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Subject: Idea: Self-Moderated PBF? rss

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Jeff Engel

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So, I've been thinking about this a bit after seeing some clever self-moderation in some of the PBF games that have been going on. The moderators for these games have been doing an awesome job and deserve a ton of credit for somehow maintaining the many complexities of the game that we kind of take for granted when playing IRL. I don't want to take away from the amazing job they've been doing, but thought that this could just be an alternative way to play. In any case, I don't have it setup yet, but I think it might be possible to actually have a completely self-moderated game of Mage Knight in the forums.

The way it would probably work is basically setting up a spreadsheet (similar to the one that the moderators currently use) and putting it up in a shared space like Google Docs. The spreadsheet keeps track of the list of every game component in the game (enemy tokens, advanced actions, spells, etc) as well as game state information (source, offers, etc). Whenever something randomized is needed we roll regular die based on the number of undrawn cards/enemies/skills etc. For instance, if we require a new country tile and there are 8 country tiles left, we roll 1d8 to determine which tile we flip. If we need a new rampaging orc we similarly would roll a die to see which one we get. When we select anything we move it into another column of "used" cards/tokens/etc, say, and cleanup what's left. The players themselves would be responsible for updating the shared spreadsheet with new information as required.

Now, I know what you're thinking... How do we deal with the players hands? Obviously, that information is supposed to be hidden so how do we fix that? Well, my short answer is... we don't. To expand on that a bit, I see basically 2 options for this aspect of the game:

Option A - The Honor system. Basically, this just means that we trust whoever is playing to simply play fairly and draw cards to their hand randomly as they're supposed to (with public die rolls and randomized private lists, say, or perhaps just using their own physical game and shuffling a real deck).

Option B - Open hands. Essentially, this would just mean that people's hands are open information as well. This obviously changes the game and would prevent PvP from being an option at all, though I don't think it would be as debilitating to the game as one might think. It's true that you could plan your moves out a bit more and try to screw over the other players more since you can see what they'll likely want to do in the next turn, but everyone would have this chance and I actually think most of the time you're trying to maximize your own turn rather than worrying about someone else's. Maybe this would break the game too much, but I'd be willing to give it a shot.

For me, I think I prefer option B. While I think most people would try to abide by an honor system in option A, I think the urge would just be too great at times for this game since getting the right card on your next draw or a tranquility or whatever can really be the difference between a huge turn and a mediocre one. I think I'd prefer an open but verifiable game than one that could lead to cheating.

There is sort of a 3rd option... I'll call this "semi-moderation". Essentially, this is the same as Option A, except we introduce a "light" moderator who basically just checks in on people's hands from time to time to basically just keep them honest. This would require separate shared files that the moderator would have to be able to access for each player. I think this option basically defeats the purpose of this idea, so it's not my favorite, but I suppose it would be a way to keep information hidden.

As for the map, I'm actually not really sure about this one, as I don't know how the current moderators edit it. Perhaps they can shed some light on their process and it could also be something that the players themselves share in the process of updating.

So what does anyone think? Is this remotely possible?
 
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Pawel Bulacz
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I was thinking about it a week ago when I was going for holiday. And being a moderator in PBF#6 I left the choice to players to play or to wait.
No problems with revealing new monsters, tiles. But as you said the problem is with hands.
I was thinking also about other player draw cards for his opponent, but your open hand idea is also good.
 
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Jim OConnor
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Creating a "Draw Card" function for google docs is possible, especially using Google Apps Script. More specifically:

https://developers.google.com/apps-script/articles

Google Apps Script wrote:

Reading Spreadsheet Data using JavaScript Objects - This tutorial guides you through the steps of easily reading structured data from a Spreadsheet and creating JavaScript objects to facilitate access to the data.

Writing Spreadsheet Data using JavaScript Objects - This tutorial guides you through the steps of easily reading structured data from a Spreadsheet and populating a second Spreadsheet with different views of the data.


Of course, it would take a little work, but it is definitely doable. The same goes for any random draws etc.
 
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David desJardins
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It's not impossible to draw cards using just a dice server, although it can be more trouble than it's worth. E.g.,

1. Build a list of all of the cards in your deck, in some fixed order, and post the SHA-2 hash.
2. Generate random numbers publicly, which you use to index into your deck to determine which cards you drew.
3. At the end, post the original list so that the hash can be confirmed.

Of course, it's a hassle and people could make mistakes.

Personally, I'd either stick with the honor system, or I'd build a dedicated website just for handling MKBG PBEM games automatically.
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Michael Pustilnik
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I think your idea is a good one. In fact, it may be too good, and our forums will end up overflowing with PBFs!

I think the idea of a semi-moderator is the most practical option. Since all he or she is doing is drawing cards and sending people their hands, it isn't very much work for him or her, and it shouldn't be too tough to get someone to do it.
 
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Jeff Engel

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pabula wrote:
I was thinking about it a week ago when I was going for holiday. And being a moderator in PBF#6 I left the choice to players to play or to wait.
No problems with revealing new monsters, tiles. But as you said the problem is with hands.
I was thinking also about other player draw cards for his opponent, but your open hand idea is also good.


I sort of like this idea, though it still puts part of the onus on another person for your move (especially if you have to draw cards during it). Perhaps this could be combined with the "semi-moderator" and that player would essentially just validate that the player is drawing fairly. To minimize the amount of screwing over someone based on their hands each person could maybe be responsible for the person in front of them in the turn order? So, in a 4 player game, first player checks 4th player, second player checks 1st, etc. Or maybe it'd be better for people to check each other, in which case the best would be to have 1 and 3 and 2 and 4. In 3 player games this would end up being the person in front of them in turn order (2 checks 1, 3 checks 2, etc). 2 Player games would have to be open hands or straight-up honor system.
 
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Jeff Engel

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KingofTown wrote:
Creating a "Draw Card" function for google docs is possible, especially using Google Apps Script. More specifically:

https://developers.google.com/apps-script/articles

Google Apps Script wrote:

Reading Spreadsheet Data using JavaScript Objects - This tutorial guides you through the steps of easily reading structured data from a Spreadsheet and creating JavaScript objects to facilitate access to the data.

Writing Spreadsheet Data using JavaScript Objects - This tutorial guides you through the steps of easily reading structured data from a Spreadsheet and populating a second Spreadsheet with different views of the data.


Of course, it would take a little work, but it is definitely doable. The same goes for any random draws etc.


Are you saying this could be used to keep information hidden or just to simplify the process of drawing new cards and such? I figured drawing new cards could just be handled with several die rolls... Need to draw 5 cards from a 16 card deck? Roll 5d16, move cards over to your hand in the spreadsheet, reroll any duplicates until you've drawn the 5 you need. This would look a bit messy on the forum, but I don't think it'd be terrible. Of course, if this ends up working perhaps making things just a bit easier in Google Docs would be worth doing. =)
 
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David desJardins
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leshrac55 wrote:
Are you saying this could be used to keep information hidden or just to simplify the process of drawing new cards and such? I figured drawing new cards could just be handled with several die rolls... Need to draw 5 cards from a 16 card deck? Roll 5d16, move cards over to your hand in the spreadsheet, reroll any duplicates until you've drawn the 5 you need. This would look a bit messy on the forum, but I don't think it'd be terrible.


The problem is to draw cards without the other players knowing what you draw.

I do agree that just playing with open hands might be fine. Although it might not be great with PvP on.
 
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Jim OConnor
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leshrac55 wrote:

Are you saying this could be used to keep information hidden or just to simplify the process of drawing new cards and such?


It would be both. While I do agree it would be easy to roll a die to pick cards, having open hands does make a difference in game play even without PvP.

A simple example - On my turn, I plan on stopping on a Magical Glade in preparation to siege a Keep on the following turn. However, knowing exactly what my opponent has in his hand, I see he can actually make it to the keep this turn and successfully take it over, thus, I'll change my plan and go do something else.

However, because everyone has the same information, it's not like people are getting unfair advantages.

I would say - have people give it a shot. A few PBFs will quickly reveal if something like this is even necessary
 
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Jeff Engel

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DaviddesJ wrote:
leshrac55 wrote:
Are you saying this could be used to keep information hidden or just to simplify the process of drawing new cards and such? I figured drawing new cards could just be handled with several die rolls... Need to draw 5 cards from a 16 card deck? Roll 5d16, move cards over to your hand in the spreadsheet, reroll any duplicates until you've drawn the 5 you need. This would look a bit messy on the forum, but I don't think it'd be terrible.


The problem is to draw cards without the other players knowing what you draw.

I do agree that just playing with open hands might be fine. Although it might not be great with PvP on.


Right, my intention with this method of drawing was not to keep the draw necessarily hidden. You publicly roll dice in the forum and then draw the cards from the shared document. If using a semi-moderator, then I suppose they would just verify that the cards you rolled are added to your hand and not anything else. If you have to gain new cards you know what your next few cards are supposed to be, so you don't have to roll for those. There may be 1 or 2 other cards that would require special cases (Steady Tempo is one), but I think this method should still work.

I don't think PvP would work with open hands or really without an outside moderator. I've actually never played PvP, but it seems a little too easy to take advantage of your knowledge of someone else's hand if you have it on.

 
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David desJardins
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leshrac55 wrote:
I don't think PvP would work with open hands or really without an outside moderator. I've actually never played PvP, but it seems a little too easy to take advantage of your knowledge of someone else's hand if you have it on.


Do you mean "Take advantage of your knowledge to attack your opponent," or, "Take advantage of your knowledge to avoid giving your opponent an opportunity to attack you"? Seems like it would do both and the result would probably be less PvP combat.
 
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Jeff Engel

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DaviddesJ wrote:
leshrac55 wrote:
I don't think PvP would work with open hands or really without an outside moderator. I've actually never played PvP, but it seems a little too easy to take advantage of your knowledge of someone else's hand if you have it on.


Do you mean "Take advantage of your knowledge to attack your opponent," or, "Take advantage of your knowledge to avoid giving your opponent an opportunity to attack you"? Seems like it would do both and the result would probably be less PvP combat.


Yes, both, I suppose. It could mean that players end up playing much more cautiously to avoid ever having a weak hand that could easily be steamrolled by someone else, but I also just think that it would make the game itself less interesting as this combat would become a bit more pre-determined. Again, I've never played PvP, but my guess would be that it's more exciting and interesting when you don't quite know exactly what's going to happen in it.
 
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David desJardins
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leshrac55 wrote:
Again, I've never played PvP, but my guess would be that it's more exciting and interesting when you don't quite know exactly what's going to happen in it.


That's true enough. There are definitely some decisions to make that become less interesting/more automatic if you know exactly what your opponent holds.
 
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Pawel Bulacz
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Just an idea - players draw cards not at the end of their turn but at the beginning.
This way some information will be hidden for others.
 
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Jeff Engel

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pabula wrote:
Just an idea - players draw cards not at the end of their turn but at the beginning.
This way some information will be hidden for others.


I like this a lot... So simple, I can't believe we didn't think of it earlier. =) It means you can't plan your turn as well while others are playing, but who cares really, as it's PBF anyway and people aren't sitting around waiting for you to make your move.

I'll see if I can get something workable into Google docs this week... though I probably can't start anything until next week as I'll be out of town (and likely inaccessible) from Thursday to Sunday night.

As for the map, I'm curious as to how you're updating it? Would it be easy for it to be maintained by a group?
 
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Pawel Bulacz
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Have a look - let me know what you think:

Googledocs spreadsheet

changed the access to open.
there is an idea of the map...
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David desJardins
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The main advantage of PBEM/PBF, for me, is the extra time to consider your options while other players are taking their turns. So I definitely wouldn't want to wait to draw my cards until the start of my turn.
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Jeff Engel

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pabula wrote:
Have a look - let me know what you think:

Googledocs spreadsheet


I requested access to it (Jeff Engel).

Edit: Ok, this looks pretty cool... I'm not sure I understand the map very well, though perhaps there's a way we can do the real tiles like you do when you moderate? It would probably have to be another shared file, I think...
 
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