Count me out (Topic Discussion Podcast)

Count me out (Topic Discussion Podcast)

♪♪ Intro music plays ♪♪ Hello and welcome to another
Tabletop Games Blog topic discussion. Count me out Games change when played
with different numbers of players. I think many of us will have found that games that are said to work with two or more players often are quite a different experience when played
with two versus more players. Some games are said to work with a large number of players, but really work best with a specific number. Games where you form teams are often like that, working best with an even number of people even though they’re said to also work with odd numbers. I discussed many of these points in my article “Goup mentality”, a link to which you find at the description of this podcast. So this time I want
to focus on some specific issues. Let’s start with solo versions of games. I explicitly exclude solo only games,
because these were designed to be for a single player, and I want to look at
games that are designed for two or more people, but also have a solo variant. There are some really good examples of games that offer a well-designed and thought-out solo version. Often these games come with some sort of AI which simulates the opponent. If done well, these can
give you a real sense of playing against another player. I particularly, like the Automa implementation by Automa Factory, as used in Scythe or Tapestry by Stonemaier Games which emulates a real player except that that player can break some of the rules of the game. Of course, it would be even more amazing if a solo variant offered an opponent that
follows the rules, yet is still tough to beat, but I’m not sure how realistic this is
without some sort of technological support. Next we should look at two-player versions of games. Again, I’m excluding two-player only games, as these were specifically designed for that player count and should work well. Games that were designed for three, four or more players, but also offer the option to be played with two are a mixed bag unfortunately. Some games do it really well. For those games you get virtually the same experience with two players as you do with more players, but there are many others where the two-player version creates a completely different experience, often one that is less enjoyable. Very much like the solo versions of games, two-player versions sometimes introduce an artificial opponent, and these can be great or a bit lacklustre. Many games require a different setup for a two-player game which often requires you to remove cards, block off action spaces or reduce the size of the map. That can be absolutely fine but it can also be a bit disappointing. Yet, it’s much better than games that require no changes in the setup with maybe only a handful of exceptions. The problem is that playing a game that works well for three or four players, with only two, often makes the game feel too long and with too little player interaction. A bit of tightening up of the gameplay for
two players is usually the best solution. In my view, exceptions to the rule include Wingspan by Stonemaier Games, where it really makes no difference to gameplay whether you play with two, three, four or even five players. The setup is exactly the same and the game feels
just the same. The balance is just right. When you move up to three-player games you find
most games book absolutely fine, provided they can be played at the player account of course. It feels no different to playing with four or more players. Setup is usually no different either. The only issue with three-player games can be player inaction. In these situations when player A beats up player B, then player C is the only one who benefits, at least in most scenarios. Very few games with player interaction
address this issue with three players. The only exception from my personal
experience is Rising Sun by CMON. In this game, the alliance mechanism
combined with the betrayal action balances out the effect of players
ganging up on each other. In fact, being the player who’s not part of an alliance can benefit a lot and really turn it into an advantage. Finally, let’s look at playing games at
higher player counts than recommended. There are many games that physically don’t allow this to happen due to the limitation of the components, but some games either come with enough pieces to be played with more players than listed in the box or you can buy expansions that offer additional factions or player pieces, or you can buy two copies of the same game to allow you to play with more people. A lot of roll-and-writes can easily be played
with more people than it says on the box. In fact, a lot of these games actually say you can play them with a hundred people, some given even high number. As long
as you have enough pens or pencils and enough copies of the sheets to write on, it makes no difference to the gameplay whether you play it with 4 or 400. Some card games can also easily be played
with more players than recommended. I immediately think of The Mind by Coiledspring Games. Of course, there’s a sensible for limit for this
game given it comes with 100 cards. Played with much more than 10 players and
it will start to be a bit less interesting It’s recommended for two to four players, but you can easily pay with five, six or even seven players. I’m sure I’ve seen it played with eight
players before without any problem. Other games can also be played with more. I’ve never tried it, but in theory Scythe or Rising Sun could be played with more, as long as you have the expansions that give you the extra factions. Wingspan is also easily played with more, I would think, as long as you have extra player boards and action cubes. Some games even say that you can play them with more players as long as you buy a second copy. Star Realms by White Wizard Games is a classic example. A single pack supports two players, two packs can be played by four and three
packs with six. That is the official limit, but again, there’s no reason why you couldn’t buy more packs to increase the player count even further. So it is interesting to see how games deal with player counts and how some scale up really well from single to multiple players, while others don’t fare so well and are
really best at a specific player count and don’t work so well when scaled down. How about you? Have you come
across games that work really well for specific player counts and just aren’t fun
when played with different numbers of people? What games work really well at a wide range of player counts? Please share your thoughts in the comments
of the podcast episode or on the blog, links in description below. I’d love to hear
your experiences with different games. Thank you very much for listening to this Tabletop Games Blog topic discussion. There is a written version of it on the blog.
Please see the link in the description below. There you’ll also find links to my Ko-Fi and Patreon
pages, if you want to support me financially. Please also look at my Twitter feed and generally pass around the word of this blog and this podcast. I’d really appreciated it. The more people know, the better. If you are on Apple Podcasts, please also
leave a review and leave some stars, but other than that, thanks very much for listening
and I hope to see you again soon. This podcast was made possible
by my Patreon supporters David Miller of subQuark Publishing, James Naylor of Naylor Games, Paul Grogan of Gaming Rules, Robin Kay of Ruined Sky Games, Sarah Reed of Undine Studios, Tim Virnig and
Richard Simpson of We’re Not Wizards.

1 thought on “Count me out (Topic Discussion Podcast)

  1. This is one of the toughest parts of designing a game. Ideas come and go and developing the basic idea tends to go smoothly but then when you have to test the game, you start to realize there's a lot of work to do to make it scale properly for player counts. Get topic!

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