No, this is not pre-game smack-talk as the next games day for my chaos warband draws closer, but rather the distressed cry (with proper hot tears) of my tired four year old at the end of our first ever game of "Key to the Kingdom" this evening.
There's a slightly bizarre bit of text in the "quick game" rules that seems to say that the finder of the Key needed to seal the Demon Prince away for ever (in this game, my six year old) takes another player of their choice out of the magical kingdom as well, implying a joint victory. It was well past bedtime by this point so I played up that aspect so that there would be cheerfulness at the end of the game and the day.
No. Such. Luck.
Now, I know that overtired 4 year-olds aren't the most rational of creatures on the face of God's green Earth, but it set me thinking. Even if I was fudging the rules slightly to wrap things up, this might be the only kid's game I've played with them where it's possible to have more than one "winner". Why is this? And why do we expect it as the norm for games of any type? In sport it's fairly obvious - one person/team scores more points, goes further, get there first - but one of the things I like about the general Oldhammer mentality is that simply by participating fully, each participant "wins". Now, I don't mean this in some sickeningly over-saccharine, wet-liberal, "prizes for everyone" sense that leads to the attempted banning of any competitive undertaking in schools (bleeurgh!). More that I have a gut-feeling that a combination of "I got to do something really cool/characterful/heroic/humorously unsuccessful in that game" and the interest supplied by asymmetric victory conditions makes it a better game. A win-win situation, in fact!
I wonder if that (partly) explains the success of Heroquest and the RPGs it draws its heritage from (all the players against the villain - group victory as the goal). There's also Reiner Knizia's "Lord of the Rings" game which is all the players against the game mechanics themselves, and others of that ilk. Then there's scenario-led gaming which seems integral to the spirit that oldhammer subscribes to (not restricted to RT and WFB3, by any means, of course). Could more than one player in a game fulfil their victory conditions? Would that make for a more enjoyable experience for all involved? Now, without risk of failure, there's no satisfaction in success and I love the occasional stomp-the-other-army game as much as anyone, but it's not enough.
Team games ("coalitions" as opposed to "individuals" in game-theory language) allow a sort of joint victory and are more popular (unscientific, personal experience-led claim) than individual games. Even individual games when your results add up with the rest of your team (I'm thinking of the Blood Bowl world cup, here) give part of that sense of shared endeavour.
I'm possibly over-thinking all this, but I was so struck by the absolute insistence that there could only ever be one winner of a game and my instinctive feeling that he was wrong or at least not always right, that I thought I'd blabber it out here.
What do you think?