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Herbert Anchovy Presents

Jeff Warrender
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Averill Park
New York
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Nearly every game you've ever played has an action selection mechanic. In Puerto Rico, you pick a role from the available display and then use its ability. In Tikal, you allocate your available action points among several actions, which you then execute. In Carcassonne, you draw a tile and then choose where to place it. And so on.

I've mentioned plenty of times how my game Collusion works differently: each round you place two action tiles, representing actions you're proposing, and then we go around the table and provide support to other players' actions, and only the most supported actions actually come off. So you have goals in the game but can only pursue them indirectly.

A different kind of game of indirect goals could riff off of a different kind of human interaction, albeit not a very pretty one: blackmail. The idea would be that each player has some dirt on each of his opponents, and must use that as a basis to persuade his opponents to take certain actions that will advance his own goals, lest he reveal the dirt and cause some harm to the outed player's position.

Perhaps it's even that the means of taking actions on other players' behalf itself creates additional shameful occurrences that themselves are subject to additional blackmail opportunities.

Thus this game becomes another kind of negative deal-making game, a bit like the ultimatums game I've talked about here: do [this], or I will expose you for [that]. If the [this] I'm asking for is too far out of proportion with the repercussions for [that], I'll ignore you completely, so it's a matter of finding the right balance.

I suspect this means that the "dirt" players have on their opponents varies in magnitude, and that everyone has a variety of stuff that's known about them and that is harmful to varying degrees.

What harm comes from having a shameful thing revealed? Negative points is the obvious one, but perhaps also lost in-game abilities or additional risk of certain actions. If it's known that you've been known to pass around bad checks, then your plan to raise funds to bribe the Congressman that Joe wants you to bribe with a check kiting scheme might be more risky or difficult.

Needless to say this could be a pretty dark topic and thus would need to be handled with a very light touch to keep things silly and fun. But game-mechanically, it's certainly unexplored terrain to say the least so it's fun to contemplate whether something like it could actually work.
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