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Need help with preserving attached hidden information despite shuffling

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TreffnonX
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Joined: 02/28/2015

I am trying to find an elegant solution to a tough dilemma.
The game I currently work on is strong on hidden information and depends on it as well. It is a semi-coop game with traitor elements.

At certain points throughout the game, I want for players to play action cards into a pile of face down cards. Before revealing any of them, the cards will be shuffled to obstruct the information who played which action. Now the crux comes with the options of said actions. If for example a certain action allows for, say 7 different targets, the chosen option needs to be specified, or else the action won't resolve the way intended by the player playing it.

What I specifically look for is a solution for adding temporary information to a given card, both random, and by player choice.

A secondary criteria is, that I want this as elegant as possible. This means, that the solution should be:
-cheap (in production)
-quick (the information should be added and interpreted in the least possible timespan)
-non-expiring (i dont want to add layer after layef of stickers to the cards)
-infinite (any one option should be able to be added to an unlimited amount - i. e. the total number - of cards)
-randomizable (i. e. shufflable)

As you can see, with this opulent list of requirements, I've had trouble with a solution.
One option I have already explored is sleeving an action card together with an option card thus creating action-option combinations. The problem is that this is a depletable variation, because a player can only have so many options at any given time.

Another tbought was to write a smartphone app to allow players to select options and save them in the app, to later be retracted. This seems the most flexible approach, since it is everything from undepletable to robust and randomizable (just add numbers or bar codes to cards to identify them, then just shuffle and insert the number or scan the barcode when evaluating) but this solution requires the use of uncontained material which I have a philosophical problem with - do't plan on shipping smartphones with my game...

Well anyway, I was just wondering, if anyone has a better solution, and might be willing to share his/her wisdom.

Sorry for the long post and thank you for reading.

Sliverik
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The problem is that you want

The problem is that you want the players who choose such actions to be hidden in the mass of players who chose "normal" and general actions.
If a player has to do anything the others don't do while choosing their actions, it will be easier to guess he did it.
You could force everyone to do "as if" they had to choose a target, but it will take time when none of the players has to choose any target.

Coming back to your problem, I can imagine two ways of doing it.
-The cards could have a designed target on them already, such as "the player with the highest score", "The player with the most cards in hand", their variations ("The third player with...") and others. The problem is that this doesn't allow for the players to choose their targets anymore, but on another hand, they can go back to other action cards if they are not happy with it.
-The players can write on the cards which player the target is. For example, if each player is designed by a colour, you could have squares of each colours, and the player would just put a cross next to the one he wants. Of course, the cards should be in a plastic that allows to erase easily the markers and if a player writes on a card while none of the others do, everyone sees him (like i said).

I think that my first idea is better, but I'm sure someone will come with an even better one.

danieledeming
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I want to help...

...but I think to be of more help than harm, I need more information. How does the game play? What are the options to be addressed? Does the act of selecting an option need to be secret? etc.

I started typing out options, but they could all be moot - give me more!

TreffnonX
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danieledeming wrote:...but I

danieledeming wrote:
...but I think to be of more help than harm, I need more information. How does the game play? What are the options to be addressed? Does the act of selecting an option need to be secret? etc.

I started typing out options, but they could all be moot - give me more!

Ok the idea is this:

An action card has multiple options (for a player to choose from), one hidden option and at least one open option. The open option, if chosen is resolved directly and does not require further hiding.
The secret option however is different from the open option and is resolved later together with a pile of disrupting action cards.

As a player you hold a given number of cards per round.
At a certain phase during the round, action cards are put on the pile from a draw pile (let's say 5 cards). For each action card a random
target is added (let's say there are 7 possible targets - the same 7 options for all action cards - no exceptions). Those are chosen secretly and added to the card, so at this point there are 5 hidden action cards on a pile and each card has a randomly (secret) target to be revealed later.

THEN each player can play actions either open or hidden. If the hidden option is chosen, the player adds that card to the pile (including a preset target - one of the 7).

When this phase is over all cards on the pile need to be shuffled to obstruct who played which card. Through the shuffling process however, the targets need to remain 'attached' to the hidden actions.
After shuffling, the actions are revealed one by one and resolved on the target chosen beforehand (either random or by a player - noone will know for sure, except that player).

Hope this clarifies the issue :)

DifferentName
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Challenges of a non digital game

It might not be possible to get everything you're asking for with a completely non digital game. That's one of the challenges of designing a semi co-op game, trying to figure out how someone can interfere with the group, without the group knowing who it was. Even better, and more challenging, is if the action can raise suspicion for one player or another, without completely confirming that the player is a betrayer. For example, you may have an action that is greedy and isn't great for the group, but still benefits a player that's not the betrayer, so it's not completely clear how their loyalties lie.

For actions that are both targeted and hidden, maybe you could make a thing with dials like King of Tokyo. http://www.jestatharogue.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/King-of-Tokyo-Ch...

It could be made with a slot for a card, and a dial where you choose your target. This might not be the cheapest component, but it sounds like you wouldn't need a ton of them, just a few to be shuffled at a time.

TreffnonX
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DifferentName wrote:It might

DifferentName wrote:
It might not be possible to get everything you're asking for with a completely non digital game. That's one of the challenges of designing a semi co-op game, trying to figure out how someone can interfere with the group, without the group knowing who it was. Even better, and more challenging, is if the action can raise suspicion for one player or another, without completely confirming that the player is a betrayer. For example, you may have an action that is greedy and isn't great for the group, but still benefits a player that's not the betrayer, so it's not completely clear how their loyalties lie.

For actions that are both targeted and hidden, maybe you could make a thing with dials like King of Tokyo. http://www.jestatharogue.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/King-of-Tokyo-Ch...

It could be made with a slot for a card, and a dial where you choose your target. This might not be the cheapest component, but it sounds like you wouldn't need a ton of them, just a few to be shuffled at a time.

There's definetly incentive for none-betrayers to play hidden operations. If not, playing a hidden operation would identify the traitor instantly. Also the game is a game of balance. Some action might be beneficial to the group at times, while at other times can be outright destructive, though doing the same thing in each instance.

A dial could be a solution, if there is a way to attach it to the card (maybe sleeve it after all) and ensure it does not turn during suffling.
Then it just has to be ensured, that the dial can be turned without seeing what it shows in order to randomize targets for the first 5 cards.
It's certainly an idea worth looking into. Thank you!

EthosGames
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Another option could be to

Another option could be to use slider clips (https://www.thegamecrafter.com/parts#category=Clips) to indicate the cards chosen effect along the side and the target along the botom of the card. This would be a very inexpensive option.

The problem here would be randomization as shuffling wouldn't be an easy and players would be able recognize the unique placement of clips even when cards were face down thereby deducing who played it after randomization. The best solution i see to this would be a bag that all cards are paced in (without being seen) and then drawn from randomly. Not my favorite idea but worth mentioning.

azarkon
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Thermochromic ink?

I can't think of any game that has used them, but there are inks that react to the heat of your body-- you press the card between your fingers and the temperature rise causes the ink to change color. Eventually, when the card cools, the ink returns to the original color. I don't know how long you need the decisions to stay visible for; if it's for a long time, this might not be a viable option, but it's worth looking in to.

TreffnonX
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Joined: 02/28/2015
I've been thinking about the

I've been thinking about the dial method some more.
It seems a rather cheap option, expecially since the dial can be
superimposed with some sleeve or something. It can also be randomized.
The main trouble would be shuffling the pile. Maybe I have been thinking about that part completely wrong.

What if the pile does not need to be shuffled. What if the player shuffles order by placing the card in a position he/she desires by inserting it into the pile at an arbitrary position rather than a random one. The only thing needed then is some kind of casing to hide the pile while the player adds his/her card. A simple card box opened on one side would do.

What do you guys think?

jwarrend
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I'm fairly certain you've

I'm fairly certain you've overspecified the problem, and as such, even if you can find a physical solution, chances are it will be a pain for the players, or easy to cheat (intentionally or accidentally), or some other thing.

What if instead you played action cards directly onto a target, face down into a pile? Then, when a player has accumulated 5 (?) cards, shuffle, reveal, and resolve. In this way, players maybe get some inkling of who the traitor might be, depending on who played a card in your direction -- and the traitor will have to be careful not to pile on a single player (whereas the other players may want to encourage this to make it easier to ID the traitor, although it also means one of them will suffer more, etc)

AdamRobinGames-ARG
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Joined: 02/11/2015
Chits and pouches

Following along with the slider clip concept, instead each action card could have a symbol associated with the action and each player a symbol to represent them. When players play hidden actions, they drop the corresponding chit and the chit of their target into a small generic pouch which everyone has multiple of and adds it to a bag. The action card gets added to the pile, then when it comes time, shuffle the cards and reveal them face up. Then start taking out the pouches and associating them with the cards and the targets will be known without revealing who played what. Chits are cheap, so everyone could start with however many player chits needed to complete the game without retrieving theirs after each round and a set to cover the action cards.

I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate the random targets though. If it didn't matter if someone knew what the random ones were for the round, then it'd be easy. But keeping that knowledge hidden from all players is the brain teaser.

Radio Prime
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Idea: Envelopes

Similar to the previous idea above this.

You can give each player identical envelopes.

Each round players will pick an action that can be numbered and then players will have extra cards that specify which action is being chosen and another card that specifies a target.

So for example say you have a card that has 3 actions or something, they player choosing this card would also play a card that has the number 2 to imply option 2 is being picked, lastly if a target is necessary, the player also slips in a card signifying a player (color, "character" name, etc.)

Then these envelopes are shuffled together then each are opened one at a time and resolved.

As a result of this system, you can have it so that the cards are returned to their envelopes, shuffled, then redistributed to each player randomly, giving players new cards and limiting their options.

Other options for cards can be things like group choice or random choice.

I do not know if this may impede your design in any way but those are my 2 cents. Hope it helps!

Inspired by Sheriff of Nottingham deception card game.

Jarec
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First things that came to my

First things that came to my mind is to either have every player to give hidden cards to each other, the "good" players either give blanks (or positive cards) and then each player shuffles his pile so that they can't mark the traitor in their pile.
The other thing was to have player limit reduced and color coded and every color to have a copy of the hidden action. Though this might rise the card amount absurdly.
And I don't even know if I try to give the right advice, since I kinda lost your train of thought in the second post.

Supafrieke
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Sleeve with limited options...

Instead of making every player a target on every action card, you could specify 4 targets on each card, one option on each corner. For now lets just number the players 1-7, so some cards have 1,2,3,4 on the corners; and some have 2,4,6,7; and so on; with an even distribution of targets. Numbers might be green if they are to be resolved openly, or red if they are to be resolved after secret selection.

Each player has a a single card that has a giant arrow pointing to one corner. Players simply select the action and then orient their option card to point to the corner showing their intended target. They shove these two cards into a shuffle-able sleeve and submit.

The pile in the center was assembled in a similar way, action cards drawn randomly face down; option cards drawn and randomly rotated (spin) and sleeved together.

The sleeves are shuffled ad then as actions are resolved, the option cards are discarded and whoever needs one simply takes one as they are all the same.

The biggest problem here is having sets of cards that play with 4+, 5+, 6+ players and so on that have an even distribution of targets. Oh, and square cards!

I like @Jwarrend's solution.

Orangebeard
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Tokens?

Would it be possible to fit the information on the cards onto something smaller like a token that could be thrown in a bag?

TreffnonX
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Orangebeard wrote:Would it be

Orangebeard wrote:
Would it be possible to fit the information on the cards onto something smaller like a token that could be thrown in a bag?

It's actually a lot to fit onto a token. The information density would require to print a number on a token and write the description in a manual or spreadsheet. Problem is the diversity of action cards. It would be tedious to look them all up. So i guess tokens are not a real option :/

jwarrend wrote:
I'm fairly certain you've overspecified the problem, and as such, even if you can find a physical solution, chances are it will be a pain for the players, or easy to cheat (intentionally or accidentally), or some other thing.

What if instead you played action cards directly onto a target, face down into a pile? Then, when a player has accumulated 5 (?) cards, shuffle, reveal, and resolve. In this way, players maybe get some inkling of who the traitor might be, depending on who played a card in your direction -- and the traitor will have to be careful not to pile on a single player (whereas the other players may want to encourage this to make it easier to ID the traitor, although it also means one of them will suffer more, etc)

This could be a cool solution but would require a lot of restructuring the game. also it would require for a lot more cards to be played on specific targets that originally intended by the concept.
However it would definetly solve multiple problems at once.

I will reply to the posted answers some more later, for now I need to be somewhere.

tuscansun
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Hi! i think I have a solution

Hi! i think I have a solution that might solve your issues. It keeps the cards in tact and it doesn't require anything bulky or beyond the scope of card game errata.

So there's a game called Gloom by Atlas Games that lets players place a modifying card on top of another card to make the stats of the card change. The modifying cards are all transparent, except for the modifying bits that go on top of the other cards already in play. Here's a link to the rules and card examples if you want to know more...
http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/GloomRules246x255.pdf

My thought was to give each player a set of transparent cards, kind of like "voting" cards, that either indicated a number/target or pointed to a number/target printed onto the base card. Those "voting" cards would all look the same from the back, so you wouldn't be able to tell what each player is selecting if you saw them take their action.

Then each player takes the transparent card, puts it in a sleeve with the base card, and plays that to be shuffled. So transparent card with information on top of the base card with actions. All cards have the same thickness, all cards look identical, the solution is reusable, and it's gonna look cool.

The downsides are that you NEED sleeves, which kinda sucks but isn't awful. The transparent cards might be pricey too, through alternatively you could just put in a secondary "voting" card that's a solid regular-looking playing card. But that's not as cool looking :)

The thing I haven't thought about is the issue of returning the "voting" cards to their owners. I'd assume each player has multiples of each so that you wouldn't have this struggle each turn. But then you've got 7 options at 3 or 4 copies each and that's a lot of cards to vote with suddenly. Maybe the universal discard pile could be picked through after a few rounds by one player at a time? I have no clue, I didn't think this far ahead.

It's a jumping off point at least.

DifferentName
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Sleeves!

tuscansun wrote:
The downsides are that you NEED sleeves

Sleeves! I never thought of using sleeves as part of the game mechanic, but it seems so obvious now. Transparent cards are cool, but you wouldn't need all that. If the question just comes down to attaching a choice to a card, sleeves are a pretty simple way to do it.

Zag24
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azarkon wrote:I can't think

azarkon wrote:
I can't think of any game that has used them, but there are inks that react to the heat of your body-- you press the card between your fingers and the temperature rise causes the ink to change color. Eventually, when the card cools, the ink returns to the original color. I don't know how long you need the decisions to stay visible for; if it's for a long time, this might not be a viable option, but it's worth looking in to.

I don't know if this solution is practical, but it's an awesome idea! If this could be made to work, I'd buy this game just to try out the mechanic.

TreffnonX
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DifferentName wrote:tuscansun

DifferentName wrote:
tuscansun wrote:
The downsides are that you NEED sleeves

Sleeves! I never thought of using sleeves as part of the game mechanic, but it seems so obvious now. Transparent cards are cool, but you wouldn't need all that. If the question just comes down to attaching a choice to a card, sleeves are a pretty simple way to do it.

This is actually how we test at the moment. I didn't want to write it in my OP to not fixate people on this way too much, but I can say that it works. Only problem is that the sleeving takes a while and the number of option cards is automatically reduced. So picking for example target A will only work as often as you have that card. This is actually more of a problem than obvious as the game strongly depends on the player being able to target one another multiple times over if need be.

However I can say this for sure: If someone made a game with this mechanic that did not need a lot of different cards at the same time it would certainly be cool. Imagine for example some form of magic game where the cards themselves synergize and you sleeve them together to create a specific new pseudo 'card', which you can then shuffle in a draw pile or some such and use them in your deck. Food for thought...

Bjarne Svanberg
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Give the action card to the target

I think Jarec has a very nice solution here:

Jarec wrote:
First things that came to my mind is to either have every player to give hidden cards to each other, the "good" players either give blanks (or positive cards) and then each player shuffles his pile so that they can't mark the traitor in their pile.

  1. This is how I imagine it will be played: Each turn all players simultaneously selects an action per other player in the game. The action card is given face down to the intended target. Each player then shuffles their pile of incoming cards (to preserve anonymity) and resolves their effect.

  2. Assuming that the number of actions is low (2-4) each player could draw a new full set of action cards each turn in order to make it impossible to infer who is missing a backstabbing card.

  3. I don't know about your intended game-play but perhaps you could restrict the players to only play each type of action once per round and thus making it natural that they need to discard their remaining hand and draw a full new hand every round. In this case their discard piles will be hidden information as well.

chriswhite
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How you do this

This is how you do this:

Option 1:
Give each player a set of cards, with a card for every action, and a card for every viable target of that action.
Action cards have a black back.
Target cards have a white back.

Procedure goes like this:
1) Players select the (black-backed) Action card they want to use.

2) Players then choose the white-backed Target cards and place them under their respective Action cards, forming a 2-card stack.

3) Collect these stacks into a single pile to make a small deck. (In a 4-player game, for example, this will be a stack of 8 cards, with alternating black/white backs, and a black card on top.)

4) Then, one or more players will cut the deck as many times as they choose, but always so that a black-backed action card is on top. This will keep Action cards always directly above their selected Target.

5) Reveal pairs of cards from the top of the stack, resolving each Action sequentially.

6) Reseting the system depends on the type of game. You could immediately shuffle together the used and unused Action and Target cards, and deal out another set to each player. Another option is to play another few rounds with the remaining cards, which could have its own interesting gameplay dynamics depending on how the rest of the game works.

Option 2: (more expensive)
High-tech production way with punchboard––
Same basic idea, as option 1, but with punchboard tiles for Actions and numbered chits for Targets.

Give players a set of a punchboard tiles for each Action, with a hole in the tile for a chit. When selecting Actions, players choose the desired Action tile, and place a Target chit in the hole. (Friction should hold the chit in place.) Then, shuffle the tiles together and reveal them one-by-one, with each Action being resolved based on which Target chit is in the hole.

This functionality is something that we did in I, Spy.

theMikeAG
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This might sound odd, but

This might sound odd, but have you considered using a notepad? If you arranged the pages like a ballet (with bubbles to fill in), players could mark their specific target/targets without having to resort to words. Then, they could include that page with the card in an envelope for later.

Zag24
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All the cards

TreffnonX wrote:
So picking for example target A will only work as often as you have that card. This is actually more of a problem than obvious as the game strongly depends on the player being able to target one another multiple times over if need be.

How about this use of sleeves: Everyone has a full set of target cards -- one for each player. Every turn they put ALL their target cards in the sleeve, such that they player they are targeting is in front and displayed through a small window in the sleeve. The sleeves are turned in and shuffled with the window side down, and just need to be turned over to reveal the targets.

After that round is resolved, everyone gets a sleeve back, which, of course, has target cards for all the players.

You could even have selected cards of two different types, for example an attack type and a target. All the target cards have a hole in them in the same spot, where the attack type icons are. All the attack type cards similarly have a hole in a different spot, where the target icons are. The sleeve has holes in both spots. When choosing the attack, a player chooses an attack type and a target, puts those in either order in front and all his unused cards behind them. Both attack type and target will show through the holes in the sleeve.

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