Three teams enter...
March 25, 2010 1:53 PM   Subscribe

Are there any sports where three teams compete on a field at the same time? Perhaps on a triangular field?

Not a big sports fan. I was just wondering if there are any team sports that don't adhere to the usual two-team-matchup scenario.

If there isn't one, how would you design one? Is it turn-based, with incremental progress like American football? On a triangular field with three goals?

What about futbol or basketball or hockey, which seem to be a more of a flurry of activity with the teams playing offense/defense simultaneously? How would it work with three (or more) teams?
posted by battleshipkropotkin to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
To answer your primary question directly, there are several racing sports in which three or more teams compete at the same time. Cross-country running, track relays, and many cycling events come to mind.

I'm not aware of any ball sports in which three teams play at the same time.
posted by robokevin at 2:08 PM on March 25, 2010

At my elementary school, we frequently played soccer and capture the flag with multiple teams. Soccer used multiple balls. Both were, in my opinion, a lot more fun than the two-team version.

Also, this is cheesy, but the new Aliens vs. Predator game lets you play with three teams.
posted by shii at 2:10 PM on March 25, 2010

Best answer: Well, if you start by looking at the battlefield, where a lot of these concepts come from, things get really awkward with three teams:

1. Usually one team of the three ends up being sacrificed or is just double-teamed until they submit. This often happens early on in the game. (Bummer for spectators)
2. Once you have a field designed for three teams, and two teams are effectively all that remain, usually one of those two suddenly has a dramatic advantage unless there is intervention to divide things up fairly.
3. Most massive military concerns in "real" life involve gazillions of competing ideologies, temperaments, opinions, and experience levels. Gray areas. But you STILL end up with these incredibly polar, abstracted descriptions, like "Yankee, or Confederate?" or "revolutionary, or reactionary?" and so on. And bang, you're dead, you Atheist-Catholic-Buddhist-Tory-Yankee-who-hesitated-to-answer.

So we end up liking two teams. Is that a problem? Well, it's just more like the universe itself has an opinion on the matter, and that opinion is:


See also: Light and dark, north and south pole, cold and hot, etc.

BTW: Nothing wrong with having more than two teams -- tons of games and sports and wars do. But in the abstract, things are gonna get whittled down.
posted by circular at 2:11 PM on March 25, 2010 [6 favorites]

Cutthroat billiards is played with three people. Presumably, it could be played by three teams of two people with players taking turns.
posted by halogen at 2:11 PM on March 25, 2010

I'm not sure if this qualifies as a sport, per se - it's more of a drill - but we would play a game called "World Cup" in soccer practices. Two man teams (pick your own nation, of course), multiple soccer balls, and one goalie who has to try and stop them all. If you don't have a ball, you play defense.
posted by caminovereda at 2:12 PM on March 25, 2010

posted by jckll at 2:16 PM on March 25, 2010

I remember reading about a three-sided anarchist football variant, I think it was invented by Luther Blisset but I can't say for sure.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:20 PM on March 25, 2010

Cutthroat racquetball qualifies, though each team is made up of one person. Basically, one serves against the other two, rotating as to who is serving at a given point in time.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:32 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm sure you're thinking of ball sports, but some racing sports involve 3+ teams at the same time. Take cycling, where you might have 20 teams of 8 in the field at once.

You see a lot of alliances of convenience and horsetrading in bike racing, where members of opposing teams will work together. Perhaps the overall leader in a stage race will be in a breakaway with a lesser-known rider. The overall leader wants to maintain his position, but the other guy just wants a stage win. So they'll pull together and the leader will let the other guy have the stage win, while putting more time between himself and the other contenders. This gets complicated for lots of reasons other than having >2 teams.

I suspect if you had a three-time ball game with a triangular field, you'd often see that whichever team is defending—that is, has the ball nearest its goal—is getting hammered by the other two, so there would be a stronger motivation to keep the ball the hell away from your goal. But there's no reason it might not work.
posted by adamrice at 2:32 PM on March 25, 2010

There's a variation of pool I sometimes play called Cutthroat as well - instead of separating between stripes and solids, it's split between ball range 1-5, 6-10 and 11-15.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:56 PM on March 25, 2010

Best answer: Kin-Ball. We played that in gym class in 1980s-1990s Quebec.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 3:06 PM on March 25, 2010

We used to play "cut throat" racquetball in college.

Cut Throat Racquetball

3 Players compete against each other. Standard rules apply with the following exception: One player serves to two players who are both competing against him. If the server loses serve he rotates into one side of the court and plays with a partner against the server. Therefore, the server is playing singles against a doubles team.

posted by Wild_Eep at 3:45 PM on March 25, 2010

A multi-sided game called bladderball was played at Yale for many years. The rules varied. In the years that I played, four teams in appropriately colored t-shirts starting in the corners of a huge rectangular courtyard (one by two city blocks) competed to move the ball to the opposite corner. There were hundreds of participants, much alcohol, a few injuries, and the ball usually escaped the quad to go rampaging through New Haven. Everyone involved then told entirely fabricated stories of victory.
posted by drdanger at 3:50 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have played a (self-link warning) three-player chess-variant called Trichotomy that worked fairly well, although most three player games devolve into "the weakest side determines which of the stronger opponents wins".
posted by AndrewStephens at 3:53 PM on March 25, 2010

Best answer: There's a three-person version of chess in which the players are constantly changing sides. With players A, B, C, the game would go like this:

A white move 1
B black move 1
C white move 2
A black move 2
B white move 3
C black move 3
A white move 4

So A makes white move 1, black move 2, white move 4, black move 5, and so on.

The winner is the one who makes a checkmate move, no matter which color.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:58 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Captain Kirk was forced to compete in a three way game on a triangular field in The Gamesters of Triskellion, but you may only require non-imaginary games ...
posted by Redhush at 5:00 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Paintball? All teams can compete for the same goal (capture a central flag), or can compete on attrition against each other, or...
posted by -harlequin- at 5:13 PM on March 25, 2010

Wikipedia does have an entry for three-sided football, where the score is based on how many goals you give up, not how many you make. Apparently it's popular with anarchists?
The game purports to deconstruct the confrontational and bi-polar nature of conventional football as an analogy of class struggle in which the referee stands as a signifier of the state and media apparatus, posturing as a neutral arbitrator in the political process of ongoing class struggle.
On the other hand they're making a big deal about individual games being staged, so it can't be all that popular.
posted by serathen at 6:07 PM on March 25, 2010

I imagine three-team dodgeball could work well, with a triangular or circular playing area, and multiple balls. Three-team curling would be interesting to try, as well.
posted by oulipian at 6:41 PM on March 25, 2010

In Where's Waldo: The Fantastic Journey there was a fictitious Land of the Ball Players which had 4 teams going at it.

More than 2 teams is hard because you immediately get into allegiances and politics and that sort of thing. (e.g. board games like Risk)
posted by ropeladder at 8:27 PM on March 25, 2010

Best answer: Circular: i will disagree with that statement, there have been many innovative games which have solved the problems with 3 player games. In some way my reply here will also answer the original question - perhaps not with actual physical games, but some game design principles. After all, games are ... an e-sport of sorts. Kinda.

To give an easy example, Catan is often best played with 3 players. It's a simple board game where players compete to build their nation to a certain strength which wins the game. Assuming all the players are playing to win, the strategy goes as such - individually, each player comes to consensus as to which player is the strongest, and the 2 weaker players gang up on the strongest player, weakening him until such point where another player becomes the strongest. Then the alliances switch - because there is now a new strongest player. At any one time, the strongest player in the game will be attacking the 2nd strongest.

The whole game becomes a subtle contest of hiding your true strength, because you never want to be seen as the strongest player. There is a lot of prediction involved. For example, do you attack a player who is weak now but whose position potentially allows him to become a threat later on? The game is often won by players holding back until such a point where they can put their game-winning plans into motion and show their hand - hopefully at which point their rush to the finish line cannot be stopped even with the combined power of the other 2 players.

That was the first 3 player game that was mechanically satisfying to me.

Another 3 team game was a computer game called Guild Wars - they had an amazing format called Altar control. Basically, it's "king of the hill", a 2 minute match in which the team that has control of the hill wins the match. At the start of the match, one team walks up and becomes the defender - the other two teams become the attacker. Again this is achieved by individual consensus - all the teams make an evaluation of the relative advantages of each team, and the most "defensive" capable team sits on the hill. It makes no sense individually for any other team to try to sit on the hill - while yes, they may weaken the more defensive team who now has to play an attack role, they've also disadvantaged themselves, because they aren't as good defensively - thus giving away the game to the last team.

The strategy mechanics work as such - being on the hill conferred certain defensive advantages, but faced with 2v1 odds, they will definitely be forced off the hill within the 2 minutes. That is fine, because as long as no other team captures it before the timer runs out, they would still win. (because they were the last team to hold the hill).

Here is where it gets interesting - once the defensive team is forced out from the hill and slaughtered down to a managable level, the two attackers - previously working together - now become enemies. They are both now in competition to capture the hill, and thus they now turn on each other. The survivors of the defensive team scatter, and with what remnants of strength they have left, they will assist the weaker team attacking the stronger one who is closer to capturing the hill. Again the question of which team is "stronger" is a good one, and will keep switching as the survivors add their firepower alternately to one team and the other, aiming to stop both of them.

Both these games share certain characteristics

- All strategic actions taken can be done without communication to the other teams, even though you may be working together with them. They are always taken in order to maximize your chance of winning. For example, in the king of the hill example, the crucial factor that allows this is that the defensive team once forced off the hill STILL has a chance of winning - so they have to act in a certain way to ensure that they win - by always attacking the stronger team and frustrating their efforts to capture the hill. Precisely because it is a 3 player game, any action taken at detriment to yourself in order to damage one other player out of spite cannot be taken because the last player will come out ahead - you can ONLY take actions which advance your own team if you want to win. This prevents the scenario of one team being sacrificed / double teamed which happens in many mechanically flawed 3 way games. There is no point in attacking the weakest player in any scenario, so weak teams are almost never forced out of the game early and in theory have a better chance of winning than their skill may indicate, simply because they will escape the brunt of most attacks.

- The games are essentially a 1v1 game, if you really want to define it that way. It's always 2 teams against 1, the trick is that the teams are constantly switching sides and only one team can win in the end. So in some sense Circular is right - it is Light vs Dark - as defined in these games, Attacker vs Defender.

- It's mainly a psychological game - if you really are the strongest team on the field but you can convince the weakest team that the 2nd strongest team is actually the strongest, you've just gained yourself a huge advantage because instead of both of them attacking you, you'll both be attacking the 2nd strongest player. But the situation is so fluid that each "state" of ally / enemy combinations may last mere seconds or turns.

Could such a board game or computer game be translated to a physical sports game? It's possible... hasn't been done yet I think.
posted by xdvesper at 8:55 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sort of three-way baseball game:
1944: Baseball supports the war effort with an unusual exhibition game at the Polo Grounds. Presented by the War Bond Sports committee in connection with the Fifth War Loan, the game among the Dodgers, Giants and Yankees swells New York's quota in the current bond drive by $56.5 million.

The crowd of 50,000 contributes $5.5 million to attend, while the Bond Clothing Co. pays $1 million in bonds for an autographed program. The overwhelming majority of the money comes from the city of New York, with Mayor Fiorello La Guardia purchasing $50 million worth of bonds.

As for the game, each team bats six times, plays defense six times, and watches six times in the nine-inning game. It takes a professor of mathematics at Columbia to figure out how to accomplish this. The Dodgers win the three-cornered game with five runs, while the Yankees score one run and the Giants are shut out.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:41 AM on March 26, 2010

43-Man Squamish only involves two teams but takes place on a pentagonal field.
posted by Fezboy! at 12:35 PM on March 26, 2010

It takes a professor of mathematics at Columbia to figure out how to accomplish this.

Baloney. You do it exactly the same way my chess game worked.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:59 PM on March 26, 2010

Baloney. You do it exactly the same way my chess game worked.

It'll be a bit more complicated. You'll want to make sure that each team pitches to each other team the same number of times, each team hits against each other team the same number of times, etc. Still, nothing this lowly mathematics undergrad couldn't figure out.
posted by Precision at 10:18 PM on June 19, 2010

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