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Subject: POLL: Is pointing out "open information" acceptable? rss

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Patar Absurdus the Shananigator
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There have been a couple of threads about this recently and some very strong opinions on both sides. It is difficult to tell the ratio of opinions based on the posts in the thread so I am very curious what poll results would show about this.

So the following is the basic situation in as unbiased of terms as I can manage and hopefully giving all the details that seem like they could be relevant. Tom, Harry, Sally, and Janet (like my generic names?) are all fairly experienced gamers that play together regularly and have been friends outside of gaming for years. They are together for there semi regularly scheduled game night and Sallies house and are playing a multiplayer game which they have all played at least several times before.

1. At some point during the last quarter of the game Tom states that Harry will win if Sally and Janet don't help stop him. He further uses some "open information" to prove his case. If Tom stops here than all he has done is given his opinion about the game state and pointed out some open information (data to which the other players already had access) which the other players may or may not have noticed.

2. Lets say that Tom goes further and begins suggesting specific courses of action that Sally, Janet, and himself can take to hinder Harry. At this point Tom has gone a bit further to what some would call negotiation or more negatively manipulation.

3. Tom goes on this way for 2-3 rounds of the game in spite of Harry making several requests that Tom cease "colluding" and "manipulating" the other players.

4. Tom ends up winning the game and Harry comes in last. At this point it is difficult to say how far Harry may have been in the lead at the point when Tom noted the "open information" in the first place.

At the end of the game, Harry is polite but it's pretty clear that he is not at all happy with Tom's actions. Harry states that he never had a significant lead and that Tom was really out of line for "orchestrating the game the game that way." That said, Sally and Janet do not feel strongly about Tom's behavior one way or the other except that during the game they agreed that Harry was in the lead.

So what I am hoping to find out from this poll: Was Tom wrong at some point and if so when? Does it depend on factors that I left out like "game type," group culture, etc? Was Harry wrong for complaining? If one of these guys posted here would you recommend that they try to stick it out with their gaming buddies or that they ditch them and "not invite them to game night any more?"

Poll
12. Negotiating/Manipulating in this way...
Is rarely acceptable
Is generally acceptable
Is acceptable or not based mostly on the genre of the game in play
Is acceptable or not based mostly on the group's culture
13. In the scenerio as it is stated...
Tom was out of line at 1. (when he pointed out the "open information" and stated that Harry was about to win).
Tom was out of line at 2. (when he started "suggesting specific courses of action")
Tom was out of line at 3. (when he kept making suggestions for >1 round and after Harry made the request that he cease)
Tom was out of line at 4. (when he won the game due to his negotiations/manipulations)
Tom was not out of line but Harry was.
Neither of them were out of line.
Whether Tom was out of line or not depends mostly on the game's genre .
Whether Tom was out of line or not depends mostly on the group's culture .
It is not possible to reasonably answer this question without more information (please explain below)
14. If Tom posted here complaining about how Harry acted I would...
Recommend that he just stop using negotiation/manipulation tacticsRecommend that he continue playing as is and Harry can learn to deal with it
Recommend that he politely tell Harry that it is acceptable to use negotiation and that he will continue to do so
Recommend that he talk to Harry and try to come up with a compromise that they both can accept
Recommend that he find a new game group or stop inviting Harry to game night
Tell him that whether it was acceptable was really dependant on the group culture and/or the games genre
15. If Harry posted here complaining about how Tom acted I would...
Recommend that he just stop complaining
Recommend that he politely tell Tom that it is not acceptable to use negotiation and that he should stop
Recommend that he talk to Tom and try to come up with a compromise that they both can accept
Recommend that he find a new game group or stop inviting Tom to game night
Tell him that whether it was acceptable was really dependant on the group culture and/or the games genre
      608 answers
Poll created by Redward

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Rich Shipley
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The problem seems to be with Sally and Janet. There's no reason to stop someone from winning unless it gives you a better chance to win. Just throwing the game to someone else makes no sense.
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Steven Durst
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My general rule of thumb on this sort of thing is that if one person is clearly in the lead, and the actions another is suggesting would put me in a position to win instead of the leader, then it is a go. However, if the actions suggested to take down the leader merely put this other guy in the lead, then that is not going to fly with me.

So I guess I focus more on what the other players did than the one pointing out the strat to take down the leader. Some games are meant to be social and involve collusion and backstabbing. But if the other players are not knowledgeable enough to see they are being used by Tom then we have an issue. Then we get into the issue of kingmaking.

As an example I was playing 3 player Resident Evil last night (very Thunderstone-esque). I was clearly in the lead and the person in last place got the ending monster to show up. The second place player suggested she not kill the monster and thus keep the game going as she would not win with that kill. However, the only one who would clearly benefit from such a move was the guy suggesting it (since he was in striking distance point-wise from me). The last place player was so far behind, there was really no point in delaying the end of the game (which I kindly pointed out). So she killed the guy and we ended the game amicably.
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Ron Parker
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I've been Harry in this scenario, playing StarCraft. And it pissed me off. But I think it was a valid course of action for Tom to take, not at all out of line for the group and the game. Sally and Janet (and James; it was a five-player game) had a chance of winning that game, though, so it wasn't just Tom grooming a couple of kingmakers. And at some point - too late, in retrospect - I returned fire, pointing out to the other players that Tom was sneaking up on a win, too, thanks in part to their actions. I got thoroughly destroyed in the last round, essentially wiped off the map, because some players were slow to get the message that I was no longer the threat, so I had to defend against four attacks in the same round and depleted my supply of useful cards. But Tom also had a tough fight for the win that could have gone either way. So in the end, I think it was okay, at least for that game and that group.

(At one point, Tom also pointed out that it was my game and I'd played it more than everyone else there. Whereupon I pointed out that despite that, every time I'd played it with Tom, he'd beaten me. It was an ugly game. But galactic war is hell.)
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Patar Absurdus the Shananigator
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Crap, I made an error in the 3rd poll question and melded the 1st and 2nd potential anwsers. Lame.

Also, here are links to the previous dsicusions about this: 812470 and Game Etiquette Question - Cyclades [But Also in General]
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There are two problems with this poll. In the "12" poll you are mixing up answers to two questions, with references to personal opinion and group culture. It would seem to be a tautology that whatever is OK or not OK according to a group's culture is OK or not OK in that group, so that answer doesn't carry any information. In the "14" poll, you missed separating the first two questions.
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Stoic Bird
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I don't think Tom did anything remotely wrong from an absolute standpoint, but I voted with the majority on "it depends". Board games aren't worth getting people angry about. If Tom really can't have fun without playing that way and Harry really can't if Tom plays that way, they need to find a new activity, or at least a new game.

For instance: many of my friends play Galaxy Trucker essentially without the timer; when you finish your ship, you grab the turn order piece, but you let the last person finish theirs too. I find GT to be intolerable played this way. So, despite all of us liking the game, we play something different when we all get together, so that we can all still have fun.
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Boaty McBoatface
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A lot depends on the game, in Junta thats a perfectly legitimate tactic, but in poker it's not.
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Bruce Gazdecki
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IMO, it's fine to point out someone is in the lead or about to win based upon the board and other "open info".

Once you start telling people how to play, that's a no-no, especially becuase you're likely to tell them to do things which benefit you.
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Kelly Bass
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I think it depends on the group's culture.

At our weekly group, I'd say that what Tom's doing happens all the time. Luckily, our Harry is smart enough to point out to Janet and Sally that the flaws in Tom's plan involve helping Tom win, so Harry will point out alternatives that may seem reasonable to Janet and Sally, yet really help him.
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Patar Absurdus the Shananigator
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Kaffedrake wrote:
In the "12" poll you are mixing up answers to two questions, with references to personal opinion and group culture. It would seem to be a tautology that whatever is OK or not OK according to a group's culture is OK or not OK in that group, so that answer doesn't carry any information.

It may not be worded in the best way possible but I think people get the idea well enough that it is not actually a problem. The idea would be that one should change there behavior/expectations depending on what group they are with.

Kaffedrake wrote:
In the "14" poll, you missed separating the first two questions.


Yeah, I noticed that after the fact. I was trying to be very meticulous but it is easy (at least for me) to make an error when making these polls. It's like Murphy's law. I wish there was a way to edit them after the fact. Oh well, that would potentially jack up the results.
 
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Chris Wilczewski
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Some games, this kind of stuff drives the game. Cosmic encounter, Bohnanza, or King of Tokyo, this stuff is fine, and maybe even adds to it.

Games like through the ages or dominant species, not so ok.

So... in both cases, depends on the game.
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Tim Benjamin
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Everyone should shut up and play their own game. I hate this type of 'negotiation' because it lends itself to the scenario of Janet & Sally falling for 'Jedi mind tricks' (i.e. lesser players unable to play their own game with confidence, and the implied insult that they are the lesser players) and therefore the other, more dominant, players essentially getting into a whining contest to convince the weak to play their way. For me, at this point, I'll just let the bigger a**hole win. And then reduce my gaming associates by 1.
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J C Lawrence
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With the exception of games which explicitly allow negotiation in the rules, my preference is that there can be no talk about the current or future game state during the game. Aspects of the game far enough in the past to be non-affecting may however be talked about freely.
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David Thornton
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If the other players allow Tom to dictate thier moves, they deserve to lose. If Harry allows Tom to dictate the other players moves (by not convincing them that they are being manipulated,) he deserves to lose. This is the meta-game, and Harry is playing it "best." If Tom wins with this tactic again with the same group, shame on the group. If you don't like player interaction, buy the App!
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Mark Ramsey
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I generally don't believe in telling other players explicitly what actions they should or should not take (unless they are inexperienced and are clearly about to make a mistake that will put themselves behind in the game). On the other hand, if a player is gearing up to make a big move that will have a negative effect on me, with little benefit to themselves, and I am not the leader, I will sometimes state something along the lines of "you realize I'm not in the lead, right?"

I won't normally go any further than that - I wouldn't want to play a game where somebody was telling me what to do. Of course, sometimes you have somebody who is just playing king-maker but that's a whole other topic.
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Stoic Bird
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VanMark wrote:
I generally don't believe in telling other players explicitly what actions they should or should not take (unless they are inexperienced and are clearly about to make a mistake that will put themselves behind in the game). On the other hand, if a player is gearing up to make a big move that will have a negative effect on me, with little benefit to themselves, and I am not the leader, I will sometimes state something along the lines of "you realize I'm not in the lead, right?"


For me, the key point in the OP is that all players are both experienced gamers and familiar with the specific game in question. I have less than no problem with people giving specific advice, provided that all the players understand what's going on in the game enough to be able to take that with a grain of salt. (And provided it's not a full co-op, but that's a different conversation.)

I actually usually will not give new players unsolicited advice on how to play - I prefer to figure things out myself even if it means failing spectacularly, so I don't want to assume that others want help unless they ask for it.
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J C Lawrence
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oeste wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
With the exception of games which explicitly allow negotiation in the rules, my preference is that there can be no talk about the current or future game state during the game. Aspects of the game far enough in the past to be non-affecting may however be talked about freely.


While I disagree personally with that standard due to personal preference, I can respect that stance if it is consistent. What I don't agree with is that both of your sentences in that post agree. Since many games allow for actions to be repeated, stating the effect of something earlier in the game can actually affect the state of the game moving forward.


Such statements would be game-affecting and thus proscribed by the second sentence.
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J C Lawrence
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I thought you'd go over here at the start of the game! -- said after that area and its implications are no longer significant to the current and future game. Ditto, I thought you were going to dump that company on me in the last SR, said after it has been dumped on someone else in a later SR.
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Mark L
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I think how acceptable this sort of thing is necessarily depends on the group (and voted that way in the first poll).

But once Harry was clearly unhappy with the way Tom was playing, I think Tom should have either moderated his behaviour or agreed to a quick discussion about it there and then, so in the second poll I voted that Tom was out of line at step 3. They're friends, so if one of them is pissed off the other should listen.

I don't mind when other players beat me fair and square, but this degree of collusion could feel like being unfairly picked on if you're in Harry's position.

I also agree with Rich that Sally and Janet shouldn't be helping Tom to win rather than Harry, unless of course it's a team game. People who say they "just play to have fun" and help someone else instead of actually trying to win themselves bug the hell out of me. But that's a separate issue!
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Dave F.
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I think that the group culture defines the game more than the rules do.

If you're playing with friends who love exchanging banter and needling each other, then by all means, join in.

If you're playing with unknowns, err on the safe side. It's every player's own responsibility to take note of the open information, but I wouldn't make a big deal out of it if I tried to be sneaky by not saying anything and it was pointed out by another player.

I wouldn't mind if someone said: "If you do that, you will end the game, and Dave would win, because he's in front!"
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Brian M
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I see at least two big problems with this sort of "pointing out".

1) A lot of times when I see this sort of thing going on, it involves experienced player A telling inexperienced player B what to do. Since it's hard to tell genuine helpful "learn the game" advice from negotiation/manipulation, this isn't a fair setup.

2) If a player telling you "Oh, do this and this to block, you have to do so!" is essentially playing the game for you, even if they are giving good advice. I want to be able to figure out my own damn moves, thank you.
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J C Lawrence
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oeste wrote:
Both of those statements can communicate something about the state of the game. In a train game, communicating an expectation that a player would have gone to somewhere earlier could communicate to a third part opponent that you do not see any value left in that city, which at the very least gives that opponent some insight into your thoughts on the matter that he/she didn't have before, effectively changing the game state.


I agree they can leak useful information, but in a great many more cases such statements can be made without communicating any information useful to the current game.

Quote:
Similarly, communicating that you did not have something undesirable dumped on you could raise the level of agro an opponent senses toward you causing them to be more likely to direct the next undesirable dump toward you.


I would not be playing with anyone that silly.

Quote:
Both of these statements post game would obviously not matter, but even sharing your thoughts, perceptions, attitude in game can alert your opponents to something that changes the game state.


Agreed. When in doubt, don't say anything.
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Mike Watne
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Thank you for posting this discussion. This situation pops up quite a bit, depending on the game.

I think a lot of people have already said that much depends upon the group. If you have a few competitive types and a few social "seat-fillers" who just want to hang out and roll dice, this situation shines. The leading competitive player gets a good thing going, largely unnoticed by everyone but Competitive Player B, who knows that the social bees aren't likely to notice (or really care that much about) the tilted game state. Player B "manipulates" the situation under the guise of coaching the less involved players and teaching them to recognize big-picture issues. Player A loses his edge and gets angry. Rinse, repeat.

In the above situation, had all players been similarly committed, then Player A probably never would have had the massive lead he did. That, or Player B was clever enough to divine a strategy and engineer a group-wide counter.

In general, I believe:

- Open information is open, and can be shared, discussed, and studied by all of the players. In fact, this type of discussion is some of the best fruit born by board gaming.

- Suggesting potential moves to other players is OK if they ask for help or are completely oblivious (especially if the lack of attention they're paying to the game is providing the leading player with the exploitable edge), regardless of the complaints of other players. However, this help should be available from all sides, including the leading player. If social manipulation is occurring, it'll become pretty obvious at this point. Any other type of suggestion should not be made if anyone objects, but let the situation be your guide.

- Frequently, a good compromise is to suggest the move in retrospect, or to detail a winning strategy after the game. "Good move, Player C. But check this out. If you would have done this and this, you'd have accomplished X." "Did you notice how Player A kept discarding all of his X to convert Y to Z faster? That's how he won. If you notice him doing that again, use your A to block resource B." That way, the clever player gets his prize, and everyone else gains the tools to compete in the future.

In any event, it helps to play with gamers who share your ethics, and compromising on something just to get a game on the table may be more frustrating than sitting it out. Some people are so competitive that they'll veto anything that hinders them, while employing those very tactics to assist them. Other gamers couldn't care less, and just showed up for the pie & punch. Work with your group to establish a system that works, but don't be afraid to find a new group if yours proves to be unconstructive.

Good poll. Cheers!

[Edit: Typo and clarity]
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Patar Absurdus the Shananigator
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thegreybetween wrote:
Frequently, a good compromise is to suggest the move in retrospect, or to detail a winning strategy after the game. "Good move, Player C. But check this out. If you would have done this and this, you'd have accomplished X." "Did you notice how Player A kept discarding all of his X to convert Y to Z faster? That's how he won. If you notice him doing that again, use your A to block resource B." That way, the clever player gets his prize, and everyone else gains the tools to compete in the future.


So true. I prefer this method. That way everyone can play the game with little interferance but still learn from the insights of others. Also, it is clearly not a manipulation if it happens after the game. That said, it definetaly depends on the group and the game.

My group tends to avoid this and we haven't played many games that encourage this. I am looking forward to trying some (Game of Thrones is comign to our table soon) but prefer to keep that in games where it is a natural fit.
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