The Rookery

Madeline's thoughts on social deduction games, forum/community meta, and any other philosophical musings

Prev «  1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  

Recommend
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Randomness and Fragility

msg tools
No mountains, no valleys
badge
Never argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you on experience.
Avatar
Microbadge: Crosswords fanMicrobadge: Taboo fanMicrobadge: I record detailed playsMicrobadge: I helped celebrate BGG Werewolf's 10th Anniversary!Microbadge: Ice Cream lover
Relatively simple co-op and/or solitaire games need to have some level of inherent difficulty, or it won't be interesting if the decisions are trivial and you can win every time. Some games avoid the "relatively simple" criterion to the point that even if perfect play were possible, that would require too many decisions for normal humans. Other games make it so even the best players can't win every round. In Klondike (Windows Solitaire), the best telepathic player who could see all face-down cards would only win about 82% of their games. The win rate for an optimum non-psychic human is estimated to be at least 43% (see Wikipedia, which is hard to link to because of the punctuation), which is...a wide range of uncertainty!

The fact that a game can have a high percentage of draws that are immediate losses doesn't make it an inherently bad design. I've mentioned that I enjoy the solo-player version of Chrononauts, even though it's easy to construct unwinnable opening hands, and very easy to stumble into unwinnable mid-game positions. (Well, it is for me.) Its redeeming qualities include a humorous theme (and the potential for retheming), the more chaotic multiplayer game it's a variant of, and the fact that there aren't a lot of solo games competing with it in my collection.

But this kind of inherent "fragility" is, on its own, a negative. And that's one of the reasons why I'm not as enthusiastic about The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine (a co-op trick-taking game) as other buzz I've heard. After one play and not all of the various difficulty levels, it's pRoBaBlY tOo EaRlY to kNoW if I dislike it, but I wanted to share a more skeptical take.

Some hands are just hard. People who like the game say "it makes even losing fun," but is that because each round is so short it's easy to try again? I feel like if a multiplayer game had that level of swinginess, it would lead to sentiments of "this is a bad game because I should have won, but I just got this terrible hand." Instead, because it's a co-op, it's "well now you can all share in my unlucky frustration," which...isn't necessarily a good thing.

Even the easy rounds are a lot of, hmm, stalling? Sluffing to try and manipulate the lead so the person who wants to take tricks gets in a better position to take tricks. Which is the point, of course, but if I'm going to sluff a bunch of hands I think I might rather be playing Oh Darn or Euchre or Spades or some trick-taking game where every card matters.

I'll cut Die Crew some slack and say that the "you can only communicate thiiiis much" (say, for the "healthy/sick" nil bids) is probably fine, but when you're stuck with teammates who bend the rules and/or completely forget what the thematic flavor is supposed to indicate...

But I think a lot of people who like it actually do like the "stare at each other awkwardly and try to read minds like "The Mind"" aspect, which, I do not. I've said lots of times that part of the fun of social deduction games for me is witnessing the failure of intuition/emotional deduction, because it gives other people a chance to experience something I do on a less-fun basis. But losing in "Die Crew" doesn't feel like a failure of communication, it just feels like a bad draw. If I don't feel like I'm playing any better when I win then when I lose, then why am I playing?

--

The other solo game I enjoy besides Chrononauts is Star Realms, but I've recently put aside the physical AI bosses for the online version. After defeating the first two (non-expansion) chapters of the AI "campaign," I've dipped my feet in the 1v1 world. So far, just beginning my journey in the BGG play by "forum" league, which is cool.

And then there's also the weekly "arenas," where you get 2-7 free games a week. A lot of these feature expansions that the base game doesn't, so that's my only familiarity with those. Some of them seem to both increase randomness and make it "easier" to aim for a goal? Like, the asymmetric Mission setup gives each player three secret goals, moderate bonuses for completing each of them, and reaching all-three is an insta-win regardless of the score. So that changes the basic incentives, and makes it easier to strategize early ("okay, I want a lot of cards with ally abilities...") even in the midst of new and unfamiliar expansion ships. But it also feels like, my opponent could reveal a completed mission next turn and surprise! I have no idea what to do and how to stop it!

Still fun though, especially when I can go at my own pace.
Twitter Facebook
8 Comments
Tue Jan 7, 2020 1:51 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
11 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide

Teaching, Theming, Thinking...

msg tools
No mountains, no valleys
badge
Never argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you on experience.
Avatar
Microbadge: Crosswords fanMicrobadge: Taboo fanMicrobadge: I record detailed playsMicrobadge: I helped celebrate BGG Werewolf's 10th Anniversary!Microbadge: Ice Cream lover
I recently moved some distance, and I was lucky to have my brother help out with the move-in and hang out for a few days. I invited him to suggest one of my games if he wanted to learn. "You know what game I miss? Risk," he said. (We didn't actually complete a lot of games back in the day, but mass-market popularity+young boy with dreams of world domination=Risk.)

So anyway, he found Ticket to Ride and I started summarizing it--building from point A to point B, etc. He glanced down at the map. "So...it's kind of like Risk!" I didn't disagree, figuring the game itself would disillusion him if anything.

Instead, despite the lack of certain Risk mechanics, he loved it! Quote from the second game: "I’m sorry I’m taking so long, it feels like doing calculus in my head, but it’s really not that hard." And he also did a lot of defense, choking off important one-length routes which is a viable strategy in zero-sum mode! At one point he started humming "Midnight Train to Georgia" under his breath, and then--coincidentally--built one to Atlanta laugh We were amused to find that there was also potential for Georgia connections in Pandemic (home of the CDC) and TtR Legendary Asia (Tbilisi!!)

Since he left here, he's apparently bought his own copy, beat my parents at it, and now his girlfriend is in our hometown and she also enjoys the defensive approach. My mom: "did he teach you that?" Her: "no I just figured it on my own." So at least they can enjoy being cutthroat together.

*

The verdict on Pandemic was "it's good but it's no train game." Fair. Less positive was his analysis of Keyforge. Partly I think it's hard to teach without a set of tokens to indicate damage, coins, etc. But also, my experience teaching it to other (mostly very bright) people has been difficult. I'm wondering whether I assume too much familiarity with "modern" board games? (But I'm not a collectible card gamer, and I picked it up just fine.) Whether it would be better to play open-handed the first game, which is how I learned?

Some of the difficult spots include:
-artifacts versus actions; once you put an artifact into play, you don't get its power immediately, you have to wait for another turn of that house to activate it
-you need to put creatures in play at the end of the line
-when does the turn end, once you draw up to a new hand of six you can't keep going (this sounds like it should be very easy to get right, but people blank out!)

The flip side of that is, precisely because it's so complex for a beginner, it's easier for me to pull punches (not steal all their gold with Shadows, etc) and hopefully give confused opponents a somewhat good experience. Whereas in Ticket to Ride, I was basically all-in from the beginning, and my brother was still able to get up to speed quickly and win a good portion of the games. (I mean, maybe I'm just bad at Ticket to Ride and the experience gap doesn't significantly matter for a moron like me; I don't think that's the case, but it's a theory worth pointing out.)

*

Now that he's out of town and I'm slowly re-discovering how to find my way around via transit, most of my gaming has been solo. I got a cheap copy of Chrononauts and have been exploring its solo mode, which is a decent puzzle. There are a lot of "interdependencies"--like, once I've played an alternate history patch such as "The Mild Recession," the only way to get a perfect win is to send every character who needs that card home before dealing with ones who need the true 1933. But before I can deal with them, maybe one of them has true-1995 and I've already played the 1995 patch, so I have to deal with that guy first...I guess I could offer some up and just play for 6 or 7 out of 8, but who does that.

The reason I dug the game out is not so much because I care about 20th century USA military history, but because I realized it would be pretty easy and more fun to retheme to a fictional RP-world setting. That called for doing a bunch of spreadsheeting and trying to keep all the linchpins/ripplepoints "isomorphic" to each other, even if their relative order got screwed up slightly. (Like, in Chrononauts, the only consequence of 1937 is 1950, and most of World War II comes in between without affecting either of those cards. But you technically do need to make sure they end up before [the retheme equivalent of] 1962 because of the UberParadox!)

I probably won't post more about it under this account because I haven't linked my username here to the one I use in that RP site, but hit me up if you want to see later progress. In the meantime, I need to find some transparent sleeves.

*

Spoilered for the delicate sensibilities of people who are perturbed by the discussion of winning or losing a team game:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Liars' Club had a mini-tournament for a fast 8-player set and I came in eighth! (Albeit probably helped by subbing into a game, so I played 5 instead of the 4 we were originally scheduled for...but something similar happened to several people.) Including making the right call in the F3 as a villager, and a game in which I rode the "no mafia would ever..." WIFOM to victory (albeit perhaps aided by a rules misunderstanding on good's part).

Anyway, I will win a very small amount of money for that. Which is probably good because I don't really want to write on my tax form "alternate sources of income: internet mafia " and have to deal with all that.
Twitter Facebook
1 Comment
Wed Oct 30, 2019 11:57 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Sacrifice versus Jealousy

msg tools
No mountains, no valleys
badge
Never argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you on experience.
Avatar
Microbadge: Crosswords fanMicrobadge: Taboo fanMicrobadge: I record detailed playsMicrobadge: I helped celebrate BGG Werewolf's 10th Anniversary!Microbadge: Ice Cream lover
A lot of games have some concept of "sacrifice," or losing something to gain something else. In baseball there are "sacrifice bunts" where a (normally weak) batter hits a ball lightly in the expectation that they'll be thrown out, but that a runner already on base will advance. (In fact in many scenarios giving up an out to advance a runner only hurts your probability of scoring a run and/or winning, so this is less of a "sacrifice" and more a "bad strategy.")

In chess there are "gambits" where a player will give up a pawn in exchange for a perceived better board position. Now, if you were a computer who had solved chess, you might go "hey, wait, capturing that pawn isn't going to help my long-term game tree," and decline, but we're humans, and we can't always see that far ahead. (Likewise for the player offering the sacrifice, it may turn out to bite them!)

Also religion. Yada yada.

But in some kind of existential sense, there's no such thing as a sacrifice, there are just people who don't understand each other's priorities. (I feel like this is a kind of truism I came up with some time ago in a non-board game context and then just never had a good place to record, so here it is.) Obviously the chess player offering the pawn thinks it's worth it, or they wouldn't have made that move. Obviously the player capturing it thinks it's worth it, or they wouldn't have done so! In the long run only one can be right, but in the short term, we see people not sharing each other's relative values.

*

It's possible that no one is confounding the issues in question and I'm just projecting, but just in case, an important distinction to draw. Here is a situation that arises sometimes.

A, B, and C enjoy hanging out and doing things together. But then, A makes a pattern of engaging in some questionable behavior during these activities.

B's internal reaction: "Well, I can see that this isn't a great example for A to set, and I'll try not to do the same. But, on balance, I still get pleasure out of spending time with A and doing these activities, so I'm going to continue to do so!"

C's internal reaction: "This is sufficiently annoying that it's taking the fun out of the situation. I'm going to stop associating with A."

Both are natural reactions that people have, because people's personalities are different.

Is C making a "sacrifice" by cutting ties with A? I'd say no. From B's perspective it might look like "aww, this person is losing the opportunity to hang out and have fun with me, because they feel the need to stay true to their principles or whatever, that's sad." But from C's, it's more like, "welp, I could go be with A and B, and feel frustrated and upset, or I could hang out by myself and not be that. Second option is the clear winner there!" There's nothing being sacrificed, because C picks a choice that's clearly better for them than the alternative.

But from C's perspective, it might be like, "how is it that B still gets to enjoy having fun with A? What does B have that I don't have that makes more experiences pleasurable for them? I kind of wish I had pleasure circuit like that in my brain, too!" That's not saying "I totally have the ability to reprogram myself so that I could enjoy more things, beep boop," or "I would gladly throw away the principles that I have if it meant I could enjoy A's company," it's just, "I wish I had that fun thing that B had."

Jealousy isn't sacrifice.
Twitter Facebook
2 Comments
Mon Oct 7, 2019 11:33 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Darth Plagueis the 5k Runner, and Other Uniform Tales

msg tools
No mountains, no valleys
badge
Never argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you on experience.
Avatar
Microbadge: Crosswords fanMicrobadge: Taboo fanMicrobadge: I record detailed playsMicrobadge: I helped celebrate BGG Werewolf's 10th Anniversary!Microbadge: Ice Cream lover
I just finished a short-lived no-meta game featuring account swapping and puppetry; I was player_uniform, RPing longtime werewolfer Vanderscamp. Issues arose, many of them relevant to things I have posted about before (and will be linking back to, in part to toot my own horn, in part because I genuinely think they're relevant). I don't mean for this to detract from other important conversations that split off from that game, but I'm about to have a much busier work schedule, so I figured I'd jot some of this down/copy it over before I forget. (Said scheduling issues probably mean that going forward, I will be playing even less than I usually do, but that's not a commentary on anyone else here. Just exciting RL opportunities!)

player_whiskey (nolemonplease) wrote:
I LOVED it. It was very freeing.

I'd play no meta all the time.
Ryagic wrote:
I like it, but I feel like it detracts some from the community building so definitely not all the time.
player_uniform (me) wrote:
Did I ever tell you the story of Darth Plagueis the 5k runner?

I thought not, it's not a story the werewolves would tell you

Once upon a time there was a lazy slob named Darth Plagueis (he was also a Sith lord, but that's not the point of this story). His friends were getting ready to run a 5k to raise money for their favorite charity. "Come run with us Darth" they said "you can raise money for the Sith." So, he gradually changed his ways and began to exercise and speedwalk and within a few months, he was strong enough to run the race.

When Plagueis went in to see his doctor the doctor said "Darth, I'm very impressed, your midichlorians are up and your weight and blood pressure are down, have you made any changes in your life recently?" "Yes" he said "I'm now a jogger" "Well great, keep it up."

So he began running more and more obsessively and panicking about his health measures. Gradually the process became joyless and he was no longer able to take any pleasure from running. Ironic, he could save others through fundraising, but not himself.
What is the moral of the story? Actions (like running) have unintended consequences (like getting fit). Sometimes those unintended consequences are good! But if you make them the aim, you could not only fail to achieve them, but also lose the pleasure of the original action. Aim at heaven...

---

player_romeo (Kortemaki) wrote:
I mentioned it in modchat as well but I think it's one of those things that comes with the territory for no meta. You can't avoid the game if it has people whose personalities and playstyles you clash with because you don't know who else is in the game. That's kind of the point.

If you need to know that the people in the game will play in a way that you can control then good news! There's all sorts of sign up list politics and personal blacklist management practices that have become sort of an unspoken norm on this site for MH reasons as well as avoiding stirring up feuds. I try to avoid applying a signup page litmus test personally but I can't begrudge anyone for staying away from games that make them uncomfortable. If you find you have such a line yourself, though, it's probably best to assume a no meta game is going to cross it. No meta doesn't filter out the experiences you would normally filter out as a result of having gotten to know the site. That's kind of the point.
Uniform wrote:
I may be displaying way too much faith in humanity here but my intuition would have been the exact opposite. Like, if someone is playing in a really frustrating manner in a normal game I may vote them for it. Then I get told "no it's just a being a dont cramp their style." So I self select out of games with them going forward. But if I cant vote someone for being frustrating and anti-team in a game where they don't have their identity as a shield, when can i?
--

I've had some good discussions with Brian McCue about the power, and limits, of no-meta games. To respond to some of the questions he asked elsewhere:
brianmccue wrote:
"No Meta" games, which I take to be anonymous games, could be another solution but I question how anonymous they really are, for experienced players. Don't people say to themselves "Foxtrot's using a lot of semicolons, so that must be Bill?"
At the risk of immodesty, I would say I'm not a particularly skillful werewolf player myself, but I am probably above-average at "guess the werewolf" both in no-meta games and unrelated quote mining. So I do agree that I, maybe more so than others, don't benefit as much from the feeling of "I can totally tune background out."

I'll confess that there was one player in the game, who is known for having a distinctive and often pingy style, who I recognized early on. I thought to myself, "it's probably player ***, and the 'evil tells' on display don't necessarily make them evil in this case. This is fairly typical good behavior for player ***." Spoiler alert: I was right about the identity, but this player was actually evil! So if the game had run longer that could have bitten me hard.

In happier news, I felt like I was really on the same page and jibing well with another player, player ++, who I've previously had some serious issues with in games and would probably have avoided signing up to normal games with. It's good to know that some people, given a second chance, can make use of it.

I think for me the advantage, in principle, is that thing I said above--that I potentially would have the freedom to vote someone for playing in a way that's deleterious to their/my win condition and/or the game as a whole. However, as Kortemaki points out, I'm not sure I would be able to do that without incurring those people's ire. Is it fair to act wounded when people are telling you, without benefit of (confirmation on) your identity, that your act is unpleasant? I think so. But I know I only speak for myself.

brian wrote:
-What's up with the "evil" werewolves? ... Given that the game is strongly asymmetric and that everybody claims, at least implicitly, to be a Villager, then yes, the werewolves more incentivized to duplicitious behavior. But is that not the whole point of the game?
Shameless plug here!

To your broader and more important point of "why do people play if they don't enjoy the fundamental mechanics of the game," that I do not know. Yes, it's fun to solve the puzzle of being a villager, but Shipwreck Arcana is fun too.

--

Topography wise, I would categorize Vanderscamp as a mountain, at least given his behavior and how others have interacted with him in Resistance-land. But in terms of werewolf and the persona he puts forward there, he says a lot of good plateau things, including taking issues with some valleys and their slopes, which is something both mountains and plateaus tend to be good at!

One of the personality traits I had to replicate when imitating him was confidence in "my" own reads. Which was, in part, an excuse to tunnel and not reread the game in great detail. I think many people would agree that the appearance of confidence is something associated with Vanders, as either alignment.

But a more subtle trait he displays is a kind of ingenuousness. Knock Vanders down seven times, and he'll get up eight, and he'll still be asking "Why? Why would you knock me down? I am a nice guy. soblue"

Knock Madeline down twice, and she'll probably crawl into a hole and fall asleep. Which is fine.

But selection bias is very real. If you find yourself surrounded by people who can stand up eight times, and you think that they're representative of the population at large, think again.
Twitter Facebook
1 Comment
Fri Sep 27, 2019 7:01 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
28 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

CabinCon Fall 2019

msg tools
No mountains, no valleys
badge
Never argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you on experience.
Avatar
Microbadge: Crosswords fanMicrobadge: Taboo fanMicrobadge: I record detailed playsMicrobadge: I helped celebrate BGG Werewolf's 10th Anniversary!Microbadge: Ice Cream lover
The werewolves go north of the border for a long weekend of gaming in Ontario!

Friday

Got in late after a fun day at the Minnesota State Fair with my parents and sister. mmazala picked me up shortly after midnight (or early-evening mmazala time) and we waited out the long line of holiday weekend travelers at the border.

We then encountered an unexpected difficulty, as Canadian speed limits are of course all posted in km/h, and her car was one of the few whose speedometer didn't have that scale as well. Fortunately, I came to the rescue with a great math nerd lifehack; to convert from km to miles, you can approximate by jumping from one Fibonacci number to the next lowest (and vice versa for the other direction). So 8 -> 5 which means 80 ~ 50, and we made it from there.

Wanted to fit in something short before I crashed, so I started with Just One. The first word was "Salt" and mathlete power couple cvb and dejojam crushed it with "sodium" and "chloride"!

External image

dejo nailing it

Saturday

I'd recently received Filibuster! and tried to remember the rules, but we stalled out trying to figure how to elect a leader and what the consequences would be if we didn't, so eventually shelved that as more people were waking up and needing something to join.

Felt brave enough to dive into Terraforming Mars, which is one of the more popular longer games among this crowd (as will be seen). We played with the Prelude, Venus, and South Pole expansions, and Viking narrowly defeated Benes. I started with the corporation that let me draw from the deck until I had a plant card or two and discard the rest, which in this case meant I tore through a significant portion of the deck before the game was really underway.

External image

A very large discard pile

Then Villagers, which surprisingly has nothing to do with social deduction or werewolves, it's a tableau-builder. I doubled-down on making hay symbols while the sun shone and that netted me 128 points for the win, and also for powers of 2 awesomeness.

I'd never played original Machi Koro, but apparently Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City wasn't significantly different. I found it to be a little...disconnected? as well as take-thaty. Like, in a lot of card games I have no trouble recognizing that their cost and effect are two uncorrelated values, but here it's like "I rolled a 9. Should I buy a 9 card? Wait...no that has nothing to do with that 9. Um...I guess I'll just buy something so brianyay can't steal my money."

mmazala: Brian is evil.
Brian (behind his spread of take-that cards): Why am I evil?!
Anyway Viking won that.

Revisited Colossal Arena, and Viking won that as well.

We tried playing FUSE, which always seems to take much longer than the 10 minutes alloted, which is good! We stopped with 1:35 still on the clock and it seemed like a win, but then we realized that the actual win condition required us to clear several more cards, and we were already packing up, so, oops.

By then, mystery guest Felice Si had graced us with her presence! She's a really sweet person and it was lovely to meet her in person. We cracked up during some Eat Poop You Cat, attempting to draw the "fractal" snacks she'd brought and/or the related math term.

External image

Felice Si (right) and Ryagic

dejo, cvb, and I taught Netslummer The Shipwreck Arcana, and we got a perfect win! Then Nets won at Sushi Go Party!. (He and cvb started racing for the ice cream early, and did well, while dejo and I stayed out of that fight, and lagged behind, which probably says something about stereotypes but idk.)

Then a couple rounds of Werewolf, it was CabinCon after all. I could report on how the games went, and perhaps someone else will do that, but the tl;dr of all of them was "pretty terribly for me," so instead in the spirit of this blog I will leave some open-ended musings and reflections on werewolf.

-Sometimes the "low-hanging fruit" non-wolf that too many villagers want to push on is actually an isolated villager that a wolf can get prescience cred by defending...but sometimes they are just an aux.
-Bussing is probably more valuable on the forums where people can get credit for looking good in past tallies, versus in person where it's like "I forget who voted where, I'm just going to brutal [that person who cast critical votes on a wolf yesterday]. Oh they're evil too? Huh nice."
-Syntactic restrictions ("you cannot post the letter E") are awesome; semantic restrictions ("you cannot claim to be the martyr") are...bad, in part because it relies on policing intent.

Several of the quicker games I had brought and wanted to teach were for 2 players, which is kind of an issue at big gatherings. But I revisited Koryŏ for three players and found that held up okay (I may have come close to burnout by overplaying it some time ago, but still good). I won the first game and then cvb won the second.

Karaoke, as always, was a hoot. After Tarrant (?) sung "You'll Be Back" from Hamilton, Brianyay was like "I've never seen Hamilton but I'm rooting for that guy [King George], please no spoilers." So...yeah.

I sang "I Just Wanna See You So Bad" by Lucinda Williams (a good song for internet friends), "Today We Rise" from Galavant, and new hit "Harmony Hall" by Vampire Weekend (and some acoustic guy who covered it on YouTube). Other classics that others sang included the Math of Love Triangles and the wonderful anchor song that expresses many deep sentiments I can't quite put into words myself. I had tried to go to bed early, but couldn't really sleep, so was still up in time for the traditional closers, "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Happy Together."

Sunday

A low-scoring game of Kingdom Buildercame down to the wire, but my wagons pulled it out.

External image

Four players within five points

Learned Space Base, which might actually have been my favorite new-to-me game? (Although there weren't as many as in prior years.) Viking went hard into a 12 strategy at first, and then cvb got a "if there are five twelves then you win" card, but Majai pulled it out. (The end can be a bit anticlimactic because it's like "well we have one more turn to catch him, but, that's not going to happen.")

Citadels with a bunch of the new-edition roles was fun, felt like a novel experience trying to balance all of them. Both cvb and I were going hard for the rainbow bonus, and I narrowly edged him out.

Got to test out my new KeyForge: Age of Ascension decks with Ryagic (I'd tried them a few weeks ago with a non-gamer and it didn't really click). This was a very close game between his Criminal and my Fan, but I wound up pulling it out.

More Terraforming Mars, this time with the flip side of the expansion map, and throwing in Colonies. "Terraforming" was an exaggeration in the case of brianyay, who had his TR still on 20 after a few rounds and then decided to just double down on never increasing it. This wasn't a winning strategy but it did decently well.

We tried Letter Jam but it was somewhat AP-inducing. Since you can't go back to previous letters, there's a big incentive to try to clue to the players who need earlier ones, no matter how much they are chomping at the bit to be the cluers. Then the last phase took too long since an anonymous party got hung up on anagramming THOOP. Many others were just as stymied. ("Is it werewolfer ortho_ so he can be here in spirit? That's so nice.")

Some very funny rounds of Subjective Guess Who. dejo and I were a partnership, and both times we POEd down our candidate to Irina_Phoenix. The second time the real answer was whirlingdervish (not too bad), but I hope Irina will not be offended that the first time it was Half-Cat, the unofficial mascot of CabinCon.

LJ and Brian asked "on a scale of 1 to 10, if this person were put in charge of organizing and executing the cooking duties at CabinCon, how doomed would we all be?"

dejo: ...2?...
me (confidently): 8.

Brian (flipping stuff down): Based on those confidence levels it's probably this one *points to Madeline*

They get down to two. "Okay. If this person were dressing up for a theme day, would their costume be something people outside our group would be likely to recognize?"

dejo: ...What?
Me: I mean...I think...most of us would probably be, yes?
dejo: What does that even mean? I mean, LJ and Maxie were a seer and sorcerer, but...like...
Me (whispering): Oooooh, it's a Xylophone Werewolf thing, they're trying to rule out Contig because he dressed up as the Xylophone Werewolf one time.
dejo: He did? Was I there?
Me: IDK. Anyway, yes, this person would make a more generic geeky reference.
LJ and Brian: Is it Madeline then?
Us: Yes

A couple other comments just from spectating:
"Is this person likely to be in a long-distance relationship in six months?"
"I mean, life is uncertain, I don't know whether I'll be in a long-distance relationship in six months." -cvb

Because we'd used an older board and mapped less familiar nonattendees onto newcomers: "It's hard for me to remember who these people are, I want to ask 'do I want to punch this person in the face the next time we meet.'"

A couple rules discrepancies in Shadow Hunters, but we played a couple rounds which both ended in solo neutral wins!

External image

cvb snickering

Then an extremely funny round of Telephone Pictionary, featuring pretty good descriptions of Netslummer, and poor dejo and cvb drawing/interpreting some raunchy images. Plus Dracula and his aquarium.

More werewolf musings:
-does brutalling one's own aux qualify a werewolf for the TommyDanger/maximumsaximum Futility Award, or does it have to be a straight-up nightkill?
-Evil governors; are they overpowered for deterring special claims? Hilarious for incentivizing people to claim evil? Double-edged swords because they can allow GSes to drop departing hints?
-Are certain playstyles more likely than others to be vulnerable in "tribunal" deadlines rather than the nomination format? (First noticed at Strategicon in 2015.
-What is the best way to deter cliquiness, is it even possible? (Specific examples: how do we keep newbies informed of prior incidents/stuff older people know without potentially relitigating old wars? Does playing more with the same people increase or decrease the likelihood of wanting to protect them for non-game reasons?) See also: this entire blog.

Monday

LJ and I had been hoping to get in a game of Kingdom Builder, so we started off with that. Despite her complaints about her poor start, she pulled out the win (which perhaps may not come as a surprise).

Not familiar with Lanterns, but tried Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky, which dejo crushed. She thinks it's possibly more strategic than the base game, which also involves stacks of polyominoes (but maybe ones that get depleted quicker).

This day featured a lot of "well we could wait for the other group to finish, but they're going to want to play something heavier, so I'll just hang out with the mathletes." They taught me Dice Forge next.

The mechanical gimmick of this game is "you're crafting your own dice, so they're big crates where the faces can come off and get upgraded."

The thematic gimmick of this game is "you're not rolling dice, you're asking for Divine Blessings and Minor Blessings. There are cyclops and monsters and stuff everywhere but we're not going to put words on those cards, haha. Also there are suns and moons. Also it's the expansion so the orange guys and pink guys are at war. The orange guys look like the sun but are not. They're also good as opposed to evil so they will give you points as opposed to taking them away. Okay?" It was just...very visually overstimulating for what's actually a not-too-hard dice game. I did well with points on dice in games but cvb and dejo went hard for cards (sorry, Heroic Feats) and cvb edged her out.

A couple rounds of Pictomania before it fizzled out, but the highlight was for sure dejo not knowing which colors came on the outside of rainbows. (Are they just always upside-down and doubled in New Zealand????)

People had been playing 3 Laws of Robotics the day before and I wanted to try it out, but it wasn't at its best with 4 players. The "laws" can be kind of goofy like the Ballroom in original citadels (you have to say "message sent" after asking every question), but then also more demanding (you can't say people's names, which might actually matter for questions like "hey brian, am I on the same team as dejo?") Interesting contrast to the werewolf semantic stuff I'd been musing about. I like the ballroom because it's so goofy and rare, but I'm not sure the equivalents work as well. The rules even suggest that "you can't tell the truth to an AI" is an interesting and puzzling potential rule, but then that was included in the "warning, advanced mode!" envelope. So...I kind of want to try this again, but it's more an "incomplete" than "yay, liked it" rating.

More Kingdom Builder; Brianyay avoided the ambassadors goal to implement a policy of mountain isolationism for the win.

He also won at Above and Below. I got the highest reputation from heroic adventures; dejo was the dastardly scoundrel lagging behind on that track.

More Shipwreck Arcana, 4-player loss on hard mode.

Then The Resistance! (dejo and I had put "Shipwreck Arcana" and "Resistance," respectively, for "games you would want to play with" the mystery person who was actually me. So that worked out.)

In the first game, I was the commander/Merlin, and jokingly extended trust with dejo early on after she seemed to be the person the randomizer selected as leader. LJ floated M1 with me, with Viking being the only person to vote that down, so I pushed the theory that he was rightly skeptical, and we got a passing M2. Viking temporarily forgot his "you have to resend M2 on M4 at 6 player count, but until then treat it like it was a failure and don't send M2+1 again, it gives us more information" spiel that he's rattled off and bored people with before. (To be fair, he was sick this weekend.) So we fast-forwarded through that, got the inevitable M3 failure, and resent M4. LJ chose to assassinate Ryagic, who'd been fairly checked-out and looked like a spy, and he was in fact Percival!

Then we added the defectors/Lancelots. This time I was Percival, and saw that cvb and Ryagic were Merlin/Morgana in some order. It didn't help that they both put each other on proposals, but I leaned more towards cvb as the true one. So I proposed him, dejo, and myself for M2, which passed (I was sending a lot of missions over both games). The defectors switched, and somehow we threw together a perfect M3, which was dejo, lj, cvb, and myself. It turned out that dejo had started as evil, floated to M2, then switched with Viking. Viking and Ryagic correctly deduced that I was Percival (Merlin probably wouldn't have put dejo on M2, since he saw her as a beginning spy), and correctly assassinated cvb for the spy win.

It was getting late but what the hey, I was awake enough for Terraforming Mars with the same expansions as before, so we did that once again. I had a microbe engine going, and "reverse hate drafted" Ants, the microbe stealer--I wouldn't be able to play it until there was more oxygen, but I couldn't risk someone else grabbing it to attack me! Viking narrowly beat Ryagic. I think overall I like Prelude, don't like Colonies (it's fiddly and hard to know when/why to trade, at least for a relative newbie like myself), and am neutral on Hellas/Elysium and Venus.

Tuesday

Brian and Viking graciously dropped me off at the airport.

For those who haven't heard, I'm joining the mid-Atlantic wolf pack soon, so hopefully I'll see many of you at Rathcon 2020 on my new home turf!
Twitter Facebook
4 Comments
Wed Sep 4, 2019 6:17 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Legacies: Worth Protecting?

msg tools
No mountains, no valleys
badge
Never argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you on experience.
Avatar
Microbadge: Crosswords fanMicrobadge: Taboo fanMicrobadge: I record detailed playsMicrobadge: I helped celebrate BGG Werewolf's 10th Anniversary!Microbadge: Ice Cream lover
I've played through both Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 and Season 2 and, in general, enjoyed them both. Obviously everyone will have different experiences with them, but I was kind of surprised by some summaries of season 2 that basically described it as too arbitrary/punishing. I can understand if that was your experience, but I would expect that to be even more the case for season 1!

Spoilers below, tagged by game.

(Note: if your concern about the premise is "I don't like original Pandemic because it can potentially be alpha-gamed, and this sounds like Pandemic but more so!" there won't really be anything insightful here. Ditto questions about legacy games as a business model. I'm more concerned about how the evaluations/balancing mechanisms do or don't work.)

Season 1
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Season 1 unfolds in roughly the same way for most groups, unlocking the Quarantine Specialist in February and the Operations Expert in March. The latter is perhaps where the first of the thematic "traps" arises; players see that "have a military base in each region" is a persistent objective, the quarantine specialist is very good at building military bases, it's possible to make them permanent as an endgame upgrade...I suspect lots of people, like our group, invested a lot of permanent upgrades here.

The next big "trap" is, of course, the Paramilitary Escort. Because of its strong power to remove Faded figures, a lot of teams might place that on a character that's spending lots of time in the CODA region (ours was the Soldier).

And then there's the "nuclear option," which (at least to us) seemed more obviously a trap than the others; thematically, as the CDC, should we be screwing around with nuclear weapons? But non-thematically, reducing a city to "fallen" status to remove that card from the game doesn't seem all that great in terms of risk/reward to begin with, and it's a much worse deal when you learn that you'll be punished severely for fallen cities and have to move through the CODA areas to deal with the last couple objectives.

Before we move on, let's talk about the Searches. The Search mechanic is introduced in July, and the first thing you find is the Virologist, which does nothing except give you the "gene sequence" at first. Searches are "destroy once complete" but not mandatory! So if you complete the search in early July but still lose, you don't need to do it again in late July. However, if you fail to do the search in July, it remains as a viable objective in August--so conceivably you could get the list that says "need a gene sequence plus a couple more things" before finding the gene sequence.

So, the September twist! I will credit the designers here for doing something pretty neat in giving an in-character justification for the funding levels. Obviously I recognized it OOCly as a way to try and balance the game for different groups, but it didn't cross my mind that it had thematic meaning.

Then the military base stuff with the objective changes. There's a bit of a reverse balancing twist for groups that avoided the permanent military-base trap, in that they force you to add new ones as long as there are remaining stickers. Partly this is to enable those groups to complete the "destroy 2 military bases" objective without the kludge of "uh we built one so we could destroy it, that'll throw 'em off," but I think also partly to give them another "meaningless" goose egg to chase in December.

Which leads into the issues with the final scoring. The bonuses for stable cities and wins are fairly discretizable, because there are a lot of them. There are two December goals which are scored separately. We were very vigilant about not letting Coda outbreak beyond its initial region; we didn't get a direct bonus for that, but obviously that made the vaccination goal relatively easier than it would be for groups that lost a lot of cities to Coda. But the major penalties are all-or-nothing. If you didn't destroy all the bases, -80, and if you needed Team Bravo's help, -200. (Completely wiping out the two December win bonuses!)

Defenders of the scoring system will usually argue as follows:

"Well, you should have just known to destroy all the bases, because it's ~thematic~."

-So is having the presence of mind not to nuke people, but there's not a bonus for that.

"Well, this is ~actually~ a game about reading between the lines."

-My standard rejoinder here is "then let's play Talking To Neurotypicals, it's faster but just as dumb." The other point to be made here is "all the other objectives are spelled out! You don't ask people to gut-check if they think they deserve to have won February, you check it against the objectives in the objective row."

"Well, you should have known to get the searches done."

-After the July, August, and September ones carried over into the next month, we're supposed to magically intuit that October would not? My team won all those months on the first try, it was just that we didn't complete the search in October.

The scoring system gives the most points for wins in the first half of the month, fewer for wins in the second half of the month, and then 0 for double-losses. Why? Because they want to incentivize winning individual games! You don't want people to be like "let's lose the first half every time and get those upgrades," you want them to try to win. So I don't think "it's not a good idea to sacrifice the short term win for the long-term goals, except when it totally is, which just randomly happens to be October (or maybe December pending the bases)" is a defensible position.


Okay, so Season 2. (Spoilers for both games.)

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Season 2 explains in its base rulebook that there will be a final score, and that that will be predominantly based on individual month results as well as global population. Good! Those of us who played S1 probably recall that having Fallen cities was very bad, so we take care to spend some end-game upgrades to increase population to prevent cities from becoming Forsaken.

Now, here are several things that our group did, which might be called "suboptimal." (At least, based on some of the discussions/strategy tips I've seen from other groups.)

-We didn't inoculate the infection deck the first month we had that action available.

-We reconned the Middle East before Africa, and failed to recon Africa by July. This meant that it was foisted on us, and we had to destroy the Unfunded Event that we would have unlocked for opening it. A small punishment.

But actually, when you think about it, was it really that bad? The way it normally works is "if you recon the area, one of the players gets to add this unfunded event card to their hands immediately." And usually, you want to play it that game, because there's no guarantee you'll see it again for a long time! Unlike S1, the player deck is enormous, and there's basically no chance of losing by running out of cards. So to be docked one card in a huge deck isn't really that big of a deal.

The exception, I believe, is the Europe recon--there's a worse punishment if that one is "late," but it's been pointed out that you unlock a huge action with that (flying), so you still benefit from having the game unlock it for you. (If I'm wrong and there are other punishments, please let me know--I'm not 100% sure about the October/November catchup mechanisms.)

-We tried very hard to search in St. Petersburg and Moscow, because of the list pointing to something around "53 degrees N." This cost us an exposure, which did yield a scar, and the reward in Moscow was "give one card to someone else." At the very end of the month. For the Instructor, who doesn't need it.

-We found the haven near Antananarivo in Early September, but didn't access it (and the second +15 cubes) until early November.

-We didn't search Buenos Aires and find Opal until early November either. We saw based on the coordinates that it might be important, but we didn't spend resources on looking for that one needle in the aforementioned haystack of a player deck.

-We didn't inoculate player deck cards at all.

-We did a bad job of allocating the initial cubes in early December, with an attitude of "Utopia can soak a big population loss, bleep them." Cue outbreaks, which meant we had to unforsake Lake Baikal.

-We had not connected Johannesburg (or anything beyond Kinshasa) until December! We had to get down there once we saw it in the initial objective, and then, once we got to Lake Baikal, then chart the path from Dar es Salaam to New Mumbai to Kolkata! (And we didn't "find" Jade.)

Anyway, after all those questionable decisions...we got a second-tier win.

And I would say that wasn't because, or in spite of, playing poorly in some ways; it was because we also did a lot of things well! We deployed upgrades and bolstered population to get stuff like "well-stocked" and reduce the number of cities we had to go through. We used the decryption key/local connections to get more "red" cards into the deck, and when the "early stages of the plan" suggested that we'd need a lot of red cities, switched to characters who were good at connecting the sea lanes. Towards the end, we spent more resources on bumping cities from 1 to 2 than 0 to 1 (until the last game), which seemed to be a more efficient way to prevent Forsaking. We didn't lose any characters before the end, so we had a relatively un-exposed one to make the Carrier, and used the Runner/Helms(wo)man actions to access Lake Baikal and Johannesburg respectively.

Other groups would have other strategies (there's a lot of room for experimenting with box 6), and that's great! Unlike S1 where the narrative was more linear, this gave more room for experimenting and exploring at your own pace, and that seemed to pay off.

One difference is that there's only one all-or-nothing December goal; some people might find that frustrating. (As opposed to in S1, if you were vigilant in staying ahead of Coda, the vaccination part should have been fairly easy.) But then, there's nothing in S1 that suggests that you're going to need a bunch of searching in Atlanta. (We were "lucky" in that we hadn't created the binoculars yet, in part because we zipped through October...) I don't think that "collect all these random colors in this random order" goal is much more difficult than the long walk from Lake Baikal to Johannesburg, and conceivably some groups will have it easier because they braved infestation to get the infrastructure in place earlier.

The Lab scores are also better-implemented, because each one is incremental points, not "-100 if you didn't do all these particular searches." Considering if you're achieving the December goal at all you really should find Lake Baikal, and if you're playing the "exploration" game to its fullest you'll stumble across Wellington eventually, that's 50 points right there.

"But you just think it's more fair because you did better!"

...Maybe? I think that's a reasonable criticism, but I also think some of my argument is still valid.

"But it's about the ~experience~, you shouldn't care about the score!"

I think it's pretty common to remember the outcome of long games one has been invested in.

One more thing: in case I haven't made it clear, my argument is that S2 is a better designed/balanced game than S1. So is it even worth it to play S1 then? I would say...kind of yes, because the main narrative twist to S2 only makes sense in the context of S1!
Twitter Facebook
1 Comment
Mon Aug 26, 2019 3:35 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

In which there is some anger and passive-aggressiveness

msg tools
No mountains, no valleys
badge
Never argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you on experience.
Avatar
Microbadge: Crosswords fanMicrobadge: Taboo fanMicrobadge: I record detailed playsMicrobadge: I helped celebrate BGG Werewolf's 10th Anniversary!Microbadge: Ice Cream lover
In werewolf, from game to game, we all take on different roles.

"Yes, Madeline," I hear you say. "Sometimes I draw a villager card, and in other games I draw werewolf. That's just how these secret identity games work."

Hold on. I don't mean role cards. It is true that we should all have the same chance of being randomly assigned villager or werewolf or anything else. (Actually I think some people might disagree with even that, but that's a post for another time.) But here, I'm not talking about your role name on your card or in Cassandra, I'm talking about something else.

In every game, depending on the roles involved, you might be:
-the first person lynched
-the first person nightkilled
-the person the seer chooses to view
-the person the sorcerer chooses to call a fake hit on
-mislynched as a good
-nightkilled as an aux
-the deep wolf who makes it to the last three and wins
-the clear villager who makes it to the last three and has to cast the deciding vote
-the lightning-rod evil who gets thrown under the bus
-the struggling deep wolf who's the last evil dead in a good win
-the maligned villager who's the last mislynch in an evil win

Obviously, not every game will have a sorcerer, and not every game will be an evil win. But you get the picture.

In order for werewolf, or any similar social deduction game, to work, every player has to have the chance of filling any of these roles. I don't really think this is negotiable. If you want to play "like werewolf, but the seer isn't allowed to view player_bravo," that's not werewolf, that's "mandatory black hatting." And you'd better be ready to explain that to the newbie who signed up for werewolf. If you want to play "like werewolf, but player_delta isn't allowed to be the last wolf standing," that's not werewolf, that's "everyone brutal delta D1." And if your response that is "you're right, it's pretty bad that we have games when good wins and someone is the last wolf to die, maybe good should just never be allowed to win," maybe werewolf isn't for you. Go play Shipwreck Arcana. It has deduction without teams!

Just saying.
Twitter Facebook
13 Comments
Fri Jul 26, 2019 12:17 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
15 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

In Praise of Shipwrecks

msg tools
No mountains, no valleys
badge
Never argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you on experience.
Avatar
Microbadge: Crosswords fanMicrobadge: Taboo fanMicrobadge: I record detailed playsMicrobadge: I helped celebrate BGG Werewolf's 10th Anniversary!Microbadge: Ice Cream lover
I try to not post here too frequently, because I don't really want to throw a bunch of posts together and then nothing. (Well, I did at first.) So I've shared a couple of the long-running thoughts in my head on general game stuff, but I want to pace myself with regards to a couple others. And then if I run dry, we'll see.

However, there is an angry and passive-aggressive rant I'd like to make, and this seems as fine a time as any. But (to quote Dav Pilkey), before I can tell you that story, I have to tell you this story.

TL;DR: I really enjoy The Shipwreck Arcana.

A couple years ago some of the werewolf/social deduction crew played it at a mini-convention, and then they introduced it to others via Tabletop Simulator, etc. This is not a social deduction game, however: it's a fully cooperative one like Hanabi. Also like Hanabi, there are communication restrictions on what players with different knowledge can say, as opposed to an open-hand game like Pandemic.

Rules

Players take turns being "cluers" and "guessers" (the game probably has some more thematic terminology). On a cluers' turn, they have two tiles, each with numbers from 1-7. They then play one of those two tiles on a card in the center. The cards say something like "if one of your tiles is a {1,2,3}, play the other one here" or "if the sum of your tiles is at least 11, play one of them here." In some cases, all of the cards will be impossible to play on, in which the cluer plays on the "score" card to indicate that.

The guessers then have to work together to deduce what information they can from the tile played. Do they have enough information to precisely pinpoint the remaining tile? Does the fact that the cluer did not play on card X mean something? "If she had a 3 alongside that 5 would she have played the 3 instead, would it have been more insightful..."?

Sometimes it's best to pass and wait for another turn to make a guess. (The cluer keeps their remaining tile until the next turn in this case, so potentially they can play another tile to narrow things down--but sometimes they will be forced to play their old tile and it's back to the drawing board.) There's a "clock" that keeps the game moving forward, however; each card can only hold so many tiles, with higher tiles "weighing" more. Once a card has reached its "doom limit," the players need to make a correct guess or face a penalty points.

However, once a card is full, whether or not the guess is successful, it's turned over and replaced--and the backside shows a bonus power, such as "the guessers may discard this before guessing, and ask 'is your card 1, 2, or 3'"? This gives the players more information as the game moves along.

Some criticisms

Shipwreck Arcana isn't for everyone, and that's okay! Here are some potential weak points:

-The difficulty level of the game is something the players choose beforehand. It consists entirely of "how many penalties (from wrong guesses and/or cards fading without a correct guess) can we amass before we lose." So, obviously, if you vary that threshold, the likelihood of winning will change.

However, it doesn't directly impact the difficulty in the sense of, say, Pandemic, where a higher frequency of epidemics can be felt on a turn-to-turn scale. There are games I played on easy mode where it's like "well, we crushed that, if it had been on moderately-difficult mode we still would have won." And then there are games we play on moderately-difficult mode where it's like "welp, we lost, could we have won on easy? who knows?" If you're the person who's like "only the hardest level counts, everything else is practice" that's fine. But for the rest of us it's like "well that was a win, it could have even been a better win, but we had no way of knowing."

-The iconography of "moons" versus "fates" and diamonds versus circles felt too messy for what ultimately is a very simple comparison. Especially learning the game on TTS, I feel like that could have been made more straightforward.

-I haven't played it enough to know, but some people have said that the game is easiest at 2 players because the same person is cluing every other turn. However, I find it best at two players, because as the lone guesser, you get to have all the fun of "ohhh, he probably didn't have two sixes, because then he would have done XYZ, so his remaining tile is probably...2!" If you don't like games like Pandemic because one player can outshout the rest of the team, you probably won't like this either at 3+ count (or at least, will need to be choosy about who you play it with).

The upsides

That deduction thing about "he probably didn't have two sixes"? It's really really fun! It's fun to discover. It's fun to imagine counterfactuals, like "if it was 6 and 6, we would expect A, if it was 6 and 4 we would expect B, the world seems more similar to B, so I conclude it's more likely 4." And it's fun to give the clues and be like "okay, what do my teammates know from last time, what is the best way to convey information while not having too many fades." People like me sometimes have issues with "how will other people perceive this, what's going on in their brains," but this game strips away all the emotional outside factors to "let's form a universal chain of logic that even someone in the other shoes can follow."

So, I don't think it's a coincidence that people who like the what-if and puzzly factor of social deduction games often like this too!

More on that later, and less pleasantly.
Twitter Facebook
3 Comments
Thu Jul 25, 2019 12:27 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Two Classics

msg tools
No mountains, no valleys
badge
Never argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you on experience.
Avatar
Microbadge: Crosswords fanMicrobadge: Taboo fanMicrobadge: I record detailed playsMicrobadge: I helped celebrate BGG Werewolf's 10th Anniversary!Microbadge: Ice Cream lover
Some food for thought for a (long, in some places) weekend.
Quote:
A city slicker is travelling through the countryside and gets caught in a rainstorm. He asks a local farmer if he could spend the night at his house.

"I'm sorry, I'd like to help you, but I reckon you'll be a mite uncomfortable because the roof leaks."

"Why don't you go fix it?"

"I'm not climbing up on the roof, pal, it's raining."

"Well, why don't you go fix it when the sun comes out?"

"It don't leak then."
Quote:
Did you hear about the guy who was arrested for murdering his parents?

He asked the judge for leniency because he was an orphan.
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Fri Jul 5, 2019 8:02 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
24 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Social Deduction Schema - Part Two

msg tools
No mountains, no valleys
badge
Never argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you on experience.
Avatar
Microbadge: Crosswords fanMicrobadge: Taboo fanMicrobadge: I record detailed playsMicrobadge: I helped celebrate BGG Werewolf's 10th Anniversary!Microbadge: Ice Cream lover
So now, an overview of some of the social deduction games I've played in recent years!

Werewolf: very open, very pure. Kind of the founder of the genre, everything else has sort of evolved from there. Lots of complex implementations (especially online), which make things slightly less open with regards to complexity of night actions.

The Resistance: Moderately open, mostly pure. A lot of the game is discussion and argument between rounds, with actual proposals and voting a small percentage of that; if you can't hold your own or don't like the debate, you probably won't have a good experience. The base game, as I've said, is very much "resistance will win if they identify each other," but Avalon roles complicate that. (That said, the assassination phase in Avalon boils down to a "spies discussing together" open format.)

One Night Ultimate Werewolf: The night phase is closed, but then the entire day phase is open: lots of back and forth arguing, claims, retracts. It's also not super pure: people can stumble into victory without necessarily identifying their entire team (or indeed, even knowing what team they're on!)

I'll give this the uncomplimentary tag of obscurant: players' win condition in many cases is hidden from them themselves, so it's hard to know how to advance towards it. As you might have guessed, I really dislike these kinds of games. Some people don't! Some people are like "yeah, you have to think on your feet and know when to back into and out of claims, that's the fun of it." If that kind of spontaneity works for you, that's great, but that kind of time-pressure thinking is not what attracts me to social deduction games.

Shadow Hunters: Symmetric, closed. Although the Hunter/Shadow conflict is where the symmetry comes from, this game excels because of the neutrals. The fact that there won't always be the same ones in the game make it much more replayable than Bang (see below), and lessens the incentive for everyone reveal on the first turn. (But once people do reveal, the symmetry makes it less stressful than werewolf for people who don't like to be informed-minority.)

BANG!: closed. Vaguely symmetric? After a few rounds it'll become pretty clear who's who, with maybe some uncertainty on the part of the Renegade. At which point, the "social deduction" aspect is lost. Good for some thematic laughs but my biased review is it doesn't really do anything Shadow Hunters doesn't do better.

Crossfire: Also obscurant, and close to symmetric despite a slight edge to blue.

Werewords: On paper somewhat pure (villagers need to find werewolves, werewolves need to find seer), but feels kind of crunchy in practice (someone is playing 20 questions...but badly!).

Saboteur: Symmetric at least in the second edition with red and blue teams. We could also call it iterative in that, to compensate for the lightness/arbitrariness of an individual round, the official suggestion is to score for one round, then go again with new roles and compete for highest total score. This edges it out of true social deduction (your role in one game has nothing to do with your role in the next), and if people took it too seriously, could probably lead to some degenerate cases/kingmaking. So the fact that it's suggested feels like a copout of "welp, an individual round is pretty random, if you don't want to be stuck with it here's another :/ option." I did warn you this would be a subjective list.

Spyfall: inverted (maybe one of the originators of this subgenre?) I don't really like the inverted format because it can be easy to fall into groupthink and be suspicious of someone just because their manner of obscuring the secret isn't the same as yours. As I always say, if I wanted to be suspected for not conforming with groupthink I'd go play another futile game, like Talking To Neurotypicals.

A Fake Artist Goes to New York: inverted, see above.

Emergence: A Game of Teamwork and Deception: Closed, somewhat crunchy. I like this game! Maybe it's because the (informed) minority wins by doing the same thing the majority does--reaching a number of accumulated chips in the chip box proportionate to the number of their players. So it has a bit more of a pure feel, to me? Like instead of being "lousy at harvesting cubes," the puny humans are trying to efficiently get cubes and convert them just like the glorious robots--they just happen to put the chips in the wrong side of the box. (Or not, if they want to bluff!)

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong: pure, open. In some ways this is like werewolf, so why don't I like it? Maybe because the groups I play it with have been a little lax about the rules for who can speak when, so it devolves into a free-for-all that's weighted towards good. So the official rules try to help evil by delimiting "okay now someone theorizes, now someone else goes, now time's up, stop," but that feels kind of arbitrary.

Witch Hunt: pure, open. This is basically werewolf but slightly more closed with regards to special roles/night actions, and slightly more open with regards to "you better talk fast because day is ending now!" Plus the dead people, who have to coordinate together without letting on "this is one group of ghosts" "this is another." The futility of that can make it feel almost too open.

Latitude 90: The Origin: Win conditions fairly pure, beyond that hard to say. The mechanics of sending and receiving information is potentially very closed, but if you're like "uhh, don't trust anyone, what to do" that can be kind of open in the unpleasant, futile way. (There's probably a different issue for conversion games, I know there's been plenty of debate about those!)

GROWL: Closed. Win conditions don't really fit into any of these: there's no informedness, potentially no elimination, villagers don't necessarily have to deduce anything either. Probably goes with Latitude 90 under "conversion is weird," only much lighter.

...Wait, never mind, it's iterative! That was the point of gold. Okay, there we go.

Are You the Traitor?: Very light and open, also iterative.

Two Rooms and a Boom: Symmetric, open. Can lead to feelings of "well, now what" futility, and the "coin-flip" degenerative issues make it a nope for me.

Secret Hitler: Somewhat more closed than Resistance, probably? And also crunchier, in that the drawing of cards/discarding allows for the "evil hiding as good with an unlucky hand" strategy.

Dark Moon: closed, very crunchy.

Shadows over Camelot: ditto

Games I only played a couple times years ago and barely remember:

Blood Bound: Symmetric

Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition: Closed, crunchy.

The Last Banquet: I'm not sure what my issues with it were; it's possible there were just too many people, which could make even a closed game feel like "well, I have nothing to do, better wait for these dozen people to go." But there's also an open aspect of "who's gonna be the assassin" "uhhhh" that wasn't engaging either. Symmetric, anyway.

Games that are probably not social deduction, but share some features in common:

Mascarade--obscurant, but no teams or allegiances. First to thirteen points wins, independently of role.

Betrayal at House on the Hill--once the traitor is revealed, it's an asymmetric all-against-one game, but there's no mystery about who that is. (The Legacy version may add some twists to the original, I only played a couple games there so I can't say.)

Lifeboat players have secret objectives which identify their win conditions, but again, individual winner.

Edge cases:

Dead of Winter: mechanically it plays a lot like the "crunchy" examples, and could be described as "co-op with a hidden traitor," but the individual goals (for traitors as well as good guys) complicate things. Part of the goods' goal is to find and neutralize the traitor, but that's not a necessary or sufficient win condition.

New Salem: Second Edition: it's a "most points wins" individual type of game, but in order to even be in the running to win, Puritans/Witches need the village to have low/high quantities of Doom, respectively. So in some respects it plays a bit like a pure game where everyone, majority or minority, is trying to say "I'm part of the majority team, please leave me alone so we can work towards our common goals, such as identifying the witches and putting them on trial." I like that kind of thing, though!
Twitter Facebook
17 Comments
Wed Jul 3, 2019 4:44 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls

Prev «  1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  

Subscribe

Contributors