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JAB: Realtime Boxing» Forums » Variants

Subject: Our scoring variant rss

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Chris Wood
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I posted a thread on here with my dissatisfaction of combos being overpowered. My playgroup came up with a variant that works very well: When scoring a round, when you cover up one pile, the opponent takes the other two piles and scores them.
This way, the original and advertised theme and mechanic of the game; punch points and blocking punches, is more emphasized in scoring. Combos, in which I feel are supposed to be a more secondary mechanism, is worth less comparatively. In play, combos, counter punching, punch points, and KOing are now all viable strategies. We found that combos overshadowed the punch points when scoring in the original rules, and it affected the overall feel of the game for us. It became just a KO and combo fest, with blocking and punch points taking a very far back seat.
So for those who feel as we did, try this variant. It works exceedingly well!
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Paulo Santoro
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You will probably have balance issues. I could assure you that the designer himself tried this before. This is not really a "variant" - you are trying to "fix" the game, and the game is not broken. The designer didn't make the game during a nice afternoon with his friends. It's about hard work and dozens and dozens of hours tuning every detail in order to have a good and balanced game.

It's very common that people think that a game is not balanced. But you should play the game as it is, trying to exploit what you think is unbalanced. Enjoy the game.
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Sean Tompkins
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While I agree that I don't think the original game is unbalanced, I'm all for individuals tweaking a game to fit their needs.

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Chris Wood
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PauloSantoro wrote:
You will probably have balance issues.


The balance issues we found was that it was more balanced. :)
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Seth Jaffee
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You can approximate this variant by simply ignoring one of the targets in the first place. A player playing the game as written may attempt to increase his punch score by playing only into 2 piles, ignoring the third. This way they score approximately 1/2 of their cards instead of approximately 1/3 of them. There's a counter for this - playing blocks into 1 pile and then leaving that pile to be scored by the opponent.

Similarly in your variant, a player could play blocks into 2 piles and then remove the third when it's time to score - not really that much different.However the main difference between just playing into 2 piles and your variant is that in your variant it's still easy to score Combos while playing into 2 piles pretty much disqualifies you from scoring any of the 3-card combos. So in a way, your variant emphasizes combos even more, since you can go for them without spreading your punches thin.
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Chris Wood
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I our variant we found that the punch points are now balanced with the combos as they are. The combos can stay and have a less of an effect on the outcome of the game. In your version you physically have to either take out 3 punch combo cards or discard them when they come up. Sounds like too much work when you can just take both piles.
 
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Seth Jaffee
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Myoman wrote:
I our variant we found that the punch points are now balanced with the combos as they are. The combos can stay and have a less of an effect on the outcome of the game. In your version you physically have to either take out 3 punch combo cards or discard them when they come up. Sounds like too much work when you can just take both piles.

I think you misunderstood...

I'm comparing your variant to simply playing the game as written and choosing not to put any punches on one of the targets. This makes it harder to score combos, but increases your punch score. This is a strategy some players use, but can be foiled easily if your opponent decides to start blocking (but can work decently well if they do not).

Your variant allows for the increased punch score without the drawback of not being able to go for combos as easily.

I'll also note that since punch points and combo points both contribute to the same win condition, trying to "balance" one against the other is an odd thing to do. It's a set collection game, not a "put cards in piles" game - hence Combos score well, they're harder to get, and they require your spreading your punches thin (reducing your punch score).

Talking about game balance would be talking about ease of knockout vs ease of win-by-decision, the 2 different win conditions.
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Chris Wood
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Sorry, I did misunderstand.

The main reason for this variant was the deciding factor in combos. In the 35+ games my gaming group played before adding the variant, every single scoring round was won by having more combos. Combos were the main deciding factor every single time. If your opponent had one more combo than you did, you lost. Every time. Maybe it doesn't happen with other game group, but it happened with ours. With our variant, you could have one less combo card and still win a round. This doesn't take into account haymaker and damaging the opponent. Just the allocation of points.

We also wanted to emphasize the importance of plain punching and blocking, which was the main advertised mechanic, which ended up really taking a second place to high value combos.

We do utilize the knockout strategy when an opponent is using many combos, but because of the high amount of points of the combos, there just are those two strategies. Combos and knockouts (flavored with counterpunches). Now there are three equal and viable strategies, each with its own focus, different mechanics, and mental concentration:

Knockout: watching and blocking haymaker oppurtunities and counter-punching
Combos: watching for patterns on your opponent's side
Punch points: getting as many unblocked puches on an opponent as possible, and making sure you block the opponent's punches (which is the mechanic that actually feels the most like boxing, to me at least)

Each of these strategies require a different line of thought and focus to achieve. Especially if your not a multi-tasker like me. But with the small amount of points you get from the pure punch and block mechanic plaing it normally, that strategy is effectivly discounted and not a viable option. Therefore, you have to choose between combos or knockouts. Playing with this variant brings that third strategy up to par with the other two.
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Seth Jaffee
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Myoman wrote:
Sorry, I did misunderstand.

The main reason for this variant was the deciding factor in combos. In the 35+ games my gaming group played, every single scoring round was won by having more combos. Combos were the main deciding factor every single time. If your opponent had one more combo than you did, you lost. Every time. Maybe it doesn't happen with other game group, but it happened with ours. With our variant, you could have one less combo card and still win a round. This doesn't take into account haymaker and damaging the opponent. Just the allocation of points.

I recommend the next time you play, go for Haymakers and Counterpunches and knock your opponent out while he goes for combos
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David
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Myoman wrote:
... my dissatisfaction of combos being overpowered.


I can see this. My experience is that punch points often don't add up to much and sometimes combo points are monstrous. I'm not ready to houserule it though.
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Seth Jaffee
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Menace wrote:
Myoman wrote:
... my dissatisfaction of combos being overpowered.


I can see this. My experience is that punch points often don't add up to much and sometimes combo points are monstrous. I'm not ready to houserule it though.

If you put 3 punches into 3 different piles to score a 6 point combo, you get 8 points (6 for the combo, and at most 2 for one of those punches).

If you put all 3 punches into the same pile and score it, you get as many as 6.

Combos are also harder to get, require a drain on your attention, and can be blocked. I think the idea that combos are "overpowered" compared to punches is overstated.
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Gavan Brown
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Chris,

Thanx for your contribution. I'm happy that you've found a variant that works well with your group!

I feel that I should post and let people know some of the design logic behind combos.

Combos in JAB are meant to be a metaphor for a boxer playing a series of connected punches that both look attractive to the judges and are quite visible. In real boxing playing a fast series of punches in quick succession with no answer from your opponent does have a very profound effect on who the judges award the round win to.

But theme is not the be all end all. There are mechanical reasons as to why they are more points than simply punching.

PPS
----
In a turned based game such as Brass, players should be making decisions that will yield them an average of at least 6 points per turn in the second half. In Agricola players should aim for 1-3 points per round. So it could be said that in (a lot of) board games, a player's performance can be measured in points per turn. In a real-time system like JAB, there are no turns. Performance is then measured in points per second (PPS).

Historically, real-time games have constrictions on when you can play cards. JAB is much different in that the punching mechanism is an "open" system, in which you can play your cards as fast or as slow as you want, to any pile you want. Because punches are worth points, this means that there is a potential for a player's score do be a product of how fast he can play his cards. Luckily, the most important design goal behind JAB was to create an "open" system, that didn't award the player for playing cards quickly (we call this Spamming). In an earlier version of the game, where combos were worth 3-4 points, it was possible to win the round frequently by playing all your cards like a madman to 2 piles and call ding. Because combos require more time than simply punching, their PPS must be higher than that of punching, otherwise players will soon realize that for the same or less time investment, they can simply play punches faster.

From our extensive testing, we found the current combo values yield and adequate level of PPS that results in:
a) players actively focusing on "building" combos
b) not rewarding a player for the speed in which he can play punches (spamming)

Combo Stealing Metagame
----
One meta game that appeared in JAB was when both players are trying to build a combo simultaneously, and one player builds it first. I felt that this metagame should be emphasized, as it is one of the primary "hooks" of the game. The first time a player experiences getting a combo snatches from them, is the first time they feel "huh, there actually is something to this game". Reducing the points gained by combos lessens the competition for them, and therefore works against this metagame.

Point Variability
----
Originally when scoring punches, we would count up all the piles, and score the lower 2 (as this variant suggests). What we found was that there were always a guaranteed number of punch points scored by each player, and that there was simply a 5-7 point swing every time. When I decided to remove the counting of all piles and move to the current system for scoring punches, we found that the the point swing was more or less the same. But how is that possible? Well it's because when you add a pile to the scoring, the standard deviation of your punch score remains the same (if you just played punches to random piles). Meaning, the more piles you score, the higher POSSIBLE points swing there is between players, but the lower average VARIANCE in point per punch pile there will be. Because the points swing was generally the same, we decided to use the method that required less counting.

When scoring only 1 pile, a player's objective becomes making a pile that doesn't APPEAR the largest, but DOES have the most points in it. This way you can actively fool your opponent into taking the tallest pile, which if you play well, will not be the pile with the most points.

In your variant, because your second and third piles are now both important, the best possible strategy becomes balancing your piles with 10 punch points each. I'm not here to tell you what is fun, so if that works for your group, that's awesome!

----------

Regardless of how many points the actual punches score, punching is still the central mechanism of the game. All actions in the game require that you play punch cards. Even if they were worth zero points, punching would still be the central mechanism of the JAB. Playing your punches thoughtfully is one of the most important (if not the most important) skills of JAB's gameplay.

This post in no way intends to take away from the validity of your variant, I'm simply posting this to let people know that JAB has undergone rigorous development, and there has been a significant investment of logic, time, and testing behind every number and mechanism that exists in the game.

If you and others enjoy playing JAB more this way, that is great! Thank you again for your feedback and your contribution to the JAB community!
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Chris Wood
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Thank you for your response, Gavin. It was very much appreciated.
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