The Tyranny of Equality

The vast majority of games strive for some sort of ‘game balance’ or ‘play balance’, seeking to give each player an equal chance of winning the game. In general, this is a laudable aim, there’s no point playing a game like Puerto Rico if whoever gets to be red always wins.

This isn’t always a desirable aim, it reduces the space of available games to those where all players have an equal footing. I’m going to consider two methods for removing the equality in play, whilst still allow all players the chance to have fun, and to win in a meaningful way.

First off, you can simply assign different win conditions to the various players. Give the white player extra Queens instead of Bishops, but have the Black player win if he is not checkmated or stalemated in a given number of moves. This allows a game that is very obviously unbalanced in the actual play side, to retain balance in the winning or losing, which should mean everyone gets to still enjoy themselves.

Secondly, you could set up an unbalanced scenario, and then allow the players to play two games, once on each side. If one player wins both games, then they have won overall. This requires more care, as you cannot create such crushing imbalances as in the first style of game, unless you also alter the win conditions.

These changes can be applied on a scale larger than two player games, although the first method works better than the second, as the number of games required to be played to ensure overall fairness rapidly becomes large.


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