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Subject: Playing for 2nd Place rss

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Alex Webb
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Hi,

Just wondering what the general opinion out there in BGG land is.
When playing a game some people I play with (including me) play to achieve a reasonable place at the end of the game (e.g. being 2nd is better than being last).

However, one of our friends believes that being first is all that counts. He says that since the rules usually state "the winner is the player who..." that there is one winner and everyone else loses.

How do you feel about it? Is it a 1st or nothing? Is it that you try to maximise you position? Do you assing some kind of point system in your head e.g. 10 points for 1st place, 6 for 2nd, 3 for 3rd and 1 for 4th?
Would be good to know opinions on this.

Thanks,

Alex
 
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Todd Kaplan
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Oh, we definitely play for second place. And third. And fourth. Generally, we play for "not being embarrassed." The last place player is usually roundly mocked.

The best example was a game of Taj Mahal. Three players tied for first, with one way back. It's been months and we still say, "Hey, remember the time that everybody won... except for Steve?"
 
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Valdir Jorge
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When I play Chess I always try to make the best possible move that I can see in the time allotted. In all other games I play for fun, I really don't care if I win or lose. Sometimes I make moves that are not optimal, just to see what happens. Of course winning is nice, but it's definitely not the most important thing.
 
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Davido
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Yes, in many games, 'somebody wins, everyone else loses'. Also, the more games you play, the more likely you will if not lose, not finish first. I believe that playing well, with others who play their best is its own reward-e.g. it makes for a good, fun *game*. If I can push others to their limits and vice versa, then the result is an exhilarating, challenging exercise for all concerned. I don't play for 'second' or 'first' for that matter, I play as best I can and expect my other players to do the same. An unwritten social contract to play well, as it were...
 
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John Lopez
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If you have a problem with kingmaking, a point system help alleviate that. We don't worry too much about it here, but your suggested point system would create an interesting meta game. I wonder if it would have avoided Nate's habit of "first place or John loses, either is fine with me".

The reason that racing uses point systems is the same: a bump to take out a rival runs the risk of taking you with it. Not finishing can really damage your standings. Likewise, a point system will keep players from giving up just because they won't be first... assuming they care. We *have* used point systems with some games (like Formula De) where there were minor prizes for series placement and it was a lot of fun. I suggest keeping such series short so people don't fall to the bottom and feel like they can't make up the lost ground. Also, the final game in a series should count for a lot of points, so everyone has a chance.

I would be interested if anyone else has done similar.
 
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Dave Lartigue
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We joke that all places need to be filled so you can know who the "real loser" is.

The idea that first is all that matter is loopy, in my opinion. Finishing third in a game where I often finish last is often far more satisfying to me than finishing first in a game I often do well at.
 
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Christopher Hinsz
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I usually try to win (as that's the object of the game). However, if I fall too far behind I'm quite happy to play for second, or third, etc. (basically not come in last) so that I still have an achievable goal to play towards. I certainly wouldn't say that being 1st is all that matters. Every now and again a game gets a run-away leader. I'd much rather play to finish in second than give up because that I can't win it all.

That being said, I do have a couple people I've gamed with that feel differently. For example my girlfriend seems to value beating me. So if she comes in second but I come in first she'll be unhappy, on the other hand if she comes in third and I come in fourth then she's happy.
 
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Scott Nicholson
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Zebu_Alex wrote:

How do you feel about it? Is it a 1st or nothing? Is it that you try to maximise you position? Do you assing some kind of point system in your head e.g. 10 points for 1st place, 6 for 2nd, 3 for 3rd and 1 for 4th?
Would be good to know opinions on this.


My opinion?

Did I have fun playing the game? Did I enjoy the time I just spent? Then I won. Did I not have fun? Am I glad it's over? Do I wish I had those hours back? Then I lost.

I'm not just being trite; that's seriously how I think about it. For example, I enjoy the "puzzle" aspect of playing the builder in Princes of Florence. Have I memorized the appropriate layouts? No; I enjoy the puzzle each time of trying to make it fit in different ways.

I know others don't feel this way, and I'm not trying to convince others that this is how they should feel; it's just how I approach the hobby.


 
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Steve Bachman
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This is a funny coincidence - I just thought of the same question the other day while reading a session report (Tyranosaurus Ex I believe). It reminded me of the online game of Republic of Rome that I played a few years ago.

The whole game, it was 4 factions against myself and my ally. One faction was eliminated mid-game by a desperate assassination attempt on us that failed miserably. The final turn came, and I had the choice of finishing in 4th or 5th with only a slight-to-none chance of victory (if everyone takes the proper stabs at each other with the proper success/failures) or I could just about lock up 2nd place and have a 1 in 3 chance of victory (if someone from our opposition successfully assassinated my ally). End result was their assassination attempt failed, my ally won as Consul for Life, and I ended up in second with the highest overall Influence score.

A lot of griping commenced from the other players about kingmaking and not playing to win. They believed in "there's a winner and everyone else is a loser". I do not. It was one of the most enjoyable games I have every played (bitchin' and complaining aside).

I say, play as best you can to do as well as you can. If you're in 2nd or 3rd and taking a shot at 1st place means having 1000 times higher odds of dropping to sixth - or whatever last place is - (the old all-or-nothing move), I'd only take the shot if it was a tournament.

As long as you enjoy the game the way you played it, the only problem you will have is finding similarly minded folks to play the games with.
 
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CHAPEL
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I always play to win. To me 2nd or last is the same. However I play with a lot of folks that DB track their standing, and tend to play for best position, which I'm not a big fan of.

On the other hand we do play certain games(AOS) that are dominated by a certain player (Adam) and we always play for second if we like it or not.
 
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John Lopez
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Quote:
A lot of griping commenced from the other players about kingmaking and not playing to win. They believed in "there's a winner and everyone else is a loser". I do not. It was one of the most enjoyable games I have every played (bitchin' and complaining aside).


Republic of Rome is the kind of game where this kind of outcome should be expected (allies heading for victory and the bitchin'). When I play Diplomacy, if people are not complaining at the end, we didn't play properly. After all, what they are complaining about is that their plans failed to work as well as yours did.
 
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Luke Morris
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The club I go to gives points for finishing positions (the player with most points per month gets to take home a little trophy). So to finish even second last gets you a few points while last gets you nothing.

It has taught me to always battle for my positions and sometimes play bad things against the person directly ahead of me rather than the game leader.
 
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J C Lawrence
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See:

http://boredgamegeeks.blogspot.com/2006/01/even-more-on-winn...
 
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J C Lawrence
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Zebu_Alex wrote:
How do you feel about it? Is it a 1st or nothing?


There is a winner and then there are those people we pretend we don't know.
 
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Terence Martin
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In the group of people that we play games with, our enjoyoment comes (as some have already stated) with just actually playing the game, win or lose. But not only that, what makes a game even more enjoyable is playing with other people who are playing for the same reason.

Naturally the winner gets some "bragging" rights (as well as some taunting rights ) but it's all done in fun, and we all know that win or lose, we're going to keep playing games.

So while winning is nice, it's not the motiviation for getting together and playing games. That said, everyone always tries to play to advance their own position the best. So in that regard, everyone is "playing for 2nd place".

Gaming isn't as much fun if some people don't play as best as they can (on purpose).
 
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Alex Webb
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Thanks for the comments guys. Although maybe I didn't make my point entirely clear. Whilst obviously people want to play the game for enjoyment I think how you approach the actually changes the game.

For example, if you all sit down knowing the player who wins i.e comes first according to the criteria in the rules is the ONLY one that counts then you may have to make outeageous manoeuvres to ensure first place or nothing. Whereas if you play for second you may be in a position where you realize you cannot win but can make sensible moves to ensure 2nd place.

Now in my opinion the second option makes for a much more sensible game. But obviously there will be people who disagree...
 
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Eddy Bee
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In my group, we maintain stats that award points to each player based on their finishing position in a game (we use the PLOPS system: http://www.personal.dundee.ac.uk/~pjclinch/PLOPS.htm). The stats are compiled into overall player rankings, and every year the #1 player is crowned champion and then the stats are reset for the next year of gaming.

While some folks may think keeping stats is a little bit excessive (and they're probably right ), the stats system does provide a nice sense of continuity and instills a fun metagaming component.

Here's an example of how significant each finishing position can be for us:

During one memorable session of A Game of Thrones, the leader was being threatend by the combined efforts of two weaker allies, who were definitely on the verge of taking him down. In a stroke of brilliance, the leader offered a deal to the weaker of the two allies that would assure the weaker player a guaranteed 2nd place finish if he would instead team up with the leader to eliminate the other ally.

To accept this offer, the weaker ally would have to give up all thought of winning the game, but he would be able to squash his only direct rival. While at first glance this might not seem like an attractive offer, the prospect of an assured 2nd place finish was enough for the player to accept the deal, much to the other ally's chagrin (I know, it was me).

Without the stats sytem in effect, it would've been foolish for the player to abandon his chances for victory and merely settle for 2nd place. But the meta-battle to be top dog in our statistical rankings made it a prudent choice.


This is a slightly extreme example, but even in regular gaming situations, rewarding each finishing place makes the games that much more interesting for everyone involved. Winning is always best and everyone plays to win, but there comes a point in a lot of games when a player knows he has absolutely no chance for victory. Instead of marking time until the game is over, the stats create a significant incentive for players to continue competing for their best possible finish, or to target players who are ahead of them in the rankings.

Playing for anything other than 1st place really only makes sense if there is some kind of meta-gaming component that offers appropriate rewards. It doesn't have to be stats necessarily. Some groups let the 2nd place player pick the next game. Some players are in it just for pride. Whatever it is, the incentive to play for anything other than 1st place has to be provided from outside the game, since games themselves only recognize winners.
 
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Denise Lavely
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If it's a game I'm just learning, I just play and don't worry about it. I expect to get soundly clobbered in a learning game unless everyone else is also playing the game for the first time.

Other than that, it depends on which group I'm gaming with. My more serious game group, I play to win, or if that is clearly out of the question, to make the best showing I possibly can. You never know tho, sometimes when you think you can't win, you still can, so I always try to act as if I still could. Although sometimes towards the very end, it's better to take an action to hose others than to maximize your own position.

My less serious game group, I just have fun. This group is mostly moms who get together to game for social reasons, so honestly we rarely even remember who won or lost 10 minutes after the game is over. With my more serious game group, I can tell you how I placed for every game we played for the last three sessions, but for the mom's group, I'd be hard pressed to tell you who won any of the games we've ever played. So obviously two very different takes on playing style
 
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snicholson wrote:
Did I have fun playing the game? Did I enjoy the time I just spent? Then I won. Did I not have fun? Am I glad it's over? Do I wish I had those hours back? Then I lost.


Well put. I think this mirrors my own feelings, since I've often had more fun at games I've lost than ones at which I've won. For example, I don't like Princes of the Renaissance at all, even though I won my first game of it, and I really enjoy Medici, even though I've been told by others in my game group that I shouldn't be allowed to play it again, since I can't seem to valuate ANYthing correctly.

I think it was Mark Jackson who said it best: I like to win, but I love to play.
 
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Brian Morris
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I play for second lots of times. Case in point, several weeks ago I played Puerto Rico for the first time. We had 3 new players and 1 experienced player. I took the view that I was not going to beat the experienced player so 2nd place would be a good showing. I did indeed come in 2nd and was happy with my play. I remember as well one night we played Ra 4 times. I came in 2nd 4 times and while it would have been nice to have won it was nice knowing that my strategies were serving me well.

I will say this. I don't think that winning is all that counts. I enjoy winning of course but the most important thing is having fun.
 
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Brian A
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Check out this conversation

http://www.spielbyweb.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=316
 
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Zack Boatman
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I always attack the leader. If that happens to benefit my position in the game, all the better for me.
 
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S J
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The potential problem with playing with someone who has the view that only the winner matters, and playing for 2nd place doesn't is they often become kingmakers. Once someone with that attitude gets the feeling they have "lost" there is no point to the game for them anymore. So they may either just try to help whoever is in the lead to end the game quicker. They may just do random stuff since they have already lost. That can make the game less fun for those still in the game. Compared to someone trying to place as high as possible, they would still try to optimize their turns and be playing with some goal in mind.
 
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Ben .
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I always play for place/personal scoring. And here's the situation that says why:

I am winning the game (strange as that may seem!). I have played the best moves I have ever played - I've made the best deals I can possibly make with other plays - I've strategised and diplomacised (!) my way to the top through sheer brilliance.

Now. Matey here is coming 3rd. He's made some bad errors and it's dragged him down from competitive to a paltry 3rd place, where he looks set to remain. HOWEVER..... a situation arises..... he has a 1,000,000:1 chance to pull it off. If he succeeds, he comes in 1st and grabs the win. If he fails, he drops to 250th out of 250. Last place. A big fat zero.
Unfortunately, there is a side effect. If he fails, (a 99.9999%) likelihood, he pushes the player in 2nd place up into 1st place.

Now.... if 3rd place player decides to play for place: a 0.0001% chance is not worth risking a 247 place slide for, so it's no go and I win, rightfully, through my superior play.

If 3rd place player decides it's WIN or NOTHING, then he goes for the 0.0001% chance of the big win. Guess what: it fails. I get bumped down to 2nd place, behind player #2, whom I've outplayed at every turn, and now beats me because of player #3's failed 1:1,000,000 chance.


It's all well and good saying you don't mind winning or not, and I consider myself a pretty good loser, but I challenge ANYONE not to be pretty pi**ed with player #3 in this situation....
I know that if I were player #3, I wouldn't dream of screwing over player #1 in this way.


Yep, it sounds hypothetical. Yep, it sounds theoretical.

I've seen it happen.
 
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Philip Thomas
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I play for as much as I can get in score terms or similar: some games I like to keep track of my score from one game to the next and see if I can beat it. I still play to beat the other playes, of course.

I rarely get the choice anyway...
 
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