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spacerGames Home: Review List: Conflict in games

Review categoryMost games have some degree of conflict between players. One person or one team wins, the others lose. Low conflict games can either be cooperative games in which the players pit themselves against the game mechanics or games in which successful play is carried out with little direct conflict between opponents. Successful play in high conflict games requires players to "go after" other players. A player might be able to take a card from another player or move a piece back on a progress track. We might consider high conflict games as "predatory" games. Chess is high conflict. So is Monopoly. In these games, capturing another player's pieces or forcing him to pay high rent fees are necessary for success. Africa is a fairly low conflict game because players operate relatively independently of each other. They do not attack each other, though there is some opportunity for conflict in forced trades of resources.

spacerThink of low conflict games as more "mellow" than high conflict games. One game company, Leisure Time Games, specializes in publishing only cooperative games. In our ratings, cooperative games are rated as low conflict (as opposed to "no conflict") because the conflict exists between the gamers as a whole and the game system.

spacerHigh conflict is not necessarily bad. A lot depends on game design. I personally dislike Monopoly because the conflict seems to have a "nasty" aspect to it. Hard feelings often result when the game is over. Although I don't particularly enjoy Chess, I do like the idea of pitting my mind against the concentration of an opponent. The difference here is in the role of chance. In Monopoly, the roll of the dice determines success. In chess, the sides are completely equal in the beginning and logic and decision making prevail. But high conflict games always carry the possibility of disappointment and resentment.

spacerTherein may be the value of some high conflict games. Children need to experience losing to learn how to be gracious. During the game, children can learn to persevere and do their best even if it looks like they are losing. German games are noted for their uncertainty of outcome until late in the game. Their design often allows someone to catch up by making the right choices. Managing conflict is examined more closely in the Frequently Asked Questions section.

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