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Subject: The 56th Edition of Blott's TGIF Poll rss

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Ben Lott
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If you want updates on when new polls are posted, or want to look at the results of prior polls, I have set up a subscription thread here = http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/328439

Poll: The 56th TGIF Poll
How often have you run into the cooperative game problem of one player telling everyone else what to do?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
It happens every single time.
3.1% 7
It happens frequently.
21.8% 49
It happens occasionally.
43.1% 97
It happens rarely.
23.1% 52
I've never seen it happen.
6.2% 14
I've never played a cooperative game.
2.7% 6
Voters 225
Rate the following cooperative games based on how likely it is that one player will tell everyone else what to do. (Use each number only once.)

1 = least likely, 5 = most likely

Note: Don't rate a game you haven't played, just leave that row blank.
  1 2 3 4 5 Vote Count
Arkham Horror 19.1% (22) 28.7% (33) 20.9% (24) 20.9% (24) 10.4% (12) 115
Pandemic 6.1% (11) 11.7% (21) 25.6% (46) 26.1% (47) 30.6% (55) 180
Shadows over Camelot 12.9% (18) 20.9% (29) 39.6% (55) 19.4% (27) 7.2% (10) 139
Lord of the Rings 7.5% (9) 19.2% (23) 37.5% (45) 20.0% (24) 15.8% (19) 120
Descent: Journeys in the Dark 20.0% (16) 27.5% (22) 26.2% (21) 20.0% (16) 6.2% (5) 80
Total Voters 206
Have you ever worried that you might be the one who is prone to telling everyone else what to do?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
Yes, I've been accused of that in the past.
6.8% 15
Yes, I've actually caught myself doing it without anyone telling me.
38.4% 84
Yes, although I've never actually seen it happen, I'm always biting my tongue to stop myself.
24.7% 54
No, I'm pretty sure my group wouldn't tolerate it, so they'd let me know.
8.2% 18
No, I'm too introverted to be the bossy type. I'm more of a follower, not a leader.
4.6% 10
No, I have a pretty tight leash on my tongue.
13.7% 30
I told you, I don't play cooperative games! Make a poll that interests me next time, Ben!
3.7% 8
Voters 219
This poll is now closed.   226 answers
Poll created by Blott
Closes: Thu Jul 30, 2009 6:00 am


Bonus Question #4: What is the best system you have seen to alleviate the controlling player syndrome in cooperative games?

Any discussion is encouraged.
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It's not my fault I'm the best!
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Marshall Miller
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I would actually say that it is worst in the Fury of Dracula (and others using that "system"). In this type of game, on player may better track the Mr.x/Dracula player and recognize how to corner them. Often this is the most experienced player. It is only really a problem because of the divide between those for whom the next sequence of moves is obvious and those for whom it is not.
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Another option for the last question which applies to me:

In some cooperative games I have a hard enough time determining my best move to help the table, let alone others so I don't instruct others what to do.
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Robert M
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Blott wrote:
Bonus Question #4: What is the best system you have seen to alleviate the controlling player syndrome in cooperative games?


I'm not sure if the system can do much about it, this problem is more about group dynamics.

I haven't played it yet, but Space Alert sound like you don't have time to watch other people, so it might not be bad there.

I haven't run into it with Ghost Stories because in the few games we played we are working together just trying to survive. Suggestions are made, but nobody is running others because we just want to survive. I don't think any of us have seen the boss yet, so nobody thinks they've figured it out
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Blott wrote:
Bonus Question #4: What is the best system you have seen to alleviate the controlling player syndrome in cooperative games?
The time-pressure of Space Alert is pretty good for preventing one player from taking over... it's very hard to think over everyone else's moves, and your own and still get everything down in the time available.

Other good systems are having secret information... it's much harder to tell people what to do if you don't know what they have.

If Ghost Stories had been on the list, I probably would have ranked that worse than Pandemic... since with no hidden information at all, it is ripe for a controlling player.. at least Pandemic has hidden cards.
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Tim Mierz
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Besides time pressure, suspicion (having a hidden traitor) is usually an okay way as well. One problem is the teaching game - if the teacher is the traitor, he'll be undermining his efforts by giving suggestions or directions for good plays to the "heroes."
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I have to admit that I'm the guy we're talking about here. I didn't realize it was that bad until people started refusing to play certain games with me. I thought I was just giving advice from my (much more) experience with the game. I'm trying to get better, though.
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Brad
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I would never tell people what to do in one of these games. It's up to them to decide.

Blott, just a note, though: if you want to get the most thumbs for your poll you really should post it before 8AM rather than just after. And you could separate each question into a different post to encourage more thumbage, too. Just a little advice, you know, I hope I'm not being too intrusive. I just want us all to do well.

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Agreed, Ghost Stories could pose problems. i mostly play it as a two player game (two monks apiece) and it works fine.

Possible Solution
1. Each turn, a random player may not speak. This gives everyone else a chance to sink or swim on their own. That player may listen, but may not offer advice.
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We definitely find it to be a challenge in Pandemic - both Scott and I have been known to control everything. When I catch it happening, I try to fall back on just offering a few options to a player, and letting them ultimately make the decision even if I disagree with it.

But the best solution is that Scott and I play Pandemic with just the 2 of us, and then we can be equally assertive!
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1. I've never really seen it happen other than a player suggesting a strategy to corner Mr. X in Scotland Yard. But I think that's just the nature of the game, and I draw a distinct line between a suggestion and an order.

2. I selected these 5 because they are the 5 most-rated cooperative games in the database. Of the three that I've played, I think Shadows is the least likely to fall into this trap for the reason I detail in answer 4. Pandemic is next on the list, and Lord of the Rings is probably the most likely. The only reason I say that is because Pandemic is easier for the new players to understand, so making their own decisions will be much simpler.

3. I'm constantly biting my tongue and trying not to be the controlling type. I might have slipped into it occasionally, but no one's ever called me on it. If a player actually looks like they need direction, I always try to follow the same code of conduct: Tell them what options are available, and then leave them with the comment "But it's up to you."

4. The time limit on Space Alert is great. However, in my opinion, the traitor mechanism is even better. When there's a chance that you could be working against the team, people aren't going to take your orders lying down. Which is what makes games like Shadows and Battlestar work so well.
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I don't know how to rate question 2, as I've played only two of the games. That said, I can't think of ANY cooperative game that isn't totally prone to this issue.

I'm also not convinced that it's a problem. The point of cooperative games is to hear opinions and of course one or two of the players will be either more vocal or simply better at understanding the ramifications of what happens.

You left out the best of all cooperative games--Scotland Yard*--and even in that game, it usually comes down to one or two players who are very good at seeing all the possibilities faster than the other players. I might say "You guys block that spot, that spot, and that spot so that she can't get away through there" only to have someone else say, "But if she uses a taxi and black ticket, she can still break through to that spot." Then I say, "Doh, yeah."

In other words, it's all about players taking control. The key is that if they're polite, it doesn't appear that they're monopolizing the decision making. But they're still best at it and, therefore, the leader.

But on to your 4th question. The only system which works to allow independent thought in a cooperative game is to have individual turns but only a single playing piece. In other words, unlikd Pandemic, you would have a single unit. Each turn, someone moves it and makes actions with it. Others can certainly chime in, but the on-turn player has complete control and you can't stop them. I can say that I've only seen this in the Family Pastime games and most of them are designed for children, so it works well. But in an "adult" game, I could see this having a problem if one player just can't resist dominating the strategic discussion and the on-turn player ignores him.

*Note: I don't consider this to be a co-op game, but for purposes of this discussion, I think you and others do. Just as traitors make a game non-cooperative, this is a one-vs-one-or-more game, essentially a 2-player game. But for purposes of the group dynamic, it works for examples.
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Robert M
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Blott wrote:
4. The time limit on Space Alert is great. However, in my opinion, the traitor mechanism is even better. When there's a chance that you could be working against the team, people aren't going to take your orders lying down. Which is what makes games like Shadows and Battlestar work so well.


OK I'll eat my words (again) The traitor is a mechanism that helps to solve the problem, but I still think the group has a lot to do with it.

I think you can have two groups where one group is more prone to be bossy in one game and the other group in a different game. Of course you can also have people who are just bossy.
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Randy Cox wrote:
But on to your 4th question. The only system which works to allow independent thought in a cooperative game is to have individual turns but only a single playing piece. In other words, unlikd Pandemic, you would have a single unit. Each turn, someone moves it and makes actions with it. Others can certainly chime in, but the on-turn player has complete control and you can't stop them. I can say that I've only seen this in the Family Pastime games and most of them are designed for children, so it works well. But in an "adult" game, I could see this having a problem if one player just can't resist dominating the strategic discussion and the on-turn player ignores him
I really can't see this working... In all of my experience the problem of a dominant player is more to do with that of a dominant personality, not necessarily that of experience in the game.. so in your example the on turn player simply gets railroaded into doing what the more vocal/aggressive/dominant player says they should do. And with a single playing piece this is even worse, as they don't even get a piece of their own.

This is also why I don't see the problem happening when I'm the more experienced player, simply because I don't have the overbearing personality. I'm much more inclined to bite my tongue and let the other players take their own turns, only giving advice if it's asked for or if there's a rules/mechanisms issue.
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Grimwold wrote:
If Ghost Stories had been on the list, I probably would have ranked that worse than Pandemic... since with no hidden information at all, it is ripe for a controlling player.. at least Pandemic has hidden cards.


I strongly disagree.
While Ghost Stories doesn't have any hidden information, it also lacks perfect information (Pandemic is actually much closer to perfect information than Ghost Stories). Because of the hard randomness in Ghost Stories, it is challenging to dictate perfect strategy to other players. You can make good suggestions, and I think that is a necessary part of playing a cooperative game. I think the actual problem is not in "coaching" but micromanagement, where one player all but moves for every other player. In Ghost Stories, this would extend to even rolling the dice for that player, which may happen in your games.

I think many people confuse strong collaboration with micro-management in regards to this topic which makes it difficult to effectively discuss.
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I agree with the other posters that this is more a group/personality issue than a game issue. The same person who is telling you where to move in FoD will be the one while is telling you what you need to do to hurt the person who is 'obviously winning' in a competitive game.

The solution is always to tell the wannabe puppet master than you'll play the game your own way. Games can provide some support for people who are too meek to just bluntly state this, for example hidden information allows a player to say they have a reason nobody else knows about for doing something other than what the controlling player wants.

I didn't answer any of the questions since I don't really play enough cooperative games. I've played Arkham Horror a few times before I decided I wasn't missing anything, I simply don't like it. It was rare for people to try to control other people but not unknown. I've heard "could you wait to close the damn gate until I get back PLEASE" and "you know the goal is not to have the most clues when we all get eaten, try using some of them". In one game I did have to keep telling the one player who insisted on playing two characters (even though we had 6 players) to stop using them as a tag team and play by the rules, but I don't think that counts.

I've played FoD a few times, which I do like. I've always been Dracula since I'm the only one that's actually read the rules. One of the players is pretty good at working the net and tells everyone where to move so that I can't escape. Sometimes they ignore him (even though from my position I can tell that he's almost always right). I guess it might be annoying for the other Hunters to be told what to do all the time.

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Bagherra wrote:
I strongly disagree.
While Ghost Stories doesn't have any hidden information, it also lacks perfect information (Pandemic is actually much closer to perfect information than Ghost Stories). Because of the hard randomness in Ghost Stories, it is challenging to dictate perfect strategy to other players. You can make good suggestions, and I think that is a necessary part of playing a cooperative game. I think the actual problem is not in "coaching" but micromanagement, where one player all but moves for every other player. In Ghost Stories, this would extend to even rolling the dice for that player, which may happen in your games.

I think many people confuse strong collaboration with micro-management in regards to this topic which makes it difficult to effectively discuss.
I'm not really talking about micromanagement... I've never experienced someone rolling dice for another player (unless, say, they've had to leave the room and okayed it in advance)... nor actually moving another's piece (unless it's too far for them to reach or something). And it's not so much coaching (which is not ideal), but more dictating what a player does on their turn.

Regarding Ghost Stories, I understand that there's not perfect information, but my point was, that on a players turn there's nothing hidden.. no cards in hand or anything.. so a dictatorial player knows everything that the on-turn player knows, and tells them what to do based on what they would do on their turn.

I think that's what I'm trying to get at... a player who tells other players what to do on their turn as if they were taking it as their own turn... in this situation you get 1 player playing the game, making all the decisions, and the others are just listening to him and moving the pieces as he tells them to.
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Grimwold wrote:
I think that's what I'm trying to get at... a player who tells other players what to do on their turn as if they were taking it as their own turn... in this situation you get 1 player playing the game, making all the decisions, and the others are just listening to him and moving the pieces as he tells them to.


What would you do if someone told you what to do in another game, say Scepter of Zavandor or Tigris & Euphrates?

I've had that happen in both of those games. One time it was the right choice and I accepted the "strenuous advice". The other time, I politely told the guy it was my move and I'd damn well make it how I want to.

I think this is more general and people who would dictate in a game like Ghost Stories may be penchant to do so in other games as well, unless it would directly affect their ability to win.

I'd say the problem is with the person, and not the game.
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oh, and the other relevance...on micromanagement.

Pandemic begs for micromanagement.
Because you CAN know the current state of the game and the potential next state. Someone who is overly analytical is going to want to analyze all the information and give the perfect solution.

(you have cairo, you have mumbai...you go here, you go there, the scientist can pick up from you then you and then research at that station) It's perfect knowledge and it can be solved.

In ghost stories, you don't have that, all you have is a bully who "thinks" they know the right way to do something. (go here there is a black token on that taoist so you can easily defeat that four resistance black) yeah right. There are choices to be made in Ghost Stories, it is not a game about optimization, but rather a game of strategic reaction. Granted, the guardhouse actually does give more information allowing for a less reactive type of play, but it isn't as manageable as something like Pandemic. But you can still have a bully (But I suspect the bully would be there in any game you play...the choices are just less wise in Ghost Stories).
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Grimwold wrote:
Blott wrote:
Bonus Question #4: What is the best system you have seen to alleviate the controlling player syndrome in cooperative games?
The time-pressure of Space Alert is pretty good for preventing one player from taking over... it's very hard to think over everyone else's moves, and your own and still get everything down in the time available...


Since there is ALWAYS someone off by a beat in Space Alert, we've come to the conclusion that the only way to win this is to let ONE person take control of what EVERYONE does. We haven't found one person that can do it quick enough, but that's the goal is to get one person telling everyone what to do when. It's the only way to get it all coordinated so that we 'might' actually win one game.
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Donald Dennis
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Secret teams or traitors add the most uncertainty and do a good job of stopping one player from dominating the game.

Keeping cards in hand hidden sucks.
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Guantanamo wrote:
Grimwold wrote:
Blott wrote:
Bonus Question #4: What is the best system you have seen to alleviate the controlling player syndrome in cooperative games?
The time-pressure of Space Alert is pretty good for preventing one player from taking over... it's very hard to think over everyone else's moves, and your own and still get everything down in the time available...


Since there is ALWAYS someone off by a beat in Space Alert, we've come to the conclusion that the only way to win this is to let ONE person take control of what EVERYONE does. We haven't found one person that can do it quick enough, but that's the goal is to get one person telling everyone what to do when. It's the only way to get it all coordinated so that we 'might' actually win one game.

I guess I need to play more missions of this game. I've yet to play a cohesive game of this (people run into walls, shoot guns too late, and forget to charge batteries) and yet I've yet to lose. My one concern was that the game is too easy, but now you've given me renewed hope that there is a challenge there that I will see with more repeated plays.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, we definitely don't have one guy running things. Everybody runs off in their own directions and tries to do something useful, and yet we continue to win.
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BONUS QUESTION:

I find I play Co-ops a lot with new gamers. Honestly I try and show them what might be a good course of action and then, say if we are playing Pandemic, tell them "but as you can see you are in Asia and I'm way over in South America. I can't really tell you what is best for what is happening in your part of the world. you are there seeing it first hand so you have to make your decisions based on what you see in Asia." You know really work the theme hard. Try and show them how to see what needs to be done and then let them determine what it is they are going to do for themselves. After the first couple turns it's easy for them to grasp things and get things moving along nicely.
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Blott wrote:
Guantanamo wrote:
Grimwold wrote:
Blott wrote:
Bonus Question #4: What is the best system you have seen to alleviate the controlling player syndrome in cooperative games?
The time-pressure of Space Alert is pretty good for preventing one player from taking over... it's very hard to think over everyone else's moves, and your own and still get everything down in the time available...


Since there is ALWAYS someone off by a beat in Space Alert, we've come to the conclusion that the only way to win this is to let ONE person take control of what EVERYONE does. We haven't found one person that can do it quick enough, but that's the goal is to get one person telling everyone what to do when. It's the only way to get it all coordinated so that we 'might' actually win one game.

I guess I need to play more missions of this game. I've yet to play a cohesive game of this (people run into walls, shoot guns too late, and forget to charge batteries) and yet I've yet to lose. My one concern was that the game is too easy, but now you've given me renewed hope that there is a challenge there that I will see with more repeated plays.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, we definitely don't have one guy running things. Everybody runs off in their own directions and tries to do something useful, and yet we continue to win.


In the dozen or so games of Space Alert that my group has played, we found it is best to let one person be in charge. Thusly he/she is the captain. The captain doesn't micromanage, but does give directions of who should be addressing which threats.

We found it works better this way and our ship has a high survival rate.
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