I played a new 4 player game today. Strangely enough I am not confident of the exact name of the game but I believe it was called factory manager, and if not then at least factory manager is an apt name for it! In the first 2 turns I wasn't exactly sure how things would play and I ended up being about 6-10 dollars behind Ziggyny in points and was fairly sure there was no way to make up the difference unless he did something really foolish. When the game ended at the end of turn 5 I lost to him by 8 points (276-284). The game was quite enjoyable generally and seemed well put together but it distinctly lacks a way for those who end up at an early disadvantage to come back into the game barring a serious blunder by the person in the lead. Obviously someone who leads early and plays flawlessly should have at the very least an extremely high chance at victory but it felt bad looking at our respective positions and noting that they were nearly identical except his was just a tad better.
This makes me wonder how much of a comeback mechanism a game needs to be enjoyable. In Settlers of Catan for example it is absolutely trivial for three players to crush 1 player who gets an early lead; they could simply refuse to trade with him and stuff him at every opportunity or they could just hand all their resources to one guy and watch him win the game in no time. The problem with those sorts of situations is it becomes all about politics and convincing people that your game position is worse than it is so they spend their time beating down on somebody else. I have played Settlers games where the entire game boiled down to two loud, stubborn people arguing about which of them was in the lead and the other 2 players refused to play the game again after that. On the opposite extreme is Dominion, where in many games the players interact in virtually no way and it is often nearly impossible to actually do anything about a person who is running away with the victory. Clearly some people really like games where they have tremendous flexibility to get together and stomp the leader flat and some people hate it but I think there must be some kind of middle ground where you have some control over other players but you can't simply take them out of the game entirely.
I think the easiest example of that middle ground is Puerto Rico, though I am very biased here since it is one of my favourite games. You can certainly rain on somebody's parade if you want to and make the game more challenging for them but you absolutely cannot remove their ability to play nor can you guarantee that you both lose on a whim. If you have 3 strong players and players A and B decide that they are both playing for A to win and C to lose they will certainly succeed but at the very least C will always feel like he is playing the game and getting things done which is much better than Settlers played against a team.
FMB does not achieve this middle ground that I am talking about unfortunately. Just like Settlers if A and B decide to gangpile C and refuse to back down from that then C won't have much of a game. I feel like I succeeded in that if everyone is playing to win then C should never be out completely because the A and B should backstab each other as soon as a substantial lead over C is established and C should have an opportunity to come back. I figure in any freeflowing war game there is no way to prevent an alliance of players from crushing a single player if that is their goal but at least I made comebacks possible and made it optimal to break alliances fairly quickly. Perhaps it isn't as structurally impregnable as Puerto Rico is but given the genre of the game I think it is excellent in this regard.