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Subject: A taxonomy of the metagame. rss

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Bruce Murphy
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We've just run into a spot of conflict over the appropriate way to play Battlestar Galactica, and I thought it would be an interesting starting point for a discussion. I'm going to leave aside the question of sympathisers simply because I've recently played a variant without them which seemed to improve the game.

Level 0. No Meta-game.

In the most basic form of the game, all Human players would always play optimally. They'd try to win all skill checks possibly with a safety margin to avoid the Destiny Deck and they'd be completely surprised when a Cylon managed to insert some additional bad cards.

In the same sense, the Cylons would simply seek to cause as many skill checks to fail as possible. If they fell under suspicion, they would simply reveal themselves, possibly taking a supercrisis and start hammering the human players as hard as possible from the safety of their own ship.

Of course, there aren't enough skill cards available to participate in every skill check so in level 0 we'd probably have to include simply not participating in skill checks which didn't seem important enough, or didn't seem to need any help to pass or fail.

Level 1. The Cylons are tricksy.

Everyone knows toasters can't be trusted. Even the ones who don't know they are really toasters underneath. Plus, they look like us!

In order to cause maximum damage, a Cylon has to remain undetected. This would be difficult if they went the wrong way in every skill check. To be more ambiguous they'd play positively sometimes, perhaps most of the time, to demonstrate good faith, and then only sabotage a few critical checks.

With any larger number of players, it can be almost as important for the Cylons to signal their identities to one another as it is to conceal them from the other players. Thus begins the delicate dance of one or two players in their own personal metagame.

In this level, the humans are still always good, they always act wholly for the good of the ship, but may choose to sit out unimportant skill checks, or decide they aren't needed.

Level 2. Are the humans so helpless?

Previously the humans were assumed to be helpless pawns, trying desperately to battle against a faceless enemy, unable to strike back except to struggle grimly onwards towards their final destination. This probably satisfies some constraints of theme, but surely the plucky little humans we came to know so well in the series are capable of just a teeny bit of deception?

During the game, some characters draw multiple loyalty cards or have other special powers that give them limited additional actions. The use or non-use of those, or especially have more loyalty cards can subtly (or unsubtly) skew the Cylon probabilities of these players, in the eyes of both Cylon and Human players.

At level 2, the humans are free to take advantage of this ambiguity, to step up to the place of possible other Cylon for a time to lure the Cylons they know exist into becoming reliant on their assistance, in passively letting themselves be brigged to help a comrade establish their bona fides and so forth. Of course, the other players have to be willing to accept the extra ambiguity simply because the stated goal of the game is to stop the Cylon menace at any cost, not to consider some wider moral purpose, or how history might unfavourably view necessary collaboration.

Conclusion and Discussion

So, to all the avid BSG players out there, which level of metagame feels right to you? Which is a game you'd rather play and why?

Notes and variant idea.

Fundamentally, the opportunity to participate or not in a skill check can be misused, particularly by players who insist noone bar them participates in a skill check. This can be used as a free investigation card to effectively force people to either reveal the card they put into a skill check or to permit one player to control its outcome.

One interesting variant that fixes this would be to force everyone with cards to contribute at least one to every skill check. In this resulting noise, there would be far more ambiguity and interesting choices about how badly one could afford to damage a skill check. This variant would require some reworking so that people had more opportunity to collect cards either during their turns, or during their off turns.
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Bruce Murphy
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Re: An taxonomy of the metagame.
As a quick clarifying followup, I consider the metagame to be entirely within the context of the game, and all the declamations of "He's a Cylon" and "Only a Cylon would X" and anything remotely like bits of the Princess Bride in space to be theme, not metagame.

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Re: An taxonomy of the metagame.
Your title sounds more like a postmodern essay than like a game review.

gulp
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Bruce Murphy
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Re: An taxonomy of the metagame.
HavocIsHere wrote:
Your title sounds more like a postmodern essay than like a game review.

gulp


Well, you can tell it isn't because it actually makes perfect sense. Taxonomy, check. Metagame, check.



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Gareth
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Re: An taxonomy of the metagame.
As long as the player's goal is to win the game, and they feel that the action they take will aid them in doing so, then they can play at whatever level they like.

When a player is doing something random and potentially destructive because they otherwise find the game "tedious", I'd probably prefer they play something else instead (and from the sounds of it, so would they).
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Bruce Murphy
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Re: An taxonomy of the metagame.
Only a Cylon who lost would object to a player changing the dynamics of the game in order to win.



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Gareth
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I wouldn't mind, if that had been your goal, but, in your own words, you did it "because otherwise the game is tedious".

For the benefit of the readers, the incident which sparked this was that, early in the game, Bruce, who was human, sabotaged a skill check in which only one other player (myself, also human at this point) participated immediately implicating himself as a cylon. The end result was that he was, incorrectly, brigged. His explanation at game end was simply that he decided to mess things up because otherwise the game was tedious.
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Bruce Murphy
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For the record, Gareth had spent the entire game to that point claiming I was a Cylon and demanding I be brigged. Thus a skill check fail that he could most plausibly have caused.

It is a shame when someone is so unhappy about how the game played that they take a flippant remark and take it to heart in the face of the far more detailed explanation above. I suspect Gareth is uncomfortable with the level 2 game.

Still I continue to have played this game to win and suceeded.

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HavocIsHere wrote:
Your title sounds more like a postmodern essay than like a game review.

gulp


Perhaps, since "taxonomically" the OP can be 'said' not to be a "review" as such, he may have been ATTEMPTING to "resist" the DISCIPLINARY effects of 'discursively' constructed "categories"? robot
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Gareth
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thepackrat wrote:
It is a shame when someone is so unhappy about how the game played that they take a flippant remark and take it to heart in the face of the far more detailed explanation above.


Actually, I wasn't annoyed or unhappy about it until your explanation about the game being tedious. Other than that the game was tense and very close at the end and I very much enjoyed it. I also just feel that what you've written above is nothing more than a constructed justification after the fact rather than a genuine explanation.
 
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Talorien wrote:
HavocIsHere wrote:
Your title sounds more like a postmodern essay than like a game review.

gulp


Perhaps, since "taxonomically" the OP can be 'said' not to be a "review" as such, he may have been ATTEMPTING to "resist" the DISCIPLINARY effects of 'discursively' constructed "categories"? robot


Grognads get out of there!
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thepackrat wrote:

Well, you can tell it isn't because it actually makes perfect sense.


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Capoeirista wrote:

Actually, I wasn't annoyed or unhappy about it until your explanation about the game being tedious. Other than that the game was tense and very close at the end and I very much enjoyed it. I also just feel that what you've written above is nothing more than a constructed justification after the fact rather than a genuine explanation.


The level 0 game is broken and the level 1 game is tedious. Slightly less so for Cylon players, but by a very narrow margin. This is why I'm describing the vastly more interesting level 2 game. That, by the way, is the tense game you played last night where it isn't immediately obvious who the Cylons were. Even to the Cylons. Don't bother thanking me.

Of course, since you saw fit to rail after the game about how any human player who acts ambiguously is 'breaking the game' and 'should just not play', its very clear that you refuse to play the game above level 1. That's entirely your choice, but I was hoping for more of a discussion about what people felt about the levels of metagame rather than a succession of hurled insults.

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Gareth
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thepackrat wrote:
Capoeirista wrote:

Actually, I wasn't annoyed or unhappy about it until your explanation about the game being tedious. Other than that the game was tense and very close at the end and I very much enjoyed it. I also just feel that what you've written above is nothing more than a constructed justification after the fact rather than a genuine explanation.


The level 0 game is broken and the level 1 game is tedious. Slightly less so for Cylon players, but by a very narrow margin. This is why I'm describing the vastly more interesting level 2 game. That, by the way, is the tense game you played last night where it isn't immediately obvious who the Cylons were. Even to the Cylons. Don't bother thanking me.

Wow, that's qutie a leap of logic as well as being very egotistical! I've played equally tense and tight games without you or your supposed "higher level" gaming, so I'd attribute it far more to the Valley of Darkness variant than to your presence or antics. Don't bother thanking me for introducing it or Sean for writing it.

thepackrat wrote:
Of course, since you saw fit to rail after the game about how any human player who acts ambiguously is 'breaking the game' and 'should just not play', its very clear that you refuse to play the game above level 1.

I never said it was breaking the game, please don't put words into my mouth. I have no problem with a level 2 player or game, as long as their end goal is to win (or to achieve the best score they can at least). In the same vein, I have no problem with a person who ships "my" cubes in a game of Age of Steam as long as he is doing it to either increase his placing or to win the game. If the player is doing it just to mix things up, because he finds the game tedious, or because he has a vendetta, then I have a problem with that. In this instance I felt your "level 2" metagame was more of towards the "messing things up because you found it tedious" end than from a "devious strategy" end from your comments at the end of the game. As such, this talk of different levels of metagame stuck me more as being a retroactive explanation for your behaviour than something you were conciously considering during the game.

I will admit however, that there is no way I could possibly know for sure what was going through your head (and I may not want to ) so if you insist you were playing at some higher level, there is little point in me arguing since I cannot prove conclusively otherwise. I hope you can at least appreciate how my conclusions were reached even if they were incorrect.

And one statement I will stand by, even if it may not apply in this case, is that if a player finds a game tedious and is going to simply mess things up to make it more interesting for him, I, personally, would prefer that person simply played a game they wanted to play.

thepackrat wrote:
That's entirely your choice, but I was hoping for more of a discussion about what people felt about the levels of metagame...

Okay, fair enough, let's discuss. I agree that level 0 is boring. With no flexibility to decide you own actions, the game is uninteresting. Now the distinction between 1 and 2 as I see it is that in 2 one human may choose to play against his own team. I think level 2 can be an acceptable strategy, particularly for human players who don't want either side to get a clear lead before the sleeper phase lest they should suddenly find themselves on the other team (Boomer is a very liekly candidate for this). However, I think it's tricky to pull off well. The big danger is that if you don't later switch sides, you may have drawn much of the suspicion onto yourself allowing other cylons to be more bold in the knowledge they can point the finger at you if people get suspicious. The worst outcome is for the human player to get brigged and then for the humans to later realise their mistake and have to burn cards getting the person back out, fighting the still hidden cylons in the process. I also don't see they fake befriending of a cylon as being quite so useful. Cylon players rarely interact directly unless they are 100% sure of who is/isn't a cylon and even then it usually doesn't extend beyond the playing of an XO to allow their partner to reveal and attack.

Playing level 2 much after the sleeper phase is likely to do far more harm than benefit. You have little incentive since you know for sure which team you are on, and harming that side will likely only inhibit your ability to win the game.

thepackrat wrote:
...rather than a succession of hurled insults.

Your definition of what constitutes an insult and what constitiutes discussion seems to vary wildly depending on who is talking and which game is being discussed.
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Bruce Murphy
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Actually noting that any human who caused a skill check to fail was "breaking the game" were in fact your words. You repeated them several times over the course of your five minute rant.

Personally, I can't see why anyone would want to play a game where the majority of the players can either help a skill check to their fullest extent or pass. That's it. Lots of game there.

Still, it's your copy of the game and you can insist the people playing it abide by any rules you like.

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Bruce, make up your mind. You claim all you want is discussion. I try to start discussing. You ignore and instead continue trying to paint me as some sort of gaming dictator. I guess I see what you really want now.
 
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Capoeirista wrote:
Bruce, make up your mind. You claim all you want is discussion. I try to start discussing. You ignore and instead continue trying to paint me as some sort of gaming dictator. I guess I see what you really want now.


Oh, so once you've made some gesture towards discussion, no further rebuttal of anything else you said in the same post is possible? I see.

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No, but the fact that you chose to only jump on the statement and not even comment on the discussion is quite telling.
 
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To try to get the discussion back on track as I suppose that's what both of you want, I have kind of a difficult time to understand your level 2. Do you mean situations like if, for instance, you are human and see the card of a cylon player and say he's human to fool him and buy you some time? Is this the kind of things you're talking about with the level 2 of your explanation?
 
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Thanks, Gary, I can't obviously speak definitively for Bruce, but I interpret his statements as meaning that in the level 2 metagame, a human player may act in ways that may lead others to believe him to be a cylon or which may be to the detriment of the humans. This would include, but isn't limited to, the situation you describe where he may lie about what he has seen when he looks at a loyalty card (this may actually be better than getting into a "his word against mine" battle with the cylon). It may also include sabotaging skill checks, attempting to brig other humans and even, I suppose, using scouting actions to put good destination/crisis cards to the bottom of the deck.

Edit: punctuation and clarity.
 
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Capoeirista wrote:
Thanks, Gary, I can't obviously speak definitively for Bruce, but I interpret his statements as meaning that in the level 2 metagame, a human player may act in ways that may lead others to believe him to be a cylon or which may be to the detriment of the humans. This would include, but isn't limited to, the situation you describe where he may lie about what he has seen when he looks at a loyalty card (this may actually be better than getting into a "his word against mine" battle with the cylon). It may also include sabotaging skill checks, attempting to brig other humans and even, I suppose, using scouting actions to put good destination/crisis cards to the bottom of the deck.


There's no metagame point in acting to the detriment of one or another side in a way which doesn't yield any information. Secretly burying a helpful crisis or destination card basically yields no information because there aren't enough data points for anyone to able to draw any conclusions and act differently.

Both the loyalty card check and the skill checks do fit.

Your intepretation of the level 2 game is off the mark because you've alternatively dismissed it as game-breaking or an obvious losing strategy or noted that it's only helpful up to the sleeper phase where again it devolves back into level 1 behavior with a small modification for your uncertainty as to your own side. In particular, your addition of any action which could harm your side regardless of whether it yields information seems puzzling.

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LNAGary wrote:
To try to get the discussion back on track as I suppose that's what both of you want, I have kind of a difficult time to understand your level 2. Do you mean situations like if, for instance, you are human and see the card of a cylon player and say he's human to fool him and buy you some time? Is this the kind of things you're talking about with the level 2 of your explanation?


It's everything that has the opportunity to change the way a cylon player acts to your own benefit. They'll act differently with skill checks if they're sure they're followed by another cylon, for example.

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thepackrat wrote:
Capoeirista wrote:
Thanks, Gary, I can't obviously speak definitively for Bruce, but I interpret his statements as meaning that in the level 2 metagame, a human player may act in ways that may lead others to believe him to be a cylon or which may be to the detriment of the humans. This would include, but isn't limited to, the situation you describe where he may lie about what he has seen when he looks at a loyalty card (this may actually be better than getting into a "his word against mine" battle with the cylon). It may also include sabotaging skill checks, attempting to brig other humans and even, I suppose, using scouting actions to put good destination/crisis cards to the bottom of the deck.


There's no metagame point in acting to the detriment of one or another side in a way which doesn't yield any information. Secretly burying a helpful crisis or destination card basically yields no information because there aren't enough data points for anyone to able to draw any conclusions and act differently.

But, as I noted before, this sort of play can and does happen with players who have a higher probability of being a cylon after the sleeper phase (particularly, but not exclusively, Boomer) or simply players who wish to hedge their bets and, in either case, may not want the humans doing too well prior to the sleeper phase lest the find themselves suddenly switching to the other side. Gaining information is not the only way of ensuring victory.

thepackrat wrote:

Both the loyalty card check and the skill checks do fit.

Agreed.

thepackrat wrote:

Your intepretation of the level 2 game is off the mark because you've alternatively dismissed it as game-breaking or an obvious losing strategy...

Please stop trolling, Bruce. I've said multiple times in this thread that level 2 play, as described here, is fine by me if used as a tool to ensure victory. I don't consider it "broken" nor a definite "losing strategy". I do think it's hard to pull off well and it's easy to go too far and do more harm than good. I'm more dubious about using it as a means "to consider some wider moral purpose, or how history might unfavourably view necessary collaboration" but that's a far more metaphysical discussion of why we play games than I think we need go into here.
thepackrat wrote:
...or noted that it's only helpful up to the sleeper phase where again it devolves back into level 1 behavior with a small modification for your uncertainty as to your own side.

So I've provided my arguments for why I don't think it's useful after the sleeper phase, in particular, once your side is known there is little to be gained in harming it and, further, that cylons largely operate independently anyway, so fooling them has less impact than misleading humans. Perhaps you could provide counter arguments rather than assertions. That might make this a more interesting discussion.

thepackrat wrote:
In particular, your addition of any action which could harm your side regardless of whether it yields information seems puzzling.

Explained above. Clearly there is another aspect to this level 2 than even you have considered, namely hedging your bets and not letting any side get an advantage until you know for sure where your loyalties lie. This is the type of level 2 play I have seen most frequently.
 
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Capoeirista wrote:

thepackrat wrote:

Your intepretation of the level 2 game is off the mark because you've alternatively dismissed it as game-breaking or an obvious losing strategy...

Please stop trolling, Bruce. I've said multiple times in this thread that level 2 play, as described here, is fine by me if used as a tool to ensure victory.


Well, let me respond in someone else's words. You might recognise them. Your claim that you think it's okay "struck me more as being a retroactive explanation for your behaviour" in condemning it so loudly in the first place. Or are only you permitted to cling tenaciously to an off-the-cuff comment and sneeringly dismiss any further attempt to discuss it as simpy retroactive explanation?

Quote:
Explained above. Clearly there is another aspect to this level 2 than even you have considered, namely hedging your bets and not letting any side get an advantage until you know for sure where your loyalties lie. This is the type of level 2 play I have seen most frequently.


If you're acting ambiguously because your side isn't determined yet, that something entirely different and frankly not part of the metagame at all. You're not seeking to change other people's behaviour or actions, just to keep the score at a point convenient to you either way.

I agree it is a significant part of the game, just not the metagame.

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So yet another response from Bruce in which he ignores any opportunity for actual discussion. I've made it clear why I was originally sceptical about this discussion but I've tried to let it go and actually have a discussion. Unfortunately, it seems to me Bruce is unable to do the same (although it's equally possible I'm wrong, after all, everyone thinks they are right on the Internet).

I admit my suspicions as to why Bruce was creating this discussion probably had no place here and I regret bringing them up as the resultant discussion has contained zero value for anyone reading and has probably only had negative impact on Bruce and I.

It's clear to me that Bruce doesn't actually want to have a real discussion on this subject with me (if at all). So I shall leave this thread, never to return. Have fun, all.
 
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