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Subject: Two Design Challenges rss

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Lucas Maciel
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Hi people, I'll try to make it short. I often catch myself wondering about some different game mechanics. However, I am no designer and actually quite new to the hobby. Cooperative games are usually my favorite, but some mechanics seem impossible or very difficult to implement in a cooperative game. So I want to know what you think about two of them:

Challenge #1:
A mechanic where knowing information always means worsening your decision-making. What I mean is: if there was a game mechanic that would make players avoid revealing their hidden information for the greater good, there would be possible to have bluffing, guessing, etc. in a cooperative game. However, I cannot think of any scenario where the decisions made with complete access to all information are always worse than decisions based on hidden information. Really, I'm pretty convinced it's philosophically or metaphysically impossible, but who knows.

PS: It cannot be a mechanic where knowing information ruins the fun (like Hanabi) but not the decisions or it forces, through rules, some penalty.

Challenge #2:
A mechanic that allows cooperative drafting, not completely luck-based. I believe that the 7 Wonders or Among the Stars 2-player variations are close to what could be a cooperative drafting. However, the dummy drafting depends too heavily on pure luck, if you are trying to send a specific card to your partner. Anwyays, it doesn't sound very fun as well. So that's the second challenge, to design a fun and engaging cooperative drafting mechanic.

If any of this has been designed already, I'd love to know what games implement some of this. Otherwise, there might be some really fun stuff yet to come to cooperative games.
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1 Lucky Texan
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interesting

#1, in real life, time can often be critical and mulling over many pieces of data for too long can often mean missing an opportunity. So, perhaps some type of time constraint could actually benefit a player with little or no data. However, this ends up just seeming like a way to handicap a player - a type of 'screwage' i guess?

#2 I bet there games with this mechanic, perhaps someone will know. Doesn't seem much different than a beneficial action choice.
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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90% of problem-solving is asking the right questions.

I suspect your problem with both of these "challenges" is that you aren't being entirely clear about what you want. I suspect if you clarify your exact requirements, you will find that the solution is either obvious, or obviously impossible.

LKMaciel wrote:
Challenge #2:
A mechanic that allows cooperative drafting, not completely luck-based.

"Drafting" is typically understood as meaning "players take turns selecting from a pool of options". You can absolutely do that in a game where all the players are cooperating with each other, but it's no different from "the players decide how to distribute the options among themselves." (Unless the players aren't allowed to communicate.) That's because all player decisions in a cooperative game with open communication are "the players collectively choose".

If you mean a draft in which "the game system" that you are playing against gets turns to draft things, you can absolutely do that, too--subject to the same caveat as everything you have the game system do, viz. it "chooses" algorithmically and/or randomly, because it's not a person. You can remove random options from the pool on the game's turn, or use some system to rank the options and have it choose the highest-ranking one, or some combination of the two.

Since that can get a bit tedious, games often use a point-buy system instead; it's another way of saying that you can get anything-but-not-everything that you want.

If you're asking for a system where options are removed from the pool in some way that is not rule-based, not random, and not controlled by a person, I am forced to ask: what else do you think there is? Anything is impossible if you disallow all the possible ways of doing it.

LKMaciel wrote:
Challenge #1:
A mechanic where knowing information always means worsening your decision-making.

If you model your players as perfect rational actors, this is pretty clearly impossible, because the players get to choose how to incorporate whatever information they have into their decision-making process, and "ignore it" is a completely valid choice. A perfect rational actor is going to use the information in the most productive way, and since one of the ways is "not at all", they will never use it in a way that's worse than that. QED.

I will grant you that players are not, in fact, perfect rational actors; perhaps you could theoretically craft some information that would help a perfect rational actor but that most human beings will end up using irrationally in some harmful way. BUT the entire reason you want this is so that you can have hidden information that the players will choose not to share, right? So you'd need the players to be aware of their own irrational behavior and make rational decisions to avoid getting into situations where they know they will behave irrationally.

In other words, your entire goal seems to be to fabricate a reason that a rational player (who is trying to win) will choose not to obtain information, but that's impossible unless the player isn't rational.

Once we're considering irrational motivations, wouldn't it be far simpler just to come up with an irrational motive for the players to keep the information hidden?
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Mark J
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#1 is an interesting question philosophically. Are there times in real life when you are better off not knowing something?

I guess there's the easy example of when a surprise is pleasant or run. You are, in at least some sense, better off not knowing that your friends are planning a surprise party for you, because if you knew than it wouldn't be a surprise. Children often have a lot of fun guessing and anticipating what presents they will get for Christmas. Maybe it wouldn't be as much fun if they knew. Etc.

I'm not quite sure how you'd work that sort of thing into a game. Directly, I suppose: One player could know that something will happen and not tell the others to preserve a fun surprise. But I don't see how you'd work that into the rules.

Sometimes you're better off not knowing something because it would just make you feel bad and there's nothing you can do about it. Like, suppose Alice and Bob are married and Alice had an affair several years ago but has long since called it off and deeply regrets it. Does it do Bob any good to know about it? Arguably, all that knowledge will do is make him feel bad and maybe even provoke a fight over something that is already over. Similarly for all sorts of family secrets.

I have no idea how you'd work that sort of scenario into a game.

If you know that the chances of succeeding at something are very poor, you might not bother to even try, even if the consequences of doing nothing are just as bad as the consequences of trying and failing. Like suppose you are trapped in a pit. If you just sit there and do nothing but cry about your sad fate, eventually you'll starve to death. You could try to climb out. The chances that you will succeed in climbing out are small. But if you try, there is some chance you'll succeed. If you don't try, you will certainly die. An objective, rational observer would say that you might as well try. But in real life, people in such situations sometimes give up in despair.

Or similarly, the company you work for is in serious trouble and may soon go broke and everyone will lose their jobs. If you all work as hard as you can, you may save the company. If you don't work, the company will surely go bankrupt. In real life people in such situations often get depressed and do nothing rather than take steps that might work to redeem the situation.

You could certainly do that in a game: One player could know what the probabilities of success are and the others don't. But I don't know that the psychology in a game would work the same as in real life. If players know that they are unlikely to win the game if they do X but are sure to lose if they do Y, they probably will not do Y. If they think winning is hopeless, they're more likely to just quit playing than to continue playing while taking no effective action.

So probably not much help but it's amusing to think about.
 
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Nat Levan
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I agree, I can't think of a situation in which actually having more information makes your decision process harder.
The only thing I can think of that comes close would be an information processing problem. Like identifying a signal in noise, or a computer working on computing an answer to a problem. If you throw more information at it, it will take longer to compute.
You could possibly simulate it by having cards with instructions that you can only follow one at a time. So as you reveal a card to get more information, you have to do a more complicated process between steps.
The good thing about games is that we aren't bound by the laws of the real world! You could do it on a more abstract level, and force players to lose some kind of time or efficiency resource in order to gain information that would potentially save more of the resource later.

For cooperative drafting, you could maybe have the cards grouped by category (I'm thinking 7Wonders-like) but when you select a card, you have to give a card of another color to the "Dummy" player, or adjust the price of complimentary cards, so that the more focused you become, the harder it is to keep that focus. You would have to carefully coordinate with the other player to make sure your strategies help each other without losing too much to the dummy player.

I don't know if either of these work or meet what you are looking for, but that's my attempt.
[Edited for spelling and clarity]
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Falcon Arendell

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Thoughts on challenge one...

You have a group of characters (players) that have a task to complete together (cooperative game), and to complete the task it will take all the characters skills and connections overcoming a series of obstacles. However, social mores and prejudices threaten to get in the way, so characters will need to be careful whom they reveal their skills or connections to, because if the wrong person finds out, there may be a penalty to the two of you working together or it will cause the other character to suffer a penalty to one of their skills through distraction.

For instance, one obstacle may require getting information from an inmate and one of the characters is an ex-con, and would have a better chance at getting the information. However, if the wrong character found out, they would refuse to work with that person in any subsequent obstacles because they have a thing against ex-cons.
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Sivilized wrote:
I agree, I can't think of a situation in which actually having more information makes your decision process harder.
Choosing between red or pink paint. No wait, more information coming in, now add fusia and desert rose to the option list. There, now your decision just became more cumbersome with the extra options.
 
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Zinphad wrote:
For instance, one obstacle may require getting information from an inmate and one of the characters is an ex-con, and would have a better chance at getting the information. However, if the wrong character found out, they would refuse to work with that person in any subsequent obstacles because they have a thing against ex-cons.
So, one person may get less points because an ex-con was used in the process but another person may get extra points because more information was obtained. I think we're getting somewhere if this group think continues.
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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Zinphad wrote:
For instance, one obstacle may require getting information from an inmate and one of the characters is an ex-con, and would have a better chance at getting the information. However, if the wrong character found out, they would refuse to work with that person in any subsequent obstacles because they have a thing against ex-cons.

OP specifically said that it can't be a game mechanical penalty inflicted by rule, it has to be an inherent effect of a player (not a character) knowing the information.

It's trivial to add a penalty to anything if you're allowed to say "new rule: if you do that, you must also give yourself a penalty".

toober wrote:
Choosing between red or pink paint. No wait, more information coming in, now add fusia and desert rose to the option list. There, now your decision just became more cumbersome with the extra options.

That's not adding more information, it's adding more options. You've changed the nature of the decision itself, not the process for making it.

And it's still not going to generate a worse result for a rational actor (who can always choose to ignore the new options).
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I apologize for trying to help with the ideas Lucas, won't happen again with other people crapping on my post instead of providing more beneficial ideas.
 
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Lucas Maciel
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Hey, Mike, thank you for the contributions! Don't get upset with Jeremy's commentaries, I think he was polite in making his point and it was actually more in line with what I have thought. Don't leave the discussion over a little misunderstanding.

Concerning "Challenge #1", I believe Jeremy is correct by distinguishing rational from irrational behavior. There are, indeed, some ways that information can produce worse decisions, but I can only think of irrational responses:

Fear - the player believes that she/he is in danger and cannot "think straight" anymore.
Anger - the player finds out about a betrayal and goes for revenge instead of cooperating.
Anxiety - decisions with a time-limit are usually worse the more information needs to be processed.
Mistrust - uncertainty about the future cooperation of another player; unlikely to happen in pure co-ops.

These are all, however, irrational behaviors. A rational, sober-minded player with no time limit would always, possessing more information, be able to make decisions at least as good as without information. Nonetheless, I'll still look for an exception. As I said, I believe it's philosophically impossible, but if I'm proven wrong, a groundbreaking mechanic could be invented.

Now onto "Challenge #2", I am certain that it is possible, I was just questioning the fun aspect of it. Dummy players with random elimination of options from the pool sounds like a very poor solution.

What I believe is most common to drafting games, and perhaps most appealing, is the tough decision between "I want this option for me" vs. "I don't want this option to go for the next player". I believe that a pool with both positive and negative options would mimic that better than the dummy problem of "I don't want to pass this for risking losing it for the dummy pick". The negative options are forced upon the player that receives the pool and since the game has open information, the player cannot "cheat" out of it.

An example: In a 7 Wonders game, players cooperate to maximize the number of points. However, that are "disaster" cards. Each player, receiving a hand with one or more disaster card is forced to play the one with the highest value, let's say. Different disasters destroy different types of building. We have now that same compromise between "I want to build this because it perfectly fits my plan" and "I need to keep this card from reaching the next player, because it affects her/him in a much worse way than myself." With a large number of players, negative and positive options, this could make an engaging cooperative drafting experience, I believe. Feel free to design a game for this.

Any thoughts?


EDIT: I forgot an important part of drafting: making long-term decisions without knowing what future pools of options will bring. In a cooperative game, where you have access to everybody's hands of cards, for example, you could optimize your long-term plans. The way to fix it, I guess, is to have shorter and more frequent rounds. Using again the 7 Wonders, example, one could make 6 rounds of 4 cards instead of 3 rounds of seven cards. Both methods would result in 18 building maximum (always discarding the last card in hand), but more often rounds would make long-term plans uncertain again.
 
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John A. White
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Didn't read other post so it might be cool if mine matched others.

1. Have the hand (action cards ONLY) Total harm the player with game rules Then split the value of action cards and good cards... So no one really knows if you got a hand that hurts... Not sure how to prevent lies.


2. Do the 7 wonders draft then have those piles be drafted in turn order.
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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LKMaciel wrote:
Dummy players with random elimination of options from the pool sounds like a very poor solution.

What I believe is most common to drafting games, and perhaps most appealing, is the tough decision between "I want this option for me" vs. "I don't want this option to go for the next player".

Sounds like you're assuming that if the dummy player takes an option, it simply disappears. Why not allow the dummy's choice to be used against the players?

Most coop games are highly asymmetrical to the point where applying a bonus written for a player directly to the game system might not make sense, but each option could have a "negative version" that gets applied if the dummy selects it. Or you can have a pool of negative options that get randomly paired with the positive options each round, and say that selecting an option also blocks its pair.
 
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Mark J
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Antistone wrote:
That's because all player decisions in a cooperative game with open communication are "the players collectively choose".


Not necessarily. What if the players disagree about the best strategy? If players vote on every decision, you may very well get different results than if each player makes his own decisions in his turn.
 
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Oliver Edleston
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Co-op drafting:

Do a standard draft wherein each player gets a hand of card, selects one, and then passes the remaining cards on around the table with one difference. You pick 2 cards each time instead of 1. You pick a card to put into your deck/activate for you/etc. and you pick a second card for your allied deck/to activate for your ally/etc.

The example above does only consider players to be acting in allied pairs, though I'm sure it could be extended out to affect a whole group. Perhaps as below:

Do a standard draft. Each player has a hand of cards and picks one card to affect themselves. They then pick a second card which affects the player to their right. They then pass the remaining cards to the player to their left.

In this way you would be passing a hand of cards on to the player who will then be picking one of those cards to affect you. This would work either co-operatively or competitively.

--EDIT--
You could even choose to only pick a card for the other players at the table and not have a player draft cards for themself.

Also, preventing players from explicitly saying "I just passed you these cards, I wnat you to pick this one for me." would likely need to happen for a co-op game. Though such discussion should be allowed competitively as it would add some fun bluffing/arguing at the table

As for Challenge 1. Still thinking!
 
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Nat Levan
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I thought of something that might fit the first challenge.

I know of a game in development, where you roll dice and have to come up with something described by the dice. Each turn, you add a new die and have to come up with a new thing (no repeats) that is described by the original dice plus the new die. As you add more information, the idea must get more specific, making it harder to do.
http://unpub.net/games/detail/?proto=70&o=21

I don't know if you can turn that into a game with bluffing, or a cooperative game, though.
 
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Choubi Gogs
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LKMaciel wrote:
Concerning "Challenge #1", I believe Jeremy is correct by distinguishing rational from irrational behavior. There are, indeed, some ways that information can produce worse decisions, but I can only think of irrational responses:

Fear - the player believes that she/he is in danger and cannot "think straight" anymore.
Anger - the player finds out about a betrayal and goes for revenge instead of cooperating.
Anxiety - decisions with a time-limit are usually worse the more information needs to be processed.
Mistrust - uncertainty about the future cooperation of another player; unlikely to happen in pure co-ops.


Yes, without introducing biases, more information is always better than less information. There is actually several theorems that state exactly this, Blackwell's theorem being the most famous (for some definition of more information).

In decision theory thougn there exists the concept of ambiguity. Ambiguity is uncertainty where the distribution of outcomes is unkown (winner of a horse race) so no expected payoff can be computed as opposed to risk where said distribution is objectively known (throw of a die).

One result of decision theory (for some definition of rationality) implies that without distribution, individuals will just choose one subjectively and compute expected payoff, contrary to the "risk" case, here two different individuals could use two different distributions to compute expected utility and both would be "rational".

There is a literature where this assumption is discussed and it is believed that individuals might be ambiguity averse. In this case, individuals would consider several plausible distributions and compute expected payoff according to the worst distribution. The difference in risk is that now a single individual could use two different distributions when computing expected payoff of two different actions.

For the second definition of "rationality" in ambiguity, it happens that:
1) It is not clear how individuals should update their beliefs when they learn new information
2) For most rules of updating out there that exist, "more" information could lead to worst utility. Obviously, this would depend on how players update their beliefs and on how one defines "more" information, this is not as straightforward as in the risk scenario.

Thus, it could be possible to have rational players (for some definition of rationality) that would prefer to have less information.

Obviously, this could only work if:
1) You manage to have randomizing devices that are ambiguous and not risky.
2) You hope that your players are not ambiguity neutral à la Savage or Anscombes-Aumann but ambiguity averse à la Gilboa-Schmeidler or other
3) Players would update information following Full Bayes rule or Max Likelihood rule and not the rule of Hanany Klibanoff.


Problems of implementation in Boardgames:
Considering 1), this is actually quite hard. Dice are not a possibility, cards may be a possibility but once players know the cards that are in the deck, ambiguity is lost... There have been many experiments to test whether individuals were ambiguity averse but it is rare that the experimenters convincigly create ambiguity in a controlled manner.

On 2) due to the problem above it is not clear that individuals actually are ambiguity averse in experiments though mind experiments are usually fairly convincing.

3) No clue whatsoever... Note further that for some types of beliefs, even the dynamically inconsistent updating rules will increase information.

Possible solutions:
One way to create ambiguity could be to use cards that link to a website where the website uses arbitrary rules that change by the hour (such as: what was the result of the last magallanes vs. Cardenales match which should be ambiguous enough given you probably do not even know what sport and what country I am referring to). Players would therefore need internet to play. Or use a electronic device. There is a recent paper that presents a method that yields numbers in an ambiguous manner (in the sense that regardless of the past distributions you have had, there is no way to infer future distributions of outcomes). I do not remember the exact paper but if interested I could make the effort...

On 2 and 3... I guess it would depend on the players. Perhaps the rulebook could prime the players in such a way that their preferences align better with the decision models used here. Also I think that perhaps an example could/should be presented so that they see that given more information they could lose out (assuming that they are rational in the way we have primed them to be...)
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Choubi Gogs
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The following reference makes a recap of these notions for those interested

GILBOA I., MARINACCI M. (2011): "Ambiguity and the Bayesian Paradigm", Advances in economics
and econometrics, tenth world congress. Vol. 1

Found the paper on creating ambiguity:
STECHER, SHIELDS and DICKHAUT (2010): "Generating Ambiguity in the laboratory", working paper

abstract:
"This article develops a method for drawing samples from which it is impossible to infer any quantile or moment of the underlying distribution. The method provides researchers with a way to give subjects the experience of ambiguity. In any experiment, learning the distribution from experience is impossible for the subjects, essentially because it is impossible for the experimenter.We describe our method mathematically, illustrate it in simulations, and then test it
in a laboratory experiment. Our technique does not withhold sampling information, does not assume that the subject is incapable of making statistical inferences, is replicable across experiments,
and requires no special apparatus. We compare our method to the techniques used in related experiments that attempt to produce an ambiguous experience for the subjects."
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Choubi Gogs
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Rereading myself, I realize that the mechanisms are actually a lot more subtle than what I wrote... so... there should actually be even more assumptions there to deal with the dynamic consistency problems as the negative value of information will depend on if you assume your dynamically inconsistent individual as being naive or committed or backward-inducing...

Either way, the key take-away from my big tirade is that there exists a theory of "rationality" for which it is possible that individuals do not like having more information. Whether this is a bug of the theory or a feature will depend on what you want to describe with it and in that particular case on whether it can be descriptive enough and that it is possible to design the game in such a manner that players would act in accordance of this theory...
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John R.
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I'm finding it a bit difficult to articulate this, but your Challenge #1 might work in the context of a game where players play cards based on what they think or hope their neighbours have and will play and score points based on that, rather than on what they actually hold. As the hand goes around the table, more knowledge means less ability to guess and narrows the range of possibilities, thus lessening the points one can score.
Damned if I know how you'd implement it, because you can't simply play your lowest card and declare that the hand will total the highest possible value, and deviation from the average wouldn't be that exciting. Oh, well...
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Oliver Edleston
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Sivilized wrote:
I thought of something that might fit the first challenge.

I know of a game in development, where you roll dice and have to come up with something described by the dice. Each turn, you add a new die and have to come up with a new thing (no repeats) that is described by the original dice plus the new die. As you add more information, the idea must get more specific, making it harder to do.
http://unpub.net/games/detail/?proto=70&o=21

I don't know if you can turn that into a game with bluffing, or a cooperative game, though.


I think this could lead to a game approaching an answer to challenge 1:
Each player has a hand of 3 cards, each of which features a descriptive word such as "Round", "Big", "Orange", etc. that they keep hidden from all other players.
The first player has 30 seconds to state an object they think matches at least 1 card from each players hand. If they pick an object that can be described by at least 1 card from each player then the team scores a point/wins/high-fives.
If the first player names an object that cannot be described by 1 card from each players hand then the first player picks a matching card from his hand and plays it face-up on the table.
Play then proceeds to the next player clockwise who has to similarly state an object in 30 seconds. However instead of matching any of the cards from the first players hand it must instead match the face-up card.
If play proceeds around the table until the last player cannot name an object matching all face up cards and any of the 3 cards in his hand then the team lose a point/lose/low-five!

So in this game, if the first player doesn't pick a suitable object, the possible set of objects that the second player can choose from is reduced. The team gain knowledge of one descriptive word that must be matched in order to win, however they lose the benefit of matching against the unknown cards remaining in the first players hand. Technically, the second player had a greater variety of possible winning objects before he had access to this information (though having the information certainly allows him to focus on objects with a higher likelihood of being viable).
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Lucas Maciel
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Oliver, I think that your idea would make for an interesting game, if it doesn't exist already. It sounded similar to the dice game mentioned before, but I might be mistaken. However, the game mechanically forces the player to incorporate the gained knowledge. Let's say that, knowing the cards in the deck, a player is capable of deducing the one to be played next round. This information does not hinder his decision-making because only the revealed cards must be used in the current round. So the game forces the revealed information but not the known information upon the decisions.

Choubi, I must say your posts were most entertaining. I was eager to get some academic responses and will certainly look into the papers you've mentioned. I'd love to find a way to incorporate such theories (if plausible), but nonetheless, it will have been a fun thought experiment.

Finally, who will design the first co-op drafting game? I'm eager to play it.
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Benj Davis
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What if it's as straightforward as for instance: you can either be silent about what a card is or you can share what it is, but the cost to use it (draw it, draft it, play it, whatever) goes up if you do so.
The trick would be to balance that cost so that it's actually a tough decision, but also to make it simple enough that you can readily tell whether you've shared what the card is.
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Christopher Dearlove
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There is a known situation in game theory where information is a handicap. But it's definitely not cooperative.

Consider the game of chicken, where two cars drive at each other to see who swerves. Swerving is bad. No one swerving is worse. If you can read my mind I can afford to decide not to swerve. You're left with the option of swerve or die, and will pick swerve. Your knowledge forces you to lose. OK, it's not perfect as I also need to know you have the knowledge.

I can't see how to make that useful, just thought I'd throw it in.

(Note that chicken is not the same as the prisoner's dilemma, the ordering of results isn't the same.)
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Benj Davis
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Summer Hill
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Dearlove wrote:
There is a known situation in game theory where information is a handicap. But it's definitely not cooperative.

Consider the game of chicken, where two cars drive at each other to see who swerves. Swerving is bad. No one swerving is worse. If you can read my mind I can afford to decide not to swerve. You're left with the option of swerve or die, and will pick swerve. Your knowledge forces you to lose. OK, it's not perfect as I also need to know you have the knowledge.

I can't see how to make that useful, just thought I'd throw it in.

(Note that chicken is not the same as the prisoner's dilemma, the ordering of results isn't the same.)


Of course, if you can also read my mind, we still have the same problem.
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