One of the features of games I often discuss with CyberKev is confrontation, in particular the difference between multi-player games and two-player games. In a multi-player game, I don't understand why people feel the need to attack me, when other people are plainly nastier, smellier, and less deserving of victory. I even have a special T-shirt for wearing to game with CyberKev, as illustrated on Ozvortex's blog. I get particularly annoyed because whenever we play a game where the primary strategy is to attack the leader, CyberKev wins. I don't get how he does that. But when he says "hey, look how well John's doing", what I hear is "everybody let me win". And almost inevitably, that's how it works out. CyberKev should go into politics.
When we discuss this, CyberKev asks questions like "what about two player games? That bastard opponent is picking on you all the time." Um, yes, of course. In a two player game, what is good for the opponent is bad for me, and vice versa. It would have to be a pretty odd two player game to allow a move which was bad for both of us, though I'm sure if Santiago or In The Year of the Dragon were able to be played two player they could achieve it. But generally, if my opponent picks on me in a two player game, I'm not shocked by their meanness.
I've been reading "Hobby Games: The 100 Best" for a few months now, and I was surprised to read a comment in it in the review of Vampire: The Eternal Struggle:
Still, because VTES requires at least three players, with most sessions including four or five, games feel less confrontational than traditional one-on-one trading card duels.Huh? I thought about it for a second and realised that yes, two player games are confrontational. That's kinda the definition. But they don't confront me (just so long as I get my rent money by next Friday). Even when I play squash on Saturday mornings I don't feel like I'm confronting my opponent. We're just doing an exercise which happens to require two people.
I get the impression from what I read on BGG that some people, particularly non-gaming wives, do feel confronted in two player games, even in Lost Cities - the opponent is mean if keeps the cards that you need, apparently. When I first started gaming with Scrabblette she seemed a bit taken aback by how mean I was when I played games, but she soon learned to play like me - to win. To me, it's much more confronting when my opponents have to choose whom they screw over and they choose me - they could have been nice to me, but they chose not to.
I tend to avoid games where hitting the leader is an important strategy. If I'm the leader it's because I'm doing something right. There's some sort of meta-skill related to being able to convince others who the leader is while not obviously being a conniving backstabber that CyberKev has that I don't. (BTW, I'd like to point out that for all of the negotiation / political games CyberKev has beaten me at, he has always always played honorably, and that just makes it more amazing.) I prefer games where you can see what the objective is, and whoever plays best to achieve that objective wins the game.
Being blocked by an opponent is much more acceptable to me than having my stuff taken off me - I guess if I'm going to be interfered with I prefer a subtle nudge rather than a brutal shove. In a great game like St Petersburg, for example, you might block me by taking a card I want into your hand - and that disadvantages you as well, whereas in a crap game like Twilight Imperium III you were in my base killin' my dudez! *MY* dudez!
Anyway, I've run out of ideas for this rant for the moment. Inspire me with your tales of confrontation.