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I play Descent in a game-group of four, so we have one Overlord and three Heroes. Both the Overlord player and myself are more experienced in Descent and in board-gaming in general than the other two heroes.

After playing about 10 scenarios of Descent (some individual, some as a campaign) I've become somewhat torn between my pursuit of supportive cooperative play (encouraging other Heroes to act independently as they wish), and my pursuit of tactical cooperative play (advising other Heroes on tactical errors or tactical advantages they can avoid/pursue).

I like to see others engaged and immersed in a game and, whilst some in my group may think otherwise, I honestly don't like to dominate proceedings. I try to encourage input from other Heroes by asking things like:
* 'Okay, what do you think our plan for this mission should be?'; or
* 'What do you think we should do this turn?'
I also try to let players make their own decisions with their characters on their turns.

However, being more experienced in the game, and more knowledgeable on the rules, I often know 'what is best' for the team (or, often, 'what is within the rules and what is not') in any given situation (I know, that sounds so arrogant!!!), and I'll quite frequently speak-up. I try not to tell people what to do, instead, I try to advise them on options available to them. For example: 'Look, if you attack that Spider, it frees me from its web and lets me move away and help out this other Hero. What do you think?'.

For example, last night we were on the final turn of the first part of a scenario (ie: we were about to win and proceed to the second part), and a friend (co-Hero) was about to use a stamina potion to recover their stamina/fatigue. I said, "We're about to win, so you probably don't need to do that as you'll get it all back in a moment, and thus you'll save that potion for use in the second part". They didn't quite understand why this was the case (ie: weren't familiar with the rule regarding recovering fatigue during Encounter I, whilst flipped search cards remain flipped), and so their reply was "Okay, I'll just do whatever you say".

Similar events occurred throughout the night, I'd try to give some advice based on my understanding of the rules and the game-situation, and the reply was similar: "Okay, whatever you say".

I was giving out a lot of advice, and it eventually felt like I was being bossy and domineering. I tried to phrase my advice in a helpful, constructive way, but the other two Heroes kept forgetting rules (eg: I reminded others: "You can move diagonally to save on movement if you want" about six times throughout the night"). For example, many Scenarios are 'races against the clock', and this often requires the fastest hero to get to a certain position to delay the enemy, or open a door, or search something, etc. It is in the groups interest to get that Hero to that point ASAP. It is not helpful (for the group) if a Hero is taking a slow route and not moving diagonally. So, should I shut-up and accept that this move may cost us the Scenario, or should I speak up and mention the importance of getting to that location quickly?

Throughout the scenarios we've played I've become torn between wanting people to enjoy the experience and act independently, but also recognising that in a game like Descent the Heroes need to work together, think carefully, and plan well to do well and, ultimately, win the scenario. I was trying to balance my enjoyment of the game (based on being in a supported, collaborative group of Heroes who are putting up a decent fight against the Overlord) with the enjoyment of my co-Heroes (based on me shutting up and letting them act independently).

Ultimately, the game should be fun for all, but I'm having real trouble as the more-experienced Hero in 'gagging' myself when I see tactical-mistakes being made. Anyone else experiencing similar feelings? Maybe I should start chewing tobacco, that'll keep my mouth full and occupied throughout the night and will shut me up...

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Jon Ben
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What about playing the Overlord devil
 
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If you're concerned about dominating the sessions, let them do what they want, then give the advice after the fact if they don't pick up on what went wrong.

"See - if you hadn't flipped that Stamina potion in Encounter 1 you'd still have it now to run past that Ettin."

If you lose an encounter or two who cares? D2 sessions are pretty short anyway. And besides, the final battle is just a roll off anyway... devil
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It was even worse on my side ... i was playing the overlord and I am giving the advice :s and they also say "whatever you say" ... I was like playing against myself

I hate it when people don't even TRY to remember the rules.
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John "Omega" Williams
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Gaming groups can vary quite a bit on this. And even in the same group have a mix where you you have one "leader" type and a few followers and then there are the rebels who strike off on their own reguardless.
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Craig Hogan
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JonBen wrote:
What about playing the Overlord devil

Sounds good in theory, but in my experience you just end up feeling like the playground bully rubbing the little kids' faces in the dirt. Not my idea of fun.
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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We like to call this the "Alpha Gamer Syndrome". It happens a lot in co-op games, Pandemic being the worst offender. One player, usually the most experienced, starts dictating to everyone how to play or else we'll lose. Often, he's right, if you don't make those moves, you will lose. However, it makes the game no where near as fun, since you really aren't playing anymore and you're just waiting for the Alpha Gamer to tell you what to do.

There's only really one way around it. The Alpha Gamer has to recognize what he's doing and stop doing it. Stop playing to win, and start playing for everyone's enjoyment. Otherwise, people will just stop playing.

-shnar
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ninjadorg wrote:
If you're concerned about dominating the sessions, let them do what they want, then give the advice after the fact if they don't pick up on what went wrong.

"See - if you hadn't flipped that Stamina potion in Encounter 1 you'd still have it now to run past that Ettin."


I think this is an elegant solution. If you allow them to make mistakes rather than try to prevent every one, they will learn from them better. You may lose, but that would be better than dominating the turns of the other two Hero players constantly.
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John "Omega" Williams
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The gaming group or individual players backgrounds can play a bog part in this too. Players with any sort of background in RPGs will tend to gravitate to a "leader" set up. Either as the leader or as a follower looking to a leader to give the orders. Some players just want to wack things and want someone else to do the thinking and point them at what to kill.

Other groups will have a shifting leader based on the situation to that "the specialist in this problem today gives the orders right now." as failure can lead to defeat.

And then you have the anarchist convention. Every player running off this way and that and rarely working cohesively.

Same applies to Descent, except the OL is pretty much the enemy out to defeat the players. And you can as the OP points out so well. Approach this either to play for fun. Or to play as cutthroat as possible and everything in between.

And one groups method can totally fail for someone elses.
 
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Jeff Long
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I'm afraid that there is simply no solution to this "problem." The fact of the matter is that Descent is a 2-player game, in spite of disingenuous marketing. It is no more a multi-player game than chess is.

Could two or more players play the same side in chess and collaboratively discuss their side's moves? Of course, and if those players are of roughly the same skill, they'll be able to generate better moves than any one of them playing alone. But if one player is a grand master and the others novices, the novices won't be able to add anything whatsoever to the debate.

The only difference between Descent and chess is that Descent is much less symmetric. The hero side is so much more complex tactically and has so much more physical management that it's often useful to have more than one player to handle it.

I personally think Descent is best played with 2 hero players (probably controlling 4 heroes) and 1 Overlord.
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Jon Ben
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The_Immortal wrote:
The hero side is so much more complex tactically and has so much more physical management that it's often useful to have more than one player to handle it.


 
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ldsdbomber wrote:
I see you go in completely the other direction when you play co ops John ;-) what does the Omega Gamer do, just let everyone else tell him what to do


Didnt mention myself in there at all. I, usually the GM/OL/Whatever. sauron

I am pretty much whatever the situation calls for. I've been the leader, been the follower, been the wild card.

My personal prefference is for the "let the specialist for this situation lead" sort of approach, which allows everyone a chance to take the reins and keeps the group cohesive. Or as close to it as it gets.
 
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The_Immortal wrote:
I'm afraid that there is simply no solution to this "problem." The fact of the matter is that Descent is a 2-player game, in spite of disingenuous marketing. It is no more a multi-player game than chess is.
So, if the OL was managed by an "AI" system - as in coop games such as Pandemic - would you consider it as a solitaire game?

The fact that there are two sides does not strictly make it a 2 player game, IMO.
But I agree that it is not multiplayer in the same way as games where everyone is against everyone.
I would rather see it as a one player vs cooperating players.

BTW, it could be fun to have the OL side divided by as many players as there are monster groups : they all would have to manage the deck, but should also coordinate the different monster groups between them.
 
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There are some things I can think of that allow for different skill levels.

For OL/hero balance;
You can have a negative feedback mechanic, which is a system that tries to return the game to a balanced state. Stronger negative feedback tends to make a game feel more casual while weaker negative feedback (or even positive feedback) makes the game feel more competitive. Descent tries to do this by breaking up a quest into two encounters.

To reduce "alpha gamer" syndrome in coop games;
The player roles could be more specialized and complex so that it is difficult for a single player to manage all the roles. D&D does this well, although it does require a higher level of skill to play at all.

The players could have hidden information that is important and unknown to the alpha gamer. Pandemic tries to do this, but players tend to thwart it by revealing too much information about their hand. BSG does this well by making it difficult to reveal your secret information (I'm refering to Loyalty here).
 
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Jeff Long
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Robin wrote:
The_Immortal wrote:
I'm afraid that there is simply no solution to this "problem." The fact of the matter is that Descent is a 2-player game, in spite of disingenuous marketing. It is no more a multi-player game than chess is.
So, if the OL was managed by an "AI" system - as in coop games such as Pandemic - would you consider it as a solitaire game?

The fact that there are two sides does not strictly make it a 2 player game, IMO.
But I agree that it is not multiplayer in the same way as games where everyone is against everyone.
I would rather see it as a one player vs cooperating players.

BTW, it could be fun to have the OL side divided by as many players as there are monster groups : they all would have to manage the deck, but should also coordinate the different monster groups between them.


Evidently, my comment generated slightly more debate than I'd intended. I was speaking purely from a formal game-theoretic, objective stand-point.

If multiple agents in a game share:

a) the same utility function (i.e. objectives)
b) the same information

then those agents are really just a single player.

Pandemic as it is typically played (where players are allowed to fully discuss the contents of their hands) is indeed a single-player game. If players were not allowed to discuss their hands, then in fact it would be a multi-player game, because although the players share the same objective, they would not share the same information.

This is not to say that games like Pandemic (or Descent) cannot benefit from collaborative discussion. But collaborative discussion is *completely different* from having multiple actual players, which was my original point with the chess example. If your collaborators aren't intellectually invested enough to even learn the rules, let alone contribute strategy...well then yes, it's kind of just a waste of their time.

I personally think that Descent does benefit from *some* discussion because the hero side is so complex (very easy to forget special abilities or die-roll modifications, not to mention the sheer action space is huge). And I also think 4 people on the hero-side is huge overkill - invariably, somebody is bored and just going through the motions. But all of that's just an opinion. Formally, it is a 2-player game, and printing on the side of the box that the game is for "2 to 5 players" is as absurd as saying that chess is for 2 to 5 players.
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The_Immortal wrote:
Formally, it is a 2-player game, and printing on the side of the box that the game is for "2 to 5 players" is as absurd as saying that chess is for 2 to 5 players.

Of course, everyone knows that chess is a solitaire logic puzzle (Noughts & Crosses with fancier hardware). Which king can be checkmated first? Allowing two players to decide on the movement of pieces is just window dressing -- just watch any hardcore chess player spend hours running through board positions without an opponent.

 
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Alexander Einich
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Amnese wrote:

Similar events occurred throughout the night, I'd try to give some advice based on my understanding of the rules and the game-situation, and the reply was similar: "Okay, whatever you say".


Try giving a dumb advice once in a while. What you want is to generate another reaction than "Whatever you say." You want to hear "What? Why should I do that?"

Then you can answer, "Sorry. I was just checking if you were still able to think." laugh
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The_Immortal wrote:
If your collaborators aren't intellectually invested enough to even learn the rules, let alone contribute strategy...well then yes, it's kind of just a waste of their time.

Agreed, if people won't even move diagonally this game is too much for them. Perhaps the OP should have a word to his OL. "As you've noticed it's a total giggle-fest on the hero side. We're no challenge. Would you consider ramping down your play, maybe try and finish every turn in 30 seconds or something. If we want to play top-level Descent it's not going to be with these people this year."
 
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Terah wrote:
The_Immortal wrote:
If your collaborators aren't intellectually invested enough to even learn the rules, let alone contribute strategy...well then yes, it's kind of just a waste of their time.

Agreed, if people won't even move diagonally this game is too much for them. Perhaps the OP should have a word to his OL. "As you've noticed it's a total giggle-fest on the hero side. We're no challenge. Would you consider ramping down your play, maybe try and finish every turn in 30 seconds or something. If we want to play top-level Descent it's not going to be with these people this year."


Seconded...
My goodness quite the debate! As for what my group has done, we don't campaign with anyone who has not read/understood the rules and played the game a lot. Other's who want to play who don't have the same experience we just do single quest's with, under the guidance of someone with experience (who doesn't mind playing with fellow hero's who make unwise moves). With inexperienced people it's namely all about having fun anyways, so why not let them screw up and learn from it. If you want to play competitive save it for the experienced people in a campaign setting.
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shnar wrote:
There's only really one way around it. The Alpha Gamer has to recognize what he's doing and stop doing it. Stop playing to win, and start playing for everyone's enjoyment. Otherwise, people will just stop playing.

-shnar


I couldn't agree with this more. While winning is a normal "need" in some games, sometimes a game can/should be played for fun first, winning second. But not everyone is like I (am) - for some winning is paramount. And with a game like Descent, the Alpha gamer should maybe play the OL more and the Heroes less?

- SK
 
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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I think it's what everyone is saying with their suggestions. By saying "let them play and suggest after the fact the good/bad of the move" is the same thing, stop playing to win and start playing to have fun.

I myself am an Alpha Gamer, partly because I analyze everything, so in boardgames I tend to see 'optimized' moves for every player and want to share this knowledge with everyone. However, I've come to learn that doing so will alienate the players from the game, so I keep my mouth shut unless someone asks what they should do. And even then, I try to answer in a way that makes them come up with the decision. Something like, "Well, our objective is to kill all these spiders. On my turn, I'll probably attack these two here. What does that leave for you?" Then they come up with a solution, feel engaged in the planning and playing of the game, and overall have a lot better time of it.

-shnar
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David van Damme
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You could deliberately let the inexperienced players tell you what to do instead of the other way around. "Forcing" them to think more then they do when you are leading.

You learn more by making mistakes then by listening to advice.
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There's also the possibility that they don't really like the game, and are just playing to be sociable. Give them their marching orders, then ask what game they'd like to play next.
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DavidvD wrote:
You learn more by making mistakes then by listening to advice.


True dat!
 
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You would really benefit by playing with players that won't do something just because you told them the best move or even do the exact opposite just because you told them what to do.
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