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Memory and perfect information games

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gilamonster
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Joined: 08/21/2015

Hi everyone

I'd like to get some idea when everyone here here thinks it might be appropriate to add memory-based mechanics/elements to a game.

I've recently purchased two commercial family-oriented boardgames to my collection, and both have a memory-element which mystifies me as to why it was included: each player has a screen behind which to conceal certain game elements (In these two specific cases you might call them victory points) from other players. The thing is that in both cases, the actions of a player deterministically and unambiguously affect what is behind the screens of the other players, and the starting condition of each player is known. So if players have perfect memory, they are both effectively perfect information games, and the screens don't matter. The amount of concealed information is also sufficiently low that perfect (or near-perfect) memory is not difficult to achieve. So to me the memory-element feels tacked-on and unnecessary; not that either game is not enjoyable because of this, it just seems superfluous. So what am I missing? Should I be considering adding similar mechanics to my games, and if so, what target audience do you think such things are most appropriate for?

Masacroso
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Well, it seems a good way to

Well, it seems a good way to improve the use of memory. Maybe.

But if you are not more precise and describe the game it is very difficult to say something more precise. Let me judge by myself what is "low memory required".

If you say what game is (are) I can search information about rules and system and give a better feedback about the topic.

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

A game I've recently played that has what I would consider a useless memory mechanic is Smallworld. I've only just started to play it so I may not understand the reasons for hiding player Victory Points from one another. But I suspect that it's to help keep losing players from feeling like they've no chance to catch up to the obvious leader. If someone completely understands that there's no way they'll catch up to the winner, they may become completely divested from the game. That's no fun for anyone.

Another reason why points may be hidden is to prevent dog-piling on the leader. If it's a family-friendly game that's intended to appeal to several different age groups, including younger folks, hiding points until the very end can prevent dog-piling and kingmaking (last-place players in effect "choosing" the winner during close contests).

gilamonster
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Joined: 08/21/2015
Well, it seems a good way to

Well, it seems a good way to improve the use of memory. Maybe.

But if you are not more precise and describe the game it is very difficult to say something more precise. Let me judge by myself what is "low memory required".

If you say what game is (are) I can search information about rules and system and give a better feedback about the topic.

I agree that serving as a useful memory-improvement exercise is one possible reason - I suppose this could be loosely described as an "educational" aspect. The two games that I specifically had in mind are Indigo and Burgenland, both by Ravensburger. I should add that in both cases I've so far played them as two-player games, which obviously does simplify the memory exercise, but given the small number of hidden elements to track in each and the four-player maximum limit on both, the mental book-keeping should not increase too drastically. Also, as mentioned before, I enjoy the games and the memory element is not particularly irritating, it just doesn't do much either way for me unless I'm being lazy and not keeping track properly (then there is some added tension). On the plus-side, in both cases the screens are rather pretty and double as a player's crib-sheet for game-rules.

Let-off: the point about hiding victory points to keep trailing players from feeling disheartened is probably a good one - even if one has perfect memory, not having the evidence continuously visible does soften the psychological blow, perhaps enough to keep losing players from lising interest. However, one thing which I wondered about is whether this memory-dependent feature doesn't actually disadvantage younger (children) players, who I presume are less likely to acurately remember than adults, and who are probably also going to be weaker strategically. Any further thoughts?

pelle
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I have played Small World a

I have played Small World a few times and I never kept track of everyone's scores. Not that it would be very difficult to do with only 4-5 or so players, but I just was too focused on other things, and my experience with other similar games is just that as well. I am sure very competitive players will keep track of everyone's score, but that few normal players in a friendly game does this. I think the idea with the game is that scores are unknown and that it plays better that way (for casual, friendly play).

There are other games where you can in theory know everyone's score from just looking at the table and summing up everything that is there. I think Seven Wonders is one example. But if you do that the game will slow to a crawl so I do not think it would be a nice thing to do. Again I am just too focused on optimizing my own score.

But yes, I think hidden score is better when it is not deterministic. In Colt Express for instance the different bags you pick up have different (and unknown) scores printed on their back, so not even the player picking them up know their own exact score until game end when you sum everything up. That is a great way imo to make sure players do not gang up too much on the current leader. Of course looking at the number of bags will give you a good idea if someone is way ahead, but then I guess it is a good thing that everyone will know whom to go after to even things out.

gilamonster
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Joined: 08/21/2015
Ok, so if I understand you

Ok, so if I understand you correctly, you're saying that although the "hidden information" is not really hidden, the fact that these games are usually played casually and that people tend to be lazy and distractable by other features of the game (and perhaps because this sort of book-keeping is just less fun than strategizing, etc), in practise it works pretty well. I can see that this is true, as I've certainly often lost track of scores slightly because of laziness and/or distraction by tactical issues. So although I might find it a little inelegant, it will usually work, and at worst do no harm. Though if I were to do something like this I'd probably not use it for victory points (perhaps resources) and I'd combine it with a random starting "hand" - which would add an element of uncertainty which I'd personally find appealing.

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