# Mechanic Help Needed

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Arthur Wohlwill
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Joined: 05/30/2015

I am working on a game in which every player is a double agent of another player. I need a good mechanism to chose this. Say there are four players (Red, Blue, Green, Yellow).
If you have a set of 4 of these cards and then hand them out to the players, there is a good chance that a player will get their own color, so the choosing will have to start again.
I could have a number of sets of cards which tell both the color of a player and the who they are a double agent of, but that would take up a fair amount of space and could be unwieldy.

There could be a die roll and every player gets a sheet that tells them whose double agent they are based on the die roll. For this to work well, there would have to be lots of possibilities to avoid someone remembering a particular die roll. There would have to be a different sheet for 5 or 6 players (I do not think the game will work with less than 4)
I could make an app, but I am not sure that is worth it.
Any other ideas?

MarkJindra
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Joined: 01/24/2014
Two Colors ... Maybe

This may sound like an odd idea but you could simply do four cards with two colors on each. The top color is primary and if it is your color you instead move on to the secondary color.

You might even find a use for two colors. For instance being dealt your own color as primary you get some starting bonus, having it as secondary might give a different bonus, and having two other colors than your own could be a third different bonus.

Just a thought ... hope that helps

=M=

X3M
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Joined: 10/28/2013
Now that's a..., not a good

Now that's a..., not a good idea.
How?

Red, picks Red/Yellow
Yellow, picks Blue/Green
Blue, picks Yellow/Blue
Green, picks Green/Red
results in..
Red choses Yellow
Yellow choses Blue
Blue choses Yellow
Green choses Red

***

I suppose you only want each player to know, for who they are a double agent.
I also suppose you only want 1 double agent for each player.

Putting a card back means the card of that player is still in.
Putting a card back as third player means that, that player is going to have the fourth player as double agent.

I see your problems in this mechanic.
(Unless I am horible wrong again)

***

Keep the card mechanic. However, adjust it. If one player has his/her own colour, than at least one other player has this as well. They can't simply trade, because every one will know.
I suggest, EVERYone gives their card back, and will pick a new card.
This untill everyone has a different colour. Although it is not a perfect solution.

kos
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Joined: 01/17/2011
Draw one at a time

Draw the 4 cards one at a time.
If any player picks their own card, declare a re-draw.

This should be fine with only 4 players, but if the player count increased it would result in a large number of redraws.

Regards,
kos

JohnMichaelThomas
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Joined: 05/30/2015
I agree with kos

Draw 1 card at a time. If any player draws their own card, they put it aside and draw another card, then put their card back (so the next player could have a chance of drawing it).

The only time this wouldn't work is if either the last or the second to the last players drew their own cards. In either of these cases you'd need to toss all the results and do all the draws again.

But if my math is correct the chance of either of these happening in a 4 player game is almost 50%, so it would end up causing alot of do-overs. The chance would go down the more players there are (and would go up with a 3 player game), but this would probably feel a little messy even with 6 players (which still has about a 30% chance of requiring a do-over).

let-off studios
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Joined: 02/07/2011
Duplicate Draws

Looks like you're going to have some problems with this particular mechanic. However, you may simply want to roll with whatever results the players determine with their draws.

The game "Lifeboat" designed by Jeff Siadek has a card-draw mechanic in it so players can determine their "Secret Love" and their "Worst Enemy." It is likely players would draw their own cards. However, instead of a redraw the rules indicate a player can be "narcissistic" or "sociopathic" or even "self-loathing" depending on their draws. In the case of a player drawing their own card for their Sworn Enemy, they're simply trying to survive, having no enemy in particular.

It makes for some interesting games (imagine if in a six-player game, all the players loved only themselves AND hated themselves), and it sounds similar to what you're trying to accomplish. Maybe you can do the same thing with your rules...?

monodreme
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Joined: 07/28/2015
Live with the redraw. But to

Live with the redraw. But to make it quick and painless have somebody shuffle and deal the fours cards and everybody looks at their card at the same time. If one or more people have their own card they immediately say "Redraw" and the next person immediately gathers in, shuffles and deals. Rinse and repeat until you don't get a redraw.

If it helped you could make this question of whether redraws happen or not have an actual effect on the game - A player who declares a redraw is punished or rewarded in some way. At least this way something is actually happening in the game, it's not just a case of everybody sitting round waiting for the game to be able to start.

let-off studios
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Joined: 02/07/2011
Penalty & Reward

I wouldn't suggest that someone be rewarded or penalized for something they had literally no choice in doing. Assigning a bonus or penalty for this draw leads to some problems, some listed below:
- If it's a penalty, you'll need to have players reveal their cards eventually to prove they didn't draw their own card.
- If it's a bonus, you'll need to have players reveal their cards to prove they really are entitled to the bonus instead of simply blurting out "Redraw!"
- How do you resolve multiple players earning the bonus or penalty in a single deal?
- If it's a penalty, how do you consistently prevent players from deliberately doing their best to deal out the matching card to players?

The good news is that you can incorporate these realities into the game itself...! Meaningful choices can be made regarding hiding or revealing one's affiliation, choosing which player ends up with the short end of the stick, and choosing the best to reveal and "out" oneself, to one or all other players (Battlestar Galactica, anyone?).

monodreme
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Joined: 07/28/2015
Yeah, I don't agree with

Yeah, I don't agree with Let-Off. A little bit of randomness during the startup phase may appeal to you or not, based on the tone of the rest of the game. It might unbalance the game or it might just add a little spice at the beginning.

The players need to be double agents for another player so there is no point in anybody trying to be a double agent for their self in order to pick up one small bonus because they won't be able to complete the game properly. In fact, as soon as somebody says "redraw" everybody should turn their card over, see how many players picked their own card (assign rewards, or bonuses, or not - as you please) and carry on.

Perhaps.

let-off studios
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Joined: 02/07/2011
Clarification

My main point was that I felt assigning a bonus or penalty wasn't a good idea. The player would have done nothing to influence the outcome, so I don't think it would be worth gaining a bonus or suffering a penalty.

The other things I mentioned diverged too far from the original game concept, I agree. Sorry about that.

...I kind of become hung-up when describing Lifeboat, as I've enjoyed it quite a bit. :)

monodreme
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Joined: 07/28/2015
Aye, Let-Off, you might well

Aye, Let-Off, you might well be right about the bonus/penalty issue. I'd have to know more about the game to really form an opinion. If it's a game that incorporates a good deal of dice rolling or card shuffling or some other randomness generator, then I wouldn't worry about a little randomness at the start. Each time we roll dice or shuffle cards we are opening ourselves up to being punished or rewarded by an event we are not able to influence. Some games are chance heavy and some aren't.

Arthur Wohlwill
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Joined: 05/30/2015
Re: Mechanic Help Needed

Thanks for all of the suggestions. The game will not work if a player picks themself. I am going to try in which a die roll determines who you are a double agent of. Each player will get a chart that will tell them what the die roll means to them (and not anybody else). Hopefully, nobody memorizes the table!

X3M
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Joined: 10/28/2013
I suggest you use Excel for this

Hey, you actually got an idea that might work in one go, without redrawing over and over. With 36 possibilities they might remember eventually.

Use at least 3D6 different coloured dice. This means 216 possible double agents. Also, make sure that you have 4 different "lists" (for 4 players). With that I mean that you have to divide 12 possibilities amongst those 216 randomly:
RYBG
RYGB
RBYG
RBGY
RGYB
RGBY
2x RY-BG (now Red and Yellow can be each others double agents, and so do Blue and Green)
2x RB-YG
2x RG-YB
This list has to be implemented 18 times. Then each possibility is equal.

Let's say that the dice roll 1,1,1 [1]
Then Red has a chart that says Yellow.
Yellow has a chart that says Blue.
Blue has a chart that says Green.
And Green has a chart that says Red.

Now, when you roll 2,1,1, you use [2]
Red has a chart that says Yellow.
Yellow has a chart that says Green.
Blue has a chart that says Red.
And Green has a chart that says Blue.

If you find 216 to much, I find 36 to less. But that is my opinion.
A lot of work. It looks complicated. The end result is an fast, correct way for choosing a double agent.

Arthur Wohlwill
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Joined: 05/30/2015
Re: Mechanic Help Needed

Thank you very much!

Centaur255
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Joined: 06/23/2015
Crazy Idea - an Arrow?

Hey all,

Interesting ideas (I was wondering when Excel would come in - such a useful program!), and I had a really random one to throw out for your consideration Arthur: what about each card simply having an arrow on it, facing either left, right, or up (which signifies "across"). This would point to who they are a double agent for. The game would have a deck of, say, 20 cards, and the players would each draw one card.

What this does is 1) it avoids the problem of the redo (as players wouldn't "draw themselves" in this setup), and 2) it allows for the game to be standardized for up to 20 players. It also means it doesn't matter who goes first/last - there's no lack of being able to draw a particular person, no problem of being "left with the last one," and for the vast majority of games you wouldn't use very many of the cards.

Now it does mean that if you have more than four players people could figure out who "is not So-and-So's agent," but that also leaves room for alliances - you know who you're "safe" choosing as an ally. And hey - still leaves three choices of who they might be secretly working for.

Just a few thoughts - sounds like a cool game!

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Joined: 07/08/2013

How about everyone is dealt a color card for their allegiance, then is given another 4 cards (for anonymity). The players then take out their own color card, then everyone simultaneously shuffles and deals out their cards (the remaining 3 cards) to everyone else. That way there's no confusion and no redraw.

Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014
Make an app

I know you don't really want to make an app, but I'm pretty sure that no scheme other than potentially unlimited redraws is ever going to work. Any of the schemes that involve dice rolling will break the game if someone remembers, for instance that we rolled 2-4-1 last month, when I was red, so I know red is double agent for blue. My son has that sort of memory -- he couldn't forget if he wanted to.

The app should accept a number of players, then it chooses a legal combination. Each of the colors are shown, and each player privately presses his color and it shows whom he is double agent for. It should ding when someone presses a color, so you can hear if anyone presses more than once. You pass the phone around once, and everyone knows their status. No communications needed, so nothing tricky to write.

JohnMichaelThomas
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Joined: 05/30/2015
I think you're right that a chart might be your best bet

But you'd probably need alot of options to prevent duplicates from past games and/or memorizing the charts.

Maybe have 6 charts for each player, with 6 rows and 6 columns in each chart? The group rolls 3 dice, with the 1st specifying which of the 6 charts to use, the 2nd specifying the row and the 3rd specifying the column. You'd need 1 chart card for each player.

That gives you 216 combinations for each player (864 total for 4 players), so the chance of hitting the same combination is low unless someone plays the game many, many times.

Arthur Wohlwill
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Joined: 05/30/2015

I am not sure how that mechanism would give each player a unique double agent. However, it is like a variation that I am considering in which each player has 4 agents but 3 are double agents picked by the other players (for a 4 player game). The player does not know which one is his only non double agent. This would make the game longer, though.

SLiV
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Joined: 10/21/2011
Sinterklaaslootjes

Ah, this is the infamous problem with Sinterklaaslootjes, or Secret Santa I suppose. I find it quite frustrating that I haven't been able to come up with a satisfying solution, nor have I proven that none exists.

Note that it cannot work with 3 (or less) players: if A picks B then A knows that B is the only player that can pick C, hence A knows that C must have picked A.

Anyway, here's a somewhat doable solution: take 4 envelopes with one player's name on the front of each of them, but with identical backs. Take 4 cards with one player's name on each of them, and put them in the corresponding envelopes. Now shuffle the envelopes (with the backs turned toward you of course) and lay them out in a circle. Without looking, take the card from each envelope and put in into the next envolope. Then shuffle the envelopes again, flip them, and hand each player the envelope with their name on them.

This will guarantee that each player gets someone else's card, and that each player's card is gotten by another player. Unfortunately it's not a perfect solution in my eyes, because it won't allow two players to pick eachother; thus you know that whomever you picked didn't pick you.

I'll be mulling this one for some more, so if I find a better solution, I'll let you know.

X3M
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Joined: 10/28/2013
Brilliant

SLiV wrote:
Ah, this is the infamous problem with Sinterklaaslootjes, or Secret Santa I suppose. I find it quite frustrating that I haven't been able to come up with a satisfying solution, nor have I proven that none exists.

Note that it cannot work with 3 (or less) players: if A picks B then A knows that B is the only player that can pick C, hence A knows that C must have picked A.

Anyway, here's a somewhat doable solution: take 4 envelopes with one player's name on the front of each of them, but with identical backs. Take 4 cards with one player's name on each of them, and put them in the corresponding envelopes. Now shuffle the envelopes (with the backs turned toward you of course) and lay them out in a circle. Without looking, take the card from each envelope and put in into the next envolope. Then shuffle the envelopes again, flip them, and hand each player the envelope with their name on them.

This will guarantee that each player gets someone else's card, and that each player's card is gotten by another player. Unfortunately it's not a perfect solution in my eyes, because it won't allow two players to pick eachother; thus you know that whomever you picked didn't pick you.

I'll be mulling this one for some more, so if I find a better solution, I'll let you know.

A minimum of 4 was already required for preventing knowing who got you. But other than that, this is briljant!!

Allow me to upgrade this mechanic.

As addition. You could add one dud envelope with no name. And one no name card inside. If you have the dud in your envelope, you have to take the dud envelope.
It is still impossible to get your own name this way. This because all the name cards inside, all go in one direction.
But there will be the feeling of more randomness and A could pick B with B getting A. (I don't know how big the chance is for this happening. Can someone test it out?)

This mechanic works though.

wombat929
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Joined: 04/17/2015

The other great thing about the envelope idea, other than that it works, is that it could enhance the theme. Each agent is getting orders in a cool envelope.

Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014
Clever!

Clever solution, SLiV.

X3M, I don't think that your modification will work. Remember that for 4 players, if A and B have each other, then C and D have to have each other, too. There's no way that your dud approach can make this happen.

X3M
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Joined: 10/28/2013
You are right, it doesn't

You are right, it doesn't work. I don't know where I went wrong.

Any way, to get each other as double agents (AB and CD). All you have to do is shuffle the envelopes. Then move the cards inside 2 spots instead of 1.

You know that the other one has you as double agent. But you still don't know if it is B, C or D.

Right...?

Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014

So, going back to the simplest solution where you have a marker with each color, everyone draws one and checks it, and you throw them all back and redraw if anyone has his own color. If you wanted confirmation that it's a bad idea, here it is. (I actually started this analysis expecting to say, "Look, it's not so bad.")

With 4 players, of the 24 ways the markers might be distributed, only 9 of them "work" -- that is, in only 9/24 combinations everyone gets a color not his own. With more players, it gets worse.

So, 62.5% of the time, you'll need at least one redraw, etc. Here's how it breaks down. This shows how many times it will take exactly that many draws, and then the sum, which is the chance that it will be that many draws or fewer.

Draws Frequency Sum of Frequency (N or fewer draws)
1 37.5% 37.5%
2 23.4% 60.9%
3 14.6% 75.5%
4 9.2% 84.7%
5 5.7% 90.4%
6 3.6% 94.0%
7 2.2% 96.2%
8 1.4% 97.6%
9 0.9% 98.5%

Unfortunately, this says that nearly 10% of the time it will take six or more draws, which is pretty unacceptable if there needs to be shuffling for each draw. I know that I have trouble shuffling 4 cards without tracking the one that I know (which I do without even thinking), so either I have to shuffle enough that I can distract myself by talking, or I have to shuffle and then hand to another person to shuffle more.

If you had a system where there are beads drawn from a hat or something, that might be faster from a shuffling point of view, but you lose the ability for all the players to grab and check their cards simultaneously.

So I agree that this approach is a non-starter. I still say that a simple app is your best bet.

Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014
Drawing out of a hat

Here's an approach that doesn't completely stink, I think. (How's that for a ringing endorsement?)

Use cubes where the choice is a number on only one side, so they can be mixed quickly and easily, you can draw one and hide it from others while you look at it, but then you still can set the cube down on the table such that no one else can see it.

Start by setting out the cubes with number 1 through N. One person holds his own cube, mixes the rest into the hat, takes one from the hat, then drops his own into the hat and passes it on. Note that there is no chance he got his own number, so we've automatically eliminated 6 of the 15 bad combinations.

Now the second person takes a cube and checks it. If it is not his own, he passes the hat and we're actually at a pretty good chance of not needing a redraw at all. We've already eliminated 10 of the 15 bad combinations, so we're almost 2/3 chance of success once we pass this point. Then the last two people grab cubes and check them.

If anyone gets his own cube, then everyone ELSE who already drew a cube throws it back in the hat and we start over with the person holding his own cube drawing before throwing his into the hat.

This approach is still the redraw method, but it avoids 2/5 of the failures completely, hits the other failures more quickly, and has no shuffling time.

------------- WAIT! I've got it! ------------

As I was writing this, my friend at work has arrived at a better answer. He googled to find this: http://weaving-stories.blogspot.com/2013/08/how-to-do-secret-santa-so-th...

Here it is, modified to be a better board game mechanic. It does require trust that people don't peek during the "close your eyes" process, but that's not too much to ask. Here I've described it for 4 players, just to be simpler. However, it will work with the obvious extensions for 5 players.

Everyone has a color which everyone knows, and starts with a card of his own color.
Cards labelled A-D are shuffled and dealt face down. Everyone knows his own letter and no one else's.
Envelopes labelled 1-4 are shuffled and dealt face down. Again, everyone knows his own number and no one else's.

Each person looks at the number on his own envelope, inserts his color card, and puts the envelope back in the middle with the number still face down.

Someone takes all the envelopes and shuffles them, keeping the numbers hidden. Once they are shuffled, he turns them up so the numbers show. Remember that each person knows only his own number and his own letter.

Now everyone closes their eyes. One person is designated to call out letters A-D and wait a few seconds on each one. Each player, when his number is called, opens his eyes, grabs an envelope that is not his number, and closes his eyes again. It's important that people hide the envelope so later people can not even see that they have an envelope already. Once everyone has drawn an envelope, the announcer tells everyone to open their eyes.

Everyone opens the envelopes, keeping the numbers hidden, to see the color for the person of whom they are double agent. That's all the information anyone has, but there was no chance anyone got his own color.

Note that you need the extra lettered cards to determine the order of drawing. My friend's original solution just had the announcer call out the numbers, in order. However, with that approach, if #2 opens his eyes and sees his own envelope gone, then he can pick the #1 envelope and he (and #3) know that it is an A <-> B and C <-> D situation, while #1 and #4 do not know anything extra.

vexus
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Joined: 05/06/2015
Quick question

I understand that if player 1 is assigned to player 2 then player 2 is not allowed to know. However is it ok for player 3 or 4 to know?

I'm intrigued by this problem :-)

Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014
vexus wrote:Apologies if you

vexus wrote:

I understand that if player 1 is assigned to player 2 then player 2 is not allowed to know. However is it ok for player 3 or 4 to know?

Umm, think that through. If it is ok for #3 to know that #1 -> #2, and if he also knows that #4 -> #1, then it should be pretty easy for him to figure out who is targeting him. If anyone is allowed to know anyone else's target, that goes a long way to figuring the whole thing out.

Arthur Wohlwill
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Joined: 05/30/2015
Re; Drawing out of a hat

That looks like a good idea.
Thanks!