The Rookery

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

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No mountains, no valleys
Never argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you on experience.
Microbadge: The Resistance fanMicrobadge: Werewolf fanMicrobadge: I was here for BGG's Twentieth Anniversary!Microbadge: I write marathon postsMicrobadge: The Resistance fan
For a long time, the popular webcomic xkcd used to have a disclaimer that read:

Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).
This blog post contains some NSFW humor, as well as the crude humor that comes with Secret Hitler, as well as advanced mathematics. Caveat lector.
My math buddies and I have been good friends for many years, and quarantine brought about the opportunity to resume our gaming via Discord voice chat and Tabletop Simulator. (Some of these guys I've posted session reports about from games of six-plus years ago!) Last night we played Secret Hitler and Codenames, both of which produced some entertaining moments.

I'd played Secret Hitler before, but only at five players, which is what we had. Unlike Resistance, Secret Hitler does not have "teams" of various sizes; you only vote for a pair of president and chancellor every round. What if two people become semi-cleared, can't you just vote them in every time? No; the rule is that someone who was part of the last "team" of two can't be pat of the next one. But wait, in a five-player game, there are only three good guys. So the previous chancellor can't be chancellor again, but the previous president can fill either role (but only at five players). This creates an interesting back-and-forth.

When the third fascist policy is passed, the current president (DL) had the opportunity to immediately look at the top three cards of the policy deck, then replace them. He reported seeing two liberal and one fascist card. I'm the next president, and I propose myself and JK, this is voted through. The game does not end, which means JK is confirmed not Hitler (but he could still be the other fascist). I draw three cards and learn that, indeed, DL was telling the truth; there are two liberal and one fascist cards. So me being a good liberal, obviously I'm going to discard the fascist one and force JK to pass a liberal policy whether he wants to or not. Right? devil

On that cliffhanger, pause for a digression. In Resistance, the corresponding phase would be the "everyone play your mission card, put the card you want to play here, the card you want to discard over there" phase. In a face-to-face game, this is pretty much instantaneous. Talking out loud ("I'm going to put my pass card here, wink wink!") is, if anything, slightly pro-spy--the spies are the ones who occasionally stand to benefit if they can coordinate a two-spy mission with only one fail, by table talk of that variety. So people who are resistance, or are pretending to be resistance, have an incentive to keep their mouths shut for the thirty seconds it takes to play cards.

In a forum game, the time delay means this can obviously take hours or days (even a rebel has to tell the mod "of course I am passing it," to prevent meta-ing of "well Madeline didn't log in yesterday so she must have auto-passed"). So it's less natural to just be quiet and wait for the results. Because it's pro-Resistance to do so, though, the forum culture evolved to have people go "RADIO SILENCE!" as soon as the mission is voted up. So that's where that comes from!

In the corresponding part of Secret Hitler, though, it's not the same dynamic. You might want to blurt "wow, I have no choice at all, three reds!" "he's lying, he gave me a blue!" That kind of table talk might be pro-liberal (in that it can expose "genuineness" or create claimwars). So it needs to be forbidden by the rules, so all the claims/counterclaims can wait until the policy is passed. And it turns out that even in a real-time voice chat game, this can be difficult! So I was the grumpy stickler being like "guys...please shut talking now."

Anyway. I promptly discarded a liberal policy and gave JK the option to choose. He played the liberal one, yay! "Okay, Madeline, so why did you do that?" "Well, DL was truthful, it was two and one. But, if there's a fourth fascist policy, the president immediately gets to execute someone. That's the best time for it to happen is when I know a confirmed fascist to kill!" "So the president was holding a gun to the chancellor's head while he passed the law. Wow." "Yeah, you know. Just like in the real Weimar Republic."

So now JK is president. And he liked my strategy, so he returns the favor by nominating me. It's voted through, I'm confirmed not Hitler, he gives me a choice of a liberal and fascist policy, I pass the liberal one. Great! Now we both can trust each other, so one or both of us should be on the mission every time, right?

Danny is next leader and is like, "how about me and DL." JK explains why this is a bad idea, and Danny is talked into himself and JK instead. JK is like, "Madeline, what do you think," "of these next three leaders I think SC is the most trustworthy" "okay, let's wait for him then."

SC proposes himself and JK, it's voted through. Oh no, a fascist policy! Now there's a gun in SC's hands, what will he do? "I don't know, what do you guys think?"

"Well, JK and myself are good, if you're good--which I assume you are because you're thinking about this and asking our opinion--then it's just DL and Danny in some order. But of the two, I'd say it's more likely Danny as fascist and DL as Hitler, because Danny tried to propose DL for chancellor at a point when electing Hitler as chancellor would be a fascist win. So I'd kill DL." "Okay sounds good." DL is not Hitler, the game continues.

JK: "so there's just four of us left, yeah? We can afford to vote down missions until Madeline and I are president and we can be president/chancellor every time?" "Yep." People go along with this, JK and I nominate each other every time, and pass liberal policies. Liberals win! Congratulations to me, JK, and...Danny?

SC: "yeah, I was Hitler, DL was the normal fascist, I figured I'd just kill him to gain trust."

"Okay, but...if you kill Danny there, then it's 2-2. You guys can go outed then, downvote everything and enact random policies. The deck is mostly fascist, so you probably win."

"Oh. Oops. Yeah. I should have done that."

Now, you could say that it's okay that a game like this can end abruptly; 2-2 is parity. But the fact that the fascists' probably-best strategy is going outed and then trusting to luck is part of my gripe with the design of the game. Like, depending on the deck distribution, it's possible (if unlikely) that liberals could steal a win in that scenario and. Again, I think Resistance's pass/fail mechanic is more elegant than the fiddly policy deck. But you know me.

Danny stepped out, so we had four for Codenames. It's worth pointing out that, while we are all math people, SC is not a native English speaker. DL is, but his approach to word games can be somewhat...unconventional. Also, they are all trolls in the sense that when they're a guesser on the team that's not taking its turn, they will add their "helpful" advice on how the given clue could relate to any of the 25 words on the board.

First game is DL and me against JK and SC. I start with the clue "Join 3," intending on LINK, BOND, and something else that could work as a verb in that sense. DL gets LINK and then, after carefully analyzing the board, guesses CENTAUR. Well, okay, a centaur has to join its human and horse parts, sure.

SC clues "Covert 2." JK guesses THIEF, and then BOND (as in James), so actually now we're up 2-0. We take a big lead, and I start easing off to go one at a time; they have BELT still on the board, so I can't clue "clothing" to relate SOCK and BUTTON yet.

We're 1 away from winning, and then SC comes up with "Capacitor 3" to connect COPPER, FIELD, and some other science-y word. Fortunately JK doesn't circle back to BELT, and we eke out the win.

New game, swapped roles. JK starts out with "Country 3." SC looks around, points to AUSTRALIA, CHINA, and CANADA. Easy start for them.

DL tries "Music 2." SC, being a troll, points out "well an ANGEL makes music..." This isn't bad, but I like SCALE and BEAT. SC is like "what does 'Scale' mean in a music context?" so I explain the meaning of a musical scale. I guess that. It's the other team's word.

So now it's 4-0 and JK can (probably) afford to take it slow. I don't remember the exact order of all the clues, but at some point, he tries "Delta 1." SC: "Delta...Airlines? HELICOPTER is a possibility but I don't think they make" and after scanning the board a couple times he finally comes up with CHANGE, because delta is the symbol for change. This is an advanced calculus joke that we are the exact target audience for so it was a little amusing that SC took so long!

5-0 and DL has to clue. He tries for a long time, gets nowhere. JK is finally like "I think I have a good clue for you guys, if you want." They confer and DL is like "fine, I will swallow my pride." Clue is "Poker 4." Okay, poker FACE...a CLUB is a SUIT in poker, could CHECK someone instead of raising or passing. Sure enough, this is all correct, and we're back in the game. Pause again to explain to SC what these mean in a poker context.

JK clues "Wings 2" (again, I'm not sure on the order). SC gets ANGEL right away, isn't confident on anything else. HELICOPTER still isn't quite right. "Madeline? What do you think?" At this point I feel like the game ceased to be a competitive venture when JK gave DL a four-word clue to give to me, so I say something reasonably non-trolly; "when I picture an angel's wings, they're attached via the BACK, not the legs or somewhere else." "...Okay that's the best I have, sure, BACK." Is neutral.

DL: "what are the rules on cluing?" "Has to relate to the meaning of the word, one word only, but multiple-word proper nouns are generally okay." JK: "oh hmm, multiple-word proper nouns are okay? That's good to know." SC: "What about hyphens?" "Can you give an example?" "Not really, just curious." DL (eventually): "okay, Chains 3."

SC (trolling): "You could chain up a HELICOPTER so it doesn't go anywhere...I chain up my LION on occasion...I also chain up my DATE..." "Thanks SC, but I think if DL was thinking along those lines he'd be intending SUB and BED." "What?" "Never mind." Unfortunately, none of these seem to have anything to do with chains. If you were a pirate you might have a PLOT involving a treasure CHEST and hauling anchors via chains, but...that's really as good an answer as anywhere. I don't know what I do that turn, maybe try to pick up old clues, but I don't get anywhere.

So then on the next turn, DL clarifies with "Dominatrix 2." !!! It actually was SUB and BED??? I did not expect DL to go there. And then, of course, we have to pause to explain this for SC. "English has a word for that??? Is there a male equivalent?"

Eventually, JK clues "New Zealander" and SC comes up with "KIWI"--the missing "Wings" word and also why JK wanted proper nouns, because it's hard to clue kiwi (the fruit) with OLIVE and DATE also on the board. (If he'd known he could use proper nouns earlier, he might have started with "New Zealand 4" or something.) Those two win. And after the game it turns out that "dominatrix" was another clue from JK he passed along, and "chains" was intending to refer to chain stores; SUBway, BED Bath and Beyond, and OLIVE Garden. Obviously.

I am very lucky to have such weird math friends.
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