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Subject: Is there need to keep VPs secret? rss

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C. Michael Samson
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I'm guessing the argument is that it may make 'calculator' types slow the game down. But not sure whether keeping VPs secret really adds much to the game.

Appreciate some feedback/discussion.

Mot
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Steven
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I think that Vinci (Small World's predecessor) had open VPs, so I've always seen this more as a style choice. Depending on the number of players you have, it's not that hard to keep track of people's points!

That being said, I've always preferred hidden VPs in my games (both Small World and otherwise) because it keeps games more casual. That way, if a min-maxer asks, "Wait, how many points do you have?" you can always say: "None of your business!"
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Michael Denman
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This has been argued often in the Vinci forums. I think with SW shooting for a quicker leaner game that hidden VPs are the way to go. I didn't personally ever have any calculator-types slowing down my Vinci games, but others apparently did. And I've won at least one game of SW without thinking I even had a chance. Counted the points and found out I'd won. Surprise! Why would you rather keep the points known?
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Mot Demonslayer wrote:
I'm guessing the argument is that it may make 'calculator' types slow the game down. But not sure whether keeping VPs secret really adds much to the game.


Well, I think that sums it up, so I'm not sure what there is to discuss.

Seriously, the target audience for this game wants a faster, less calculating, more gut-feeling experience. There is no other reason. If you and your group are more satisfied with open VPs, then play them open. The original version of the game, Vinci, has open VPs.
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Anwar Dalati
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I think it does add to the suspense - you might guess who the leaders are by the way the game has run, but not by how much or how many points they have exactly (unless you "cheated" and took notes each time).

It may also influence endgame decisions (say there are two people on your heels, which one to attack?).

In the end it does come to to your preference, of course. Playing with open VPs makes the game a bit more predictable, I think.
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Gordon Adams
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I agree with Anwar.

However, no reason why the OP should not use the VPs kept secret. See how it plays and decide. Simple really !
 
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Alex G

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It's definitely sort of silly to keep them secret 2p.

Of course the game is only decent-good 2p.
 
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James Cheevers
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Play the way that makes you all the most happy. No one will shoot you if you deviate from the written rules.
 
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B C Z
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solove wrote:
Play the way that makes you all the most happy. No one will shoot you if you deviate from the written rules.


Except the tournament director.

We play with them hidden.
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Jack Neal
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solove wrote:
Play the way that makes you all the most happy. No one will shoot you if you deviate from the written rules.


Unless it's a train game. Then there can be no variation or the universe will tumble into oblivion. I've seen it happen before.
 
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Ramon Mercado
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In one of my early games (with open VPs) one of the players adopted the strategy of keeping track of the "turn leader" and by how many points. When it was his turn to play he would do what ever possible to match or pass the leader. Sure you don't always have enough choices to match or pass, but he did win that game.

Afterwards we played with secrete VPs. While anyone can determine how many points the others players made, it's an extra step that you may get wrong if you don't take into account the bonuses. Now the games are closer and certainly a lot more exciting.
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Zane Dempsey

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We play with chips just face down and I think that generally does the job, but if there's leader killing, it's going to happen no matter what. We had a couple of games where it was VERY obvious who was ahead because they were getting 10+ every turn. If you have a vocal group, it's very easy for each person to keep check of the person on left or right and just share you info. So even though you don't know the count. You can always go after the one or two people that have done well every turn. Unless there was a third party banker who counted points and handed them out behind a blind there's no real way to truly stop the leader kill that happens.
 
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I'm pretty opposed to all forms of hidden scoring, since I feel all it does is penalize the folks with poor number-memory. Almost every group of players will have somebody who can easily track all the scores in their head, giving them an unfair advantage. Therefore my group plays Small World, and other games of this hidden-point style, with open scoring. It makes the game flow faster because players are no longer trying to calculate multiple scores in their head every minute. Plus it is usually pretty obvious who the leaders are anyway, so open scoring just lets you know how close you are and lets you make the moves you need to make to catch up. With hidden scoring everybody gets a headache or are left wondering how far they are behind the leader, not knowing which move to make.
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Dan Schaeffer
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jcb231 wrote:
I'm pretty opposed to all forms of hidden scoring, since I feel all it does is penalize the folks with poor number-memory. Almost every group of players will have somebody who can easily track all the scores in their head, giving them an unfair advantage. Therefore my group plays Small World, and other games of this hidden-point style, with open scoring. It makes the game flow faster because players are no longer trying to calculate multiple scores in their head every minute. Plus it is usually pretty obvious who the leaders are anyway, so open scoring just lets you know how close you are and lets you make the moves you need to make to catch up. With hidden scoring everybody gets a headache or are left wondering how far they are behind the leader, not knowing which move to make.


Open scoring has a tendency to make one or more players into kingmakers, though. You know by the last turn that you are not going to win. If you move one way, you guarantee Player A victory; if you move another way, you guarantee a win for Player B. Which way do you move? The general "rule of thumb" is, you do whatever advances you the most -- but that doesn't necessarily help. If your choices are "score 11 points" or "score 10 points but deprive the leader, yet to play, of 2 points" which is the "better" move? The first is a swing of 11 against the leader; the second is fewer absolute points, but a swing of 12.

Case in point - the PBF Small World game I just finished. Players 1 and 2 ended the game tied in the lead. (Full disclosure: I was Player 2.) Players 3 and 4 were out of it, Player 5 was in good position to make a run at first, depending on what Players 3 and 4 did. If they hit him enough, he would lose; if they didn't, he would win. In the end, they didn't hit him enough -- though they both played to their maximum potential -- and Player 5 won by one point. Neither one of them played "wrong" or badly, and their failure to stop Player 5 was not the sole reason he won. (I made the mistake of leaving myself unable to hit him in the last turn, which contributed as well.) But if the scores had been hidden, then (a) they might not have been quite as certain that they were out of contention and (b) even if they were sure, they might not have realized that a particular move was a "kingmaking" move, so they might have chosen differently and the game might have ended differently.

In the PBF format, where anybody can go back and read the thread to calculate the scores, there's no way to effectively have a hidden-point game of Small World. In a F2F game, there is, and in my opinion, it improves the game by making the scores less certain, so less dispositive of what the "right" move is. Sure, some people may have better memories and be able to track multiple scores better. They are usually not shy about telling people who's in the lead. But memory is uncertain, and accuracy and truthfulness are not guaranteed ("He's scored 12 points each of the last three turns and he still has 6 declined points on the board" may or may not be 100% accurate when someone is trying to convince you not to attack them.)

Open-scoring games may still be fun, but there is a qualitative difference from hidden-scoring games. Ultimately, it's a matter of preference, and I would rather have the "fog of war" and risk someone having a great memory than have everybody know at all times exactly who was where in the pecking order.

EDIT: (typos and to add) Also, having a better number memory may be an advantage, but I don't see how it's an "unfair" advantage. If I play chess against someone who can better analyze the board, or who has memorized more openings than I have, is her advantage over me "unfair"? Not at all. If you consistently lose to someone because she has an advantage, and that bothers you, then you shouldn't play that game with that person. I tend to see it as a challenge that may help improve my play. (I also think that in Small World, the advantage of knowing exactly who has scored what is relatively minor. You still have to be in a position to do something about it.)
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Dave G
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That's not entirely true. Our recent PBF game was decided essentially because everyone knew the exact scores and no one wanted to be accused of kingmaking. While kingmaking is never right, the game had three players within 1 point. The player who went last won. I went first and lost by a point. If VP were hidden, the other players would have attacked him instead of leaving him alone. This is a necessary balance to the disadvantage of being the first player and having to be first on the board to be beaten up--the last player is supposed to get beat on in the last round. In this case, it didn't happen solely because the other players knew they'd be denying him the victory.
 
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Dave G
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Golux13 wrote:
jcb231 wrote:
I'm pretty opposed to all forms of hidden scoring, since I feel all it does is penalize the folks with poor number-memory. Almost every group of players will have somebody who can easily track all the scores in their head, giving them an unfair advantage. Therefore my group plays Small World, and other games of this hidden-point style, with open scoring. It makes the game flow faster because players are no longer trying to calculate multiple scores in their head every minute. Plus it is usually pretty obvious who the leaders are anyway, so open scoring just lets you know how close you are and lets you make the moves you need to make to catch up. With hidden scoring everybody gets a headache or are left wondering how far they are behind the leader, not knowing which move to make.


Open scoring has a tendency to make one or more players into kingmakers, though. You know by the last turn that you are not going to wni. If you move one way, you guarantee Player A victory; if you move another way, you guarantee a win for Player B. Which way do you move? The general "rule of thumb" is, you do whatever advances you the most -- but that doesn't necessarily help. If your choices are "score 11 points" or "score 10 points but deprive the leader, yet to play, of 2 points" which is the "better" move? The first is a swing of 11 against the leader; the second is fewer absolute points, but a swing of 12.

Case in point - the PBF Small World game I just finished. Players 1 and 2 ended the game tied in the lead. (Full disclosure: I was Player 2.) Players 3 and 4 were out of it, Player 5 was in good position to make a run at first, depending on what Players 3 and 4 did. If they hit him enough, he would lose; if they didn't, he would win. In the end, they didn't hit him enough -- though they both played to their maximum potential -- and Player 5 won by one point. Neither one of them played "wrong" or badly, and their failure to stop Player 5 was not the sole reason he won. (I made the mistake of leaving myself unable to hit him in the last turn, which contributed as well.) But if the scores had been hidden, then (a) they might not have been quite as certain that they were out of contention and (b) even if they were sure, they might not have realized that a particular move was a "kingmaking" move, so they might have chosen differently and the game might have ended differently.

In the PBF format, where anybody can go back and read the thread to calculate the scores, there's no way to effectively have a hidden-point game of Small World. In a F2F game, there is, and in my opinion, it improves the game by making the scores less certain, so less dispositive of what the "right" move is. Sure, some people may have better memories and be able to track multiple scores better. They are usually not shy about telling people who's in the lead. But memory is uncertain, and accuracy and truthfulness are not guaranteed ("He's scored 12 points each of the last three turns and he still has 6 declined points on the board" may or may not be 100% accurate when someone is trying to convince you not to attack them.)

Open-scoring games may still be fun, but there is a qualitative difference from hidden-scoring games. Ultimately, it's a matter of preference, and I would rather have the "fog of war" and risk someone having a great memory than have everybody know at all times exactly who was where in the pecking order.


This was the same game, coincidentally.
 
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Andy Latto
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jcb231 wrote:
Almost every group of players will have somebody who can easily track all the scores in their head, giving them an unfair advantage.

Is that really true? I've only played Small World once, but I've played a lot of Puerto Rico with hidden (but trackable) scoring. Some players have a better rough idea who is winning than others. But when the game ends, I've never heard anyone say "Nicely played: you won, 53 to 51 to 51 to 47 to 43". If the game is close, there always seems to be genuine uncertainty as to who has won. And I've played a lot of Puerto Rico, with a lot of different people, in settings ranging from a group of people learning the game, to groups where everyone has played a lot, to the tournament at the World Boardgaming Championships.

If that's all you were doing, sure you could keep track of the scores. But in my experience, no-one seems to be able to keep exact count of the scores while simultaneously playing the game.

Number of players is relevant here: I'm assuming a 4 or 5 player game. With only 2 players, I agree that keeping track of the score (or the score difference, which is all you really care about) is doable.
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Golux13 wrote:


EDIT: (typos and to add) Also, having a better number memory may be an advantage, but I don't see how it's an "unfair" advantage. If I play chess against someone who can better analyze the board, or who has memorized more openings than I have, is her advantage over me "unfair"? Not at all. If you consistently lose to someone because she has an advantage, and that bothers you, then you shouldn't play that game with that person. I tend to see it as a challenge that may help improve my play. (I also think that in Small World, the advantage of knowing exactly who has scored what is relatively minor. You still have to be in a position to do something about it.)






---
By "unfair" advantage I meant that number memory of that sort is not a skill everyone is capable of playing with, and as I don't think the game was intended to be designed as a memory game, its a skill outside the game structure. The game should, in my opinion, be a contest of player tactics and skill....and not be strongly influenced by a handful of players who can track all the points.

It's like card counting....with a good memory Blackjack is a much different game. Ditto for Small World. With a good memory you can assess your moves very differently. I think that stress is taken off the players with weaker memories by not asking them to track these things mentally. After all, the info is all there for those willing to commit to memorizing it. I also think that knowing exactly who the leader is and how close you are is fairly essential to any game strategy....if you don't know how far you have to go, you don't know how risky you have to play. Are you ten points off the lead or fifteen? Do you risk everything this turn for a big score to knock out the king or does the situation demand that you take two lesser-scoring turns in order to surpass two different players for the win?

I guess I just play with a lot of math types when I play these games....if you all have groups where this is not a factor, I suppose you won't see the issues it can cause. We play another DOW game, Cleopatra and the Society of Architects, openly too (when we play it all, since open or closed few people are a big fan of it).
 
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I normally like the idea of hurting the leader so he doesn't run away with the game. But the person leading turn 3 might not be on turn 6 and a third player could be turn 9. Since there are short- vs. long-term strategies, hurting the leader on a declining turn 4 might not be the best play for keeping the game relatively even.

Keeping it secret allows for negotiation over who is leading and whether he should be spanked. It also prevents a kingmaker as said above. Sometimes there are kudos for 2nd or 3rd place, such as in a tournament. I like to play to win so do the best for myself then hope I come out on top.

PS: I've heard of dice odds calculators being prohibited, but banning someone taking notes has never come up.
 
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Sandal_Thong wrote:
I normally like the idea of hurting the leader so he doesn't run away with the game. But the person leading turn 3 might not be on turn 6 and a third player could be turn 9. Since there are short- vs. long-term strategies, hurting the leader on a declining turn 4 might not be the best play for keeping the game relatively even.

Keeping it secret allows for negotiation over who is leading and whether he should be spanked. It also prevents a kingmaker as said above. Sometimes there are kudos for 2nd or 3rd place, such as in a tournament. I like to play to win so do the best for myself then hope I come out on top.

PS: I've heard of dice odds calculators being prohibited, but banning someone taking notes has never come up.


I still think that keeping VP's hidden adds a major memory component to the game, and I doubt it was a design intention to have player memory be such a large factor in the gameplay.

Anytime a reasonably gifted player COULD memorize something in a non-memory-oriented game, I think the secrecy should be lifted to even the field for all players. Savant-level card counting is quite a bit different, but ordinary people with sharp memories could realistically memorize all the VPs in a game of Small World.
 
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Dave G
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jcb231 wrote:

By "unfair" advantage I meant that number memory of that sort is not a skill everyone is capable of playing with, and as I don't think the game was intended to be designed as a memory game, its a skill outside the game structure. The game should, in my opinion, be a contest of player tactics and skill....and not be strongly influenced by a handful of players who can track all the points.

It's like card counting....with a good memory Blackjack is a much different game. Ditto for Small World. With a good memory you can assess your moves very differently. I think that stress is taken off the players with weaker memories by not asking them to track these things mentally. After all, the info is all there for those willing to commit to memorizing it. I also think that knowing exactly who the leader is and how close you are is fairly essential to any game strategy....if you don't know how far you have to go, you don't know how risky you have to play. Are you ten points off the lead or fifteen? Do you risk everything this turn for a big score to knock out the king or does the situation demand that you take two lesser-scoring turns in order to surpass two different players for the win?


That's sort of the point of "games" though, isn't it? Some people have better memories, some are better bluffers, some are better at projecting future consequences of their actions, and some are better at predicting their opponents' actions. None of these things are "unfair." To try to handicap someone's mental capacity in a game like this would be like saying LeBron James has to shoot with one eye closed because he's better at it than everyone else.
 
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jcb231 wrote:
I still think that keeping VP's hidden adds a major memory component to the game, and I doubt it was a design intention to have player memory be such a large factor in the gameplay.

Anytime a reasonably gifted player COULD memorize something in a non-memory-oriented game, I think the secrecy should be lifted to even the field for all players. Savant-level card counting is quite a bit different, but ordinary people with sharp memories could realistically memorize all the VPs in a game of Small World.


I'm not sure why you think the designer wouldn't have understood that secret VPs would add a dimension of memory to the game. After all, Vinci was designed with open VP, so it was clearly a design choice to make that change in the reboot.

I also don't think player memory is such a huge factor. Suppose one player has a brilliant memory and remembers exactly how much everyone has scored on each turn. His choices are to tell everyone or keep the knowledge to himself. If he tells everyone, they either believe him or they don't. If they do, then everyone gangs up on the leader -- which would happen with open VP. If they don't, then he does what he can to affect the leader, and everyone else does what they would otherwise do. If Memory Lad doesn't tell anyone, same result. What unfair advantage do you think he has over the other players.

Trying to remember a running VP count is just one more thing you have to juggle in your mind while you're also figuring out which race to choose and/or which regions to conquer. I find that I generally have a decent approximate idea of who's winning and where I stand in relation to them, but I choose not to focus on trying to recall exact scores in favor of concentrating on maximizing my own, if possible by hurting the the opponent I think is in the lead or is the biggest threat.

(I'll note that in open scoring games, such as the ones we play PBF here, there can be a fairly significant kingmaker effect as the players bringing up the rear can choose which of the potential winners to attack harder. I tied for second in one such game where, if the 4th (or 5th) place player had chosen differently for his last turn, I would have won. His play was not incorrect, but it made no difference to him and the entire difference to the winners.)
 
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JohnRayJr wrote:
Mot Demonslayer wrote:
I'm guessing the argument is that it may make 'calculator' types slow the game down. But not sure whether keeping VPs secret really adds much to the game.


Well, I think that sums it up, so I'm not sure what there is to discuss.

The "calculator" types of players are the exact ones who will explicitly track VPs as they are earned, even if they are kept hidden. So all that the hidden VP rule does is skew things even more in the advantage of the calc-players, since the average player will now be denied information that he otherwise would be able to consider.

Keep it open to give everyone the same information, not just the calculator players who will end up tracking it anyway.
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cbs42 wrote:
JohnRayJr wrote:
Mot Demonslayer wrote:
I'm guessing the argument is that it may make 'calculator' types slow the game down. But not sure whether keeping VPs secret really adds much to the game.


Well, I think that sums it up, so I'm not sure what there is to discuss.

The "calculator" types of players are the exact ones who will explicitly track VPs as they are earned, even if they are kept hidden. So all that the hidden VP rule does is skew things even more in the advantage of the calc-players, since the average player will now be denied information that he otherwise would be able to consider.

Keep it open to give everyone the same information, not just the calculator players who will end up tracking it anyway.


I'm still not sure how a calculating/memorizing player has any sort of significant advantage over the others.
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Golux13 wrote:
cbs42 wrote:
JohnRayJr wrote:
Mot Demonslayer wrote:
I'm guessing the argument is that it may make 'calculator' types slow the game down. But not sure whether keeping VPs secret really adds much to the game.


Well, I think that sums it up, so I'm not sure what there is to discuss.

The "calculator" types of players are the exact ones who will explicitly track VPs as they are earned, even if they are kept hidden. So all that the hidden VP rule does is skew things even more in the advantage of the calc-players, since the average player will now be denied information that he otherwise would be able to consider.

Keep it open to give everyone the same information, not just the calculator players who will end up tracking it anyway.


I'm still not sure how a calculating/memorizing player has any sort of significant advantage over the others.


Because he knows exactly how far he has to go to take the lead, and can adjust strategy accordingly, helping or hurting other players.
 
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