Kingmaking in board games

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How do you feel about it?

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5 months ago

I think I would differentiate between two situations: 

1) Where player A and player B are both primed to win and C's action will decide it but either move is 'good' for C and C has to take an action of some kind. E.g. C needs stone, does he trade with A or B, that person will win on their next turn.

2) Where C, having realised they can't win,  actively works towards or takes moves to support/prevent A or B from winning, moves which aren't beneficial to C and are for the express purpose of deciding the outcome.

Obviously there is a spectrum rather than a binary between these two but I think a lot of people, certainly more experienced gamers, will know which of these they are doing. I think the first scenario is unfortunate when it happens but is often unavoidable and I find most people tend not to get too fussed about it. When I am player C in that kind of scenario I often try to maximise my own score/ do what is best for me (even though it obviously has no impact on the final result) as a way to not pick favourites.

Scenario 2 is trickier and I think this is often what bugs people as it can make one of the potential winners feel ganged up on. If earlier in the game player A betrayed or screwed over C then it can feel karmic/understandable if C then decides to support B but when this isn't the case it can often feel petty or spiteful. I know that when I am in a position partway through the game and I realise I have lost, I often use it as am opportunity to try out rouge tactics or set a different target to work towards for my own amusement so as not to get too wrapped up in kingmaking. Generally I think it comes down to who you are playing with, as if you are all comfortable with more ruthless and 'unfair' plays then I find that kingmaking isn't a big deal.

In conclusion, I think if you are player C it is best to focus on your own game and try not to play favourites based on things outside the game. If you are player A or B, try not to take it personally (as I rarely think it is, or not meant in an unkind way at least) and the actual playing of the game was still enjoyable and in reality the winning is secondary. 

I guess kingmaking is kind of inevitable in some games but fortunately there are plenty of more euro-heavy games where kingmaking is less of an issue, so for some people they might be a better fit. There are also often mechanics in some games that limit kingmaking by giving everyone one final action etc. So even if C let's A meet whatever victory condition, B still has a turn to potentially leapfrog A and claim victory (although I know this may not always be possible if C is actively limiting B)


I ended up typing much more than I planned, apologies for the essay!

Supporter5 months ago

No I think this is all good. Kingmaking can come in different forms. @theDL brought up a 3rd option where he was clearly going to win. But both other players saw that and decided to gang up to make him loose. It didn’t matter which of the other two won just so he lost. Definitely no fun. I admit to having done this in my early gamer life but really focus on always just getting my best game even if I’m bound to loose. 

5 months ago

Yes, I would have thought of that as more ganging up than king making, as there was no alternative 'king' who was primed to win, but I totally see DL's point. I can imagine that was frustrating, although there are games where going after the leader is standard procedure (accidental rhyme 😄) I guess the bit where it becomes mean is once someone had overtaken him you would hope they would switch focus.

Supporter5 months ago

Good rhyming haha! Yeah I’d hope there would be a switch in focus as well. The point should be to try to win yourself not make someone else specifically loose.

5 months ago

Absolutely, and just occasionally, if everyone else believes you've got no hope, you can pull a surprise victory as no one is keeping you in check 

Supporter5 months ago

True! Still, I've often surprised myself that, while I haven't won, I still have come close. 

Supporter5 months ago

Yep

5 months ago

Maybe it would help to define the term for those who haven't come across it before. My understanding is that it's when a game allows players to sort of "choose" the winner. For example, in a 3 player game, if players  A & B are poised to win, but only of them can, and player C (who will definitely not win) has the ability, through his/her available actions, to determine whether player A or player B will win, that could be considered kingmaking. That's been my understanding of it, anyway.

For my part, it sucks. I haven't played a ton of games in which it was an issue, but I did play a 3 player game of #Santorini once where I managed to outmaneuver my opponents, and got into a position where they could not stop me from winning on my next turn. One of them simply created on opportunity for the other guy to win just so that I wasn't able to. That really sucked and I told them I considered that a victory for myself. I think I even logged it as a victory for myself, haha. I beat them and technically lost.  -__-

Supporter5 months ago

Sounds like you had the beat! Haha. Sorry, it’s always tough when that happens. 

5 months ago

Oh I definitely had them beat, haha. It was kind of going back and forth all game, then when I made my move to set myself up to win, they both went "oh that's not good." Lol so I still consider it a victory, but it was annoying at the time.

Supporter5 months ago

Btw... I didn’t know you could play Santorini with 3

5 months ago

You can play with 3 or a team game with 4. Never tried that one. It's definitely a 2 player game though. 3 player is kinda fun, but the game kind of loses a lot. Someone will always feel "picked on."

Owner5 months ago

#Santorini at 3p is a great example of kingmaking lol. I had fun regardless since it was my first time but I wouldn't want that happening again and again.

I've played 4p a few times and I like it even less than at 3p. It's much more difficult to keep track of the power interactions and the way they interact sometimes isn't very clear and you need to look it up. It also creates power combinations that can be very unbalanced, where going against two complex god powers can make you feel like you're playing chess where you only have a pawn and a king left and you're getting "checked" left and right.

5 months ago

Yeah 4p just seems like it would be awkward. Oh well, haha. It's one of my top games at 2 players, though!

Supporter5 months ago

It’s definitely on my list to get for two players!

Supporter5 months ago

This really seems like a 2 player only game for sure!

Supporter5 months ago

I find that 3 player issue to be the case with many non-euro games. 

Supporter5 months ago

Thanks for defining the term too. I should have in the post topic. 

5 months ago

Haha, probably, but oh well

Supporter5 months ago

Yeah. If I find myself in the “king making” position, I try to make a quick decision without letting the other players know so it’s less of a deal. I’ve had both players not even know that my decision could cause one to win and one to lose. It’s just more satisfying 

5 months ago

Do you have a concept of how you make that decision? Which things you factor in and what you try to ignore? 

Also, how early in a game are you willing to pick a 'king' and does that decision then stay firm throughout or is it quite changeable?

Supporter5 months ago

I don’t really have a concept. I always try to win and I find that I’m usually in that situation at the end of a game. When I get there I realize that I’m not winning and we’d might as well end the game quick and play something new. 

So I don’t find myself picking a king and sticking with them. More often than not, I might try to get others around the table to focus on the leader and then do my own plans behind it all.

5 months ago

Haha, yes, it is always quite fun pitting other player against each other while convincing everyone you are not a threat (obviously only in a group that isn't going to mind that kind of thing)

Supporter5 months ago

Yes it is very satifying

5 months ago

Oh that's a good idea. Some players will probably know anyway, but sometimes it's unavoidable.

Supporter5 months ago

I’m sure some will know or find out later. I Had a situation recently where another player made a kingmaking decision in my favor and announced it to the table as he did. It didn’t feel good even as the one coming out on top haha. 

5 months ago

Yeah it makes it feel unearned.

Supporter5 months ago

It does. But maybe it also means I just played the table well too? haha

Supporter5 months ago

It’s tricky. A lot of games that I play manage to avoid this situation but the ones that don’t are difficult. 

5 months ago

What are mechanics you have seen that help prevent kingmaking?