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Subject: Poll: What sort of table talk is acceptable? rss

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Steven Backues
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I am curious what sort of table talk you consider acceptable when playing Small World. So I've listed some types of statements, along with some hypothetical examples, and I'd appreciate if you would vote which ones would be acceptable and which would not.

This is a question of ethos and preferences, so if you would find a statement to be annoying or in poor taste, you should mark "not acceptable."

Assume in every case that the person talking is indeed trying to influence the outcome of the game, not just idly chatting, and that everyone is playing to win.

Poll
Would you consider each of these acceptable table talk when playing Small World?
  Yes, acceptable Maybe/Sometimes/Depends No, not acceptable
Pointing out who is winning: e.g "Wow, Bob's off to a great start."
Pointing out an on-board situation/dropping a hint as to a play: e.g. "Those merchant giants in that mountain space are going to score big next turn."
Explicitly suggesting a play: e.g. "I think you should clear those giants out of that mountain space with your dragon"
Making a one-off deal (non-binding): e.g. "I won't attack your giants in that mountain space this turn if you don't attack my wizards in that magic space on your turn."
Make a long-term alliance (non-binding): e.g. "Let's not attack each other and focus on taking down Bob."
      177 answers
Poll created by Elendil


Thanks. I'm very curious about this.
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Andy Leber
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I think they are all acceptable. The only one that could have poor social consequences, depending on your group, is the long term alliance one.

If it's a 3 player game, and you pick on one guy the whole way, it may lower the fun. If you always pick on the same guy, or ally with the same person, game after game, it might be less fun... etc.

But if the same guy wins 9 out of 10 games, and 2 of you decide to try and topple him one game, I don't see the problem.
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Paul DeStefano
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Not only acceptable, but possibly essential to play.
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Mark McEvoy
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I don't even think the term "Table Talk" is accurate. I mean, sure, you're talking at a table. But in game terms, "table talk" usually specifically refers to talk that reveals information that, by rule, is meant to remain hidden - like the values on your cards in a card game.

Aside from your own score (and even that's debatable), there is no hidden information (that any player knows in advance).


Holmes108 wrote:
But if the same guy wins 9 out of 10 games, and 2 of you decide to try and topple him one game, I don't see the problem.


Now this I have a problemn with. If you are ganging up on him it's because he's running away with *this* game, and needs to be reeled in. Ganging up on him due to his success in past games is poor-sport metagaming.
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Ben Bateson
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I think the last two would probably be unacceptable in any sort of championship/competitive setting.
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James
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ousgg wrote:
I think the last two would probably be unacceptable in any sort of championship/competitive setting.


I definitely see why that would be the case, but that to me speaks to the oddness of negotiation/social games being run in a tournament setting in the first place. The level of social interaction in the game is what makes it fun; otherwise we're just doing math. Games that really find their stride in negotiation play best when treated in an episodic fashion, in which everything is kept in the closed world of a single session, not in a serial tournament format. As you perhaps suggest, there's no reason not mutually agree to take down a former tournament winner; this would rub many the wrong way.

In the context of episodic play, I think all of these are part of what can make the game fun. YMMV...
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Andy Leber
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thatmarkguy wrote:
Now this I have a problemn with. If you are ganging up on him it's because he's running away with *this* game, and needs to be reeled in. Ganging up on him due to his success in past games is poor-sport metagaming.


Depends on the degree, and if you're ruining his fun. I used to often play Catan against 1 friend, and 1 AI opponent on Asobrain. I wouldn't always rob the computer just because the AI happened to be in first place. Sometimes I'd still target my friend because I know he's the real threat before the game is over. On the flip side, if the AI is at 9 points, and my friend was somehow stuck at 2 points, I obviously wouldn't rob him.

As I said though, these are just possible social consequences that are totally dependent on your group. You should know the mindset of your group, and play a like minded style of play.
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Rasmus Højslet
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Voted yes to all of them except the last one... Think that is way over the line
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Dave C
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What makes you think that saying, "I won't attack you if you don't attack me," means that I won't attack you.. or leads me to trust that you won't attack me?

Alliances are made and broken constantly in life. Many players will just instinctively ally themselves with each other without saying a word and possibly even without a look. If you can't regulate it, don't. By allowing them to talk, you are more aware of what you'll be facing.
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brian
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thatmarkguy wrote:
I don't even think the term "Table Talk" is accurate. I mean, sure, you're talking at a table. But in game terms, "table talk" usually specifically refers to talk that reveals information that, by rule, is meant to remain hidden - like the values on your cards in a card game.

That was the point I brought up in the last go around of this. "Table talk" is a general term. But as it relates to gaming, it is sharing hidden info.
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Steven Backues
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ColtsFan76 wrote:
thatmarkguy wrote:
I don't even think the term "Table Talk" is accurate. I mean, sure, you're talking at a table. But in game terms, "table talk" usually specifically refers to talk that reveals information that, by rule, is meant to remain hidden - like the values on your cards in a card game.

That was the point I brought up in the last go around of this. "Table talk" is a general term. But as it relates to gaming, it is sharing hidden info.


Yes, I realize the term isn't the best, but no-one suggested a better one. But that is why instead of asking generally about "table talk," this time I went exclusively with the specific examples.

So, I'm willing to forswear the use of "table talk;" I have no attachment to that. But I am curious what people think about the specific examples.
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Scot Ryder
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As far as I'm concerned, unless the rules forbid it all table talk is allowed.
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brian
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First 3 are 100% acceptable to me.

The second one is a bit more od a "depends" since it is non-binding - as long as everyone realizes it is non-binding, then no issue. But thought it needed more clarification than just "acceptable."

The last one I think steps over a line because it seems to be picking on one person just for being that person. If it was a guess at who is in first and that is your long term alliance, fine. But I got out of the question it was just being mean to be mean.

Of course, our "bob" is a guy named John and we regularly beat up on him. But that is an unspoken rule and so doesn't fall under "talk." devil
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What sort of table talk is acceptable in Small World?

Why, 'small talk', of course!
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ErikPeter Walker
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I think the biggest potential game-ruiner is explicitly suggesting what someone should do. Every once in a while, or when coaching a new player, it shouldn't be a problem, but do this too much and you will likely turn players off of Small World (or Scrabble, or Puerto Rico, etc) entirely.

Part of the fun is finding the best move and taking it. If someone else is telling you the best move every time, you might be pressed to make a different (bad) move to feel like you're making your own decision, or (even worse) waste a long time trying to find a better, different move to make.
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Steven Backues
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ColtsFan76 wrote:
First 3 are 100% acceptable to me.

The second one is a bit more od a "depends" since it is non-binding - as long as everyone realizes it is non-binding, then no issue. But thought it needed more clarification than just "acceptable."

The last one I think steps over a line because it seems to be picking on one person just for being that person. If it was a guess at who is in first and that is your long term alliance, fine. But I got out of the question it was just being mean to be mean.

Of course, our "bob" is a guy named John and we regularly beat up on him. But that is an unspoken rule and so doesn't fall under "talk." devil


For the last question I was thinking mostly of an alliance made half-way through the game against the winner. But, the question is broader than that: as long as that alliance increases the chances of victory for each of the players making it, it would fall under that category.
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Shawn Garbett
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Make a long-term alliance (non-binding): e.g. "Let's not attack each other and focus on taking down Bob."

Then, after watching your ally knock Bob down hard, walking all over your "ally" and coming out on top, yelling, "Who's your daddy now?"
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I'm good with all these, though I really think #5 is a load of crap.

It's not uncommon for two strong players who play well to sand-bag the whole time and then work together to finish first and second.
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Jeff Dunford
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I think all are acceptable. It's not uncommon in our games of Small World for somebody to say "Bob has been solidly outscoring us by 2-3 points every turn. We really need to knock him down a peg to have any hope of catching up." Or similarly "Those Berserk Sorcerers are killing us! Before you attack me there, you should really consider keeping them in check. Otherwise, they'll overwhelm both of us. We have more reason to go after them than each other."

That's effectively the 5th example, and I have no problem with it.
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Shawn Garbett
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CyberGarp wrote:
Make a long-term alliance (non-binding): e.g. "Let's not attack each other and focus on taking down Bob."

Then, after watching your ally knock Bob down hard, walking all over your "ally" and coming out on top, yelling, "Who's your daddy now?"


In all seriousness, one consideration about table talk is whether agreements are binding or not. If agreements are binding, then colluding is bad form, and unfair to the player colluded against. The victim of such collusion may become reluctant to play with you again. That is unless he's the dad who owns all the games, and loves it when his girls gang with him just to up the challenge.

If agreements aren't binding, then such collusion can easily bite someone who believes it 100%.

In Dune where agreements are binding, alliance phases come and go through the game. So one never quite knows how long your ally will last.

Small world has no such provision about binding agreements, so one is left to assume anything goes--unless you want house rules. So it's about how much Diplomacy you can stand.
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Danny Mack
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Voxen wrote:
I think the biggest potential game-ruiner is explicitly suggesting what someone should do. Every once in a while, or when coaching a new player, it shouldn't be a problem, but do this too much and you will likely turn players off of Small World (or Scrabble, or Puerto Rico, etc) entirely.

Part of the fun is finding the best move and taking it. If someone else is telling you the best move every time, you might be pressed to make a different (bad) move to feel like you're making your own decision, or (even worse) waste a long time trying to find a better, different move to make.

To me, this is the most interesting comment of them all.

In a "gamer event" setting, I can see your point, I guess. There are some pretty smart people who are gamers and like feeling intellectually superior over their opponents--not in a mean-spirited way, mind you. But for many gamers I've played with, it's obvious that to them a win means more than "good game" with a pat on the butt. It proves their mental prowess. As long as they keep that as a quiet enjoyment to themselves, I have no problem with it, if it's part of their fun. Hey, I know there are a lot of smarter people out there at the tables than me (..."I" actually.) So, these folks would indeed be insulted if you are pointing out the best move to them (because they really are smart enough to know what it is), and annoyed if you spoiled it for them by pointing it out to others. (Then they don't get a clean win, in the end, because you've tainted it.) And they would be annoyed at players pointing out multiple good moves, because they see the best one, and you are wasting their time with elongated turns.

But in a more sociable setting where you are goofing off at the table, trading witty repartee, and having drinks & snacks, nobody is sitting there doing calculus and brooding. I have a group like this that I play with a few times a year, and it's great fun for all of us. We DO point out the best moves, but we know each other well enough to know that what Zach sees as a "best move" for me is often a self-serving observation on his part. You're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. "Best" in a game like SW, where every action affects the outcome, is mostly subjective (for those of us who are not true algorithmic geniuses.) Recognizing this is liberating, because it allows players to both participate in and tolerate "table talk", which IMO adds to the fun.

So for me, in any setting, you can tell me what my best move is or what I should do, but I am going to do what I please, and take your input with a grain of salt. And I won't be the least bit ruffled or intimidated by your claims. I thrive on the "player perception" element of the game, and will in my own time sway it to my own benefit rather than yours, if possible. Besides, many of us learn best by putting our ideas out there and seeing how they fare, how they are received. It helps us to sharpen both our perceptions and our persuasiveness. Long live table talk, I say.
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Tim Stellmach
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I'm going to have to go farther than saying that any kind of discussion is acceptable. I would consider any kind of restriction on what kind of discussion I could have to be unacceptable, at least to me personally. I would decline, as politely as possible, to play under such circumstances.
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Todd Redden
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Holmes108 wrote:
I think they are all acceptable. The only one that could have poor social consequences, depending on your group, is the long term alliance one.

If it's a 3 player game, and you pick on one guy the whole way, it may lower the fun. If you always pick on the same guy, or ally with the same person, game after game, it might be less fun... etc.

But if the same guy wins 9 out of 10 games, and 2 of you decide to try and topple him one game, I don't see the problem.

I agree with this assessment entirely, and found the last "long term alliance" issue the only tough nut to crack. Multi-player games of all kinds are rife with alliances (they have to be) so why not here? Granted it might destroy the fun of one player, but if you can't stand the heat... BTW, I don't like that kind of play, and it most likely wouldn't be initiated by me, but you can't prevent alliances in multi-player games. It happens a lot in game groups where family members are playing with others, they often don't even realize they're helping each other towards victory. (I don't like this when it happens, but it can't be prevented.)
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Steven Backues
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Thanks again for all of the responses. Thus far I have tried to avoid putting in my own two cents lest that influence the poll, but I think I have enough data now to call it good.

First, the reason for this poll, in case you are curious. Last week I was in a discussion on another thread where a few people were advancing the idea that if a game doesn’t specify whether or not in-game communication/politicking is allowed, one should assume by default that it is not allowed. They agreed that of course anyone could play the game differently if they wanted to, but argued that this would be to play a variant, not the game as defined in the rules.

My position was that if the rules did not specify, it was a matter of convention, and thus up to the play group to decide. Since common practice on this matter varied so greatly, I felt that any decision would be equally authentic.

In one post I cited a few games where the rules do not say whether or not in-game communication was allowed, but where this was typically interpreted to mean that it was allowed. One of the games I mentioned was Small World, to which one poster replied "None of the groups I've played with Small World (3 or 4 now) have permitted negotiation. (This was not at my suggestion -- it was the group's native preference)" This surprised me, based on reviews and comments I had read, but I have actually only played Small World 2-player, so I didn’t honestly know how the multiplayer game was generally played.

So, I ran this poll in part to see which was more representative: this player’s experience, or my impressions. (It seems that my impressions were right, although certainly there is disagreement, especially about the "heavier" forms of negotiation).

I also ran a parallel poll in the Puerto Rico forum, choosing that as a game where from what I have read on the forums, in-game communication is generally not allowed. My expectation was that the responses would come back quite different, supporting my point that a single convention to cover all games doesn’t make a lot of sense. They did, indeed, show some difference (see the chart for an overview), although actually not as much as I expected. Actually I was surprised at how many there found some amount of in-game communication acceptable, and that around a third even felt full alliances to be okay. Again, this shows how much diversity there is on this matter.


I was also interested to read the comments that this poll generated. I definitely agree that long-term alliances can be the most socially fraught, especially with fewer players (politics in general doesn’t work well with 3 players, I think). Suggesting specific plays can be a sensitive one, too: I think it depends on how often it is done, and how forcefully (i.e. is it occasional self-serving advice, or is someone trying to play everyone else’s game for them?)

In general, I think there is certainly some danger for politics/negotiation to "take over" a game; the only thing that limits this is the social pressure that the playgroup brings to bear. In a way I think it is not unlike the problem with overanalysis that can plague many strategy games. In those games, it might always be your advantage to think 10 minutes about every move, but most bow to social convention (and their own preferences) and remember to move things along. Likewise, it might be tempting to try to make everyone’s move for them or try to argue people out of everything they do that you don’t like, but most people know that only so much of that is acceptable (how much, of course, depends on the preferences of the group), and restrain themselves.
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David Laine
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Elendil wrote:
I am curious what sort of table talk you consider acceptable when playing Small World. So I've listed some types of statements, along with some hypothetical examples, and I'd appreciate if you would vote which ones would be acceptable and which would not.


You left out a critical type of table talk--that of the chit-chat/jabber variety. Is it acceptable to spend the game talk-talk-talking, distracting people and drawing out a 5-player game, and then occasionally complaining, "Why isn't it my turn? Why are people taking so long!?! Why isn't this game over yet!?!?!"
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