This week, collaborative points in a league system. Over the past couple weeks (as of writing this), my local game store has been testing two different point systems. It has been a little less than successful; the current challenges are around the amount of points earned in a game and the awards actually being used.
We hit a problem with the number of points people are earning. What typically happened was a player who won the pod frequently had more than nine points. For some reason, when someone is able to win, they took out every other player. Since you can earn points for taking someone out, and for being the last person standing, the winner typically had quite a lead compared to the rest of the table. We even had games where the winner scored 12 or 14 points while everyone else in those games scored under four points.
Fix One: Changing a few point values
This was relatively easy because I held onto every point sheet we used. I was able to see that the winners were getting way too many points from finishing off the last player. So I changed the winning point down to a +2 rather than +3. It isn’t a huge change, but it will help make a difference in most games. Another issue we encountered is that a few awards still require too much bookkeeping to be tracked and used conveniently. One of my goals for this system is simplicity. Bookkeeping and simplicity are bigger enemies than White Knight and Black Knight. So I had to tweak the verbiage on a few points. I like short and streamlined terms, but greater clarity for all players is a higher priority for creating a good point system. I want anyone to be able to drop in on a Sunday and understand how we play.
Fix Two: Clarifying language
Again, another easy fix. I went over the list to make sure that everything was clear. I noted the few awards that players asked the most questions about and fixed them. It was mostly taking outside advice. I had been too deep into it because I created the document and knew what it should look like. I was seeing it for what should be, not what it was. The final issue was when people were being jerks. “What happens when Card X and Card Y are out and General One attacks Player Two with Equipment A?” “I don’t care! Figure it out.” Seriously, it was like a few people at the store had a challenge to see who could theorize the most convoluted scenario that would screw with the point system. So I’ve created a new rule: the next person who asks me what happens when three or more obscure cards interact with the point system gets a punch in the face.
Honestly, why is using a point system so difficult? I told everyone it is to promote better games and create a unified idea of what we want to see. I’ve included feedback, made changes, and done a lot of research. Why do people want to cause issues? I hope I don’t need to use the face punching rule, but I’ll be damned if I let another person ruin my fun by asking what happens when 18 pages of errata interact with the point system. Go ask Kaka. He’s good at the insane interaction stuff.
Fix Three: Breathe
As much as I want to punch someone, it is likely a bad move. Legally and for the East Coast Gamers. So, I’ll breathe and walk away. Or just tell them to stop trying to break the system. Or maybe just punch one person to show everyone else I’m serious about the pointless questions. It’s still a work in progress.
Awards Being Used
The next major challenge is the awards that are actually being awarded. We hit a few snags with implementing the point system. Killing players generates a lot of points, the cooperation points are being neglected, and we need to add a few awards for things that can occur during games. The awards being used, compared to what I wanted to be used, are not lining up as well as I hoped.
One potential issue is that killing players is extremely powerful for earning points right now, especially with the extra points for winning a pod. However, I don’t know if lowering the points is the right move. Eliminating players is very difficult, and I don’t want to cheapen that. Additionally, one of my goals is to promote games that don’t require point farming. If the points awarded for removing players is lowered, I think it encourages durdling with the hope of gaining points without ending a game. That is not something I want to promote.
The next issue is with awards not being used—the cooperation points. I cut a couple of the extraneous things that require being excessively benevolent to an opponent. The cooperation points are something that people have avoided. In multiple games, not one of them was achieved once. However, there were a few strange cases like killing a Krenko, Mob Boss in response to a terminate so the general wasn’t tucked (good guy Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter). If a few more things like this occur, the cooperation points will need some tweaking.
For these points, I am really hoping that some people will pick up the sense of fun. EDH is a casual game at its heart, so I want to encourage some more sportsman like behaviors. Ideally the store will also support great sportsmanship with some small prizes, so people will play together rather than against each other.
Ending idealistic rant now.
The final issue with the current point system is that some fun stuff wasn’t being rewarded. This was an easy tweak, and will hopefully help with addressing some of the disparity between game winners and everyone else. For example, controlling 10 or more creature tokens with the same name. I saw this happen a few times only for the next player to cast Mutilate and bin all those tokens. Now the Mutilate was needed, but the token player should still have been rewarded for having so many tokens that were the same.
Adding a few new ways to earn points helps demonstrate the types of games to be encouraged. I don’t like hardcore combos but penalizing them is unfair. Instead, I would rather reward stuff that makes games more awesome like the award “Straight” being given to a player to control 5 creatures with sequential power. This is likely to run right into a sweeper, but making it happen (or incidentally earning the point) makes a good story. The good stories are things I want to see more. I have had a few players clamoring for awards they would like to see, but giving someone a point for casting a board sweeper in back to back turns isn’t exactly promoting a dynamic game.
Theming the Names
I’ve mentioned before that my local game store is a used video game store (they are even working on getting some more arcade style games). I think promoting some of that culture would be great for the store. When I could think of a good reference, I changed a name to reflect a video game trope or popular and beloved element. This is not necessary by any means, but I think it makes the awards a little more fun. The trap with theming the points is can be easy to lose clarity. As one of my main goals, I had to be aware of when I was making an award more convoluted because I was trying to be clever. I’m not that clever, and I often resort to puns. This does not promote clarity! Even if the pun is glorious, put it down and use a title that people will understand.
Where We Go From Here?
With the point system looking a bit more stable, it’s time to start focusing on evaluating how easy it is to use. This will be a bit trickier, since I can’t just look over the point sheets and see what players scored. I’ll start with talking to the players and seeing if any of them have a great idea. From there it will be finding a good way to ensure the point system can become something more seamlessly incorporated. However that will take some time, so the next article is likely going to focus on some of the metagame challenges that I have already witnessed with testing of a point system. Of course if I hit another problem, that makes a more interesting topic and I’ll jump on that rather than avoiding challenges or finding the best method of implementing the actual point tracking (paper, electronic, a big whiteboard, whatever).