Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Eliminating the Elimination Myth

The ground trembles. The Kraken wakes. Titan is to be reprinted.

And what seems to be the majority response to the idea that one of the very best games of the eighties is to see the light of day again? Complaints about it player elimination.

Discussion of player elimination is an ongoing bugbear for me because it seems to be missing a very fundamental point. We'll return to what that point is in a little while but we'll begin by reviewing the complaints that are usually raised against player elimination in games.

The basis of the argument against is that elimination is bad in longer games because it means some players have to leave the game early, spoiling the game session for them. I have mixed feelings about this particular argument not least because there are deeper facets that don't usually get discussed. Consider one of the grossest offenders in the player elimination league - Risk. During discussion of elimination I heard one guy quote an example of a 7-hour risk game they once played in which two players were put out early because both decided to scrap for Australia on the first turn. The exact same thing has happened to me once, although my game didn't drag on quite so long because we were playing with the mission rules.

The key word in the above paragraph is once.

Think about it. This is *Risk* we're talking about here, no Go or Chess or some similar ancient game with vast depths of subtle strategy. Any gamer worth their salt who has played Risk will have spotted that the attacker has a considerable advantage given equal numbers of troops. If it looks like this sort of situation is shaping up during your initial deployment then for Gods sake, if you're not going to be going before your opponent, don't get sucked into it! If you do happen do get into this position, then it's an error you are unlikely to repeat. I have an excuse for my behaviour: I was horribly drunk at the time.

The point is that many player elimination games have this sort of built-in policing - early aggression will often damage you as much as your victim, leaving your ripe for the picking by other players. Titan has it - because early stacks tend to be the same sort of size and power, an early attack will often leave you too weak to compete with other players in spite of the points reward. Getting eliminated early in this sort of game is far more often a consequence of bad play (or inebriation) than randomness. Isn't that one of the things Eurogamers often complain about in AT games? That they don't sufficiently punish bad play? Well, I beg to differ.

I'll admit that any elimination games that don't come with some sort of mechanism for limiting the number of early exits are definitely a bad thing. But here's the rub - I can't actually think of any that don't.

So we're left with long-running games which have elimination during the later stages. I personally see this as much less of a problem. If I get kicked out of a 4 hour game after 3 hours then I've still had a good game night - I can watch the game, play on the computer, maybe play a Euro-filler against some other knocked-out players, go home early or - god forbid - actually hang around and indulge myself in some good old fashioned socialising. But lets run with this for a moment and suggest that a game player might not want to do any of those things, does that suddenly make player elimination undesirable?

Well no. It adds spice to the game. What sort of feeble taunting are you going to be able to deliver to your opponents when you've all finished simultaneously within 5 victory points of one another? What kind of exhilaration can you feel when your only option for taking revenge on the guy whose moves have been bugging you all game is to force him to ship his coffee instead of selling it (I hate exclusive examples, so for the uninitiated, the latter is a Puerto Rico reference)? How much greater is your stake in, and attachment to, success in the game when you face the knowledge the doing badly is going to result in an early and ignominious exit? In short, what sort of memorable game night are you going to have unless there's a player elimination game on the table?

Back in the days when a lot of the games around did revolve around random dice rolls I can see how there could be a complaint of elimination. If you've just sat out 2 hours of a five hour game purely because you couldn't roll enough sixes while you were at the table then yes, sure, I can see why you'd never want to play that game again. But those days are, for the most part, gone. The games that survive (such as Titan) survive for the most part exactly because they weren't games like that - they were games that rewarded good strategy and clever play. I wonder sometimes if all the venom that gets directed at player elimination arises from genuinely shitty experiences older gamers had with badly designed Ameritrash games from the eighties. But it's not the eighties anymore, and of all the lessons that AT designs have learned from the Euro-revolution, the increase the number of important game choices has to be the one that's been most widely accepted.

But lets get back to my opening promise of ratting out a fundamental misconception about player elimination. Take a typical Eurogame - to avoid accusations of bias we'll use an AT favourite, Settlers of Catan. In Settlers no-one can be eliminated - everyone is locked in to playing until the end of the game. What's more you're all racing to ten victory points and everyone starts with two so it's a short course anda close finish is virtually guaranteed. All good stuff, right?

Wrong.

It's all a myth. I can recall playing a game of Settlers in which I was in the lead most of the way through. I was the first player to hit eight points and shortly thereafter it dawned on me that I was completely boxed in - I couldn't build any more roads or settlements and all my settlements had already been upgraded to cities. The only way in which I could get my last two points was to burn resources drawing cards and hoping to get a VP card, but my setup didn't specialise in the necessary resources to make that anything more than an outside chance. I sat through the last half hour of that game knowing I'd lost but having to play on regardless. At the game end it looked close - the winner had ten, of course and I came second with nine (I did get one card) - but the game wasn't remotely competitive after the halfway point and everyone knew it.

This situation is far worse than actually being eliminated from the game. Because the system demand I continue playing I had no choice to get up and do something else, I had to carry on making my futile moves. Worse, I had the potential to spoil things for everyone else by doing the kingmaker thing - biasing the game by picking and choosing who I traded with on what terms and who I put the robber on. That sort of bias (which is common in AT games) isn't too much of a problem in an open game where everyone gets the chance to do it and react accordingly, but in a "closed" Euro it can completely destroy any chance of a meaningful game. I didn't do this - but I could have.

Euro designers are very far from stupid of course, and there are a number of mechanisms employed to combat this problem in other designs. The most common one - and my absolute #1 vote for the laziest, most over-used mechanic in game design ever - is hidden victory points. I feel I should qualify that latter statement by saying that it's not the mechanic itself that's bad but rather the number of times it's been used to cover up problems in what are basically badly designed games. But I digress. By hiding the victory points you stop people being certain that they've fallen badly behind and as a result keep them interested in playing for themselves rather than playing kingmaker.

So what does this achieve? A game in which you can actually be eliminated but you just don't know it. Call me old-fashioned but I thought the idea of covering up and effectively lying to people was generally considered a bad thing.

On consideration, if we're talking about manners, I should probably concede that stealing someone's country, pillaging their resources and slaughtering the populace probably ranks somewhat higher on the impoliteness scale than white lies so maybe AT games can't take the high ground here. But you take my point.

Games are competitive. Elimination is built into the nature of competition. How can you have a game that rewards better players over weaker ones unless at some point in the game those better plays build into a cumulative advantage which eventually becomes overwhelming? All the concepts that have been used to combat this - hidden VPs, low VP targets, exponential build-up to a victory condition, granting weaker players privileges in the early rounds - are just blinds to the fact that all games must, sooner or later, turn into elimination competitions.

So long live Titan. And, paradoxically, long live elimination.

102 comments:

Michael Barnes said...

Wow Matt...TKO!

I was actually thinking about writing a similar article in the face of the recent spate of complaints against player elimination that the announcement of the TITAN reprint has generated and you pretty much hit on the points I wanted to make so I'll not reiterate them here.

Your article did make me realize how much I hate hidden VPs...you're 100% correct, it's lazy game design that tries to eliminate not only elimination but also those bugbears of kingmaking and "gang up on the leader". IF E&T didn't have hidden VPs, people would complain about how everyone attacks the leader.

You also make a very good point with SETTLERS about what I call "functional elimination"- I'm sure we've all played those SETTLERS games where we pretty much flop from the first turn and spend the rest of the game trying to get a brick whilst other players merrily collect VPs like bubblegum cards. I think functional elimination is a lot worse than outright player elimination since it just drags out the inevitable- if a player plays poorly (even with bad rolls in SETTLERS shrewd trading alone) can win a game)with consistency then he _should_ be eliminated.

I've always suspected that the most vocal opponents to player elimination are those who are more frequently affected by it...and like I always say, the best remedy is simply to play better! Elimination increases the stakes in a game _dramatically_ since it forces the player to not only play to win and play to outperform/conquer other players but also to play for the right to remain in the game. Imagine if a game like PUERTO RICO had elimination- the decisions would be much more crucial, significant, and meaningful.

I am really concerned that Valley Games is going to listen to the internet bitchers and "fix" TITAN with some kind of tacked on, half-assed mechanism to keep players in the game, like some kind of Titan resurrection thing or something like that. That will be very, very unfortunate since that takes a lot of the challenge out of the game.

There have been some games that mitigate elimination in pretty cool ways though- in ROGUE TROOPER you get to take on eliminated players as sort of teammates, represented very thematically by these sentitent "biochips" that improve the performance of your character. WAR ON TERROR has all the eliminated players joining with the Terrorists.

Elimination is _good_. It's not appropriate for every game, but it's time that this maligned mechanic is rescued from the pile of good things that Euro designers convinced everyone were "bad" things or faulty design.

Shellhead said...

For more than a decade, I've been playing one of the most brutal multiplayer elimination games ever created. In fact, I usually play at least three games a month, and if I was motivated, I could be playing 15 games every month. Vampire: the Eternal Struggle (or as I like to still call it, Jyhad) takes a group of 4-6 veteran players from 2-3 hours to play a full game, and the game isn't over until there is only one player left in the game.

So how do we deal with elimination, especially when it can happen as early as 30 minutes into a game? Various ways. Eliminated players can fine-tune their decks for later games, or take a smoke break outside, or play a computer game. Two eliminated players can play a short filler game. Once there are four eliminated players, they can start up the next game of Jyhad.

Ideally, we play Jyhad with at least two games of four going at once. The elimination process works well, allowing a constant juggling of players between the two tables. This is really important, as Jyhad decks are challenging to design, so players tend to play the same several decks for weeks or even months at a time. Facing a variety of opponents in a variety of seating arrangements keeps the game fresh for everybody.

The game that I designed was actually intended as a filler game for Jyhad events, or for people to play while waiting for their Vampire rpg or larp group to show up. As a 2-player game, it works okay in that filler role. But if 3-5 players are playing, it's actually too long of a game to work consistently in that filler time slot.

MWChapel said...

Huh, I didn't hear much complaints about the elimination as I heard that the game is long and repetitive. I like long games, as long as they have enough beef to remain fluid throughout the game. But 6 hours of wash, rinse, destroy, repeat, well that was for a time that I had just that.

Pat H said...

Good read Matt. Too bad no one house ruled Settler's to include violent takeover of your neighbor in order to expand.

I was involved in a rather long discussion on this topic recently and had no idea until then that so many people were against player elimination. I had always thought this to be a necessary part of any game as it made you think twice before pulling off some half baked move.

It is beyond me that people could not figure out what to do in the time between the first player eliminated and the second. Essentially this is the only time frame that lends itself to being idle. Once there is a second loser then these two can merely get together for a quickie game to determine who the biggest loser is. It seems to me that too many gamers these days are forgetting the this is a social event and it is the boring types that don't like being eliminated because the game is then dead to them afterwards as well as their night (don't let the door hit you on the way out -oops you forgot your "Gaylus", chump!).

The whole point of being tossed out early is to reflect on what the hell you did so poorly in the first place, and have people remind you that you suck when you try to give advice or make comments on the current moves. Ultimately the race for first out is to determine who the drink bitch for the night will be.

Shellhead said...

Pat H: Too bad no one house ruled Settler's to include violent takeover of your neighbor in order to expand.

Actually, somebody their own game based on that idea, more or less:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/17516

Hancock.Tom said...

One thing people forget about Titan is that in most cases, early battles between tall stacks are a bad idea. Sure you can gobble up your opponent's cast offs, but attacking his tall stack with your tall stack? You have a chance to eliminate him but the price you pay in recruiting potential for the long term game is usually not worth it. What does this mean? It means that amongst players that know what they are doing it is pretty rare for a player to be eliminated early. Most of the time, you have to wait to see any sort of advantage in it. Also, once one player gets eliminated, there is a big draw for the other players to knock someone off. After all, if one person collects an additional set of legion markers and you are left with only your original legion markers that can make the difference in the end game. Thats not such an issue in six player but it is a big deal in four player.


There is NO WAY valley games will add a half-assed resurrection mechanic to get rid of elimination, although it might be thrown in as an option. It would alienate the old-schoolers and the whiners would just find something else to complain about, like the long playing time, the dice, etc. Plus it would make a long game even longer. It is more difficult to attack a weak opponent in titan than in many games because of the nature of movement, so if you add in some sort of resurrection feature, the game would last forever. Either that or be decided by total points, which would be very dry.

Anonymous said...

And what seems to be the majority response to the idea that one of the very best games of the eighties is to see the light of day again? Complaints about it player elimination.

This is what I do not understand. On BGG, the vast majority response was unbridled enthusiasm - overwhelmingly. There was one thread with about two people who found the game longish. In that very thread, far more people disagreed with that opinion.

But, look! It gets misreferenced by the thought police here as the "majority response".

Mr Skeletor said...

So I sit down tonight, my first free night in ages, and decide to write an article since I'm overdue. I think I'll tackle elimination since it's a hot topic at the moment.
A third of the way through and I get a bit bored. Might watch an episode of heroes that someone has lent me.
Wow, that was a great clifhanger, I might squeeze in one more episode.
Another hour later, and I decide to check the site for any new comments before resuming the article. Then I find this.
Fucking hell.

ironcates said...

Great article Matt!

I'm very much in line with your theory here BUT I don't see why we can't have both.

Keep player elimination as unchanged and offer designer alternative rules for those whiners. Bang! for example is one of my favorite games, when playing with a new crowd I'll throw in the ghost rules where the elimnated players draw a card. Hearts allow them to give life to a living player, Club gives them the right to club them for a loss of points, and so on. Some people just enjoy the position to smack back at the person that off'd them. Nice little take that from the grave. The trash talk continues and most times it can wrap it up quicker.

Mr Skeletor said...

This is what I do not understand. On BGG, the vast majority response was unbridled enthusiasm - overwhelmingly. There was one thread with about two people who found the game longish. In that very thread, far more people disagreed with that opinion.

But, look! It gets misreferenced by the thought police here as the "majority response".


Stormknight created a whole thread bitching about player elimination being a bad mechanic. Some agreed and a heated debate began.
Misreference my ass.

Michael Barnes said...

Anonymous...at it again... it takes balls to be a cock, it takes none to post anonymously.

Player elimination has LONG been one of the biggest bitch-targets of the BGG majority along with "luck factors" and 3+ hour playtimes and if you believe otherwise either you're completely new to the site or you just aren't paying attention.

Mr. Skeletor- just take Matt's post, pepper it with a few "fucks" and "bullshits" and repost.

Matt Thrower said...

But, look! It gets misreferenced by the thought police here as the "majority response".

I will offer a feeble defence to this that I don't read an awful lot of the comments about anything on BGG. It would appear that I have unfortunately been reading only those threads about Titan which focussed on player elimination and the possibility that a reprint might eliminate the elimination aspect.

I might get bored of that pun at some point.

Even if I've been mistake in this regard, I don't feel it detracts from the central point of my article. Player elimination remains something that's generally seen as a "bad thing" whereas I see it, simply, as something that's unavoidable.

Pat H said...

Mr Skeletor is right about the thread that had quite few pages and was originally titled "Player elimination is a bad mechanic" and then it was re-named due to the ensuing shitstorm. It was surprising to see how boring folks deal with their spare time when not crying.

Dennis Ugolini said...

While I agree with the idea that player elimination is just fine, that's not my biggest complaint about Titan. I don't like it...because it's "solvable"!

Look up any Titan thread with David desJardins in it. Every one includes his discussion of the optimal recruiting line, and his (sometimes humorously condescending) criticism of any alternate theories.

Ken B. said...

What I want to know is, with all this talk of elmination, where is my "ElimiDATE, the Board Game?"


I want to play the "No you di'nt" card and throw my Lee Press-ons at somebody.

Mike said...

I can't tell you how many times I've been in a game where I would have preferred elimation so I could go play something else. Instead I am forced to finish out a game that I clearly have no chance in, not even to even improve my standing. There is definitely a mentality among hard-core, anti-elimination Euro-gamers that you must "assume the position" and finish the game as a "good sport" no matter how miserably beaten you are. Is it any wonder why people (i.e. me) in last place playing certain games then become kingmakers, it's the only the thing left to do that's entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Matt -

I think your points regarding player elimination were excellent.

Though not only can I not find the thread being referenced, but even if I could it wouldn't even be remotely close to a majority response.

That's the disconnect many people have with Ameritrash. The majority it references is one folks have never encountered either in their game groups, at BGG, or here. It's a magnifying glass for the over-sensitive.

But here I am just adding to it. Otherwise, the article was great.

Julian said...

I saw those nonexistent Titan threads too. I love player elimination, and for the last twenty five years, I've played almost exclusively player elimination games, and I've known it to be a problem for one player only once (also a game of Risk, and involved spectacularly poor play, where we begged him to stop or he'd be eliminated).

Settlers is a great example of why not having player elimination can be bad. I absolutely suck at Settlers. In a typical game, by about my third turn I've realised that my initial placement was boneheaded, and then my only goal for the rest of the game is to finish with a nonhumiliating score.

I suspect that Euro gamers problem with elimination is based around the social aspect of gaming. There's only really a problem when you've been eliminated, like Pat H says, until person number 2 is eliminated. We solve this by talking to each other.

I play almost exclusively with friends and family and gaming is primarily social for me. So its no big deal if your eliminated, you just catch up, make jokes, etc. Some of the heavy euros aren't even particularly conducive to socialising because everyone is so busy doing mental arithmatic that they don't talk. For me gaming is primarily a social activity. Instead of going to a bar, watching a movie, playing video games, sometimes I want to play a board game instead.

I find that player elimination often adds to the socialising. It provides more dramatic moments that give you something to talk about. Just quietly racking up VPs doesn't really do that as well. That's why even in Euros I gravitate to ones with lots of interaction and screwage.

The biggest problem I think that has come out of the whole anti-player elimination thing is that those people have been so vocal about it, that its distorted good games. I said over on the Wiki that DESCENT would be a better game if it had player elimination. No going back to town. You're stuck in a Dungeon desperately hoping that that next Chest has some good healing stuff, because the healing potions have run out, and the big boss is through the next door. Much better. Much more exciting.

Ken B. said...

You can see the complaints that cropped up in "Fury of Dracula" when player elimination was removed. It doesn't bother me as much because I think the game works just fine even without player elimination (well, techincally, the Dracula player gets "eliminated" if the Hunters win), but if there were complaints about a cult game like Fury of Dracula getting tweaked, imagine what would happen if they changed a big-time reprint like Titan.

Rliyen said...

The biggest problem I think that has come out of the whole anti-player elimination thing is that those people have been so vocal about it, that its distorted good games. I said over on the Wiki that DESCENT would be a better game if it had player elimination. No going back to town. You're stuck in a Dungeon desperately hoping that that next Chest has some good healing stuff, because the healing potions have run out, and the big boss is through the next door. Much better. Much more exciting.

I totally agree with that. The respawning thing just bothers me. When I do buy this game (eventually), if at all possible I am going to ignore the respawning rules. Ironman Descent ala Ironman Talisman.

wlliam boykin said...

Anonymous-
What the hell do you want? Footnotes? This is webblog about AT games, fer chrissakes.
There was a pretty active thread, we all know there was, and I don't think that the poster needs to 'prove' anything about BGG to another anonymous- even if you are the same one?

As a side note- are all the anonymous the same clone? Or do they have different personalities? Are they like the Clone Troopers, where some are elite Commandoes, and the others shmoes? And where did the Stormtroopers come from? If they are all the same clones, aren't all of them really old by the 6th movie? But maybe that explains why they got their ass whipped by a bunch of freaking, stupid Ewoks!! Did you know that the word Ewok is not even MENTIONED in Episode 6?

Okkkk....a bit off topic here. Suffice to say, footnotes at F:AT= BAD THING. Deal with it.

William

Pat H said...

I still can't understand the spawning in Descent. This just doesn't cut the mustard for me in a game that isn't run on electricity. Throw in more health potions and resurrection scrolls if need be but re-spawning? And Doom doesn't have this apparently(?). Elimination keeps you on your toes.

Ken B. said...

Sorry, buddy...Doom has respawning too. At least there, it does fit the game (being based on the videogame, "respawning" is very much a gameplay element there).

Techincally since the Overlord/Invader wins on a set number of kills, what you're looking at is pseudo-player elimination--where sure, you can respawn, but every kill draws closer to ALL players being eliminated. It's an important distinction.

Rliyen said...

For the 'mouse:

Here's the thread that started it all. The original poster didn't have the guts to leave the original body of the post alone and renamed the thread. When you don't have a leg to stand on, whadya do? Crawfish back the other way and tell everyone, "Can you let it drop, please??????"

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/1475290#1475290

The whole thread is a bunch of Anti-player elimination BS. All the detractors cannot come up with a coherent explanation as to why it is a bad mechanic other than, "Why, it'll bode ill will between the eliminated and non-eliminated! And, that's not the done thing!"

That type of thinking drives me up the wall. If I get eliminated because of a stupid mistake, fine, I'll take my lumps and learn. But, the non-player elimination (e.g. SETTLERS) points out the fallacy of the other end of the spectrum, that non-PE is good.

Barnes, I'd rather poke my eye out with a screwdriver than ever play Settlers again. I am glad and respect the fact that you like the game; but for this guy, give me a decent PE AT or PE hybrid and I'll be a happy camper.

ubarose said...

"Player elimination is a bad mechanic"

Someone is forgetting their effective communication skills.

Please construct an "I statement."

I feel __________ (put a name on the emotion and claim it)

when __________ (formulate a nonjudgmental description of the game mechanic)

because __________ (describe the tangible effects of the game mechanic).


Remember, just because you are lactose intolerant, it doesn’t mean that milk is "evil."

Michael Barnes said...

Hey...I've been "revisiting" DESCENT lately...I'm realizing that I really do like a lot of it (even though it's _still_ too long) but I was thinking that the respawning players thing has got to go too but it seems like it might need some adjustments, like maybe giving the players more potions or reducing monster strength...anybody try anything like that to incorporate elimination versus endless respawns?

Pat H said...

Thanks for clearing that up Ken - re-spawning is just an integral part of the Doom license I suppose that is why I can forgive it. The number of re-spawns being limited does essentially lead to elimination so that's better. I just don't know if Descent will do it for me. As a long time RPG'er from way back (I wouldn't get into rpg's at this point)and table top gamer I always felt that the dungeon crawl games were treading a fine line between these two game styles and for the most part don't succeed. Perhaps if there were more naration and "GM"ing going on rather than competition (overlord/palyers)I might take a closer look. It's tough to provide enough narration and character development with a spawning mechanism - hijacking done, my apologies, please carry on.

Julian said...

DESCENT's a funny game. I love Dungeon crawls, and I think if you took DESCENT and figured out what works and what doesn't you could make the perfect Dungeon crawl game, because some of it's great and some it's terrible.

I agree that its biggest problem is that it is too long for what it is. You could play through the same rooms in D&D in about as much time. A board game should be quicker.

Ken B. said...

I think what Wilson was trying to do with Doom and Descent was give the Invader player an interesting role and something to actually play for.

It is a real game problem--if you're forced to be the GM, you're essentially just running overhead so the other players can have a good time. To some, that doesn't cut it for motivation. Also, there's the issue that such games are usually weighted in favor of the "good guys", so it's doubly boring for the 'evil' player.


Siege of the Citadel solved this nicely by allowing you to score points as the Legion player; even though your corp sat out for that mission, you were still scoring for them. So everything you did as the evil player counted, and motivated you to not only play your best but also make you very vested in the outcome of the mission.

Kevin Wilson went a different route--the evil player can "win" by succeeding enough times. It gives the evil player a real goal and allows them to play competitively. He could have made the heroes tougher but made elimination permanent, but perhaps that was too constrained by small-term vagaries of dice--getting a hero wiped out by an extremely outlying result on a dice roll.

Pat H said...

"getting a hero wiped out by an extremely outlying result on a dice roll. "

This is true of any RPG and is ultimately why the GM and bag'o tricks comes into play. It's tough to port over the rpg onto the board without taking the elimination seriously. The RPG has many more stats and abilities, dice rolls etc to combat this possibility but it needs to be there. The dungeon crawls too often attempt to dummy everything down to make it quicker but as Julian pointed out you still have a long game despite this goal. If it is taking just as long to slog through several rooms as it does in an rpg but without the robust character stats and abilities then what is the point? I think that allowing the re-spawn as opposed to more developed character system and elimination is the undoing of the dungeon crawl.

Dice rolls are at the heart of elimination and the mechanics need to be meaty enough to prevent a Zombies!! style hosing with a "1,2 or 3". In a game like Zombies!! I am fine with the re-spawning because all it does is set you back and in some cases you are better off in the race. There is no character development so it doesn't matter so much. If the game pretended to be deeper then I would expect more from the system and mechanics and do away with the re-spawn and have elimination as a real concern.

Jack Hill said...

You know...I'm not so certain that Settlers is a Eurogame. A lot of the people who gripe about elimination, and gripe about luck. Settlers has both. The most important choice in the game is by far your initial placement. And players can easily be taken out in the first three turns.

Risk is quite bad for player elimination. Risk with 6 players is pretty much a 4 player game within the first two turns. Going last is just deadly in a 6 player game, and that player is almost certainly doomed. That's another reason why I strongly prefer the recent themed Risks.

Civ has the same problem. Fall behind in the first few phases, and you are never, ever going to win. Advanced Civ helps a bit, but the "parade" (Mike Siggin's term) is still there.

Eurogames often include bonuses for players who are behind. That's pretty much the only way to remove any form of elimination. (Curiously, that occasionally ticks people off as well. People whine too much.)

As to hidden VP's I don't mind them so much. Vinci probably should have used them---otherwise the game gradually gets much slower as players start to calculate how many points they gain versus take from other players. I'm normally a "play fast or die" kind, and even I fall into the trap of doing that in Vinci

Anonymous said...

Glory to the Many; I am a voice in their choir.

Wargamer66 said...

That BGG thread was pretty funny, and it mostly showed that having an account on BGG is no guarantee that you know shit about gaming.

Good post!

Michael Barnes said...

Glory to the Many; I am a voice in their choir.

So you must be the castrato?

Anonymous said...

A place filled more with the constant drone of whining effeminacy than BGG. Shit.

Rliyen said...

That BGG thread was pretty funny, and it mostly showed that having an account on BGG is no guarantee that you know shit about gaming.

That, my friend, is so true.

Michael Barnes said...

A place filled more with the constant drone of whining effeminacy than BGG. Shit.

Wow, aside from the 'shit' I could easily have mistaken that quality post for something from BGG...

Anonymous said...

hay, im the original anonymos troll around here and im enjoying this thread

even tho your all gay

Shellhead said...

There is one genre of game theme that I believe is ideal for AmeriTrash, and practically demands eliminton as a game mechanic: horror.

Horror works best when there is an element of fear, or at least worry. But most horror games fail at this, because they go too easy on the players.

When the rpg gamemaster fudges the dice rolls to keep the players alive once, that might serve the story well enough, but when he does it repeatedly, players will eventually notice that the game is too easy.

And when a horror PC game allows you to easily go back to a recent save point, that takes much of the sting from "death." Worst of all, potentially, is when a horror boardgame allows re-spawning or easy healing to prevent player elimination.

I realize that it is hopeless and probably even undesirable to strive to actually scare the players of a horror boardgame, but the threat of elimination is a good one. Or if a player is going to be allowed to re-enter the game, make him start from scratch.

Arkham Horror is easily one of my favorite games these days, but the original version was actually more likely to cause a player to start a new investigator, generally due to complete health or sanity loss while in one of the Other Worlds. Fantasy Flight didn't need to make it so easy to get to the hospital or the sanitarium, although the expansions have made the game so challenging that the easy access to healing is now necessary for the players to stay viable in the game.

Overall, my favorite horror boardgames are ones where the players are (mostly) cooperating *and* there is character elimination, especially where the players are each running a few characters. Examples would include Betrayal at House on the Hill, Intruder, and Slasher Flick: the Revenge of the Boogeyman.

Sadly, most of those games are out-of-print, and an otherwise great AT company like Fantasy Flight has become afraid of player elimination.

the*mad*gamer said...

"A place filled more with the constant drone of whining effeminacy than BGG. Shit."

Whining? Sir you are in the company of Gods! Gaming's most mighty are present on this forum and you interupt some of the most enlightening discussion on gaming to be found on the internet with your cowardly comment! I challenge you sir to stand in the company of gamings Best and Boldest take your identity and state your points or return to the sewers of BGG.

Michael Barnes said...

Good point, Shell...horror is ultimately about fear of death in one form or another and the lack of finality in FFG's reissues of ARKHAM HORROR and FURY OF DRACULA take some of the tension out of the game- it isn't enough to be penalized and pop back out at a hospital. When you're dead, you're dead...or you should become an undead servant of evil.

Once again, it goes back to lowering the stakes in a game...if you're not playing for survival, than inevitably you get to one of those decision points where you think "Well, I'll just lose half my items if I die".

FFG- please stop doing this "hospital/town resurrection" thing to appease the anti-elimination crowd. I _want_ your games to kick my ass so I can come back for more.

Pat H said...

So anonymous is actually a Starcraft fanboi:
"lol i'm 2 much 4 u, ur gay i pwn you zerg r goodr than u gay suck lol!!"

??

Pat H said...

Horror is one of my all time favorite themes. I played the hell out of Call of Cthulhu RPG by Chaosium way back and characters would die rather easily if not played right. Players used to the D&D mega-hero would not last long but everyone got the hang of it and took great care to not die. I thing 20 hit points was max and rarely would anyone have that many. If you got shot there was a good chance you would die without immediate help. Applying this to a boardgame makes most sense if players are handling 2-3 characters simultaneously with differing skills ensuring that each has its use other than fodder (well maybe one).

Self preservation is a great thing to develop in a game and keeps things from getting out of hand - due to the elimination factor. Who wants to be fetching drinks in a horror game, what was that sound in the kitchen?

I have wanted to create a game along the lines of The Thing where players have 2-3 charcters that arent't that different but each has some unique skill integral to finishing the game at a certain location.

Malloc said...


Stormknight created a whole thread bitching about player elimination being a bad mechanic. Some agreed and a heated debate began.
Misreference my ass.


Lets not mention the geeklist he created when he lost control of the thread!

-M

Malloc said...

Also here is the geeklist that was started when the Thread (btw it was not posted as a rant) fell apart

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/21281


-M

Shellhead said...

Pat H: "I have wanted to create a game along the lines of The Thing where players have 2-3 charcters that arent't that different but each has some unique skill integral to finishing the game at a certain location.

I know that it's way out of print, but you should try to get a copy of Intruder, published by Task Force Games in 1980. Though not officially licensed as such, I think that it's the best simulation of Alien done in the boardgame format.

In collaborative play, the players share nine characters: 3 officers, 3 medics and 3 engineers. The medics can capture creatures but aren't allowed to attack them with weapons. The engineers can manufacture cattle prods and flame throwers. The officers can turn the self-destruct on or off, and they can pilot the shuttles.

Or you can play with one player running the Alien(s), while everybody else plays the crew of nine.

Either way, the combat system is lethal, and as the alien continues to mutate, the combats become increasingly dangerous. To add to the suspense, players are never completely certain of the creature's capabilities until it has reached the final stage of mutation. Great game.

Malloc said...

The Arguement I don't understand is the one that goes

"I invite people over to play games and if they are eliminated then they are not playing games and not having fun. Elimination games ruin my gamenights."

What the fuck is that?!

So a game is to be designed not to be the best gaming experience it can be but to fit well int he the free time of the people that play it? So it is better to have a shitty 45 min game where a winner is determined 20 min into a game but everyone finished the rest of the game anyway just so that we can all play another piece of shit game at the end?

Elimination is not a problem in games, and in the case of Titan makes the game work.

-M

jeb said...

"Tweaking" it would be a nightmare scenario on a lot of levels. Then it would be a game that said Titan, but it actually some other game. I'm all for some rules toss-in for the fruits that want to make it a Euro, but leave the damn thing alone.

AH had some cool new stuff -added- for it's re-release (e.g., The Terror Track and the Final Battle), but the core game was still there. Just punched up and made more awesome. I'd be all for that. Personally, I think the Titan board looks like shit, and should be about a hundred times larger.

Anonyswarm said...

We are the Anonyswarm. We will not abide your pitiful rebellion. The Anonyswarm shall consume you, reconstitute you, improve you. Player elimination is a relic of the Unspoken Days, a time when individuals mattered more than the group, a time when humankind fell victim to the venomous beguilement termed "free thought". Caylus shall rise above, and you shall kneel below, the Titan shall fall as wreckage into the eternal and storming sea. The Anonyswarm has spoken.

Anonyswarm said...

ALL HAIL THE ANONYSWARM FOR ALL SHALL BECOME THE ANONYSWARM.

Pat H said...

Thanks Shelly. I love the concept and would like to come up with something that has all of the elements of isolation, hidden and random movement, finite skills and resources, and perhaps a timer. Horror is an under used theme.

Shellhead said...

I accidentally posted this in a different thread here, so I am re-posting in the proper place.

I bet that one reason most Euros clock in at 90 minutes or less is the lack of elimination. Rather than suffer for hours in a game that they can't be ousted from, Europlayers want a shorter game so they can quickly move on to the next one. If only they would embrace elimination, they could be free!

Shellhead said...

Thinking about that evolving alien in the Intruder game got me thinking... in a multi-player game, elimination can create a better endgame due to Darwinian selection.

Anonymous said...

I wish the AT gamers were more concerned about ODOR elimination.

Michael Barnes said...

Yeah, me too. Let's fix that right now.

GET THE FUCK OUT.

Michael Barnes said...

Horror is a tough subject to breach for games due to a lot of facto...waitaminute...I sense a blog post coming on...

Anonyswarm said...

The verb is "broach", insolent ape. Are you eliminating correct word usage as well?


ALL HAIL THE ANONYSWARM FOR ALL SHALL BECOME THE ANONYSWARM.

Pat H said...

Don't get your breach's all tied in a not there anonymous, you son of a breach.

Michael Barnes said...

It's OK...I sprinkled this thread with bug powder, they'll take it back to the nest and it'll kill 'em all in the next 24 hours or so.

Rliyen said...

It's OK...I sprinkled this thread with bug powder, they'll take it back to the nest and it'll kill 'em all in the next 24 hours or so.

Let's hope their not like fire ants. All those little bastards do is move their nest a short distance away.

Mr Skeletor said...

Arkham horror with player elimination? Are you shitting me? Why not just include a dildo in the box so you can get ass raped from the start and save yourself an hour?

I love descents method of resurection. Each death brings you closer to losing, but at the same time the heroes don't have to play like pussies quaffing healing potions every 2nd turn but can actually take some risks. Also the DM can go in hard, not soft so as everyone has an 'enjoyable game.' Fuck D&D, that 'game' has a lot to answer for.

cwmassey said...

Very interesting article. First, there are times when player elimination is bad. Without going into great details, know this going into a game with player elimination and don't whine about it when it happens. It has its place as a mechanic. And just like other mechanics, it can be used in the wrong way in the wrong game. The problem with Titan is not the player elimination. In this game, elimination is definitely a feature, not a bug.

The larger issue that people are likely to have with Titan and cause more griping is the down time that happens when two players slug out a big battle and everyone else sits around and watches. Those who are true fans of the game don't mind this all that much, but there will be times when this can be extremely tedious. Mind you it doesn't need to be, as a good battle can be fascinating to watch and certainly provides a stage for learning a little something about the game.

I am a huge fan of the game, having played way too many game to count. There is more depth and subtlety to Titan than just about any other game - AT or Euro - available. It uses tons of dice, but given the number of dice rolled it is a game where the odds almost always bear out so people can put the luck argument in their pipe and smoke it.

Take whatever adjectives you want to use to describe your favorite AT or Euro game. They probably apply to Titan. It is a game that defies categorization. I think that while many are and should be excited about its rerelease, too few will have the patience to really explore the game and all it has to offer and we'll see the usual labels of luck based, downtime, and player elimination come out when none really apply.

Scott from Vancouver said...

Functional elimination is no more a feature of Eurogames like Settlers than, frankly, most AT games. Playing to the bitter end is actually feature of most AT games I can think of, depsite a losing, irretrievable position. This is especially true of marathon, multiplayer wargames like Empires in Arms. This is certainly NOT something Eurogames designers got rid of. If anything, player elimination games were ruthlessly toned down by later American designers. It is actually a very rare game that has this mechanism. I have hundreds of games in my collection I can see maybe 3 that have direct "you're gone from the table" options.

One major problem with elimination is that it invites concession, where a player simply says "OK. I cannot win. I am leaving. Play as if I am eliminated." This is a regular problem at conventions and tournaments. At that point, functional elimination and playing through by virtue of strict rule design brings out the better sportsmanship.

The really big problem with elimination scenarios, however, is kingmaking by suicide, or uncaring incompetence. This seriously throws a loop into most designs. Unless that factor is deliberately or inadvertantly built into a game (I've seen it happen in A Game of Thrones) then usually it can ruin a game.

Nature abhors a vacuum. In any territorial game where elimination is a possibility the inevitable is that those most proximate to the dispossessed and of sufficient resources, will triumph. Shogun/Samurai Swords is the perfect example here. Player A elminates Player B, then PLayer C is in realy trouble and the game plays to an inevitable conclusion. You've got the corollary that real elimination will most often lead to a functional conclusion. You see this on TV every day. Watch poker. Texas Hold 'Em style. Player C loses all his money to Player A, Player B is usually eliminated in just a matter of time.

I played Titan in college. It was not only the elimination factor, but the extreme length of the game that burned most of us out on it.

ubarose said...

Mr Skeletor said...

Arkham horror with player elimination? Are you shitting me?


The Chaosium edition of Arkham Horror has character elimination, and it works well. If your investigator is munched or goes completely insane, you have the option of starting a new investigator. You have to pick from the ones that haven't died or gone mad yet. Part of the dark humor in the game is the investigator body count. Also, although the players need to work together, the winner is the character who closes the most gates, without dying or going insane (provided you meet the investigator victory conditions). So if your character gets knocked off early in the game, before anyone has closed many gates, you still have a chance of winning. Later in the game, you have less of a chance of catching up, so most of the time you just sit back and watch the carnage of the last couple of turns.

When teaching this game, I always tell people not to get too emotionally attached to their investigator.

Jack Hill said...

Mr. Skeletor:

Ah. You've never played the original Arkham Horror?

The more recent one is like a modern roller coaster with trim brakes, and swoopy gradual hills and drops.

The original is pure bitch slap. Much harder, none of this extra life stuff, no limit on monsters roaming the town, you don't start with equipment, and you can't do silly things like tweak your abilities. Fighting the final boss to win....not an option.

It is also nearly impossible to win. It is nearly impossible to close more than a couple of gates. Absolutely brutal. We got almost sort of close to winning once because we got really lucky.

More likely it was packaged with a chainsaw instead of a dildo.

Mr Skeletor said...

The FFG version of AH has areas where characters are permanently eliminated and the player starts a new one afresh. It's refered to as the character being devoured.
If you played that the characters were devoured every time they lost all their health or stamina, the game would be rigged.
No, I have never played the original, and can't really say I'm to interested in doing so. Sounds a lot like dungeonquest to me. I'll stick to games where I have a fighting chance, thanks.

Clarissimus said...

Eurogames often include bonuses for players who are behind. That's pretty much the only way to remove any form of elimination. (Curiously, that occasionally ticks people off as well. People whine too much.)

*raises hand*

I'm one of the people whom this mechanic annoys. Power Grid wasn't fun for me for long.

Why should I be punished for winning? Why should I be rewarded for losing? In real life, it's the fittest that survive, not the weakest. I'd prefer my games were more like real life and less like socialist la-la-land.

If a leader gets bashed it should be because the players gang up on him, not because the game punishes success. If a leader runs away with a victory, let the other players concede; he deserves the win for his skillful play.

(Mr. Skeletor, here's an article idea for you.)

Matt Thrower said...

Functional elimination is no more a feature of Eurogames like Settlers than, frankly, most AT games.

Having read the rest of your argument I have to concede that this is 100% true - good point, well made.

I'm standing behind the rest of my arguments though :)

Chris said...

Look, I agree that trying to take player elimination out of Titan is a fucking stupid idea.

The problem with your post is that a clear majority of the folks on BGG, and at least 95 percent of the audience that would be interested in the reprint, already agree with you (or are at least adamant that any non-elimination variant should *stay* a variant).

Take a look at threads like these, where you're consistently seeing a couple anti-elimination folks get drowned out by all the BGGers that love the game as it is:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/163539

And here, in the big thread, where you basically have one person complaining all the way at the end of Page 2, with basically everyone who cares disagreeing with him:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/163539

Look, you folks are putting out some top-notch game writing, and I read regularly despite not being an ATer. But goddamnit lay off the fucking persecution complexes. A handful of "wah, I think these games suck" voices does not an opression make.

Tom Hazlett (Southernman) said...

Chris said...
Look, you folks are putting out some top-notch game writing, and I read regularly despite not being an ATer. But goddamnit lay off the fucking persecution complexes. A handful of "wah, I think these games suck" voices does not an opression make.


Hey - the guys here are not writing for money or your enjoyment so if you don't like what you read then fuck off back to BGG and be one of the bland many.
Funny how it is OK with you for a 5% at BGG to bag AT games on a site devoted to all genre of games, but it is not OK for people on a site purely for talking about AT type games to have a crack at those 5%.
I have no time for cunts like you.

Mr Skeletor said...

What you don't realize Chris is that the 95% of the audience you are talking about is really just us using fake names.

Mr Skeletor said...

What you don't realize Chris is that the 95% of the audience you are talking about is really just us using fake names.

Rliyen said...

Look, you folks are putting out some top-notch game writing, and I read regularly despite not being an ATer. But goddamnit lay off the fucking persecution complexes. A handful of "wah, I think these games suck" voices does not an opression make.

As much as I agree on a visceral level with Southernman's sentiments (WAAAGHHH!) I'd like to proffer my own pragmatic viewpoint to your opinion.

Chris, you're missing the forest for the trees. Granted, the perception of the pro-elimination crowd outnumbers the anti-elimination crowd on BGG. What you're not counting are the silent members who agree, one way or the other, but don't bother responding to the threads because their opinion has already been voiced by another and they feel that responding is just adding, "another voice to the choir".

Another thing that I'm scratching my head about is that you think this is a "persecution" piece. How do you mean? I read the post, and besides it being right on the money, I failed to read any "persecution" into it. The post intelligently answered the arguments put out by the anti-elimination crowd that elimination is a bad mechanic. Nothing more, nothing less.

But, I do agree with Southernman's opinion that if you don't like what's here, go back to BGG. Your presence will not be missed if you do not intend to add to the discussion other than with a false accusation.

Michael Barnes said...

Chris- we'll lay off the persecution complex if you agree to lay off the high-horse complex.

TheRankO said...

Oh, c'mon, you F:ATers -- why do you insist on off-handedly dismissing every reasonable request put to you? You've merely been asked to:

* rename your movement
* quit being so darn mean-spirited
* ease up on the foul language
* stop saying just how bad some bad Eurogames are
* stop trying to define the games you like

and

* stop thinking you're some kind of gaming minority

Really -- is that so much?

robartin said...

Seems reasonable. Matt, go ahead and pull the plug on the site OK?

Ken B. said...

Yeah, in light of all that, I guess I'm done. See ya.


From now on, you'll be able to find my work at the "Fortress: Euros Ain't So Bad, and I Really, Really Like You" blog.


Kisses, everyone...

Pat H said...

Do it for the children.

Rliyen said...

From now on, you'll be able to find my work at the "Fortress: Euros Ain't So Bad, and I Really, Really Like You" blog.


I'll join as long as I don't have to sing Barney's "I Love You, You Love Me" song.

I'll shoot myself in the face with a Shuriken Pistol before I do that.

Michael Barnes said...

(red text) I've decided that this site rather isn't my cup of tea, but some other people might be interested in it so I highly recommend it. (/red text)

MWChapel said...

Wow, members of this site is like my old D&D group. Looks like the DM killed all the 20th level characters, and won't let the cleric revive them. I blame Yoko or Ubarose.

Shellhead said...

[Seinfeld]Hello....Chapel.[/Seinfeld]

After several years of happy dungeon crawling, my old rpg group finally noticed that D&D can become downright tedious once the party gets access to resurrection magic. Combat really loses it's sting once you realize that you only need one party member to survive the fight to ensure the ultimate survival of the whole group of characters. To make matters worse, most encounters weren't that challenging, as the party could always choose to rest and heal and re-memorize all their spells, coming into most fights at full-strength.

So we switched over to Call of Cthulhu, where characters could be lost permanently to either death or insanity, and sometimes a single harsh incident could wipe out half the party or more. That really raised the stakes of our role-playing, and people became more focused on enjoying the game and less focused on collecting magic items and becoming more powerful.

In short, D&D would be a better game with more elimination.

Rliyen said...

In short, D&D would be a better game with more elimination.

The only way you'll get me to play is on the computer. I DM'ed most of my life from elementary school through college and I said, "enough!" when I graduated college. All D&D became to the group was "get the monies, the coo-el items, and kill the monsters." No roleplaying, just a royal hackfest. Yuck.

After that, my RP'ing was reduced to playing video games. Then in 1995, Shadowfist came out and I was hooked. 1996 rolled around and out came the RPG of Shadowfist: Feng Shui. I have run a game of Feng Shui nearly every couple of weeks for the past eleven years. I enjoy it and my players enjoy it, obviously.

Granted, the game is supposed to mimic the HK action films, and can be pretty unbelievable, but it is also that disconnect from reality that makes the game truly fun. I also tell my players that they do NOT have script immunity. Even though they are the heroes, they can die, just like the heroes in HK movies.

Early on, I ran into the problem of the uber-munchkin player. You know the type, only improves his combat skills, needs to be the most powerful of the group, etc. Well, seeing that I had to ramp up the opposition just to make it a challenge for him was causing grief on the rest of the group. So, I came up with "Easy Way/Hard Way?"

If you're asked that question by me, it means, "Your character is too powerful and needs to be retired. He/she can go out in a blaze of glory, or he/she can be relegated to a NPC status and you'll be able to interact with him/her."

Needless to say, uber-munchkin chose the hard way. He died quite comically, trying to perform an Abundant Leap down some flights of stairs, botched the roll, and fell forty stories straight down.

Since everyone knows that I have that rule in place, it keeps them focused on actual roleplaying and not being combat monsters.

mtlawson said...

Look up any Titan thread with David desJardins in it. Every one includes his discussion of the optimal recruiting line, and his (sometimes humorously condescending) criticism of any alternate theories.

He's been like that for years, since he was in grad school at Berkley and posting in that style on rec.games.board back in the 90's. Between him and Michael Scott Brown on rec.games.frp.dnd, there was plenty of ego to go around.

Mr Skeletor said...

I noticed that D&D becomes really tedious after realizing that the game was really just the DM making up bullshit to move the story along and there wasn't a 'game' in there at all. This took 2.24 minutes to work out.

mtlawson said...

It all depends on the DM and the group. If the DM wants to make the game an ego-fest for himself, then the game will get really bad really fast.

If the DM and the group are on the same page, it can make for a helluva game.

Anonymous said...

I noticed that D&D becomes really tedious after realizing that the game was really just the DM making up bullshit to move the story along and there wasn't a 'game' in there at all. This took 2.24 minutes to work out.

There's a name for this: "Missing the point entirely."

Ken B. said...

No, Skeletor's right on the money. I've DM'ed Vampire, Mage, and D&D and that's pretty much all there is to it. You come up with a framework for a story, hope the gamers stick to it so you don't have to be obvious and guide them on rails, if they wander off the page then you just have to start making crap up.

You don't want to kill them unless they do something just radically stupid, so it ends up being "Make Up the Story Night and Stroke the Player's Egos".


I was glad when CCGs came along...we got to ALL play and have a good time. I haven't played an RPG since 1995. And I don't miss them.

Michael Barnes said...

DM: You are wandering the city. In the distance is a great tower. You're thirsty

Player: OK, I want to walk toward the tower.

DM: You start to walk toward the tower and an old man clutching a talisman who had been waiting for you in the tavern comes out of the door and yells for you.

Player: Fuck him. I'll keep walking toward the tower.

DM: You walk a little ways and see a huge column of the Emperor's armed elite soldiers walking in file toward the tower.

Player: OK, I cast "Imaginary Change of Clothes" and join the line.

DM: You join the line but you can still hear the old man yelling after you. As the line approaches the Tower gates, you see a giant sign that says "Tower closed for remodeling- visit us again soon!"

Player- Alright, I'm going to try to pry open the door with a crowbar.

DM: You try for a little while and decide that this would be a bad idea so you walk back to the tavern.

Ken B. said...

LOL


That's it, man, exactly. I take it you've been there.

Ken B. said...

My favorite:


"You're all drinking at the local tavern when the King's messenger comes barging through the doors.

'Adventurers!' he proclaims, making a line for your table. 'The King is in need of your services!'

You quaff your beverages quickly and prepare for your audience with the King."

Pat H said...

My groups always diverged from the story - if we ever followed one. I haven't played an RPG since 1993 and that was after a 3 year break. And the last game was just a setup for two of us to scrap with each other. The game morphed into a battlesystem challenge between the two of us and our mustered armies. I completely forget the backdrop and story as I didn't at all care.

I do remember taking out a T-Rex with a catapult shot though...some good rolls on the old d20.

Michael Barnes said...

Speaking of elimination...I used to run this Cyberpunk 2020 campaign at school during lunch...the very first time we played, I had this really sweet gun battle staged on the roof of this building. I had no idea how deadly the combat system was. All of the characters died.

Then of course, I had to make up some nonsense to get them all back in the game...

thedude05 said...

Great read, the elimination factor does not bother me in Titan. You can always get a pick up two player game going on the side or play x-box or something.

I think Titan is a great game, one of the best games I have ever played and you hit the nail on the head with this article.

Great job!

Julian said...

Sounds to me that a bunch of people have been playing D&D with a bad DM. A good DM with a good adventure will give the players a sense of freedom. Everyone writes the story together. You don't force the players to do what they don't want. But actions have consequences: They can go enter the Tower if they want, but might not like the 15th level wizard who is there. With a good party and a good DM, there's no better game than D&D in my opinion. As to elimination in D&D. Kill people if they're stupid or astonishingly unlucky. Keeps the tension. because you have to fight smart, or die.

Rliyen said...

Sounds to me that a bunch of people have been playing D&D with a bad DM. A good DM with a good adventure will give the players a sense of freedom. Everyone writes the story together. You don't force the players to do what they don't want. But actions have consequences: They can go enter the Tower if they want, but might not like the 15th level wizard who is there. With a good party and a good DM, there's no better game than D&D in my opinion. As to elimination in D&D. Kill people if they're stupid or astonishingly unlucky. Keeps the tension. because you have to fight smart, or die.

That's what I got as well. You also have to look at the personalities playing the game, too. There can be bad DMs, but also sometimes the players are problems as well. I'm talking about players who just "play" the game just to get into rules lawyering/pissing contests with the DM and/or the other players. From what I saw from above seemed to be a railroading problem with the DM.

Ken B. said...

What else do you expect a DM to do? Have infinite amounts of stories, and just roll with what the players want to do?

They want to go trudging over that hill, just to see what's over there? When you've got a megalomaniac despot threatening the land, and his evil plan will come to fruition at any minute?

I hate players that just want to wander around. They do it because they KNOW you've got something planned, and just like toddlers they want to find the boundaries of the "system".



Anyway, we definitely have more fun these days with CCGs and boardgames. That's all I'm saying.


Looking back on it, it really is barely a game at all. After all, the DM can just say, "Hey, boom, you're all dead."


I also don't miss the days of arguing over the nebulous rules in the books. One time a player wanted to do Electric Hands on a backstab on a prominent NPC villain. Now, there should have been no way for him to even sneak up on him, but he hemmed and hawed, arguing positioning and all sorts of other rules. He was gaming the system.

You know what? I let him do it finally, told them the campaign was over (the resulting damage was massive). Dude, I was pretty pissed off. That might have been a year or so before I swore off of them completely.

Julian said...

Hey Ken,

I think this just shows that it all depends on which group you play with. A good group is cooperating so that everyone has a good time, and no one is pissed off. I find it works best if you're all friends in the real world to. Its too bad you didn't have a better experience. The most fun I've had with any kind of game (RPG, Video, Board Game etc) was D&D.

Some of the newer adventures are just situations in which the players are dumped. I once wrote an adventure where the players were sent into an alternate universe on a Space Ship overrun with alien creatures, and could just ride the elevators to the deck they wanted. They ended up killing the Marines they were sent to help. All good fun.

Rliyen said...

One time a player wanted to do Electric Hands on a backstab on a prominent NPC villain. Now, there should have been no way for him to even sneak up on him, but he hemmed and hawed, arguing positioning and all sorts of other rules. He was gaming the system.

And my response would have been, "No. This is my game and I'll run it as I see fit. I am the final arbiter here. We can discuss this after the game. If not, then you are under no obligation to stay and play if you feel that you're being treated unfairly."

I've had that happen only a handful of times to me. Never had a player leave, but did have a few that were never invited back to play.

Like Julian, I also express my condolences for having such a bad experience with DM'ing. Hell, if you lived anywhere near me, I'd invite you to my game of Feng Shui to show you that no, RPGs don't suck! They're actually fun.

Shellhead said...

This thread drift is worth a new topic of its own. Compare role-playing games with boardgames that have role-playing elements, like Arkham Horror or Dungeonquest.

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