge or 4p games). Again, if the game still works but just costs/needs more, go for it, but if it breaks at 5, then design the game that YOU feel is best. but yeah, me likey 5P a lot.


I tend to just have the couple scenario. I usually have a hard time getting a fifth to the table. Much of my gaming is done as a couples, which makes four perfect.

Honestly, I choose games in a large part based on how many people I have to play with. If I have four, I'll pull out a four player game, if I have five, I'll pull out a five player game. I don't need games to scale from 2-6. I'd rather play a game that was good with 2 if I have 2, and a game for 6 if I have 6.

Choose the number of people that works best with the design. You can always add a fifth in an expansion if your game is popular enough.
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Mark McEvoy
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What the publisher would probably prefer is if your game can theoretically support more players but is deliberately released with a lower limit of players and has a ready-made excuse for an expansion.

Galaxy Trucker, Race for the Galaxy, Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, Dominion, Dungeon Twister, Age of Empires III, Bohnanza...
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J C Lawrence
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The standard German publisher design space is 3-5 players. If they go further that's great, but they have to cover at least those bases to have much of a chance with the traditional German publishers. 3-5 players covers the core of their social.family-oriented market and every step away from there severely limits the potential market for the game. More than a few otherwise worthy designs have been pummeled and stretched just to cover that player range.
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J C Lawrence
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Trekspert1 wrote:
I frequently attend/host game evenings, and have noticed that a majority of the games capped at 4 players get significantly less play time than games that can successfully play 5, and especially 6. Almost every game gets played at capacity.


I play with roughly a half-dozen different groups (three weekday evening groups and three ~monthly gamesdays), plus a few other ad-hoc gaming groups. Games are very rarely if ever played at capacity unless choc-full-of-players is actually the sweet spot for that game (rarely true). We invariably pick the game for the number of players we have and each player count has its list of games which are at their best with exactly that many players. 3 players -- how about Bridges of Shangri-La or Neuland? George just walked in to make it 4 players, well, Bridges of Shangri-La and Neuland areout as their sweet spots are at 3 players. How about King of Siam or Kaivai? Whoops, Roza just arrived. Scratch King of Siam. How about Clippers or Container They make a great 5 player games! Ahh, here comes Mark; put Clippers and Container back on the shelf. Should we split into two 3-player groups or play Medieval Merchant or 1830?
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Brad Johnson
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Just to throw my opinion, which appears to be a minority one, into the mix: I would love to see more Eurogames that are playable by 6, 7, or even 8 players, as long as the duration and downtime didn't increase much over what you'd see for a typical 4 or 5 player game.

There are many times I have 6-8 players, and yes, we do usually end up breaking into 2 tables at that point, but we always *wish* we could play something together. The only options I have tend to be super-lightweight card games (e.g. Category 5) or games that are much longer and/or more intense than what we want (e.g. Diplomacy, Roborally, Civilization, etc.)

If anyone has any great recommendations for medium-weight Euro-style strategy games that play in under 2 hrs that can support 7 or 8 players, I'd love to hear them. I've played or rejected almost all of the options on the "Best for 7+ Players" geeklist, and I still haven't found the one that really scratches the "Puerto Rico" itch. Citadels might be the closest for me. I'd always encourage new designers to see if they could hit that target if at all possible...
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Dan Cassar
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Good thread! What about the value of 2 players versus 5?

The card game I'm working on will work for 2-4 players or 3-5 players, but the same deck will not work for both 2 and 5 players. Would you sacrifice the ability to play with 2 so that you could play with 5?

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J C Lawrence
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My impression is that 2 player games tend to sell to a noticeably different demographic than larger player-count games. There's some cross-over between the two, the publishers like the idea of tacking that 2 player support on the bottom of a game's range, but there's little way they're going to be willing to sacrifice the larger 5 player market for the (much) smaller 2 player market.
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Ted Groth
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Two or five but not both? Ouch!

I really like having the ability to include a fifth player. I admit that most of my games don't really see five players that often, but is great to have that option. Often we don't know exactly how many people will show up on game day, so flexibility is valuable for planning.

Just switching to a different game isn't really a good option. Often people are really looking forward to playing a specific game, so it becomes awkward if there is one extra person.

On the other hand, I wish I could play some of these same multi-player games at home with my wife, NOT on game day, without needing another player. Some multi-player games have two-player versions, but very few actually work that well. I would also prefer not to have to change the rules of a game (other than set-up) in order to make it two-player game. The rules changes just complicates things when we later play the standard version in a larger group.

So I'm not really answering the question. I want BOTH two-player AND five-player capability!

If you have a card deck that is good for 2-4 players, or a 2nd deck that is good for 3-5 players, should I assume that many of the cards are actually the same, and only a few are different? Perhaps you could mark the face of these special cards as 5-player or 2-player, so that they can be sorted and removed from the deck when they don't apply? Not a very clean solution, but it would get you that flexibility. If the cards themselves aren't different, but only the number of cards of each type changes, then just change the set-up to remove a few cards of specific types when beginning a game with fewer players.
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Ted Groth
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clearclaw wrote:
My impression is that 2 player games tend to sell to a noticeably different demographic than larger player-count games. There's some cross-over between the two, the publishers like the idea of tacking that 2 player support on the bottom of a game's range, but there's little way they're going to be willing to sacrifice the larger 5 player market for the (much) smaller 2 player market.


True the target market is different, but I think that is a result of the difference in the games that exist not because of what people desire.

It would be nice if a game really would work just the same for a couple to play on a quiet evening at home the same way as it does with a group of friends. I understand that the dynamics of multi-plyer interaction make this very difficult to ever achieve.

I still want it though.
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Daniel Corban
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If it makes the 2-4 player experience worse, then why is this even being considered.
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Chris Totten
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I honestly feel that it depends on the game. Three is a fine number for some games, yet 5 is good for others. I am currently designing a game that I believe 4 would be the ideal number for, although 5 would certainly work. It's ultimately up to you.
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