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Subject: Ethics in boardgaming - Withholding information rss

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Jason den Dulk
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Hi Fellow BoardGameGeeksters

In a recent game (The Golden Ages), a situation arose where a fellow player asked me if I was strong anywhere (he was looking for someone to attack). I said "no". It turns out I was strong in a particular area, and he accused me of withholding information, because he made a sub-optimal move based on what I told him. He kept bringing it back up throughout the game, giving me the impression that he was genuinely peeved by it. And I started to feel that I was being accused of unethical conduct.

So what I would like to discuss, is just how much information someone is obligated to give when asked. I am not talking about specific facts like "How much cash do you have" in a game where cash is open knowledge. I am referring to more strategic information, information that is effectively giving advice on how to best defeat myself.

I do not consider myself obligated to give information on a strategic level (as opposed to simple facts).

What do you think?

Regards
Jason
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bort
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Zaighster wrote:
I do not consider myself obligated to give information on a strategic level (as opposed to simple facts).


Hell no. Tell him to figure out his own tactics. Thats ridiculous to expect someone to answer that.
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J J
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bortmonkey wrote:
Zaighster wrote:
I do not consider myself obligated to give information on a strategic level (as opposed to simple facts).


Hell no. Tell him to figure out his own tactics. Thats ridiculous to expect someone to answer that.


Quite so - if any of us are silly enough to ask such a loaded question, the rest will joyfully lie our faces off.

Providing game-state information that is not meant to be hidden is standard - anything more than that, such as analysis, is what your own bloody brain is for.
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Vincent Bouatou
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Zaighster wrote:
Hi Fellow BoardGameGeeksters

And I started to feel that I was being accused of unethical conduct.

I do not consider myself obligated to give information on a strategic level (as opposed to simple facts).

What do you think?

Regards
Jason


Playing a boardgame includes misdirection, obfuscation and deception. The only context I can imagine the question you were asked would make sense would be if you were giving a "tutorial play" to help your friends understanding the rules & concepts of the game. Then I would advise to give your most honest answer to that type of question.
Other than that, it's a stupid question to ask. Personnaly I would smile and give the most obviously wrong answer I could give to have the person understand that a/they should not heed the piece of advice b/ they should not expect a straight answer.
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Michael Mench
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Haha... Sportsmanship is not ethics. Ethics should be black and white (unless you ask two ethics lawyers!) whereas sportsmanship is a bell curve. Was it ethical to ask the question? Yes, is it ethical to withhold or misdirect? Yes, unless the rules specifically state you cannot.

If his gamesmanship needs to ask that question of you then you would be free to answer it under your own gamesmanship curve.

My son and I were playing Viticulture for the first time last night. He got a card that he read as "each player takes two additional cards." So he grabbed his and then I grabbed mine... THEN he read aloud the rest of the card... "And then take a victory point for every other player that does so."

That wasn't too fair! But I let it go, I needed the cards. Then, when I played a similar card and did the same thing to him we laughed about it. "Well played," he said.

M
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Hexagonal Crank
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I was preparing a response to this silly situation you find yourself in and I literally cannot find the level of snark needed.

That being said, take your cue from Poker players. When a fellow poker player want to determine hidden information(the strength of your hand), they don't ask how your hand is and expect an intelligent answer; that would be stupid. The game keeps this information hidden for a reason - it would not be much of a game if it didn't. So good players look at your face, your hands, your body language to try and read you to determine that hidden information. Hence the phrase and tactic, "Play the player, not the hand."

That being said, play a few hands of Liar's Dice with this guy. You'll win every round and drive him nuts.
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Nigel Buckle
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It's going to depend on the players - is this a regular game group?

I know some AP players and if one of them asked me I'd give them the info just to save the 15 minutes looking at the game to figure it out themselves!

Really it depends on WHY he asked - you could have said "figure it out yourself" rather than "I'm weak".

I know another guy who always claims his luck is bad, he's losing, etc - and he always plays the strategy of scoring big at the end to win if he can - we know it and ignore the claims. Is he playing fair with that table talk? Shrug.
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Daniel Nilsson
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The only time it is unethical is if it breaks the rules of the game. In some games there should be public information (such as how much money you have, or how many items you own etc), in those cases, hiding them away or misdirecting people on those would be unethical. Otherwise there's no issue. You didn't intentionally deceive this player, though they perceived it that way. Really, tough luck.

I'm not 'offended' when someone tricks me in a game, it just makes me wary of them in the future. Of course, just because it's not unethical doesn't mean it's the 'right' thing to do. If I tell someone in a game "I promise I won't attack you next turn", and then I attack them next turn, it may be a tactically good play, and it may be their fault for trusting me, but it's still kind of a slimy move. That being said though, it depends on the game. Some games encourage players to attack one another and screw each other over. Others are about the players looking for their own ways to score points.

I can see why the guy was peeved at you, but he also needed to move on from it.
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It depends on the game and people...

Unless it is learning the game and we ask for explanation and also go into detail what we are thinking of doing and checking if it is right... But again we generally don't count those games...

Normal games, we wouldn't actually ask those questions expecting an honest answer

 
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Reed Dawley
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If I am playing with new gamers I will provide accurate information and while not giving them tips outright I will express my honest opinion if they hit on a good strategy. For people who have played the game a bit and know the mechanics, they are on their own. Every man, woman and child for themselves. I will bluff, mislead and taunt at will.
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Zaighster wrote:
I said "no". It turns out I was strong in a particular area

Did you know that when you said no?

If you knew, it would've been better to say I'm not sure, I don't know, I haven't checked since the last turn, or consider it a rhetoric question and not answer at all.

For in-game questions you play in character, and can answer anything.

For out-of-game questions that can be studied from the board (open information) you either help other players to play faster, or don't, but don't be a dick about it. Honest mistakes are of course another thing.

If "strong anywhere" can't be determined from the board position, then you would again be in character and can answer anything. But to avoid confusion, you should just say that it's not possible to answer without including private information, or any of the non-committal answers.
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Peter Thur
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a1bert wrote:
Zaighster wrote:
I said "no". It turns out I was strong in a particular area

Did you know that when you said no?



"But you told me you were not strong in that area!"
"Well, I wasn't. I just couldn't imagine you were so stupid to attack me with just bits and pieces."
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Lucas Smith
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If strength is open knowledge and easy to determine (e.g. simple additions) it can be useful to ask the other player (who knows it!) to shorten the game for everyone. In this scenario, if the answer isn't given or obviously wrong, the asking player will take the time to calculate himself.
I'd consider it bad behaviour to lie in this context.



If, however, strength isn't easy to determine and/or depends on secret knowledge, the question shouldn't be asked at all.
If I was asked, I'd answer something along the lines "Getting this piece of information is part of the game, so I won't tell you."
I wouldn't trap the other player by saying no though.


Unless the game says "Read out the card text sentence by sentence, all actions have to be performed immediately i.e. before the next sentence is read.", I would consider it bad behaviour to read the action, let others perform it and only then tell them the consequence. That may depend on the group though. If the rules say "The card should be displayed face up", it obviously breaks the rules.

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Mik Svellov
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Zaighster wrote:
Hi Fellow BoardGameGeeksters

In a recent game (The Golden Ages), a situation arose where a fellow player asked me if I was strong anywhere (he was looking for someone to attack). I said "no". It turns out I was strong in a particular area, and he accused me of withholding information, because he made a sub-optimal move based on what I told him. He kept bringing it back up throughout the game, giving me the impression that he was genuinely peeved by it. And I started to feel that I was being accused of unethical conduct.

I cannot imagine any info in The Golden Ages that isn't public info already, save for the future cards.
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Boaty McBoatface
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As others have said depends on the game. If you are required to not hide certain information then doing so is not just unethical, it is cheating. If (however) there is not such requirement no it is not unethical.

It might be considered unethical to ask (a bit like asking a poker player what his hand is).
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Christian Gienger
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smithlucas wrote:
If strength is open knowledge and easy to determine (e.g. simple additions) it can be useful to ask the other player (who knows it!) to shorten the game for everyone. In this scenario, if the answer isn't given or obviously wrong, the asking player will take the time to calculate himself.
I'd consider it bad behaviour to lie in this context.



If, however, strength isn't easy to determine and/or depends on secret knowledge, the question shouldn't be asked at all.
If I was asked, I'd answer something along the lines "Getting this piece of information is part of the game, so I won't tell you."
I wouldn't trap the other player by saying no though.


Unless the game says "Read out the card text sentence by sentence, all actions have to be performed immediately i.e. before the next sentence is read.", I would consider it bad behaviour to read the action, let others perform it and only then tell them the consequence. That may depend on the group though. If the rules say "The card should be displayed face up", it obviously breaks the rules.



I agree with this statement. Asking for open information should always be answered truthfully as it just saves a lot of time.
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Keith Presley
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It depends on the game and the situation. If I were teaching this person the game, I would say something like, "That is not open information, and a risk you have to take based on assumptions and evaluations you make." Again, if it were a teaching game, I then might expound, and tell them what information they might look for to determine that. If it were a regular game, Hell, no. That's just not how it works. I might not purposely mislead them, but that is again game specific. If subterfuge and misdirection is all part of the game, I would have done exactly as you did. Otherwise, I would have just shrugged and let him figure it out for himself.

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Russ Williams
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Zaighster wrote:
In a recent game (The Golden Ages), a situation arose where a fellow player asked me if I was strong anywhere (he was looking for someone to attack).

I don't know the particular game, but "if I was strong anywhere" sounds like a subjective vague judgment call kind of thing. Essentially like asking "Who should I attack?" or "Is Alfred or Bob the bigger threat now?" Well, duh, each player needs to decide such things for themselves.

But if the term "strong" has some formal objective meaning in that game which is publicly visible/verifiable (e.g. "a city is defined to be 'strong' if it has a fortification built" or something like that), then I might have told the truth to save time if he could look over the whole board to find the info himself. But it sounds like this wasn't the case.
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Trevor Taylor
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Unless it was a teaching game and he needed to understand what strength is, we'll, you did nothing wrong. If he just asked 'what is your score/rating in x/y' and this wasn't hidden information, you should just tell him. But if he asked for your strategic assessment of where you stand, then tough, that's his job to determine as that's part of the game!
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Bryan Thunkd
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smithlucas wrote:
If strength is open knowledge and easy to determine (e.g. simple additions) it can be useful to ask the other player (who knows it!) to shorten the game for everyone. In this scenario, if the answer isn't given or obviously wrong, the asking player will take the time to calculate himself.
If you think he'd figure it out given enough time, then you should tell him. If you don't, or if you lie, you're simply encouraging him to sit there staring at the board for a really long time calculating it out. So you're making games take loner and adding no value. At worst I'd tell him he needs to play his own game, I'm not going to take his turn for him... But I wouldn't deliberately give him false information. But then again I rarely lie in games as I prefer the advantage of being believed when I offer deals.
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I think it's kind of ridiculous for him to ask if that info is supposed to be hidden, BUT in the future if you want to avoid this problem, just say "I'm not telling you" instead of outright lying. While I know it's all in the game, if lying is not actually part of the rules, then it's seen not as gameplay, but just lying.
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Ian Taylor
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Anyone else think there is another side to this story?
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piemasteruk wrote:
Anyone else think there is another side to this story?

No, I think there are three sides.

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As usual for all such situations, it's down to social convention. If your group is used to players speeding things up, in particular not having to check every position on the board, then breaking that social convention is not acceptable. But if rather you play an everyone for themselves, no help given (in particular in a tournament) then this is fine. Neither of those is right or wrong, it's however you want to play.

And of course some games have special cases. I'm never a Cylon, I just sometimes play sub-optimally, just oops we lost - oh, sorry I was a Cylon and I just won.
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All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

(Obviously I didn't write that myself )
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