GeekNights Tuesday - Two Player Games

Tonight on GeekNights, we consider the unique nature of two player games. In a non-solitaire, non-race game, one, two, three, and four+ players are radically different experiences. Two player games are in a unique and fascinating space. They devolve into either Chess, Tic Tac Toe, or Rock paper Scissors in most tabletop cases. Three player games are political in a very particular way, four or more are all basically the same... but TWO. TWO is in a class of its own.

In the news, we're still playing Auto Chess (and Rym is playing a lot of Overwatch), Unity deletes a tweet about gambling features (a timely topic), there are twists and turns in the saga of the Uniqlo Pokemon shirt contest, and Oculus Rift S/Quest will usher in an expanded VR market.

Things of the Day

Episode Links

I would happily argue that MtG EDH/Commander is an ideal 3 player game

Thumbs up for featuring Rome Reborn as a Thing of the Day; one of my good friends works on that project!

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If Sony actually supported it and did not use a locked down storage card the PSP would have taken over the DS in the handheld market. Those two errors killed it for the masses.

I don’t think so, but the Vita and the PSP both had the same problem: despite being good systems that could’ve enjoyed decent lives, they weren’t wotld-crushingly popular, so Sony let them wither on the vine.

Honestly any form of magic over two players is just a vote who wins game with magic in the background. The whole game is convincing opponent A to help you kill opponent B. The cards don’t matter at all.

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Well, there is a rock/paper scissors element as well. Someone could have cards that are so crazy that nobody can do jack shit. Not sure what cards exist now, but cards along this line definitely existed back in my day.

It’s probably still that way. I’m not sure multiplayer magic ever operates on anything but the very loosest of restriction lists, given that it’s all social contract.

And I remember there were different kinds of decks; with the right cards, you could try and build something that would kill everyone just as easily as it killed one person.

In that case it ends up being RNG of who goes first and who gets their deck to do its thing first.

The real meat of the topic, which we only touched on in the show, is the sheer difference number of players makes.

There are three unique and distinct kinds of orthogames.

2 player
3 player
4+ player

Look at the “2p variant” rules that exist for so many euros. They usually have to introduce something radical to make the game function on the barest level as a two player game. Meanwhile, there are few or no rules differences for 3p vs 4p vs np.

3 player doesn’t have radically different rules, but play usually ends up radically distinct from 2p or 4+p. As we said, one player is effectively eliminated early, and either has no input or gets to pick the winner among the other two.

There is no material difference between, say, 4p and 5p El Grande, other than that it hurts less to go late in the turn, and there’s less contention for points on-board. 3p, you see someone get fucking wrecked early.

Edit: removed 1-player. By definition, it can’t be an orthogame.

completely disagree. It’s incredibly dangerous to eliminate a player in 3+ player MtG because it exposes you to being eliminated yourself. In a majority of the games I’ve played it turns into a mexican standoff where every player is trying to amass enough resource to kill everyone simultaneously and everyone is constantly course correcting if anyone accelerates too much.

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Update on the Pokemon t-shirt contest.

The person was disqualified because they published the design prior to entry in the contest. They won’t get the $10,000 prize, and neither will anyone else. Presumably the shirt won’t be produced and sold in stores. It also won’t appear in Pokemon Sword & Shield, and supposedly neither will any other shirt from the contest. There was also another Mewtwo design in the contest that was disqualified.

How convenient for Nintendo

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Or UNIQLO? It’s not clear who pays.

Also, $10,000 is next to nothing for either company.

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At any rate two player MTG is a fantastic game and 3+ is absolutely miserable. Why even play for fun if it’s just to see who combo kills everyone first?

I’m not going to poo-poo on how you enjoy playing MtG, but I will just say I enjoy the strategy and counterplay in the type of gameplay I described

There’s some strategy to multiplayer magic but in general the interactivity is about a 3/10 vs the 9/10 in a two player game. It’s not a big deal in games that don’t need high interactivity but in magic you really need it and multiplayer doesn’t allow to play many if any one for one answers since using a resource of your own to slow down Player B when there are other players in the game gives those other players a resource advantage. Do a 1 for 1 exchange with multiple players and you end up hopelessly behind in resources. You can play cards that answer multiple things (wraths for example) but competent players won’t give you enough value for the resources you invest in those cards.

well if they’re not dropping enough threats to get full value out of mass removal they’re also not advancing their boardstate to a winning position. Yes, spot removal is less efficient in multiplayer but also important to sabotage game-winning combos, if you’re just blasting every threat that drops on the board you’ll run out of gas too soon. This also implies that the current game state is you vs. everyone else which will only occur when you are in the winning position, at which point you care less about removing opponent’s threats and more about preserving your own. This also doesn’t factor in recursion or repeatable effects; Doom Blade won’t give you much value in multiplayer but Royal Assassin achieves neutral card advantage if it removes even one creature and begins generating more advantage from there even if an opponent uses a removal spell on it.

I won’t deny that this isn’t how every multiplayer game does down. It is very easy for politics to twist in an unfun way, for example if two players who are friendly outside the game conspire to eliminate everyone else before each other or if a crew of regulars gangs up on a newbie. But I think you’re underestimating the tactics that can be applied and be used in a fun way. Achieving that razor edge parity and pushing to tip it in your favor is exciting to me but it’s also difficult to play that type of game if everyone isn’t bringing the same toys or playing at the same skill level.

The story progression @SkeleRym suggested already kind of exists in Japan with themed pachislots. As you win short cutscenes play, sometimes just cuts from an an anime or game, sometimes a new story based on an existing franchise, sometimes something completely new. I won about $50 playing a Black Lagoon themed machine last time I went.