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Thinking about this question reminded me of a problem I thought of some time back.

I love playing the Resistance (particularly with the plot cards), but I always find the eyes closed, open, closed, open business slightly awkward. This is particularly the case if there is someone in the group that I don't know very well, or who hasn't played before.

For anyone unfamiliar with the game, the setup is as follows:

  1. Everyone watches while a deck of role cards is created with x good and y bad cards where x+y is the number of players (the exact values of x and y are given in the rules, but it's not relevant for the question).
  2. All players are dealt a role card telling them whether they are good or bad.
  3. All players close their eyes.
  4. All bad guys open their eyes and look at each other.
  5. All bad guys close their eyes.
  6. All players open their eyes.

The result is:

  1. Everyone knows how many bad guys there are.
  2. The bad guys know who each other are.
  3. The good guys have equal suspicion of all other players.

Is there a neat* way to initialise the game without players having to close their eyes?


* In particular a way that doesn't require a computer or a moderator.

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I can imagine a digital solution where everyone passes around a phone and it tells everyone what they need to know. I do not know of such a solution though –  Andrey Jul 2 '13 at 21:50
    
@Andrey I guess that this would end up the same as having a computer moderating, which is a fairly neat solution, but I was wondering if there was a cards only solution as in the other question. –  tttppp Jul 3 '13 at 6:10
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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

This solution would work, though it may take a minute to perform. For p players, with t traitors and n "normals", you need:

  • t "You are a traitor" cards and n "You are a normal" cards, obviously
  • p "player" cards marked with unique colours (or numbers or whatever)
  • 1 card with an identical back to the player cards and a blank face (a kind of joker)

Deal each person a "Traitor/Normal" card so they know their faction, then the process is:

  1. Everyone takes a coloured "player" card. Show them publicly since they identify each player.
  2. Everyone holds their player cards with their hands under the table.
  3. The first player takes the blank card face-down under the table too.
  4. Players will pass the spare card around under the table, BUT, if they are a traitor, they will instead pass their own player card.
  5. Once the spare card gets back to the leader, he should keep it face-down on the table, since it reveals the identity of a traitor! Then, everyone secretly looks at their card. Normals will see their own card again, of course, but traitors will see the card of one other traitor (or the joker if they were the first traitor).
  6. Perform steps 4 and 5 a total of t+1 times.
  7. Now all players (including traitors) should have their own cards back and the leader can flip the joker to reveal that it IS the joker. If it isn't, someone cheated/messed up. The traitors should have each learnt a new traitor's identity on each lap (except for one). Everyone should reveal their colours again to remind everyone what they were (though it's only relevant for traitors).

A detailed example

Alan (Red), Ben (Blue), Chris (Green) and Dave (Yellow) are sitting round a table. Ben and Chris are traitors. Alan, the leader, takes the joker and, because he is not a traitor, passes it to Ben. Ben IS a traitor so he keeps the joker and passes his own card to Chris. Chris - a traitor - keeps Ben's card and passes his card to Dave, who, being a normal, passes it on back to Alan. Alan puts it face-down to one side.

Everyone looks at their cards. Alan and Dave see their own. Ben sees the joker (so he can already deduce that Alan is not a traitor). Chris sees the blue card (Ben's), so he knows his co-traitor.

Alan now takes the face-down card (Chris' green card) and passes it again. After they repeat the process, Ben has Chris' card and Chris has the joker. Then they perform the rotation one more time so that the traitors both get their cards back and the joker is flushed out.

Everyone reveals their coloured cards and Chris confirms the owner of the blue card, while Ben confirms the owner of the green card. The game begins.

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+1 This sounds perfect. The coloured cards can be replaced with numbered cards representing how far around the table people are sitting. This could then be done with a standard pack of playing cards. –  tttppp Jul 5 '13 at 16:19
    
@tttppp Glad I could help; it's definitely an interesting question! My only concern with this solution is that it may be a little complex. If you're not a traitor it's fine; you just pass some cards. But if you're a traitor, you need to remember the cards that have gone past and then "translate" that into faces when you're done. It could be easy to make mistakes, especially if you're trying to look like you don't care (i.e. bluffing that you're not a traitor). –  Johno Jul 5 '13 at 16:48
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You've got a secret channel (the role cards) and the ability to broadcast a shared secret, so any implementation that uses those two features can be made to work. There are an unlimited number of such implementations. Each one varies in the security of the code, and the difficulty or tediousness of the discovery process.

The eyes open/shut approach is elegant, and it will be hard to make something more convenient. Its only real disadvantage is the temptation to easily cheat and sneak a peak. You also have to remember who your fellow bad guys are (unless you repeat the process).

A few concrete examples to make this less abstract:

1) Mark the face of each role card with a colour, and provide pawns of all colours. Mark each bad guy card with the set of (one or more) bad guy colours. Each player places a pawn of that colour in front of them. By comparing the pawns in play with the bad guy colours on your card (if any), you can see who the bad guys are. The good guys can't see the list of bad guy colours, so they are left to speculate. For multiple games, duplicate the role cards with different bad guy colours in each set of role cards. Choose the set of role cards randomly each game.

2) Each role card has a four letter code, and a decipher code. Each player places the code in front of them where everyone else can see it. Only players with bad guy roles have a decipher code which is useful. For example, a simple substition cipher (a Caesar cipher):

Code: DUHK or FNNC
Decipher code: 1111

Add the decipher code shift to the code, to move each letter on:

 DUHK
+1111
-----
 EVIL

Indicating that player is a bad guy.

Obviously, you can make the ciphering scheme as complex as you like.

3) The role card indicates that bad guys are to all make a secret sign, for example, to rest their left hand on the table, or touch their face or hair. Again, multiple sets of role cards indicate different hidden gestures.

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These look promising! I think these all work by the bad guys sharing a secret that's on their role card, and the set of bad guy role cards being chosen at random from a large number of sets of bad guy role cards. I think this means that for 10 players, with 4 bad guys, there are something like 210 sets of bad guy cards? Is this right? –  tttppp Jul 2 '13 at 18:49
    
If you were only going to play one game, with one group of players, then a single set would be fine. You need multiple sets because the bad guys in each game will know the secret at the end of that game. If the secret is easy to discover, then the good guys might know too. The players can try the code solution in subsequent games. So you need a large enough number of sets to make it hard to guess which set is in play at any given time. If you were doing ciphers, I'd guess around a dozen sets would be sufficient. It depends on how good your player's memories are, and how hard they are trying! –  ire_and_curses Jul 2 '13 at 19:38
1  
I like the approach, but I'm not sure this solution would work in practice. The problem with having some secret code (however it's manifested) to share the information is that it would either involve too many cards so as to be impractical, or it would be learnable with enough play, unless it involved some random unique key (e.g. pick a number between 1 and whatever) for a cipher, at which point it would probably become too difficult to easily implement. –  Johno Jul 3 '13 at 9:34
    
The other concern I can see with having a set of "evil colors" is that someone has to hand out that list (or write it on the card), so unless you're building a set and not handing it out, someone by definition is in the know. –  Allen Gould Jul 3 '13 at 15:46
    
@Johno - too many cards so as to be impractical - I disagree. More than 6 or so sets makes it an effort to learn the secret, especially if the games are spread over time. More than 12 and it gets hard quickly. If there are 10 players, then each set will be 10 cards. So you're looking at 120 cards to create a reasonably hard to learn system. Bear in mind that in any given game instance, the complexity is still flat - you only use one set of 10 cards at a time. –  ire_and_curses Jul 3 '13 at 15:47
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I know you don't want a computer-based solution, but a simple mobile app can solve this nicely.

Tell it how many players you have, then pass it around the table.

There's a single button you tap to view your role. If you're a bad guy, it also shows you where in the seating order your comrades are.

Before you pass it to the next player, tap a button that closes your view and increments the device's internal counter of which player's role it should show.

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Who makes such an app? –  The Chaz 2.0 Jul 5 '13 at 16:22
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