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Subject: Variant ideas to stop the runaway leader problem? rss

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Eric Bridge
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I think that many here agree with me that once 1 player (sometimes 2) pull(s) away from the pack, they really have the game in the bag.

Has anyone thought of any variants that would, for lack of a better word, "punish" that robot for doing so well?

"The Master Control Computer has determined that one or more robots are not racing in an entertaining enough manner, by being so far ahead of their peers, and it is assessing a penalty for the offenders." (or something else equally silly)

Determining the "leader": At the end of each turn, evaluate the following: 1) If one player is going for a flag number that is higher than any other player, they are the "leader". 2) Among those that are tied for this first criteria, count how many spaces away, horizontally and vertically, each robot is from the flag that they are going toward. Whoever is the fewest spaces away is the new leader. If there is a tie, AND there is at least one robot who is "behind", then all tied leaders take the leader penalty.

Leader Penalties for each round: I really don't know, because I'm just now thinking about it. Options include: 1) 2 fewer cards in hand, regardless of damage. 2) All forward movement cards provide -1 of their normal movement. 3) 4 cards placed instead of 5 (remove the 5th card as needed when "locked"). 4) Take double damage from lazers. Etc, Etc, Etc.

I really have no idea what makes a good penalty for the leader. Maybe it would be neat to have an entire separate deck of leader penalties, so you don't know what it is till you ARE the leader.

Just thinking out loud here. I'd appreciate your own ideas. Thanks in advance.
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David desJardins
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I would be fine with some amount of "rubber-banding" (pulling the leaders back and the trailing players forward); but how much is appropriate depends a lot on the map. It's already the case that players can decide to spin and pick up options rather than racing, and if they get an extra advantage for that it could be too great.

I might consider something like, if you're a flag behind the leader then you heal a point of damage for free at the end of each turn.
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Rich Shipley
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ebridge wrote:
I think that many here agree with me that once 1 player (sometimes 2) pull(s) away from the pack, they really have the game in the bag.

Has anyone thought of any variants that would, for lack of a better word, "punish" that robot for doing so well?


Make sure the race route crosses back over itself. That way a leader has to go back through oncoming robots to get to the next flag.
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Mark McEvoy
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From the old Karchner FAQ:

This is an option devised to combat `leader break-away syndrome':
The Dice Rule
Each flag is `blockaded' with a die (e.g.: a six-sided die). No robot may tag (even with the mechanical arm) or move onto a flag space (treat as having a wall on all four sides) until the die has been destroyed. Each die can take damage just as would a robot until the number of points of damage shown on the die have been accumulated. (When taking damage, the die itself should be turned to indicate the number of points remaining until it is destroyed.) When the blockade is destroyed, it is permanently removed from the board. The flag may then be tagged as normal by all subsequent robots. This tends to slow down the leaders until the other robots can catch up. However, it is not a random effect but is highly tuneable.
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David desJardins
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thatmarkguy wrote:
From the old Karchner FAQ:

This is an option devised to combat `leader break-away syndrome':
The Dice Rule
Each flag is `blockaded' with a die (e.g.: a six-sided die). No robot may tag (even with the mechanical arm) or move onto a flag space (treat as having a wall on all four sides) until the die has been destroyed. Each die can take damage just as would a robot until the number of points of damage shown on the die have been accumulated. (When taking damage, the die itself should be turned to indicate the number of points remaining until it is destroyed.) When the blockade is destroyed, it is permanently removed from the board. The flag may then be tagged as normal by all subsequent robots. This tends to slow down the leaders until the other robots can catch up. However, it is not a random effect but is highly tuneable.


I wouldn't like this, because it encourages sandbagging. Why not stay a bit behind your opponent, and shoot at him while he's shooting the flag? If you can.

I think you want a system that penalizes people slightly for being ahead, and by an increasing amount, but gradually so that it's still always better to be ahead rather than behind.
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david landes
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An older article with some good suggestions:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/63919/best-ways-to-deal-...
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mark sellmeyer
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I still support what I said in the thread 7 years ago.

I always put a mine on the next flag to be tagged. usually the leader has to spend a turn powered down to recover.

I also agree with when placing flags, create crossing paths.
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B C Z
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I don't think there is a run-away leader problem.

I think there are players who deftly avoid the pileups and can adapt to their program cards to move them closer to their end goal while incurring a minimum of damage.

I also think there are players who manage to pit, crush, flame and laser themselves out of the competition, through no-ones fault but their own.
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David desJardins
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byronczimmer wrote:
I don't think there is a run-away leader problem.

I think there are players who deftly avoid the pileups and can adapt to their program cards to move them closer to their end goal while incurring a minimum of damage.

I also think there are players who manage to pit, crush, flame and laser themselves out of the competition, through no-ones fault but their own.


There's something wrong with your analysis because the player who happens to be lucky on the first turn shouldn't always be the player who's more adept at avoiding interference and optimizing their moves. Sometimes it's just random. I've definitely seen this in a couple of the RoboRally tournaments I've played in. Even among players who have all done well in previous rounds, sometimes one player gets lucky with an initial draw and gets out in front, and the other several players are all interfering with each other, and the leader runs away with it.
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Gregory Wong
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Scavenger Hunt II from Armed and Dangerous doesn't punish the leader but rewards him less than the others.

You make a deck option cards equal to the number of players and associate the deck with a flag. Whenever a robot tags that flag for the first time, the player on his left goes through the deck of options and gives the leader an option. Naturally, he'll pick the least useful option. Presumably, the best option is the last one remaining which the last place player can pick up.
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Mil Myman
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IMO and IME, it's a lot better (and easier) to reward the trailers (helping them catch up) rather than to punish the leaders.

A few ideas which I've suggested before:

1. When any player tags a flag, at the end of that turn, all players who haven't yet tagged that flag repair one point of damage.

2. When any player tags a flag, at the end of that turn, all players who haven't yet tagged that flag repair one point of damage for each flag the leader has touched that they haven't. That is, if the leader just touched flag 5, any players who still haven't touched flag 4 repair two points of damage, players who haven't touched flag 3 yet repair three points of damage, etc.

3. When any player tags a flag, at the end of that turn, all players who haven't yet tagged that flag receive an option.

4. When any player tags a flag, at the end of that turn, all players who haven't yet tagged that flag repair one point of damage. Any player who hasn't touched the previous flag receives an option.

5. The first player to touch a flag may use the wrench on that flag normally (repairing one point of damage if they're on it at the end of phase 5). The next player to touch that flag may use the wrench to repair at the end of *either* phase 5 or phase 4. The next player may repair at the end of *either* phase 5, 4, or 3. etc.

6. When all players except one have touched a flag, that player gets a free Mulligan on his hand of cards, which he may use once in the game.

The possibilities are unlimitless.
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Dennison Milenkaya
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byronczimmer wrote:
I don't think there is a run-away leader problem.

I think there are players who deftly avoid the pileups and can adapt to their program cards to move them closer to their end goal while incurring a minimum of damage.

I also think there are players who manage to pit, crush, flame and laser themselves out of the competition, through no-ones fault but their own.


Absolutely. My solution is to learn to play better.

A robot may get ahead of the rest but without appropriate option cards, he won't be shooting anyone and has plenty of lasers pointed his way. A robot isn't likely to push others when there are none in front of him, too. I think those were always the official balancers built into the game.

By the way, if you intentionally place checkpoints to zig-zag across the factory, the lead robot now has ample opportunity to return fire and shove other robots off-course. I like "solutions" that exacerbate perceived problems.
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Wolf
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we usually do it like this:

1.)plan the racecourse REALLY carefully, with lots of crossings
2.)leader has to end the turn on a checkpoint, not just any phase.
3.)1st on a checkpoint gets no benefits, just the repair. everyone else gets 1 option, last one gets 2 options.
4.)if at the beginning of a turn your bot is the only one going for a checkpoint everyone else already tagged and left, immediately teleport there and start your move from there.
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Dennison Milenkaya
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Nodens wrote:
4.)if at the beginning of a turn your bot is the only one going for a checkpoint everyone else already tagged and left, immediately teleport there and start your move from there.


So how do you handle the last robot squatting on a double-wrench to amass option cards while letting the penultimate robot run to the checkpoint for him?

This is encouraged, which may be intentional, but there's virtually no difference between the last robot doing this and the penultimate robot doing this, letting the last robot bypass him and being automatically caught-up. Of course, this could lead to them both doing it, expecting the other to crack first, leading to a stand-off between them and your "fix" actually gives them every reason to fall further behind when they really ought to just be improving their play.
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Brian M
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Quote:
I think there are players who deftly avoid the pileups and can adapt to their program cards to move them closer to their end goal while incurring a minimum of damage.

I also think there are players who manage to pit, crush, flame and laser themselves out of the competition, through no-ones fault but their own.


I think there are players who get dealt just the right cards first turn to blaze off to the first flag dancing nimbly on conveyor belts while other players get stucking with nothing but turns. After the first turn, the lucky player is happilly trundling along going 'tra la la' while the unlucky player is contending with getting rammed and lasered to death by the other robots nearby. This has very little to do with the skill of the players.

A player can also get into a bad spot by programming badly or get a lead by programming well, but I don't think that's the sort of thing people are usually trying to correct with variants.
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Dennison Milenkaya
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So what are you trying to correct: The chance good/bad opening hand or a player who no-one can catch?

If you are trying to balance the useful cards in each players' opening hand, then you are not really doing that justice by messing with the guy that is going to touch the next flag first. In fact, that many, many hands are dealt throughout the game, the ratio of good hands to bad hands seen by any player is already going to reach a balance. Yes, if you evaluate only after the very first hand, there is no subsequent hand with which to approach a balance but that's how statistics go.

If you are trying to penalize a guy that no-one can catch, then you are necessarily punishing good play or rewarding poor play (or both). A good hand comes along every so often, as does a poor hand. It takes a good player to maintain a lead, once established. If it were strictly nothing more than a lucky hand, then said player will eventually putter out, like any one else.

Ever cry: "You just keep getting lucky" the seventh-time-in-a-row that you are beat by the same guy?
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David desJardins
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FlatOnHisFace wrote:
If you are trying to penalize a guy that no-one can catch, then you are necessarily punishing good play or rewarding poor play (or both).


That's just wrong. The guy who no one can catch is often just the result of a good first turn draw. It doesn't take any significant degree of skill to stay ahead once you get ahead and the other players are interfering with each other. I've seen it many times, and yet it's a different player each time.
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Rich Shipley
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DaviddesJ wrote:
FlatOnHisFace wrote:
If you are trying to penalize a guy that no-one can catch, then you are necessarily punishing good play or rewarding poor play (or both).


That's just wrong. The guy who no one can catch is often just the result of a good first turn draw. It doesn't take any significant degree of skill to stay ahead once you get ahead and the other players are interfering with each other. I've seen it many times, and yet it's a different player each time.


Your experience just doesn't match mine and I've played a lot. The best play in the beginning is to do what the other players aren't. I once spent the first turn running into a wall (whoops), and easily passed the mob interfering with each other. Normally, I just try to pick a non-obvious route. And a good player can catch up with a mediocre player that got a good start.

There is randomness in the game and the "best" player doesn't always win, but a good player has a much better chance than a poor one. Heavy handed punishing of someone who ahead is unnecessary and I wouldn't play in a game with that kind of rule.
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Eric Bridge
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Almost all of our games are the opposite. Unless the leader makes a programming mistake (unlikely), they just do as you say and avoid the crowd (usually by playing three "move 3" on their first turn), and reach their destination just fine given enough time. It was fun the first couple of games, but after an hour of beating on each other with zero chance of winning, the other players are looking at the leader saying "Aren't you there yet?", begging to be put out of their misery.

Frankly it's not even that fun for the leader at this point. Winning is great, but not when your closest competition is two flags behind.

But I wasn't asking for a rule change that everyone must abide by. Just variant ideas that others have come up with to help those who are behind, and/or hinder those who are ahead. I'm frankly not sure why someone would get so upset about a variant idea that others may want to use in their games. If you and your friends like the game just the way it is - that's great. But I, and apparently others, feel that this is an area that can be improved on by some variants - NOT official rule changes.
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Rich Shipley
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ebridge wrote:
I'm frankly not sure why someone would get so upset about a variant idea that others may want to use in their games. If you and your friends like the game just the way it is - that's great. But I, and apparently others, feel that this is an area that can be improved on by some variants - NOT official rule changes.


Who is upset? Some just disagree that the problem exists with good players and a good setup.
 
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Eric Bridge
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My apologies. Do you mean then that the flag setups suggested in the rules with the base game do not create adequate interaction?

That has been my general feeling as well (although a couple are quite good). I'm a little surprised that some of these maps got past playtesting in their current forms.
 
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Rich Shipley
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ebridge wrote:
My apologies. Do you mean then that the flag setups suggested in the rules with the base game do not create adequate interaction?


I'm not sure I've ever used one of them.
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David desJardins
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rshipley wrote:
Your experience just doesn't match mine and I've played a lot. The best play in the beginning is to do what the other players aren't. I once spent the first turn running into a wall (whoops), and easily passed the mob interfering with each other. Normally, I just try to pick a non-obvious route. And a good player can catch up with a mediocre player that got a good start.


My guess is that you're playing with less competent players. Sure, if your opponents are terrible enough, you can beat them whatever they draw.

Also, as I understand it, all of your statements here are qualified by the assumption that the map must be 'good', which seems to imply a lot of things, like multiple plausible non-interfering routes. If you put the flags on the map more or less at random, it definitely doesn't always come out that way. So maybe your comments are more valid if you build the map, but not for any map that someone else might be playing with.
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DaviddesJ wrote:
byronczimmer wrote:
I don't think there is a run-away leader problem.

I think there are players who deftly avoid the pileups and can adapt to their program cards to move them closer to their end goal while incurring a minimum of damage.

I also think there are players who manage to pit, crush, flame and laser themselves out of the competition, through no-ones fault but their own.


There's something wrong with your analysis because the player who happens to be lucky on the first turn shouldn't always be the player who's more adept at avoiding interference and optimizing their moves. Sometimes it's just random. I've definitely seen this in a couple of the RoboRally tournaments I've played in. Even among players who have all done well in previous rounds, sometimes one player gets lucky with an initial draw and gets out in front, and the other several players are all interfering with each other, and the leader runs away with it.


There is no need for a blanket rule to be created for the 'sometimes' situation of one player 'getting a good draw' in the very first hand. Everyone had the same opportunity for that good draw. Everyone has the same board. If you're using virtual bots, everyone starts in the same exact position.

If anyone has historical records showing the player who made the most forward progress on turn one (due to this 'getting a good draw') eventually wins the game statistically significant disproportionate percentage of the time, then I'll believe that this problem exists.
 
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Rich Shipley
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DaviddesJ wrote:
rshipley wrote:
Your experience just doesn't match mine and I've played a lot. The best play in the beginning is to do what the other players aren't. I once spent the first turn running into a wall (whoops), and easily passed the mob interfering with each other. Normally, I just try to pick a non-obvious route. And a good player can catch up with a mediocre player that got a good start.


My guess is that you're playing with less competent players. Sure, if your opponents are terrible enough, you can beat them whatever they draw.


I've played casual games and tournament games, and haven't seen the issue. Getting out front is an advantage, but one that is usually earned. It also doesn't guarantee victory.

Quote:
Also, as I understand it, all of your statements here are qualified by the assumption that the map must be 'good', which seems to imply a lot of things, like multiple plausible non-interfering routes. If you put the flags on the map more or less at random, it definitely doesn't always come out that way.


I guess my point then is that setting up the map well is the best way to make an interesting game. I made sure to complement the WBC GM last time for setting up a good course. IIRC, I was second to the first flag, first to the second, but was tripped up by robots coming my way and then caught up from behind. I should have played a bit more defensively. The guy who was third at the second flag ended up taking it, with me just behind.

Quote:
So maybe your comments are more valid if you build the map, but not for any map that someone else might be playing with.


I'd agree that a bad course layout can lead to a boring game.
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