Loopdy, my game that’s currently in development, has been play tested many times. One common complaint is that in the 6 player game, player 6 is at a significant disadvantage to everyone else.
Easy fix, just give player 6 some bonus points and all is good. So, I got to testing. I played the game 10 times over, calculating averages. My best estimate is a 3 point bonus to player 6, and I am certain the correct number exists between 2 and 5.
However, in my research I also found many other advantages and disadvantages in player position. The disadvantage of player 6 is no more significant than some of the others I’ve found, but the most appropriate thing to do now, is pretend I didn’t see it.
What the Eye Don’t See, the Chef Gets Away With
Player 6’s disadvantage is obvious. In a game where everyone gets 6 turns, player 6 only gets 5 turns. As for the other positions, you’d think they’d be the same. They’re not, but it took me ten games of playing against myself to see it.
Suppose I were to fix all the problems. Suppose I added a complex chart determining which player should have what point advantage depending on the number of players, as well as the most appropriate order for breaking ties in each case. Would it really be worth it? In Chess, white wins 55% of the time, but this problem never seemed to bother anyone, because it doesn’t look like white would win 55% of the time. Such a complex chart turns something that was once a fun and simple game into a mathematical game with pauses to look things up. Imagine everything was set up for a 4 player game and an extra player wanted to join, forcing everyone to look up the new chart for how to make the game fair.
Another advantage of my game that would be lost is age accessibility. My game is perfect for people who can count but not read, (providing you have someone who can read to teach you the rules.) Suppose I had a setup chart, the age of reading charts comes much later than the age of reading numbers and playing games. Now the game requires adult supervision to set up.
Suppose I Fixed Nothing. But player 6 clearly has a huge disadvantage! Can’t you see!? Having one tile less, that could cost him 16 points perhaps! How does he have any hope of catching up? Have you considered that? Did you put any effort into design when you made this game at all? Shouldn’t player 6 just give up now?
In my 10 sessions playing against myself, player 6 won once which is no more than I’d expect in 10 games, but reviewers don’t know that and customers don’t know that. I imagine a noteworthy reviewer saying, “The designer hadn’t considered that player 6 essentially has no chance of winning. I played it three times with my group and the person who was stuck with player 6 didn’t win any of them! I like what the designer is trying to do, but clearly more polish is required.”
By adding a point bonus to player 6, I’m saying to the players “I know player 6 is at a disadvantage, but it’s nowhere near as big as you think. Also, because of this rule, it no longer exists at all.” Sure, other players have a big advantage/disadvantage you don’t know about, I’ll mentally add to myself, but they haven’t received any complaints yet.
Moral of the Story
Perceived problems are worse than real problems. Real problems, no one will ever know exist, but perceived problems will hurt sales, cheapen victories and render the whole experience meaningless. Sometimes, instead of spending ages lecturing your child about the probability of monsters under the bed being the least life threatening risk he takes every night, it’s much easier to wave a stick under the bed and have him sleep comfortably knowing any monsters that could’ve been there are now scared away.