A couple of situations have arisen recently where someone said things and/or made 'deals' that they later rescinded when the game state changed favorably for them. In both cases I'd argue that the game state only reached that position because of what they'd said, and that by then taking the actions they did they broke their word and acted unethically. In neither case were there any in game consequences for their actions, and I don't even know what could have happened. Both cases were very distasteful for me, but both are things that could well have happened in a Diplomacy game and would have been hailed as great plays there, and not as cheating in any way at all. So maybe the problem is just with me and my black-and-white way of looking at things. Maybe I need to learn that just because someone says they'll do something doesn't mean they actually will and that I have to analyze a board state assuming they'll go back on their word?
The first one happened in a game of Risk Legacy. It's a Risk variant where you play to 4 points instead of to global conquest, and where you play 15 games in a row and the goal is not just to win an individual game but to have won the most games after 15 are played. In one of those games Pounder established a treaty with someone else to not attack each other. The other person didn't defend that border and left a juicy path to their home city (and a victory point). Pounder hit 3 points from other sources and went for the 4th by breaking his truce. He did it, won that game from out of nowhere, and is in a good position to win the entire campaign thanks to the snowballing effect of wins and the fact the rest of us are unwilling to properly punish him for his lie. I want to lower Pounder's chances of winning a given game, but I'm not willing to significantly lower my own to accomplish it. That would just help Sky win, and we can't have that now can we?
So the moral of that story seems to be that breaking a treaty for a win carries no consequences at all. In fact, it mostly seems like the end result of Pounder breaking a treaty isn't that no one makes treaties with Pounder. It's that no one makes treaties at all. The unwritten social rules of our games have changed to line up with the way Pounder played. So it seems like his play was just a smart one. Treaties clearly weren't something the table actually cared very much about, so his willingness to break them worked well for him.
The second one was in a game of Blood Bowl that I was watching. Brent and Robb were playing and Robb was in a commanding position. Brent was down on men (he had 7 left in play and 2 in the KO box), Robb was up 1-0 and had the ball in an unassailable position. He was able to score trivially and Brent didn't even have a low percentage shot to stop it. All but one of Brent's guys were on the ground and Robb was about to hit the last one. Robb is a methodical player and tends to take the full 4 minutes for his turns. Brent sounded frustrated over voice chat and asked Robb to not waste more time than he needed to. With 6 turns left this request would probably save everyone 15-20 minutes of time. But even in such a dominant position there's lots of things the winner needs to consider:
- Can I prevent my opponent from getting any 2 die blitzes with his guys on the ground? (Important because having guys get hit risks getting them injured.)
- Can I prevent my opponent from getting any 1 die blitzes with his guys on the ground?
- Do I even want to score a second time? Scoring means having to kick off, which means three of my guys are going to get hit. I think the answer is going to be yes almost always, but it's still something to consider.
- If I score, when should it be? Can my opponent score 3 times to win? Can they score 2 times for the tie? Are they so beaten down that I can reasonably score again myself?
- Can I choose who on my team is going to score? Personally I like scoring with 'unlikely' guys like the agility 1 saurus on my Lizardman team. 6 of my 8 touchdowns on that team have been scored by such players. (You do this to level up important guys since scoring a touchdown is a key way to earn experience.)
- Should I foul someone? A successful foul on a good player will often change some of the above answers. I could totally see fouling a dude and then scoring fast if it works and stalling until the end if I got kicked out because the difference in player numbers will have a big impact on my odds of scoring the third touchdown versus their odds of scoring twice.
Robb was going to end up taking a lot of time thinking about these things (and probably more). Brent didn't want to sit around while he got dominated. So he told Robb straight up that his plan was to leave all his guys on the ground. If somehow his one standing guy stayed standing he was going to dodge around until he fell down too. Robb has been on the receiving end of some brutal games (my Skaven beat his Dark Elves up pretty badly recently) so I imagine he felt a little sorry for Brent. No need to prolong suffering in people, especially if it might drive them away from the game. So Robb stopped thinking about most of the positional stuff. He decided to score with his Ogre (after a little pressure from Sceadeau and myself) and tried a risky hand-off. It failed and the ball ended up in a somewhat vulnerable position. But that shouldn't matter, because Brent was going to just pass his turn...
Nope. Brent stood a guy up and went for a 1 die blitz in an attempt to get at the ball. The ball was in a vulnerable spot, but only because Robb didn't bother spending time to secure the location first. Because Brent asked him not to waste time. Brent justified his play by saying he only told Robb what his plan was, not that he'd promised to go through with that plan. Now that the game state had shifted (it was now entirely plausible for Brent to tie the game) he didn't feel like he should be tied down with his previous statement. And given the board state at the time it's absolutely right to try to get the ball and score. If Robb had made a catastrophic misplay then absolutely you should pounce on it. My problem is that Robb didn't really make a catastrophic misplay. He played quickly to do Brent a favour. Is there really a difference between the two? For me there is, but maybe that's a greyer area for other people.
It ended up not mattering since Brent's 1 die blitz resulted in an attacker down result. Robb then took the time to set up better positioning and went on to score with a blitzer instead of the Ogre after several handoff attempts to the Ogre (closer to the end zone) failed.
Will there be consequences from this one? Maybe the metagame should shift the same way the Risk Legacy one did, with no one giving their opponent the benefit of the doubt. But I think Blood Bowl is such a relatively long game and causes such intense feelings of despair in some people when they get into a bad spot that going skate to throat on them isn't really a good idea. I've had people say they were just going to end turn with all their guys on the ground in the past, and they've done it, and I think it was good for the health of the league that I let that happen. So I hope things don't shift to prevent that from happening. On the other hand, if I ever get Brent into such a situation I'm going to assume he's just playing possum and plan accordingly. He's shown the willingness to ask for mercy and then stab for the win if it becomes viable. Which is an awesome trait for a Diplomacy player to be sure, but maybe not so good for a Blood Bowl player who might actually want mercy at some point.