A cohabitive game[1] is a partially cooperative, partially competitive multiplayer game that provides an anarchic dojo for development in applied cooperative bargaining, or negotiation.

Applied cooperative bargaining isn't currently taught, despite being an infrastructural literacy for peace, trade, democracy or any other form of pluralism. We suffer for that. There are many good board games that come close to meeting the criteria of a cohabitive game today, but they all[2] miss in one way or another, forbidding sophisticated negotiation from being practiced.

So, over the past couple of years, we've been gradually and irregularly designing and playtesting the first[2] cohabitive boardgame, which for now we can call Difference and Peace Peacewager 1, or P1. This article explains why we think this new genre is important, how it's been going, what we've learned, and where we should go next.
I hope that cohabitive games will aid both laypeople and theorists in developing cooperative bargaining as theory, practice and culture, but I also expect these games to just be more fun than purely cooperative or purely competitive games, supporting livelier dialog, and a wider variety of interesting strategic relationships and dynamics.

A salve for strife and waste
In these primal lands
It can be found


We all need it

In our formative years, we make many choices, but we hold no power, so most of us don't receive experience in negotiation until we're well into adulthood. Natural experiences of conflict tend to be messy, ambiguous, with high stakes, forbidding free experimentation. It's very much not conducive to learning. So let's make games that foster clear, low-stakes scenarios where negotiation can be learned.

Democracy requires this of us. When we are not taught to recognize acceptable compromise, we wont be able to recognize legitimate political outcomes either. Most suffering comes from that.

A person without negotiation skills will lack faith in the possibility of peaceful resolution of conflict. They will consummate either as an eliminationist, or they will live in denial of conflict, they will hide it, hide from it. They won't have an appropriate sense of when to stand their ground or when to capitulate. The social norms of their cliques will expect and demand passivity, compliance, and avoidance. Conflicts will fester. When conflicts inevitably play out, the less acknowledged, the messier they will be. Instead of words and deals, death or withering and waste. We cannot live together like this.

We must teach negotiation, the graceful reckoning with difference. We must make it fun, approachable and learnable for so many more people. We must enter this uncharted genre and find the fun and signpost it so that it is easy for those in need of it to recognize the fun in it. (That is all good game designers do.)

Theorists might need it too

I also hope that cohabitive games will be helpful to game theorists or decision theorists, to build intuitions about embedded negotiation. Negotiation is reified cooperative bargaining theory, which drops hints about the ideal shape of preference aggregation. It also might be relevant to extortion resistance and averting extortion races.
There's a really interesting open question: Will advanced technological agencies, starting as separate beings without transparent cognition, converge towards merger, or towards war? I think we really might stumble onto a lot of relevant intuitions in our travels through these games.

(Also, I just expect them to be good games, this is discussed throughout)

First to Arrive (Confused, Anxious and Lonely)

Every single board game rulebook contains the line "The player with the most points at the end of the game wins." (MostPointsWins). I don't understand why, and I'm not sure anyone does. MostPointsWins makes every game it afflicts into a zero sum game. Cohabitive games, in contrast, are positive-sum, as is real life. The absoluteness of the payouts (Win or Lose and nothing in between[3]) pretty much forbids negotiation, because it's inherently going to be rare that any two players benefit from following the same plan for very long. If you offer a deal, you must be doing it because it increases your chance of winning, but only one person can win under the MostPointsWins rule, so that deal couldn't be very good for me, and I'll always suspect your deal of being a trick, so in most cases no detailed deals will be offered. That crucial art of weaving agreements that allow us to stably share the world with others is all but forbidden in basically every board game we have.
That probably isn't healthy.

When there's no incentive to make deals, with that you lose an incentive to inquire together and build a true shared understanding of the game within the group. That wedges a hatchet in the head of the social learning process. In contrast, in P1, sharing our understanding of the game was about all we did. That might have had something to do with it being a new kind of game which everyone was very enthusiastic to get to know, but it probably had something to do with the fact that we all had incentives to help our peers to understand what we needed from them and how we'd make it worthwhile for them, or why it would be a mistake to encroach on this territory or that. We benefited from other players knowing more, instead of being harmed by it.

Since learnability is everything, for a game, (and for many other reasons) I expect that cohabitive games will just be better games in general, as it enables far more social learning.

If the MostPointsWins rule is so destructive, why is it so common?
I can think of a lot of reasons, but we'll defeat every one of them:

  • When every gain you can make is a loss for others, it infuses conflict and depth and tension into everything, you're no longer just PvEing against a simple set of game rules to gain points, every point contends with other people, who are just as smart as you, and who learn and adapt to your tricks. There's a lot to learn in that.
    • Interestingly, a lot of eurogames seem to try to separate players into their own little gardens to reduce this! But they'll still have the MostPointsWins rule in the book! It's really odd! I kind of feel like they keep MostPointsWins as an option. An enlightened player is allowed to just chill out and focus on their own game and still have a good time even as others around them are allowed to sweat and race.
    • Ultimately, though, relationships can be much deeper without the MostPointsWins rule, removing it enables open dialog and dealmaking, without forbidding competition. While competition gives you reasons to pay attention to and engage with other players, trade offers way more of that, with probably less stress and tension.
  • Tribal hostility. People don't find it intuitive that we could fruitfully coexist alongside groups with irreconcilably different values to our own, or have a healthy, open dialog with them.
    • In a highly connected world, simply not interacting with other tribes isn't an option. We have to be good at it, and so we have to find the fun in it.
  • It authorizes a common impulse people seem to have to drag others down to make themselves look better. A Eurogame often says, "I know I'm not really thematically supposed to be about dominating others, but I know that you love doing that. So go ahead. I'll give you an excuse by making it part of the rules."
  • If you expect nothing but adversity from your coplayers, if the game requires it of them, then you wont be mad when they do it.
  • It makes it easier to teach the game, and that is a major factor in a boardgame's success.
    • Full article: The point is not to win (The point is to grow), and I'd recommend reading this if you're interested in games or learning at all.
    • Summary: MostPointsWins is the norm, it's expected, it doesn't have to be explained. It also makes players' play objectives and real objectives pretty much the same ("win"), which dodges a whole paradigm about the purpose of play. But we are skilled and passionate and so we can just explain that paradigm or convey it in the theme and art. It is typical for high quality video games, which are common today, to assume this paradigm.
    • So when introducing a cohabitive game, I ask game hosts to skip explaining the play objective and go straight to explaining the real objective: "The point of the game is to reckon authentically with selfishness and atomization, and then find the social patterns that survive it."
      Or maybe I'll write that in big letters on the front of the game box or something so that they don't have to say it.
      Playgroups who understand that will understand the game and have a good time.
  • Direct violence is the base reality that legal systems address and reflect. So even in a cohabitive game where violence is never the best outcome, it kind of makes sense to start exploring the game, learning it, by just enacting the dumbest violence. So it's inherently difficult to build a coherent game about civic proxies for violence without first building and passing through a game that is just violence, and maybe a lot of game designers just dwell there, because you can find infinitely deep patterns in any adversarial process, and I guess every time your negotiation mechanics break, it reverts to being a game about violence. But we can be more sophisticated, and though the patterns of cooperative bargaining are not natural, they aren't fragile either.

So I can understand why game designers keep doing MostPointsWins over and over but I don't think it's actually good, it seems not fun nor healthy nor lucrative, relative to the alternative. It's just a bad design habit that lines up with pre-existing expectations about what a board game is, which I think people are going to be happy to re-evaluate when faced with novel contenders that actually pull it off and manage to be fun and interesting games.


Peacewager 1.

Each player controls a pair of characters. Every turn, each character can move one space and perform any of its unique actions, which transform the landscape and affect other characters.
Players have a couple of value cards, which describe ways of scoring, depending on the state of the environment at the end of the game. Crucially, players' values are displayed in the open.
Examples: One player might score a point for each remaining forest, another might score for fields (mutually exclusive), and most characters will lose points for the presence of holes in one area or another. And there can be more complex criteria, like wanting forests that are next to other forests, or volcanoes that are next to lakes, or frozen lakes that are next to both a tomb and a mountain.
These give rise to complex relationships, conflicts and alliances, which in turn give meaning to the landscape. That mountain, next to a lake, isn't just any mountain, it's very important to Isla. If you volcanoize it, Isla might have Dean kill your firstborn. (Dean will do what Isla says because she is the only one who can freeze lakes.)

Peacewager 1. A small map.

The game ends after a certain number of rounds. Players must make efficient use of the time they have.

Your goal is to score high, individually. You should be indifferent to other players' scores, they are not your score. Cooperate when it benefits you. Steal when it benefits you. The goal of the game is to reckon with all of the selfishness and atomization that exists and find the sacred patterns of coordination that survive it.

values and abilities.
(there are a lot more than this, but most of them are just cruddy slips of paper with text printed onto them. For those, I found it was surprisingly crucial to put some colors on them to make it immediately clear which terrain types they concern; it's very difficult to form an understanding of the relationships between players and the land, without that degree of visual legibility.)

A challenging cohabitive game should tilt towards tragedy, it should generate visceral examples of diplomatic failure, irrational wars, costly to all sides, until players learn to coordinate to escape it. Uncoordinated action, by default, should tend to be punished in these sorts of ways:

  • Escalation towards mutual destruction. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
  • Wounds on the landscape as a side effect, for instance, there was an ability that allowed one player to subdue one of the other players' pieces, at the expense of creating a hole tile. Holes harm both players' scores.
  • Pyrrhic defeat. A situation where one player refuses to sign a treaty and has to be eliminated by a stronger player. (Elimination is never an ideal outcome for either party. It precludes trade.)
  • Impasse. Examples:
    • In a simple game where San likes forests and Eboshi likes fields, and each has an ability that lets them flip an occupied forest/field tile, causalist players with no means of coordinating can in some cases become trapped in a cycle of flipping it back and forth. Eboshi flips it to field, San flips it back to forest, and so on, until they run out of time. Whoever stops first in the tug of war loses ground. If there's a lot of ground to be lost, and if there was anything far away that they would have liked to have done (for instance, healing holes), they won't get to do it.
    • Where players wish that they could pass each other to access land, but can't trust that the second mover wouldn't kill the first, so their access is restricted.

In P1, players learn that by making sensible agreements they can easily avoid these things. (In future games, I think I'll give the challenge of avoiding these things more texture. More on that later.)

Relationships between the characters of P1 are uniquely rich. The other players are not just obstacles, they're also affordances, you will probably need their help, so try to find something to offer them. Sometimes you won't have anything they immediately need, and instead you'll have something that is wanted by a third person who has something that they need and then things get very intricate.

I think one of the things that made it difficult for new players to connect with the premise was the continuous payout scoring. There wasn't a crisp objective, at the end of a game, the game wouldn't unambiguously tell you whether you had done Well or Poorly, it wouldn't tell you which player was most skilled (because everyone was essentially playing a different game (some goals may be harder to pursue than others, and some characters may be generally stronger, or may score more easily than others)) The game wouldn't even reliably tell you whether you'd improved on your own previous score, since conditions varied so widely between sessions that a mediocre score in one scenario would be impossible in another.
That worked for me, I found a lot of the ambiguity and openendedness of multiplayer outcomes delightful and refreshing, the game didn't tell you how to feel, you had to figure that out for yourself, as it always is in life. (But it is still all clearer than life ever is.)
But I think it's important for learning players to be told what it is they'll learn and how to tell they've learned it. That's what a crisp, binary goal does.
A simple fix for this would be to find a particular score threshold that players will achieve with and only with practice, and tell the player "If you score this high, you've Succeeded (now move onto the next game module)"

I'm very aware that not all numbers will feel interesting or meaningful to optimize, so I tried to make the numbers represent things that people could viscerally relate to, goals like "grow your town", "protect trees", "create habitats for a certian blessed animal", "prevent as many murders as you can" (and the compliment, a novelty character, "do all of the murders").

To facilitate dealmaking, P1 just permits any contract and punishes violations of contracts with the removal of the violator's pieces (death) and the balancing of the violator's score to zero (torture?). On receiving this affordance, we found that we didn't quite know what to do with it, it was too big to swallow in one sitting. In retrospect, it could have been used to instrument systems of extortion ("I hereby enter into a contract where if you do not torch your own mountains, I must kill your elder piece, (otherwise, if you comply, I will not kill it for at least five turns).") I have no idea what I would have done if someone had started using it for that, but no one thought of it! (thankfully?) I remember one playtest session being during an event, and at that event was a particular contract lawyer with a love for shenanigans. I would have loved to see what he would have done with it. IIRC, I don't think I was able to convince him to join on. I should dig into that. The ones who don't show up are often the ones who have the most to tell us.

Would you like to try Peacewager 1?

If you're adamant, message me, and I can give you a copy of the makeplayingcards project and you can have a copy printed.

P1 and P2 could be adapted for very different purposes.

Peacewager 2 Friendly Cohabitive (FC) (provisional title) is being considered for the purpose of gently guiding all sorts of people to let go of eliminationist preconceptions and practice sharing a world vivaciously. No tweak could turn P1 into that, but P1 could be developed into something that is worthwhile in a different way.

Resembling P1, Ritual Cohabitive would be a minimal, probably more abstract stand-alone game for game hosts who already have background in diplomacy. The game would serve a useful ritualistic social function of establishing common knowledge that both players possess an aptitude in good faith negotiation, revealing, pledging that it can be expected of us. Turning the vibe of their interactions up towards confession of difference enabling productive dialog. The sort of thing you'd play a quick round of before penning a deal, or to start a relationship with strong honesty norms. It would be nice for that to exist. P1 could develop into that. I wouldn't recommend it for that yet. Maybe soon. It needs more of a sacred air to it, less bag of parts.
If I focus on this specific purpose, P1 can probably be refined and simplified quite a bit.

Getting cards printed

The cards were printed via MakePlayingCards. I can neither recommend nor disrecommend, they're the first ones I tried, prices seemed good. The print alignment is a bit wonky. Colors aren't very vibrant, but that could just be due to printers and computer displays inevitably having different colorspaces and me not adjusting my graphics for them. The only way you can be sure of what colors you're going to get from a printer is to have them physically send you some test prints.

Friendly Cohabitive. Various thoughts on Next Steps:

  • P1 was a bit of a sandbox of generic cohabitive game parts. I don't know if that can work. It requires players to learn a lot of arbitrary information about random glued together characters before every round.
    • A game designer's job is to find the fun and signpost it, so we should probably hand-design scenarios that're reliably dense with our best finds.
      • I've designed a succession of simple tutorial levels that teach basic lessons like how to avoid impasse, sometimes you have to make an agreement in order to pass by each other, etc, but that kind of thing is way better suited to single-player video games than boardgames, because in a boardgame you have to set up each one of those, and it's not really social, if the game host has been through the tutorials they wont enjoy watching their friend go through them.
      • A better approach might be to design a general scenario generator that's good for beginners and okay for advanced players, then when people are reliably scoring above a certain amount, let them graduate to a scenario generator that concentrates trickier dilemmas.
    • I need to start thinking about specific characters and specific scenarios. For players to care more about the goals of their own player than those of their opponents, they should be distinct and thematically interesting. (EG, the below Moloch, or Miracle Machine)
      • I keep coming back to the archetypes of San and Eboshi from Princess Mononoke. Forager and agrarian, basically. Both sympathetic characters (Yes, there are people who'd play Eboshi :), and if you are reading this, you're probably already on team eboshi irl), despite being in mortal feud. It's a bit difficult, because a big point of cohabitive games is that eliminationism is not the best way for either of you, and at least in the movie, and it was a great movie, seemed like it might have been, so I'd need to rework the archetypes into something less heartwrenching and they could end up being less compelling at that point.
      • I can think of another character we might like. The webcomic Unsounded had a great knave in it, Murkoph, who was just straightforwardly a -… let’s just say he eats people, but he does not hide his nature at all, not for a moment. He’s an honest animal, he's very very hungry, he has no choice in the matter. And it was as if his ancestors did not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he commits evil innocently, like a beast, or a child, he cannot imagine that he'd be caught. So there is no point in yelling at him when he violates whatever he violates. It’s our fault, for not having killed him yet, or for leaving his cage open. He's pathetic, really, his visible incapacity to hold ot a contract actually makes him very vulnerable. Like Parfit’s hitchhiker, he already regrets his inevitable future actions and fears their deserved consequences. He teaches us the weakness of the uncontractable.
  • Nothing unites factions like a common enemy. Having one player who's a clear existential threat to everyone else will remind even very bitey players that they must find balance between pure cooperation and all-against-all deathmatchism. It can give a face to the game's coordination problems.
    • We could just straight up call a common enemy character "Moloch" (moloch is the personification of negotiation failure) and give it powers oriented around sowing seeds of division (temptations, weapons that can only be used to harm our own, disruption of coordination infrastructures). If that won't get players to realize that the real enemy in life is war itself I don't know what will.
    • Another character concept: "Miracle Machine." At first able to offer great riches to all parties as a trading partner, Miracle Machine constantly threatens to take off and grow exponentially. Players will be tempted to make deals with the MM player for a growing array of applications, but they must keep it carefully contained, because MM will never stop asking for more space, and left unconstrained it will inevitably grow to such a size where it no longer needs to ask permission. Push your luck!! :D
      • (Sama turning a big dial that says "capabilities" on it, constantly looking back at the international anti-proliferation community for approval like a contestant on the price is right)
  • Work just as hard on supplementary materials. Documentaries and demonstrations of cooperative bargaining concepts like prisoner's dilemmas, pareto frontiers, and if we can, Diffractor's equivalence. The game is far more meaningful and will probably have much higher skill transfer if the player knows about these things. Maybe do it by fitting these things into the lore. Invite serious play.
  • There was a principle that came up early in the design in P1 but wasn't kept: I wanted to make the game more approachable by making the basic individual goals fairly rich on their own: It should be an interesting little challenge just to get around the environment and maximize your own score within the time available, even when you are alone. This would ensure that players will immediately see that there was a game here, even if they don't have a sense for systematized negotiation. Then the rest of the game would reveal itself as they started to notice other players and how they could interfere, or help. Very early prototypes had this. Each world generation would be an interesting little puzzle. It was cool. It introduced unnecessary complexity, as negotiation is complex enough, even with very simple natural laws, so simple natural laws were favored.
    I'm not sure whether having it both ways is possible here; It requires us to find rules that don't distract from learning in the social context, but which also give rise to interesting challenges in the asocial context. Unlikely. Maybe we should give up on this one.
  • Instead of P1's omniscient contract enforcement system, which may be too open-ended to be learnable, I'd like a study of the practicalities of establishing contract systems using the flawed material instruments of our cruel earth: Fences (good fences make good neighbors), monitoring, arms control, and dynastic marriage.
    • Let us build a strand-type board game, where weapons are more boring than laying the infrastructure of peace.
    • I've heard it suggested that if we got world leaders to dose MDMA together there would be no further wars. I don't know whether that's true, but there's a lot of stuff like that. The compassion drive, ideally, takes your partner's wishes and makes them your own, which would be an elegant way to realize a truce. Social technologies that work in that way — dynastic marriages, mergers, or value aggregation — could be modeled exactly with an item in the game that lets players alter their win condition to include the conditions of other players, tying them together, facilitating absolute trust. In P1, that item was implemented with an ability to simply add another player's score function to your own, which would always result in the user getting a "higher" score at the end, so, these abilities would have to be labelled with warnings about the dangers of wireheading, explaining that there is an important difference between maximizing your score, and maximizing the things in the world that the score describes. This is a subtle distinction, I'm not sure every human cares about it, and I'm not sure how to formally define it without assuming a fixed ontology (which neither humans nor AGI do). So it might not be possible to explain it succinctly enough.
      • But I'll make an attempt, tell me if these thought experiments make the distinction clear:
        • If you initially score for forests, and you're being offered the ability to score on fields as well, which would then make you pretty much indifferent to forests (fields are the flip-side of forests), one who carries the virtues of a survivor would reject the offer, because if they were made indifferent to trees, fewer trees would be saved, and they currently actually care about the trees, so they would like to keep caring about them. Accepting the new scoring rule would change who they are so drastically that it would not be very different to death.
        • If you want your friends to be happy, and you were offered the option of entering a permanent delusion where your friends were always happy, and you no longer had to do the work of helping them and protecting them from the dangers of the real world, you would probably reject that. You care about whether your friends are actually happy, in real life. You don't just care about your experience of the situation, you care about the actual situation, the external reality, how other people are really doing. There is a difference.
      • Taken to an extreme, this would just dissolve the game into a purely cooperative one. It's more interesting in cases where the merger cannot be perfect, or where it's only available between some players and not others, but mostly it will just have to be a novelty.
  • Give some players a binary success/fail goal instead of just a score goal, just difficult enough to be achievable with exercise.
    We may still be able to retain some differentiability here: Clear probabilistic factors in success (eg, items that help only some of the time, which they should collect many of), and the success of the group — the number of players who were able to meet their goals — could be another continuous measure of the negotiation skills of the group.
    • I notice that "More than one person can Win" is much easier to communicate than "You should maximize the expected value of your score rather than your expectation of getting the highest score (and yes those are somehow very different things)". My finding is that as soon as you show a gamer any scoring system, their eyes turn red and they start machinating under the assumption that the MostPointsWins rule is in play, it's close to hopeless.

Cohabitive games that aren't board games

I'm not sure whether I want to keep working on physical boardgames. I actually don't play them very often. But also, digital online games are more flexible in a couple of ways.

There are reasons the physical format is less limiting than you might expect, boardgames are very good. A boardgame requires the rules to fit in the players' head, but that's also just a pretty decent account of good game design: accessible strategic depth, the laws of those arenas of maximum fun, where we can most easily learn to generate complex strategies, must necessarily be able to fit into the player's head. Physical boardgames also require players to physically get together around a table, but that's also currently the only way to get top quality conversations. Both of these things are really well suited to cohabitive games, conversation is crucial, and negotiation is far more tractable when the rules of the world are simple and legible.

But the board game medium is still somewhat limiting. It imposes constraints on board size, setup procedure duration, and cleanup, and upkeep, and the number of calculation steps involved in scoring rules. This all makes it harder to model real systems. Physical presence isn't the only option, too: VR does promise a quality of shared presence and conversation that digital experiences haven't had before. But VR won't be good enough for this for a few years (it's currently too low-res, or too expensive), and I don't expect it to become ubiquitous enough for VR tabletop games to be see wide popularity until a few years after that.

And if we start thinking more in the domain of video games, we can imagine very different kinds of cohabitive games.
A lot of online multiplayer games rest on the appeal of their character design. Think of Smash Bros, Overwatch, or League of Legends. Characters' unique abilities give rise to a dense hypergraphs of strategic relationships which players will want to learn the whole of.
But in these games, a character cannot have unique motivations. They'll have a backstory that alludes to some, but in the game, that will be forgotten. Instead, every mind will be turned towards just one game and one goal: Kill the other team, whoever they are. MostPointsWins forbids the expression of the most interesting dimensions of personality.
So imagine how much richer expressions of character could be if you had this whole other dimension of gameplay design to work with. That would be cohabitive.
This too might have to wait for VR, though. When different characters have such different intentions, where each new matchup adds up to a new game, conversation might be strictly required to collectively make sense of the situation and avoid collapsing into a boring kind of chaos. That would require good voice audio quality. Players wont reliably have good voice audio gear until VR is popular. I'm not sure, though. It might also be the case that since you actually do know other characters' motives, and you can try playing as the other characters, that could foster enough empathy, and explicit communication wont be needed (beyond simple signals like "let's cooperate", pointing, and maybe a system for addressing violations of expectations?). I'm a little bit surprised that competitive character action games work at all without voice audio, from what I can tell (?) they do, so pre-VR short match character cohabitives might work fine as well. (But I don't expect I'll be able to make one in the foreseeable future. Very open to part time roles in collaborations though.)

The development of Ritual Cohabitive, and Negotiable Cohabitive is likely to proceed pretty slowly. If anyone would be interested in developing (or already is developing) a negotiation game of your own, I'd love to know you, and I'll try to support you! Join the element chat and we'll get started.

  1. ^

    The name was introduced by screwtape. I decided it was a better name for the genre than the one I was using before, and I've signed on with it.

  2. ^

    It's true, as far as I can tell, there really are no other board games like this today. There are semi-cooperative games, but all of the good ones happen to be hidden motive games, where players' unique agendas are kept secret (Nemesis), which makes negotiation unlikely to occur.
    I think there are eurogames that can be played as if they were Peacewagers (please reply if you can think of any that work perfectly with the MostPointsWins rule removed), but the ones I've seen were not designed for it and they don't encourage or support it. It really seems like I'm the first to turn up. I'm not feeling triumphant about that, I am feeling more, confused, anxious, and lonely about it.

    There are some video games that might qualify, games like Ark or Rust, but they tend to collapse into factional eliminationism and negotiation dynamics tend to be blighted with griefing. Motives are usually ambiguous. Negotiation comes almost accidentally.

  3. ^

    I've heard objections like, no, losing isn't a zero payout, there's better and worse loss outcomes: coming second is better than coming third, losing by a hair is better than losing by a lot. I guess that is valid. I don't know how many players see the MostPointsWins rule this way. It's still presented as zero-sum, though. So finding that most resilient peace in these games is still going to be impossible almost all of the time. 

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Marvelous! I loved board games when I was young. Then I stopped liking them when I decided they didn't usually foster interesting conversations. I think you've identified why that is. I've encountered just a couple of games with a cooperative/competitive dynamic.

One is The Bean Game, Bohnanza. It does have the most points win rule, but we played so everyone was interested in how they placed. We also relaxed the restrictions on card trading, at first by not remembering that rule. A remarkable thing emerged over sessions: the most generous and kindest player tended to win. People wanted to be generous back to them. They did more trades, so had better card sets.

Your game here seems marvelous. I particularly love the idea that the players aren't balanced, so you can't compare scores. This makes game design vastly easier and allows more creativity in tinkering with abilities, etc.

I want a copy!

I also think this could be commercially successful; a polished version sounds like it would be aesthetically pleasing, and the tag line of "teach your kids to negotiate in potentially adversarial situations" would be highly compelling for parents.

The pitch you've given is highly compelling to me as a rationalist, so I think you'd sell some to the rationalist community if you could get it even decently manufactured.

I have also found this with Bohnanza; although the rules say that the most points win, my group has always made it a faux pas to actually count points before the end of the game. Everyone plays to maximize their own score, rather than to beat the opponents, and it is definitely the case that people who accept "bad" trades tend to do better than people who walk away from the negotiating table. (At the same time, people who can instead negotiate the "bad" trade into something better do the best of all.) I would say that Agricola (by the same author) and its spinoff Caverna, also have the opportunity for positive-sum trades if you play to maximize your own score rather than to beat the other players; I expect the same is true for many/most other worker placement games. In those games, resources accrue to the board at a fixed rate until someone spends one of their limited actions to harvest them. There are a fixed number of turns, so there is a fixed amount of each resource which is produced by this mechanism. For instance, the 4-wood space in Agricola accrues 4 wood each round for the 14 rounds of the game, for a total of 56 wood. In a game where players are hotly contesting the wood, the space gets harvested by someone every round, so the action efficiency is 4 wood/action. In a game where players let the wood build up and harvest it every other round, the action efficiency is 8 wood/action. Everyone may get the same total wood in the game, but with less opportunity cost.
5mako yass
SU&SD did a delightful review of Bohnanza this month: The Beans Game. I've been wanting to check it out. It sounds like you have a lovely group. Whereabouts are yall located? x) Right? Most multiplayer games just aren't able to discuss power asymmetries, they get boring when they do, which is absurd, games often have these characters like, I don't know, Bowser, who are supposed to be abnormally strong and intimidating, and then they have to remove that characteristic from the character. Yeah, interest among EAs is really high. I think there's a lot we can learn from this kind of game, but I'm always reluctant to focus on the audience at home. The audience who's most aware that they need a thing are often the audience who mostly already has it, I really want to reach the kind of audiences who don't know that cooperative bargaining theory exists, they're really suffering out there.
6Seth Herd
Good points. Then I think you want to market to / pursued parents. They want their children to be good at resisting bad deals, but wise in how they exercise their power over others. I think for adults there's also a huge pitch for this being a new type of game: cooperative and competitive at the same time. Play it your way. (And learn how that works out). You might actually want to make it a tiny bit more competitive to entice people who think cooperative games are dull. It would be easy to put the points on the same scale by looking at average scores of different roles over just a few sessions. There still wouldn't be one winner, but it would make it more of a challenge to improve your own play and play better than others. Challenge is motivating.

Update: I'm polishing up the game assets up a bit so that others can print a copy, and hopefully this iteration will generate workable scenarios more reliably with higher learning/setup efficiencies. Hopefully will be ready in a week. Then I'll get back to everyone who expressed interest in playtesting/developing.

2mako yass
Update: I got derailed by a day-long migraine and couldn't work for a bit, then got side-tracked, and now I feel like there's no use shipping assets without a coherent, approachable game, however small, as a demo, so I'm developing one. Still at the top of my list, but writing and research tasks often intrude. Everyone who's asked for a copy has been added to the list and will be notified when it's a package.

I like the idea of Peacemakers. I even had the same idea myself---to make an explicitly semi-cooperative game with a goal of maximizing your own score but every player having a different scoring mechanism---but haven't done anything with it.

That said, I think you're underestimating how much cooperation there is in a zero-sum game.

If you offer a deal, you must be doing it because it increases your chance of winning, but only one person can win under the MostPointsWins rule, so that deal couldn’t be very good for me, and I’ll always suspect your deal of be

... (read more)
2mako yass
I'm aware of those dynamics, they feel like weeds growing in the cracks in the pavement to me: The situation is still mostly pavement. I think the negotiation allowed in those games is so much shallower that I suspect it'll be a qualitative difference. Hmm, the Diplomacy wikipedia page says "around half of all games will end in a draw". "Draw" isn't a term we'd use in the cohabitive frame, because the entire genre takes place within the varying shades of draws, negotiation is all about selecting between different intermediary outcomes. If a game is just calling all of those outcomes the same name, it's probably not doing negotiation well.
Would a good solution be to just play Settlers, but instead of saying "the goal is to get more points than anyone else," say "this is a variant where the goal is to get the highest score you can, individually"? That seems like it would change the negotiation dynamics in a potentially interesting way without having to make or teach a brand new game. Does this miss the point somehow?
2mako yass
Solution to what. That would be cohabitive, I'd like to play that at least once, but I wouldn't expect it to work that well. 4 of 10 victory points in catan come from criteria that're inherently zero sum (having a longer road or bigger army than anyone else) (I wouldn't know how to adapt those). I'm not sure to what extent land scarcity makes the other conditions fairly zero sum as well. I haven't played a lot of Catan. You'd have to replace the end condition with a round limit. P1 (and the other one I'm going to publish soon, Final Autumn) also just ends after a certain number of rounds, and the only way to pace it well is to make it end 'too early', so that every game will be a study of haste. I don't love it. I wonder if we should try for a mechanic where players have to, to some extent somewhat deliberately build the true peace by taking some actions in the world that freezes current conditions in place/ends the game. I think that could be pretty interesting.
Oh, good point, I had forgotten about the zero-sum victory points. The extent to which the other parts are zero sum depends a lot on how large the game board is relative to the number of players, so it could be adjusted. I was thinking about having a time limit instead of a round limit, to encourage the play to move quickly, but maybe that's too stressful. If you want the players to choose to end the game, then you'd want to build in a mechanic that works against all of them more and more as the game progresses, so that at some point continuing becomes counterproductive...
3mako yass
I like time limits because time constraints are what make negotiation difficult (imperfect compromise), though just having a single shared time limit lets players filibuster. If players have separate time limits it's basically still a round limit, but good point to remember to impose a time limit.
Separate clocks would be a pain to manage in a board game, but in principle "the game ends once 50% of players have run out of time" seems like a decent condition.
2mako yass
In practice what I was going to do was just say that each turn is limited to like 40 seconds or whatever.

I've just watched Disney's Strange Worlds which explicitly features a cohabitive game in its plot called Primal Outpost.

The rules aren't really shown, we just know that it's played with terrain tiles, there are monsters, and the goal is ultimately to create a sustainable ecosystem. The concept honestly looked really cool, but the movie underperformed, so I don't think we're going to see a tie-in game, unfortunately.

But it shows that the basic idea of a cohabitative game is more appealing that you might think!

(No but seriously, if anyone knows of a Primal Outpost knock-off, I need to know about it.)

2mako yass
Oh, are we sure Primal Outpost was cohabitive? Generally if I saw a game like that irl I'd assume it was pure coop. The game lead seemed to think it was. But yeah I get the sense that a game like that should be cohabitive.
2mako yass
I guess I'd design it so that sustainability was a goal for most players (there might be a neartermist player who sincerely doesn't give a shit about sustainability and people just have to reckon with that :}) and then they also each have another individual goal that they had to meet. So part of the game is accomodating each others' spiky diverse needs. It sounds like it was very much supposed to have that sort of vibe, with the Demon Spider and so on.
2mako yass
I think I saw a clip of that, I remember one of the characters being disappointed that it wasn't more competitive and playing it badly? And the game was not prepared for this. And I found it dispiriting and isolating because it reminded me that... basically all of the socially conscious game design friends I've accumulated, if I turned to them for help and asked them how to get players who actually most need cohabitive games to vibe with a cohabitive game, they'd be uninterested, because I'm asking them for tips in talking to the outgroup, and they hate talking to the outgroup. Rewatching a review of Strange Worlds, it does have the same smell, overall. It teaches environmentalism, but it seems to be solely marketing itself to environmentalists. Games are inherently about inflicting change on our surroundings in a bottomless delve into the depths of strategic invention, and yet making a game about reaching a point of stability and stasis does not sound infeasible to me, it's kinda an interesting design challenge. But it bothers me as a propaganda piece, because society should not be striving after comfortable stasis, mere harmony, if we were capable of making such a transformation there would be much better states of harmony to pursue beyond what we can concretely imagine today, and in the real world, that seems to be an important thing to acknowledge, even just to have a hope of addressing climate change. I'm fairly sure there are already problems on our plate that techno-conservative austerity and degrowth cannot solve.

The most fun I've ever had in playing a semi-cooperative game was playing Legend of Zelda: Four Swords with three friends. You all have to work together to beat levels, but players get "medals of courage" for collecting the most "force gems." But the way the game was structured, beating the level was (A) presented as the primary objective, and (B) at least moderately challenging. This led it to feel like a win for the team when we beat the level, and prevented too much sabotaging other players for force gems since that could put the team in danger of losing. But trying to see how much jockeying for medals one could get away with while still beating the level was very fun.

3mako yass
I also played that back in the day, and yes that was possibly the most fun I've ever had in a game. I think something about the fact that it was ostensibly primarily a cooperative goal made it much funnier when a person instead hurled their friend into a pit and pursued rupees. I notice that it's a self-balancing difficulty, players will always push the team as close to the brink of failure as they think they can get away with.


I quite liked this post, both from the perspective of "game design" and "coordination theory/practice." 

I think some of the claims here are overstated – some commenters have pointed out other board games that meet the technical description of cohabitive, and I think there are a fair amount of games that have some cohabitive nature to them (i.e. I think kids playing on the playground, improvising various roleplaying games, often have some of this nature to it). I roll to disbelieve on "Every single board game rulebook contains the line "The pla... (read more)

4mako yass
A board game designer friend said something similar, and I would like to better get to know what draws people to play boardgames, today, I'm in the unserved audience, which both puts me in a good position to design novel stuff, but also disconnects me from what's already there a little bit. I've been concerned that if I have these conversations, in the shape of my questions I'll end up communicating why I don't play boardgames, which would incur the game-philosopher's gravest sin, speaking unexpectedly painful words and ruining peoples' fun... no. It'll be less fun, but I can learn to approach these sorts of interviews in a descriptivist mode, non-judging, at times, perhaps even enabling :/
Was it not obvious that this claim was hyperbole, or do you mean that you disbelieve it even after making allowance for that? Based on my personal experience, this is an extremely common goal in board games.  Additionally, games with different conditions very rarely have "points", so players tend to assume that any game with "points" will also have this as the goal. It's certainly not literally all board games, though.
2mako yass
Parenthetically, what're some examples of that? Most of the games I can think of that failed because the designer wasn't serving players... I kinda doubt they'd have played the game themselves either. They weren't making the game they wanted to play, they were making the game they wanted to make.
The examples that come to mind immediately are mostly from the Magic the Gathering design column (Mark Rosewater's "Making Magic") where he describes a class of designer pitfall when people design sets or cards that are "too clever".
2mako yass
I guess I'll edit it to "competitive board games", IE, every board game that isn't explicitly cooperative, of which the claim is true.
Still seems false to me? Like, it's not even true in Chess, which is maybe the most archetypical competitive game in the western hemisphere. (It's still zero sum, which I think is your primary point, but not all games are about maximizing points)
2mako yass
Something like it is true in chess. Winning or losing is the only thing that matters, there's no nuance, nothing to bargain over. Cohabitive chess would be more like: Players would try to agree to declare an outcome as early as possible to minimize loss of life. Defeat would cost something, but the death of one's servants might cost even more. In practice I guess that would just be chess with more encouragement to try predicting match outcomes in advance, which I certainly wouldn't mind. I think players would still want to play until they're fairly certain of the outcomes, but betting along the way would be fun too. Notably, I don't think Alphazero would be any worse at this cohabitive chess than Absolute Winner chess. It's already constantly predicting match outcomes all the way through.
I agree chess is a competitive zero-sum game, I was just responding to the more specific claim, and just saying it seemed overstated.
2mako yass
Where? I remember someone posting some purely cooperative games, which were irrelevant.
I think I may have misinterpreted some of the other conversations here. Will re-read some of the threads and see if the statement still seems true, meanwhile I'm not particularly standing by it. (I think I'd still bet on there being a fair number of existing cohabitive board games, but not sure how confidently)
I find it amusing that, in response to a post dedicated to fundamentally challenging prevailing paradigms of modern games (y'know, the ones predicated on metrics that invariably narrow into adversarial dynamics), you've, perhaps inadvertently, suggested that OP might be failing by a narrow extrinsic measure of success. Time to abandon the vision and pursue mass-market appeal!
I think if you want a game to change the world, it actually does need mass market appeal. (If he’d phrased the goal less ambitiously I’d be orienting to this differently). That doesn’t mean catering to current mass market whims, but it does mean finding a way to connect to something that people want, even if they don’t know they want it. (But also, this feels like a kinda uncharitable misreading of what I was actually saying. I didn’t say anything about honing in on metrics and following them off a cliff)

omg i just noticed there are 602 semi-cooperative games on boardgamegeek, I'd previously stopped looking after the top 6. I've got a lot of reading to do, and I know that almost all of it will end with disappointment (usually the disappointment will be seeing MostPointsWins again), and the few that don't will be games that, for whatever reason, never got big enough for me to hear about them q,q

Sometimes in games there is the opportunity to disrupt the zero sum aspect and this is fun as it is a hidden differing goal way to play. In both Monopoly and Pit it is possible to collect an anti monopoly: one of each color. This makes the average traversal around the board positive EV.

This is really interesting work, and I hope it will be of value to educating people about negotiation. I agree with many of the things you say here, and many of your design decisions, but I think there's a few minor points where I see things differently.

I think it's valuable to player motivation to give them the ability to track their own performance between games. I think this could look like having a set of pre-designed maps, with a certain difficulty score assigned to each role. Then players could track how well they did against a difficulty score. Havi... (read more)

8mako yass
One issue is that the game before the reveal and the game after the reveal are completely different games, it's too destabilizing or multifarious as a design problem, it's probably impossible to design a game good when people are switching from A to B independently whenever they decide to. Coupling hidden goal semicoop games to peacewagers is probably not a good way to carve gamespace into digestible chunks. But discovering peoples' real motives by looking at their actions is interesting, in the context of the value learning problem. Ultimately, preferences only meaningfully exist in terms of the effects they have on our actions, realized or counterfactual. So looking at action and inferring preferences is an interesting exercise. But another issue is that I'm not actually sure hidden motives can elude the sight of a competent peacebroker. If I ask you why you want a deal, and you try to give me an answer where the math doesn't work out, I notice that immediately. I know you're lying about something, and I say, "try again." You don't get a deal until it makes sense to me. I suspect that in natural situations, or at least any situation in our own future, transparency is a dominant trend, it ends up winning out, and that's good, so a situation where we beg the question, what if transparency doesn't win out, I don't see what's interesting about that. Right, and I don't think it's a good starting point for studying negotiation. How do you learn to go from opaque preferences to exposed preferences if you don't know what the end point is like, if you've never experienced that, and how would you find the motivation to learn it, if you've never experienced the benefits of having exposed preferences. Mm I kind of want the lego of legal experimentation. I want to get to a world where laws can be changed by those who live under them as easily as a gridbeam construction. To do that irl, we're going to first have to reckon with the fact that most of us are not very competen
This actually sounds to me like an argument in favor of the hidden-agenda mode, because I bet most players don't currently have this level of competence, and this might be a useful exercise for training it.
Technically, if you let players make arbitrary contracts, then they can add that themselves, by making contracts along the lines of "I will either freeze that lake within the next 5 turns OR pay you 10 gold". It might be helpful to think of the game as defining the maximum penalty for breaching a contract, rather than "the" penalty.  If the game says that breaching a contract is death, you can say "I'll either do X or skip a turn" to create a lesser penalty.  But if the game says that breaching a contract only makes you lose a turn, then you can't write a contract that will kill a player if they renege, because they'll always have the option of losing a turn instead.
4mako yass
Well, I agree, but... I think it's also valuable to invite players to reckon with ambiguity, but yeah it would be good if there were a reliable scoring system most of the time, but I don't get the sense that's feasible, due to the necessity of having a lot of asymmetry (when means and ends are symmetric, bargaining is trivialized, and it invites the chimeric simplifications of population ethics), and the importance of randomization for exploration, and the boons of not having to balance strength. I think I could get on board with that. I'm currently researching smart contract compute (mainly for self-sovereign identity with key rotation, portable name systems, and censorship resistant databases), and it seems like the most hopeful approaches (EG, Holochain, TPMs) can only provide partial or probabilistic guarantees, breach of contract never becomes totally impossible, and that may just be the way of things in all worlds and all futures, intellectual labor is inherently difficult to check, and the other is inherently difficult to trust, and partial trust may always be more efficient than absolute. And often these breaches, however rare or expensive, can have cascading effects that make them important to study, despite. One approach I forgot to mention here (might edit) was making contracts punishable with a limited quantity of subtractors that you can conditionally point at yourself. So violations have a fixed, agreed impact, instead of being infinite. And they're scarce, which would make it super clear that the ability to constrain your future behavior is valuable.

Here's a cooperation game people haven't mentioned yet: Galerapagos.

The base idea is: you're all stuck on a desert island, Robinson Crusoe style. You need to escape before the island's volcano erupts. The aesthetics are loosely inspired by Koh Lanta, the French equivalent of Survivor.

Each player can do a certain number of actions, namely fish, collect water, help build an escape raft, and scavenge for materials. Each player has an individual inventory.

While it's possible for everyone to escape alive, there's some incentives to defect from the group (eg kee... (read more)

I do quite like your overall idea and background theory here. Having more cohabitive games (sorry, I like that name better) seems probably important.

Something feels off about "just try to get as many points as you can". I don't know if this is just 37 years of competitive-game propaganda talking, but if you give everyone a score, the only way I really have to tell me "how good is this abstract number?" is to compare myself to other players, and that naturally puts me into somewhat of a competitive mindset.

The things that actually put me in a collaborative ... (read more)

2mako yass
I could say that the shared aspiration is to find the perfect compromise together. But it's difficult, I'm not sure when or how to say that. If you say it too loudly, players might not reckon with the real difficulty of that, especially when I'm in the room, I sense people are often more cooperative than is fun for them, or they're too quick to capitulate, breaking the integrity of the simulation.
2mako yass
This would be ameliorated by the presence of obvious and interesting power asymmetries. A nice opening would be the power imbalance between steppe people and serfs. The serfs and their lord might be stronger in some sense, the future might be theirs, but they can't get rid of the steppe people, they can't extend their rule so far from their center, or even really interfere with them very much. So they have to coexist well for the time being. Or, for instance, making one character a utility monster. No particular reason, just crank up all of their score cards, depict them always smiling. Let players realize they cannot "beat" Lucky Felix and that they do not need to.

These three cooperative games don't give players a hidden agendas:

  • Pandemic
  • Forbidden Desert
  • Forbidden Island
9mako yass
From what I understand, they're all purely cooperative, right? Hm it sounds like individual players can die in forbidden island. One player will tend to care more than others about avoiding that, so it could be a place where a dash of conflict could be mixed in, but I'd guess that unless the game designer was deliberately shooting for it, the conflict would never express, other players would seem to be just as sad about the loss as the deceased, or the deceased wouldn't have had an opportunities to do anything selfish to avoid their death.
There are tons of cooperative games with no hidden agendas, but in a pure cooperative game all players have the same goal so there's no need for negotiation.  All interests are mutual; anything that truly helps another player always helps you as well. This makes them useless for exploring compromise.  (Except insofar as players have true goals that are different from the game's official goal.)
The big problem faced by cooperative games without hidden agendas is that they are fundamentally solitaire games. Imagine four people playing chess 'as a team' with the following ruleset: * Player 1 controls the King and Queen * Player 2 controls the Bishops and Knights * Player 3 controls the Rooks. * Player 4 controls the Pawns. * Each turn, choose one player.  That player may move one of their pieces once.  Then, your opponent moves. It's easy to see that the way to play this if you want to do well is simply to have whichever player is best at chess take over, and tell everyone what to do.  This is an unfortunate position for a 'cooperative' board game to end up in, though.
2mako yass
You just made me intensely curious as to what happens to chess if you let people move more than one piece in per turn. In this case you're allowing a move per four different categories. What if it was just the pawns and the bishops. (What if it was every single piece at once?)
2mako yass
Huh, I'm surprised to find that I didn't explain this in the post. Yeah this is the reason I don't think cooperative games are going to be as fun as cohabitive games, although it has a pretty simple patch: Stop playing to win. (I talk about how to enjoy cooperative games in this)
Two more that don't have hidden agendas: * Spirit Island * Chinatown

You don't need VR for board games, you just need to transfer the entire board game into a user interface, which very doable since board games are 2D. That said, Tabletop Simulator is a full physics-based board game playing environment, often played on desktop.

I think Among Us (though competitive) has shown that voice chat is all you need. Alternatively, you can lean into limited communication channels as a source of conflict, like Hanabi

1Sinclair Chen
If you have any skill at software, I actually think it is very simple to prototype simple tabletop games demos with any conventional web stack such as nextjs + firebase. My brother has done it before

Hum. The existing games that most make me think of this approach/style are

  • City Council (semi-cooperative city management game. Still falls to the MostPointsWin rule because only one player gets elected mayor, but you do need to coordinate throughout in order to keep the city from collapsing into crime, pollution and/or taxpayer flight. I bought this game with the intent of playing it with my kids in order to teach them the sort of social coordination concepts you cover above but I think what you've outlined might be better from that perspective)
  • Dead of Win
... (read more)

I'm glad I encountered this post! This comment is a bit of a brain dump, not much time taken to edit: A month or so ago I attempted a first pass at designing a semi-cooperative board game and it ended up having some pretty similar elements. I got bogged down in a complicated-to-work-in mechanic that allows games to become arbitrarily large which I won't go in to. I'm not attached to owning any of the ideas I was trying to work in and would love to see somebody do something clever with them (especially if I get to play better games as a result).

The most int... (read more)

3mako yass
Ah, yeah, things can get quite boring towards the end of a game when it becomes increasingly clear who's likely to win, allowing people to change sides or increase the randomness, at that point, may be a general way of dealing with that!

My favorite cohabitive game (in case you have not already thought about it) is hacky sack. Its the team against entropy. Not as directly parallel to diplomacy but still great game. 

2mako yass
To be cohabitive, it would have to reckon with competition between players as well. Perhaps a player will sometimes jeopardize the session by trying to showboat, hogging the sack for themselves at the risk of losing their streak somewhere where no one else will be able to take over it? (Not really, right?)
1Joshua Clancy
Thats exactly how I play hacky sack lol.

So imagine how much richer expressions of character could be if you had this whole other dimension of gameplay design to work with. That would be cohabitive.

4X games and engine-building games have a lot of that. For instance, in Terraforming Mars, your starting corporations will have different start bonuses that radically shape your strategy throughout the entire game. In a 4X game, you might have a faction with very cheap military production that will focus on zerg-rushing other players; and a faction with research bonuses that will focus more on long-... (read more)

The "every coal burned contributes to global warming, past a certain cap everybody loses" approach is not going to work in an otherwise competitive game. Instead, it will create a race to use up the coal budget as fast as possible so that your opponents can't benefit from it. Citation: Twilight Struggle
2mako yass
This raises an interesting view. There's no reason it should do that, but if you give it to an unprepared group of competitive boardgame players, that is how they would be have. It wont occur to them that they should start the game by creating a coal rationing tribunal with material enforcement mechanisms. Bad norms would breed bad norms. Probably, the player who broke the norms most often would tend to get ganged up on and lose, but it is hard, even, for experience, to overcome a bad social norm.
I meant "get players to cooperate within a cooperative-game-with-prisoners-dilemmas", yes.

Interesting post. One small area where I might have a useful insight:

A lot of online multiplayer games rest on the appeal of their character design. Think of Smash Bros, Overwatch, or League of Legends. Characters' unique abilities give rise to a dense hypergraphs of strategic relationships which players will want to learn the whole of.
But in these games, a character cannot have unique motivations. They'll have a backstory that alludes to some, but in the game, that will be forgotten. Instead, every mind will be turned towards just one game and one goal: K

... (read more)
2mako yass
I can imagine some readers just responding "roleplay, you're describing roleplay". Ray Doraisami brought up ttrpgs, but we agreed that conflict rarely exists in them. My guesses at the reasons were: - Compelling roleplay requires everyone in the room to buy into the same story or else the vibe will shatter? - It's too difficult for players to keep any sort of secret, because peoples' interactions with the world are totally mediated by the DM, and everyone can hear the DM. It might be much easier to do if there were more than one DM and people could go into separate rooms sometimes.   I might describe digital cohabitives as a multiplayer roleplaying games but with thematic incentives. Characters and their different incentives wouldn't just be stories that players are entertaining, they'd be codified in the scoring (leveling?) system, which may in turn be used by the matchmaking system to cohort out bad roleplayers.

I'm reminded a bit of the Discworld Ankh-Morpork game, where the players can be pursuing entirely different (secret) win conditions that only partly intersect with each other (drawn from a set of 3 cards with "gain control of X territories", and one each of "place at least one minion in X territories", "put X territories into a state of conflict" "accumulate X amount of money" and "finish the deck of cards without any other player achieving their goal")

But it's still a single-winner game where you have to be alert against other players potentially reachin... (read more)

3mako yass
Ahh, though not a peacewager/cohabitive, this sounds like it might be interesting to me, it sounds like these are the sort of goals that will pretty reliably tend to be exposed a while before the end of the game (like it's going to be hard to miss that one player is a freak for money/expending cards), so the game isn't really hidden goal, it's more like it's allowing goals to be hidden temporarily for spice? Doesn't it seem quite absurd that a game about ankh-morpork would end with a unipolar order (that the game would be single-winner)? I dunno. I guess the ankh-morpork vibe and character could probably survive any transition of power, the thieves' guild will still exist and so on.
You usually do get a reasonable sense for what each player is pursuing by the end of the game, but it can be somewhat muddied by there being instrumental reasons to seek to control areas, make money, cycle your cards in search of better ones (etc) even when it's not your win condition. A devious player might take some overt actions to make you think they're pursuing a different goal than the one they've actually got. Or at least keep you guessing. On occasion I've ended games with wrong beliefs about what the other players were aiming for.

Have you looked into new angeles? Action choices are cooperative, with lots of negotiation. Each player is secretly targeting another player, and wins if they end with more points than their target (so you could have a 6 player game where the people who ended with most, and 4th and 5th most win, while 2nd, 3rd, and 6th lose.)

2mako yass
Hmm isn't that a situation where the the number of people who will win is normally distributed with mean n/2 when people don't know who's targeting who, but under transparency you could reliably have n-1 people win? (By picking one scapegoat, then allocating points to people in ascending order from the one who must beat the scapegoat, and then the one who must beat them, and so on, until the one who the scapegoat was to beat?) I often get the sense that these games are broken for enlightened players, the way to win is to coordinate, but the game implicitly communicates that you're not supposed to, which is so wrong.
Sounds like this should be true for the group as a whole but not necessarily for every individual in the group.  That is, a coordinated group could make 5 out of 6 players win, but Alice might believe that she's a very skilled player and personally has a greater than 5/6 chance of winning if people play "normally", and thus believe it's in her personal interest to discourage coordination. This still implies that someone is making a mistake, because the players can't all have >5/6 chance, but it doesn't require that everyone is making a mistake. (Also note it should theoretically be possible to assign probabilities of being the scapegoat in such a way that every player is at least as well-off as if you hadn't coordinated, but that doesn't help Alice unless she can convince the rest of the group to actually assign her that probability.)
2mako yass
I'd like to try this game, but it's extraordinary that they managed to make a multi-winner game that is still all about outscoring others.

I approve of this.

I have several thoughts.  I think I'm going to try writing several replies to myself here, so people can discuss (& vote on) them separately.  (If you find this objectionable, I'm willing to consolidate.  I also considered making each a top-level comment but that feels spammy.)

Idea:  If you made this a computer game, you could use leaderboards or XP or something to encourage players to focus on the correct goal. There's a risk that players will act as if the MostPointsWins rule is in effect, even if the game says otherwise. But lots of computer games nowadays have "meta" rewards that accumulate across multiple plays.  You could use these to help overcome reticence (or confusion) regarding the game's intended goal. Difficulty:  If you're not careful, this may encourage players to play lots of fast careless games rather than putting a lot of effort into a few games.
2mako yass
Difficulty solution: Maybe they only get to play one (scored) game per day. This also makes that game more exciting. They get to decide when to play their scored game (non-scored game might be called "casual")
Issue:  Lots of players have immense trouble wrapping their head around non-zero-sum games. I've discussed the idea of non-zero-sum games a bunch of times on various Internet forums.  Some people seem to find it interesting.  A lot of people seem to find it confusing.  Some people are openly hostile to entire concept. My current model is that most people have defined their mental category of "game" in such a way that "zero-sum" is part of the definition.  If you hand them a game-like object that is not zero-sum, they will either tell you that the game is defective, or they will "auto-correct" the game to "what you probably meant" and then have a very confusing conversation where they think you don't understand how your own game is played. Several people have gotten very zealous, and claimed that they are being virtuous by refusing to follow a non-zero-sum goal.  (Because the goal of ANY game is to win, you see, and "winning" can ONLY mean beating the other players.) One person--who had a technical background and seemed both intelligent and reasonable in my other interactions with them--read my example of a rule that might appear in a hypothetical non-zero-sum game, and told me they felt like the hypothetical rulebook was trying to trick them about the goal of the game. I've had several conversations with game designers where someone says "I like trading games, but all my favorite trading games only work with 3+ players, can you help me make one that works with only 2 players?" and I say "it would have to be non-zero-sum" and then either they refuse and keep holding out for some other option or they find some way of confusing themselves into thinking they've made the game non-zero-sum while still keeping the MostPointsWins rule. I find this immensely frustrating. The rise of cooperative games over the last ~15 years suggests it's possible to push the boundaries on this, but it seems like almost everyone has responded by creating a special distinct category onl
I find this response quite odd, because my experience playing complicated board games is that usually only about half the players are actually trying to win, and everyone else has set themselves some weird other goals. For example, in a big complicated civilization development game I played a while ago I remember one point where one person made a "dumb move" which obviously cost them points on the basis "but I have been collecting these science cards for 2 hours and I am more invested in finishing the set that than the game itself", meanwhile their is a war negotiation happening over the table where one player is saying "can we just stop attacking eachother, these fights aren't even helping you" and the other one says "Nah, I just want to defeat you in a war, not so bothered about how the rest of the game goes".  In any sufficiently complex world players actually pick their own objectives, and track score only half-heartedly at best. It can lead to arguments. Their is a game called "Lords of Xidit" which has a really interesting score system. Their are 3 different mini-games. At game start a random order is determined. At the end of the game you go through the three mini-games in that determined order, and for each one eliminate the remaining player who is lowest in that category. So eventually just one of the 4 player remains to be crowned. The reason this game leads to arguments is that, the rules tell you that you either win or loose, so are presumably supposed to aim to win, however - players (rightfully in my mind) can see that one person came second, the last to be eliminated. The problem is that as soon as one person gives up on first and starts playing for second, they can completely ignore one of the three mini-games, which gives them a lot of extra umph to throw around the other two. If someone aims for second: they get it, and in doing so they very likely change which of the other players comes first. Leading to the person who was doing well to get anno
Our observations aren't necessarily in conflict. Both are examples of players ignoring the official goal of the game to do something else; the fact that some describe the something-else as "winning" and others describe the something-else as "not winning" might be a red herring.  Just because a player is willing to chase some weird goal they made up themselves doesn't mean they're willing to chase some weird goal that the game assigned to them. Alternately, if you're seeing half the players don't care about winning and I'm seeing 10% of the players piously declare their loyalty to "winning" (regardless of actual rules), well, that only adds up to 60%; we could both be accurately describing different sub-populations.  (Don't put any faith in that 10% number; my actual data is "nearly every discussion thread on this topic has at least one person advocate this position" and I have no reliable way to turn that into a percentage of all players.) I mostly think these are different sub-populations, but I don't believe the sub-population you're describing is as large as 50% of the market; I suspect you self-selected to write a comment about them because they're over-represented in your play group.  Also I suspect many of those players only act like that in certain types of games. From a sales perspective, I'm more concerned about the larger subgroup of players who are confused by weird goals than the smaller but more vehement subgroup who outright defy them.  Nonetheless the second group may be a bigger problem than their numbers suggest, because they might ruin a peacewagers game for everyone else at the table.  If peacewagers becomes popular then players will eventually solve that problem by segregating themselves, but while it's a weird new thing that no one has experience with, those players may be randomly mixed in and if (say) 10% of players are game-ruiners then they will ruin much more than 10% of games.
Idea:  Instead of allowing arbitrary deals, allow only a few specific kinds of deals, then gradually add more kinds of deals in advanced scenarios. As noted in the post, a system for enforcing arbitrary deals can be used for nasty stuff like precommitment races if players are clever.  Conversely, less-advanced players might not even think of the many ways you'd like them to use it.  You also risk players making ambiguous deals and then disagreeing about whether they were fulfilled. If you start with limited deals like "no attacking each other for N turns" or "I'll pay you X if you do Y" then you can exclude problematic cases, and you can encourage players to experiment with more complex deals (dominant assurance contracts?) when they are "unlocked" because they'll be a shiny new toy and players won't need to invent them. Additionally, this might make it tractable to have a computerized version with AI players, which makes the game much more accessible (and may even help with playtesting/balance if the AIs are sufficiently human-like). Difficulty:  The game becomes much less about players talking with each other (especially for AI). Difficulty:  Players might try to negotiate informal deals to work around the limitations.
2mako yass
Personally, so far I'm just looking forward to this. I'll need to experience it and maybe get bored of it before I'll want to come up with solutions to it x] I think fully general contract enforcement might be something I have to leave in, though, discussed in this reply.
Observation:  There are lots of complexities that matter for real life that you could potentially include in the game, but all at the cost of making the game more complex (and therefore harder to create, balance, learn, play, and distribute). (Some were already mentioned in others' comments) * Hidden goals (that you can make claims about but can't prove) * Random events * Partial information * Secret talks and secret deals, with only a subset of players privy to them * Transaction costs on creating/enforcing deals * Deals with lesser penalties for breaching them * Deals that need to be enforced by the players punishing each other, instead of being magically enforced by the game system * Deals where it's hard to tell whether they were followed or not ...but I think I mostly recommend ignoring these until you have a simpler version working.
2mako yass
Sure. I want to make sure every player experiences a perfect, utterly indisputably mutually agreeable deal, at least once, to find the way, to know that it exists. That requires a simple game. And then we can add things. I don't think I know when and how fast to start adding convolutions. There's a minimum rate, a steady ascent, where players understand every step, which generally feels good to players. I'm not sure whether it's really optimal for learning.
Idea:  Have players play a scenario, then tell them at the end how many points is a "good score" for each role in that scenario Putting all goals on the same scoring scale helps players understand how well they're doing, but also creates preconceptions about what trades are "fair" and makes it easy to focus on who has the most points.  Additionally, it would be difficult (and perhaps not desirable) to ensure that a given goal is equally easy to achieve in all possible match-ups. If you put players on different scoring scales, and then tell them at the end of the game which scale they were on, then players still learn about their performance when the game ends, but they'll still need to figure things out for themselves during the game. Unfortunately this still requires the designer to figure out what score actually IS a good score for every role in every scenario, which is probably a lot of work.

New SU&SD review of a negotiation game: Zoo Vadis, a game where players have to make deals to secure the votes of others and progress upwards. It's MostPointsWins, of course, but there seems to be a second tier goal of becoming a star animal, that can accommodate more than one player.

For online cohabitives, you have to ask how you make agreements binding. People will be less honorable with strangers, especially if you take advantage of the linear returns of persistent score to model utility payouts.

We talked a bit about having temporary recording and arbitration processes for contract violation reports. Obviously, that has a bit of overhead, in implementation complexity and probably as an ongoing running cost.
In many cases, players might be so familiar with the rhythms of the game that it isn't necessary for the contract system to be s... (read more)

I have thought some about making a cohabitive card game, where people’s utility functions are randomized in the beginning. There is definitely a problem where you play, and complete the game, and have no clue how you did. So you feel less of a sense of accomplishment.

After thinking about this a bit, I think a good solution is to have two games with identical utility function distributions played at the same time, and players must try to beat their causally isolated counterparts.

I know of at least one game in which instead of there being only one winner, there is instead only one loser...

1mako yass
Is the game you're thinking of Posting to Lesswrong
No, it's this one.

If you're adamant, message me, and I can give you a copy of the makeplayingcards project and you can have a copy printed.

I'd be really curious to try it, but I don't have a group for it. Maybe an online session of some sort could be organised? Heck, we could probably whip up a crude multiplayer version of it to test it.

Another interesting possibility is the oncoming ACX meet up. I don't know if I'll manage to be there but last time there were "unconference" style tables and it would be easy to organise a few playtesting sessions if they're short enough (less than 1 h).

2mako yass
What tools? Boardgamesimulator might do. I also wonder if just making a bunch of physics objects (or non-physics objects that you can just position in the air) in vrchat would be adequate. (I've been reluctant to do this myself because both of these frameworks for virtual interaction seem doomed to me and I don't want to have to learn anything about them) Definitely happy to provide assets if you wanna do that. I wish I were capricious enough to fly out just to playtest it at a big ACX meetup, I would have such a fun life. Alas, I am not so fun. Really what business do I have being a game designer. Someone else must make the game.
Well, I didn't mean you should fly to London if you live elsewhere, but if we know of interested people (I could do this myself, I just am not sure if I would have the time as I'm out of London until right before ACX) someone could take it upon themselves to print the cards and bring them. Sessions get proposed unilaterally. Either works, though as you say, these are paid tools of limited flexibility that might not be worth investing into. With a bit more time and effort, if you're interested in the long term, I feel like I could probably code this in Godot Engine without much hassle. I only need to figure out the multiplayer code but I hear it's easy. Similarly, it should be doable in the browser using front end technologies. It could be worth thinking about as having a framework to playtest online would make it easier to gather all sorts of groups with less constraints.
I presume you're not planning to program the part where the game enforces arbitrary contracts, because that would definitely be a bear. I've programmed some digital board games and I'd say the work breakdown is roughly 15% rules of the game, 40% user interface, 30% networking, 15% infrastructure/misc stuff like options and account management.  Board games tend to have pretty simple game logic but digital board games get bitten by all the supporting stuff that doesn't scale with the complexity of the game. If you reach a point where you're interested in some high-level advice about how to structure the code for a digital board game you could message me.
I mostly mentioned Godot because I hear that the netcode is very easy to implement and test. I think boardgame.io with the experimental P2P extension could also be an option. But yes, depending on their complexity, goals and scores may be best left to the evaluation of the players.
I didn't mention goals and scores; I mentioned contracts.  Understanding that the player gets 1 point per forest and -1 point per hole seems to me like a reasonable thing for the software to do.  However, understanding that I've agreed to freeze the lake at coordinate X within 5 turns but only if you first create a forest at coordinate Y within 3 turns, and having the software automatically kill me as soon as I violate this agreement, seems extremely hard, because it requires defining some sort of contract language that players can use to input what contracts they've made.  I'd guess that's at least several times more work than everything else in the application combined, and I'm not sure whether it's even possible to make it sufficiently user-friendly for typical players to be willing to use it.
2mako yass
[social technology designer mode activate] Could be addressed by just recording contract agreements for a bit (which would definitely be helpful either way) then arbitrating later in a community moderation process if there are disputes. Could result in some players getting alienated but if it's a small fraction who were horrible to play with anyway, might be tolerable. (insight: If it turns out that neither player was specific enough about the contract for a resolution to be possible, and they still took it to arbitration, they can both be subjected to a mild fine) Normally I'd reach for a subjective system so that the trolls can keep playing with people they're most compatible with, but that would... complicate... the meaning of points (fully subjective/pluralistic credits seems to be an immature design language, at least, I don't speak it), and if this does create enough fractures in the playerbase that we'd need to consider this, we should probably rework a lot of things until it doesn't.
Are you going to pause the game while community moderation happens?  If it's an asynchronous, one-move-per-day sort of game, that might be acceptable; if players were hoping to complete a game in a single session, probably not.  But if I understand correctly, the game literally can't continue without at least a provisional decision on whether the contract was broken, and there's probably no fair way to apply a decision retroactively (without rewinding the entire game-state to that point). Seems like community moderation would let you ban persistent trouble-makers, but probably not salvage the game in which a dispute occurred. Also:  "recording" contracts has pretty different implications depending on * Whether players just talk about what they want and then agree, vs taking the additional step of converting informal agreements to formal language * Whether that discussion happens via text, voice, or video If players are discussing in video chat, and you want to be able to record contracts without players needing to push a button that says "we're going to recite the exact formal agreement now", then you're potentially recording a continuous video of every player for the entire length of the game just in case something later becomes a topic for dispute.  This probably raises concerns about performance and privacy.   The closest system to how I imagine a face-to-face board game works is probably something like:  Everyone has the ability to kill themselves, and players are trusted to use this ability if the group agrees they violated a contract.  This has the side-effect that any player can basically unilaterally ruin the game for everyone by refusing to do so.  In a face-to-face board game this doesn't much matter because players already have this ability (you can just physically grab the pieces), but online games often operate in a lower-trust environment where this might be a more serious issue. The obvious-to-me patch would be to let players kill anyone with
2mako yass
I don't expect disputes to be common (among the kinds of people who are interested in learning cooperative bargaining practice) A simple approach would be for the recordings to be kept on the players' computers for a day (maybe signed by the server during play to make falsification more inconvenient), and they submit them to the server if there's a dispute. People you talk to online always have the ability to record you (did you not know this) so it's not a real concern. (There's no need to record video)
I thought you had aspirations to make games like this a popular entertainment rather than just a specialist training tool.
2mako yass
Ah, note, most of those cases mention a hopefully reduced need for explicit agreements. In other cases I imagine more constrained tools for coordination; fences, and so on. It might be interesting to build a contract system where players can formally propose 'trades' as a set of machines that will actuate when accepted, but it would be fiddly, so good faith verbal law is much more approachable where available. But in the video game context it might make sense to just get into simulating actual legal systems?
I don't really want to get into a deep discussion on privacy issues, but this seems frighteningly casual: While that is certainly technologically feasible, IANAL but I believe in many cases that would be illegal (without your consent) due to wiretapping laws. Ignoring that, people could reasonably feel OK about their conversation partner having a recording while not feeling OK about some third-party game company having a recording. Even if they are OK in principle with you having a recording they may have nontrivial expectations about how you're going to safeguard that recording.  (Do your employees have the capability to browse these recordings for fun, without receiving an arbitration request?  Can players use false arbitration requests to trick you into revealing recordings of other players?) People might feel OK with the community looking at recordings of their contracts to arbitrate a dispute but not feel OK with the community looking at other stuff that was said during the game. Some players of your game might be minors and not considered legally competent to consent to stuff. If you actually made this recording system with the philosophy that "privacy is not a real concern" I think you'd be inviting a scandal and in extremis could maybe even go to jail.

My finding is that as soon as you show a gamer any scoring system, their eyes turn red and they start machinating under the assumption that the MostPointsWins rule is in play, it's close to hopeless.

Point numbers are only meaningful in context. I wonder if you're giving people points but not giving them anything to compare to, so the only option is to compare to the other players? Maybe give people some targets to shoot for, like 25 points is good, 50 points is great, 75 points is amazing (and calibrate them so it's basically impossible to get the mid- and high- scores without cooperating).

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3mako yass
That's a good thought but it's already in the article.

The LessWrong Review runs every year to select the posts that have most stood the test of time. This post is not yet eligible for review, but will be at the end of 2024. The top fifty or so posts are featured prominently on the site throughout the year. Will this post make the top fifty?

Impressed by the ideas and also very much by the writing. Nice!

What a great read. Best of luck with this project. It sounds compelling.

This is really cool to see. I've had a design in the works for a mixed-motive strategy game ever since I read The Strategy of Conflict a couple years ago, but it remains on the "Later" pile for now. I'm glad to see someone else exploring this niche so I won't have to break too much new ground. 

There are many fully cooperative board games, where all the players work together to win or lose as a group. There are many partially cooperative board games, which can only be won through cooperation and negotiation. There are many competitive games for 3+ players where it is common for two players to make strongly mutually beneficial deals, especially when the third player is currently winning. There are many competitive games that run multiple rounds, where placement in each round matters, not just who gets first place, so negotiating to end up in secon... (read more)

But these do not involve bargaining or compromise, because all players are aligned.  (They may involve strategizing about which goals to prioritize, but this is not the same thing.) Based on my experience in the board game hobbyist community over a number of years: * Games that describe themselves as partially-cooperative are a very small percentage of all board games * They have a reputation in the community for being terrible * Mostly they are just typical MostPointsWins games except that there is also a possible outcome of "everyone loses" * Their payout functions are often so loosely defined that players cannot even agree on whether they are zero-sum or not (and then players get mad at each other because each of them thinks the other is intentionally throwing the game).  In particular, it is usually not clear whether "everyone loses" is different from a "tie", and if so how. * My model says that approximately all of these are designed by people who are interested in the partially-cooperative story but aren't particularly paying attention to the strategy of the game That said, I surely haven't played every game in this category.  I'll add my name to the list of people who would be interested if you can point out specific games that do this for real and do it well. Yes, but with the possible exception of some games from the previous category, these are all zero-sum.  This really colors things quite a lot. Typically these games are primarily about convincing your enemies to attack each other instead of you, which in turn is primarily about misleading your enemies about how well you're doing.  (I've found I can get a surprisingly large advantage just by pointing out every time something goes badly for me, fueling a subconscious impression that I'm not a threat.) These can be viewed as a single long game that is still zero-sum.
I'm not a board game buff, but I think their critique applies to video-games as well, where I feel much more confident asserting that there is a dearth of such games as do not fall into some sort of zero-sum or adversarial paradigm. Where they do not, they are increasingly strapping on extrinsic reward frameworks that are almost equally harmful to effectance motivation in the sense of being diametrically opposed. I too would be interested in any examples you have to the contrary, mostly to see what you think constitutes a contradiction here. This is a pretty undernourished subject and the way that people think about these concepts is often fuzzy to the extent that it's worth exploring common definitions before exchanging conclusions.
2mako yass
I doubt most of these "many"s. If you've seen more than one of all of these things, you're using very different discovery channels than I (or most people) are. You're welcome to name these games if you wish to substantiate your claims. I've played them. The agreements made in such situations tend to of poor quality.
fully cooperative: Hanabi, The Crew, The Captain Is Dead, Pandemic partially cooperative: Red November, Betrayal at House on the Hill (original and Legacy), Dead of Winter, Gloomhaven competitive [...] strongly mutually beneficial deals: Catan, Diplomacy, 18XX (and almost any other game where players own stock in each other's positions) competitive [...] placement in each round matters: Power Grid, 18XX,  competitive [...] not usually permanent alliances are critical to victory: Diplomacy, Twilight Imperium (all of them), Cosmic Encounter These are just the ones I've played in recent memory. I'd wager I can name 20 games in each category, with some overlap like above, with more time to think and research.
2mako yass
(I'm aware of most of these games) I made it pretty clear in the article that it isn't about purely cooperative games. (Though I wonder if they'd be easier to adapt. Cooperative + complications seems closer to the character of a cohabitive game than competitive + non-zero-sum score goals do...) Gloomhaven seems, and describes itself as being a cooperative game. What competitive elements are you referring to? The third tier is worth talking about. I think these sorts of games might, if you played them enough, teach the same skills, but I think you'd have to play them for a long time. My expectation is that basically all of them end with a ranking? as you said, first, second, third. The ranking isn't scored, (ie, we aren't told that being second is half as good as being first) so there's not much clarity about how much players should value them, which is one obstacle to learning. Rankings also keep the game zero sum on net, and zero sum dynamics between first and second or between first and the alliance have the focus of your attention most of the time. The fewer or the more limited mutually beneficial deals are, the less social learning there will be. Zero sum dynamics need to be discussed in cohabitive games, but the games will support more efficient learning if they're reduced. And there really are a lot of people who think that the game that humans are playing in the real world is zero sum, that all real games are zero sum, so, I also suspect that these sorts of games might never teach the skill, because to teach the skill you have to show them a way out of that mindset, and all they do is reinforce it. This category is really interesting, because the alliances expire and have to be remade multiple times per game, and I've been meaning to play some games from this category, but they're also a lot more foggy, the agreements are of poor quality, they invite only limited amounts of foresight and social creativity, in contrast, writing good legislation in the real

War of Whispers is a semi-cooperative game where you play as cults directing nations in their wars. The reason it's cooperative is because each player's cult can change the nation they are supporting. So you can end up negotiating and cooperating with other players to boost a particular nation, because you both get points for it. 

Both times I've played people started on opposite sides, then ended up on the same or nearly the same side. In one of the games two players tied. 

There is still the counting of points so it doesn't quite fit what you are going for here, but it is the closest game I know of where multiple players can start negotiating for mutual aid and both win. 

In the same vein, I'm wondering if you could modify Carcassonne to work as a Peacewager. The game seems to lend itself to it (after all it's about cooperatively shaping a landscape) so having a slight redefinition of individual goals might work.
2mako yass
Hmm if there's a lot of high quality negotiation that would count for something. If you removed MostPointsWins, would it still function?
1Drake Morrison
Maybe? I've not played it all that much, honestly. I was simply struck by the neat way it interacted with multiple players.  I think it could be easily tweaked or houseruled to be a peavewager game by just revealing all the hidden information. Next time I play I'll probably try it out this way. 

Competition is bad! Ooooh thats going to get some goats. Competition is only legitimate when there are true shortages of necessary things, in other words when times are in crisis. This does occur in nature obviously and we as humans have observed it.  A dog will indeed eat a dog but only in extreme conditions.  The problem is that we then optimized and structured civilization in favor of that behavior. 

Humans do not need that kind of motivation in order to do all of the wonderful things we are capable of. Competition elicits all of humanitie... (read more)

2mako yass
Situations where people make conflicting plans tend to result in net harm for all as the plans collide and fail, and stupid things happen, instead of any of the plans. This doesn't require scarcity, it's orthogonal to it, you could have war without scarcity (WW2, the contest over Taiwan), or peace despite it (Witness a community in crisis, look around for cannibalism, you mostly wont see any of it), war just requires coordination failure, which often correlates with scarcity, as a society with no trust or rule of law will have difficulty gathering investment for large projects and growing wealth, and a society with great wealth will tend to have stronger information workers, journalists, accountants and legal systems. But the direct causal factor is not the wealth. I want to agree that conflict in that sense, the waste, is just always bad. But, we don't have to be idealistic about it. Sometimes we really do lack coordination infrastructure, in which case we have to accept that there's going to be conflict.