GeekInsight
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Sometimes, in board games as in life, popularity matters. What I’m thinking about here are games that can be played with few or more people, but in practice, they really ought to be played with a specific number. I was recently asked about a 2 player game of Tobago. Tobago says it goes from two to four players, but realistically, it needs three or four. The game just isn’t as good with two players (though still fun and playable - and ample fodder for Operation GamerWife).

So my question this week is: Are you a purist that only plays with the "better" or "best" number of players? Or are you willing to play even when the number of players isn’t ideal?

I’d like to think that I’m an easygoing guy who will play any game, even if the numbers aren’t ideal. But as I reflected on the question, I came up with game after game where that wasn’t true. I ended up with so many exceptions that I began to realize, nope, I’m definitely the other way.

Think of a game like Bang! which says it can be played with as few as four. But if you play it with only four, you’ve got a Sheriff, two outlaws, and a renegade. So at the start of the game, the Renegade knows who everyone is. And the second he shoots one of the other two (as he should) now everyone else knows everyone’s identity. It really cuts down on one of the best aspects of the game. And, I always end up discouraging a game of Bang! if we have four or fewer people.

The same can be true of games with a static map. In Albion, for example, a four player game is fantastic! There is interaction, intrigue, pict attacks, and all manner of goodness. But, with only two players on the same map, each player mostly ends up going their own way. You can play nearly the entire game without much more interaction than, "Your turn."

What about you? Are there games you’ll only play with a certain number of player? Or are you more open-minded about numeric diversity?

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Tim Stellmach
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Arlington
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How much it matters totally depends on the game.
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Ian Klinck
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It depends on the game. We never play Amun-Re with anything other than 5, and I don't play El Grande or Endeavor with 3, but those are specific cases...
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Chris J Davis
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We used to be less fussy, but now we tend to wait and see how many players we have and choose a game that best fits that number (or choose the game we want to play and then make sure we only invite the "correct" number of players).
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Lori
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Interesting. I think of myself as one who'll play with the nonideal number if that's what we have, but I wonder whether, like you, I have an image that's not wholly accurate.

Hmmm... I'll play Roborally with 2, Sleuth with 3, Dune with 5, and Taboo with a crowd. But I won't play Scepter of Zavandor with 2 (because we tried it once and thought it was bad), and I don't even want to hear about the 3-player variant to Gang of Four.
 
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Justin Fitzgerald
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I really only play a game if it's recommended for the number of players we have. The only exception to these are a few games which have 2 player rules that are not included in the box, such as Ra, Puerto Rico, and most of the Ystari stuff.

I prefer to play games at their "Best" point. This isn't because I'm purely motivated by BGG group-think. It's because across a great number of people, we've found that the game plays better with a certain number.

Ultimately, if I have to choose between a mediocre game experience or a great one, I'll go with great. I believe having a game that fits the number of players appropriately is key to this.
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Daniel Corban
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I have a wide selection of games, along with the many other games out there which I do not own. I don't bother playing a game with the suboptimal number of players unless I am just running a teaching session (e.g. Through the Ages with two players) or a new game that I am desperate to get to the table.
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GeekInsight
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dcorban wrote:
I have a wide selection of games, along with the many other games out there which I do not own. I don't bother playing a game with the suboptimal number of players unless I am just running a teaching session (e.g. Through the Ages with two players) or a new game that I am desperate to get to the table.


That's exactly how I feel. And, I have enough games that if we have too many or too few, I simple grab a game that works better with that number of players.
 
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Geoff Burkman
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I agree that it depends on the game. For instance, I would never play a game of Diplomacy with less than six. I prefer Puerto Rico with a full complement of five, Caylus with at least three, and Agricola with preferably four or three. Age of Empires III is best with five, and so on and so forth.

However, if it's a choice of gaming with a less-than-ideal number of players and not gaming at all, I'll go with the less-than-ideal number of players.
 
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Rishi A.
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I don't necessarily like to play games with the "optimal" number, since the optimal number varies from person to person.

Ra is a great example as some people say it's best with 3, others like it with 5, etc. Ticket to Ride is the most forgiving when played with 4 players, which some people like. But some people like the fact that there is more tension in the game with 3 or 5 players.

But, I do try to avoid to play games with a bad number of players. For example, El Grande should never be played with 3 players.
 
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Steve Duff
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I couldn't care less about player count. I'll play every game with any number included on the box. For some, I'll even add numbers that aren't on the box.

Yes, games play differently with different numbers. Yes, there may be some numbers that are better than others.

None of that is why I'm playing.
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Michael
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I think it depends not just on the specific game, but the players in your group as well.

Some players I dont like playing aggressive games with more then 2 people, because these players like to get in fights about "ganging up" and feelings get hurts.
 
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Cole Wehrle
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After I've settled into a game (5-10) plays I'll usually just play with its ideal number. Some games might have several ideal numbers. There are just too many games that would be better with x players if that number doesn't fit.


When I first get a game I play it many times at all player counts.
 
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