player interaction, what's the point?

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player interaction, what's the point?

Post  psychomansam on Fri 21 Apr 2017, 22:53

Someone recently comment to me that they're selling Targi because it lacks player interaction. I've not played Targi face to face, only on boardgamearena, but to play well involves analysing your opponents options and how you can disrupt them on every single move.

Player interaction is a broad and often vague concept. I think there's a whole range of different types: e.g. sometimes you're forced into it in a light/silly sort of way; sometimes there's meta-game interaction with trades/bribes/alliances; sometimes it's a part of deeper or more subtle strategy.

Hidden role, bluffing, luck-pushing and gambling will often fall into the first category - the challenge being to find the balance between player interaction and tactics/strategy. I don't mind a quick round or two of spyfall, codenames, werewolf, but spending an hour on avalon sounds like a nightmare - there's very little game here, a notable lack of boards and accompanying strategy, just interaction shaped by a few rules. For me that's a great ice-breaker for a group, but my personality isn't such that I want to stay at that level.

With the meta-game types, people might have one boring game because of a group that's not gelling and instantly write a solid game off, or have a great time playing a mediocre games (see Catan) for years, because the meta-game becomes ingrained in how the group socialises. A game like Eclipse or TI3 can be a story to be told for years, or something to be quickly forgotten, depending on how the meta-game pans out. Here, as above, the interaction can be about creating a story as much as about winning the game.

One of my favourite games is roll for the galaxy. This falls into the latter example above - where the interaction is a part of the strategy. Lots of people complain there's no interaction here. They also complain when they lose, because playing it solitaire against someone who's anticipating opponent moves properly is probably going to lead to losing. On games like roll/race for the galaxy, worker placement games like Targi, and many others, player interaction is more optional. You can ignore your opponent - but you do so at your peril. Here, if two new players pick it up, they might well both be playing solitaire, playing badly, and not having a great time. Sometimes it's more fun to get thrashed at these games and to puzzle out why, than to play someone on your own level and both play poorly! Of course, some people completely unthread the interaction of these games by playing nicely - intentionally not blocking opponents, benefiting from their mistakes, or intentionally anticipating their movements.

I'm not trying to define set categories here, and any game can bridge them. Consider Imhotep. Interaction can be ignored, used for longer-term strategy, or be employed on the level of trash-talking, daring/threatening meta-gaming. Is there player interaction in Go or chess? You certainly don't need to talk to or look at your opponent, but to claim you're not interacting with them would be ridiculous - it's entirely about the interaction with an opponent.

Us gamers can often have a bit of a fast-food culture with games. If it doesn't hit home straight away, we blame the game and move on. But some games reward the investment of more time. Sometimes making the same mistakes, learning the same strategies and fighting for the same goals can create enough interaction within itself. Some days I want to play Codenames and enjoy the comedy of wrong guesses over a few drinks. Sometimes I'd rather play another game of dominion, using my knowledge of my opponent to develop a counter-strategy to their purchases. Sometimes I'd prefer to sit in silence, with an opponent and a board betwen us.  

Either way, it's a shared experience and a much needed break from staring at a screen.
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Re: player interaction, what's the point?

Post  Jamie on Fri 21 Apr 2017, 23:19

Interesting post Sam.

Your point about playing nicely, not blocking other players etc; whenever I play with certain family members, they'll tend to play in a way that benefits other (younger) family members; all while ganging up on me. I don't mind, I just consider it an handicap for being a more experienced gamer, or, that it's like playing a game on hard mode. That said, I prefer it when people are playing to win for themselves, and not helping other people out, just because they like them or happen to be their parent or something.

Also, in an ideal world, my objective isn't necessarily crush other players; my objective is to learn and to improve...

I've been playing quite a bit of Chess lately, which I really enjoy. I keep winning against one family member; and I really wish I knew how best to help them improve. It's a whole other skill-set; how you review / post-mortom a game in a constructive way with someone, such that everyone comes away from it having learned something and upped their game. Especially with games like Chess, you want your opponents to challenge you more.

One of the things I like about games like Avalon, is the team nature of it. You win or lose as a group. I like team games. Conversely, I'm not so keen on cooperative games, where the players are all pitted against the game.

Sam wrote:Either way, it's a shared experience and a much needed break from staring at a screen.

Totally.
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Re: player interaction, what's the point?

Post  SamVS on Sat 22 Apr 2017, 01:40

I don't think of trash-talking*, or even watching for lies in the face of another Avalon player, as "player interaction".

(*"Your momma's so heavy Terra Mystica feels like a filler when she's around.")

Player interaction means the same thing to me as player reaction — how important to winning is it to react to the other player's moves? You can see the difference between Go and Terra Mystica. In Terra Mystica, reaction will give you the edge, but you can be 75% of the way to a winning strategy without it. Without reacting in Go, you're about 0% of the way there. I suspect Roll is close to Terra Mystica in this regard.

Didn't it liberate them, though, those eurogame designers that decided not to worry about how players could mess with each other. I mean they've been making and making these increasingly complex, increasingly original puzzle systems for years — intricate clockwork-like designs that you couldn't hope to pull off in a highly interactive game where everyone has a hammer and is encouraged to swing it around. And it's all competition, but tests a totally different set of skills.

So I wouldn't give up either type of game, not those light on player interaction or those heavy on it. Nor games light on rules but heavy on necessary social interaction — which is another thing entirely if you ask me — like Avalon. They're all totally different categories of games.

"A much needed break from staring at a screen" isn't really a compliment to board games. I mean, anything is a break. You sound like you've had board games prescribed to you — I think they're good for more than that! Besides, screens are wonderful if you don't abuse them.

Speaking of screens, though: seeing a blockbuster on crowded opening night ain't quite the same as seeing the same film three weeks later on your own. And that's somewhere you're not allowed to talk, and it's too dark to see each other! "Shared experience" is spot on.

Finally, yeah, I try not to dismiss a game until I've played it three times. It would be arrogant of me to think I've understood every part of a game well enough to criticize it after one try. They're not like movies where you are presented everything the thing has to offer as long as you are good enough to stay awake. If you play a game badly, you might just have missed what makes it great.

... Exodus, though...


Last edited by Sam on Sat 22 Apr 2017, 11:29; edited 1 time in total
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Re: player interaction, what's the point?

Post  psychomansam on Sat 22 Apr 2017, 10:29

Jamie wrote:Interesting post Sam.


Also, in an ideal world, my objective isn't necessarily crush other players; my objective is to learn and to improve...

It's a whole other skill-set; how you review / post-mortom a game in a constructive way with someone.

Some good points on charitable playing. It can have a place, especially with younger or less experienced players, but can also mess with the balance of the game. A lot of group games don't reward you for kicking someone when they're down - I recommend Tash Kalar for this. It's a free for all fight and your final score is your lowest score against any single opponent.

It certainly can be difficult to carry out a useful post mortem, especially when mistakes made by the other player are obvious. Zertz is an interesting abstract for this which I've playing at the moment. No one owns a specific colour and there are times when both players could win from a certain move sequence - so it's just a case of who sees it first. New players tend to do badly at first, but it's amazing how much better people can be playing on their 2nd or 3rd game, perhaps due to being able to leech opponent strategies so readily.
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Re: player interaction, what's the point?

Post  psychomansam on Mon 24 Apr 2017, 23:39

Sam wrote:I don't think of trash-talking*, or even watching for lies in the face of another Avalon player, as "player interaction".

(*"Your momma's so heavy Terra Mystica feels like a filler when she's around.")

Talking up your strengths, talking down their chance of winning in a battle, pointing out possible negative consequences of them attacking you - examples of the ways we bullshit and present loaded and imbalanced argument, which I think do form a vital part of player interaction in e.g. Risk, Scythe, Eclipse.
Sam wrote:
Player interaction means the same thing to me as player reaction — how important to winning is it to react to the other player's moves? You can see the difference between Go and Terra Mystica. In Terra Mystica, reaction will give you the edge, but you can be 75% of the way to a winning strategy without it. Without reacting in Go, you're about 0% of the way there. I suspect Roll is close to Terra Mystica in this regard.
The interesting thing is that even if interacting effectively is 'only' 25% or even 5% of a winning strategy, it can still be absolutely vital, particularly where randomness is low and players are equally experienced. Winning Tzolkin by a quarter of a point is still a win. Marginal gains can mean everything, and in games where interaction is a low % of the winning strategy, it's often more difficult to do well - and something in which excellence can bear rewards.


"A much needed break from staring at a screen" isn't really a compliment to board games. I mean, anything is a break. You sound like you've had board games prescribed to you — I think they're good for more than that! Besides, screens are wonderful if you don't abuse them.
You're correct on all points, but context matters. On most weekdays, I stare at a care windscreen 2+ hours to stare at a PC screen for 6+ hours, returning home to my laptop and smartphone. Double figures easily. If I'm in all evening then 16 hours of screen is perfectly possible in a day (=today) - I try to get out! Interestingly, the rise of social prescribing means that it's fairly literally possible for board game prescriptions to happen.

Speaking of screens, though: seeing a blockbuster on crowded opening night ain't quite the same as seeing the same film three weeks later on your own. And that's somewhere you're not allowed to talk, and it's too dark to see each other! "Shared experience" is spot on.

Finally, yeah, I try not to dismiss a game until I've played it three times. It would be arrogant of me to think I've understood every part of a game well enough to criticize it after one try. They're not like movies where you are presented everything the thing has to offer as long as you are good enough to stay awake. If you play a game badly, you might just have missed what makes it great.

... Exodus, though...

Some games are quite plainly terrible, and some games quite clearly not for me. But I think I'm with you in seeing some of the negatives of the microwave gaming culture. Some games also lend themselves to repeat groups - cosmic encounter being one.

Exodus went from good to great with the expansion and the next one might well blow all the competition away. I think one of the keys is to see it as its own game, and play it that way. I have some free weekends ahead.

Also played some more Go and other abstracts recently - very keen if you are!
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Re: player interaction, what's the point?

Post  SamVS on Wed 26 Apr 2017, 00:58

psychomansam wrote:
Talking up your strengths, talking down their chance of winning in a battle, pointing out possible negative consequences of them attacking you - examples of the ways we bullshit and present loaded and imbalanced argument, which I think do form a vital part of player interaction in e.g. Risk, Scythe, Eclipse.

Yeah, if you take the term literally or in a broad sense. But there is the sort of player interaction that is mechanical, or "on the table", that describes the back and forth of moving pieces around a board. And there is the sort of social, or meta, or "off the table" player interaction that you are describing. And I think it's still useful to think of them as different things.

psychomansam wrote:
The interesting thing is that even if interacting effectively is 'only' 25% or even 5% of a winning strategy, it can still be absolutely vital, particularly where randomness is low and players are equally experienced. Winning Tzolkin by a quarter of a point is still a win. Marginal gains can mean everything, and in games where interaction is a low % of the winning strategy, it's often more difficult to do well - and something in which excellence can bear rewards.

I agree, but... if football is 99% knocking a ball with your feet, and 1% knocking a ball with your head or chest (don't quote me on these stats), but that 1% at the right time can lead to goals that win you a match, or failing at that time can lead to a loss... headers can be "absolutely vital" and a professional footballer knows how to pull them off, but you don't call the game "headball".

psychomansam wrote:
You're correct on all points, but context matters. On most weekdays, I stare at a care windscreen 2+ hours to stare at a PC screen for 6+ hours, returning home to my laptop and smartphone. Double figures easily. If I'm in all evening then 16 hours of screen is perfectly possible in a day (=today) - I try to get out! Interestingly, the rise of social prescribing means that it's fairly literally possible for board game prescriptions to happen.

Fair enough, and I also spent a lot of a day in front of a computer, but I think I'd still play board games if that wasn't the case.

psychomansam wrote:
Some games are quite plainly terrible, and some games quite clearly not for me. But I think I'm with you in seeing some of the negatives of the microwave gaming culture. Some games also lend themselves to repeat groups - cosmic encounter being one.

Exodus went from good to great with the expansion and the next one might well blow all the competition away. I think one of the keys is to see it as its own game, and play it that way. I have some free weekends ahead.

Also played some more Go and other abstracts recently - very keen if you are!

Yep Smile[/quote]
[/quote]
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Re: player interaction, what's the point?

Post  Jamie on Wed 26 Apr 2017, 23:26

Sam wrote:
psychomansam wrote:Talking up your strengths, talking down their chance of winning in a battle, pointing out possible negative consequences of them attacking you - examples of the ways we bullshit and present loaded and imbalanced argument, which I think do form a vital part of player interaction in e.g. Risk, Scythe, Eclipse.

Yeah, if you take the term literally or in a broad sense. But there is the sort of player interaction that is mechanical, or "on the table", that describes the back and forth of moving pieces around a board. And there is the sort of social, or meta, or "off the table" player interaction that you are describing. And I think it's still useful to think of them as different things.

I agree. To my mind they're separate, very different things. We could ask ourselves the following...

A) Am I winning because I am attacking my opponents position on the game board?
B) Am I winning because I am attacking my opponents?

Okay, regarding B, 'attacking' is perhaps too strong a word; it's probably more like undermining or unsettling an opponent, such that they make mistakes.

I'm not a fan of B. I'm not saying it's wrong or bad or anything (it's perfectly fine if everyone is on-board with it, and happy to play that way), it's just not my personal preference.

I want to win because I've out-played my opponents, on the game board (i.e. within the context of the game) where I have afforded them the (psychological) space and time within which they can play at their very best. That's my ideal aspiration at least; I'm sure I've fallen short on more than one occasion! We're only human. Smile
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Re: player interaction, what's the point?

Post  psychomansam on Thu 27 Apr 2017, 19:20

Jamie wrote:
Sam wrote:
psychomansam wrote:Talking up your strengths, talking down their chance of winning in a battle, pointing out possible negative consequences of them attacking you - examples of the ways we bullshit and present loaded and imbalanced argument, which I think do form a vital part of player interaction in e.g. Risk, Scythe, Eclipse.

Yeah, if you take the term literally or in a broad sense. But there is the sort of player interaction that is mechanical, or "on the table", that describes the back and forth of moving pieces around a board. And there is the sort of social, or meta, or "off the table" player interaction that you are describing. And I think it's still useful to think of them as different things.

I agree. To my mind they're separate, very different things. We could ask ourselves the following...

A) Am I winning because I am attacking my opponents position on the game board?
B) Am I winning because I am attacking my opponents?

Okay, regarding B, 'attacking' is perhaps too strong a word; it's probably more like undermining or unsettling an opponent, such that they make mistakes.

I'm not a fan of B. I'm not saying it's wrong or bad or anything (it's perfectly fine if everyone is on-board with it, and happy to play that way), it's just not my personal preference.

I want to win because I've out-played my opponents, on the game board (i.e. within the context of the game) where I have afforded them the (psychological) space and time within which they can play at their very best. That's my ideal aspiration at least; I'm sure I've fallen short on more than one occasion! We're only human. Smile

That's a very contentious claim as to what counts as the context of the game.
I understand your having this preference, but what makes it strange to me is that some of your favourite games consist of all the bullshitting but without the board. You seem to very much like both things, as long as they're kept completely separate. That's a pretty specific set of tastes. Each to their own!
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Re: player interaction, what's the point?

Post  SamVS on Thu 27 Apr 2017, 21:45

I think Jamie's preference (which is also my preference — bullshitting in the bullshitting games, strategic board play in board games) makes perfect sense, because the whole point of a game in general is to have a restricted competition, to say "Okay, we'll ignore who is physically stronger or wealthier or more confident or has better social connections, and just pit ourselves against each other in this one very specific skill", whether than is lower body dexterity in football, or quick thinking in Ghost Blitz, or optimisation in Power Grid, or lying and deduction in Avalon, or, you know, whatever.

Risk and Eclipse and Twilight Imperium are obviously designed with an off-the-table component in mind, but if I start trying to put people off in Terra Mystica, what's the point? I might as well start waving my hands over the board so my opponent can't see what they're doing. Or just clock them with a billy club so they can't play anymore. Still a win. Or I could pay them to forfeit and to tell everyone that I won anyway Laughing

I know I'm taking it to a ridiculous extreme, but you get my point. A game is all about competing in a specific way. I think we all know when someone isn't playing in the spirit of the game. I recall a thread on BGG about a guy playing Risk but his uncle-in-law keep yelling over him while he was trying to have discussions with other players.

And I'm not suggesting for a second that you, or anyone else, don't play in the spirit of any game, by the way. I'm just idly theorising.
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