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Subject: Is this acceptable or unacceptable "meta-gaming"? rss

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Simon Lundström
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I zip this from a reply of mine in another thread, but I figured it was a bit a discussion of its own, and it only concerned the other thread marginally, so I'll try here.

I've had some discussions with a gaming pal of mine, regarding this situation:

Player C is in the lead and is in a situation where he will win or really improve his situation next go.
Player A can stop him, but doesn't. Instead he makes a move that simply improves the situation for himself and no one else, effectively forcing playyr B's to stop C.
Player B then acts just as A: he makes a move that doesn't stop C at all, but only helps himself. The result: C gets a huge advantage and/or wins.

A gets upset and claims that B should have stopped C. B simply claims "This is how I play this game, and I do this so you know that next time we play you can't simply force me into situations like this and count on that I will do your dirty work. Next time, you simply won't know. I might help, I might not, depending on YOUR good will."

This is a problem frequently figuring in (among those I have) Drakon and Kill Dr Lucky, and also games like Coloretto/Zooloretto. I believe there are many more. We've even coined a term for it, named after my pal: being "norted", meaning "Being forced, by a third player who could have helped but explicitly didn't, to do a move that doesn't gain you a thing but only prevents another player from winning."

Who of me and my pal are A or B is per se irrelevant, but, I believe, obvious. We play games all the time, and found this difference in opinion interesting. My friend meant that he thought one should formulate rules so that it's against the rules to NOT stop the next player if you can. Likewise, it should be against the rules to NOT help the next player stop the nextnext player if it was possible. I argued that such ruling would simply be hampering and in the end ridiculous. Players should be instructed in how the game works, not HOW to then play the game. As I see it.

When put in a situation where one or two other players in the same turn explicitly refrain from doing anything to prevent a fourth player from winning, simply improving their own situations, knowing that I have the ability to stop this fourth player, when this will put me in a hopeless situation where I never will have the slightest chance to even participate in the game further, I don't find it my duty to stop this fourth. Instead I end the game, claiming that "well, he won! And maybe next time, you'll help me at least a bit, and not force me to effectively abandon the game."

He regards this as next to unacceptable gaming behaviour and wants to form rules that force me into certain playing patterns. I think that it's up to him to read me, not up to me to follow his orders.

(Please mark, I DO stop other players from winning at my own expence, and do so often. It's in these situations where I realise that I'll be effectively out of the game, AND the others could have helped me partly but explicitly didn't, that these situations arise.)
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Wade Nelson
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If one player can't be buggered to attack the leader when he is capable of doing so, then he certainly can't expect other people to pick up his slack and attack the leader. By dumping the duty on the last player, those players are essentially attacking the last player as much or more than the leader. They are making the claim that "You can suffer for my benefit, but I certainly won't."

I'm not saying it is always wrong, but if I'm the fourth player and you dump your dirty work on me... Well there's a good chance I'm going to either not do it at all, a fair chance I'll retaliate against you, and a very slim chance I'll actually pick up your dirty work.

This happens to me a lot in games like Risk... One person is pulling significantly ahead, and certain other players are too defensive to make a move to slow down the leader. In this case, I may even attack the other players who aren't in the lead, just to make them face conflict on a front with the message, "Since you aren't attacking the leader, the only way I can position myself to do so is by taking you out."
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Andrew
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In this situation, I'd argue the person next most likely to win after C bears the burden of stopping C, as the player in 3rd place has no incentive to do anything. If the stopper can't win, A and B should contribute a little each. I think this is an equilibrium.

Really this is the kingmaking question in a different guise: what players are "supposed" to do if they can't win but the game isn't over yet. Ultimately in some cases this is a group-dependent issue, but having the same understanding beforehand (or taking turns with different approaches) helps avoid frustration.

Despite my answer above, creating these forcing situations is integral to some games (eg König von Siam).
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Matt Riddle
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fateswanderer wrote:
In this situation, I'd argue the person next most likely to win after C bears the burden of stopping C, as the player in 3rd place has no incentive to do anything. If the stopper can't win, A and B should contribute a little each. I think this is an equilibrium.

Really this is the kingmaking question in a different guise: what players are "supposed" to do if they can't win but the game isn't over yet. Ultimately in some cases this is a group-dependent issue, but having the same understanding beforehand (or taking turns with different approaches) helps avoid frustration.

Despite my answer above, creating these forcing situations is integral to some games (eg König von Siam).

every man for himself. if A or B choose not to and C wins then shame on them. but if A "attacks" C and B wins (which is the situation that most leads to fights) or gets ahead then what did A accomplish. If A can stop C and help himself relative to B then he should. if its to his detriment, then its his call. there is no equilibrium.
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TS S. Fulk
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Tell your friend, he/she should only play 2-player or co-op games.
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Kenny VenOsdel
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I say just have fun and choose whatever move lets you have the most fun. If your groens doesn't like it sometimes too bad for him. Ive been in a's exact situation where I tried to leave the dirty with to someone else. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. Play the game, don't let the game play you.
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Greg Gresik
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Find a fourth player.

Seriously.

I grew up with two brothers - 3 player games typically come down to 2 vs. 1, which almost always leads to some variation of kingmaking. Unless you are playing a very well balanced 3 players game, it is difficult to not end up that type of situation.

We would often play two player games in "tournament" style (a few plays vs. each, so it's more difficult to end up tied).

Either that, or play different games. Palazzo, for example, is a good 3 player game that doesn't usually come down to kingmaking.
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For me, I don't like playing for placement. There is a winner and everyone else. If you don't play to win, then I'm not sure what you are playing for(unless the games states there are placements involved like racing games). Working to improve your placement is boring and useless. By not playing to win, you are breaking the rules, and are just meta-gaming. So no I don't agree with this behavior. IMHO.

I blame this environment of tracking games played with placement information.
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Kirk Thomas
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This happens in Attika quite often - somebody has to block the guy who can connect two cities (or whatever) they're called, and complete that game-winning condition. More than one person is in position to do so.

In our group, this always generates fun conversation. Usually, the saving move gets left for the last player, and usually that player makes the move. I wouldn't like it if it came up all the time in games, but I think it's really interesting on occassion.

I don't think anybody in our group would get mad if the last player didn't make the blocking move - perhaps mild frustration for "giving up". Most likely, if somebody isn't going to make the move as the last player available, he / she will point it out when others can still do it instead. Could be a bluff, could be the truth.

All part of the game, IMO, and if I got mad about any outcome in this situation, I'd at least change games, if not hobbies.
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George Shafer
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MWChapel wrote:
For me, I don't like playing for placement. There is a winner and everyone else. If you don't play to win, then I'm not sure what you are playing for(unless the games states there are placements involved like racing games). Working to improve your placement is boring and useless. By not playing to win, you are breaking the rules, and are just meta-gaming. So no I don't agree with this behavior. IMHO.


This has nothing to do with placement. This is a situation where player B can't win at all. A has placed the burden of stopping C on B, probably giving the game to A. I've been in this situation lots of times and usually refuse to do the kingmaking for A, just so they know they have to pitch in next time.

I think that part of playing a game is anticipating what your opponent is going to do. People generally aren't optimal-play-making machines. In this case A has taken a risk and tried to force B to give him the game. I've done it to other players, and I know there's a chance that it won't work out.

Given that, I always knew that I was taking a chance. If it didn't work out, I didn't have hard feelings.
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Felix Rodriguez
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The fact that you mention Dr Lucky is fascinating - because that game feels entirely based on that premise. And it works because you don't know if the person downstream can stop lucky all by him/herself so you might be compelled to help out just in case.

In any case even if your friend kingmakes like this - I would assume that he would only do it if he doesn't think he has a chance of winning - otherwise he's just a bad player (Not bad as in evil, bad as in incompetent). In which case, it should fall on the previous player who might have a better chance of winning.

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Andy Holt
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If I have a reasonable chance for a play to win I'll do that.

If I have a very low, but non-zero chance to win I may still play for the win but I may instead retaliate against someone if their deliberate (or careless) choice has put me in a near unwinnable position.

If, as in this case, I am put in the position of kingmaking I will almost always work against someone who forced me into such a position (so I would let C win if A tried to make me the Gimp)

This is all on the assumption that we are in a situation where "win or win not - nobody cares who is second". If this was a tournament with prizes for places I would probably metagame it by calculating for each place my chance of achieving that place multiplied by the value to me of the prize for that place (it's more complicated than that, but that's a good first approximation)
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Michael B. Hansen
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MWChapel wrote:
For me, I don't like playing for placement. There is a winner and everyone else. If you don't play to win, then I'm not sure what you are playing for(unless the games states there are placements involved like racing games). Working to improve your placement is boring and useless. By not playing to win, you are breaking the rules, and are just meta-gaming. So no I don't agree with this behavior. IMHO.

I blame this environment of tracking games played with placement information.


That sentiment is almost binary in nature.
I do not think i would enjoy games as much as i do, if i approached them with that mindset.
I have played tons of games in which the winner was determined long before the game ended. The games still held lots of entertainment. Mistakes to be made and lessons to be learned etc.

Besides, in games like Diplomacy, it will often benefit you in the long run, if you end up in a losing position in a single game... especially if you are able to "kingmake" in the process.. mostly relevant when playing with the same group over several games.. but still.

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Martin Gallo
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It has always seemed to me that some people are not capable of diplomatic play. Those that cannot should not play games where this sort of thing is possible. For what it is worth, I understand the use of diplomacy but have never been very good at its implementation.

In your example, player A made an assumption that was proven to be wrong. Player B did not behave as player A desired and was either annoyed at the manipulation or just not interested.

Thus, player B should probably avoid games like the one you were playing.

Also, player A should probably have discussed the 'situation' before embarking on the his course of self-improvement. That sort of table talk is generally a good idea from my experience.

As was mentioned up thread, two-player games would be more suited for B and A might want to discuss strategy with others as part of his/her diplomatic maneuvering.

As far as acceptable/unacceptable meta-gaming it seems to me that these are the wrong terms. What you are looking for is probably "prudent".
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I think you need to change games or change groups. We play to have fun, and if you were having fun, you wouldn't have posted this.
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Micah Fuller
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I agree that making rules about who must stop whom is silly.

I think both A and B were completely justified in their actions, but shouldn't complain about the outcome.

Player A took a risk by leaving it up to another player to stop the leader. The risk could have paid off, but player B did not take the bait, so A lost his gamble.

This reminds me a bit of the "prisoner's dilemma". Except in this case, there is an order to the decision making and the second knows what decision the first made. Interestingly, assuming both player's can see the situation clearly, the last player to go has the advantage of knowing the first player's decision. The first player then, strategically, should always try to cooperate, unless they want to gamble that the second player is an idiot
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martimer wrote:
It has always seemed to me that some people are not capable of diplomatic play. Those that cannot should not play games where this sort of thing is possible. For what it is worth, I understand the use of diplomacy but have never been very good at its implementation.

I think that player A and B should negotiate how to stop C between them before A makes a move, so it's a joint responsibility to carry out a plan.

Player's B reaction is quite logical for me, again it comes form the group dynamics. Also in a games where it's possible to hider people actively I never understood the problem of kingmaking - that's an example of successful diplomacy.

An example from (Online) Diplomacy on not helping the others:

I was once stupid enough to be as Germany in war with France and England, but as long as Russia was on my side it kinda worked. However Russia was sending distress signals that Italy is steamrolling through the east and that I should intervene. I was "I would, but my hands are kinda full at the moment". So the Russian being fed up after a while of this attacked me.

Luckily for me, England was already finished and I was negotiating peace talks with France, so I took on Italian help to take down the Russian and managed to end the discussion with French just in time to keep Italian on 17 SCs. Now that guy was pissed.
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If Jim and Joe have played closely enough that they need the third player to decide the outcome for them, then they all three lose.
 
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Zimeon wrote:
Player C is in the lead and is in a situation where he will win or really improve his situation next go.
Player A can stop him, but doesn't. Instead he makes a move that simply improves the situation for himself and no one else, effectively forcing playyr B's to stop C.
Player B then acts just as A: he makes a move that doesn't stop C at all, but only helps himself. The result: C gets a huge advantage and/or wins.


Player A made a predictable and acceptable decision to improve their position at the expense of a player whose choices were more limited in their victory-pursuit. Player B is playing poorly as he did not act to improve or sustain his victory potential. If Player B does not improve (ie does not start playing to win) I recommend not playing with Player B in future.

sgosaric wrote:
martimer wrote:
It has always seemed to me that some people are not capable of diplomatic play. Those that cannot should not play games where this sort of thing is possible. For what it is worth, I understand the use of diplomacy but have never been very good at its implementation.


I think that player A and B should negotiate how to stop C between them before A makes a move, so it's a joint responsibility to carry out a plan.


What if it isn't a negotiation game?
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andyholt wrote:
If I have a reasonable chance for a play to win I'll do that.

If I have a very low, but non-zero chance to win I may still play for the win but I may instead retaliate against someone if their deliberate (or careless) choice has put me in a near unwinnable position.

If, as in this case, I am put in the position of kingmaking I will almost always work against someone who forced me into such a position (so I would let C win if A tried to make me the Gimp)



This sentiment makes the most sense to me. Play to win, and if you can't win, play for spite. Hell sometimes me and my friends play for spite from the begining. (not for everyone)
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This is how I see it (but keep in mind that I do believe that positioning in the game beyond winner does have some relevance).

Assume that A and B have choice between moves that bring them 1 point and 3 points but that if they both take 3 point option, C will get 7 points but if they both take 1 point option C will get nothing.

From A's perspective - if he plays for 1 point option, he will end up with 1, B will end up with 3 and C will end up with 0. This leaves A 2 points behind a leader and 1 point ahead of the 3rd.

If he plays for 3 and B plays for 3 they will both end up 4 points behind the leader. If A plays for 3 and B plays for 1 then A is ahead and B is only two points behind the leader and a point ahead of the third.

Note that the last option is strictly better for B then second last.
It is therefore reasonable from A to expect that B will take last option and it is therefore (sans negotiations) optimal move for A to take 3 and for B to take 1.

If B refuses to take 1 as a form of "enforcement" he is simply saying - I am threatening to make sub-optimal moves for me as long as they hurt you because I want to force you to take sub-optimal moves for you that benefit me.

This is *not* OK
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MWChapel wrote:
For me, I don't like playing for placement. There is a winner and everyone else. If you don't play to win, then I'm not sure what you are playing for(unless the games states there are placements involved like racing games). Working to improve your placement is boring and useless. By not playing to win, you are breaking the rules, and are just meta-gaming. So no I don't agree with this behavior. IMHO.

I blame this environment of tracking games played with placement information.


I disagree. If I'm playing a three or more player game, I want to finish as high as possible. If winning is not possible, I still want to finish 2nd rather than 3rd, or 3rd rather than 4th. To me, placement always matters to me, whether meta game tracking is in place or not. I just always want the best possible finish.

It's subjective - there is no right answer, and the best idea is to play with like-minded (on boardgame behavior) people.

*edit* - I should add, if someone makes a move simply to screw me over, I do reserve the right to switch to vendetta mode and single-mindedly attempt to destroy that player for the remainder of the game, regardless of where I might finish.
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most games are designed with the intent that all players are assumed to be playing to win. if one of them is not, it's certainly an important thing to know, but it's not necessarily a "kick him out of the group" thing, depending on what you're looking to get out of your gaming sessions.

if player B went into the game under the pretense that he was playing to win (which is the way games generally begin) and then changed in the middle because of his mistaking player A's strategic decision for an insult, then the player's argument about "you'll know next time and not do this to me" is in error. there's no reason you should assume that sort of behavior from anyone who's playing to win, and in fact it runs counter to most games' designs to do so.

So yes, player B was essentially "wrong" in the way they approached that particular situation (he's intentionally kingmaking), but most people don't evaluate the implied social contract in games, so I'm not sure I would fault him too much for it. If you're ok playing with someone who isn't really playing to win, then no worries. otherwise your choices are to have a philosophical conversation about implied social contracts that he probably won't understand, or you'll need to avoid playing with him.

as an example, many people who play with their non-gaming significant other on a regular basis are playing with someone who's not really playing to win. there are many reasons to play with someone, even if they're not playing with the same goals as you. it's generally helpful to know that up-front, though.
 
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Many games require you to hurt the person to your left.

For example.... Hansa Teutonica

Player A hurts B so that B doesn't have a very strong turn. Player B can then either retaliate and hurt A or continue the flow and hurt C. Then in turn C keeps A in check.

If B retaliates, C likely gains an advantage.

If A hurts C, B gains and advantage and C can do nothing about it.

(In this game, it is often, who do I hurt while helping myself? Unless somebody has a clear lead, you worry about the person to your left. It is very easy to just want to retaliate...)

My mentality on playing is always try to getting a high score as a percent of the winners score (the goal being 100%). This goal remains the same no matter how likely it is to win. (This also means I will trigger end game conditions if I feel that % will decrease even if I am losing.)

That being said, A and C are close in score and B is way behind, A better consider hurting C and not leaving it up to B.

ps
This discuss reminds me of Hearts. When passing you are responsible for making sure the person who passed to doesn't shoot the moon. If you consistently duck on tricks while that person shoots the moon, you will likely not be in invited to play again.
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