Friday, July 14, 2006

Player elimination--how to avoid in Euro-wargames:

One of the most common characteristics of Euro-style games is "no player elimination". One of the most common characteristics of multi-player wargames (such as Diplomacy and Risk) is . . . player elimination. My question here is, how do we avoid player elimination in multi-player "Euro-wargames".

In case it isn't obvious, I'm not including two player games, as if you're wiped out, you lose, and the game is over. What I don't want is a game that has not ended, yet a player has been eliminated.

First, players can control several nations, with new ones appearing according to historical or other schedules. Individual nations may be eliminated, but the player will still have forces to control. This method is used in Ancient Conquest, Britannia, and the many derivative games of this type usually called "Britannia-like" games.

Another form of this "succession" is that players can choose to play new nations when their old ones lose steam or disappear entirely. This is used in Vinci and (somewhat differently) in History of the World, for example.

It's worth noting that the above games are victory point games rather than games with a territorial victory condition. Risk, Diplomacy, and other games that allow player elimination often have territorial victory conditions.

In games that reflect great chaos, an eliminated player can return as a new nation. For example, a player of a "civilized" nation can re-enter the game as barbarian horde (or more generally, re-enter game as new player).

In my prototype Germania, when a player feels his nation is in hopeless shape, he can take over another, non-player nation (barbarian invaders, usually) and play it as a player nation henceforth. On rare occasions a player can win this way, though usually not.

In general, in any game an inexhaustible supply of new resources (many card games, for example) often combined with lack of geography or very abstract geography, means that no player is eliminated. This can be achieved in a wargame, though one of the typical characteristics of a wargame is a specific geography.

For example, you can make the player's home unassailable by other players. Generally that home will deliver significant resources so that there's a chance to re-expand. I have used this in several prototypes such as Colonia (TM). Another possibility is that even if the home area is taken, the invader must leave (a "civilized" peace treaty) and the victim can begin to recover. For example, in Seas of Gold (TM) (prototype), a player's Italian maritime city may be sacked, but the attacker then extracts wealth and other benefits from the city yet is forced to leave. It is difficult but not impossible to win after suffering a Sack.

In these games I have abstracted the geography of the players' homes. In Colonia all begin in a single area (e.g. Greece), yet may expand throughout the Mediterranean world. In Seas of Gold all are in Italy, without considering the specific geography there because it would so strongly favor Venice and Genoa.


While some of the non-elimination games I've mentioned have some zero-sum characteristics, none is truly zero-sum, whereas Diplomacy certainly is, and Risk has strong zero-sum characteristics. One might posit that when a game is zero-sum, that is, when one player's gain is another's loss, and you cannot make a gain without causing someone else a loss, you will likely have player elimination. In a non-zero-sum game it will be much easier to avoid player elimination, because players can gain without causing others to lose an equivalent. Elimination of territorial victory conditions should also help avoid player elimination.

Copyright 2006 Lewis Pulsipher

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