The Rookery

Madeline's thoughts on social deduction games, forum/community meta, and any other philosophical musings
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CabinCon Fall 2019

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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.
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The werewolves go north of the border for a long weekend of gaming in Ontario!


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"!

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dejo nailing it


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.

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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? 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.

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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."


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

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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,
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!

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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.


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.


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!
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