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'Schadenfreude' the Board Game

The fun game of tearing down what others have created.
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One of the problems with board games is that of balance. Quite often there comes a point in a game where you no longer have a realistic chance of winning but you still have to go through the motions and play it out until the bitter end. This isn’t much fun if you’ve had a really awful game, and you just want to end it all now please, and one of the temptations for players in this situation is to make a move/take a turn that will enable another player to win immediately. Which isn’t very fair on the other players.

My idea is to adopt this problem into a game mechanic so that suicidal & pointlessly destructive moves are actually the whole point of the game. A sort of ‘clubbing each other back to the stone age’ type of approach.

There are games where this approach is almost adopted, ‘Family Business’ & ‘Nuclear War’ come to mind but these are quick fire card games and I’m thinking more along the lines of ‘big box’ games.

At this point you would normally expect me to outline my magnificent idea for such a game but, sad to tell, it’s just a half-formed rather than half-baked idea at present.

I do have some initial thoughts however. The game should be set in a declining civilisation (real or imagined), game resources (money, allies, buildings etc) should be plentiful at the start but not renewable once spent/used. It should be an ‘aggressive’ game where no alliances (formally within the game or informally around the table) should or can be trusted. No player can ever be rendered incapable of having a major influence on the game unless they are eliminated entirely. The ‘winner’ will be standing alone amongst the rubble by the end of the game.
DrBob, Jul 27 2009

Defcon: Everybody dies http://www.introversion.co.uk/defcon/
"The World's first Genocide 'em up" [zen_tom, Jul 27 2009]

1984 The Video Game 1984_20video_20game
by lawpoop. In vaguely the same territory. [calum, Jul 29 2009]

Risk 2210 http://www.boardgam....com/boardgame/1829
For Ray. [DrBob, Aug 04 2009]

Rampage http://www.boardgam...dgame/97903/rampage
The fun game of destroying everything. This is more like it! [DrBob, Nov 26 2013]

War On Terror http://www,waronterrortheboardgame.com
A satirical boardgame, great fun with the right group of players. [imaginality, Nov 30 2013]


       Better not invite Selfish Jean.   

       Actually, this could also be crossmigrated to most Marathon races. And the lottery.
Ian Tindale, Jul 27 2009

       I like this and could see it on a variant board of Axis and Allies somehow. Maybe weapons start out 'fresh' but increasingly run the risk of backfiring on the attacker or shooting 'blanks.'   

       So who gets to play as North Korea?
RayfordSteele, Jul 27 2009

       The Winner: He who laughs first laughs longest.
Dub, Jul 27 2009

       There's a (fairly recent) computer game called DEFCON in which you play one of a number of continental powers - the aim of the game is to most effectively conduct thermonuclear war - "Big Board" style - A player's nuclear missile silos serve the dual purpose of attack and defence, and as it takes some time to switch from one mode to another, as soon as an offensive barrage is launched, an immediate and overwhelming response is necessary to take advantage of this window of vulnerability - a game can take hours of careful jostling, followed by a very swift and decisive maelstrom as most of the human race is eliminated in a matter of moments.
zen_tom, Jul 27 2009

       Yes, DEFCON definitely captures the flavour of what I'm after. That also got me thinking about a very old computer game called 'Syndicate' where your agents could be equipped with large bombs implanted in their chests for those hopeless situations where you just want to take out as many of the opposition as you can when you finally go down.

But I was really thinking more along the lines of RayfordSteele's 'Axis & Allies' suggestion or, more precisely, a sort of reverse 'Risk', where you set up the winning position at the start and then gradually tear it down.

IT's suggestion of cross-migration to Marathon races has me thinking of a 26 mile long game of British Bulldog.
DrBob, Jul 27 2009

       I don't think I'd want to be the bulldogs in that one.
RayfordSteele, Jul 28 2009

       Seems like you'd have a similar but opposite "balance" problem in a game like this. If the game goes on for quite awhile and yet even at its advanced stage anyone could win, there's no incentive to play skillfully in the beginning. Players would be bored with the first 90% of play, not try so hard and then just want the game to get over with. The game would gravitate into into a (hopefully) quick, messy beginning and a quick mercy killing in the end. Like lets flip a coin 1000 times to see who gets the most heads. Ahh, let's just flip it 10 times. There's always a tipping point, so it's really only a matter of where the tipping point occurs during play. It's a good observation but it seems to me that the issue really a matter, not of the type or style of the game, but of wanting the tipping point to occur as close to the end of the game as possible. I do like the idea of a game where the objective is self-destruction though.
JackyD, Jul 28 2009

       \\There's always a tipping point, so it's really only a matter of where the tipping point occurs during play\\ Well I suppose that the pre-tipping-point play can be made longer and more interesting by engineering that careful sloe preparations at that stage are released in a fury of destruction post-tipping-point.
pocmloc, Jul 28 2009

       Monopoly is the acquisition and build-up of money through property rents. Risk is about the occupation of the world - through cunning acquisition and build-up of armies. In both cases the winner is the person with the most of whatever... we need some game mechanics that involve the players cleverly distributing some aspect to some repository or other players. The person with the least wins.   

       Then there is the 'pig-pile' characteristic implied by [zen_tom], this really brings in the Schadenfreude into focus. They say misery likes company, (which isn't a bad title, I guess), but how about:
Toxic Dump! The friendly game of hot potato, where the one with the most sludge gets fried!
Jinbish, Jul 28 2009

       A buddy of mine in college came up with a game full of this spirit: You and the other player pound fists gently (you know, a normal fist-pound, like a high-five except with closed fists), but then get into a rhythm (punch...punch...punch...) and gradually increase force until you are punching each others' fists as hard as you can. The only fun part of this game is the knowledge that the other guy's fist hurts almost as much as yours does. Please don't do this.
sninctown, Jul 29 2009

       A game where each player has a Jenga set, to separate the build and fall complexity. If your clever, you could build your collapse to bring failure to your opponent.   

       **** There is a card game that you have to make symbols with cards on throws of the dice but also you have the choice of taking cards off your opponent.
wjt, Jul 29 2009

       If there is an acknowledged tipping point, then what if somewhere along the line of the game, the goals and something of the rules change? I suppose then you'd have 2 tipping points in 2 related min-games. What if there are ways to win quickly before the rule change, which then morph to be against the quick aggressor later on. Or the game is designed in such a way so that there are fast-strategy winning scenarios countered with slow ones.
RayfordSteele, Jul 29 2009

       I take JackyD & pocmloc's points and yes, I suppose really it is about ensuring that everyone has a stake in the game for as long as possible.

//we need some game mechanics that involve the players cleverly distributing some aspect to some repository or other players. The person with the least wins//

Not 'Toxic Dump' Jinbish! Toxic Debt! The fun game of secret acquisition and investment! Nobody knows what anyone else really has until one of the players decides that it's time to write off their bad debts (this can only be done after a certain number of game turns have been completed (or 'a complete economic cycle' - which addresses some of Rayford's last anno about changing the rules/environment).

At this point it becomes an inverted game of Chicken. Rather than seeing who has got the nerve to hold out longest, it's more about who has the most confidence in the assets that they have accumulated and is prepared to risk going for the debt write-off.

You would have to create some mechanic to describe the underlying assets and the effect that the economy has on them.

There would need to be several aspects to any trades. A mechanic that makes it desirable to trade is essential. Then there needs to be the 'open' stock market value of any deal, the 'secret' content part of the deal to enable you to slip in a few toxic debts along with the good stuff that you've just traded. The 'timing' of the trade (by which, you could stipulate, for example, that the trade becomes effective in some future turn so that the value of the trade may have altered considerably by the time it comes into effect). And also the effect of trading on asset values.

Mind you, this is all beginning to sound a bit complex. A game that you need a degree in Economics in order to play isn't likely to have a lot of sales potential.
DrBob, Jul 29 2009

       //The person with the least wins// Reminds me of rich men, camels and sewing.
zen_tom, Jul 29 2009

       Howzabout a real time battle game where the primary aim is to claim victory by only the narrowest of margins, with maximum carnage on both side, the game starting with two or more army fronts controlled god-game-style with attrition reducing things to Stalingraddy skirmishing and sniper fire, played in something akin to FPS form, right down to the climactic, decisive hand-to-hand combat between the remaining two weary, dead-eyed soldiers, amid the dun rubble of the former city. Call it "Pyrrhus: Lust for Glory" or something.   

       Victory metrics would have to be worked out and mechanisms for preventing play that, while it would be hard in a wider context to call immoral, is outwith the spirit of the game. That may be the hard part with this version.
calum, Jul 29 2009

       A good set of game economics sometimes ensures a minimalist victory strategy. I used to play Civ III this way, building as few military units as I could get away with but still ensure dominance and focusing my resources elsewhere. What good are military units in a game if they never fight? Simply deterrence or wasted resources at a certain point.   

       Introducing maintenance costs into keeping one's military can encourage knock-down drag-out fight-to-the-last-man tactics.
RayfordSteele, Jul 29 2009

       Actually Ray, there's a nice, simple mechanic in Risk 2210 where, at the start of the game, three areas are designated as radioactive wastelands and are out of play, thereby ensuring that the map and, therefore, the game is ever so slightly different each time. I wonder if a similar device can be used as the mechanic to drive this game. A bit like Neville Shute's 'On the Beach', with the players furiously struggling away whilst the radiation zones steadily expand across the map.

I've gone off the idea of an economics based game now that I've thought about it a bit more because a) it's too much like hard work and b) once economics becomes a major factor then you get stuck again with the 'tipping point' problem. That's not to say that economics couldn't play a part, it's just that sitting around calculating income & expenditure isn't really what I was after for the flavour of the game.

calum's mention of Pyrrhus is quite apropos. A bloke who marched around Southern Italy, Sicily and Greece looking for easy pickings and then buggered off, abandoning his allies to their fate, once the going got a bit tough is just the sort of person who could play this game well. Shame he didn't have the sense not to try a sneak, night attack up a narrow street with a nervous elephant leading the way!
DrBob, Jul 29 2009

       I'll have to look into Risk 2210. The original is ever so predictable.
RayfordSteele, Jul 30 2009

       "Sorry" with four players sounds very nearly like what you describe. A battle of direct self interest with sacrificial attack, with the potential for a holeshot victory always possible, as long as you can keep the person in the lead from winning.
WcW, Aug 05 2009

       I love the German word "schadenfreude"; it roughly translates to the love of bad things happening to others. But, isn't Every game based on this? []
Speed Razor, Aug 05 2009

       I don't think the person getting the 'Schadenfreude' is supposed to be the author of the terrible act. Random chance, a Russian roulette at the end of a hefty investment, might generate the 'Schadenfreude'. Clever destruction of hard worked craft such as a model plane or piece of pottery.   

       A game just wouldn't have the emotional investment. Then again, as pointed out, I don't play a lot of boardgames or board room games.
wjt, Aug 06 2009

       SpeedRazor, yes, the Germans do good words. I also like 'zugzwang'. However, most games are about improving your own position rather than tearing down that of your opponents, although I would agree that there is some element of this in many of them.

//A game just wouldn't have the emotional investment//

You don't play a lot of boardgames do you, wjt?
DrBob, Aug 06 2009

       Ah yes, "zugzwang". As a chess-player I know it well. "The compulsion to move." Usually, referring to that if you didn't have to move, you'd be fine; but because you do, you must wreck your position. Another interesting German term is "zeitgeist". "Spirit of the times", I believe...   

       <achoo!> Gesundheit
Speed Razor, Aug 06 2009

       You might like the mechanic in War On Terror: The Board Game. It's a territory/resource control game, where the players are Empires, and can fight over territory conventionally as in Risk. They can also attack opposing Empries by funding terrorist units which can be placed in any country at any time.   

       The twist is that at any time, a player (usually someone whose empire is nearly wiped out) can 'turn terrorist'. This player gains control of all the terrorist units, and can win by destroying the Empires. So, if the Empires have been too liberal with their use of terrorists, this player now has a big advantage.   

       The game's great fun, and the terrorist mechanic definitely helps make for some interesting strategy.
imaginality, Nov 30 2013

       War on Terror is, indeed, a fun game but the best bit is that the 'evil' player gets to wear the black balaclava that comes with it! We also have a house 'rule' that everybody has to sing 'Spin, spin, spin the wheel of evil' when the little arrow thing gets flicked round.
DrBob, Nov 30 2013

       // house 'rule' //   

       … the house in question being the one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, presumably.
8th of 7, Dec 01 2013


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