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Author Topic: Right way to play when you canít win?  (Read 1130 times)

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GendoIkari

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Right way to play when you canít win?
« on: January 28, 2018, 11:50:20 pm »
+2

So I just played an IRL 4 player game of all Nocturne cards. The Kingdom was:

Pooka, Werewolf, Guardian, Skulk, Blessed Village, Cursed Village, Druid, Necromancer, Cobbler, Tormentor.

The other players were someone who plays a lot but not online / competitively; someone who played a good bit I think, but didnít know anything about Nocturne; someone who had played a few games of Dominion before but needed reminding of even the basic rules; and myself.

Anyway, I got off to a slow start; having got a $3 and a $3 because of Cursed Gold, instead of a $4. Eventually got 2 Pookas and was able to trash down. Lots of Hexes flying around. I was starting to put together a pretty good engine with both Village types; Werewolfs, a Druid, 2 Guardians for 1 per turn, a Necromancer, and a couple Skulks.

The problem was, by the time I was really doing anything good, 2 of the other players had bought several Provinces and started on Duchies, with the third having some as well. There were 4 left when I got my thing to be reliable, and even then it wasnít fully reliable. So buying a Province was just bad for me, but I also had a really strong deck in terms of Hexing... and with my opponents having not trashed down; they couldnít do much of anything.

So we went around like this for several rounds... they would buy low-level VP when they could; I would hex them a bunch if they hadnít gotten a Guardian out, and I had no actual chance of winning at all. So... what should I have done? Although it was fun, I felt bad about the way I was playing... basically dragging the game on a bunch by just slowing them all down a whole bunch without actually increasing my chances of winning. Should I have just started buying Provinces even though it would eventually help end the game with my own loss? The game ended up taking a really long time, and most of it was due to me.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2018, 10:06:10 am by GendoIkari »
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Drab Emordnilap

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2018, 12:10:48 am »
+4

Was there a possible path for you to find to victory?  If so, pursue that path, even should it have little chance of success. If there is literally no way left for you to win, then end the game as quickly as possible.

That's my take, anyways.
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faust

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2018, 02:26:20 am »
0

2 Guardians
I don't really get the problem... if your opponents were unhappy with getting Hexed a lot, it seems that on this board it would be super easy for them to pick up a couple Guardians to stop that.

In general I agree with Drab.
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Aleimon Thimble

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2018, 03:31:06 am »
+3

Well, 3/4 player Dominion is not about competitiveness anyway, just about fun, so there is no 'right' way to play as long as you follow the rules.

But otherwise, I agree with the above posters. If there's a theoretically possible win, pursue it; otherwise, just end the game ASAP.
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Awaclus

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2018, 03:40:47 am »
0

there is no 'right' way to play

Indeed, there's just a 'wrong' way to play. Which is playing at all.
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crj

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2018, 09:29:39 am »
0

Was there a possible path for you to find to victory?  If so, pursue that path, even should it have little chance of success. If there is literally no way left for you to win, then end the game as quickly as possible.
Seems reasonable.

The more awkward question - and it's one I've been on the sharp end of a couple of times - is what about kingmaking? You realise you're not going to win, but one line of play would favour player A and another would favour player B. Now what?
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markusin

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2018, 09:37:01 am »
0

Was there a possible path for you to find to victory?  If so, pursue that path, even should it have little chance of success. If there is literally no way left for you to win, then end the game as quickly as possible.
Seems reasonable.

The more awkward question - and it's one I've been on the sharp end of a couple of times - is what about kingmaking? You realise you're not going to win, but one line of play would favour player A and another would favour player B. Now what?

Maybe decide on a policy such as "always favour the player who has the lowest turn priority" in kingmaking situations.
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DG

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2018, 09:59:45 am »
+1

What you should do is really determined by what your opponents feel is acceptable. If they think you're dragging the game along then put your cards down, go get some drinks, and say you're going to discard every hand. Let them get on with it. If they want you to stay part of the game then keep following your strategy and doing anything you think is fun. Avoid kingmaking, unless of course your friends enjoy that too.
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aku_chi

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2018, 10:34:04 am »
+1

The more awkward question - and it's one I've been on the sharp end of a couple of times - is what about kingmaking? You realise you're not going to win, but one line of play would favour player A and another would favour player B. Now what?

If I know I cannot win a multiplayer game, my preference is to do nothing during my turns, or at least buy nothing.  But, that can also affect the outcome of a close game!  Sometimes, there's no helping kingmaking.  I endeavor to feel and appear the least involved possible.
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JThorne

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2018, 10:36:28 am »
+1

3-4 player is tricky. Leans heavily toward money. However, an engine can win when money players start clogging, particularly if one opponent gets ahead and then stalls turn after turn because they have a disproportionate number of the green cards. You can still pull off an unlikely engine victory since the other opponents have very few points and the leader has nerfed themselves. I've held on to win many games I thought were hopeless after getting behind by two or more Provinces.

If it's totally impossible to win, an engine player should pile out the game as quickly as possible. That's the metagame: You, as a human being, want to get on to the next game, and the way to do that is to intentionally end it. All other players should be factoring in the fact that if they get a big lead on an engine player, they are inviting a pileout. Anyone who complains, "But I would have won on my next turn! You gave X the win!" is simply wrong. There's nothing unethical or unsportsmanlike about it. It's part of the game.

Every money player should be looking at piles and asking themselves, "Should I buy Gold with this $6, or buy a Duchy, because player X could gain four cards and pile the game to end it because they're losing and want it to be over? I might not get another turn."
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theory

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2018, 11:12:11 am »
+2

There's no good answer to this question, in large part because there's often a difference between playing for first and playing for second.  The best thing you can do is play in a way that other players at least can reasonably anticipate.  If you buy the last Province and end the game, even though you couldn't win and the next player in turn order could have won with that Province, that's not your fault.  But you shouldn't be doing things like passing a Platinum through Masquerade to end the game faster.
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weesh

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2018, 11:20:07 am »
+3

Most of my games are 3+ player games, and the conclusion WITH DOMINION has basically become: do whatever you want to.

We aren't annoyed by players that drop out, or buy provinces to end the game sooner.

We're playing for fun, as you must in 3+ player games. 

Our attitude is basically, "3+ player is chaotic, just roll with it."

I think this is because in dominion, your only real power as the weakest player is to end the game slightly sooner or slightly later. 

It's not like Catan, where you can take a good spot that someone needs, or make them work harder for longest road or largest army, or make sure the robber is always on their best hex.

Your ability to actively and purposefully punk one player is honestly a bit limited comparatively, so no one has really complained over the 200 or so games.

If it's totally impossible to win, an engine player should pile out the game as quickly as possible. That's the metagame: You, as a human being, want to get on to the next game, and the way to do that is to intentionally end it.

I agree with the philosophy, but not the commanding "should".  I'd make it a softer "can".
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Chris is me

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2018, 11:27:32 am »
+2

If you can play for second or third place, imo you should do so once it is impossible to get first. This should eliminate most of these circumstances. The remaining ones, well, if they canít end the game then thatís their problem, and theyíll probably want to stop soon.
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trivialknot

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2018, 11:49:13 am »
+2

1. Try to get 2nd or 3rd place.
2. Try to get as many points as possible, or as close to the other players as possible.
3. Try to end the game quickly.
4. Play the wackiest strategy you see, either for fun, as a learning experience, or on the off-chance that it's secretly game-winning.
5. Loudly talk about your power as kingmaker.
6. Resign and inspect the snacks.

In this case, I would have hexed a little while for fun, and then bought provinces if it seemed to be dragging on.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2018, 12:46:46 am by trivialknot »
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Drab Emordnilap

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2018, 06:58:15 pm »
0

Was there a possible path for you to find to victory?  If so, pursue that path, even should it have little chance of success. If there is literally no way left for you to win, then end the game as quickly as possible.
Seems reasonable.

The more awkward question - and it's one I've been on the sharp end of a couple of times - is what about kingmaking? You realise you're not going to win, but one line of play would favour player A and another would favour player B. Now what?

I think that, even in those circumstances, I apply the same algorithm ó if there's any possible way that I can win, even if me attempting to win that way favors one player over another, I try and win that way. If there's no possible way to win, then I end the game as quickly as possible, even if that causes one player to win over another.
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liopoil

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2018, 07:30:34 pm »
+6

The utility function I and my friends use for this and other multiplayer games is:

Let epsilon be a positive number that is way smaller than any conceivable positive probability of any particular event occurring in a game of dominion.

Winning is worth 1 point
2nd place is worth epsilon points
3rd place is worth epsilon squared points
The game ending one turn earlier is worth epsilon cubed points

Maximizing your expected points always leads to playing solely for the topmost uncertain outcome. This is equivalent to what most people are saying in this thread. Also, this makes it so that you play for a shorter game as soon as your placement is assured, no matter what it is. e.g., always taking the three-pile win if it's there.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2018, 07:32:36 pm by liopoil »
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markusin

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2018, 07:34:28 pm »
+1

It's pretty rare that pure kingmaking happens in Dominion, but it can if say you can end the game on a loss by emptying one of two action piles, but which one you pick affects who wins due to Tower.
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crj

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #17 on: January 29, 2018, 09:19:38 pm »
+2

6. Resign and inspect the snacks.
A proper games player (by which I mean one of my lamentable girth) can win Dominion and inspect the snacks simultaneously.
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popsofctown

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #18 on: January 29, 2018, 09:33:38 pm »
+7

This is supposed to be part of why there's no point tracker in paper dominion.  If there is no possible to way to win based on your best recollection of how much VP each player has, assume your best recollection is wrong, and adjust it by the most plausible amount that gives you a route to victory.  Is Gardens in the game?  Maybe you are really bad at Gardens math, it doesn't matter that you lost the split horribly, they will actually be worth 2 VP, hurry and buy Provinces.  Do you think you only have 1 Province and only one is remains?  Maybe you have 2 or 3, but then you're probably still behind, buy a few Duchies.  Human memory is fallible.  This is how I always play when I think I almost certainly can't win.  The idea that you definitely can't win depends upon an assumption that humans are perfect.  Humans are not perfect.  Why are you assuming that?

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JW

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #19 on: January 29, 2018, 09:54:54 pm »
0

The utility function I and my friends use for this and other multiplayer games is:

Let epsilon be a positive number that is way smaller than any conceivable positive probability of any particular event occurring in a game of dominion.

Winning is worth 1 point
2nd place is worth epsilon points
3rd place is worth epsilon squared points
The game ending one turn earlier is worth epsilon cubed points

This is called ďlexicographic preferencesĒ in economics jargon.  (Edit: I can't spell)
« Last Edit: January 30, 2018, 05:45:20 pm by JW »
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7string

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #20 on: February 11, 2018, 03:13:53 pm »
+1

If you can play for second or third place, imo you should do so once it is impossible to get first.

It is of course a choice based on the group of people and their preferences, but in our case I absolutely agree with Chris' advice.  I'm the most experienced player in our groups, and I win a large percentage of games, but 4 player games throws a lot of volatility into the mix.  What I see is that sometimes one person has a commanding lead, but continuing to play for 2nd or 3rd place is a great learning opportunity (especially for less experienced players).  I might slip in a little coaching when that happens, and they are often surprised and happy that they can go from dead last to not far from winning.  Instead of feeling bad about losing the game, they end up wanting to play the same set again knowing that they could have done better adopting a different strategy earlier.  If I'm not in the running I really enjoy trying out unusual strategies to see what they can do.  Also, in our group (in any game we play), we long ago made the decision to avoid being a kingmaker whenever possible.  When you play 4 player with two couples, using the kingmaker option to make your partner win just leaves a bitter aftertaste for the other couple...not a good precedent if you want to keep playing together...
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ackmondual

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #21 on: February 13, 2018, 02:17:52 am »
0

Just do whatever.  Not to mean that in a rude way, but more so in a "go with the flow" way.  There's an article here that talks about NOT buying a Province in a 2p game for a turn can win you the game since you get enough pts in the next TWO turns (instead of just 1) to come out ahead.  If you're one of those types of Dominion players who can track that level of details in games, then by all means! 

Otherwise, I had a similar case where by the time I bought my first Colony in a 4p game, half of them were already gone.  I'd be lucky to catch up in engine, let alone in score.  It was also a tournament game where each session had us playing 2 games, so I wanted to be a good sport about it.  All I could do was just keep playing, and try to close the gap as much as I could.  End game score ended up being:
me: 30-ish
p2 and p3: 50s
p4: 74

Eh... I can look back and say I honestly did my best.  Plus, IIRC, there actually was some usefulness in narrowing the gap, even if trivial.
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Oyvind

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Re: Right way to play when you canít win?
« Reply #22 on: February 20, 2018, 09:32:13 am »
0

Exactly! Well said! I recently lost an IRL 2p game, because I thought I had three Provinces with one remaining in the supply. I desperately bought Duchies whenever I had the chance, even with 11 or 12 coins and single buys. Turned out I already had four Provinces, and I ended up losing 42-40 when he bought that last one. The funny thing is both of us were pretty sure I was leading 4-3 in Provinces. I was so annoyed at myself after that game. Now, if I'm unsure (we played casually so I didn't bother counting until it was too late), I'll buy that final Province and gladly take the loss. That's better than losing because of suboptimal play based on a perceived deficit, IMHO.  ;)

This is supposed to be part of why there's no point tracker in paper dominion.  If there is no possible to way to win based on your best recollection of how much VP each player has, assume your best recollection is wrong, and adjust it by the most plausible amount that gives you a route to victory.  Is Gardens in the game?  Maybe you are really bad at Gardens math, it doesn't matter that you lost the split horribly, they will actually be worth 2 VP, hurry and buy Provinces.  Do you think you only have 1 Province and only one is remains?  Maybe you have 2 or 3, but then you're probably still behind, buy a few Duchies.  Human memory is fallible.  This is how I always play when I think I almost certainly can't win.  The idea that you definitely can't win depends upon an assumption that humans are perfect.  Humans are not perfect.  Why are you assuming that?
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