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Subject: Alpha player an issue? rss

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Jonathan Moriarity
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I don't really like Pandemic because it's too easy for one player who's good at the game to point out the "correct" move to everyone else, so the others don't really get to play. Co-op games like Dead of Winter get around this problem by including a possible hidden traitor. Hanabi deals with it by hiding some information and restricting what players can say. XCOM's real-time elements make it impossible for one player to control the game because there's too much going on at once.

Is there anything in Black Orchestra to prevent one skilled player from correctly telling the rest of the group what move they should make to maximize the chances of winning?
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Matt Hindmarch
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The other players being assertive enough to defend their own experience.
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Eric Teoro
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I found the best strategy to deal with an alpha player is to speak to him/her directly. The problem isn't a game mechanism but a lack of social intelligence or a character flaw. It's easy to slip into the alpha role unintentionally and non-arrogantly due to enthusiasm. If it is a conscious and intentional style of gameplay, however, a direct conversation definitely is needed. In the long run, I have found that avoiding such conversations only cost others and me more than any initial discomfort from broaching the subject. If needed, players can agree beforehand to let each other play their move, and if a player wants advice, (s)he can ask for it.

When we play Pandemic and other coops, someone usually offers a multi-move idea, but we discuss, disagree, etc., knowing that whoever's turn it is has the freedom to do whatever that person wants to. Part of the fun is responding to each other's play.
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Scott Pizio
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I do what I want. If I don't concur with the alpha player often enough they choose not to play coops with me any more. Problem solved, bonus points for getting them to make the decision.
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Jonathan Moriarity
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We can debate the ethics of alpha-play if you wish, but what I really want to know is whether Black Orchestra provides any mechanical disincentive or prevention to alpha play.



--- begin separate discussion of the ethics of alpha-play ---

I am prone to alpha-player syndrome myself. In a game like Pandemic, which does not mitigate alpha play in any way, I am offered two choices:

1. Keep my mouth shut, or
2. Say what I'm thinking.

Option 1 is no fun for me because when I'm playing a co-op game I want to help everyone win, and I want to help as much as I can. Option 2 is no fun for anyone else because it takes away their agency, and if my friends aren't having fun, then neither am I.

Both options make it impossible for me to have fun, and so I do not play Pandemic or other co-op games that are susceptible to alpha play. I prefer co-ops like Dead of Winter, Hanabi or XCOM that make it impossible for me to control the game. This way I can help the group to the fullest extent of my ability without ruining everyone else's fun.
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Fee Weasel
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…so do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
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Not sure if this helps but when a player is getting interrogated they are not allowed to discuss the three options they are faced with, not even after they make a choice. The card is then shuffled back into the deck after they resolve it.

Granted this is only during a specific portion of the game, but it does guarantee that the alpha player doesn't have a say so on every aspect of the game.
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Matt Hindmarch
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There is no mechanic in the game to inhibit alpha play other than the interrogation card.
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Stephen Rynerson
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Given how low the odds of success are just on a straight up assassination attempt, I'm inclined to think that an "alpha player" is not likely to be able to significantly increase the chances of winning in this game.
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Fee Weasel
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…so do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
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MHindmarch wrote:
There is no mechanic in the game to inhibit alpha play other than the interrogation card.


Correct, but I think your original statement addresses the issue. It shouldn't be up to the game design to fix an alpha player issue. I'm guilty of being an alpha player myself.
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Nick Stables
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Bright Side wrote:
We can debate the ethics of alpha-play if you wish, but what I really want to know is whether Black Orchestra provides any mechanical disincentive or prevention to alpha play.



--- begin separate discussion of the ethics of alpha-play ---

I am prone to alpha-player syndrome myself. In a game like Pandemic, which does not mitigate alpha play in any way, I am offered two choices:

1. Keep my mouth shut, or
2. Say what I'm thinking.

Option 1 is no fun for me because when I'm playing a co-op game I want to help everyone win, and I want to help as much as I can. Option 2 is no fun for anyone else because it takes away their agency, and if my friends aren't having fun, then neither am I.

Both options make it impossible for me to have fun, and so I do not play Pandemic or other co-op games that are susceptible to alpha play. I prefer co-ops like Dead of Winter, Hanabi or XCOM that make it impossible for me to control the game. This way I can help the group to the fullest extent of my ability without ruining everyone else's fun.


Interesting, I haven't read much about someone being open and describing the reason for the alpha-attitude/neural pathway. Is there a way to be inbetween the 2 choices?
 
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Jack Francisco
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I don't find there to be any issues with an alpha in this game. I played it with one friend who dislikes co-ops especially because of that and he said Black Orchestra was a highlight of a recent convention for him.
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Barry Miller
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Bright Side wrote:
I am prone to alpha-player syndrome myself. In a game like Pandemic, which does not mitigate alpha play in any way, I am offered two choices:

1. Keep my mouth shut, or
2. Say what I'm thinking.

Option 1 is no fun for me because when I'm playing a co-op game I want to help everyone win, and I want to help as much as I can. Option 2 is no fun for anyone else because it takes away their agency, and if my friends aren't having fun, then neither am I.

Both options make it impossible for me to have fun, and so I do not play Pandemic or other co-op games that are susceptible to alpha play. I prefer co-ops like Dead of Winter, Hanabi or XCOM that make it impossible for me to control the game. This way I can help the group to the fullest extent of my ability without ruining everyone else's fun.

I appreciate the honest self assessment. Especially since a lot of us (though not all) are like this, or have these tendencies - to one degree or another. Very well written!

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Pauly Paul
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Bright Side wrote:
We can debate the ethics of alpha-play if you wish, but what I really want to know is whether Black Orchestra provides any mechanical disincentive or prevention to alpha play.



--- begin separate discussion of the ethics of alpha-play ---

I am prone to alpha-player syndrome myself. In a game like Pandemic, which does not mitigate alpha play in any way, I am offered two choices:

1. Keep my mouth shut, or
2. Say what I'm thinking.

Option 1 is no fun for me because when I'm playing a co-op game I want to help everyone win, and I want to help as much as I can. Option 2 is no fun for anyone else because it takes away their agency, and if my friends aren't having fun, then neither am I.

Both options make it impossible for me to have fun, and so I do not play Pandemic or other co-op games that are susceptible to alpha play. I prefer co-ops like Dead of Winter, Hanabi or XCOM that make it impossible for me to control the game. This way I can help the group to the fullest extent of my ability without ruining everyone else's fun.


As others have said, in answer to your actual question there is no gameplay mechanic that will help in your situation. The game is closer to a Pandemic than the other games you had mentioned.

In regards to alpha gamers in general I find them a non issue personally. I have some thoughts on the matter but don't wanna derail the thread. I will say that I think the true issue is less alpha gamers and more how people mentally define the term "alpha gamer". Most of us are not on the same page there which does make discussions surrounding the "problem" more complicated.
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Tomas Inguanzo
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Bright Side wrote:
I don't really like Pandemic because it's too easy for one player who's good at the game to point out the "correct" move to everyone else, so the others don't really get to play. Co-op games like Dead of Winter get around this problem by including a possible hidden traitor. Hanabi deals with it by hiding some information and restricting what players can say. XCOM's real-time elements make it impossible for one player to control the game because there's too much going on at once.

Is there anything in Black Orchestra to prevent one skilled player from correctly telling the rest of the group what move they should make to maximize the chances of winning?


Unlike Pandemic, Black Orchestra is in the subset of co-op games where self preservation is an issue. You're less likely to trust someone else's judgement when they're not the one most likely to get nicked by the fuzz.
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Philip duBarry
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Well, as the designer, I've thought about this issue quite a bit. I won't say I've completely gotten rid of it with Black Orchestra, but I think my approach has been:

1) Lots of different choices to make.
2) Lots of chance on a number of levels.

It's hard to figure out the "right move" because you are balancing quite a few things at once. You might be able to come up with 2-3 solid moves, but it usually comes down to the active player just going with their gut.

Great discussion!
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Jonathan Moriarity
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fee_weasel wrote:
MHindmarch wrote:
There is no mechanic in the game to inhibit alpha play other than the interrogation card.


Correct, but I think your original statement addresses the issue. It shouldn't be up to the game design to fix an alpha player issue. I'm guilty of being an alpha player myself.

I completely agree. Unfortunately, games with no mechanical counter to alpha play are seldom any fun for me, so I need to take this into consideration when choosing what to play.
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Jonathan Moriarity
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pusboyau wrote:
Interesting, I haven't read much about someone being open and describing the reason for the alpha-attitude/neural pathway. Is there a way to be inbetween the 2 choices?

If I've figured out the optimal move? I suppose I could just hint at it, but I feel like that's just as bad as telling it outright, except with an added layer of obnoxiousness.
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Jonathan Moriarity
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pdubarry wrote:
Well, as the designer, I've thought about this issue quite a bit. I won't say I've completely gotten rid of it with Black Orchestra, but I think my approach has been:

1) Lots of different choices to make.
2) Lots of chance on a number of levels.

It's hard to figure out the "right move" because you are balancing quite a few things at once. You might be able to come up with 2-3 solid moves, but it usually comes down to the active player just going with their gut.

Great discussion!

It looks like Black Orchestra might possibly have another helpful element as well: a high degree of chance. My friends and I usually play A Touch of Evil in co-op mode, and that game is so random that even the best advice isn't likely to change the odds of victory. So when I do speak up it's usually about which option is most in-character for that person, not which is most optimal. My friends never feel any loss of agency from that.

Looks like I'll need to try Black Orchestra before I buy it. I really hope it works for us! It looks like you've done a beautiful job with this game, and I hope I've got the wiring to be able to appreciate it properly.

Thanks!

- Jonathan
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Jonathan Moriarity
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MHindmarch wrote:
The other players being assertive enough to defend their own experience.

Sadly, not all of my friends are always comfortable being so assertive.
 
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John R.
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The game is not immune, but I find that the following mitigate it somewhat:

1 Interrogation cards
2 Random events
3 Die rolls (esp. the Conspire action)
4 Often many equally valid options

You can debate optimal strategy (or one person can try and dictate it) but, if the dice go against you, you still fail. If you elect to Conspire, for instance, you have only limited control over how many actions you end up with.

I tend to be a bit alpha myself on occasion, and there are times when some things are clearly more critical than others (e.g. getting someone out of jail, or increasing someone's motivation), but in a game where many more or less equally valid options are usually available on any given turn, it's almost always not worth arguing a specific point. In Black Orchestra, the thing I find we debate most often is how many dice to risk on Conspire or the order of a particular series of actions.

If someone was alpha enough to try and dictate every player's individual actions, I simply wouldn't bother playing co-ops with them.
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Tony Graham
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The beauty of Black Orchestra is it takes team work to pull of a successful plot attempt. In my 6 multiplayer games the fun was discussing our strategy and how we can help each other. The first several turns are always a free for all as we are gathering cards and items. Once a few plot cards come out we try to help the conspirator with the best chance. Sometimes that means meeting up and swapping items and cards. A lot of times Gustapo Raids bring big change of plans as does a failed and detected plot attempt. I can see where an alpha could dominate if there was one clear cut best option at that time. Usually someone says I need one or two of a particular item and I have a good chance at an assassination. So then we work on getting those items and lowering Hitler's support. I guess I have been lucky to play with groups that embrace the team concept. Also, I do believe at some point in all of our games everyone took charge as a temporary "leader" based of how close they were to a plot attempt. We would even laugh occasionally when one conspirator would go "Rogue" because they firmly believed they had a better plan. It seems like there is enough for other players to mitigate an alpha player but slight assertiveness would be needed.
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I think Black Orchestra is much less susceptible to alpha players than other co ops.

You really have to work together as a team, and that often means everyone pitching in to set up a certain person for an assassination attempt.

When we play we discuss quite a bit. The active player always gets the final say though.
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Jack Francisco
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One of the reasons that the alpha player role can seem to switch is the different plots. A situation may change where the plot you were working toward for one player is no longer optimal, e.g. Hitler leaves a space you needed him in and can't move him back, and now a different plot owned by another player is better. It's wonderful.
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