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Recollect Board Game Review

Board Game Reviews
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× WELCOME TO TRASHDOME!

This is part of a series of bloody matches to the death. Show support for your favorite game so it will do better in the fight. You can support it by writing why you think its the better game and more importantly by betting (i.e. voting for) it. Please make it clear for when I check the bets later. You have until Friday when I tally the bets and declare the winner. I will reserve my bet for any tie-breakers.

Although you should be familiar with both games, there is no rule that says you have to have played both of them. The only rule in Trashdome is this;

Two games enter! One game leaves!

Trashdome: Hidden Trackable Information - Open vs Closed

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22 Nov 2022 11:23 #336935 by sornars
It is time for us to settle one of the oldest rules ambiguities in all of board gaming. Hidden Trackable Information; information that was once public but becomes obscured as the game goes on. Love it? Hate it? For the rest of time you are condemned to playing with information Open or Closed; how do you choose?

Public money in Acquire, Power Grid, etc.?
Open hands in Pax games?
Decide on income tax before totalling up your assets in Monopoly?

What's the best way to play?
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22 Nov 2022 11:27 #336936 by dysjunct
Mild preference for Closed.

Strong preference for not playing with people who insist on Open.

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22 Nov 2022 11:35 #336938 by sornars
I know I'm supposed to save my votes for last a tie breaker but I prefer kicking off these conversations to get the ball rolling.

I think testing memory is a valid choice but it isn't a skill I find particularly fun when gaming. Making suboptimal decisions because you forgot something is very unfun. In things like Food Chain Magnate this can be devastating to your game.

On the other hand playing with mentats that calculate every possibility is a sin I only forgive when playing async. In person I prioritise speed of play to maintain the flow of a game; playing closed with analytical players is preferable. Also some games are just plain better with hidden information like Tigris and Eurphrates.

I personally think this is a mechanic that suits some games and doesn't others but if forced to choose (and forced we are) then I'm going to go with Open with the caveat that I only play with people that aren't annoying about it. That's also a pretty good filter for game groups in general.
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22 Nov 2022 12:30 #336940 by Gregarius
To me, the choice is about gaming experience.
Closed - Do I give an advantage to the players who can remember all of that information? (Mentats, as you said)
Open - Do I add more information to the table so that everyone has more to process? (AP)

I will always vote against AP. If you can track all of it, good for you. Just don't lord it over me.

On a less rational note, I just have a personal preference for the vagaries of hidden information. I like having a gut feeling about someone's situation, and then being proven close to right or disastrously wrong. That's part of the fun of playing a game.
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22 Nov 2022 13:38 #336941 by ecargo

sornars wrote: I think testing memory is a valid choice but it isn't a skill I find particularly fun when gaming. Making suboptimal decisions because you forgot something is very unfun. In things like Food Chain Magnate this can be devastating to your game.

On the other hand playing with mentats that calculate every possibility is a sin I only forgive when playing async. In person I prioritise speed of play to maintain the flow of a game; playing closed with analytical players is preferable. Also some games are just plain better with hidden information like Tigris and Eurphrates.

I personally think this is a mechanic that suits some games and doesn't others but if forced to choose (and forced we are) then I'm going to go with Open with the caveat that I only play with people that aren't annoying about it. That's also a pretty good filter for game groups in general.


I agree 100% with everything above, including the T&E example. In general, I don't see a point in having something visible, but then hidden.

I feel pretty strongly about playing with trackable information face-up, but I won't be an asshole about it if someone rather not.
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22 Nov 2022 14:19 #336942 by Legomancer
I'm not interested in playing with anyone who's going to make an obnoxious deal out of it. If it's that important to you, fine, you won the game, let's move on to something else.

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22 Nov 2022 14:59 #336944 by san il defanso
Definitely closed.

It's not that I actually mind if it's open, I'm just never going to calculate it myself. If other people can great, I am fine losing a game if it meant I didn't have to do something I hate doing. But it absolutely does slow the game down to leave everything open, and that's the big issue.
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22 Nov 2022 15:57 #336945 by Gary Sax
I think this is a really good topic because my feelings about it are nuanced.

I tend to think of games with really minimal trackable information that is crucially important (e.g. two cards you saw them pick up like Pax Pamir) or something like that I prefer as open info. I'd never bother someone about it, to be clear, but all things being equal... with that little information, you're really talking about open info if someone is paying enough attention, but not everyone is always paying perfect attention in a casual situation and I think it's a kindness to open info.

For anything that has a substantial amount of closed info even if it could be tracked, then I tend to agree that it should just stay closed. It's obviously part of the design to me, even if it could be clearclawed technically.
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22 Nov 2022 17:30 #336950 by Shellhead

Gary Sax wrote: For anything that has a substantial amount of closed info even if it could be tracked, then I tend to agree that it should just stay closed. It's obviously part of the design to me, even if it could be clearclawed technically.


Great point. Look at Sons of Anarchy, where players are openly acquiring guns, money, and contraband, but each player has a cardboard screen to keep their current quantities hidden. It's theoretically possible for a savant player to keep track of that information, though in a multi-player game with 3 to 5 opponents, that's a lot to keep straight. Clearly, the inclusion of those screens is a deliberate design choice emphasizing hidden, closed information.
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22 Nov 2022 19:56 #336953 by Not Sure
At the table? Closed, unless by agreement.

Online async? Open, unless by agreement.

When someone says "all trackable hidden info must remain open!" they're basically saying "I value some skills at games more than others, and memory is not valuable". I, uh, disagree. Counting cards, etc is a key part of some games, and stopping to review your count by grubbing through piles of cards is fun negative. The AP aspect of all that information at hand was touched on before, but also negative.

However, in an online async game, where hours or days may pass between actions, we're long past short-term memory, and into "rewind all the actions, because it's trackable". Also fun negative, so just leave it open so I can catch up and play.

Online live? I'll tend towards closed, but be fine with open. People have small screens, etc. It's just not quite the same as at the table, so I have more leeway there.
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22 Nov 2022 22:32 #336954 by Jackwraith
I tend to go with the design. As Shellhead pointed out, acquisition of resources may not be closed, but retention of them is. That's part of the design. If you're saying that you don't want people to hide that info, then you're basically saying you don't like the design and you should probably play something else. Also, too often I find these adopted house rules to be the product of the Loudest Voice in the Room intimidating other people into playing the game their way because that's their preference and often because they're just not very good at the way the game was originally designed. No, I may not remember all of the cards you picked up in Pax Pamir, but part of the Great Game was remembering who was in bed with who. If I can't, then my strategy better be flexible enough to deal with whatever you have hidden in your hand. If it's not, then it's on me, not because the game is flawed or because everyone didn't have the same info. That's the whole point of the historical scenario and the game in the first place.

Re: the original question- Closed, if that's what the game originally calls for. I prefer the challenge.
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23 Nov 2022 03:58 #336957 by mc
I love uncertainty in games.
That's what closed is trying to create. Uncertainty. Have you remembered right? Are they bluffing about what they have?

Some games make it closed when maybe it shouldn't be - i.e., there's not QUITE enough obfuscation. But most of the time, for casual play, there's too much to bother tracking, the whole idea is to get the sense and go with your gut. That's what I'm most interested in. So, closed.

(Agree with the majority about asynch play; your gut is gone at that point).
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23 Nov 2022 05:53 - 23 Nov 2022 06:53 #336958 by sornars
I think it's quite interesting that we're all mostly saying the same thing. Shellhead's point about SOA and Not Sure's point about card counting is very true; having an intuition around what has been played is the entire game. Jackwraith's and Gary Sax's point about the specifics of how much the hidden information matters is also key. I was thinking in terms of games with few cards and each one mattering but in games where that information is supposed to fade into probabilistic rather than the specific then tracking approximately is part of the design. Gregarious and mc were right to point out the role hidden information plays in taking player driven risks. I enjoy risk in games and wasn't really thinking about how closed information really makes the stakes matter in a way that's player driven rather than things like probability management via dice mechanics, etc. ecargo was absolutely correct to agree with me unconditionally ;).

I still stand by my statement of voting Open - if I asked a friend what card they'd picked up two turns ago I'd expect them to answer honestly otherwise they'd be the ones turning up the intensity of the game unless it was a game where a lot of noise gets introduced intentionally. At a tournament I probably wouldn't expect such latitude given the expectation of high intensity play and I don't generally play that way amongst friends. I guess my actual play is default Closed with grace given for recent history but default Open with people not trying to refresh the board state counters every turn is effectively the same thing. I think both framings highlight a point I've been ruminating on. Games are more than just the rules; play is found at the intersection of rules and the players. If you play good games with good players then the specifics are unlikely to matter.

Another thing is that some games are just dumb or broken without hidden information so rather than being a blanket policy, it becomes a question of what types of game would you rather be playing?

I'd normally be encouraging all of these thankers to share their thoughts as Thank Yous don't count as votes but as a millennial on the wrong end of yet another vote I'll stay quiet just to minimise the magnitude of the blowout. I'm doing my best to count explicit votes but the Trashdome is essentially our version of Who's Line Is It Anyway.

Current standings:
Open: 2
Closed: 5
Last edit: 23 Nov 2022 06:53 by sornars.
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23 Nov 2022 06:21 #336959 by Erik Twice
Always open.

Here's the thing. Hidden trackable information is an oxymoron. It does not "hide" anything, it just forces you to memorize. And memorization is a meaningless, energy-sapping mechanic I don't want in any of my games. It actively sinks my enjoyment. It is already difficult enough for me to stay focus so as to waste my precious gaming time remembering how many purples each player has. To me it's as interesting as a skill as "being able to tell colours apart" or "hearing what was just said". Oh, you need glasses to see? Too bad.

I have never seen a game become more fun because someone forgot to count how many cubes were hidden or any other nonsense. Never. But I've seen a huge number of games sunk because a person at the table wasn't tracking the score. Some games, like Samurai or High Society hinge entirely on information that is perfectly trackable. If you don't track it, you'll lose. So what's the point? Do any of you really believe memorization makes games more fun?

One of my most controversial articles was about this. And I couldn't help but notice that people disagreed with me for two mutually exclusive reasons. For one group, "you are supposed to memorize it" because it's a test of skill. For another, "you are not supposed to memorize it" because it goes against the spirit of the game. Which one is it supposed to be? It can't be both.

To rub salt on the wound, it seems to me that neither group seemed to care much about the implications on the design. Rather, the underlying current was whether you could gain an advantage. That is, some liked hidding information because it gave them an edge over people who did not memorize while others liked it because they felt it would curtail the advantages of "thinking machines" who would win if they had all the information. It's like how boardgamers are such sticklers about "no takebacks", even if it makes the game worse or it sinks a player for a newbie mistake.

For the record, I have never seen games slow down because information is public. If anything, it speeds up play because people don't have to remember meaningless numbers in their head.

---

Either way, hidding elements is often a bandaid for serious design flaws. Take Smallworld. Given the choice between attacking two players, you should always gang on the leader. To avoid this, the designers tried to obscure the score using chits, but it doesn't work. Even if you don't know the exact score and can only "guess", you still should attack whoever you think who are winning. Hence, the game is still very much about bashing the leader, it's just that you may guess it wrong and attack the loser instead. That's even worse!

Most of the time, it doesn't even work. Did you know the location of every caballero in El Grande is public except the ones in the Castillo? You can just substract how many there are in play, in the court and in the provinces from the total and you know how many were put in the tower. So much for uncertainity!

TL;DR: You are all WRONG.
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23 Nov 2022 08:07 #336962 by Legomancer
Here's why I go for hidden: it's not a memory thing or whatever. It's because I hate when someone's turn goes on forever because he's quizzing everyone on everything. "How many cards do you have? You have two stone? What's your count on provost tokens? Let me calculate how many priest cubes I think you've got..." JESUS JUST TAKE YOUR FUCKING TURN. If information is closed, then when he goes, "Did you pick up that Forest card last round?" I can say "Fuck you, take your turn."

I'm not an aggressive or competitive player, and I admit I have a low tolerance for them. I don't want to go through five minutes of assessing every piece of available information every round just so one guy can take the move he was going to take anyway. If closed information favors a different player, so be it, as long as that player isn't gumming up the works with his bullshit.
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