While I was doing my usual morning round of feeding the menagerie and listening to the radio this morning I heard a rather intriguing report. It was about the lack of rationality in decision making within the banks. Apparently there has been some survey that says the bankers were driven by greed and recklessness, not rationality (what a surprise). As they kept going on about (banking) rules it was not a big jump for me to wonder about how this worked in games.
In terms of rationality, how many decisions do you make in a game that are carefully considered, and how many are impulsive, seat-of-the-pants and irrational? I know I intend to plan stuff, and sometimes I do, but not always by a long chalk. Particularly when I feel like I’m already winning, I’ll relax a bit and not be so careful in my moves. It’s only natural. The same goes for if I feel angry or stressed (often due to events outside the game): I’ll play more impulsively. Knowing this, can you exploit it?
I find this an idea worth pondering as it leads onto the subtleties of the mind games that you can play within any game. Playing the opponent rather than, or as well as, his army. Perhaps a simple statement of the objective for these mind games is to encourage irrationality (and therefore mistakes) by your opponent. One gamer I know is well known for this intentional badgering of opponents, purely to put them off their stride and confuse their thinking. For him this isn’t cheating, it’s simply part of the meta game. For me this is perhaps going a bit far, but it’s contextual too. It seems more widely accepted as reasonable in tournament environs where winning is more important. That too is understandable.
But is it right?
Mind games, can be particularly effective in gaming. Not so much in video games, as most of them are pretty linear in their game play. For me, gaining any perceived psychological advantage is great. Playing Warmachine, putting particular models on the board; can make an opponent think twice. It could also make them focus on that one model, ignoring the real threat; sneaking around the sides. There is also ‘telegraphing’ a particular move, which doesn’t come; pulling them out of position. Sun Tzu was a brilliant strategist, he was also a master of the mind games – All warfare is based on deception. As for the banks, there is the biggest deception of all. They would have you believe, governments caused the crisis. Which is true in part, as the governments allowed the banks to risk other people’s money; while they took no risks with their money.
There are indeed models that have a global reputation for being good, bad, threatening or what-have-you. often the most effective of these are the ones that have a local rep, born of some insanely lucky dice rolls and grown over the years to produce something that is so feared that it will either be avoided or attacked with everything in the opponent’s arsenal as soon as battle is joined. If you have such an element in your army then you can exploit this to your benefit in a number of ways, all of which seem entirely fair and reasonable play to me.
One of these days, I’m going to put together a list designed to one-shot the Avatar of bastard Menoth. Doesn’t matter what else happens, just so long as I get to wreck that thing.
Ooooo… you’re in fur a burnin’
Badgering the opponent deserves a slap. Trash talking is one thing, but actual bugging of an opponent you don’t have an existing relationship with? Just no.
To be fair, someone tried that on me would just end up with a timed out game as they take me out of thinking through my turn. 😀
I has a mate who liked to play psychological games. He used a High Elf army at one point (I talked to him about this probably around 2006 or 2007). Deployed with alternated cavalry and chariots, with a nice tidy squared off front line, he would watch the opponent naturally deploy to face with a similarly tidy front line. He’d then hit the end of the enemy line with a dragon and just overrun through the line…
He also did a Chaos army. Converted everything in the force, and painted it all nice and bright. Except for the block of Warriors, who were stock and in drab versions of the rest of the colours in use. So, people would naturally gravitate to dealing with the rest of his army, while not paying so much attention to the Warrior block. They had mark of Slaanesh and access to a Frenzy granting spell, the result of which was a front rank that put out 26-27 attacks from a frontage of 5 or 6. He called it the Woodchipper.
I’ve been to a kickboxing tournament, where the instructors at the club I was with went into the ring. They went from professional and polite, to trash talking, referee badgering, knobheads. To be fair, though, the teams they were fighting, were doing exactly the same during those bouts, and it was only during the most competitive fights that this side surfaced…
I quite like the sound of those Warhammer armies. Not that facing them would be anything short of alarming the first time, but I’d like to play them repeatedly as the counter would develop and then he’d be back to square one. I do like the evolution of armies and tactics you can only get from repeatedly playing within a small group of friends.
The kickboxing example of exactly the kind of gamesmanship I was thinking about, though at a rather extreme level. I’d not expect many gamers abuse the ref during a tournament, especially not if they want to carry on playing. When I’ve been ref at a tournament I ensured before I began that I had the authority to remove anyone causing that kind of disturbance. They’ve paid? OK, refund their cash and kick them out. Tourneys are about people having fun, and not many people enjoy having folk haranguing opponents. Like you say, Sam, trash talk is one thing, but there’s definitely a line that you shouldn’t cross.
Yeah. Any well designed game should have a hard counter to each extreme army option, and tactical counters to any given tactic. But, we’re talking about psychological tricks here, so they’re really a case of knowing what you’re looking for, and simply not playing the game the opponent is pushing you into.
Here’s one I’m still impressed by. There was a crappy little computer game thing I used to play a few years back. You would challenge your mates with your martial arts dude, and each bout, you would commit a string of attacks and defences, and once both players had picked their moves, the software would compare each attack and defence move in sequence. Each attack move and each defence move can be simply either Low, Middle or High, and first to lose all their health loses the bout.
Pretty dumb, and you should be able to go 50/50 win/loss by being fairly random about your choices. Except for my mate Andy. I couldn’t beat the sod. I think he’d looked at studies of how people make “random” choices, and adapted his choices accordingly. (After doing dirty things like bombing armour formations with empty drop pods in Epic v2, he went into computer games testing, then into bank software security…)
Clever work winning that game with those limited variables. I think that illustrates another factor I’ve noticed, which is that once someone gets a reputation for being hard to beat they are at an advantage before they start. I know I find Rich B a scary prospect with his Everblight, for example.
I love it when people try playing mind games with me 😉 and I’m sure you can understand why Jake. It tells me much more about their state of mind than it ever has of affecting my own. I eve playing along sometimes and let them think they’ve distracted me into a mistake. Afterwards I tell them I’m a trained psychologist and I found there chat really informative with a smile and a wink. Most people who now know me try to give me as little info as they can for fear of giving me vital info. Recently somebodies conversation totally gave away who their Lieutenant was in a game of Infinity and so I butchered him. Never did tell him the linguistic tick which gave it away though. lol.
Of course, your post is just another part of your psychological warfare tricks, designed to intimidate any potential opponents out there in internetland… you cunning devil!
Or is it?
The best example I have for this type of thing is playing poker. If you have lots of time I like to play seven card stud with three card draw until one or more of the players is broke with good players you might be at the table for 12 hours or more. It seems the modern way is to rotate the deal and have the dealer declare a new version of the game each deal. I don’t play anymore because that destroys the ability you have to build expectations that you can exploit after you have been playing for hours. If you can’t do that all you are doing is counting cards and what fun is that. Would I do that in a war game? I don’t think I could help myself it would be automatic. This is also why I like campaign games because you can twist the mind of the opposition over time.
With war gaming I always try to have an overall plan to follow and watch the other player closely but I draw the line with arguing about rules that are being used correctly and knob head behavior. Who needs that.
To bad you live to far away I would like to play a few games with you. If I lost several games in a row would I just be setting you up to be careless?
I used to play poker too, in my late teens. Even taught myself to deal cards off the bottom of the deck (which is actually quite hard to do well and requires constant practice) and other amusements, but it’s the mind games that define it. Not played for years though as I think that other games scratch that particular intellectual itch better.
Map-based campaigns are the ideal place to draw opponents into larger traps than individual battles, though they are hard to run and even harder to find players that will commit to them for long enough. I have used scouting forces in these circumstances to fight “battles” which were really just efforts to see what an enemy army composed of before my recce legged it back to the main body. Yes he gets that bit of the map, but now I know not only where he is but also what his army is composed of. The possibilities of double-thinking your opponent round in circles with that info are huge. If I advance boldly at his main force am i assured of victory or is it a bluff? What’s the other force I have composed of? Now he knows that I know his real strength, he is trying to outfox me personally rather than just looking at markers on a map.
Yes Yes This is what I want to do and your example is exactly why I like it any thing less seems shallow in comparison. To play without a campaign seems like leaving half the game behind. My problem is how to get the players to be committed as I am willing to do the work to run one but do not have the committed players so I am open to ideas on how to get them. Does bribery with beverages and food work?
I assume that if you learned to deal from the bottom of the deck you also learned to cut the cards with one hand so you could return the deck to a known condition. I of course did not do this during a real game but it was useful when playing with girls.
FYI: The activity of the bankers is rational it is just that the governments have allowed perverse incentives to develop. As proof just look at the income of the average banker that is making those choices. The public, stockholders and the customers are left out in the cold but it is international so why would any country opt out from something so wonderful?
As I’ve been into games forever, parents and friends have occasionally tried to give me a game-related present. Now these are usually not what I’d buy myself as they’re all non-gamers, but a copy of a book by Scarne on Cards was most instructional. Scarne is apparently a famous authority on poker. It was from his book that I learned how to play poker. He also explains how to spot cheating – a process which inevitably tells you how to do it as well. Learning a few of the basic tricks taught me loads about how it worked and how hard it was to do slickly. It also confirmed for me that I don’t enjoy cheating as any victory is pointless. Of course, real cheaters would do so for serious money wheras I was playing for pennies if that. At one time I could indeed cut decks with one hand and so on. Again, it requires continual practice. Can’t do anything so fancy nowadays.
The bankers seemed to me to be straightforwardly greedy and arrogant and were/are lining their own pockets as fast as they could because the world let them get away with it. It was the report mentioned on the radio that suggested any other interpretation and which sparked my initial post.
I’m actually just about to start running a campaign myself, so will include all sorts of thoughts while I do that. This should kick off in the next couple of weeks. However, in terms of bribery, I don’t think it works reliably. It’s unlikely to hurt, and it may tip the balance of the wavering, but I wouldn’t rely on it.
When I saw the post’s title, I thought it would be about the handling of money in games, which is often tricky (Im thinking Blood Bowl for example). Im disappointed and I guess you have to tackle that subject now Jack 😉
Jake, old bean. Jack’s my evil twin 🙂
Money in games is all part of resource management in general, though the way it is used in BB (for example) is a special subset of that topic. Both that subset and the idea in a wider sense are worthwhile topics for discussion, and no mistake. Let me ponder on it for a while. It deserves a more considered ramble because it is actually quite complex.
Watch this space.
Very interested in your reply on this. I like resource management in games and it seems money is a good way to manage the process.
sorry Giacomo, wont happen again.
Glad I gave you some homework !
Just what I need – more work 😛