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Subject: Hidden info with honour system rss

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Chris J Davis
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Hi guys,

I'm thinking of designing a 2-player board game that will involve one side being privy to hidden information which will limit their capabilities, but what with the other side not being able to see this info they will be on the honour system.

To describe in a bit more detail: it is a squad-based tactical combat game. The "baddie" side will know everything about the "goodie" side - theirs is total open information. The attributes and stats of the individual baddie units though will be on cards that only the baddie player can see. Each card will describe the range/damage/movement/etc of each baddie unit. This is closed information, and it will be difficult-to-impossible for the goodie player to ever verify whether the baddie player was keeping to the attributes listed on the cards.

Is this acceptible in a board game? I don't really play wargames at all, so maybe this is a common mechanic in that genre...?

Any advice appreciated!
 
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Justin Fitzgerald
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I wouldn't mind such a system. I was thinking about something similar for a 2P game I'm thinking about designing.

I am curious what people will think about this too. I've been trying to think how we might add accountability into the system I'm thinking about but seriously, if you cheat at games that is pathetic.

I probably cheat all the time just because I'm forgetful, like grabbing money twice or forgetting to discard, that type of stuff. Doing it actively would really wreck a game.
 
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Chris J Davis
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Exactly. The people I play with are all very honest, and I can't imagine any of them cheating at a game. I could easily play the game I have in mind with my gaming group and know that the rules were being adhered to.

Unfortunately though there are people out there who will cheat at games. And it's one thing when the game does have accountability (as most games do), but when there's no accountability, would that "ruin" the game for large portions of the community out there?
 
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Brad Johnson
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Personal opinion: I believe this is unacceptable, but only just. In a perfect world, there should be nothing wrong with this. But even assuming that no player worth playing with will ever purposely cheat, it is still very possible for anyone to make a mistake. Information that is visible and manipulable by only a single player has a greater chance of being handled incorrectly, thus tainting or even destroying the game. (I think this has happened to some extent in just about every game of Mystery of the Abbey that I've ever played....) And let's face it, if the mechanics of the game put the means for cheating directly into a player's hands, at least some players *will* cheat at least a little some of the time...

I strongly recommend trying to come up with an elegant way of retaining the verifiability of all hidden information, at least theoretically.... Take a look at Fury of Dracula (second edition) or War of the Ring (First Edition) or even Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game for some examples of ways that hidden movement or other hidden information can be handled in "verifiable" ways....
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Jack Defevers
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The problem here isn't willful cheating, it's honest mistakes made by the "hidden info" player that the opponent has no chance of noticing or correcting.

This would drive me literally crazy.

I wouldn't want to play (on either side) a game that relied on that mechanic in more than a trivial way.
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David Gibbs
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I would not want to play this in a tournament, and I'd be leary of playing with people I don't know. With people I know, I wouldn't worry about cheating.

The other issue, though, is mistakes. Even in fully open situations, I see people miscounting, especially if there are any variance in terrain costs for movement.
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Justin Fitzgerald
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These are excellent points. My wife does catch me being forgetful which reduces how often it happens.
 
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Byron Collins
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Chris,

I prefer more transparency during games for stats- esp. because mistakes are easy to make when resolving combat, etc.

But here's an idea for you, with some accountability, that's not as prone to mistakes...

Make all-encompassing stats modifying Tech cards that act to enable the player with new capabilities based on aquired technologies rather than hiding basic stats the entire game... So you could have something like

"Increased Body Armor Durability, +1 Defense all Infantry".

Rather than knowing everything about the good guys, or the other way around- each player draws one of these technology cards... maybe at certain steps in the game and keeps it hidden.

Now, here's the accountability part... Keep that technology hidden during the game as long as you want... but when you want to use it, you must reveal the card to your opponent. That represents their intel confirming you have the technology... It instantly applies to give you an edge. Keep the card revealed to show that it applies for the rest of the game.

This method would be accountable, hidden, and would limit the capabilities of one side by giving an edge to the other. Use it if you want.
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Jim Cote
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Honor system also used in Mr. Jack and Dune.

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Justin Fitzgerald
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ekted wrote:
Honor system also used in Mr. Jack and Dune.


Accountability is created in Mr. Jack created through deduction. It's a very simple process of elimination there. There would never be a question like "so did you get that power in turn 3 or turn 4?" It doesn't prevent checking but is accountable.

Dune rules I'm not familiar with.
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Jim Cote
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KakarisMaelstrom wrote:
Accountability is created in Mr. Jack created through deduction. It's a very simple process of elimination there. There would never be a question like "so did you get that power in turn 3 or turn 4?" It doesn't prevent checking but is accountable.

Because of Holmes's power, the Jack player collects multiple alibi cards in addition to the single suspect card. You could always claim that Jack was a different character in certain circumstances if you were careful.
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Chris Jay
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Another reason to look at Fury of Dracula (second edition) is that it has specific rules describing what happens if Drac cheats (or, more likely, makes a mistake). There are some *very* dire in-game consequences (he loses all of the cards in his track, takes damage, etc.).

I personally wouldn't have a problem with the system you are describing, as long as your game had similar rules, as well as a means of revealing hidden information over the course of the game (e.g., the "good guys" could have a scout unit or the hidden information about specific squads could be revealed after "first contact"). I think that would be enough to keep crappy players honest and honest players careful.
 
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Joseph
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Greywing wrote:
The problem here isn't willful cheating, it's honest mistakes made by the "hidden info" player that the opponent has no chance of noticing or correcting.

This would drive me literally crazy.

I wouldn't want to play (on either side) a game that relied on that mechanic in more than a trivial way.


That's a critical observation right there. I don't know anyone who cheats, but we do make mistakes and correct each other. That's a good thing. Sometimes the mistakes are in our opponent's favor, and he still corrects us!.

If there's a way around using unverifable hidden information, then use it.

If you're considering hidden builds, then take a page from the playbook of "Netrunner".

The development is played face down, and the resources to build it are accumulated on top. The opponent wonders what you're up to, but the resources are open information. When you've accumulated the necessary resources, you unveil the development.

As for powers and abilities, keep them secret until they're used the first time, then display the ability card or whatever to prove you can use the ability. If you want to introduce a memory element to the game, permit the user to hide the card again after he's used the ability.

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Russ Williams
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ekted wrote:
KakarisMaelstrom wrote:
Accountability is created in Mr. Jack created through deduction. It's a very simple process of elimination there. There would never be a question like "so did you get that power in turn 3 or turn 4?" It doesn't prevent checking but is accountable.

Because of Holmes's power, the Jack player collects multiple alibi cards in addition to the single suspect card. You could always claim that Jack was a different character in certain circumstances if you were careful.

Not at all! Everyone I've ever played with keeps the Jack card clearly separate from the alibi cards drawn in play, and the Detective could certainly request that if he doubted the honesty or competence of Jack. It is certainly verifiable.
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Jim Cote
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russ wrote:
ekted wrote:
KakarisMaelstrom wrote:
Accountability is created in Mr. Jack created through deduction. It's a very simple process of elimination there. There would never be a question like "so did you get that power in turn 3 or turn 4?" It doesn't prevent checking but is accountable.

Because of Holmes's power, the Jack player collects multiple alibi cards in addition to the single suspect card. You could always claim that Jack was a different character in certain circumstances if you were careful.

Not at all! Everyone I've ever played with keeps the Jack card clearly separate from the alibi cards drawn in play, and the Detective could certainly request that if he doubted the honesty or competence of Jack. It is certainly verifiable.

We don't ever assume anyone is cheating. We just keep the suspect card at the bottom of the stack. You could "solve" the honor system problem by forcing players to take pictures of their cards/tiles (eg Harkonnen starting leader choices) too, but that's a little much.

ninja
 
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Russ Williams
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ekted wrote:
We don't ever assume anyone is cheating. We just keep the suspect card at the bottom of the stack. You could "solve" the honor system problem by forcing players to take pictures of their cards/tiles (eg Harkonnen starting leader choices) too, but that's a little much.

So I'm confused why you said that Mr. Jack depends on an honor system. It seems you are in agreement that the original Jack alibi card is easily verifiable by at least 3 different methods that have been mentioned now.

Simply keeping the Jack suspect card separate from Jack's collected alibi cards seems a trivially easy and obvious method of verification and eliminating any dependence on an honor system. Until now I've never heard anyone say that there seemed to be some kind of honor system problem in Mr. Jack. Unless you're hypothesizing actual sleight of hand, but in that case I think ANY game with randomness or initially hidden information depends on an honor system...

(And Jack's identity is such a key piece of information that it's hard to imagine a Jack player sincerely incompetently mixing up the cards and not realizing it, as an honest mistake.)
 
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Jim Cote
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russ wrote:
So I'm confused why you said that Mr. Jack depends on an honor system.

Well, you're proposing a solution to prevent abuse (or increase trust). That implies it's possible, as written, for the Jack player to cheat. Any game with an honor system could have sageguards, as I mentioned.
 
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Russ Williams
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ekted wrote:
russ wrote:
So I'm confused why you said that Mr. Jack depends on an honor system.

Well, you're proposing a solution to prevent abuse (or increase trust). That implies it's possible, as written, for the Jack player to cheat. Any game with an honor system could have sageguards, as I mentioned.

Only in the trivial sense that someone could cheat in most any game with hidden info or chance, if they were really determined to. Since it's trivially easy to verify in Mr. Jack, it doesn't sound at all like the honor system the OP is talking about, where it's "difficult to impossible" to verify. Maybe it's a fuzzy spectrum, but to me, Mr. Jack seems no more susceptible to cheating than most games. Perhaps for you it seems more possible since you say your group keeps the Jack identity card stacked with the drawn alibi cards, whereas I've always seen it set clearly aside.

Or maybe you think of "depending on an honor system" much more sensitively than I. There are different levels of "honor system" perhaps. If a player can simply lie undetectably, that seems like a problem. But if a player has to do physical sleight of hand to cheat undetectably, I don't see that as much of a problem. For you, is any game where you roll dice or shuffle and deal cards, for instance, dependent on an honor system as much as Mr. Jack is for you (since in theory one can cheat with dice and cards using sleight of hand)? Is Stratego dependent on an honor system, since one could surreptitiously swap the locations of one's pieces while the opponent's not paying attention? To me, all those possibilities are equally remote and insignificant, so I don't really see any of them as depending on an honor system in the real world, unlike the situation the OP describes.
 
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Chris J Davis
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Thanks for all your comments guys. After your feedback, I have thought of a different approach to the game:

When a baddie unit is deployed, the baddie player must play *two* cards - one for the unit itself, and another for the weapon it is carrying. The top half of the unit card combined with the weapon card provides the stats for the unit (which is open information). The bottom half of the unit card contains hidden information (such as a unit special ability and other info that the goodie player can learn by capturing and interrogating the unit). When the baddie player plays both cards, he covers up the bottom portion of the unit card with the weapon card. He only reveals the bottom portion of the unit card to use the special ability or if the unit is captured.

It would have been nice to have completely hidden stats, but agree that this probably isn't an acceptable mechanic in a board game.
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Jack Defevers
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Now that sounds like a neat mechanic.
 
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