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Subject: Please help - problem with rules / alliances / scoring rss

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Max Moroz
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I think the game is missing a critical scoring rule. I am thinking to write to the designer about this. Please let me know if I'm making sense in my comments.

The problem happens in any game with more than 2 players. Suppose A, B and C are in the game. C is too far behind, so he can't win; but his choice of action cards has an impact on A and B.

Based on my understanding, the rules essentially tell C, "do whatever you feel like, it doesn't matter". Therefore, the final battle between A and B is sometimes greatly affected by player C's completely random actions.

Of course, I'm not saying the game shouldn't have any randomness. But this particular randomness is undesirable: it won't give birth to any interesting strategy since there's no logic or reason to how player C might behave and there's no way to influence him. It sucks not only for A and B, but for C himself if he feels he made the game unfair to one or the other. (I encountered this problem many times when playing Puerto Rico.)

The problem would go away if there was a rule about how to calculate scores over multiple games. It could be as simple as "sum up VPs across all the games played" but I doubt that would work well. Such a rule really needs to be written by the game designer and not by players because it greatly affects the gameplay and because it has be consistent across the community. It's just as much a part of the game as the cost and value of various cards.

My point is, once any scoring rule is chosen, it would make player C's actions meaningful. This makes the game more fun for C. But more importantly, it makes it possible for A and B to try and predict what C might do, and therefore makes the battle between A and B less random and more exciting.


P.S. By the way, I've seen people use rules where a fixed number of points is assigned to 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. place. I think it's better than nothing, but in my example where player C was too far behind, this rule isn't terribly helpful.
 
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Scott Russell
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When I am in C's position, I try to maximize my score.

When in A or B's position, I assume C will do the same.
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Eric Jome
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It is poor sportsmanship to spoil the game for other players by not trying to win. Even when you can't actually win, you should be trying to do the best you can, coming as close as possible to winning. After all, when you are winning, don't you want the other players to give you a fair shot at it? "Do unto others..." as the saying goes.
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Rob Neuhaus
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Score maximization is a bad idea. Simply call produce every turn if you want a high (but much lower than your opponents) score.

The game is about relative advantage, not absolute score.

I still expect them to call the role that benefits them most compared to other players. Luckily, Race has an easy outlet for this (especially before RvI and Pangalactic Research), even if your tableau sucks. Call explore.

If I was not produce consuming and it was clear that a big engine was forming but still in contention, I'd plead with the 3rd player to "make the right call" so that we don't both lose. Our implicit protocol is that the player with the strongest relative settle powers calls settle. However, this is definitely borderline cheating ;(.
 
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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Isn't this a "problem" in every game ever designed? It's not exactly specific to RFtG.
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Slawomir Krupa
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mmoroz wrote:

The problem happens in any game with more than 2 players. Suppose A, B and C are in the game. C is too far behind, so he can't win; but his choice of action cards has an impact on A and B.

Based on my understanding, the rules essentially tell C, "do whatever you feel like, it doesn't matter". Therefore, the final battle between A and B is sometimes greatly affected by player C's completely random actions.


I have a solution for you: don't play with player "C".
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Rob Neuhaus
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Megamaniac wrote:
I have a solution for you: don't play with player "C".


You misunderstand. Player C could be anyone. No matter how good you are, sometimes you will just be hopelessly behind.

Edit: Maybe I misunderstand? Maybe you are suggesting player C gracefuly concedes?
 
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Mark Jackson
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sdiberar wrote:
Isn't this a "problem" in every game ever designed? It's not exactly specific to RFtG.


First, Scott's right.

Second, I expect players to play to their own best advantage. Sometimes, that will mess me over. Sometimes it goes to my advantage. If I can't/won't deal with those possibilities, I need to stop playing multi-player games.

No offense intended to the original poster or the respondents... for a long time, I ran a game group where I tracked order of finish (adjusted for # of players/places) in order to mitigate the amount of kingmaking that can occur in a regular group. I've been frustrated enough with "stupid" targeting to walk out of the game room for a 5 minute breather so I didn't say something stupid/hurtful.

But what I've come to believe is that this stuff is inevitable... particularly when you're playing lots of different games with players of varying experience & skill level. I don't think there's a way I can eliminate the possibilty of the creation of and/or enforcement of a set of rules.

There are folks I choose not play games that allow explicit targeting with... and when I go against that personal principle, I need to expect to have the limits of my emotional endurance tested.
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Paul Leigh
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I'm pleased to say that this issue has not turned up in any of our games of RFTG. If one player in a multiplayer (more than 2) game gets too far behind to have a realistic chance of catching up, I would expect them to play on with as good grace as possible and try and get the best score they can.

If I'm struggling, which occurs all too frequently, I will still try to get a decent score if I can, without regard for who I might inadvertantly be helping or hindering at the same time. Anyone who just plays cards to hamper a particular opponent (rather than try and get a decent score) is out of order.

I was considering a league system to reward consistent gameplay, awarding points for players depending on number of players in a game and position. Something like

2 player game

1st place 1 points
2nd place -1 points

3 player game

1st place 1 points
2nd place 0 points
3rd place -1 points

4 player game

1st place 2 points
2nd place 1 point
3rd place 0 point
4th place -1 points

As you can see, players might well end up with negative overall points. But this allows for players who have played only 10 games, to usefully compare their overall points with players who might have played 200 games.

Just adding the VP scores at the end of each game is not ideal. Some games I win quickly and easily by galloping ahead and scoring some low score like 35 or so, others I have lost with scores of 60+. The scores in RFTG are relative as an earlier poster said.

I will apply this system for the next few games and see how it works.
 
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Matt N

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Well Rftg is really not a good example of kingmaking (unlike Puerto Rico), short of bizarre plays like calling produce every turn, which is usually unappealing to players that don't suck. (Yes, I know there are specific times where it is valid, but those happen rarely.)

If you're far behind, try to maximize your placement; if you can't affect that, try to maximize your score. Now is also a good time to ponder what went wrong; you can also focus more on guessing your opponent's phase calls. It's too hard to make a rule that punishes weaker players for playing kingmaker without heavily punishing them for being weak. If they are obvious and/or rude about it, just don't invite them over the next time.
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If player C is truly behind, then just be a good sport about it and try to get as many points as possible. In some odd cases, you'll never know, as the right cards may turn up in your hand to really boost your score. Alternatively, the right cards in your hand lets you know that player B and player A won't be building those.

Likewise, pA and pB should prolong the game only if it's in their interest to win. With a game like RftG, typically, players build what they can in a short amount of time as possible, unless you know you're getting 25pts in 2 rounds by setting something nice up instead of just 8pts in just a single round.

Wei Hai, or perhaps someone else from the team posted that one of RftG's strong suit was if you have a lousy game, the games go by relatively quickly that you can always just start another game to be cleansed of the lousiness off the previous game.
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Max Moroz
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Thanks for all the replies!

I want to emphasize that I fully assume that player C is a good sport and is playing to his best advantage. My only concern is if player C asks veteran players what's he supposed to do, he'll get inconsistent answers. Even in this short thread, I've already seen several different suggestions:

- maximize VP score
- maximize points assigned based on placement
- explore; also let person with the strongest settle power calls settle
- maximize placement; failing that, maximize score

Each approach has pros and cons. So I would like this choice to be made by the game designer, since it will ensure consistency and may even result in a better balanced game (if the designer knows which system matches the game better).

sdiberar wrote:
Isn't this a "problem" in every game ever designed? It's not exactly specific to RFtG.


No, it's not a problem in those games where the rules define a scoring system. If player C knows his running total is affected every game, he knows exactly what to do, even if he can't possibly win this round.

rrenaud wrote:
Megamaniac wrote:
I have a solution for you: don't play with player "C".


You misunderstand. Player C could be anyone. No matter how good you are, sometimes you will just be hopelessly behind.

Edit: Maybe I misunderstand? Maybe you are suggesting player C gracefuly concedes?


Your original statement is correct. I didn't mean anyone should ever concede.
 
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Nick Short
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mmoroz wrote:
Thanks for all the replies!

I want to emphasize that I fully assume that player C is a good sport and is playing to his best advantage. My only concern is if player C asks veteran players what's he supposed to do, he'll get inconsistent answers. Even in this short thread, I've already seen several different suggestions:

- maximize VP score
- maximize points assigned based on placement
- explore; also let person with the strongest settle power calls settle
- maximize placement; failing that, maximize score

Each approach has pros and cons. So I would like this choice to be made by the game designer, since it will ensure consistency and may even result in a better balanced game (if the designer knows which system matches the game better).
Every player has their own take on what the best strategy is in any game. The fact that people don't always agree on what to do when trailing horribly is no different from the fact that people don't agree on what the correct play is in a tight game.

In either situation, as long as the player does what he thinks is correct, then he is not negatively impacting the integrity of your game. It's part of your job to try to guess his motivations and actions and plan accordingly. That's right at the heart of the strategy in Race. Sure, one person is likely to benefit more than the other, but you saw what player C was doing all game. You could have chose a strategy that leeches off his actions. If you don't, and his choice makes you lose, you still only have yourself to blame.
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Mark Jackson
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mmoroz wrote:
My only concern is if player C asks veteran players what's he supposed to do, he'll get inconsistent answers. Even in this short thread, I've already seen several different suggestions:

- maximize VP score
- maximize points assigned based on placement
- explore; also let person with the strongest settle power calls settle
- maximize placement; failing that, maximize score

Each approach has pros and cons. So I would like this choice to be made by the game designer, since it will ensure consistency and may even result in a better balanced game (if the designer knows which system matches the game better).


Why should player C be asking the other players what to do?

And if he does (though I still don't understand why), he should get contradictory answers - both players have specific objectives that usually differ.

I can't imagine how a rule or set of rules could be devised that would constrain the trailing player and ensure game balance... unless they created a proscribed path that would put player C on "autopilot." And that's no fun for player C or anyone else at the table.

I think the gist of this thread is that player C needs to choose his own criteria and stick with it - by doing so, he maintains maximum involvement in the game without overt kingmaking.

Opening up the conversation with the other players simply means that the kingmaking becomes overt - he knows which choices hurt/help the leading players and then must make his decision accordingly.
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Tom Lehmann
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I believe there are two issues here, neither of which is specific to RFTG.

First is "kingmaking" within a specific game. This can sometimes occur in many, many games with 3+ players. It can certainly arise in RFTG, though not that often (in my experience). There are many different beliefs as to what the player "out of contention" should do, including:

* Play to win, taking whatever completely long-shot chance one can think of, no matter how unlikely it is to succeed, and completely ignore the effects they may have on other players when choosing your moves.

* Play to maximize your score in that game.

* Play to minimize the difference between the leader's score and your own.

* Play for place.

* Play for fun, trying out whatever weird strategy you want (like putting down cards that all begin with the same letter as your last name), taking this as an opportunity to do so.

* Play to end the game as soon as possible, in order to play another game.

* Play to hurt a player whose choices interacted badly with yours to put you in this losing position.

* Play randomly, rolling dice among different choices.

* Play as "neutrally" as possible, trying to minimize the effects of your choices on other players.

* Concede and leave the game.

And so on. My opinion is that this is either a personal choice or a group convention. Be aware that every choice is likely to have some effect on the game and that someone who is affected may take offense.

Second is the issue of how to set up and score a series of games, either for league play or during tournaments. Here, too, there are lots of different beliefs. Do you design your league format as ladders or to encourage everyone to play everyone else? Do you want your scoring system to reward:

* Just wins; place is irrelevant.

* Overall average place.

* Some weighted place.

* Maximize your % of Winner's score.

* a player's "performance", weighted by the strength of the opposition.

And so on. There are many ways to set up and score leagues and tournaments. There are several threads on this subject for RFTG. I believe this is up to the tournament organizers or the publisher (if the publisher is trying to encourage "official" tournaments and league play, as, for example, WOTC does for MtG).

In the case of RFTG, RGG leaves tournament and league formats and scoring systems up to their organizers.

So, do whatever you and your players wish to do, according to your own objectives and preferences.
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Joe Huber

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Tom Lehmann wrote:
* Play for fun, trying out whatever weird strategy you want (like putting down cards that all begin with the same letter as your last name), taking this as an opportunity to do so.


Oooh - from now on, my secret victory condition for Race is to settle Hive World...
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Mark Jackson
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huber wrote:
Tom Lehmann wrote:
* Play for fun, trying out whatever weird strategy you want (like putting down cards that all begin with the same letter as your last name), taking this as an opportunity to do so.


Oooh - from now on, my secret victory condition for Race is to settle Hive World...


See, I want to build another "Galatic Developers" mega-engine again... and here's what I have to pick from!:

Galactic Engineers
Galactic Federation
Galactic Imperium
Galactic Renaissance
Galactic Resort
Galactic Survey: SETI
Galactic Trendsetters
Galactic Bazaar
Galactic Genome Project
Galactic Studios
Galactic Advertiseres
Galactic Bankers
Galactic Developers
Galactic Exchange
Galactic Salon

Of course, the last time I managed this, I pretty much soured one of the players from EVER playing RftG again.
 
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Serge Levert
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bsushort wrote:
It's part of your job to try to guess his motivations and actions and plan accordingly. That's right at the heart of the strategy in Race.


IMO this is the best answer in the thread!
 
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qzhdad wrote:
When I am in C's position, I try to maximize my score.

When in A or B's position, I assume C will do the same.

When I am in C's position, I try to maximize my score.

When in A or B's position, I assume C will pick on me.

sdiberar wrote:
Isn't this a "problem" in every game ever designed? It's not exactly specific to RFtG.

Not all, but nearly all multiplayer games have such a problem. RftG is no worse than most. It's certainly not worth creating this score accumulation metagame.
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entranced wrote:
bsushort wrote:
It's part of your job to try to guess his motivations and actions and plan accordingly. That's right at the heart of the strategy in Race.


IMO this is the best answer in the thread!

Agreed, just because player C is behind doesn't mean his choices will suddenly become random. Players A and B should still be able to deduce a general idea of what he will do and act accordingly.
 
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Jason Cawley
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There is nothing wrong with the game

The trailing player can do anything he jolly well likes.

The leading players need to play their own cards and stop being busybodies about everyone else at the table, mind their own fracking business, and stop wasting our time.
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Wei-Hwa Huang
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For more reading on Kingmaking:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingmaker_scenario
http://onigame.livejournal.com/34424.html
 
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Chris Rudram
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Player A or B maybe in such a position that which option C takes, they can still benefit from it. In fact part of the game is trying to end up where as many options as possible are good for you despite your own preferred choices.

I'm not clear why taking Produce maximises one's own score. Often Develop, Consume or Settle will score many more points.
 
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Max Moroz
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bsushort wrote:
Every player has their own take on what the best strategy is in any game. The fact that people don't always agree on what to do when trailing horribly is no different from the fact that people don't agree on what the correct play is in a tight game.


Well, there's a big difference between "players disagree on the best strategy" and "players disagree on the goals of the game". Imagine if players had their own views about the game's primary goal; some would play to have the best score; others to have the most cards on the table. We would have to guess what goal each player chose. I think the game wouldn't be as fun; guessing the goal just doesn't belong in it.

But this is precisely what happens when the primary goal is no longer meaningful.

Sure there are games where the goal is not clearly defined, and it's up to the player to decide what she's trying to achieve in the first place. If this is intended by design, perhaps in Sims or in a MMORPG, that's fine. But I feel that in games such as RftG, it goes against the design philosophy and hurts the game a little.

Guessing player's strategies is fun. But guessing whether they are maximizing score or the number of cards or the placement isn't fun, and in my opinion, belongs in the rules.

bsushort wrote:
It's part of your job to try to guess his motivations and actions and plan accordingly. That's right at the heart of the strategy in Race.


I agree, but only if the goal itself is defined.

 
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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mmoroz wrote:
bsushort wrote:
It's part of your job to try to guess his motivations and actions and plan accordingly. That's right at the heart of the strategy in Race.

I agree, but only if the goal itself is defined.

I think it's fairly obvious that if any player decides the goal is something other than to win the game as defined by the rules, that's the player's fault and not the game's.
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