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Subject: Gaming Etiquette: Kingmaking rss

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Bryan Maxwell
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My group played a 5-player game of Age of Mythology last night. The game took about 3 hours, and on the last round 3 of the 5 players were in the running for the win so the outcome was very much in doubt.

On his last turn, one of the players (we'll call him "Paul") who was not in the running took an action that did not benefit him in any way, but allowed the player to his left (who was still in the running) to build the wonder, end the game and win.

My buddy (who won) and I had a discussion about the game on the way home.

Him: "Paul is wacky and fun to have at the table. He's done the same thing to screw me over in the past. Now he knows I 'owe him one' in a future game."

Me: "Horseshit. Paul is a giant turd who took all the intrigue and excitement out of the outcome of a game we played for 3 hours. Rather than seeing who would have actually won, he chose a winner himself. He may as well have climbed up out of his chair and took a dump in the middle of the table."

Some people feel it's simply part of the game. I think you should play to improve your own position as much as possible whether you're in the running or not. If your actions happen to help determine the winner, that's fine. It's collateral damage. Just don't ruin the game for the rest of the table.

How does everyone else feel about this sort of situation?
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Age of Mythology is notoriously bad for King Making. Most games turn into on long Cold War, as no matter when you attack, the people who will make out is the ones who pick off the carcass of a Attacker/Defender leftovers.

But I believe one should always play to that which will best benefit themselves score wise or placement wise. No matter who is able to win.
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Andre Metelo
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I understand the feeling.

I tend to rate any game that has a lot of room for kingmaking low. Main reason for it is that my regular gaming group has some players that tend to play with the main goal of screwing me and then if possible win. To some extend it is fun and makes me a better player. It is not uncommon for them to conspire to give the game to a player.

It is very frustrating, and it drives me crazy when somebody takes an action that does not benefit them just to help somebody else win.

From my part, once I know I'm out of contention because of the game (not counting some of the guys messing me up) I tend to start taking actions that will not help/hurt anybody else (I never really play in tournaments, so the whole maximize my score and placement tends to not make a lot of sense). However, when some kingmaking is in place, I will do some retaliation to the biggest culprit.

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Neil
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If it was an honest mistake, and "Paul" didn't realize what the consequence of his play would be, then he did nothing wrong and probably regrets his move. On the other hand, if he did it on purpose, I'd say that that's bad gamesmanship.
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Erik Leppo
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Sounds like you have a bigger problem than just kingmaking. You also have meta-gaming going on between games. Your friend is fine with Paul having thrown the game his way b/c he "owed" him. Sounds like you need to have a discussion that each game should be played independantly. After you deal with the metagaming then you still have to deal with kingmaking. It may be that you have to avoid games that allow for this.

I don't get that rung up about kingmaking. If the game mechanics are such that a player is so out of it that his only way to affect the game is to "throw it" then that game doesn't get played much.
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Nigel Buckle
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Depends entirely on the group - what is acceptable in these circumstances, it isn't something that you can apply globally.

Of course it is even more problematic when playing with strangers - what one person thinks is acceptable or 'standard' another won't.

Kingmaking for future favours in other games, personally I don't like, but there again I don't like vendettas carried over to future games either (I'm going to bury you in the next game for that move ... etc)

But if that's the way the group plays, you need to adapt to it - which basically means don't make enemies or bash on players who are effectively out of the running as you're just setting yourself up to be taken out as revenge.

If the group agrees kingmaking is undesirable, then if a player is out of it they should make neutral moves, or pass, or something that directly helps them to improve position. Some of this will depend on attitude beyond winning.

If your group only cares who won, and being best loser is irrelevant then doing stuff to improve your losing position is a waste of time - if on the other hand coming 4th rather than 5th matters, then players should play to improve their position.

Of course it depends what happened in the game - for example, if I'm in 5th because you backstabbed me part way through the game, I don't think its 'unsporting' for me to deliberately play to stop you winning ... I've just chosen to respond to the stab later in the game.

So in summary, it's very situational and depends entirely on the way the group wants the games played.

-- edit:


Kingmaking is a factor in any multiplayer game with interaction. It maybe obvious - do I attack you or the other guy? Whoever I leave alone wins ... or less so, which commodity do I sell (dropping the price), if I sell X you win, if I sell Y he wins ... and so on.

Sometimes it will be incidental - I make the 'best' move for me, just happens to hurt you the most. Sometimes deliberate, I can do X or Y to get me 5 vps, I'll do X because I think you've been less 'helpful' to me in the game ...

Only kingmaking I really dislike is accidental/incompetence - where a player makes a move that destroys your chance to win without realising it at all ... I'd much rather know the action was considered than just random chance.

Some people call it 'bash the leader' and the group accepted behaviour is you make moves that hurt the leader, I don't really see why this is more acceptable than making a move that helps you and hurts any one of the others if you're not actually in a position to win - why be the stooge helping the guy in 2nd? But if your group plays like that the trick is to be 2nd, and hang on the leaders shoulder and rush past at the end.
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David C
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Mr_Nuts wrote:

Him: "Paul is wacky and fun to have at the table. He's done the same thing to screw me over in the past. Now he knows I 'owe him one' in a future game."
-----------

How does everyone else feel about this sort of situation?


1.) Where does this stop? If this whole thing is going to be "who is doing favors for paul?", you may as well make the game "who washed Paul's car this morning?" I find the "owe him one" politics absolutely absurd in a 3 hour game. I could see this situation playing out in a quick game of shadow hunters or bang, where it wouldn't matter...but a 3 hour game is one amazing time investment to come down to this.

2.) Man, a game where you're going to be ineffective at some point is just begging for a bomb to go off and take someone with it. I can't blame Paul for picking someone and taking them out. Although, it should have been based on a dice roll or something.

3.) In a lot of games like this, where there could be a kingmaker, I try to plan for that in advance by not giving someone a reason to screw me. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
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J.L. Robert
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If you know that this behavior is in one's nature, that should be incorporated into your strategy. Next time, in the same situation, try to curry favor with Paul 2-3 turns ahead of time.

In the end, however, it's still just a game. Getting all up in a bunch about it won't alter the result. Perhaps a calm explanation would be in order. If it's a habitual pattern, then simply don't play with that person if it's that much of an issue.
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Bryan Maxwell
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J.L.Robert wrote:

In the end, however, it's still just a game. Getting all up in a bunch about it won't alter the result. Perhaps a calm explanation would be in order. If it's a habitual pattern, then simply don't play with that person if it's that much of an issue.


Yep, I realize it's just a game, in the grand scheme of things it's pretty unimportant. I'd much rather not play with him than placate him.

I guess the downside of playing in a public place is I don't get to decide who's invited and who isn't.
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Mac Mcleod
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Different values.

One of the things I hate most about games is where I can see I have lost and then must suffer a long time before the winner actually wins and the game ends since in our group actually withdrawing from a game is very bad.

In such a game, anything I can do to cause the game to end quickly becomes my winning play.


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J.L. Robert
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Mr_Nuts wrote:
I guess the downside of playing in a public place is I don't get to decide who's invited and who isn't.


Invited to attend? Yes. Joining you in a game? I'd say you have some control over that.
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Nigel Buckle
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maxo-texas wrote:
Different values.

One of the things I hate most about games is where I can see I have lost and then must suffer a long time before the winner actually wins and the game ends since in our group actually withdrawing from a game is very bad.

In such a game, anything I can do to cause the game to end quickly becomes my winning play.


Perfect argument for player elimination in games
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Bryan Maxwell
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bucklen_uk wrote:
maxo-texas wrote:
Different values.

One of the things I hate most about games is where I can see I have lost and then must suffer a long time before the winner actually wins and the game ends since in our group actually withdrawing from a game is very bad.

In such a game, anything I can do to cause the game to end quickly becomes my winning play.


Perfect argument for player elimination in games :)


Amen.

Funny you mention trying to end the game quickly; during last night's game, I found I had a good setup to starting exchanging favor cubes for VPs. Now, in Age of Mythology the game ends when all the VP cubes are gone or when someone builds a wonder. I started buying up VP cubes, figuring at best I'd have a shot at winning and at worst I'd bring the game to a close quicker.

Nothing wrong with trying to end the game more quickly, as long as it isn't at the expense of the people enjoying the game. In last night's game, it was very nearly at an end when the kingmaking occured.
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Dave G
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bucklen_uk wrote:


If your group only cares who won, and being best loser is irrelevant then doing stuff to improve your losing position is a waste of time - if on the other hand coming 4th rather than 5th matters, then players should play to improve their position.


I'm not sure I'd agree with this. In my personal gaming group, we all play to win. Second place is the same as fifth place, in that you've lost. However, that doesn't mean that the player in fifth shouldn't play to improve their position. Our rule of thumb is that you take the action that benefits you the most. If that's attacking the leader, then the leader is punished for leaving himself open to an attack that's strategically beneficial to the fifth place player--to win the game you have to beat everyone, not just the guy in second, and for those other players to make neutral moves is to reward the front runner for getting in front instead of making them play out a solid strategy start to finish. On the other hand, if the fifth place player can improve their position the most by attacking the second place guy (or third, or fourth), they're not obligated to bash the leader for "the good of the game." They do what they can to move towards the goal of winning. Just like before, if the second place player has left themselves vulnerable to the last place player and that widens the gap between first and second, that's on his own shoulders. It's not kingmaking, because the last place player is just trying to improve.


bucklen_uk wrote:


Some people call it 'bash the leader' and the group accepted behaviour is you make moves that hurt the leader, I don't really see why this is more acceptable than making a move that helps you and hurts any one of the others if you're not actually in a position to win - why be the stooge helping the guy in 2nd? But if your group plays like that the trick is to be 2nd, and hang on the leaders shoulder and rush past at the end.


I agree with you here. If you're just attacking the leader reflexively, you're just kingmaking a different way. If everyone plays to improve their chances the most, you can't really fault anyone. My problem with neutral moves is the same as a "bash the leader" game--it creates an unfair game state. The players should all have a reasonable expectation as they're planning that the other players are going to play to improve. The leader should have a reasonable expectation of the same. Some games (Vinci, for instance) have a designed bash-the-leader mechanic, and that's a different story, but in most games if you're making the move that helps you the most regardless of who else it helps or hurts, most people are going to see your play as correct.
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J C Lawrence
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Was Paul's position going to improve or wane if the game continued?
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Ben .
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bippi wrote:
In a lot of games like this, where there could be a kingmaker, I try to plan for that in advance by not giving someone a reason to screw me. Revenge is a dish best served cold.


This is an interesting one.

Most people agree that pure and simple revenge should never be carried over game-to-game.

I am also of the opinion that players should strive to eradicate simple revenge (ie. moves made simply to detrement another player who previously wronged you rather than for your own benefit) from within the context of a single game.

Most people seem shocked by this and feel that revenge attacks are perfectly acceptable. However - many do not realise what the cost of this is to the whole game experience.......

Most high-interaction, multiplayer games encourage some degree of turtling, and if revenge attacks are a concern, it is vital that you do not attack anyone unless you can completely crush them (and thus remove the risk of a revenge attack), so turtling and gang-attacking becomes the best strategy. If you can play without fear of simple revenge attacks (of course - again - genuine return attacks for genuine benefit are always acceptable), a whole lot more "skirmishing" and micro-conflict occurs in the player interactions, and games become a LOT more fluid and interesting.

A prime example occurred in playing Twilight Imperium III once:
One player was playing a race whose special abilities assisted them in "skirmishing" attacks, and wanted, of course, to play to their strengths and race's characteristics.
The player next to them (in the middle of us) played a "balanced" race (can't remember specifically).
Me, on the other side, played a technology-focused race who specialised in building.

Now - I was already slightly in the lead when player #1 performed a light, pirate-y strike on player #2, as per his special abilities.
Player #2, having subsequently built up to the point of attacking strength decide it was time to expand. He had equal opportunity attacking either player #1 or me.
He opted to attack Player #1, purely because that player had previously attacked him (albeit for comparatively small benefit), rather than attacking me. As a result, I ended up winning the game comfortably and the experience was nowhere near the game it should have been.

Now had player #2 ignore the whole "revenge" thing and instead attacked me, the game would have evolved into a much more exciting, 3-way battle.

I believe this sort of situation can occur in any game with high levels of interaction (not just obvious conflict games like TI3) and I would always endeavour to never base decisions purely upon revenge and constantly encourage my fellow players to do the same, for everyone's gaming benefit.
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Eric Jome
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Mr_Nuts wrote:

How does everyone else feel about this sort of situation?


You should always be playing to win, even when winning is not possible.

You should be taking a move that would better your position even if you know the game will end before that move could really benefit you. More points, better position on the board, better income, more areas, whatever it takes. Keep playing as if you can win the game. It's the only sound choice in the face of the social contract of gaming.
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I guess it's a punishment for playing that game.
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Dave G
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cosine wrote:

You should always be playing to win, even when winning is not possible.

You should be taking a move that would better your position even if you know the game will end before that move could really benefit you. More points, better position on the board, better income, more areas, whatever it takes. Keep playing as if you can win the game. It's the only sound choice in the face of the social contract of gaming.


This was a much better and more concise way of saying what I tried to say...
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Antonio Chavez
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Mr_Nuts wrote:


Him: "Paul is wacky and fun to have at the table. He's done the same thing to screw me over in the past. Now he knows I 'owe him one' in a future game."

Me: "Horseshit. Paul is a giant turd who took all the intrigue and excitement out of the outcome of a game we played for 3 hours. Rather than seeing who would have actually won, he chose a winner himself. He may as well have climbed up out of his chair and took a dump in the middle of the table."



Your buddy sounds a lot more fun to play with than you. He also seems to have had more fun. I'm gonna go with his take. After all, it's just a game.


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J C Lawrence
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I am currently in N'th place, and will only fall as the game continues. I will end the game before I fall (more).

That seems a fine decision to me.
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Antonio Chavez
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djgutierrez77 wrote:
cosine wrote:

You should always be playing to win, even when winning is not possible.

You should be taking a move that would better your position even if you know the game will end before that move could really benefit you. More points, better position on the board, better income, more areas, whatever it takes. Keep playing as if you can win the game. It's the only sound choice in the face of the social contract of gaming.


This was a much better and more concise way of saying what I tried to say...



Man, would I hate playing with people who think they have the right to tell me what to do. You might as well be playing solo.

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In games where the last player's turn decides the winner, I think I'd rather just call the game a tie for the two contenders. If the last person can change their ranking by making their move I'd let them when determining 3rd place on down.

I also usually play out final turns where the game can end mid-round. That way you determine the winner but also get final scores out of this. A good example is cribbage where one player can win on the other player's deal. Whoever gets to 121 first gets the win, but we finish the round anyway to see who has the most points when everyone had the same number of turns. Its like there are two different types of winners.
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There are times where kingmaking is pretty much unavoidable.

But there are times where it really bothers me. My wife and I, before we were married, used to game with another couple while we were in the NYC area.

It didn't seem to matter which game we were playing. The wife in the other couple would start to get tired. Or bored of the game. Or annoyed. Her husband would realize this very quickly...and in an attempt to end the game quickly to appease his wife, he'd throw the game to her.

Once, I can understand. When it becomes a pattern, I get annoyed. First I tried to just make sure to try to win as quickly as possible, since if the game dragged, the outcome was already determined. After I became frustrated with that, we switched to playing RPGs, which were much less of an issue.
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cosine wrote:

You should always be playing to win, even when winning is not possible.

You should be taking a move that would better your position even if you know the game will end before that move could really benefit you. More points, better position on the board, better income, more areas, whatever it takes. Keep playing as if you can win the game. It's the only sound choice in the face of the social contract of gaming.


So what's the point of having human opponents, then? If correct play can be determined objectively, then the game is only using us as bit movers to play itself.
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