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Titandrake

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Concealing Information
« on: March 01, 2016, 08:16:25 pm »
+14

I briefly talked about this in the last 2 streams I did, so maybe I should actually write about it. I don't think anyone's actually talked about it before, and it's a great way for me to procrastinate on my essays.

To people who are new to the game, Dominion often looks like multiplayer solitaire, where everyone races to the best deck with little interaction. Of course, once you play for a while, you realize this isn't true. The right cards to buy and right cards to play can depend heavily on your opponent's deck, even in games with no attacks.

When you're playing Dominion, you're not playing a wall, you're playing a person. So, you shouldn't do anything that makes it easier for your opponent to win the game. This article focuses on a small aspect of this: minimizing information.

(As a foreword, this applies only to Dominion Online. Information in face to face Dominion is very different.)

--------------------

Here's a simple example. Suppose you have 6 Coppers in hand. You would prefer buying Lab over Gold. What most people would do (and what I would do) is click the play all treasures button, and buy a Lab. If you do this, you're actually leaking information: your opponent now knows you value Lab more than Gold. You had the money for Gold, but bought Lab instead. Depending on your opponent, this might not help them. If they agree that Lab > Gold for you, they didn't learn anything new. But, if they disagree, you've given them a reason to reassess their beliefs. If Lab > Gold for you, is Lab > Gold for them? Maybe it is, and if they decide that's true, they're going to play a bit better going forward.

Here's a more extreme example. You draw a starting hand of 5 Platinums. You play your hand and buy a Colony. Now, your opponent knows all 5 of your Platinums collided, and you're much less likely to hit $11 in later hands this shuffle.

In Dominion, every card you play, every card you discard, every card you gain, and every card you buy is public information. This will all show up in the text log. If you buy Herbalist for $11, your opponent knows you've just bought Herbalist for $11.

That realization comes with a corollary: if you can hide information about your deck and/or strategy, you should do so. Giving your opponent more information can only help them play better, so you should give off as little information as possible.

Now, this comes with limits. Take the 6 Copper example. If I planned to buy Lab over Gold, I wouldn't play 5 Coppers one by one, because I don't want to play treasures one by one until I hit exactly how much I need. For me, getting a faster game by always clicking "Play All Treasures" is worth whatever information I leak about myself. Even in the 5 Platinum case, I'd play all 5 Platinum. The only times I put information hiding into practice is when it's around as fast as "normal" play.

(This is the big reason this applies mostly to online play. In real life, playing 5 Coppers is no slower than playing 6 Coppers, and I'll hold back treasures with no hesitation.)

Here are the scenarios where I explicitly do things to hide information about my deck.  I won't share logs, because this is something that's best visible in streams and videos. For what it's worth, a lot of high-level streamers do this already. It's something a lot of people teach themselves.

  • A player has 1 buy, more than enough to buy a Province, and only needs to play 1 Treasure to hit $8. For example, they have $5 from actions, and their hand has 1 Gold and 2 Silvers. Instead of clicking "Play All Treasures", they should click just the Gold and buy Province. Same speed, but they reveal fewer cards from their hand. (Aside: in the Making Fun implementation, you can tell if people are doing this from the text log. Clicking just the Gold logs "plays a Gold". Clicking "Play All Treasures" with 1 Gold in hand logs "plays 1 Gold".)
  • A player is building an engine. They've drawn their deck, have actions left over, and none of them have any benefit. (For example, they're all Villages, but there's no more cards to draw.) They should end the action phase and go to buys, because it hides that they have leftover actions. It takes longer to play all the extra actions anyways - why bother? Note this also means you should never play Ruined Village, unless you need it for Conspirator or Horn of Plenty. (Or you're trying to make it miss a reshuffle, but let's not get into edgecase land.)

The last scenario is big enough to deserve it's own section, and in fact is the reason why I wrote this in the first place. In many scenarios, you can hide information in the opening.

First, here's an example without a board. Suppose Ambassador is on the board, and these are the only openings on 3/4 that you think are reasonable.
  • Amb/Amb
  • Amb/Silver
Let's further say you think Amb/Silver is better than Amb/Amb, and you think your opponent is good enough to open Ambassador. Then on 3/4, the correct turn 1 buy is always Ambassador, not Silver. If you buy Silver, and your opponent models you as someone who will buy an Ambassador, then they know you're going to open Amb/Silver. Whereas if you had bought Ambassador, your opponent still doesn't know if you plan for Amb/Amb or Amb/Silver. This is one of the rare cases where being player 2 is helpful - if you buy your Silver after your opponent commits to opening Amb/Amb, it's too late for them to change their mind.

If you have 3/4, and your opening is two cards costing $3 or less, you should think briefly about which card appears in more openings and buy that card first. This maximizes your opponent's uncertainty about you.

Here's another example: Chapel/Silver vs Chapel/Workshop. The first is better at hitting $5 early on, the second could gain more engine pieces. You should always buy Chapel turn 1, to hide how much you value an early $5. (If Witch is in the game, Chapel/Silver has a lot of merit.)

Finally, here's the most recent example I have, from a Base-only game.
http://gokosalvager.com/static/logprettifier.html?http://dominion-game-logs.s3.amazonaws.com/game_logs/20160229/log.0.1456727556775.txt



Code: [Select]
Cellar, Chapel, Chancellor, Village, Workshop, Feast, Gardens, Moneylender, Smithy, Market
The reasonable openings are
  • Chapel/Silver, with the plan to trash down and get some early economy (and possibly get an early +Buy source from Market)
  • Chapel/Workshop, with the plan to trash down and gain Villages + Smithies before buying treasures
  • Workshop/Workshop, with the plan for a Workshop/Gardens rush

I judged the engine as stronger than the rush, and Chapel/Workshop as the clear best opening. Accordingly, I bought Chapel turn 1 and Workshop turn 2.

But, this was actually the wrong opening order. Anyone who thinks the engine is best is going to open Chapel/Workshop, because they'll be a good enough player to immediately write off Chapel/Moneylender or Chapel/Silver as good openings. The correct turn 1 buy is Workshop, because this hides whether you're going for the engine or going for Gardens.

Finally, if you're patient enough, you can see information hiding in the linked logs. On my turn 8, I draw my deck and don't play Chapel because I want to keep all my treasures. On turn 10, I draw my deck, play Workshop gaining Smithy, played Village to draw it, then Chapelled away a Copper. This is a mistake. I had no reason to play Village, and should have played only Workshop and Chapel.

(Feel free to share any notable examples from your games. I'll stop here, I've procrastinated enough.)
« Last Edit: March 01, 2016, 10:54:39 pm by Titandrake »
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eHalcyon

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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2016, 10:32:18 pm »
+1

Quote
Here's a simple example. Suppose you have 6 Coppers in hand. You would prefer buying Lab over Gold. What most people would do (and what I would do) is click the play all treasures button, and buy a Lab. If you do this, you're actually leaking information: your opponent now knows you value Gold more than Lab.

Should be the other way around.

Quote
In Dominion, every card you play, every card you discard, every card you gain, and every card you buy is public information. This will all show up in the text log.

Cards you discard from your hand during clean-up don't all show up in the log, do they?  Otherwise there would be no point at all to playing Treasures one at a time.

Quote
A player is building an engine. They've drawn their deck, have actions left over, and none of them have any benefit. (For example, they're all Villages, but there's no more cards to draw.) They should end the action phase and go to buys, because it hides that they have leftover actions. It takes longer to play all the extra actions anyways - why bother? Note this also means you should never play Ruined Village, unless you need it for Conspirator or Horn of Plenty. (Or you're trying to make it miss a reshuffle, but let's not get into edgecase land.)

If they've drawn their deck, it's public knowledge that you have leftover actions.  Playing them isn't useful in your scenario, but not playing them doesn't give you any benefit either.  Maybe you mean "drawn most of their deck"?  Or am I misunderstanding?

Quote
On turn 10, I draw my deck, play Workshop gaining Smithy, played Village to draw it, then Chapelled away a Copper. This is a mistake. I had no reason to play Village, and should have played only Workshop and Chapel.

It's unnecessary but I wouldn't go so far as to call it a mistake because there was no downside to it.  You don't leak any information by doing that.
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Titandrake

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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2016, 11:00:22 pm »
0

Quote
Quote
Here's a simple example. Suppose you have 6 Coppers in hand. You would prefer buying Lab over Gold. What most people would do (and what I would do) is click the play all treasures button, and buy a Lab. If you do this, you're actually leaking information: your opponent now knows you value Gold more than Lab.

Should be the other way around.

Oops, fixed.

Quote
Quote
In Dominion, every card you play, every card you discard, every card you gain, and every card you buy is public information. This will all show up in the text log.

Cards you discard from your hand during clean-up don't all show up in the log, do they?  Otherwise there would be no point at all to playing Treasures one at a time.

They don't show up there. Neither do the cards you discarded from play. May try to find a suitable replacement that isn't too wordy, for now I'll leave it.

Quote
Quote
A player is building an engine. They've drawn their deck, have actions left over, and none of them have any benefit. (For example, they're all Villages, but there's no more cards to draw.) They should end the action phase and go to buys, because it hides that they have leftover actions. It takes longer to play all the extra actions anyways - why bother? Note this also means you should never play Ruined Village, unless you need it for Conspirator or Horn of Plenty. (Or you're trying to make it miss a reshuffle, but let's not get into edgecase land.)

If they've drawn their deck, it's public knowledge that you have leftover actions.  Playing them isn't useful in your scenario, but not playing them doesn't give you any benefit either.  Maybe you mean "drawn most of their deck"?  Or am I misunderstanding?

It's public knowledge, so in principle playing extra actions doesn't hurt. In practice, people aren't going to track everything, and not playing extra actions makes their job more difficult. It's much easier to see how many left-over actions your opponent has if they play everything and actually show you how much they have left, but you could figure it out on your own.

Quote
Quote
On turn 10, I draw my deck, play Workshop gaining Smithy, played Village to draw it, then Chapelled away a Copper. This is a mistake. I had no reason to play Village, and should have played only Workshop and Chapel.

It's unnecessary but I wouldn't go so far as to call it a mistake because there was no downside to it.  You don't leak any information by doing that.

This is the same reasoning as the previous part - I don't leak anything in principle, in practice it's harder for my opponent to figure out I have an extra Village.
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Burning Skull

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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2016, 09:26:56 am »
+1

Also, never play your Menageries!

Limetime

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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2016, 09:27:56 am »
0

Also, never play your Menageries!
Or scavenger/hermit/counting house online because making fun is wrong
Poor house works too
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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2016, 09:34:51 am »
+8

If you don't bother to play your coppers individually when you have 5c and want to buy a lab, playing them individually when you have 6c and want to buy a lab doesn't really conceal any information.
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amoffett11

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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2016, 09:42:59 am »
+2

If you don't bother to play your coppers individually when you have 5c and want to buy a lab, playing them individually when you have 6c and want to buy a lab doesn't really conceal any information.

Sometimes I like to play $5 individually when I actually only have $5 and then buy a Lab, just to mess with my opponent. 
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Limetime

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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2016, 09:48:06 am »
+6

If you don't bother to play your coppers individually when you have 5c and want to buy a lab, playing them individually when you have 6c and want to buy a lab doesn't really conceal any information.

Sometimes I like to play my cards once every two minutes, just to mess with my opponent.
FTFY
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kn1tt3r

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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2016, 09:57:28 am »
+1

To me this is also a problem of the online implementation: You virtually cannot conceal information without revealing information. I mean, if you usually play all your treasures at once and now suddenly you play 3 coppers one by one, your opponent will know (or assume) that you acutally had more than those in your hand (of course you can use this assumption and pretent to have more than what you do, but then we drift into a meta mind game).

It would be better if you had at least the option to select treasures one by one, and then play all of those at once (just like you can do in real life).

But of course your other examples are valid. Everything you don't have to play (also a dead Smugglers, useless Ruins or Necropolis etc) you probably shouldn't play.
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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2016, 10:03:23 am »
+1

One thing that bothers me about the online implementation, almost more than the treasures thing, is that it's very easy to tell when your opponent has actions in hand that they're choosing not to play. I'd like it if you still had to click "end actions" even if you had no actions in hand. Of course, MF, this isn't going to happen, but it'd still be nice.

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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2016, 10:14:57 am »
0

Something worth noting is that to truly hide your Treasures information, you need to always manually click every Treasure you play, because otherwise they will know if you played them all or not. The advantage of this is minor and is probably less than the sheer inconvenience of it, but I guess it's something an optimal player should do.
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eHalcyon

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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2016, 12:51:43 pm »
0

You do still hide some information even if you usually just play all treasure.  If I play out 2 Platinum individually you may suspect that I have more unplayed Treasure in hand, but you don't know whether that's 1 Copper or 3 more Platinum.
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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2016, 01:00:10 pm »
0

Even when you don't play all treasure online, you still don't get to choose which order you discard things, and the unplayed treasure often ends up on top.

Dingan

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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2016, 01:23:15 pm »
+1

Great article.  This is a skill that more people should have.

1 more super-concrete example of when/why to hide info is Contraband.

Also, I've seen some people play Coppers 1 at a time on their first turn just to make it look like they had $5, when they really had $3 or $4.  Maybe they're not doing it on purpose.  I would never do that nor recommend it, but I guess I do see a use for it.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2016, 01:25:18 pm by Dingan »
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Polk5440

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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2016, 01:33:59 pm »
0

A couple of comments:

1) It would be great if you mentioned Contraband somewhere as an example. It's one of the easiest ways to see that revealing too much can be a problem because beginners will play all their treasures THEN Contraband, as opposed to playing their Contrabands one at a time then playing the rest of their treasures. EDIT: Just saw Dingan mentioned this above.

2) I am not sure why there is an online only disclaimer in the article. You can hide information when playing IRL, and you actually mention it's easier to do so! I think the article would read better if you tweak it to eliminate the online/IRL distinction and mention the differences in the section about the cost of concealing information (e.g. easier IRL to play 5 subset of treasures, so it may not be worth always doing so online).
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Dingan

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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #15 on: March 21, 2016, 02:27:40 pm »
0

2) I am not sure why there is an online only disclaimer in the article.

I think the reasoning behind the IRL/online distinction is because there are mechanical differences between the two that you just can't do anything about.  For example, IRL when your opponent plays an attack and I don't reveal a Moat, they don't know I have a Moat.  But online when I do that, they know I have a Moat.  And also when I discard more than 1 card at a time, online it says what each card was that you discarded, whereas IRL you do not have to discard them 1 at a time and hence your opponent will only know the last card you discarded (I could be wrong here though, but I think that's how it works).
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Dingan

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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #16 on: September 19, 2016, 01:26:39 am »
0

In a terminal draw BM type mirror when there are few Provinces remaining... when you've played your last action, and have to discard things, don't discard your good cards that you just drew dead -- only discard junk/green cards, if you can.  For example, say you play an Embassy, draw 3 green cards, 1 Treasure, and 1 Embassy.  Discard the 3 green cards, rather than 2 and the Embassy.  That way, your opponent doesn't know your other Embassy was drawn dead, and therefore won't know that your current hand actually sucks.

EDIT: Rereading this post, I'm actually having writers block here.  Can any elite players out there (I'm looking at you, OPer), elaborate?
« Last Edit: September 19, 2016, 01:29:19 am by Dingan »
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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #17 on: September 19, 2016, 07:02:00 am »
0

Here's another example: Chapel/Silver vs Chapel/Workshop. The first is better at hitting $5 early on, the second could gain more engine pieces. You should always buy Chapel turn 1, to hide how much you value an early $5. (If Witch is in the game, Chapel/Silver has a lot of merit.)

I've always considered cursers much less valuable in a game with easy trashing like Chapel.  Do others agree that the presence of Witch would be enough to cause one to choose Chapel/Silver over Chapel/Workshop, if you would otherwise choose Chapel/Workshop?
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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #18 on: September 19, 2016, 09:04:18 am »
0

IRL when I discard my hand I will make sure to cover the cards not previously revealed with those that were. Also, the treasure thing is an obvious play in that environment as well.
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Titandrake

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Re: Concealing Information
« Reply #19 on: September 20, 2016, 12:17:59 pm »
0

Here's another example: Chapel/Silver vs Chapel/Workshop. The first is better at hitting $5 early on, the second could gain more engine pieces. You should always buy Chapel turn 1, to hide how much you value an early $5. (If Witch is in the game, Chapel/Silver has a lot of merit.)

I've always considered cursers much less valuable in a game with easy trashing like Chapel.  Do others agree that the presence of Witch would be enough to cause one to choose Chapel/Silver over Chapel/Workshop, if you would otherwise choose Chapel/Workshop?

I remember thinking this through a while back, so here's my fuzzy logic for it.

Basically, you still want Witch, because it's worth forcing them to spend an action to trash Curses. A Chapel/Workshop open often wants to pick up a Silver on turn 3 or turn 4, if the $5 costs are that important. (If you gain only engine pieces, and none of them give money, you're not going to hit $5 from treasures for a while.)

If Chapel + Workshop collide, it's exactly as bad as Chapel + Silver colliding. If they don't, and Workshop collides with 2 Copper, I think right play on some boards is to gain a Silver. If that Workshop was a Silver instead, you'll have $4, in which case you'll buy Workshop. The end result of both is the same - 1 Workshop, 1 Silver.

If Workshop collides with 3 or 4 Copper, you get Workshop + 2 engine pieces or Workshop + engine piece + Silver. If that Workshop was a Silver, you get Witch.

So really it comes down to how soon you want the 1 Silver in your deck. If you go solely for draw, with no other sources of income, your $5 is going to get delayed, and in that time it's possible they can give you enough Curses to make up for getting Workshop a few turns later.

In a terminal draw BM type mirror when there are few Provinces remaining... when you've played your last action, and have to discard things, don't discard your good cards that you just drew dead -- only discard junk/green cards, if you can.  For example, say you play an Embassy, draw 3 green cards, 1 Treasure, and 1 Embassy.  Discard the 3 green cards, rather than 2 and the Embassy.  That way, your opponent doesn't know your other Embassy was drawn dead, and therefore won't know that your current hand actually sucks.

EDIT: Rereading this post, I'm actually having writers block here.  Can any elite players out there (I'm looking at you, OPer), elaborate?

I don't see what needs to be elaborated on. Discarding dead actions lets your opponent know you drew them dead. Discarding Victory cards lets your opponent know you've seen those Victory cards. Usually it's more important to hide the dead action than it is to hide the Victory card. (On rare occasions this can flip. For example, if your deck has Tournament, you may want to avoid discarding Province if you have the choice to, to help disguise how likely it is you're going to get a Prize this shuffle.)

I should also take the time to clarify that you probably shouldn't be playing your treasures one by one every turn. In the wake of this article, I've seen a few streamers do this. Yes, to perfectly hide your treasures, you have to play them one-by-one every turn. No, I don't think that's worth it - the amount you gain isn't worth the time you could spend playing more practice games. If you re-read the article, you'll see this has always been my position.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2016, 11:15:19 pm by Titandrake »
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