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Bugs: Recent Topics Paging, Uploading Images & Preview (11 Dec 2020)

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All Tied Up - Ties and Tie Breakers in Board Games

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07 Dec 2021 00:00 #328578 by oliverkinne
I think the obvious place to start is with competitive...

Someone once said that board games are basically just a framework to arbitrate a victor. Even though that sounds quite cold, at its heart, it describes how many of us, especially competitive players, feel about board games. There needs to be someone at the end of the game who has won. The emphasis here is on the singular victor rather than winning as a team. In this article, I want to look at what it means not to have a single victor.

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08 Dec 2021 04:15 #328579 by mc
It depends on the game a bit, but I'm of a similar mind essentially. I'm quite happy to tie with someone. There's actually a certain thrill in it, again , game dependent, but as you say, if it's been an interesting game and we've done different stuff and then we come out equal after all that - it's a cool result. Part of that is probably influenced by watching alot of Test Cricket growing up (and football). But it's a not dissimilar feeling to that last throw of the dice with the last play, and rolling exactly what you need to win. All that play, and it comes down to this. If "this" is a shared victory - that's a memorable kind of moment. Personally I am not a competitive person (or player) so I'm sure that has a bit to do with it as well, but I don't need a winner to be declared.

As I said though it depends a bit on the game. There are certain tie-breakers that are actually fairly important - the example that springs to mind is Samurai; with only 3 things up for grabs, ties are quite common. I get why that one has a multi-layered tie-breaker. And its tie breaker is fairly obvious too, because it is essentially who has the most pieces.

Tie-breakers can feel not that good though, especially when there are multiple aspects to a game and the designer has chosen one of them to be the tie-breaker - why THAT one? It can change the way the game is played (that is, if people remember it... how many times is it getting near the end and it's tight and people are like, "what's the tie-breaker again?". Personally I find those types a bit unsatisfying. But I don't mind cash as a tiebreaker. Although I prefer games where cash is just the thing that gives you the outright victory.

Anyway - mostly, I'm happy to share a victory. It's all good, I don't need a winner, I'm playing a flipping boardgame.
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08 Dec 2021 07:27 #328581 by Msample
Speaking of tie breakers, this was recently announced. Should be interesting to say the least. Not that there is any way in hell I am attending.

wsbgvegas.com/

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08 Dec 2021 07:29 - 08 Dec 2021 16:14 #328582 by sornars
I'm generally indifferent to tie breakers and am totally comfortable with "you both win" even if my generally preferred framing for two player games is "you both lost". If listed I will respect and follow the tie breaker rules and will even take them into consideration when choosing between multiple options, but what really gets my goat is when tie breakers are enumerated along axises which are only tangentially related to playing the game well.

Arboretum has the best tie breaker: "If there is still a tie, the tied players must each plant a tree. In five years' time, the player whose tree has grown the tallest wins" but Pax Pamir is a close second: "if there is still a tie, whoever can cook the best chopan kebab wins."
Last edit: 08 Dec 2021 16:14 by sornars.
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08 Dec 2021 09:53 #328584 by Shellhead
I'm okay with one tie-breaker mechanic in a game. Multiple, tiered tie-breakers are a ridiculous accommodation for the I-Win Guy who has an unhealthy obsession with winning every game. There is no absolute law of nature that There Can Be Only One winner, and a fixation with winning can leave someone blind to the advantages of teamwork, cooperation, synergy, and deal-making. I'm not advocating for participation trophies for everybody, just saying that it arbitrary and unnecessary to declare that only one person can win a game.
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08 Dec 2021 15:31 - 08 Dec 2021 15:32 #328603 by southernman

Shellhead wrote: ...There is no absolute law of nature that There Can Be Only One winner, and ....

Actually that is the main law on nature in most species ;) - most species groups have the one 'leader' in charge and death/exclusion is the result of any challenge :lol:
But I agree with you on when it comes to human gamers B)
Last edit: 08 Dec 2021 15:32 by southernman.
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08 Dec 2021 16:07 #328605 by Sagrilarus
If there's a second tie-breaker it needs to be something truly arbitrary and pointless. "If both players are still tied, the win goes to the player that most recently sneezed, unless their name is Kyle. Kyles can't win second tie breaker."
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08 Dec 2021 17:03 #328609 by mads b.
Starcraft The Boardgame has a great system for breaking ties. In the game, you can either win by getting 15 conquest points, or you can win a special victory when the third phase of the game begins. Those are different for each faction, so one faction might need to hold areas with specific resources, where another has to hold two entire planets. The special victory condition means that as the game comes to a close, most players will have a fair shot at winning. But since conquest points are tie breakers, you still want to get them because it's not uncommon that two or more players reach their SVC at the same time.

The game could use a bit of streamlining to be honest (and no, Forbidden Stars did not do this entirely), but the core of the game is pure genius.
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08 Dec 2021 17:25 - 08 Dec 2021 17:26 #328611 by southernman
Spartacus - A Game of Blood & Treachery has the only tie breaker to be considered (and definitely no second one needed) - a fight to the death in the arena.
Last edit: 08 Dec 2021 17:26 by southernman.
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08 Dec 2021 20:04 #328614 by DarthJoJo
The King is Dead is an interesting case for the subject at hand as there are multiple tie breakers. Saxons control four regions? Whoever has the most sets wins. No faction majority in Britain? Whoever won the most recent power struggle wins. No player has a majority in the winning faction? Whoever has the majority in the second strongest faction wins. Still tied? There’s another conditional tie breaker dependent on who played the last action card.

This may be the rare case where more than three tie breakers work. The minimal actions and points available mean ties will be frequent and foreseeable, so you can tailor your strategy of going for one, two or three factions appropriately.
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09 Dec 2021 00:27 #328618 by mc
Yep. Games like TKiD kind of crossover into another thing altogether - it's not so much they are tie-breakers as they are practically different victory conditions, and the aim of the whole game is to engineer things to make one of them work in your favour.
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09 Dec 2021 09:09 #328622 by jason10mm
For games that have a lot of rubber band mechanisms to keep all players clustered together a layered tie-breaker system is necessary since it is quite hard for anyone to really break away from the pack. The problem in my experience, is that newer players often don't get told these secondary conditions or don't properly grok their importance, so they get whiffed at the end because they built enough power stations to trigger the end of the game but neglected to hoard enough power resources or money to actually win it.

I actually kinda like the narrative end system a lot of solo games use. Score X number of points, look up in the book and read a paragraph to see if the ending was satisfying. Score more points to get a "better" ending. I'd like to see multiplayer games use such a system to articulate how several players can simultaneously "win" while incorporating the theme of the game.
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09 Dec 2021 11:55 #328632 by Shellhead
Good point, Jason. Years back, eurogame designers embraced a goal of designing artificially close games, potentially creating an a greater threat of tie games needing tie breakers.

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09 Dec 2021 21:49 #328655 by dysjunct
Agree that TKiD is very different. In most games, tiebreakers are afterthoughts to appease overly competitive nerds. In TKiD, the decision tree is so painfully constrained, that it exists to force analysis down multiple paths, because someone is going to mess up. And then they lose.
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