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High Level

I am designing an asymmetrical secret objective game (each player is trying to win with different objectives that other players don't know).

I want to introduce an element in the game which will let all the players participate in determining the outcome of specific events.

The players must be able to influence the outcome of an event without other players knowing in what way.

Additionally, Players would have different amounts of influence they could use towards events.


Main Questions in implementation:

  1. How can the player choose which outcome they are influencing?
  2. How can the player determine how much influence to use?
  3. How can this information (1 & 2) be kept secret from other players?

Abstract Example:

An event has two outcomes RED and BLUE.

  1. Players can influence events towards the outcome they want
  2. Players can choose how much to influence (1, 2, or 3)

So lets say there are 4 players, and they vote/bid as follows.

  • Player 1: RED 2
  • Player 2: RED 1
  • Player 3: BLUE 3
  • Player 4: BLUE 2

In this example, BLUE would be the outcome of the event.


Attempted Non-perfect Solution to the Abstract Example Using cards:

If each player has cards that represent their influence (1, 2, and 3) and they have such cards in each of the possible outcome colors (RED and BLUE). so that each player then has 6 cards. When an event is being voted on, each player would choose one card to use.

Why this is a problem:

After the vote/bid each player would need to reclaim the cards they spent so that they could use them again next time they need to vote/bid, and that would reveal who had used which card.

Possible Solution:

We could redistribute all the cards each time. So that no one would know who had used which card since they are all discarded each time

The Problems with this solution:

  1. Lots of work to re-distribute cards each vote/bid, especially if there will be lots of voting/bidding
  2. Requires all players to always have all the same influence all the time.

Some more details:

I want there to be a variable number of outcomes to events, such that some events could have 2, 3, or more outcomes.

I want the Player's influence to be generic, not specific to outcomes, so that the influence could be used for any event and outcome.

There would be multiple event voting/bidding rounds throughout the game. Most of the time there will be multiple events to be voted/bid on.

Players shouldn't be required to spend all their influence when voting/bidding and should be able to preserve it for layer votes/bids at a later stage in the game.


Other possible implementation using influence chips:

Players accumulate influence chips throughout the game and spend them when voting/bidding. When it is time to vote/bid on an event, each outcome is voted/bid separately using a bag which is passed around the table and each player can use as many chips as they want to vote/bid for that outcome by placing them in the bag.

Why this is a problem:

voting would be slow. It would be hard to hide which outcome the player is or is not voting for and also how much influence they are using. It is prone to cheating with players peaking into the bag, or being able to feel if there are any chips in the bag already or even how many.


As you can see I can not think of a good solution for this. Games with similar mechanics:

Battlestar Galactica

[Players] need to collect skill cards ... Each turn also brings a Crisis Card, various tasks that players must overcome. Players need to play matching skill cards to fend off the problems; skill cards that don't match hinder the players success. Fate could be working against the crew, or there could be a [traitor]

Dead of Winter

... players are working together toward one common victory condition — but for each individual player to achieve victory, he must also complete his personal secret objective. This secret objective could relate to a psychological tick that's fairly harmless to most others in the colony, a dangerous obsession that could put the main objective at risk, a desire for sabotage of the main mission, or (worst of all) vengeance against the colony! Certain games could end with all players winning, some winning and some losing, or all players losing. Work toward the group's goal, but don't get walked all over by a loudmouth who's looking out only for his own interests!

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    You are looking for inspiration it seems - an innovative game mechanic unlike anything ever before seen. Don't expect to find it here. That's your sole job as a game designer. You don't have a game until you can work that out. – Forget I was ever here Apr 23 at 12:18
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    @ForgetIwaseverhere Yes, I am looking for inspiration. I am hoping someone might have some insight into this kind of system, perhaps similar solutions or implementations I can learn from. My main problem is that the theoretical concept is easy to think of, but actually physically implementing it as a board game is hard, if this were a computer game it would be easy. Thanks for your time. I do hope to find a solution. – Inbar Rose Apr 23 at 13:05
  • For inspiration, I would look at Goodcritters – The Chaz 2.0 Apr 30 at 13:02
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    If they don't lose their influence cards, why would they not bid the maximum? – Acccumulation May 1 at 15:24
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I think your influence chips idea has the most promise. There are a few points that I'd bear in mind that will make this too long for a comment, and I'm not sure design questions like this have solid "answers" as such any way.

  1. You don't have to go the whole hog with either of your ways of distributing influence. So far you have "fixed set of 6 for every vote" or "slowly accumulate and spend". You can have a fixed set that replenishes at set points in the game. Say every 5 votes for example. (Try giving everyone a sets of RPG dice to start with 20=3, 12=2, 10=1 anything else = 0)

  2. Voting in a social game is always slow. Even voting in The Resistance for actually going on the mission is slow, and there many of the players don't have any choice at all. Passing round a bag and dunking in tokens doesn't seem likely to eat too much time unless you're doing these votes constantly.

  3. Stop worrying about people cheating. People who are prone to cheating will cheat no matter what you do as a designer. You can't be there to police every game. Instead concentrate on making the rules clear so people don't do things wrong accidentally. (Note that the RPG dice idea will give you an idea of how easy it is to tell what's in the bag while you're filling it. RPG dice are fairly distinct, espcially 4/6s vs 12/20s, you may be surprised how difficult it is to tell what you have in there.) A player screen, or individual bag, combined with closed fist drops into the vote bag and I think you'll be ok.

  4. Your biggest difficulty is your desire to allow events to have multiple outcomes. While this can make sense, shall we go Left, Right or Turn back? It adds a large amount of complexity and book keeping and increases the chance of ties/indecisive results. There's a reason why most political systems end up as Ayes/Nays after all.

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Use a card and marker combination

There are several different ways to implement this mechanic, one of the simplest (IMO) is to give each player a small cardboard card with several holes (each marked differently and representing a different vote) and a small plastic marker pin which can be placed in any single hole. Players secretly place their pin in a hole of their choice on their voting card, than toss it into a shared voting box while hiding all the holes with their hand. After all have placed their votes, the box is opened and the votes are tallied. Finally, each player gets one of the voting cards and its pin so they are ready to vote again.

This tends to be faster and more efficient than using the voting cards method - especially if there are many possible votes - since every player discards (and later reclaims) a single "thing" per voting, rather than a thing for every possible option (like the six cards per player in your abstract example).

Dixit: Odyssey voting card (Image of a Dixit: Odyssey voting card - used differently but demonstrates the implementation well. Source published on BGG with "copying allowed" license)

Alternatives to cardboard voting cards with holes and pin markers include:

  • Small whiteboard cards and erasable markers.
  • Metal cards and magnetic markers.
  • Plastic Lego style slabs and marker bricks.
  • Two circular pieces of card/cardboard layered one over the other with a hinge at their center so that the top layer can be rotated over the bottom one - one layer shows all possible votes and the other has an arrow mark (or a hole revealing a single vote etc.).

I'm sure you can think of other implementations - this all boils down to the trade-offs of aesthetics, ease-of-use, durability and manufacturing costs.

Variant for influence as a limited resource

If it's important for your game that players can accumulate influence and that more powerful votes cost more influence - you can just use multiple markers to represent stronger votes (e.g. to vote BLUE 3, a player will place 3 markers on the BLUE row of his voting card). If the cost of a vote scales faster than its strength, just have multiple holes per strength. For example, if BLUE 1 costs 1 influence, BLUE 2 costs 3 and BLUE 3 costs 6, have one hole next to BLUE 1, two additional holes next to BLUE 2 and three additional next to BLUE 3. A player voting BLUE 2 will place markers in the first three holes.

In this variant, players get only the voting card back after the vote, with no markers (or just a single marker) regardless of how much influence they've secretly spent. Use player screens to keep the accumulated influence secret from the other players.


Finally, as a side note - if you don't mind the game to include an accompanying mobile app, it is relatively simple to create a voting app to secretly and quickly handle votes. This can be in addition to one of the methods above, or as the sole voting mechanic.

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A potential solution, inspired by the way I've seen The Resistance played:

Each spendable influence "point" is represented by a set of three cards - in your example, Red, Blue, and Yellow. (I'm assuming the max number of outcomes is 3; change the details accordingly for more though it could get cumbersome with too many.) For each point you want to spend, you play a full set of three: one face down into the actual voting pile, and the other two face down in a discard pile. There is also a large stack of blank cards available, used to obfuscate how much influence you are spending. You may draw blank cards for free at any time, and any time that you may spend influence, you may also pretend to spend influence by playing blank cards into the piles as if they were normal influence cards: one blank in the voting pile and two blanks in the discard pile. (One thing a player can do under this system is prove that they are not spending influence by visibly playing zero cards; if you want to prevent this, you could pick a number and require each person to always play at least (or exactly) that many sets, either real or blank.) Redistributing cards in this system is easy: whenever a person earns a new influence point (after a vote, or however else they get points), they just take one full set from the bank.

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Have a multi-compartment opaque box. Each section of the box has a slot (like a piggy bank). Each compartment represents a possible outcome of the event.

Each player is given some number of chips, possibly all the same, or possibly based on some other game element.

The box is put in the middle of the table, and the outcomes assigned (with cards, perhaps).

Each player, in turn, puts all their chips in the box. They can split between multiple compartments if they wish. This must be done secretly - either everyone turns their back / closes their eyes, or you have some cowl or similar.

You then open the box, most chips wins.

As no-one handles the box during the voting, it's unlikely anyone will accidentally find out how the vote is going. This would probably be most secretive with cardboard voting tokens in a cardboard box.

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To expand on the skill cards, each player has their own deck of cards, from which they draw X (handsize will depend on the rest of your game to some extent) cards. They'll have various values of Red and Blue. Though you don't need to limit yourself to just 2 color. Indeed, having multiple colors, and considering only matching colors "points for", while any other colors are "points against" could give you more options, though in that case "points for" might need to be more valuable (or cards could have a For and Against value.)

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