Ties, Damn Ties and Statistics, Part 1

Many modern games offer multiple opportunities to score throughout the game.  In many of these games, points are awarded to multiple players at the same time. This approach creates the possibility of ties.  As a designer, you must be prepared to address those ties.

One way to address tied players is by a divvying-up scheme that shares the points equally among all tied players.  For any designer who’s decided to go with this approach, there are still several different ways to go about it.  Today’s column will focus on these divvying-up schemes.

It can be helpful to have a specific example in mind as we look at each scheme.  For our purposes today, assume that you are creating a tactical area control game.  Players take turns adding pawns to different areas on the game board.  When an area is full, it immediately awards 10 points to the player with the most pawns in the region.  Second most gets 6 points. Third most gets 2 points.  Fourth place gets 0 points.

 

Superfriendly Ties Scheme

In the superfriendly ties scheme, all tied players earn the full points for their position AND trailing players move up into the “unoccupied” positions.  This approach to tiebreaking works best when your intent is to create a particularly friendly game or one which encourages collaboration.

Example: In a scoring region, Ava has 4 pawns, Bette has 4 pawns, Carlos has 3, Derek has 2 pawns.  Ava and Bette are tied for first and get 10 points each.  Carlos is treated as being in second place and gets 6 points.  Derek is treated as being in third place and gets 2 points.

I have also seen this system applied to great result to awarding bonus points to classrooms that employed a gamification model.  Superfriendly ties reinforced the collaborative belief that all students could win together.

 

Friendly Ties Scheme

Friendly ties schemes give all tied players full points for their position but trailing players do not move up into the “unoccupied” positions.  This approach is useful in games that wish to represent friendly rivalries.

Example: Just as in the previous example, Ava has 4 pawns, Bette has 4 pawns, Carlos has 3, Derek has 2 pawns.  Ava and Bette are tied for first and get 10 points each.  Carlos is treated as being in third place because he is behind two players.  Carlos therefore gets 2 points.  Derek is in fourth place and gets no points.

Clever designers have also employed friendly ties in games that feature a backstabbing element.  Imagine a game which gives 10 points to the player with the most pawns in a region and offers friendly ties but awards nothing to players in any position other than first.  I might well find myself exclaiming “Hey! I thought we were going to share that region!” right after you slip an extra pawn in at the last minute, taking the lead and all the points.

 

Compromise Ties Scheme

In a game that employs the compromise ties scheme, tied players split the points for all the positions they inhabit.  This is easily the most democratic of the divvying-up schemes.  This is the scheme I use least because it always seems to lack drama.

Example: Again we have Ava and Bette with 4 pawns, Carlos with 3, and Derek with 2.  Ava and Bette are occupying first and second place.  They each get (10+6)/2 = 8 points.  Carlos gets his 2 points for solely occupying third place.  Derek is still in fourth place and still gets no points.

Example: Suppose instead that Ava, Bette and Carlos each have 3 pawns, and Derek has 2.  In this case, Ava, Bette, and Carlos collectively occupy first, second, and third place.  They each get (10+6+2)/3 = 6 points.  Derek is still alone in fourth place and still gets no points.

Unfriendly Ties Scheme

Unfriendly ties schemes give tied players the lesser points for their positions.  This scheme is particularly well-suited to cutthroat games and to games that encourage tactical action.

Example: We return to Ava and Bette with 4 pawns, Carlos with 3, and Derek with 2.  Ava and Bette are occupying first and second place.  Under an unfriendly tie, Ava and Bette each get the second place award, 6 points.  Carlos gets his 2 points for solely occupying third place.  Derek is still in fourth place and still gets no points.

These are what I perceive as the major ways of divvying-up points among tied players.  If you’ve seen others, please add them to the comments below.  And if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, please subscribe to this blog.  It makes a big difference.

Next time, we will look at award schemes that DO NOT split up the points.  See you Friday!

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