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Subject: A good memory ruins many games... rss

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For those that have good-to-great memories, many games rely on semi-hidden elements. By this I mean that all players initially know what the player gained (VP or otherwise) but then those gains are hidden some how until the final scoring of the game (i.e. Troyes' face-down VP tiles, Imperial's hidden money, For Sale's won real estate cards).

Now, for those players that have these crystalline memory-types this is a DISTINCT advantage. What I'm curious about is how are other gaming groups handling this IF amongst their group they have someone who has excellent recall?

Granted, there are many great games that don't rely on memory as a great gaming experience, but this seems to really limit the pool of multi-player games, especially really good euro-games. Pure determinism seems to kind of let the air out of a gaming experience during the final few turns of the game since it's so easy to see or calculate who will win in those turns leading up to the final scoring (i.e. Lewis & Clark I'm looking at you). This rote play-through of the final few turns in these completely open games lets the air out of what was, up until that point, a fine gaming experience.

Amongst my gaming group there are 2-players who have far better memories than the others and games with this was-open-now-hidden-information aspect essentially pair down from a multi-player affair to a 2-player battle of semi-deception as they try and work each others memories into betrayal (i.e. Troyes REALLY becomes all about The Character cards)

Thoughts? Feelings? Is this mountain really a mole-hill?
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J C Lawrence
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The general term is HTI: Hidden Trackable Information.

My response to HTI is simple: I make it open. Always.

If the game is clearly already won before the final turns are played, why bother playing those turns? Just call the game there.
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Larry L
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Well, games often rely on skill to distinguish players, and memory is one such skill.

I'm not in the situation where we play such that one player always has the advantage (at least I think not), so I'm not sure what we would do if one player wins the same game over and over. Well matched players are surely more fun.

As far as games losing their steam, I can't say I disengage with a game when I'm losing, but I could imagine calling a game early, if that seems best.

That all being said, I was just thinking Manhattan Project might be more fun if bomb hands were not hidden. If everyone could tell who was about to win, then they could more easily act against the lead player. Whether that actually is more fun, I don't know. I'm going to play it vanilla several more times before trying out this house rule.

edit: Note that Manhattan Project is not a HTI game, since exactly which player ends up with which bomb is not trackable, but a good memory can help track some of this information.




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Mark Nicosia
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clearclaw wrote:
The general term is HTI: Hidden Trackable Information.

My response to HTI is simple: I make it open. Always.

If the game is clearly already won before the final turns are played, why bother playing those turns? Just call the game there.

+1

Yeah, it's a design flaw, as far as I'm concerned... unfortunately one too many games have.

If a designer wants someone's progress to be secret until the end, then come up with a mechanism to gain VPs without other people knowing the value. But to have originally open information that you then aren't supposed to show anyone... that's pretty much just playing those childhood games where you have a bunch of tiles laid out and you get to turn over 2 at a time to find a match.

I don't want to play memory games, especially at the same time I'm trying to play an actually interesting game. Jaipur comes to mind... you can see every camel someone has at the start, and every one someone picks up, but for some reason they say you can't ask how many camels someone has. I'm supposed to just track in my head the whole game... okay, now he picked up 2, okay now he picked up 5... that's 7. Somehow they think this is fun, or adds anything to the game.

So yeah, I agree. Any game that does that we just play open.
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lindelos wrote:
Thoughts? Feelings? Is this mountain really a mole-hill?

It's a mole-hill in my experience, but perhaps you play different games than I do. Most games I play don't have hidden but trackable info, and for those which do (e.g. money in Power Grid), we haven't found them to be "ruined" by a player having a good memory (it is after all just another player skill, as Larry notes, and in practice people seem to usually at least have a ballpark idea of how much money or whatever other players have), or by simply playing with the trackable info open instead of hidden, as clearclaw suggests, if the group wants to.

That said, my ideal is not to have hidden but trackable info. But it's not a mountain for me.
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The answer depends wildly on who is playing the game.

Note that some games, like Memory, are about memory, and would be pointless if you did not have HTI. Many people don't enjoy these games, but some people do.
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Kevin C.
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Somehow they think this is fun, or adds anything to the game.


I think it makes the game more casual, if you will. Or at least adds a bit of fun suspense at the end.

If the info isn't hidden, then the calculations should be made and it seems to be a more "serious" affair to me.

For Sale is, for me at least, a romp. I try to remember who has the 30 and don't worry so much about the other numbers. I do make an attempt at remembering the bigger numbers, but I usually fail at it and forget.

If the cards were open, it would seem to be a different game with more bite to it, so to speak.

Sometimes I want that bite, so I don't play For Sale at those times.

I guess I just see games with HTI differently than ones with open information.

Since you can always just play HTI open anyway, I don't think it is a big deal. I do appreciate HTI at times, though. It just seems more of a whimsical game and I don't have to calculate as much as I would in other games.

Depends on what type of experience I am looking for in that moment, I guess.

Kevin
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As a long time (for me at least) passionate bridge player i tend to notice and remember key peaces of information available through the game. Without this kind of ability it is hard to be good bridge player, after many plays you don't need to count cards anymore, brain will automatically gather information.

It doesn't stop at information released though specific game moves. Important part of bridge skill-set is so called "table presence". This wide definition includes noticing your opponents thinking, their bidding manner or even mood(you cannot play of you partners unnatural behaviour, it is not only punishable but also actively prevented by barrier between you and your partner on more important tournaments). This is as useful in board games.

I don't have any kind of super memory, but with years of practice i can see a difference in noticing in-game staff. Without focus i can't remember exact gold of players in Goa and usually don't do it, so i'm not sure how my case fits in your discussion. While playing with my friends it is rare for me to be very far from winning. They tend to focus me if nobody has a clear adventage and they keep track of my score more than others which is a great tool to equalize chances.
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Alison Mandible
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Does a perfect memory really change Troyes that much? It's not like just knowing how many points another person has helps you gain points against them.
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Lucas Smith
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clearclaw wrote:
The general term is HTI: Hidden Trackable Information.

My response to HTI is simple: I make it open. Always.

If the game is clearly already won before the final turns are played, why bother playing those turns? Just call the game there.

My position is not too far away:
Today I've played Alhambra. The money is hidden but fully trackable. I didn't like that at all! I do not wan't my opponent to have better chances because he can remember things better than I can. If I wanted this, I'd play Memory. So I read about a simple variant: Allow to draw a face down card from the pile (as in Ticket to Ride, Thurn und Taxis). This fixes the game, next time I will play with this rule. Otherwise I would play with open money, however, I can see the disadvantage of a slower game* because people analyze everybody's financial situation (who can buy what?) first. In general I try to avoid games with HTI or make it open, yes.

*However, if I wanted to play competetively in a game with HTI (assuming pen and paper is forbidden), I would revise what everybody did on their turn before my actual turn, I guess that would not be enjoyed.


New input: What about HTI in games like Skat? The former tricks are HTI but usually hidden. Playing with open tricks would change the game massively, anybody tried this?
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Mark Nicosia
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natsean wrote:

I think it makes the game more casual, if you will.
Funny, that's the exact reason I don't like HTI... it makes a game less casual, imo.

I like drinking and socializing during a game... not having to keep easily trackable information in my head. I don't want to go to the bathroom or to the fridge for another beer and when I get back have to ask everyone, "okay, now, who took what while I was gone?". It's much more "casual" in my opinion, to just be able to see, lying in front of them, what each player has.
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grasa_total wrote:
Does a perfect memory really change Troyes that much? It's not like just knowing how many points another person has helps you gain points against them.


Since Troyes is often not won by large numbers (I guess it could be) of VP's, any advantage has consequence at the end of the game, and we've found Point Denial to be a huge part in the final tally.
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Michael Dillenbeck
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clearclaw wrote:
The general term is HTI: Hidden Trackable Information.

My response to HTI is simple: I make it open. Always.

If the game is clearly already won before the final turns are played, why bother playing those turns? Just call the game there.


Another option is to allow note taking at the table - that way people can write down what information they think is relevant to the game. It is still up to them to judge what is relevant.

----------------------------------------

I will disagree with the OP that determinism does not work for multi-player. It definitely can, but the current solution is to take the victory point salad approach - provide dozens of equally viable paths to victory and let a player choose the one they wish to pursue.

However, you need to remember one key randomizer - human players. Humans are not perfectly logical computers, they cannot rapidly assess a situation and find the optimal solution. Instead, they sometimes take sub-optimal actions that make sense to them on an irrational and emotional level. They are the randomizer, not a deck of cards or die rolls.

The "too long" game experience is in many games. Axis and Allies is over long before it is over - but you keep playing as the Allies crush Germany and Japan. Back in the 80s and early 90s my friends and I could call a game very early on - did Germany succeed in their push against Russia early on, or did Russia hold on long enough to keep territories to raise infantry in? Did Japan succeed at attacking Hawaii, or did the US Fleet hold on to or reclaim this vital territory? The outcome from those points (particularly the German assault on Russia) determined the games outcome, but what was left was seeing how the events unfold. It became a narrative tale of the fall of the Axis powers or the fall of the Allied powers. However, it was not a game about who would win.

-------------------------------------------

Stefan, you said the game has lost all interest because it is a competition between two players with good memory. Let them have their fun, let them compete - but change the goal of the game and create a new win condition for the rest of you. No longer have the win be about who scores the most points, but about which player has the least point gap with the winner between the two friends. Now your two friends are playing the game as it was meant and having their competition, and the rest of you are turning them into part of the goal of the game. Maybe this game you were only 7 points behind the leader and thus you win amongst the rest of your friends - and then the next game someone else pulls off an amazing 4 point gap and becomes the new champion to beat. Next thing you know, you are all having fun despite different objective. Who knows, maybe one time you'll discover that one of your friends or you narrows that gap by so much that you actually beat these two friends who are masters of the game because you kept playing it and faced the challenge. Try it and see how that works for your group.
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I agree with the bridge player above. A good memory in itself is not the important skill, but the competence to decide what information should be remembered and what not.

At the end of a game, bridge players cannot list who played what exact card during which trick. But they can tell who played the important cards at what time, who showed out, and more information, and they draw their conclusions based on that.

Writing down what card each player played at which trick, plus the complete bidding, for each game, would not only slow down the game, but it would negate some the skills that make bridge the game that it is. To me, allowing people to write down HTI is akin to allowing mopeds at a bicycle race.
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Different games require different skills. Memory is a skill. It's natural not to like it when a game requires a skill that is one of your weaknesses or one of your opponents strengths. That doesn't make it a bad feature of the game, it's just a skill you don't excel at.

That said, if your group doesn't like that feature of the game, then house rule it out of the game. My group always respects HTI, but if your group doesn't like it, then get rid of it. As long as your group has more fun without it, it's all good.
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Andrés Santiago Pérez-Bergquist
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Yes, hidden trackable information favors players who are better at memorization. Similarly, randomness favors players who understand probability and can formulate contingency plans, dexterity mechanics favor players who are more dextrous, time limits favor players who can operate under pressure, negotiation mechanics favor players who are more convincing, trivia or vocabulary mechanics favor players with outside knowledge, and even perfect-information deterministic Eurogames favor players who are better able to precisely plan several turns ahead and predict what others will do.

Different games cater to different player's strengths. If you don't like certain kinds of mechanics, then you won't like games that use them. If you don't mind those mechanics, but you don't win under them very often, then ask your group to play a variety of games so every player gets opportunities that cater to them.
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I find that many games with HTI are improved by just making the information open. Some games, such as Paris Connection, become significantly more interesting if you play them with the information open rather than concealed. In some other games it doesn't make as large of a difference. In a game where memory is a significant portion of the game I can understand not wanting to make the change, however.
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Collection wrote:
Different games require different skills. Memory is a skill. It's natural not to like it when a game requires a skill that is one of your weaknesses or one of your opponents strengths. That doesn't make it a bad feature of the game, it's just a skill you don't excel at.


I know it's popular to dismiss someone's opinion by belittling them and claiming they just lack the skill or intellect to have a different opinion, so I will defend those who might be intimidated by your statement.

I am extremely good at remembering every single action taken throughout a game, in order, complete with details entirely irrelevant to the game (which turn you left the table, for example). The actual remembering is effortless for me. But I do have to pay attention so I know something happened in order to remember it, and that means staring at other players while they think about what to do and take their turns. That is incredibly boring, and causes me to get frustrated if someone takes much time to complete a turn. As a result, games with HTI seem like they just reward boredom instead of encouraging people to avoid boredom by having a conversation with friends at the table or going to the bathroom during someone else's turn instead of their own. I prefer games that reward fun instead of boredom. That is the reason I dislike HTI, not because I am bad at them.

So please be less condescending to others. If you enjoy HTI, say you do and why. If it's because you are awesome at tracking HTI and like winning, say that without insulting others. If it's some other reason, stating that would have been far more useful than what you said.
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RichardU wrote:
Collection wrote:
Different games require different skills. Memory is a skill. It's natural not to like it when a game requires a skill that is one of your weaknesses or one of your opponents strengths. That doesn't make it a bad feature of the game, it's just a skill you don't excel at.

I know it's popular to dismiss someone's opinion by belittling them and claiming they just lack the skill or intellect to have a different opinion, so I will defend those who might be intimidated by your statement.

Did you even read what was actually written before you jumped into conclusions? From where did you get the word intellect in there? And where was any opinion dismissed?

How is it an insult to say you may not like things you are not so good at?
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Kevin C.
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Quote:
I like drinking and socializing during a game... not having to keep easily trackable information in my head. I don't want to go to the bathroom or to the fridge for another beer and when I get back have to ask everyone, "okay, now, who took what while I was gone?". It's much more "casual" in my opinion, to just be able to see, lying in front of them, what each player has.


It's funny how this hobby is filled with different approaches.

For me, I wouldn't ask what happened because I don't much care about the outcome in such a game. It's casual so I turn off. I do the best I can under the social circumstances presented.

If things are open, I feel I have to use that information and calculate or else I'm not really playing the game. It's a more formal challenge to my cognition if all the variables are open.

There is an optimal play and I have all the information I need to find it, so I should find it.

If they aren't, I just throw caution to the wind and open another beer. Memory adds a whimsical aspect that lets me off the hook at bit.

It's not, "I didn't see that," but "I didn't remember that" which seems a lesser mistake to me.

So, if I know for sure what cards you have, my cognition is on the line. If I don't, then no big deal because I find that not everyone I play with really tries to remember under these circumstances.

Indeed, in some groups I've played with at cons and such, trying to remember seems to be trying "too hard."

I don't necessarily subscribe to this notion, but I find that I don't take the game as seriously if there is HTI in it. As I said, I find this relaxing at times.

Depends on what I am in the mood for.

Kevin
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Memory is the Rodney Dangerfield of mental skills among gamers - it gets no respect. People are forever finding ways to take memory out of the equation, in contrast to all the other mental skills, which are respected and admired. If you think quickly and accurately, and are able to calculate the best solution to complex situations, you'll be considered an excellent gamer, but if your strength is a good memory, forget it (yes, it's a pun).

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Sicaria Occaeco
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I don't mind hidden trackable information in games. However we usually play these with open information instead. I have yet to see a game that is worse with open info.
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a1bert wrote:

Did you even read what was actually written before you jumped into conclusions? From where did you get the word intellect in there? And where was any opinion dismissed?

How is it an insult to say you may not like things you are not so good at?


Yes, I did read everything in this thread that was written prior to and including what I responded to.

Opinions were dismissed from "That doesn't make it a bad feature of the game, it's just a skill you don't excel at." If you feel that is not a dismissive statement, we will forever disagree on that point. If you feel that is not an insulting statement to anyone who feels HTI is a bad feature of a game, we will forever disagree on that point as well.
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Sicaria wrote:
I don't mind hidden trackable information in games. However we usually play these with open information instead. I have yet to see a game that is worse with open info.

Memory
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RichardU wrote:
If you feel that is not an insulting statement to anyone who feels HTI is a bad feature of a game, we will forever disagree on that point as well.

It is not insulting, it is another opinion. If it is insulting to you, say so. If you think it was an insulting choice of words (leaving out the implied in my opinion) for some imaginary person, then you are not picking your 'battles' really well.

Everyone is free to dislike games for whatever reason. Disliking HTI in games does not make HTI bad in games in general. If HTI were a bad choice in games in general, wouldn't it be disliked by all?


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