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Secret treacherous actions - Inspiration needed :)

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Joined: 09/20/2010

Hey everybody,

Been working on a game involving traitors (like Battlestar Galactica, The Resistance etc) for quite a long time already, and theres one problem I've been struggling with, and hopefully you could have some answers. :)

In games like Battlestar Galactica and The Resistance, theres a core mechanic that allows for the traitors to work in (mostly) secret:
- BSG got skill cards that are added to a pile by the players + 2 that are drawn from a random deck. If the modifiers on the cards dont pass a certain value, the crisis fails.

- In The Resistance players get 2 mission cards, fail & succeed. The players on the mission play one of those cards into a pile. If one fail card is included in the pile, the mission fails.

I'm struggling to figure out a good core mechanic like this, and I've tried different mechanics but can't find anything that really works like these two does.
What other type of mechanics like this do you know of? That lets players do some sabotage actions in secret, but also make players able to slowly figure it out.
Doesn't have to be with cards, tokens or any other thing also works.

Any info about existing mechanics will help me to figure out stuff myself, I might not just know about enough of them :)

Thanks in advance!

Joined: 11/10/2009
I don't always play

I don't always play traitor/sabotage games, but when I do, I prefer systems that disguise the traitorous behaviour behind the appearance of either assistance or helplessness. In other words, it has less to do with 'what' the traitor does than 'when' the traitor does it.

For example, if every player has to chip in a 'participation card' towards a different goal for each round, where each card has both a benefit and a penalty. When each player is required to play a card from their hand and every card has a penalty, any player could be forced to play a card with a strong penalty if that's all they have at the time, and the traitor can cycle out their light penalty cards if the goal for the round isn't critical to overall game success in order to have heavy hitters available in the critical rounds. The other player can suss out the traitor by looking to see who is consistently playing strong penalties on critical goals. Also, you could have a system of passing cards between players (a la variations of hearts) in order to let the traitor 'frame' another player by sticking them with penalty cards.

Joined: 10/13/2011
Not much experience

Hi SuperioR,

I don't have much experience with games that involve a "traitor" player, but it seems to be one of the more difficult game mechanics to manage. The questions below might help define exactly what you are looking and that may lead to an obvious choice of mechanic. Assuming the "traitor" is critical to the overall game theme...

1) Does the traitor actively work against the other players or are they passively witholding things that may have helped?
2) Does your game have enough plausible deniability that players will not immediately know who the traitor is? For example, are there situations in the game where a player may perform a suspected "traitorous" action, but there is a good explanation for the action?
3) Does the the traitor player have enough flexibility in play that they can pick and choose when to appear cooperative and when to appear traitorous?

You may have some luck with the Munchkin mechanic that allows players to help or hinder other players at will. Players are allowed to freely play cards that affect the outcome of combat; this system is liberal enough that a single player can play cards that help both sides of the combat!

A variation of the BSG idea may be that all of the players begin cooperative, however circumstances arise during the game that cause a player to turn traitor for a few turns or for the entire game.

Help me out here...does anyone know the name of the "Mansions" game where one of the players becomes an opponent towards to the end of the game?

Joined: 09/20/2010
Thanks for the input

Thanks for the input guys.

The "Mansions" game you're looking for is Mansions of Madness. One of the maps/missions included in the base game have cards that might turn a player to the other side.
(Edit: just after posting I figured out you could probably mean Betrayal at House on the Hill

And to comment on the 3 points you made Orangebeard;

1. I haven't determined this, since this is one of the problems I'm struggling with. However, I'm trying to incorporate both: You can actively sabotage for the others, but do so in a way that the others don't immediately know who did it. AND you might have cards or other stuff that might help in some situations but you hold on to it and claim you can't etc.

2. Kinda answered in the previous point. I don't want players to immediately know who is sabotaging it. Instead you wouldn't know who played a certain "bad card" OR like you said, you'd have a reason for playing it (You're forced to play one, and you "only had bad cards")

3. Yes, flexibility is key. Sometime you have to work for the team to gain trust etc, and instead strike (silently :o ) when it hurts the most :)

Joined: 10/13/2011
I think it was Betrayal

I think it was the house on the hill game although it was described to me as a mansion on a hill :)

What about a mechanic that allowed players to change the mix of cards in their opponents deck? Imagine a game in which each player has a deck and they draw cards from the top of the deck to resolve a shared challenge with the other players. There can be affects in the game that allow you to draw more or less cards, but you need to use everything that you draw. If the other players all have a chance to add cards to your deck (and/or change the order of cards) before the resolution stage, they can shift the mix of good and bad cards in the direction they want to go.

This obviously requires at least 3-4 players and the total number of cards added to the deck must be a significant % of the total (adding 1 card to a 100 card deck wouldn't accomplish much).

From a gameplay standpoint, I would start testing by giving each player 10 cards to build a deck and 20 additional cards that they hand out to other players. I need to crunch the statistics of this, but it should be possible to find a balance where the traitor can affect the outcome of the game by consistently loading opponents decks with bad cards. To add a little spice to the game, maybe each player has a stack of "action" cards that can force other players to reveal what they added or not add cards from a certain player.

Just brainstorming here...kind of feels like a big party game...

Joined: 01/30/2012
If you have not yet I would

If you have not yet I would recommend you play through a game of "Shadows over camelot", it has a good secret traitor aspect where you are given a choice of a few actions but every time you take your turn you have to choose one anyways so everyone appears to be the traitor at times because you have cards that no one else can see so they don't know the exact reason you are doing what you are doing.

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