Something strange happened this week. The point system lead to some debate. From my perspective it was a strange debate that I really didn’t understand. Hell, I honestly still don’t understand after having plenty of time to clear my head and really think about their side.

Kaboom
Forgive me, where are my manners? Welcome back! This week for Playgroup Evolution, I’m exploring controversial ground: mass land destruction and the impact it has on the point system. Like I said we hit a road block, and for me it is a very strange one. I work with the Residence Life Department at a university, and we’re in training for Resident Assistants so I have been unable to get to play Commander weekly.

Very long days of training and working to get the residence halls ready tend to get in the way important things like hobbies. The experience and staff are fantastic, but I miss my gaming. With my absence, East Coast Gamers (Facebook.com/EastCoastGamersNJ or EastCoastGamersnj.com) halted their testing of the point system for two weeks.

A few more players have joined the store. Awesome! A couple are competitive. No Problem! There was a big hissy fit regarding the two-point penalty for mass land destruction (MLD). What The Hell!

facepalm

I’m serious. One guy, upon reading the point system, got completely dejected about the game. (Personal opinion rage point: Why is no M:D a bad thing? I am always blown away by people who find their fun must come at the expense of someone else’s fun.)

When the games wrapped up, it was a quick break time. Yay coffee! Oh, and having several people tell me all the billion ways MLD improves Magic, and is “in no way unfun.”

The Interesting Part

Here is where the pro land destruction guys made some weird points:

  1. MLD shouldn’t be punished if it is used to wrap up a game
  2. MLD is not good when stalling

We’re going to look at these points in reverse order. I completely agree. Mass land destruction is really really Really REALLY REALLY BORING when it just stalls out a game. And also, as they said, it’s not particularly effective as a tactic. Removing the ability to play Magic is kind of against the point of playing, well, Magic. It’s why these cards are so rarely printed now and why they aren’t straight up Armageddon effects anymore. Dragging game out does nothing to promote a fun game and preventing people from playing does not lead to interaction. Penalizing this makes perfect sense to me.

However, the first point just blows me away. They argued that if someone casts Armageddon and can win in three turns, they shouldn’t be penalized. I completely disagree and think this is a terrible idea. Multiplayer games have different turn structure than 1v1 games. If I Destructive Force in a duel to win in three turns, I make my opponent wait just a bit before wrapping up the game. In a four-player game, that Destructive Force doesn’t “steal” just three turns of time from one opponent, it steals roughly 12 turns from each my opponents, because that’s at least three turn cycles during which they basically can’t do anything.

Three stolen turns versus 36 stolen turns

This is bad, and I am not looking to reward this kind of behavior in a casual environment. Remember, we aren’t playing tournaments. We play for a single prize pack. Just one.

As for the logistics of the three turns the pro-MLD people want to incorporate, it would require more book keeping. One of my goals was simplicity. Requiring a turn tracker to be used after a certain actions causes people to mentally check out, and it’s not exactly the simplest method of tracking points. I can already see someone casting Armageddon and then fights erupting later about whether or not the table was finished off in enough turns to avoid a penalty. I’d rather avoid all this.

The Actual Penalty

Now, I’d like to go back to the penalty that using MLD earns: losing two points. Not huge, especially when compared to the minus four penalty for killing someone before their 5th turn. Also, eliminating a player is worth +2 points and winning a pod is +2. If someone casts Catastrophe and sweeps the table they still profit. Even with a -2, they earn +6 points for taking out three players and then an extra +2 for winning the game. So the MLD still nets the player 6 points.

This leaves us with a problem for two reasons. The spikes can’t run as rampant as they want, and they are running into a penalty that feel was designed to punish them. I’d be more inclined to adjust the penalty if it weren’t so clear that the rule doesn’t stop them from earning points. Of course, it’s possible to not net +6 from winning via MLD, but even taking out one remaining player and winning is still a net gain of 2 points before accounting for any other achievements.

Continuing to Adapt the System?

Am I being unreasonable here? I don’t think so. The point system was created to slow down behavior that is bad for getting people to keep coming and getting newer players out. It was also created to be simple and effective. I think I achieved that pretty well.

Sound off in the comments! Let me know if you love MLD and I’m a heretic. Or if you agree, or even think I should increase the penalty, let me know why. Or if you just love my afro picture. Let’s get some discussion going. I believe in you!

One last thing, when my first article went up there were people contacting me to send them my point system. East Coast Gamers Points. Feel free to use it a jumping off point for your own systems.