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All Tied Up - Ties and Tie Breakers in Board Games
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.
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.
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."
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
Shellhead wrote: ...There is no absolute law of nature that There Can Be Only One winner, and ....
But I agree with you on when it comes to human gamers
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.
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.
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.