Eric Jome
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I've got a problem on game nights on which I could really use some additional insight. What's more, I'm sure this is a problem with which lots of people have had to frequently contend. I'll borrow a term for it from the field of video games;

My players need drop in / drop out game play.

See, people I play with cannot be on time. It's no use scolding them or haranguing them about it. They're just going to roll in one at a time over a 2 hour window from our appointed start time. Even if I had most of the people on time, others want to leave at different hours of the evening; we game weeknights and something something about work or something. So, people are always coming and going during the time we're gaming... and I'd like a gaming solution that deals well with this.

People will play to the end of any game they start - this isn't about quitters. That's good, but to complicate things a bit more, I'd like to avoid very short, trivial games; I likes my meatier fare when I can get it. Ideally, it would be a game you could start with a few, roll in others, and the finish together.

Are there games particularly well suited to this? What would be your prefered method of handling this situation? Remember, you cannot choose to just game with others or get everyone to be on time.
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Gary Weinfurther
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The Great Dalmuti
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Eric Jome
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elmonty wrote:


Not too bad... pretty light though. The first thing that comes to my mind is Arkham Horror... but, it's co-op. Co-ops are charming, but not really much in the way of games. A real game would have a little competition to it.

This would mean, though, that resource accumulation and economic engine games aren't going to work well either... and that highlights the bind a bit more perhaps.
 
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Nate Straight

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The only non-trivial games I can think of with opt-in rules / mechanics are Magic Realm and Zendo.

Short, meaty, scalable stuff like Race for the Galaxy, Through the Desert, China, etc seem built for you.

There are games that offer short versions you could switch to mid-stream if more show up: Galaxy Trucker, et al.

Some long games have drop-out rules / potential; losing players could bow out and pick-up with incomers: Through The Ages, etc

Multi-round "reset" games with only money / VPs as resources could work; add new players with an "average" money/VP count: Amun-Re, Medici

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Nate Straight

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Ricochet Robots might be another good choice.

I met up with some folks while out of town a few weeks ago, and when I showed up to the group they were all in the middle of playing.

Ricochet Robots was happening at one table, though, and even though I didn't know the game, it took a minute to explain to me and I could jump right in. In fact, I think I tied for second place.

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Seth Brown
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NateStraight wrote:
Ricochet Robots might be another good choice.

I met up with some folks while out of town a few weeks ago, and when I showed up to the group they were all in the middle of playing.

Ricochet Robots was happening at one table, though, and even though I didn't know the game, it took a minute to explain to me and I could jump right in. In fact, I think I tied for second place.


Absolutely the best game for this type of situation, hands-down.

Another option would be some sort of team dungeon-crawl epic, such as World of Warcraft or Buffy or whatever. Start with some people controlling multiple characters, which can then be handed off to new arrivals.

Or, do what we do and open with lighter card games (Glory to Rome, Race for the Galaxy, etc.) so that if people are half an hour late, they can just sit through the last 5 minutes of the game before the next game.
 
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Russ Williams
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Why not just play "real" games that you want to play with the people who are there, and those who come later start playing games with other late-comers, or with you when you finish your game? Or is this one of those co-dependent situations where everyone has to be in the same game?
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Eric Jome
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russ wrote:
Why not just play "real" games that you want to play with the people who are there, and those who come later start playing games with other late-comers, or with you when you finish your game? Or is this one of those co-dependent situations where everyone has to be in the same game?


That is, of course, what we do. People just play games with whoever is present. And it more or less works out okay. Often, however, we end up wasting a lot of time doing nothing as people just want to wait 10 more minutes for that one more person... who then wants to wait just 10 more minutes for that next person... who didn't bother telling anyone they weren't going to make it, so we waste an hour doing nothing. As if we don't lose enough time with endless conversations about TV shows, movies, and sporting events.

This is interesting to me as a recommendation criteria. I suspect it isn't very likely that there is much like this. But it might be an option if something good comes up... or it might be good inspiration for a design.
 
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Antonio Rettore
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Talisman ?
 
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Robert Washington

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Shadows over Camelot is supposedly designed for exactly this contingency - players dropping out or jumping in at any time during the game - though I've yet to put it to the test.
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Dennis Engilis
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Talisman was my first thought. Runebound also came to mind. If it's not about winning but more about just having fun just about any adventure game could probably work. Strategy games would probably be too problematic. Or how about creating a gaming "league", playing shorter games and keeping score with some kind of "prize" at the end of the evening/session or number of sessons.
 
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Domenic
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This is, IMHO, a really interesting general problem for gaming. There was another thread regarding what to do when people want to quit mid-game, which ended up essentially deciding that there was no good answer: you should only play with people who were going to finish the game. (With a minority contending that people should be able to drop if/when they no longer felt that the end was in doubt.)

I know this is the opposite situation, and yet it is just the flip side of the same coin. I'm just thinking out loud here, but it strikes me that a good brainstorm on this topic might lead to the creation of a genre of games specifically designed to handle this well.

Goal:
Create a game, or better, a general set of rules, where people can join at any time and leave at any time without screwing up the experience for the other players.

Games where this can't work:
1) Games where all resources are distributed at the beginning, e.g. Risk, such that adding a new player would require taking resources from existing players.
2) Games where the number of players is fixed, e.g. Bridge, such that adding a new player would require completely changing the rules.

Observation:
If leaving and joining at any time are allowable parts of the game, then a newly joining player should not be put in a better position than any existing player. Otherwise, the best move for that player is to quit and rejoin.

On the other hand, if a new player is always put into the worst position, presumably they are very unlikely to be able to catch up with the player in the best position.

Exception to the observation:
The games that belie that last point are gambling games. For example, if we're playing poker and we allow unlimited buy-ins and for new players to join at any time, then a new player may start with more chips than someone who has been slowly losing for a while, but that doesn't mean that a losing player should give away his chips and buy a new set.

Practical Examples:
Thinking specifically of The Great Dalmuti, I would add experienced players at the bottom, but let new players join in the middle, as a handicap.

Agricola uses a deck that is specific to the number of players (I think), but all of the cards for each harvest are dealt out before going on to the next harvest. Thus, if a player wanted to join/drop immediately after the harvest, the existing cards could be replaced with cards from the other deck. This would have some impact as stored (neutral) resources might be lost, but that impact would usually be fair, and thus negligible.

The bigger problem is what their starting position should be. Probably the best thing would be to clone someone else's position, but how do you choose whose? And if you're losing, does that mean you can quit and rejoin as the next better player? And if everyone does this, does that mean you all clone the leader at the end of each harvest?

Perhaps so, but then that would mean you should get some kind of meta-VP for being the one everyone wanted to clone each time....

Clearly, this line of thought is not complete, but it's a long post already, so I'll throw it out there.
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Sicaria Occaeco
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cosine wrote:
russ wrote:
Why not just play "real" games that you want to play with the people who are there, and those who come later start playing games with other late-comers, or with you when you finish your game? Or is this one of those co-dependent situations where everyone has to be in the same game?


That is, of course, what we do. People just play games with whoever is present. And it more or less works out okay. Often, however, we end up wasting a lot of time doing nothing as people just want to wait 10 more minutes for that one more person... who then wants to wait just 10 more minutes for that next person... who didn't bother telling anyone they weren't going to make it, so we waste an hour doing nothing. As if we don't lose enough time with endless conversations about TV shows, movies, and sporting events.

This is interesting to me as a recommendation criteria. I suspect it isn't very likely that there is much like this. But it might be an option if something good comes up... or it might be good inspiration for a design.


It's simple. Pull out a game and say "I'm going to play this and whoever wants to can join me." Stop waiting. People will never be on time and there's no reason to wait for them to get started. If they're late they should be the ones missing out, not the ones already there.
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Before the event, assign people to teams. Allow them to freely sub in and out of games like line changes in hockey.
 
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Lori
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RoboRally doesn't have official rules on the subject, but is pretty forgiving of late additions to the game. The late arrival can start their robot on whatever flag everyone else has last touched.

You could do further adjustments, like if the other robots are damaged, the new one starts with the same damage as either the least damaged robot, or the average of the others. There are various things you could tinker with depending on (a) how strongly you feel about putting the person in a position of exact parity with the existing players even if it's fiddlier to do so, vs. putting them approximately in the game and getting on with it, and (b) whether you even want to try to make them even with the others, or would just as soon hand them a slight disadvantage, but one they can still come back from and be competitive.

In any case, though, it's pretty easy to throw your robot on the board and start playing. It may throw things out of whack if you add several extra people to a course designed for fewer, but an extra robot or two won't be a big deal, and you can lay out the course with additions in mind. Assuming the latecomer knows how to play, they can get right into the game. And the effect on the other players is within the margins of the amount of chaos that's likely to be present anyway.
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Lewis Wagner
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Barbarian, Kingdom & Empire is a simple wargame where groups start as Barbarian hordes, later rise to Kingdoms, become Empires, then collapse. It explicitly allows for and expects people to come and go. Victory goes to whoever has the best average victory points/turn. A player can start a new race on any turn and can bow out after that race's Empire collapses.

This mechanic was later greatly simplified in the game Vinci. Vinci was reimplemented as Small World, which is a very popular, easily acquired game today. Vinci or Small World would probably work with similar rules for drop ins and drop outs.
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Dan Freedman
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cosine wrote:
russ wrote:
Why not just play "real" games that you want to play with the people who are there, and those who come later start playing games with other late-comers, or with you when you finish your game? Or is this one of those co-dependent situations where everyone has to be in the same game?


That is, of course, what we do. People just play games with whoever is present. And it more or less works out okay. Often, however, we end up wasting a lot of time doing nothing as people just want to wait 10 more minutes for that one more person... who then wants to wait just 10 more minutes for that next person... who didn't bother telling anyone they weren't going to make it, so we waste an hour doing nothing. As if we don't lose enough time with endless conversations about TV shows, movies, and sporting events.

This is interesting to me as a recommendation criteria. I suspect it isn't very likely that there is much like this. But it might be an option if something good comes up... or it might be good inspiration for a design.


Ugh, that can be frustrating to have to wait and wait and then not get in a game. I'd be less inclined to show up if I thought that could happen. On the other hand, it sounds like the majority of your guests would be less inclined to show up if you tried to enforce a start time for games. Sounds like you have gone with the majority to keep the people in the 2nd camp interested in attending.

There are some good suggestions for games above. "Meaty games" is hard to define, but one that might work, that lots of people already know, is Axis & Allies. You can start early (in the evening) with 2 players...where each player plays all the countries of one side. When someone shows up, give him control of one of the countries. If they have to leave early, you (or an opponent) takes over operation of that country again. Or if they decide they don't like it (downtime w/more than 2) or their position gets unplayable, they can always drop out and get in another game with others when/if others show up.
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Sicaria Occaeco
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Double Dan wrote:
cosine wrote:
russ wrote:
Why not just play "real" games that you want to play with the people who are there, and those who come later start playing games with other late-comers, or with you when you finish your game? Or is this one of those co-dependent situations where everyone has to be in the same game?


That is, of course, what we do. People just play games with whoever is present. And it more or less works out okay. Often, however, we end up wasting a lot of time doing nothing as people just want to wait 10 more minutes for that one more person... who then wants to wait just 10 more minutes for that next person... who didn't bother telling anyone they weren't going to make it, so we waste an hour doing nothing. As if we don't lose enough time with endless conversations about TV shows, movies, and sporting events.

This is interesting to me as a recommendation criteria. I suspect it isn't very likely that there is much like this. But it might be an option if something good comes up... or it might be good inspiration for a design.


Ugh, that can be frustrating to have to wait and wait and then not get in a game. I'd be less inclined to show up if I thought that could happen. On the other hand, it sounds like the majority of your guests would be less inclined to show up if you tried to enforce a start time for games. Sounds like you have gone with the majority to keep the people in the 2nd camp interested in attending.


I'd rather you didn't show up at all if you're going to be late. Unless you actually let them know ahead of time you'll be late or call when something comes up. People also need to give reasonable times on when they'll arrive. I know some people who every time I call they say they'll be here in ten minutes and I know they won't. If you're going to be half hour or an hour then say so. I'm more inclined to wait an hour (playing another game of course) for one person who shows up when they say they will then I would be for someone who keeps saying ten minutes but shows up much later than that. For the later I'll just get started into a deeper game and when you show up we may or may not start another or let you join.

In other words it's all about respect. You show respect for our time and in turn we'll respect yours. This is more about disrespect than it is about being late.
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Russ Williams
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Sicaria wrote:
I'd rather you didn't show up at all if you're going to be late.

Yes, exactly, assuming the goal is "everyone plays in the same game". (E.g. "Hey Chris and Pat and Sandy, let's meet at 8:00 to play Power Grid!")

Or show up when you will, but be willing to wait politely for a new game to start when people (who are already playing instead of waiting for you) finish the game they are playing. (E.g. "Gaming at my place on Wednesday, feel free to stop by!")

Both are fine systems that have worked for me.
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George Leach
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Play a meaty game with those that are there on time, then make sure there are some good quick two player fillers (yeah I'm thinking the name might give away the meaning here) or abstracts available and people can keep busy till there are enough to play something with more players themselves.

If there's only one additional player grab a very quick dexterity game or such like and play it with players who are off-turn in the 'meaty' game. No-one minds if these games are abandoned for something more satisfying if people turn up, but you also don't feel like you lost time if they don't.
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Robert Washington

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Shadows over Camelot is the one game I can think of with official "drop-in/drop-out-ability", but I've never put it to the test.
 
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