Sunday, March 10, 2013

Another Pet Peeve of Mine

What to do when you are in a position of power in multi-player games:

In particular this applies to Magic: the Gathering, but I suppose some truth of this also goes in to other games.

Everyone's played a multi-player game where there are plenty of players, but inevitably one person will gain a superior position/power such that the check and balances of the game is basically the other players. Probably the most common game of this is Risk. The shifts in power in the game happen fairly often in a game, due to alliances--albeit temporary--to take down another player, or at least to no longer make him a threat again.

I suppose Risk is a poor example of this, as in Risk, it's resource collection (army units) which has a direct correlation with winning. Other games however, do not have this, such as a point system. But it would seem poor to try and draw a relationship with this and Scrabble for example, where no one can particularly stop you if you get ahead. So I will use the example that this comes up most often in: Magic: the Gathering.

In a multiplayer setting, similar to Risk, changes in power happen somewhat frequently. Yes, I understand that some games a player will get ahead and there is nothing you can do about it. But if a snowball gets too big, that's what the players should have been aiming to stop. This is another Pet Peeve of mine in multiplayer games, which I simply call "playing for second place". It's not always second place, but in a three-player setting it's basically when second and third place are behind first, and if they teamed up temporarily, they could restore a balance of power to the game. However, when second place allocates most or all of his resources to crippling/eliminating third place, he basically just handed first place the game. It feels really bad to be third place in this scenario.

In particular this "what to do when you are in first" scenario happened to me while playing a 6-player free-for-all. Two players in this game had a huge board advantage, enough to wipe out any one player in a single turn. But they feared each other such that whoever eliminated a player, the other would mount an assault on the other. And because of this, each of them passed turn, several turns in a row. At one point somebody even dropped Bellowing Tanglewurm, allowing him to eliminate second place entirely, but didn't like the scenario of a 1v4 free-for-all, so passed turn without attacking.

Two turns later, somebody boardwiped and both of them lost all of their advantage: handsize, board position, the whole nine yards. Bellowing Tanglewurm is a card, that in a sense it's like Overrun, or any other Alpha Strike card--your drop this, you swing in for game.

Or offer some serious hurt.

In this "arms race" that players were doing, they ended up both hurting themselves for game, because neither of them decided to do anything with their advantage. I'm not sure if this considers as a fault of "having respect for your opponents," but I guess I will save that article for another day.

Basically, if you are the only player to have creatures on the field, do something with it. Too many games have come down to counting your pennies; and if you get teamed up on, it should be a compliment to not only your deck, but superior play. Multiplayer games, in my opinion, are not about winning, but about making plays. If you play your deck to the best of it's ability, you should be proud--even if you got last place. This can also be summed up as "play to perform, not to win."

Thanks for reading, and I apologize for the belatedness of this article.

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