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Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game» Forums » General

Subject: Secret Objectives - How motivated are you? rss

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Nick Clinite
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So in my first time playing the game, an odd thing happened--most players didn't care about their Secret Objectives. At the end of the game, we declared that the colony won, but most of the players lost, but no one cared because they still felt like they technically "won", just ... not as much?

I think a part of this problem is due to theme; what does it mean if you don't have enough books or drugs? Do your characters just end up not liking the colony and leave? But the objective is tied to the player, not the characters; so who is the player? What are the Secret Objectives really supposed to mean to me? How do I get players motivated to play towards their Secret Objectives? I could say "otherwise you don't win", but it feels kinda senseless (of course, this isn't a problem with the betrayer).

I thought about describing it as some kind of motivation that ties the player's group of characters together as their own private tribe within the colony, and failing to achieve it means the tribe breaks up; the player is, essentially, the "tribe", and their own survival is contingent upon the tribe staying together. Somehow kinda "Lord of the Flies"-like in theme.
 
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Nathan Stiles
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So, your players have to realize they aren't playing the colony, they are playing a "group". The Colony has sub-groups or factions, and each player plays one. Thematically, you all want to survive, but each faction is fighting for control of the colony, b/c their leader thinks they know how to run the Colony better than the other leaders. The flavor text that opens each scenario reinforces this. With this understanding, the secret objective is _not_ tied to the player, but thematically tied to the group (or group leader) they control.

What the secret objectives mean thematically, depends on the secret objectives. As a broad explanation, think of it as mandatory role playing for your group's leader. There are a few that imply your group has a plan to execute after the game ends (I like the barricades and gasoline one, e.g.). Other than that, your group leader has a goal, and to fulfill the story, you must help them get it.

What the secret objectives mean mechanically is-- suspicion. Holding back on food b/c you need 3 cards of it in your hand at the end (b/c your leader is extra hungry) adds suspicion to you. It helps complicate games with a betrayer in them, and games that are missing betrayers, b/c you don't know for sure. It's a wonderful element that you should not play without.

The idea that the faction breaks up is a novel one, but for me personally it's a unique motivation, and to not play it is to "game the game" and ignore the theme. If you are going to ignore the theme, then I don't see why a "you lose" is senseless. But that's just me. Your survivors have wants, goals, and some have physical and mental issues. The secret objectives are just part of these to bring a dice game to life.

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Nick Clinite
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The mention of the group leader reminds me of one thing that happened: my entire team pretty much died, but I got a new team, but that weakened the whole notion that you're playing as the group leader, I think.

SaintHax wrote:
The idea that the faction breaks up is a novel one, but for me personally it's a unique motivation, and to not play it is to "game the game" and ignore the theme. If you are going to ignore the theme, then I don't see why a "you lose" is senseless. But that's just me. Your survivors have wants, goals, and some have physical and mental issues. The secret objectives are just part of these to bring a dice game to life.


Um ... not quite following. I never said I was trying to ignore the theme, quite the opposite; I'm trying to find the where the theme meets player motivation and mechanics meet the narrative. For example, the book says they have wants and needs ... but what does that actually mean when you lose for not fulfilling them? The colony collapsing and everyone dying--that makes a tangible sense. The act of losing to your Secret Objective just felt ... weightless.
 
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Jeff Carter
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islan wrote:
The mention of the group leader reminds me of one thing that happened: my entire team pretty much died, but I got a new team, but that weakened the whole notion that you're playing as the group leader, I think.

Guess what groups do when their leader dies? Find a new leader
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Daniel Robison
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Our group is pretty competitive, which translates to selfish. Every time we've played no one's purposefully bombed the game (unless they were the traitor) just because they weren't going to complete their objective, but that colony goal has always come second to the personal goal. It can be frustrating and beautifully thematic to find out after the game that you might have won in the last round if only the junkie had tossed in some medicine he was hoarding. But there was no way he was going to part with that if it meant losing the game for himself just to give the victory away.

This is part of the reason I love DoW so much, it's really every man for himself, even if that means working together. The other non-betrayer players are just a means to an end.
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Matthew Peckham
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Put it this way:

If you're all playing to just help the colony, and never playing selfishly for your secret objective, do you think a betrayer is going to have fun? Think they're going to be able to do ANYTHING without instantly being found out?
 
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Alexandre Santos
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velvetvoulge wrote:
Put it this way:

If you're all playing to just help the colony, and never playing selfishly for your secret objective, do you think a betrayer is going to have fun? Think they're going to be able to do ANYTHING without instantly being found out?


Technically it's possible (I did it), but you have to wait for your single deadly blow, that you prepared by becoming trusted by the other players (the fools shake).

You do it once, and for the next games everybody will be back to healthy levels of paranoia ninja.
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Mark Blasco

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I think the way to approach it is to tell everyone that this is NOT a cooperative game. Each player is trying to win, and no one can win (other than the possible betrayer) if the colony collapses.

Thematically, don't think of the colony as a home base where people are planning to live. Think of the colony as a temporary refuge, where everyone is trapped together, no matter whether they like each other or not. Everyone, at the end of the game, upon completing their secret objective, is going to move on to try to find a permanent home, and they have needs to fill. If they don't, they won't be able to succeed in their new home.

As far as the game goes, if no one is focusing on their personal objective, the game is much easier. Keeping the colony alive is a bit of a challenge, but it doesn't become really challenging until everyone starts holding back a little bit.

If your group just really wants to play fully cooperatively, with no secret objectives, than use the hard side of a mission card, that may balance the game a bit.
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Nick Clinite
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IdleHacker wrote:
Guess what groups do when their leader dies? Find a new leader


The thing is that it wasn't just the leader that died, it was the entire group. And yet the motivation persisted over to some new character.

velvetvoulge wrote:
Put it this way:

If you're all playing to just help the colony, and never playing selfishly for your secret objective, do you think a betrayer is going to have fun? Think they're going to be able to do ANYTHING without instantly being found out?


This is about theme and motivation, not some kind of meta on the rules. Telling a group of players "you gotta act like you care about this or else the game doesn't work" is not a solution.

Quote:
If your group just really wants to play fully cooperatively, with no secret objectives, than use the hard side of a mission card, that may balance the game a bit.


Am I ... seriously not being clear here?

The problem isn't about players wanting to play fully cooperatively, it's that the Secret Objectives just feel like some kind of unnecessary sidequest. The game may say you need to meet them in order to actually win the game, but in practice it felt like we all still "won", just "not as much" as the people who did complete them.

It's about player motivation, nothing else. All I need to do is give some kind of proper context to the Secret Objectives for them to make sense as an end-game condition.

In Archipelago, the Secret Objectives makes sense, because you are trying to be the "most successful colonizing trader" (whatever that means being measured by the objective cards). In Dead of Winter, you are trying to "survive", but the Secret Objective cards feel secondary to that.

markblasco wrote:
Everyone, at the end of the game, upon completing their secret objective, is going to move on to try to find a permanent home, and they have needs to fill. If they don't, they won't be able to succeed in their new home.


Kind of vague, but sorta sounds like what I was leaning towards. Maybe I should say the players are the real leaders of the group, beyond the characters in their party, and that if they don't meet their Secret Objective ... I don't know, they commit suicide?
 
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Jeff Carter
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islan wrote:
IdleHacker wrote:
Guess what groups do when their leader dies? Find a new leader


The thing is that it wasn't just the leader that died, it was the entire group. And yet the motivation persisted over to some new character.

You can look at it one of two ways:

1) Each game round takes place over a week. During that week, the new character joined the group and then was thrust into leadership when (s)he became the only surviving member.

2) You were only controlling a portion of the group, but when they failed to meet the objective, you take over another portion.


Either one works fine thematically.
 
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Andrea R
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Personally with any group I played with is.. Either you complete your objective or you lose. Fair and square.
Thematically I take it as "that's what my group want". Fail accomplishing that and the rest of the group would mock you mercilessly.

The secret objective is THE main objective for us but never tanking the game.

I'd say if your group prefer to play it that way.. There's no problem. Everyone have their style and as long as everyone is having fun..
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Mark Chiddicks
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This thread does hit on a weakness with the theming of the game. The objective cards are quite clearly written as if they were individual motivations - look at the betrayer 'serial killer' card for example - are we to believe that there's a couple of serial killers who, every time they find an outsider and he joins their group, he/she just happens to ALSO be a serial killer?

What the game really needs is for groups to have permanent, fixed leaders to which the objective applies. These leaders have 'plot armour' which means they can be disabled, but never killed.

How to handle this? If a leader reaches zero hit points instead of dying he/she becomes a special class of Helpless Survivor who cannot be removed from the colony except by exile and cannot be killed. This status signifies the leader has become permanently disabled - so they can't be brought back into play - the no longer get an action die and cannot perform any actions.

The 'true' leaders treat a bite as a standard wound and can be disabled, but not killed by a spreading infection.

If exiled they must share a location with another survivor, and if that player loses all other survivors they draw a new survivor to replace the last man standing - Since the leaders cannot actually die, the group can't lose morale for them, but I think that's balanced by having them as helpless Survivors that can't be removed (unless exiled).

I reckon this approach would fix the theming issue without unbalancing the game.

The player's initial leader retains this special status even if replaced as group leader by a new survivor with higher influence - they become 'the power behind the throne' with the new leader being their mouthpiece.

Note that since the dog has the lowest influence it can never be a player's initial leader and hence never has the objective tied to it.

I am going to try this in the next game I play - add a roleplaying element to things that is missing at the moment

 
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Davy Ashleydale
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One of the oddest things about Dead of Winter is that the survivors are not necessarily good people! They are really quite selfish. And maybe the people in your group are having a hard time wrapping their heads around that.

One of the non-betrayer objectives is "Hypochondriac". That player cannot win the game unless they have at least 2 Medicine cards in their hand after the main objective is completed. It sounds like your players are asking things like, "Sure, I'm a hypochondriac, but why wouldn't I contribute medicine if it's needed for the main objective? Isn't the main objective the most important thing?" If they are asking that, they don't understand what it's like to be this particular hypochondriac. To him, keeping some medicine back for himself is equally as important as saving the colony.

I would tell them, "This character is not you. It might seem nicer to you to always work in the interest of the main objective, but this character is not nice."

The game would actually be easier if everyone worked together nicely. But that's not what this game is about. It's about terrible, selfish people trying to work together when they can, but not being able to completely overcome their own idiosyncrasies.
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Nick Clinite
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KinginAmber wrote:
What the game really needs is for groups to have permanent, fixed leaders to which the objective applies. These leaders have 'plot armour' which means they can be disabled, but never killed.


That's sorta what I was meaning, except that it's the player that is the 'true' group leader (or, going with my original idea, tribe leader). They don't have any character piece nor can they do anything directly; they're just considered to be "there in the background", commanding the members of their tribe, specifically the 'active group' and their group leader.
 
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Nick Clinite
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randomlife wrote:
It sounds like your players are asking things like, "Sure, I'm a hypochondriac, but why wouldn't I contribute medicine if it's needed for the main objective? Isn't the main objective the most important thing?" If they are asking that, they don't understand what it's like to be this particular hypochondriac. To him, keeping some medicine back for himself is equally as important as saving the colony.


I don't think they were asking anything, they were just playing the game and pretty much forgot that they even existed. And I would bring it up, but I couldn't exactly say why they would lose, just that that's what the game said. (for the record, they aren't "my" players, just people I played with at an International Game Day meetup) That's why I'm thinking now that if I say "look, you're all mentally unhinged, and need to do these things to stave off insanity and suicide", that might be more "winning" appropriate and befitting the overall theme of survival.
 
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Davy Ashleydale
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It's true that even though this game is dripping with theme, there are still a lot of abstractions. The rules don't explicitly explain many of the game elements.

It might be an interesting series of questions to pose to the game designers to see if these are really just abstractions or if they have actual reasons in mind for them.
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Nick Clinite
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randomlife wrote:
It's true that even though this game is dripping with theme, there are still a lot of abstractions. The rules don't explicitly explain many of the game elements.


That reminds me. It's been a long time since last I played, but isn't it true that the player has a single hand of cards, no matter where their characters are? In that same game I recall most of the characters pretty much went to a place, and then mostly stayed there for the rest of the game, magically teleporting their found items back to the colony.
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This Guy
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The game does have a cooperative mode. Just play that way and feel good about being a team player.

I like the selfish objective mechanism, but don't fault people for not enjoying it. I have friends who find it very stressful to play games with deceit.



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Ryan M
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I'm not sure why people find this so confusing thematically. Have you never seen any number if survival or post apocalyptic shows? Have you never seen the walking dead? The colony is a refuge for any number of survivors who agree to work together to survive, but at the same time there are always co flicting motives or needs within the group. They don't want to stay with the group and stay alive....but they also may have other secret plans or motives or desires they also want to carry out.

When I play DoW, I want to win for myself. Part of that involves eanuring the colony survives, but if I need to lie and manipulate to get others to pick up the slack while I pursue other things, or just withols cards , so be it. The game can sometimes be tough and I have never personally seen anyone tank the game because they couldn't win. I think this is because just beating the main objective can sometimes be hard enough. So you feel like you've accomplished something, even if you lose. But it is important to note, you DID lose.

So I think it is very thematic.
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Nick Clinite
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I guess I'll give up trying to explain myself, it doesn't seem to be working.
 
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Nathan Stiles
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First, Davey came in here and said a lot of things I've been thinking, so I won't repeat those, but kudos.

islan wrote:
The mention of the group leader reminds me of one thing that happened: my entire team pretty much died, but I got a new team, but that weakened the whole notion that you're playing as the group leader, I think.


Fair enough-- though it is possible that the new group has the same motivation as the old group, that's really a game mechanic so that the secret objective is still attainable. One of the great things about this game though, is it is flexible. There is the option of playing elimination, but you can always house rule to make it more in line with your player's ideas. You could have someone whose team is wiped out draw a new secret objective for the new group-- this will make the game harder, but they did lose their team. You may have to exile a player that does this so that you can resolve the next Crisis, as they may not be inclined to help you if they have to scramble for their new objective-- it will add a new strategic layer to the game.


islan wrote:
Um ... not quite following. I never said I was trying to ignore the theme, quite the opposite; I'm trying to find the where the theme meets player motivation and mechanics meet the narrative. For example, the book says they have wants and needs ... but what does that actually mean when you lose for not fulfilling them? The colony collapsing and everyone dying--that makes a tangible sense. The act of losing to your Secret Objective just felt ... weightless.


I thought it was clear, but I forget that people have different gaming backgrounds. So, what I was saying is: if a player doesn't complete their secret motivation, they were NOT playing their characters. If they are not playing their character, but just playing the mechanics-- they lose b/c of that. If you want to know story wise, the players characters survived, but the player failed to actually play out there needs. The player failed, b/c the player did not role play.

Your players have to stop... STOP looking at the Secret Objective as a McGuffin-- something that if you accomplish, your guys will kill zombies or cure a disease. Rather look at it as a need. Your group wants to accomplish that secret goal more than anything else. The secret objective is not linked to survival, it is the fictional characters irrational compulsion. To win the game, you must play the characters with all of their flaws, AND accomplish the actual goal that will ensure survival. This is a game about characters, flaws, distrust, and survival. If it was a game just about survival, then the secret objective would just be something tacked on.
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Evan
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markblasco wrote:

If your group just really wants to play fully cooperatively, with no secret objectives, than use the hard side of a mission card, that may balance the game a bit.


Actually, I'd say that if his group really wants to play fully cooperatively with no secret objectives, then play another game.

Part of the reason why I love this game so much is getting totally into the story and my characters. The secret objectives are there for a reason and they make thematic sense. You just have to put yourself in the mindset of the character.
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Ryan M
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islan wrote:
I guess I'll give up trying to explain myself, it doesn't seem to be working.


I think your situation is quite clear. You have a group of people who, for one reason or another, are completely ignoring their secret objective cards in order to shoot for a cooperative "win". In theory, the solution to this is simple, just explain that if you don't complete both the main objective AND your group of survivors secret objective, you lose. you don't win or "half win". You've lost.

But some people won't get it and some others just won't care. A lot of this also has to do with experience with the game. I know that a lot of new people I've taught the game easily just forget they HAVE a secret objective card. They are just so into the game and surviving and dealing with other people, they just flat out forget they should be doing something on their own. I've also seen people who honestly just enjoy playing the game and seeing the colony thrive.

But experience matters a lot here due to the "meta" aspect of this meta cooperative. Someone who is too easy going becomes and easy mark if they don't learn their lesson. Someone who is a big liar and selfish player, becomes more suspicious in later games.

I was speaking more to people's questioning the thematic reasons. You either get that the main objective is just one type of timer causing you to win or lose, or you don't. If you need a thematic explanation, the card titles give some hints and thematic reasoning. Your group are drug addicts. Of they are horders. Or they want to build something or do something or learn something. You can make your own thematic story/reasoning as you go. There ARE thematic reasons for how the mechanisms work but I don't think it matters to some people. Some people just like the ride. Some people just like the conflict. Others DO take some value at just seeing the colony survive to fight another day. But I suspect this will change moreso with experience than with explanation about the "proper" way to approach the game.
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Nick Clinite
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Mools wrote:
I was speaking more to people's questioning the thematic reasons. You either get that the main objective is just one type of timer causing you to win or lose, or you don't. If you need a thematic explanation, the card titles give some hints and thematic reasoning. Your group are drug addicts. Of they are horders. Or they want to build something or do something or learn something. You can make your own thematic story/reasoning as you go. There ARE thematic reasons for how the mechanisms work but I don't think it matters to some people. Some people just like the ride. Some people just like the conflict. Others DO take some value at just seeing the colony survive to fight another day. But I suspect this will change moreso with experience than with explanation about the "proper" way to approach the game.


I still think there's a way to explain the "proper" way by introducing the right player motivation--that's entirely why I made this thread. The theme is there--the problem is it isn't always really tied to a "lose" state. You failed to setup enough barricades--what does that mean for the player? Other than just "sorry, you lose"? Because that just comes off as arbitrary. But if you said "you failed to achieve satisfaction through barricade placement, and the toll becomes too much for you and you commit suicide"--THAT is something I think a new player could latch on to.
 
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Brett Lamb

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Anyone who's ever seen a Zombie movie knows that the survivors all have secret agendas and that staying alive is only part of it.

Some of the agendas in DoW are harder to explain away compared to the others, but overall I find them very thematic.

I do wonder if the game wouldn't be improved if some of the hidden agendas were more indifferent to the colony. Replace Colony Survival with some other objective (in addition to the standard collecting books/weapons/fuel/whatever) and suddenly its more clear that your objectives are yours alone.
 
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