Today I was doing some testing of various 3 player formats for FMB. Because I am designing a free flowing wargame it is obviously true that 3 players will be a challenging format as traditionally 2 people simply gangpile one guy and kill him off before going to work on each other. FMB has some things that tend to weaken that strategy because all units respawn at their controller's base after dying so actually wiping someone's army out isn't possible; you can push him back and take his Mines but you can't actually destroy him so alliances between 2 players cannot be as solid as in many wargames. The other main thing that discourages gangpiling is the victory condition; cooperating with an opponent is simply foolish once the third player is behind in score so there is a real in game advantage to backstabbing your 'partner' early on.
The simplest rules version I came up with simply has all 3 players accumulating points as fast as they can and the first player to 30 points wins. (The 2 and 4 player versions require 45 points to win.) It has the advantage of being very intuitive and the strategies are easy to understand even for a new player. If one player is particularly bad it shouldn't be a big problem because the other two players will naturally end up fighting each other more as the bad player falls behind in points. I came up with a much more devious alternative though which was based on around the idea of attacking left. In big group games of Magic this was regularly used to encourage action - the idea is that you sit in a circle and win by eliminating the opponent on your left. In FMB I set it up so that the game ends when anyone hits 30 points but that the winner is the person whose left hand opponent has the *smallest* score. This changes things drastically of course, mainly in the following ways:
1. Alliances are impossible. You cannot team up with an opponent to kill the other opponent because either you are hurting yourself by not attacking lefty or your righty is an idiot for attacking someone whose score he wants to maximize. Everyone is forced to be on their own team.
2. The game feels much less intuitive. It feels very natural to defend your territory and attack anyone who is overpowering you and much less so to throw yourself at the throat of a random opponent. Defending your own territory and preserving your army is of secondary importance which surely has a bizarre feel. I imagine for new players this might be really hard to get used to.
3. One poor player can really mess things up. If a player plays very passively (badly) and simply defends themselves then the player to their left is nearly guaranteed to win. Being able to constantly attack and not defend is an incredible advantage. This does require a pretty determinedly stupid player though, as even if they send one fast unit to lefty's home area to put pressure on the game is probably going to work fine.
The question I am mulling is whether or not a loss in intuitive, straightforward play is worth a gain in 'theoretical game perfection' whatever that means. From far away I really like the idea of attacking left and it certainly feels unique but the motivation of the wizard/general we are roleplaying seems strange indeed.