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Kuildeous

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Hidden traitor games
« on: December 28, 2016, 03:34:38 pm »
+4

For a while I've been avoiding games with hidden traitors. If there's an option to not include it, I generally prefer not to. I'm okay with conflict in games, so I dissected what was bugging me about hidden-traitor games.

One aspect is that I want to fully invest in a game. If it's cooperative, then I want to do everything in my power to help my teammates. If it's competitive, then I want to do everything in my power to build myself up, including tearing down the opponents. But if it's both, then I have a contradiction since I cannot help my teammates as fully as I want to do.

But I'm okay with doing that. I like Room 25, for example. I think the biggest problem with hidden-traitor games is that
1) If I'm the traitor, it means underperforming so that the team is less likely to win. People who know how I play can tell when I'm holding back and playing suboptimally.
2) The corollary being that if another player plays suboptimally then I'm going to accuse him of being the traitor. It's great if that works, but what it means if the player is not really the traitor is that I just flat-out publicly stated, "I think your playing style sucks so bad I cannot differentiate if you are the traitor or just plain terrible."

And man, I don't want to tell a player that I think he sucks at a game.
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theory

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2016, 04:24:34 pm »
+3

One solution to this problem is supposed to be that there are multiple, hard-to-evaluate priorities at any given time, so it's hard to tell if the guy is disagreeing with you in good faith or bad faith.  You can add onto this by giving each loyal player information about upcoming crises that others don't, so that no one really knows what the 'optimal' move is.
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Jack Rudd

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2016, 05:18:04 pm »
0

Battlestar Galactica is an example of theory's point done well, I think.
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DG

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2016, 06:24:29 pm »
+1

There's also a strategy where you deliberately under perform slightly as a loyal player just so that you can play with less suspicion in a future game as a traitor. When you start trying to double think everything it all becomes a bit crazy.
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theory

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2016, 07:51:14 pm »
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Battlestar Galactica is an example of theory's point done well, I think.

It could be done better, but yes, that's what I was thinking of.
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Kuildeous

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2016, 10:19:55 am »
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I haven't played BSG, but I'm more inclined to give it a shot knowing that this mechanic is in place.

Yes, giving everyone different information to act on so that it's hard to tell when someone is deliberately tanking the game sounds ideal, even if Theory says that BSG could be done better.
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theory

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2016, 03:17:53 pm »
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Well the base BSG game is mostly built on the fact that no one really knows what's the 'optimal' move most of the game.  There are of course still situations where you can reveal as a Cylon through your action - like if you choose to reroll a favorable die result, for instance.  But those are fairly obvious and rarely the result of a newb misplay.

It's only the expansions that add in things like "personal goals" and Final Five and whatever, where you really want to do X or don't want to do X, but can't tell others.

To be honest I am kind of soured on most cooperative OR hidden loyalty games because of the fact that they NEED communications rules but do it so awkwardly.  I think that taking the Hanabi approach, where 100% of all of the deduction has to arise from people's actions, would be much superior even for a hidden loyalty game.  It's part of why I detested Secret Hitler compared to Resistance.
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pacovf

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2016, 03:20:35 pm »
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It's part of why I detested Secret Hitler compared to Resistance.

Oh! Can you expand on this?
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theory

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2016, 03:42:43 pm »
0

I can't put it better than this guy: Secret Hitler is 'social deduction' minus the deduction

https://www.reddit.com/r/boardgames/comments/5fc7zp/secret_hitler_awesome_a_review_and_discussion/dajd4px/

This is also good: https://www.reddit.com/r/boardgames/comments/5fkzbx/secret_hitler_now_available/daluhyh/

The joy to me of a hidden loyalty game is deducing from each player's actions and choices what their loyalty is.  I do not enjoy staring into someone's eyes and being like "OK I believe you", or saying "I think so-and-so is fascist because he looks shifty and he looked shifty last game too when he was fascist".  Secret Hitler is 100% in the latter camp, because the information you get is too unreliable to reason from. 

On top of that I think SH has some really weird design decisions.  I'm not an expert on game design but it seems completely backwards that the fascists know who Hitler is but not vice versa, because it creates all the wrong incentives. There is literally no zero reason for Hitler to ever not be as hard liberal as possible, which makes for a very uninteresting game. It should be exactly the opposite: Hitler should know who the fascists are but be forced to somehow convince them that he is Hitler, which allows for a more dynamic game because now he has to convince fascists that he's Hitler, without letting liberals realize.  And player elimination?  Like, is this 1995?  We already figured this shit out, guys!  Player elimination in games lasting over 30 minutes is dumb!  Don't do it!

Secret Hitler to me is a triumph of marketing over game design.  It's a lot of what I hate about the kickstarter-trend of boardgame design.
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pacovf

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2016, 04:32:59 pm »
0

The whole argument assumes that the best thing to do for a fascist president is to lie about receiving three fascist policy cards. The moment that becomes the assumed behaviour of a fascist president, then it becomes beneficial to lie about the card chosen by the chancellor (i.e., "I passed one of each, they selected the fascist one!"). They also complain that the best strategy for Hitler is to play super liberal, but again, the moment that's the assumed behaviour, doing elsewise becomes a better choice; also, liberals should be trying to become chancellor, because the only person a liberal player is sure isn't Hitler is themselves. Most of the complains seem to be a group think problem.

Depends on what you are comparing it to. I understand the complaint about the policy deck being random. But I don't think, say, Resistance with more than 7 players has more real information than SH. And Resistance does have the "first leader randomly chooses team of only rebels" problem.

I've only tried Avalon once, and I didn't like it as much as Resistance, because it feels very hard for Merlin not to get assassinated. But a lot of people seem to think it's the better one, so I must be missing something.

PS: I love Resistance, by the way.
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Watno

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2016, 04:38:08 pm »
0

Base BSG has the problem that you can't convincingly claim not to have an XO.
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theory

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2016, 04:47:28 pm »
+1

The whole argument assumes that the best thing to do for a fascist president is to lie about receiving three fascist policy cards. The moment that becomes the assumed behaviour of a fascist president, then it becomes beneficial to lie about the card chosen by the chancellor (i.e., "I passed one of each, they selected the fascist one!"). They also complain that the best strategy for Hitler is to play super liberal, but again, the moment that's the assumed behaviour, doing elsewise becomes a better choice; also, liberals should be trying to become chancellor, because the only person a liberal player is sure isn't Hitler is themselves. Most of the complains seem to be a group think problem.

Depends on what you are comparing it to. I understand the complaint about the policy deck being random. But I don't think, say, Resistance with more than 7 players has more real information than SH. And Resistance does have the "first leader randomly chooses team of only rebels" problem.
First of all, that's a terrible game design argument that designers of bad social games commonly deploy.  I call it the Metagame Will Solve argument: my game has a broken strategy, but it's OK once everyone is aware of the strategy because then the Metagame Will Solve for it.  Not only does it assume that you only play a game with the same group of people over and over again, and that you're OK with a bunch of ruined games to start ... but also you can make games without broken strategies, and the metagame is still interesting!

Second of all, it doesn't work in SH.  For example, even if liberals know that Hitler is going to act liberal, that still doesn't change Hitler's incentives!  Because "acting liberal" doesn't mean spending the whole game ranting about male privilege.  It just means not acting suspiciously.  And that's always going to be the winning Hitler strategy because by definition liberals will always vote in someone that they least suspect of being Hitler.  So playing Hitler means doing your absolute best to forget that you are Hitler.  This isn't a strategy you can counter even if you're aware of it, because it's a strategy that depends on doing absolutely nothing.  It's a Nash equilibrium of boring.

The whole point of a hidden loyalty game is that a traitor acting non-suspiciously is easy but that you need to take risks in order to maximize your gains.  That is the land of interesting decisions and compelling games.  A hidden loyalty game where a traitor is best rewarded by playing it safe defeats the entire point of the genre.
Quote
I've only tried Avalon once, and I didn't like it as much as Resistance, because it feels very hard for Merlin not to get assassinated. But a lot of people seem to think it's the better one, so I must be missing something.

PS: I love Resistance, by the way.
I actually hate this part of Resistance too.  I posted about it on BGG.  Then I was reminded why I left BGG.  https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1397174/modifying-how-merlin-identified
 
Base BSG has the problem that you can't convincingly claim not to have an XO.
Boomer OP
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pacovf

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2016, 05:21:36 pm »
0

Well, I disagree. A problem I have with one group I play Resistance with is that they believe that spies should always pass the mission with only two players. Which makes the first two missions pointless, from an information point of view. I think failing the first mission is a perfectly valid move, even though it reveals your identity to one other player. And I believe this problem is because of the group, not because of the game. A similar argument can be made for SH.

And there are other groups I've played with that also think that is a perfectly fine move, and it makes the game a lot more interesting, to me.

But maybe this is just a matter of opinion?
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theory

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2016, 05:32:07 pm »
0

Well, I disagree. A problem I have with one group I play Resistance with is that they believe that spies should always pass the mission with only two players. Which makes the first two missions pointless, from an information point of view. I think failing the first mission is a perfectly valid move, even though it reveals your identity to one other player. And I believe this problem is because of the group, not because of the game. A similar argument can be made for SH.

And there are other groups I've played with that also think that is a perfectly fine move, and it makes the game a lot more interesting, to me.

But maybe this is just a matter of opinion?
But that's different.  That's an actual example of the metagame kicking in and making something more interesting.  And it's an argument for Spies taking *more* risks, not fewer.  Resistance punishes Spies who take fewer risks, because each Pass they throw on a mission heightens the risk that the Resistance get to 3 passed missions.  If the SH mechanic were present in Resistance, it would be designating a certain Spy to auto-win the game if they are put on any mission by the Resistance, regardless of whatever else happens.  Regardless of metagame that Spy will never be incentivized to do anything other than avoid suspicion.

Explain to me how "the similar argument" works for SH: namely, why a Hitler has any incentive to play other than in the least suspicious way possible.
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Kuildeous

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2017, 10:13:35 am »
0

I haven't spoken on Secret Hitler because I never played it until this week. Now that I have, I have a fairly good idea about how the game should work.

I had a lot of fun as Hitler, but I can see where this could get tedious. I'm inclined to not want to play it anymore in case my enjoyment would diminish through repeated play. I'm sure I'll play it a few more times, but I won't be chomping at the bit to get a game started.

I also didn't have the same problem with this game as the others. I really should have specified in the original post that I dislike having a hidden traitor in a cooperative game (e.g., Shadows over Camelot). Secret Hitler falls in the same category of Werewolf in that it's really team vs. team. It's just that one team is relying on incomplete information, such as who their enemies are.

The Reddit threads were interesting. I can see the criticisms for SH. Of course, after having played it only once and doing a smashing job as Hitler, I cannot fully appreciate everything that was posted, but it sounds legit. I have to agree that I identified my best strategy as being as liberal as possible while waiting for my fascist conspirators to reveal themselves. I identified one later in the game when I drew two liberal and one fascist policies. I suspected he was a fascist, which is why I appointed him chancellor. The liberals were one away from winning, so I was handing him a game-ending hand. He broadcast loud and clear his loyalty when he played the fascist policy, and we both whined about how we got nothing but fascist policies.

An interesting segue into these types of games. I guess I never considered them hidden traitor games, even though they fit the definition perfectly. I suppose I should state that I dislike having a hidden traitor in a cooperative game. This brings up the problem of accusing other players or playing poorly. I don't see that so much in SH or Werewolf (though in my SH game, one fascist voted against me being chancellor as a winning move because he was new and misunderstood the winning condition, but that is not part of the traitor mechanic).
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markusin

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2017, 10:43:29 am »
0

I remember the first game of Dead of Winter that I played. I was the traitor with a win condition of the team having no morale while I had a certain number of food cards in hand. I ended up failing to get the food I needed, but still played a betrayal turn where I reduced morale by like four and caused everyone to lose. It felt pretty easy to deliberately lose the game in Dead of Winter.

I played Shadows over Camelot once. There was no traitor, but once of the players was accused of being the traitor when instead they were just being excessive with risky plays. Similar things happen in Dead of Winter and it doesn't feel great even when not being the one accused. Dunno how others feel about Dead of Winter
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pacovf

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2017, 12:58:12 pm »
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Well, I disagree. A problem I have with one group I play Resistance with is that they believe that spies should always pass the mission with only two players. Which makes the first two missions pointless, from an information point of view. I think failing the first mission is a perfectly valid move, even though it reveals your identity to one other player. And I believe this problem is because of the group, not because of the game. A similar argument can be made for SH.

And there are other groups I've played with that also think that is a perfectly fine move, and it makes the game a lot more interesting, to me.

But maybe this is just a matter of opinion?
But that's different.  That's an actual example of the metagame kicking in and making something more interesting.  And it's an argument for Spies taking *more* risks, not fewer.  Resistance punishes Spies who take fewer risks, because each Pass they throw on a mission heightens the risk that the Resistance get to 3 passed missions.  If the SH mechanic were present in Resistance, it would be designating a certain Spy to auto-win the game if they are put on any mission by the Resistance, regardless of whatever else happens.  Regardless of metagame that Spy will never be incentivized to do anything other than avoid suspicion.

Explain to me how "the similar argument" works for SH: namely, why a Hitler has any incentive to play other than in the least suspicious way possible.

Sorry, forgot to answer back then. My argument was about what a Fascist President is supposed to do, not about the behaviour of Hitler.

I would say that Hitler's incentives must be somewhat similar to Merlin (in Avalon), although I've only played Avalon once and was pretty confused by it (compared to vanilla Resistance). Acting perfectly liberal is not the Nash equilibrium, it's the baseline to beat. Sort of like BM in Dominion is what an engine is trying to beat. Does that make sense?

I will concede that is not a great argument, but it's a reasonable argument nonetheless.
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AdrianHealey

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #17 on: January 19, 2017, 01:11:04 pm »
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I haven't spoken on Secret Hitler because I never played it until this week. Now that I have, I have a fairly good idea about how the game should work.

I had a lot of fun as Hitler, but I can see where this could get tedious. I'm inclined to not want to play it anymore in case my enjoyment would diminish through repeated play. I'm sure I'll play it a few more times, but I won't be chomping at the bit to get a game started.

I also didn't have the same problem with this game as the others. I really should have specified in the original post that I dislike having a hidden traitor in a cooperative game (e.g., Shadows over Camelot). Secret Hitler falls in the same category of Werewolf in that it's really team vs. team. It's just that one team is relying on incomplete information, such as who their enemies are.

The Reddit threads were interesting. I can see the criticisms for SH. Of course, after having played it only once and doing a smashing job as Hitler, I cannot fully appreciate everything that was posted, but it sounds legit. I have to agree that I identified my best strategy as being as liberal as possible while waiting for my fascist conspirators to reveal themselves. I identified one later in the game when I drew two liberal and one fascist policies. I suspected he was a fascist, which is why I appointed him chancellor. The liberals were one away from winning, so I was handing him a game-ending hand. He broadcast loud and clear his loyalty when he played the fascist policy, and we both whined about how we got nothing but fascist policies.

An interesting segue into these types of games. I guess I never considered them hidden traitor games, even though they fit the definition perfectly. I suppose I should state that I dislike having a hidden traitor in a cooperative game. This brings up the problem of accusing other players or playing poorly. I don't see that so much in SH or Werewolf (though in my SH game, one fascist voted against me being chancellor as a winning move because he was new and misunderstood the winning condition, but that is not part of the traitor mechanic).

Secret Hitler is better than werewolves because SH, over time, creates information. It's not perfect, but I think it works better than werewolves in that regard
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Kirian

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #18 on: January 19, 2017, 03:00:07 pm »
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I hate all of these types of "games" with a vengeance.  I'd literally rather play Monopoly.
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markusin

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Re: Hidden traitor games
« Reply #19 on: January 19, 2017, 05:23:25 pm »
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I really like how Deception: Murder in Hong Kong handles the hidden traitor with the "accomplice" and the "witness" in 6+ player games (and are confirmed to exist at the start). The game features a killer with a "killer combination" (murder weapon + clue) combination that needs to be guessed. The accomplice knows this combination and tries to help the killer not get caught. The witness knows which two players are either the killer or the accomplice (but not the killer combination, but the killer/accomplice do not know who the witness is.

Even if the killer combination gets correctly guessed, the killer can still win if he correctly guesses who the witness is at the end of the game. This gives the witness the incentive to "play dumb" so as not to make it obvious that they could narrow the killer down to two players. Here, the witness can be seen as the "hidden traitor", but with a twist.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2017, 05:26:04 pm by markusin »
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