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Subject: 3 player strategy rss

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James Rousselle
United States
Metairie
Louisiana
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This system of playing was developed by several players over many plays. I have made some changes recently. As always, these conventions are a work in progress. Any suggestions for improvement are greatly appreciated.

Note: These conventions are written specifically for a 3 player game. A 4 player game may require some changes. A 5 player game will require significant changes.

DEFINITIONS
Player – the person taking an action (ie, you)
Receiver – the person receiving the clue
LH1 - Left Hand 1 (Partner sitting one space to your left)
LH2 - Left Hand 2 (Partner sitting two spaces to your left)
RH1 - Right Hand 1 (Partner sitting one space to your right) in a 3 player game RH1=LH2
Dump clue – a clue identifying card(s) that can be safely discarded
Specific clue – a clue identifying one card
Finesse – an unusual, seemingly silly clue or card play that gives information to LH1
Dump card – The oldest card in hand that player has no information on. Note it is possible (assuming information about the rest of the cards) that a single card could be both the newest card and the Dump card.
Dump-able card – A card that can never be played
At Risk - A card that if discarded would immediately reduce the highest score available. All 5’s are At Risk when the game begins. Other cards become At Risk when their duplicate is discarded.

GENERAL CLUE GIVING PHILOSOPHY

DUMP CLUES
In general, dump clues are inefficient. Instead, treat dump clues as follows:
3 or more cards - These cards can be dumped, ie a true dump clue.
2 cards – These cards can be dumped AND LH1’s newest card is playable (clue would be given to RH1)
1 card – This card can be dumped and receiver’s dump card is At Risk (must be saved)

GIVE CLUE VS DUMP DECISION
When you know nothing about your hand, don't fall into the trap of cluing every playable card. You may have some dump-able cards.

Be careful to avoid giving one player too much information about cards that are neither playable nor At Risk. This could cause him hand management problems when his newest card is also his dump card.


HAND MANAGEMENT – YOUR HAND
Order cards from oldest (left) to newest (right), from the person holding the cards perspective.
Place cards into four separate piles in your hand:
1. Unknown
2. Known (color and/or number is known)
3. Playable, (a known playable card is placed with the playable cards)
4. Dump-able
MAINTAIN THE RELATIVE ORDER OF CARDS WITHIN A GROUP. See the one and only exception to this rule in the Finesse section.

Avoid discarding when you have a playable card and no dump-able cards. Otherwise, you may discard an At Risk card.

HAND MANAGEMENT – PARTNERS’ HANDS
A player is responsible for making sure RH1 does not dump an At Risk card.
A player is responsible for getting LH1 to play his newest card via a finesse.

CARD PLAY ORDER
When having a choice of multiple cards to play or discard, the card chosen holds meaning.
1st card – normal
2nd card - LH1’s newest card is playable
3rd card – RH1’s dump card should be saved

ONE CARD CLUES
Direct information about a single card generally indicates a playable card. EXCEPTION: if the direct information points to a card in the dump position, AND the clue is given by LH1, AND the card could possibly be At Risk, the dump card should be saved. Players will use judgment as an early “this card is a 5 clue” is probably a save clue irrespective of who gave the clue.

When a player has a choice of giving a number or color clue to LH1, the player should choose the color. If instead the number clue is given, this is also a clue for RH1 to save his dump card.

When information is given about two cards and one of them was previously partially known, (and the further information clarifies it as being not playable), it is implied that the other should be played, ie, treat the 2 card clue as a 1 card clue.

If a single card color clue is given about the same color as a known playable card, then the clue indicates it is playable as the next in line card of that color.



FINESSE (Applies AFTER round 1 AND 1st card has been played.)
Giving an unusual clue to LH2 is a finesse which tells LH1 that his newest unknown card is playable. Unusual clues should be determinable by LH1 so player must consider LH1’s perspective in determining if it is unusual. (The card that was in the newest position should be moved to 1st in the playable pile. This is the only time a card is moved within a pile.)

If you have a known playable and known dump-able card(s), discarding sends a message to LH1 that his newest card is playable.

Examples:
1 – Early in a 3 player game, player tells LH2 that his 2nd card (card next to the dump position) is red. If this card is a red 1, then it’s a normal clue. However, if this card is the red 2, it’s a finesse, telling LH1 to play his newest card. LH1 can see LH2’s 2nd card, so he will be able to determine if this is a sequence finesse or a simple one card clue.

2 - On the 3rd round of a 3 player game, player tells LH2 that his 2nd card next to the dump position is a 5. This card can’t possibly be played this round! This must be an info finesse, telling LH1 to play his newest card. There is no danger of LH2 playing his 5. Note that priority should be given to cluing At Risk cards that are not in the dump position.

Types of Finesses:

Sequence Clue Finesse - A player tells LH2 (or possibly any other player other than LH1) a clue that would be interpreted as a normal “this card plays” clue. LH1 sees that this would result in a bomb, so the clue must be a finesse. LH1 plays his newest card. LH2 must assume his clued card plays if it is the same color on the next number in line. LH2 adds it to his playable cards (he can choose to play it or play a different playable card thus signaling his LH1).

Info Clue Finesse - Any non-playable card identified alone ("play this card") not in the dump position (1st card) is considered unusual. (See examples 1 and 2 above.) It is important that LH1 can determine if the clue is unusual or normal. Strategy hint: 5’s not in the dump position are ideal for info clue finesses.

Dump Card Finesse – This can only occur when RH1’s dump card is At Risk AND player has no known playable cards and no known dump-able cards. If player discards his dump card, it FORCES LH1 to play his newest card which signals to RH1 to save his dump card.

Preemptive Finesse - Giving a specific clue to LH2’s newest card tells LH1 AND LH2 that their newest cards are both playable. This could possibly be a sequence finesse.



MULTIPLE PLAY CLUE
Giving a number clue to 2 or more cards should indicate playable cards, assuming the state of the game allows it to be possible.

2 For 1 Rule - Assuming there are bombs to spare a clue like the above can be given even in situations where it might later introduce a bomb so long as it grants at least two safe plays for the one bomb.

Ex 1: Early in the game two 1’s have been played. A player is given the clue that three of his cards are 2’s. It should be assumed two of them are playable. One of them may be a bomb but that is a price sometimes worth the efficiency of the two plays. If there is a follow up clue, it should be to the non-playable card.


TANDEM CLUES
A tandem clue involves two players in sequence giving clues about the same cards to identify a playable sequence that could not be otherwise identified with a single clue. Tandem clues can involve 2 or 3 cards of the same color. The first player will give a color clue about the 2 or 3 cards. The next player’s action (or inaction) will clarify the situation.

Two card tandem clue
Assume green 2 is on the board
1 – Clue 1: These 2 cards are green. Clue 2: This card is a 4. The cards are Green 3,4.
2 – Clue 1: These 2 cards are green. Clue 2: This card is a 5. The cards are Green 3,5.
3 – Clue 1: These 2 cards are green. Clue 2: none. The cards are identical.
4 – Clue 1: These 2 cards are green. Action 2: Plays newest card. The 2 cards can be dumped.

Three card tandem clue
General Philosophy:
1) Give a 3 card color clue when LH2 has the next 2 cards in sequence.
2) Be cautious when there are few clues left, as the next player in the tandem sequence MUST follow up.
Example:
Assume Green 1 is on the board.
Clue 1: These 3 cards are green. (Green 2 and 3 MUST be two of them. The other could be any green card.)
There are 3 possible situations that could occur:
1 – The 2 is closer to the dump position AND there are no duplicate cards
2 – The 3 is closer to the dump position AND there are no duplicate card.
If the 2 is closer to the dump position, follow up clue should identify the unknown card. This will exactly identify all 3 cards.
If the 3 is closer to the dump position, the follow up clue will tell where the 2 and 3 are located, but will not identify the unknown card. If the 2 and 3 are touching, identify the 2. Otherwise, identify the 3.
3 – If there are duplicate cards, the follow up clue MUST identify the duplicates.


QUICK REFERENCE:

Get any player to save his dump card
Give that player a one card dump clue

Get RH1 to save his dump card
1 - If you have no known playable or known dump-able cards, AND LH1’s newest card is playable, discard your dump card
2 – If condition “1” does not apply, give a specific clue to LH1’s newest card, if it is playable
3 - Give a single card clue to RH1’s dump card
4 - Give a single card dump clue to RH1 (It must be clear to RH1 this is a dump clue.)
5 – Identify a playable card in LH1’s hand by giving a number clue where a color clue could also have been given

Save any card not in dump position
Don’t worry about it. Wait till it gets to the dump position and do the above

Get LH1 to play his newest card
1 - Play your 2nd playable or 2nd known dump-able card
2 – Use info or sequence finesse
3 - Name it specifically (This also tells RH1 to save his dump card.)
4 – If you have no known playable or dump-able cards AND RH1’s dump card is At Risk, discard your dump card

Get LH2 to play his newest card
Generally not your problem. Unless LH1’s newest is also playable then name LH2’s card.

RECOMMENDED START PROCEDURE
The first priority at the start of the game is to name unmatched (the corresponding one is not present in either hand) twos for LH1 and if none exist then LH2. This is required if the two is in the dump or next to dump position. This is accomplished preferably by naming the color (identifies the 2 exactly) but if multiple twos exist the player should use their judgment on naming them. After unmatched twos are clued players proceed to naming clues as normal except that a number should always be used to identify the ones so as not to confuse them with twos. Finesses are off until the 2nd round AND at least one card has been played. Play order signals are on however!

STUPID DISCARD
If an obviously playable card is discarded then someone can play that same card from the new spot in their hand. Look around. If you can't see someone else with the card, it is your newest card!
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Buxton Redding
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Nice write-up! My feedback is below--combination of confusion and constructive criticism.

JGRno5 wrote:
This system of playing was developed by several players over many plays. I have made some changes recently. As always, these conventions are a work in progress. Any suggestions for improvement are greatly appreciated.

Note: These conventions are written specifically for a 3 player game. A 4 player game may require some changes. A 5 player game will require significant changes.

DEFINITIONS
Player – the person taking an action (ie, you)
Receiver – the person receiving the clue
LH1 - Left Hand 1 (Partner sitting one space to your left)
LH2 - Left Hand 2 (Partner sitting two spaces to your left)
RH1 - Right Hand 1 (Partner sitting one space to your right) in a 3 player game RH1=LH2 Dump clue – a clue identifying card(s) that can be safely discarded
Specific clue – a clue identifying one card
Finesse – an unusual, seemingly silly clue or card play that gives information to LH1
Dump card – The oldest card in hand that player has no information on. Note it is possible (assuming information about the rest of the cards) that a single card could be both the newest card and the Dump card.
Dump-able card – A card that can never be played
At Risk - A card that if discarded would immediately reduce the highest score available. All 5’s are At Risk when the game begins. Other cards become At Risk when their duplicate is discarded.

GENERAL CLUE GIVING PHILOSOPHY

DUMP CLUES
In general, dump clues are inefficient. Instead, treat dump clues as follows:
3 or more cards - These cards can be dumped, ie a true dump clue.
2 cards – These cards can be dumped AND LH1’s newest card is playable (clue would be given to RH1)
1 card – This card can be dumped and receiver’s dump card is At Risk (must be saved)

1 and 3 are straightforward. I don't understand the 2 card dump logic. Why does this finesse LH1's newest?


GIVE CLUE VS DUMP DECISION
When you know nothing about your hand, don't fall into the trap of cluing every playable card. You may have some dump-able cards.

Be careful to avoid giving one player too much information about cards that are neither playable nor At Risk. This could cause him hand management problems when his newest card is also his dump card.


HAND MANAGEMENT – YOUR HAND
Order cards from oldest (left) to newest (right), from the person holding the cards perspective.
Place cards into four separate piles in your hand:
1. Unknown
2. Known (color and/or number is known)
3. Playable, (a known playable card is placed with the playable cards)
4. Dump-able
MAINTAIN THE RELATIVE ORDER OF CARDS WITHIN A GROUP. See the one and only exception to this rule in the Finesse section.

Avoid discarding when you have a playable card and no dump-able cards. Otherwise, you may discard an At Risk card.

HAND MANAGEMENT – PARTNERS’ HANDS
A player is responsible for making sure RH1 does not dump an At Risk card.
A player is responsible for getting LH1 to play his newest card via a finesse.

I assume you mean these are the most efficient options? It seems like all players are responsible for making sure at risk cards don't get dumped and that playable cards get played. See my concerns with some of your finesse conventions below.



CARD PLAY ORDER
When having a choice of multiple cards to play or discard, the card chosen holds meaning.
1st card – normal
2nd card - LH1’s newest card is playable
3rd card – RH1’s dump card should be saved

I am very confused by these rules. Are these conventions you have agreed on with the people you play with? If so, is there logic behind the implications? I'm sleepy, so I may be missing something. In general, I think any conventions a group of players has should be conventions that could organically develop and become obvious over a handful of games. Any conventions agreed on that wouldn't naturally occur/be derived are outside of what I would call fair play.


ONE CARD CLUES
Direct information about a single card generally indicates a playable card. EXCEPTION: if the direct information points to a card in the dump position, AND the clue is given by LH1, AND the card could possibly be At Risk, the dump card should be saved. Players will use judgment as an early “this card is a 5 clue” is probably a save clue irrespective of who gave the clue.

When a player has a choice of giving a number or color clue to LH1, the player should choose the color. If instead the number clue is given, this is also a clue for RH1 to save his dump card.

When information is given about two cards and one of them was previously partially known, (and the further information clarifies it as being not playable), it is implied that the other should be played, ie, treat the 2 card clue as a 1 card clue.

If a single card color clue is given about the same color as a known playable card, then the clue indicates it is playable as the next in line card of that color.



FINESSE (Applies AFTER round 1 AND 1st card has been played.)
Giving an unusual clue to LH2 is a finesse which tells LH1 that his newest unknown card is playable. Unusual clues should be determinable by LH1 so player must consider LH1’s perspective in determining if it is unusual. (The card that was in the newest position should be moved to 1st in the playable pile. This is the only time a card is moved within a pile.)

If you have a known playable and known dump-able card(s), discarding sends a message to LH1 that his newest card is playable.

Couldn't a discard in this scenario just as well be saying to LH1, "don't discard your dump card and give a clue"?


Examples:
1 – Early in a 3 player game, player tells LH2 that his 2nd card (card next to the dump position) is red. If this card is a red 1, then it’s a normal clue. However, if this card is the red 2, it’s a finesse, telling LH1 to play his newest card. LH1 can see LH2’s 2nd card, so he will be able to determine if this is a sequence finesse or a simple one card clue.

2 - On the 3rd round of a 3 player game, player tells LH2 that his 2nd card next to the dump position is a 5. This card can’t possibly be played this round! This must be an info finesse, telling LH1 to play his newest card. There is no danger of LH2 playing his 5. Note that priority should be given to cluing At Risk cards that are not in the dump position.

Types of Finesses:

Sequence Clue Finesse - A player tells LH2 (or possibly any other player other than LH1) a clue that would be interpreted as a normal “this card plays” clue. LH1 sees that this would result in a bomb, so the clue must be a finesse. LH1 plays his newest card. LH2 must assume his clued card plays if it is the same color on the next number in line. LH2 adds it to his playable cards (he can choose to play it or play a different playable card thus signaling his LH1).

Info Clue Finesse - Any non-playable card identified alone ("play this card") not in the dump position (1st card) is considered unusual. (See examples 1 and 2 above.) It is important that LH1 can determine if the clue is unusual or normal. Strategy hint: 5’s not in the dump position are ideal for info clue finesses.

This also seems unnatural to me. For me, if something is already at risk and I clue LH2 about a 5 in that position, I could be saying that I'm unclear about my dump card and want to go around another round before I discard. I'm also telling LH1 that he is safe to discard his dump because I did not clue him and instead clued a not yet at risk card at LH2. If he discards instead of cluing me, I am also likely safe to discard on my next turn.

Even if mine is an overly conservative strategy, it stills seems to me that cluing a non dump slot 5 in LH2's hand triggers LH1 to play new card would not be a naturally derived convention.


Dump Card Finesse – This can only occur when RH1’s dump card is At Risk AND player has no known playable cards and no known dump-able cards. If player discards his dump card, it FORCES LH1 to play his newest card which signals to RH1 to save his dump card.

Why? If player discards, it forces LH1 to clue the at risk card and it keeps LH1 from discarding his dump. If player clues RH1, it indicates LH1 can safely discard. Isn't this safer? I don't understand why it is logical for LH1 to play newest. That seems like a strike waiting to happen.


Preemptive Finesse - Giving a specific clue to LH2’s newest card tells LH1 AND LH2 that their newest cards are both playable. This could possibly be a sequence finesse.

Maybe? If it is not an obvious sequence finesse, I still don't understand why player giving the clue shouldn't just tell LH1 that it is safe to discard.

With this many ways to finesse, it seems like LH1 is just playing his newest card any time player clues LH2 or discards.


MULTIPLE PLAY CLUE
Giving a number clue to 2 or more cards should indicate playable cards, assuming the state of the game allows it to be possible.

2 For 1 Rule - Assuming there are bombs to spare a clue like the above can be given even in situations where it might later introduce a bomb so long as it grants at least two safe plays for the one bomb.

Ex 1: Early in the game two 1’s have been played. A player is given the clue that three of his cards are 2’s. It should be assumed two of them are playable. One of them may be a bomb but that is a price sometimes worth the efficiency of the two plays. If there is a follow up clue, it should be to the non-playable card.


TANDEM CLUES
A tandem clue involves two players in sequence giving clues about the same cards to identify a playable sequence that could not be otherwise identified with a single clue. Tandem clues can involve 2 or 3 cards of the same color. The first player will give a color clue about the 2 or 3 cards. The next player’s action (or inaction) will clarify the situation.

Two card tandem clue
Assume green 2 is on the board
1 – Clue 1: These 2 cards are green. Clue 2: This card is a 4. The cards are Green 3,4.
2 – Clue 1: These 2 cards are green. Clue 2: This card is a 5. The cards are Green 3,5.
3 – Clue 1: These 2 cards are green. Clue 2: none. The cards are identical.
4 – Clue 1: These 2 cards are green. Action 2: Plays newest card. The 2 cards can be dumped.

Three card tandem clue
General Philosophy:
1) Give a 3 card color clue when LH2 has the next 2 cards in sequence.
2) Be cautious when there are few clues left, as the next player in the tandem sequence MUST follow up.
Example:
Assume Green 1 is on the board.
Clue 1: These 3 cards are green. (Green 2 and 3 MUST be two of them. The other could be any green card.)
There are 3 possible situations that could occur:
1 – The 2 is closer to the dump position AND there are no duplicate cards
2 – The 3 is closer to the dump position AND there are no duplicate card.
If the 2 is closer to the dump position, follow up clue should identify the unknown card. This will exactly identify all 3 cards.
If the 3 is closer to the dump position, the follow up clue will tell where the 2 and 3 are located, but will not identify the unknown card. If the 2 and 3 are touching, identify the 2. Otherwise, identify the 3.
3 – If there are duplicate cards, the follow up clue MUST identify the duplicates.


QUICK REFERENCE:

Get any player to save his dump card
Give that player a one card dump clue

Get RH1 to save his dump card
1 - If you have no known playable or known dump-able cards, AND LH1’s newest card is playable, discard your dump card
2 – If condition “1” does not apply, give a specific clue to LH1’s newest card, if it is playable
3 - Give a single card clue to RH1’s dump card
4 - Give a single card dump clue to RH1 (It must be clear to RH1 this is a dump clue.)
5 – Identify a playable card in LH1’s hand by giving a number clue where a color clue could also have been given

Save any card not in dump position
Don’t worry about it. Wait till it gets to the dump position and do the above

Get LH1 to play his newest card
1 - Play your 2nd playable or 2nd known dump-able card
2 – Use info or sequence finesse
3 - Name it specifically (This also tells RH1 to save his dump card.)
4 – If you have no known playable or dump-able cards AND RH1’s dump card is At Risk, discard your dump card

Get LH2 to play his newest card
Generally not your problem. Unless LH1’s newest is also playable then name LH2’s card.

RECOMMENDED START PROCEDURE
The first priority at the start of the game is to name unmatched (the corresponding one is not present in either hand) twos for LH1 and if none exist then LH2. This is required if the two is in the dump or next to dump position. This is accomplished preferably by naming the color (identifies the 2 exactly) but if multiple twos exist the player should use their judgment on naming them. After unmatched twos are clued players proceed to naming clues as normal except that a number should always be used to identify the ones so as not to confuse them with twos. Finesses are off until the 2nd round AND at least one card has been played. Play order signals are on however!

STUPID DISCARD
If an obviously playable card is discarded then someone can play that same card from the new spot in their hand. Look around. If you can't see someone else with the card, it is your newest card!


For real, I am probably just too slow to think through all of these conventions without seeing them played out.

But as I mentioned, I'm opposed to any convention that wouldn't be understood by all players if they played 20 games silently without first discussing the convention (e.g. play newest, dump oldest, sequence finesse, basic bluff).

Again, nice job writing all this up. Good discussion.

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James Rousselle
United States
Metairie
Louisiana
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Buxton, thanks for the feedback.

Dump clues - we need to have a convention around these because giving dump clues are inefficient. This game is all about efficiency. So if I tell my Lh2 (= Rh1 in a 3 player game) that he has 2 cards that can be safely discarded, why did I waste a clue on that when we could simply let the cards age thru his hand? This led to our convention that this is a finesse to my LH1 to play his newest.

Hand management-Yes, all players are responsible for making sure that At-Risk cards do no get discarded. By setting up a primary responsibility, it made the conventions easy to follow. We position our cards so that our oldest card is on a player's left. Thus, my LH1's newest and RH1's oldest cards are the ones that are closest to me. This makes it easy for me to remember what cards I have primary responsibility for.

One of the reasons for the primary is this. Imagine it's late in the middle game and my RH1 has a 4 in the dump position. If he is clued about this card, there may be some uncertainty as to whether he should play or save the card. If I give the clue, it's a save because I'm the primary for getting him to save his dump card. If my LH1 (his RH1) gives him the same clue, he will know to play the card because I did not give him a save clue.

Card play order - If I have 3 cards that I can dump, I don't care which order I discard them in. However, I can set up a convention that allows me to convey extra information with my discard. Since I'm the primary for LH1's newest and RH1's oldest, it was natural to choose the meanings we selected. The real beauty of the card play order convention is that we get plays without having to give clues!!

Finesse - Yes, discarding (instead of playing) could send a message to LH1 to save. However, that's not my primary responsibility. Your idea may be better than what we use; however, at some point, we decided that if we kept some consistency with respect to responsibilities, the players may commit fewer errors.

Info finesse - Buxton, this game is about efficiency. We have learned that we need to trust our partners. We found that by being conservative, we never scored a 30. However, with the system that I have outlined, we score 30 about 1/3 of the time. 2 weeks ago, we scored 30 2 out of 3. A player should not be worried about discarding an At-Risk card. It is NOT his responsibility. My LH1 is responsible for making sure I don't dump an At-Risk card. The way we play certainly requires a lot of trust and a hive mind.

Dump card finesse - If this situation arises and I discard instead of cluing RH1's dump card, LH1 can see that RH1's dump card is At-Risk. He will figure out what just happened. He MUST play his newest. When RH1 sees LH1 play his newest after I just discarded, he will figure out that he needs to save his dump card. Again, all the players must trust each other.

Pre-emptive finesse - No, LH1 does not play his newest when I clue RH1. LH1 can see if my clue is a standard 1 card clue or a finesse. The reason for the pre-emptive finesse is, you guessed it, efficiency.

When we started playing this game, we often ran out the deck before we could play all our cards. This led us to search for ways to get more plays per clue. In a 3 player game, each player ends the game with 4 cards. Thus 12 cards never get played. Of the 48 remaining cards, we need to play 30 to get a perfect score. That only leaves 18 cards. If we use all 18 for discards, that gives us 18 + starting clues, plus any 5's played. It will be very difficult to reach a score of 30 if some of these clues must be used as save clues. It will be almost impossible to reach 30 if clues are used to clue dump cards.
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Malachi Brown
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Hermitage
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JGRno5 wrote:
It will be almost impossible to reach 30 if clues are used to clue dump cards.

Well, we at least agree on something. In the groups I play with, though, the resolution to this is not to clue discards unless there are special circumstances. For us, that was the natural evolution of realizing that there is not enough time in the game to clue everything, and that other players are responsible for your hand. e.g. I will discard at any time.

I have to say that some of your conventions seem very artificial to me. It sounds like they grew out of a series of post-game discussions with the same group but that they would not organically arise consistently nor are they intuitive. For example, the meaning of a dump clue based on the number of cards seems somewhat arbitrary.

The shift of focus from LH1 to RH1 is interesting to me. I frequently play with all numbers of players and our style is that each player is responsible for the player to their left. i.e. the next player. Flipping this would probably be fine in 3 player. However, as you noted, it may not scale to 4 and 5 player games.

I totally agree that Hanabi is about clue efficiency, I am just not sold on the methods you describe to attain that efficiency. I think there are more natural methods that can yield similar results.

I do appreciate that you took the time to write all of this out because it is interesting to understand how others play the game.
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James Rousselle
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Malachi, it's great to get the thoughts of others on this fine game.

Perhaps, I was not clear on the discard clue. If I have 3 cards that I know are safe discards, I could discard the 2nd one to tell my LH1 that his newest card plays or I could discard my 3rd to tell RH1 to save his oldest.

While I admit our conventions may not be organic (what ever that may mean), but there is some consistency. For example, in the situation given above where I have 3 possible discards. My 1st discard is closet to LH1 and my 3rd discard is closest to RH1. If I discard my card that is closest to RH1, I'm speaking to him. Ignoring the 1st card, my 2nd discard is closest to LH1. Again, we were looking for ways to manufacture clues and this was a cheap way to do it.

Thanks for comments. They are most welcome. BTW, I have not kept score, but I'm guessing we score 30 about 35% of the time with this system.

I'm currently working on a 5 player system. The problems facing a 5 player game are WAY different. For example, cards age thru the hands more rapidly & it's far less likely to have 3 cards that are known discards. When I come up with this system, it won't look anything like the 3 player system.
 
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Hanabi is certainly interesting in that conventions will naturally arise in a given group and these will definitely vary from group to group. There's not exactly anything wrong with artificial conventions per se, though I'm personally not a big fan of them.

Basically, I always want to have an underlying logical reasons for actions in the game to mean things. If I sat down with people that I'd never played before and all we knew was that everyone was an experienced player, we could probably do finesse plays, or have cluing dump cards mean 'your discard isn't safe to dump and other cards are either awkward to clue or also unsafe to dump', or expect them to play their newest card when clued about their two newest. These things are somewhat convention-driven but also have an intuitive logic and sense to them.

There's no way at all they could ever understand 'cluing exactly 2 dump cards is meant as a finesse', therefore I personally don't like conventions like that. They're also not necessary to do well at the game, even with a rainbow suit.
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James Rousselle
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Jared, I 100% agree with you regarding conventions. It's not like we go out of our way to develop conventions. We try to keep them easy; however, the problem is there are not enough clues. In a 3 player game, at least 12 cards will not get played. So that leaves 48. To get a perfect score, we will play 30 and discard (at most) 18. That yields 8 + 18 clues, plus a few for 5's. We must allow for clues that save cards, so getting to 30 will be difficult.

We don't like to clue discards--too inefficient. As such, we decided to try to turn discard clues into play clues. Plus, our system allows for giving clues based upon discards. So if I know I have 2 discards, I might be able to discard the 2nd one and clue my LH1 that his newest card plays.

The system is a fabric. Pulling out a single thread may destroy the weave.

Thanks for the feedback.
 
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Malachi Brown
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I agree with your analysis on the scarcity of clues (30 clues available in a full multicolor 3-player game). I also agree that sometimes you have to spend clues to save one or more tiles. However, where I think we start to diverge is in how we view those save clues.

You seem to assume that a save clue is "lost" and won't count towards clue efficiency. My general assumption is that a save clue will often lead to a later play without an additional clue because either it is obvious what the save clue was trying to save, so that player will know when to play it, or because it will become obvious later. Or, a clue can be given to someone else to eventually finesse out the saved tile. So, in my mind those save clues will still usually be as efficient as any other single tile clue. As such, they, generally, do not hurt the clue-to-play ratio and so there is no need to try to compensate for them.

For example, if the only red or multi tile in the discard is the R4 and someone clues me about a red tile in my discard slot, my assumption is that it is most likely the R4 and, given the opportunity to play after the R3 I will most likely try playing it without additional information.

If we change the example to have the R3 and R4 as the only red/multi tiles in the discard and I get the same red clue, I will assume it is either the R3 or R4 and then I will wait to see if someone else draws the R3 or R4 at which point I will know which I have. In the case that someone draws the R4, it can be directly clued as well and we have gotten 2 plays with 2 clues.

By the same logic, we rarely give color clues to uniquely identify tiles that have already been clued as 5s unless it also gets another play. Often the 5s will work themselves out.
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James Rousselle
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Malachi,

I agree that save clues can often turn into plays. However, a "this card is a 5 clue" is often the save clue. Also, if you have a card in your dump position and you receive a 1 card clue for that card, how do you treat it where there is ambiguity as to whether that card can be played or not?

The system that I outlined attempts to deal with these situations that frequently arise.

Also, regarding efficiency, I would ask you how often you score 30 points. We score 30 points about 1/3 or more of the time. We rarely score below 27. If I had to guess, I'd say our median score is somewhere between 28 and 29.
 
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Having played a lot with a few different variants where you get even fewer clues per card you need to play... the biggest thing you can do is just give clues that clue multiple cards. That is cluing 2+ cards in sequence with 1 clue, and finesses.

If we were going to add an artificial convention from cluing discards, it seems like having it clue any card OTHER than LH1's newest would be better. LH1's newest card is already the easiest card to clue and the easiest card to clue efficiently (in a way that gets 2+ cards played for one clue). Adding another way to clue it 1-for-1 doesn't seem very useful.
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James Rousselle
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Sean, h'mmn

I'm gonna have to ponder that one. Perhaps does make more sense to use the card signal for something else. This will require some testing.

 
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Malachi Brown
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I don't keep complete records, but I believe my lunch group gets 30 more than half the time and we typically score 27+.

 
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JGRno5 wrote:
if you have a card in your dump position and you receive a 1 card clue for that card, how do you treat it where there is ambiguity as to whether that card can be played or not?


Everything in Hanabi is contextual. Has that card been sitting free for me to discard for 2 turns and then now I'm suddenly told about it? Probably the purple 3 that only now became playable. Otherwise, in general I assume a clued card in the discard slot is not playable by default until I'm given reason to think otherwise, which can come in a dozen different ways. E.g., someone can draw the card I thought it was therefore it's playable, or I end up getting another clue that clarifies it and clues another card, or it gets finessed, etc.


JGRno5 wrote:
Also, regarding efficiency, I would ask you how often you score 30 points. We score 30 points about 1/3 or more of the time. We rarely score below 27. If I had to guess, I'd say our median score is somewhere between 28 and 29.


I haven't carefully tracked this at all, but with experienced players that've played together several times I believe we'd get 30 around 50-60% of the time in a 3-player game. Less than 27 requires a major misread or misplay. Definitely room to improve, mind you - I estimate it's reasonable to get a 30 about 89% of the time (with the remaining 11% being screwed by luck).
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Malachi Brown
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So, this week I have played 6 games at lunch (2 each for the past three days). The first and the last two were three player and we got 30 each time. The other three games were 4 player and we got 29 (due to the second red 4 being the last tile drawn), 28 (due to an error of a player not giving an obvious and important clue), and a strikeout (due to multiple different errors [I grabbed the wrong tile from my hand to play early on, etc.]).
 
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James Rousselle
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Malachi, that's impressive.

Have you had much success with a 5 player game. I have been trying to work on a 5 player system to handle the problems that arise in a 5 player game.

5 player problems that I noticed:
At least 15 (3x5) cards never get played. That leaves at most 15 for discards to regain clues.
Cards age quickly thru the hands.
It is less likely to clue 2 playable cards.
Card signaling is less likely to occur.

I figure that in a 5 player game, any system will need to harness the 5 positions. For example, if a player has 2 different cards of the same color and one of them is immediately playable, the person giving him the 2 card color clue will determine which card is immediately playable.
 
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Malachi Brown
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We don't play 5 player as often, but we have gotten 30 fairly regularly with 5 players. You are correct that the number of clues available goes down a little bit (28 clues in the optimal case vs 30 for 3 or 4 player). However, there are also more opportunities for finesse, double finesse, and bluff plays, so it works out although it has a heavier cognitive load because there are more implications to consider and more mental models to model.

We do not substantively adjust our strategy between 3, 4, and 5 player (2 player does require some adaptation). We do not use cluing player position any differently in 5 player. In general, cluing player is less an indication of the playability of the clued player's tiles and more an indication of the other players' hands. e.g. usually we will let the player's right hand neighbor clue them, but if I am two to the right of the target player and I see the next player's hand is full of useless tiles, I might take the clue to signal to my left hand player that they can/should discard or give them the option of doing something else.
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James Rousselle
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Malachi, do you have a codified strategy? Something similar to my original post?
 
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Nothing quite so elaborate or rigid. My main group has been experimenting with play-and-hold instead of play-all for about a month and a half, but generally we try to play with a logic based "convention" that usually entails the following:

* Clues should lead to plays
* discard the oldest tile you do not have useful information about when you discard (with some exceptions such as discarding a tile you know something about when you now see enough of the tiles to know with certainty that it is no longer useful which should, in turn, indicate to another player that they do have those tile(s))
* if a single tile clue is given, it is most likely a play clue, with the exception of obvious non-playables and tiles in the discard position, which is, if reasonable, a save clue.
* we don't clue discards except when someone has one or more tiles in danger that cannot be safely clued with a single clue, then a discard clue indicates that there is some challenge with the hand
* if clued about multiple tiles without a save implication, play the newest one (with play-all you would then proceed to play the next newest, etc, unless given something else to do, with play-and-hold you would usually hold the additional tiles until a later clue is given [usually to someone else] which triggers you to play or until you have enough information to know what to do with the tile)
* we play with finesse, bluff, and reverse finesse clues and variations
* If a player knows something about two tiles and they are given a clue indicating that one of them is not playable, the other is assumed to be playable
* You are most responsible for the hand of the player to your left. If they do something totally dumb it's probably your fault. However, you have to keep an eye on the entire game state and make decisions in that context. Also, if the player to your left has something to do (a play lined up, for example) then you become responsible for the player to their left, etc.
* I will discard at any time. If the tile in my discard slot is important, someone should probably tell me about it.

Of course, all of that depends on context and logic and variations are sometimes necessary. For example, yesterday the player to my left clued the player to my right about his three 1s. The player to my right played the Y1 and would be playing the G1 next turn. I clued the player to my left to his three oldest tiles as green. Instead of playing his "newest" green tile he clued me about a 5 because he could see the G1 and decided it would be better to wait a turn. I then clued his oldest green tile as a 2 and he played it. Then on my next turn I clued his newest green and his oldest tile as 4s which prompted him to play the M1 that was his other "green" tile I had originally clued. In this case I took an unorthodox approach because he had two tiles I wanted him to play (G2 and M1) but they were at the back of his hand behind M4 and Y1. I couldn't clue the 2 directly on the first turn, but I did not have a better clue to give him so I gave him the green clue in the hopes that he would wait a turn because of the impending G1 from the other player.

I would say that we have a convention, but that we believe it to be a fairly organic and natural convention with a strong logical basis that could be understood by other experienced players with little to no explanation. Basically our "convention" is just a general summary of the conclusions that can be drawn by thinking through the questions:

"Why was I given this clue at this time?"
"What are the possible conclusions I can draw?"
"For each of those conclusions, what other ways could I have been given the same information?"
"If there is one conclusion which is absolutely distinct with no additional means of communication, action on that conclusion."
"If there are multiple possible interpretations, act on the safest and/or most reasonable one or wait for additional information."

Hopefully that answers your question.
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Pierre Beri
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From what I've been able to read before I fainted, I have seen no strategy in your article, only artificial conventions.

Yuck.

Try logic, it is of much greater help to do well at Hanabi.
I'm happy to show you on Boardgamearena if you like.
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James Rousselle
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beri2 wrote:
From what I've been able to read before I fainted, I have seen no strategy in your article, only artificial conventions.

Yuck.

Try logic, it is of much greater help to do well at Hanabi.
I'm happy to show you on Boardgamearena if you like.


Pierre, you're joking, right? The OP was full of strategy.

For example, if you have been given an early clue of "these three cards are 2's" before there are three 1's on the table, the follow up color clue will tell you whether to play the 2 you were just color clued or to play the 2's you would not clued.

The driving idea behind the article was to codify our clues so as to AVOID confusion. If I clue my LH2's newest card, I am giving information to my LH1. Essentially, I am giving myself multiple was to convey as much information as possible. The person taking the action has a wealth of choices & must choose among them.

With the strategy I provided, I had hoped to put multiple weapons in the arsenal of the players of this fine game.
 
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I'm not joking at all. The following selection of your OP contains but purely artificial conventions.

Give the game to 2, 5, 100 NASA brains, put them in separate rooms for a week analyzing the game and none will ever come up with this kind of set of conventions. And if they do, their sets of conventions will all be different because there is no common thread of logic.

And for the few parts I agree with in your post, they are not specific to 3-player games.

JGRno5 wrote:
DUMP CLUES
2 cards – These cards can be dumped AND LH1’s newest card is playable (clue would be given to RH1)

HAND MANAGEMENT – PARTNERS’ HANDS
A player is responsible for making sure RH1 does not dump an At Risk card.

CARD PLAY ORDER
When having a choice of multiple cards to play or discard, the card chosen holds meaning.
1st card – normal
2nd card - LH1’s newest card is playable
3rd card – RH1’s dump card should be saved

When a player has a choice of giving a number or color clue to LH1, the player should choose the color. If instead the number clue is given, this is also a clue for RH1 to save his dump card.

If you have a known playable and known dump-able card(s), discarding sends a message to LH1 that his newest card is playable.

Examples:
2 - On the 3rd round of a 3 player game, player tells LH2 that his 2nd card next to the dump position is a 5. This card can’t possibly be played this round! This must be an info finesse, telling LH1 to play his newest card.

Dump Card Finesse – This can only occur when RH1’s dump card is At Risk AND player has no known playable cards and no known dump-able cards. If player discards his dump card, it FORCES LH1 to play his newest card which signals to RH1 to save his dump card.

Preemptive Finesse - Giving a specific clue to LH2’s newest card tells LH1 AND LH2 that their newest cards are both playable. This could possibly be a sequence finesse.

TANDEM CLUES
Two card tandem clue
4 – Clue 1: These 2 cards are green. Action 2: Plays newest card. The 2 cards can be dumped.

RECOMMENDED START PROCEDURE
The first priority at the start of the game is to name unmatched (the corresponding one is not present in either hand) twos for LH1 and if none exist then LH2. This is required if the two is in the dump or next to dump position. This is accomplished preferably by naming the color (identifies the 2 exactly) but if multiple twos exist the player should use their judgment on naming them. After unmatched twos are clued players proceed to naming clues as normal except that a number should always be used to identify the ones so as not to confuse them with twos. Finesses are off until the 2nd round AND at least one card has been played. Play order signals are on however!


Bensmall wrote a good guide here if you want to give it a look
https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1052621/smallmans-ultimate-...
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James Rousselle
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Pierre,
I am familiar with that post. In fact, I commented that I thought it was really good (See my Nov 2013 comment).

We tried to make things easy for the players to remember. For example, my LH1's newest card and RH1's oldest card are closest to me when we sit around a table. I am the primary person responsible for these 2 cards. This makes it easy for players to remember their responsibilities.

With regard to other conventions, they were designed to improve efficiency. For example, when I have 2 known discards, there is zero reason to play a random card. This situation SCREAMS for a convention that can add efficiency AT NO COST.

In regard to the folks that helped to design our conventions, all are college degreed. 2 are mathematicians, 1 is an engineer, you get the idea. This game is about efficiency. While our conventions may not be intuitive, they add efficiency.

 
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Paul Jefferies
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JGRno5 wrote:
Pierre,
I am familiar with that post. In fact, I commented that I thought it was really good (See my Nov 2013 comment).

We tried to make things easy for the players to remember. For example, my LH1's newest card and RH1's oldest card are closest to me when we sit around a table. I am the primary person responsible for these 2 cards. This makes it easy for players to remember their responsibilities.

With regard to other conventions, they were designed to improve efficiency. For example, when I have 2 known discards, there is zero reason to play a random card. This situation SCREAMS for a convention that can add efficiency AT NO COST.

In regard to the folks that helped to design our conventions, all are college degreed. 2 are mathematicians, 1 is an engineer, you get the idea. This game is about efficiency. While our conventions may not be intuitive, they add efficiency.




While admitting that your conventions are ingenious, I wonder if using them is in fact changing the premise of the game. Knowledge is designed to be limited. Creating ways to communicate extra knowledge by nods and winks, where you hold cards or don't hold cards is fine - if that's what everyone wants to do to enjoy the game - but I consider it a way of cheating the system. I don't think I would be very satisfied with forming a perfect display that way. The agony of the blind dump, or of wondering if the last player told me I had a two 2's because I could play either one of them is what creates the tension...and for me the fun of the game.
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James Rousselle
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Paul, the system listed in the original post could be played on Board Game Arena. Players would not use winks, nods, or any other illegal mechanism. So I'm not quite sure what you mean by illegal. The system in the OP could be played without any table talk on the Arena.

I'll grant you that some of the conventions may seem a bit artificial, but it's all designed around efficiency.

Here is a typical situation:
A player has two known 1's that can be safely discarded. This situation SCREAMS for a convention. I can't think of any reason to NOT assign some meaning to the playing of the 2nd card vs the 1st card.
 
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Pierre Beri
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JGRno5 wrote:
Here is a typical situation:
A player has two known 1's that can be safely discarded. This situation SCREAMS for a convention. I can't think of any reason to NOT assign some meaning to the playing of the 2nd card vs the 1st card.
I can. Playing with style, using your own resources.
 
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