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Mark N
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To be clear, I don't think it's actually enjoyable or efficient to play this way, but the rules do lend themselves to a certain exploit that can guarantee a win without ever moving the Holmes track. It comes down to two characters being able to delay the game indefinitely:

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Toby can look at the top card of the deck, and put it on the top or bottom as an action, without advancing the Holmes track. Toby is not allowed to communicate anything about the card he sees.

Quote:
Mrs Hudson can move cards from the Impossible into the evidence deck, without advancing the Holmes track.


These two characters can create an infinite loop, where Toby looks at the top card of the evidence deck every turn, and Mrs Hudson alternates between discarding random cards to the impossible and shuffling them back into evidence.

Toby's card says he may not reveal anything about the card he views at the top of the evidence deck, but he can choose to put it on the top or the bottom. There is a very simple exploit the pair can do now, with unlimited time.

Have two players select Toby and Mrs Hudson as their characters. They agree in advance on a system where if Toby leaves the top card on top of the deck, that means it's immediately playable on the leftmost lead (or the impossible, if all leads have the correct amount of evidence), and Mrs Hudson will play the signaled card after she draws it. Toby then continues viewing and putting the top card at the bottom until he sees a card that should be played. Toby can also spend a round after Mrs Hudson empties the impossible deck to discard a card himself, in case his hand contains the card that needs to be played next.

Sample play would look like this:

Turn 1: Toby looks at the top card of the deck, puts it on the bottom because it's not immediately playable
Turn 2: Mrs Hudson plays a random card to the impossible and draws a replacement.
Turn 3: Toby looks at the top card of the deck (a wasted action since the deck is about to be reshuffled)
Turn 4: Mrs Hudson shuffles the card she played to the impossible back into the deck.
Turn 5: Toby plays a random card from his hand into the impossible in case he's holding an important card.
Turn 6: Mrs Hudson shuffles the card Toby played into evidence.

This sequence repeats (the turn 5-6 loop can occur less frequently if needed) until eventually Toby finds a playable card on Turn 1, which Mrs Hudson then plays on Turn 2. This sequence is guaranteed with enough time to allow Toby to put any card not yet played on the top of the deck for Mrs Hudson to draw and play, so with a great deal of time, they can beat any game while keeping the impossible at one card in size and never increasing the Holmes track.

Whether or not you view that as cheating depends upon how much implicit communication you allow in the metagame. For example, if there are two unplayed clues, a 2 and a 6, a 2 is needed to complete a lead, and you tell someone they have a clue, they would probably conclude they must have the 2, otherwise someone wasted an assist action to draw their attention to an unplayable card. In our games people regularly make inferences on a similar basis: even though you're only allowed to communicate the type or number of a card, sometimes there's only one legitimate reason to communicate something (ie if a 4 is needed to complete a lead and you tell someone you have a four, our group might infer that they have the four that's playable).

It's similar to bidding conventions in bridge: sticking with the explicit rules of the game, you can develop conventions for certain situations that allow you to communicate more information than just the basics, by committing to only taking certain actions when the situation matches the convention.

People might feel differently about what conventions are acceptable in game, and I don't think breaking it like this makes it any more fun, but I found it interesting that the rules can be exploited that far.
 
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Mark N
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One quick note on how to handle games that require discarding leads:

Any unsolvable initial configuration can be made solvable by discarding motives twice.
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Suspects range from 11-13 in all four suits

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Motives are 9-10 in all four suits

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Opportunities are 7-8 in all four suits

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Evidence cards total up to 21 in each suit, and all numbers can be composed


As a result, the only potentially unsolvable configurations are those in which the suspect and motive are of the same type (since the total can exceed 21). These can be made solvable by discarding the motive up to twice (since there are only two motives of the same type).

If the impossible is four or more cards, the method described in the last post works without modification after discarding the motive twice. If you have to discard two motives and the impossible is 1, you can pre-load up 6 cards in Mrs Gradner's hand by only having her draw specific cards in preparation for the new motives being revealed.

I also realized just now it's possible to solve some games without Toby having a predefined meta for what putting a card on the top or bottom means. If Toby is supremely patient on the level of a computer program, he can keep one card undrawn in his hand, and cycle through viewing all other cards until he's seen all 23 cards except the one he's held back. By repeating that process enough times, he can get full information about the cards in his hand, and even allow himself to select all his cards arbitrarily for the end game. (after an absurdly high number of iterations)

Hence, Toby can load up his hand in preparation for the motives being discarded to have two 456 pairs in different suits, and Mrs Hudson can do something similar, so that they have 12 hand-picked cards between them which are capable of completing the motive with their remaining cards, and bringing the impossible to 20 well within the Holmes track limit of the most difficult game, all without using the assist action.
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Pedro Pereira
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Well.... but whenever the players play a random card into the impossible, their time marker advances... since they are doing this without any assistance, they are likely to discard high value cards, so the likelyhood that they burst over 20 seems more than likely....

How would you avoid this risk? Its most definitely not an infinite loop. Even if players would by chance always discard a value 1 evidencr card into the impossible they would be able to do so only 20 times and loose the game on the 21st time.

21 does not equal infinite so therefore your suggestion seems incorrect?
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Jim Cote
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I'm guessing Mark thinks that the Impossible total is equal to the current cards in the column, as opposed to the sum of all cards ever put into it.
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Mark N
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ekted wrote:
I'm guessing Mark thinks that the Impossible total is equal to the current cards in the column, as opposed to the sum of all cards ever put into it.


Mrs Hudson's card states that when she shuffles a card from the impossible back into the evidence deck, the investigation marker is reduced by that many spaces. And Holmes only advances when you add a card to the impossible in excess of the case's total. So you really can repeat that pair of actions (eliminate, reshuffle) any number of times, because Mrs Hudson can undo all the effects of putting the card in the impossible.
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Christian K
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Hey this looks like an interesting observation. I have not read the rules well enough to see if this actually works so I will he interested in what people think.

I do believe it is quite possible, introducing such roles in this type of game is a dangerous thing
 
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Pedro Pereira
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Well, it does look correct. I have never played wit the characters so far and also don't intend doing so for a long time still...
 
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Ben O'Steen
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The characters are intended to alter the difficulty, mostly making it easier. Only the Inspector characters make the game harder. (The number of pipes on the bottom of the card tips you off on this).

I'm not discounting the laborious but infinite loop here, just that those characters definitely make the game much easier. As you have found, this particular combo makes the game *very* much easier
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Pedro Pereira
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benosteen wrote:
The characters are intended to alter the difficulty, mostly making it easier. Only the Inspector characters make the game harder. (The number of pipes on the bottom of the card tips you off on this).

I'm not discounting the laborious but infinite loop here, just that those characters definitely make the game much easier. As you have found, this particular combo makes the game *very* much easier


I agree with this. The game is very far from being broken. In fact, the characters aren't even designed to alter the difficulty level of the game, but simply to level the player experiences. So you should really only play with any of those characters if you are vastly less experienced than the other players and seriously struggle in keeping up with this game, or you are so good that you want to challenge yourself with more limiting characters.

The cards are not intended to make the game itself easier or more difficult. So, Mark, if you found a foolproof way to always win this game by using those two characters, well then congratulations, you are ready to try out the game without them!

Finally and most importantly, this is a co-op game, so it's all about beating the game at a certain level, and then progress to beating it at a more difficult level. So again, the only thing broken about your suggested character combo, is that you keep using it to win the game when obviously you are a good enough player to set yourself a more challenging set-up...

I'm very happy with this game and I find it to be one of the best Co-op games out there with great replay value. You should try it some time
 
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Christian K
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I don't mean to sound overly negative but this seems like something that was not intended and that should have been caught in development. There should never be a strategy which is very simple to describe which guarantees you such a good outcome no matter how you set up the game.
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Mark N
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It's worth noting that Mrs Hudson's power is the one that really breaks the game, she can be paired with any other character and that character can load their hand up with any card not in Mrs Hudson's hand by cycling the deck enough times and leaving a card in their hand undrawn. If that character can make two plays in a row, Mrs Hudson can discard to the impossible herself and reshuffle the same card, which lets them restart the combo.

The key point is that she can turn back the clock, which is hugely powerful.

Muemmelmann wrote:
I don't mean to sound overly negative but this seems like something that was not intended and that should have been caught in development. There should never be a strategy which is very simple to describe which guarantees you such a good outcome no matter how you set up the game.


To be fair to the designers, it is a very time-consuming exploit. If you're at the point in the game where there's exactly 1 playable card out of 12 you need to cycle through, it'd take an average of 12 attempts (drawing, shuffling, etc) to find the card you need, and you'd have to do that every time you need to play a card. The exploit to load your hand with a custom card is even more expensive, without doing the math I'd guess it'd take on the order of 144 (12*12) iterations to pick a selected card out of a 12 card deck. Most players wouldn't have the patience. I'd be curious about the designers' input, but they might have considered the option to recover after playing the wrong card to the impossible worth enabling a strategy most players would never use.

I think about the game more like predator does, if you "solve" the game for one case, that's a reason to look for a new problem to solve and up the difficulty for yourself. There are a few video games that can be broken or exploited in ways that make them trivial to beat, but I see that as a reason to experiment with other strategies rather than write off the game.

I also enjoy the game and would recommend it to people: the key point isn't that the game is "broken" for all configurations, it's that there is a specific configuration that enables breaking the game, but plenty of other ways to play.
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Steve Mackenzie
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Hi,

This is Steve and Robin, the designers of Beyond Baker Street. We are replying as the OP noted he was curious about our input. Robin and I were definitely intrigued when we read the original post and followed it for a while. Having play-tested the game with all combinations of characters, I have to admit we were sceptical about whether it was much of a gaming experience to play as suggested, but we certainly wanted to see how it would play out. We wish to avoid a long discussion about the minutiae of rules and character nuances but we have a few reflections.

There are two common questions we have been asked when demoing the game:

1) “How much table talk are we allowed?” To which we answer that it is up to the players at the table to decide: the more you discuss, the easier the game will be. Pre-arranging anything before you start playing certainly applies here.

2) “What happens if I accidentally do an action that works against the ability of my character card?” (For example, giving a clue about footprints when that is not allowed by your character card). The answer is that Holmes advances every time you break the rule. Prearranging the placing of the card back on the deck if its playable breaks the rules of Toby’s card: “Toby is not allowed to communicate anything about the card he sees.”


The original post is certainly an interesting proposition, we definitely had fun for a while trying to 'break the game' in this way and we’re not saying its impossible. However, I think its mathematically unlikely enough, within the realms of how the vast majority of players would want to play, as to not be an issue. We would strongly maintain it’s a more rewarding, not to mention quicker, experience just to play the game normally and (potentially) win in 1/3 the time!

Thanks though, to Mark, for delving deep into the game and engaging with the gameplay possibilities and character interactions, and to those who have commented back and forth about it. We take it as a compliment that it has gathered such interest!
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Mark N
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Steve/Robin,

Thanks for the post. That ruling on Toby's card definitely outlaws using his power as a way to pass information, although some of the other options for cycling the deck to get the card you want still seem possible. (although those are extremely slow)

It does occur to me that pre-agreeing on discard conventions could be also used to pass information, because Mrs Hudson allows you to discard to the impossible without risk. You could establish conventions where the position of the card you discard from your hand communicates information about a card in the other player's hand (if you discard from five possible slots, two successive discards have 25 options, and would let you uniquely identify any card in the game. You could also develop a convention to identify which card you wanted to signal). That would let the player other than Mrs Hudson give her complete information about her hand without advancing the state of the game. Similarly, if Toby uses his ability to stall on his turn, Mrs Hudson could signal him through a similar system, alternating discarding to the impossible and shuffling it. Having pre-arranged conventions that complex certainly violate the spirit of the game, if not the letter.

My other thought is that making prearranged conventions illegal for Toby is a different level of rule than making talking about the information illegal. If beyond baker street was a video game, you could enforce the restriction on Toby's card by not including an in game chat client. If you had a real life tournament, you could handle it like bridge and only allow teams to communicate in specific ways. Outlawing conventions and drawing inferences relies more on the good intentions of the players than a hard and fast rule(if you know Toby would only put a playable card on top of the deck, it's hard not to act on that knowledge).

I agree with you both that these potential exploits are more time consuming and less fun than the normal way to play. I'm definitely a fan of the game (some of our friends have already bought it, and we're introducing it to more this weekend), I'm glad you're taking this discussion as a compliment, not every game is interesting enough to analyze this way.
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