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Subject: How to avoid directing a game? rss

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Pieter
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I have been playing BSG with several groups. Most people like the game, but several people complained that they felt they did not get to make any choices: someone (more experienced) was always dictating them what to do.

I know this is a problem that happens with games, and personally I always try to let people make their own choices. The problem with BSG is that it is so complex, that necessarily I have to make choices for people when telling them what their possibilities are.

For instance, I could say: "We can jump now if you activate FTL Control, or you can XO Apollo to shoot down some raiders, or you can scout for a good destination." Those are useful choices in the present situation, and I leave out the myriad of choices that are possible in principle but not very useful. After such a shortlist naturally discussions start on what the best course of action would be, and the newbie is just listening bewildered until the collective decides that "scouting is best". The newbie, not wishing to be accused of being a Cylon, then does just that.

It is a fact that if a BSG newbie is playing with veterans, and the newbie just follows his own ideas, he will either end up in the brig quickly for suspicious actions, or he will lose the game for the team he is on.

Are there any ideas how to mitigate this problem?
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Jefferson Krogh
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If there's one person who's trying to boss around the other players, he's probably a Cylon. Brig him. whistle

If everyone at the table is telling a new player what to do, you've got a different problem. For what it's worth, our group really thinks that it's rude for people to tell other people how to play their turns. If a player asks for suggestions, that's one thing. If people are just offering unsolicited advice, we tell them to just be quiet and let people play their own turns.

In BSG, players should learn that you can't necessarily trust the advice of other players. Human players will try to trick others into doing things that reveal them to be Cylons. Hidden Cylons will try to divert suspicion away from themselves by tricking humans into doing foolish things. Therefore, you can't trust the table talk. Just because everyone says that a plan is the best one doesn't mean it is!

Finally, I disagree that BSG is that complex. There are a handful of relevant actions each player can take in a turn; far fewer than Agricola!
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Chris J Davis
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Play with more strict secrecy rules.

We play that players can never discuss what cards they hold in their hands (whereas the official FAQ allows players to state whether they have a particular card, such as a Lauch Scout, or not). With this rule, players are not allowed to ask or answer questions such as "do you have an Executive Order?" and the playing of cards becomes something that a player has to do on their own initiative.

(You also have to make sure there are no take-backsies. If someone plays a Strategic Planning on a die roll, or a Scientific Research on a skill check and the whole of the rest of the group starts yelling "no, no, no, you shouldn't play that now!" then you can't allow the player to take it back, as that kinda defeats the point of the secrecy and playing on your own initiative).

It's worked for us and makes the game much more interesting for individual players making their own decisions rather than just following the group like sheep.
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Matt
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I believe presenting a number of choices to a 'new' player is a good idea, as its something i'd often do until they become accustomed to the game. The key here is to try to be fairly neutral as to which action to take - often there are several 'good' choices to make when in reality you can only make 1 per turn.

If you have problems with a strong personality in the group who tries to 'direct' the game as if they were playing the game alone, point this out to them and ask them to let others make choices on their own.

Another option is to explain that its your character to make decisions with and that your going to X instead of Y. If they think that makes you a cylon then feel free to let them try throw you in the brig, (you'd want to do this when your not a cylon and ideally someone who draws alot of of none green/purple so you can throw a big spike into the check).

Point this out to them, that you can and will spike the check if forced to do so - that it will cost them alot of cards to jail you and if they listen to the 'directing player', it will cost them alot of resources which are better used to fight cylons & crisis.

It may mean the humans lose the game, but then you can point out that you did warn them of that far in advance and hopefully next time people will be more wary of following the 'leader'

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Franklin Millar
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I teach the game a moratorium on bad advice until the first jump. Depending on the newbie, I'm willing to teach them how to be the best human they can be. I figure it's usually a terrible idea to blatantly sabotage checks or early-jump the ship that soon anyway, and there's plenty of time after the first jump for them, or me, to sabotage the game if we are a cylon. One jump is enough time to get the gist of it.

We have a lot of group discussion, but of course we don't know what cards people have, and there are rarely "right" answers, so I don't think it gets to be a problem in general.
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If you have newbies to the game, it should be known to the vets of the game that there's a good chance that suboptimal or even bad moves will be made. Some people just like to try out the "shiniest thing", which isn't always the right thing to do. It's "newbie nature"


You could go with a game where everyone gives lots of advice and you suggest away all the options to your heart's delight, accompanied with charts if you so desire. Or you may decide to institute a low-meta gaming policy, where you just tell the newbie what to do .

Either way, do let everyone just play the game. If they don't do what others tell them, let it go, and then brig him/steal his presidency... through the game's mecanisms, not with outside game threats.


Give people one or more games to get used to it. If you find that some people are spoiling it for others, they may either simply not enjoy BSG/this sort of game (semi-co-op) or may be too demanding and expect player's to follow instructions precisely (e.g. I heard one game where the admiral gave out orders to all military characters and would brig them if they didn't follow such orders).



One thing we do in new games is to stack the loyalty cards such that the newbies will NOT be a cylon pre-sleeper phase. It makes things easier since it's difficult to be an effective cylon if you're brand new to the game.
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Jason Beck
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The suggestions here are good. I run into this problem with one my groups, because they're BSG fans but not big gamers, so they're not necessarily as "good" as other players might be.

It's easy to follow into the dictating the game trap, so I try to stay conscious of this and suggest a couple of options if players appear to be floundering.

This can especially be helpful if players aren't sure what to do or are lacking in direction at the moment; gently suggesting a course of action or two is a good way to keep the game moving along while helping to at least point them in the right direction.

It can also help to mitigate the "dictating" factor by explaining *why* certain choices might be better than others. "Well, you could move to FTL and jump the ship, but then we'd risk population, or you could move to Communications and move these civilians out of danger, which would be good since they might get destroyed if we get a raider activation soon", and so on.

In short: offer multiple options when you're helping out, and explain *why*. Also, people will feel more like they're being dictated to and less that you're just making helpful suggestions if you make them as soon as their turn starts, so trying to give them a little bit of time before offering advice helps, too.
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Pieter
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I read some interesting suggestions. Thank you all.

I am going to add something, which I realized was relevant after reading your posts. I have heard most complaints from two guys. Both of them played twice.

The first guy's first game was a four-player affair. He picked Saul Tigh and was Admiral. Before the Sleeper-Agent phase, he once said "I'm going to declare martial law". I said "That would be a typical Cylon move." He said, "Why? I am human and this way I know that both President and Admiral titles are in human hands." So I said "But we cannot know that, and you are placing too much power in one person's hand. Besides, even if you are human now, you might become a Cylon after the Sleeper-Agent phase, and thus we want to avoid you getting both titles." We continued talking and I assured him that if he did this, I would see him brigged on the next turn, to which the other players agreed. Reluctantly, he decided to do something else. At this point one of the advices above would have been most useful: I simply should have let him declare martial law, and get him to the brig.

During the Sleeper-Agent phase, this guy became Sympathizer and landed in the brig. The Admiral's title moved to me. Since he was most likely human, we got him out on an XO. Then he said "How do I become Admiral again?" I said "The only way would be to brig me." So he said, "OK, then I move to the Admiral's Quarters and brig you." I said "Then I would consider you to be a Cylon. If I had given you any reason for thinking I am a Cylon, then you could argue that brigging me was a good idea, but brigging someone just to get the Admiral's title for yourself is Cylon behavior." The others agreed, and said they would oppose such a move. We allowed him to get the President's title, as our current president was the most suspect crew member. Again, we should have simply let him try to brig me, which would not have succeeded, after which we would have thrown him into the brig again.

Now the kicker: he proved to be a Cylon from the start. He complained later that every time he tried to do something "bad", we would have thrown him in the brig. What probably had not sunk in yet is that a Cylon cannot go about being obviously a Cylon, because that will net him a ticket to incarceration. Here another of the advices above would have been a good idea: make sure that a newbie is not a Cylon from the start.

One thing to add to this story is that this guy is actually enthusiastic about the game, regardless of his complaints. His second game he was again a Cylon from the start -- he picked Gaius Baltar. Perhaps I should make sure he is human next time.

Now on to the second guy: his first game he played as the Chief, which is notoriously a fairly boring role if you are human. And he was. He agreed to try a second game, and took Apollo, which is a good role if you want to act a lot. But still he complained afterwards that he felt he was not a master of his own actions. I had taken care to let everybody make their own decisions, but BSG is a game of cooperation and a lot of conversation. I think for this guy, the simple conclusion is that BSG is not his type of game. He wants to act against others, make his own decisions without deliberating with others. So I should probably not bring BSG to the table again when he's around.
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Gary Laporte
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You're probably right about your last guy, maybe BSG is not a game for him.

About not directing the others, I always tell to the people around the table that the active player is the one who starts talking at the beginning of his turn, tells HIS ideas, then asks for advice IF he wants. If the active player says "but I really want to do that", there is no way anybody should force him to do something else, even if it contradicts somebody else's idea.

The funny thing is that, by doing that, often the active player will have the right idea (the one the experienced players were probably thinking about) and the other players will agree. It's much better this way. Rather than having an experienced player immediately telling him what to do, he sees that he has the right (or well, one of the right) idea(s) and it's much more enjoyable for the new player, who will feel more and more confident about what he is doing in the game.
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Benoit Guiot
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I would not follow the same route as you.

I think it is better to tell the new commers when explaining the rules that every player has his own agenda and blind follow of an advice is probably a poor play because it is just odds against that you can have 100% confidence in the other players.

Giving "advices" that are favoring you seem to me one of the major issues of this game so I would not try to restrict player from doing so.

I think the real problem arose when all the cylons are revealled but it seems to me that the previous stages of the game have allready tuned out those who want to play for everybody.

 
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Allan Cybulskie
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This is far easier to do in PBF -- where almost all of my experience is, and all of my experience with other people is -- but one easy way to get around this is this: EVERYONE gets advice. Every single player -- experienced or not -- is recommended to ask "Suggestions?" before making any move. And the newbie can chime in as well. If a lot of their ideas are pointed out to be wrong on SOMEONE ELSE'S turn (with explanations), then they can learn without feeling that their turn is dictated to them. And they won't feel singled out if everyone is getting their actions analyzed and criticized by everyone. And encourage the newbie to speak up if they don't understand why a move is a good one. It might extend the game, but it's a good way to learn.

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Kilian Wolf
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Flyboy Connor wrote:
"I am human and this way I know that both President and Admiral titles are in human hands."
For some reason I tend to always end up having to choose a military leader and I like Tigh the best among those, so I play Tigh a lot. I always use the stated argument. I think it is so in character, it's not even funny. Got me brigged a couple of times even though being human, but hell, it's fun when people come apologizing. One thing I like about this game is that beigg human does not necessarily mean having to play niceninja.
 
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