Game Mechanic For Hire

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Kingmaker, 8.26.09

with 3 comments

Kingmaking is typically associated with a player that has little chance of winning arbitrarily helping a player in contention for the lead win.  Lets expand that definition a bit today.  What if kingmaker were a situation where an advantage must be given to an opponent in some form?  This could open up possibilities like these…

-I Knight Thee.  A player must choose an opponent to give a special ability to.  This could create fun tensions where players must weigh whom to favor benefits with.  Should I give this combat bonus to the player running a commerce strategy?  Then his transports will have better defense if I raid them.  Certainly not to the military player; she already has major firepower… GAAH!  While more suited for a game with a large variety of things going on such as Twilight Imperium 3 (and TI3 does have small bits of this particular mechanic), it could easily be adapted to more Euro-stylings.  Perhaps the benefit is free resources when mining.  Or reduced cost in building widgets.  The list goes on…  and so does your players’ pain (which is the reason to include something like this).

-One For You, One For Me.  Resources gathered are split between two (or more) players of the gathering player’s choice.  The split need not be even, either.  Take a Mafia-style game where players can extort money from businesses with ‘Protection Insurance’.  When doing so, the collecting player must ‘pay tribute’ to another player’s Don as a show of respect.  Which player should you give it to?  The player lagging behind?  Every other player doing this will bring said lagging player back into the lead…  A player you’re neck in neck with?  Mmmm…. Cognitive suffering.  For a spin on this, a player collecting the Insurance money could only choose from players to give to who have goons patrolling the area.  Sure, you could knock over the bank, but if the only player patrolling the area is the leader, that may not be the best choice…

-Free Rides.  An action taken applies to the player that takes it and at least one other player.  This would be more for games of worker placement or simultaneous action.  Race For The Galaxy actually implements a form of this in its action selection.  While other players may not get the bonus you do for choosing to Settle, they do still get to play Planets whether they chose to Settle or not.  Or spin it a bit.  Each turn, a player takes multiple actions and chooses one player to perform one action.  This could simulate real time in a neat way.  Take a multiplayer military game.  On each player’s turn, she does her maneuvers, attacks and so forth.  She must also choose someone else who gets to do one of those things during her turn.

Thas all I has fer ya today.  I dub thee, Lord (or Lady) Designsalot.

Keep on designing, yo!



Written by krinklechip

August 26, 2009 at 4:32 pm

3 Responses

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  1. I playtested a game at WBC where the Caliph had to draw cards at the beginning of each turn and give one to each player and keep one for himself. This isn’t exactly kingmaking since all get a card, and the challenge was to provide as little advantage as possible to your opponents while keeping the best for yourself. I was Caliph for an extended period and had some very difficult decisions to make.

    I’ve been exploring the idea where winning isn’t a yes/no proposition, where a team win is prized and forging a hierarchical structure of supporting players is the key to success. It’s a common enough concept in real life but not well-used in games, likely due to the number of players required and the enjoyment taken from a clear-cut victory. This would be a more true form a kingmaking and I think there’s opportunity in it. A team win is common enough, but a team win where one player is the only one to cross the finish line and his supporters fall away . . . I can’t think of a game where that happens.



    August 26, 2009 at 7:31 pm

  2. Was your intent with this article to illustrate methods for designers to add Kingmaking into a game?

    The mechanisms you discuss – helping other players in order to help yourself – are interesting, but they have little to do with Kingmaking as it’s usually discussed (except that it can be a way to force a losing player to decide the winner if it comes down to it).

    In addition, your three bullet points in this post are all basically the same thing – by your action you not only get whatever benefit, but you must give ability/resources/action to another player. The Free Rides item is basically a description of the entire Role Selection genre, though you imply an interesting difference – instead of EVERYONE getting the action, a game could have a player choose just 1 other player to share the chosen action – that could lead to all kinds of interesting dynamics from collusion and Kingmaking, to teamwork and trading (if you could offer something in exchange for being chosen, like in Traders of Genoa).

    I guess based on the title I expected this post to illustrate mechanisms that lead to Kingmaker decisions, and mechanisms that could be used to avoid Kingmaker decisions (as it’s generally considered bad form to have such decisions in the game, at least in the Euro genre).

    Seth Jaffee

    August 26, 2009 at 8:04 pm

  3. I agree with Seth. These are 3 fantastic ways for players to interact (3 of my favorites) but aren’t necessarily indicative of kingmaking.

    I generally associate kingmaking specifically with a situation where the action taken by the kingmaker is leading directly to victory of one player OVER another. Essentially deciding the victor by no direct action of the victor.

    I love the 3 example mechanics but I will always grant those helping benefits to either the weakest player or my ally, never to the player in the lead. Unless I REALLY don’t like the weakest player or my ally.

    Seriously though, I’ve always loved leveling the playing field by helping the weaker players as opposed to bashing the leader because it’s usually more similar to game theory situations in real life, like business or nature.

    Mike Dowd

    August 28, 2009 at 12:05 am

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