Taking things that don’t belong to you is generally frowned upon in polite society, but stealing from others does find its way into the rules of quite a few board games. I’ve been thinking about this for the past couple of days, because I’m trying to decide if I want to include it as a possible player action in one of my designs.
The concept of one player stealing resources from another player in the theme of this design makes perfect sense, but what concerns me is that it can be extremely frustrating when one player puts a great deal of effort into collecting resources in order to complete a task, only to have another player swoop in and steal them. I know a number of casual gamers that refuse to even play games with that kind of high level player interaction.
While not very common, there are still quite a few games where players can steal resources from their opponents. The robber in Settlers of Catan allows one player to steal a resource from another. There’s nothing that player can do to stop it. We actually created a house rule just to deal with the robber so we didn’t have any arguments with certain players. Citadels and Witch’s Brew have role choices that involve stealing resources as well. Unfortunately, my design demands a certain amount of in-your-face interaction. Players will be scoring victory points by collecting resources from a common pool, and I think it’s important that players can also steal those resources from other players. The trick is to manage how that happens so that players feel like they have some control, which is what I think is really frustrating about some of the other games where stealing resources is common.
One possibility is to give the defending player the ability to block a theft, so if one player tries to steal a resource, the other player could counter the attack. I have also considered the option of a bank or stash where players would temporarily store their resources. This bank would have a storage capacity that was inversely proportional to its ability to defend against attacks, so the fewer resources that a player has in their bank, the more difficult they are for other players to steal. The second option seems more elegant to me, but the first idea might be a little more exciting in terms of player interaction.
What are your thoughts about games where other players can steal from you? Do you care? Do you prefer games that are almost group solitaire, face-to-face action, or something in-between? I like stealing as part of a game as long as I have at least some ability to avoid it. If not stopping the theft directly, then by making sure that I have enough options to avoid putting myself in a situation where the theft can happen.
On Thursday of this week, I will post a review of another of the Spiel des Jahres winners, and that game does include stealing resources from other players. Can you guess which one it is? First clue: Kids love it. I will give you another clue on Wednesday in the comments. Guess correctly in the comments and I will put you in a drawing to win 15 geekgold on BBG. One guess per person!
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