Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Mafia theory: Reveal on lynch or not?

So one of the things we do every year when we go up to Rochester to lose in waifu card games is play Mafia. For those who are unfamiliar, I am linking the video above for reference. Mafia has a million variations, and a million house rules and roles, ranging from the core (detective/cop, doctor), to the utterly bizarre (zombie witchdoctor). Around September of this year, a clown named forte randomly reminded me mafia exists, and linked me to Dota 2 players playing it, using a specific ruleset. Now I do not play Dota 2, nor do I know any of the personalities present in these games, but the ruleset was something that really interested me, as I felt our Rochester games over the years had been rather lacking. The ruleset we had played with for three years was: randomized amount of mafia (2-3), randomized amount of cop/doctor/vigilante (0-1 of each), first phase is day (no lynch to start off), and role reveal on death. The ruleset used by the Dota 2 crew was vastly different: 15 players, 3 mafia, 1 nerfed parity detective (detective points to a user first night and receives no information, on the second night, he points to someone else and is told if this person is the same or different alignment than the first person, and so on), 1 doctor (can't protect same person twice in a row), 1 vigilante (can use one bullet during night), 2 mafia kill power when 3 mafia are alive, 1 kill power when 2 or less, and no role reveal on death. The games themselves were sort of lopsided though and really exposed the difference in abilities, it didn't really influence me until someone pointed me to Ryuzilla's channel, where my eyes were really opened to what "high level" Mafia is like. That being said there is always an imbalance in ability in players, and Mafia is no exception. You can't always have 15 players, and you can't always have super logical people who remember everything, or even people who want to engage during the game (lurkers.)

That being said, I came to Rochester with a single goal for our group sessions, and that was to get the "no reveal on death" rule instated. More than any other house rule (constant numbers, nerfing the cop, night before day, 2 kill power, etc. etc.) I felt this rule needed to be tried out in our games, as it has a huge and I would say positive effect on how the game is played. Before Nationals I would constantly complain about how the ruleset we had supremely favored town and yet our town was miserably bad and lost constantly, quite a few players just did not engage and there were tons of games where the people left could not figure out obvious logic paths. I have since revised my opinion, our townies weren't absolutely terrible per se, rather it is the gametype of role reveal on death that promotes lazy townie play. Thus people would ignore really obvious tells and game logic frequently because of the wealth of accurate information.

Put another way, I argue that role reveal on death promotes a playstyle where most town do not care about being alive (besides power roles). How many times had I heard "fine lynch me and you'll see" used as a rebuttal against any and all arguments in the previous sessions? People flat out disregarded what other people said, if two people had a disagreement you just lynched them both. Words lost meaning when people flipped over their cards, usually in anger or resignation, after all, the more perfect information the easier for the town right? Players who actually wanted to live (mafia, people trying to solve the game themselves, power roles), would generally just lurk, why risk anything when your lynching is greeted by the majority as perfect useful information. Absent from all these sessions was a simple concept that I saw in Ryuzilla's games, that is, reading a player as strongly town is as useful as reading a player as strongly mafia. Because of how the mathematics of the game works, if you are sure of more than half of the players's specific status as town, the mafia will lose by simple elimination. But that never happened, basically because it's really easy to just say garbage when you know flipping your card will tell your alignment. As such, people had a super laissez-faire attitude and were killed off constantly for jokes, it didn't matter the logic, just kill Keith lol and prove he's town.

No reveal on death changes this. You still have a source of near-perfect information, in 99% of cases when someone dies during the night, they were town. But during the day, lynching someone just for jokes or because he was loud is a terrible idea now, as you are uncertain to their status. You lynch someone not because you want to find out what he was but rather because you believe the game will progress better toward your goal (whatever it is) without them.  This forces everyone to step up their play as now bad town are an actual liability and easy to lynch.  In full reveal, building a worldview is almost trivial if you pay attention and somehow last to the end, as you will know the full status of every single person who died before you, whether by town or by mafia. The challenge is pretending you are dumb enough to not get killed either by bad town or mafia before then. Any conversation movers risk getting lynched just to figure out their alignment.  In no reveal, since only night kills are confirmed town, people must actually talk to each other, convince each other, and remember what was said to make any progress at all. I can't just kill off Comic because he tries to direct the flow of the conversation, find out he is town, and then use the knowledge of who voted for him to make a judgement, because technically lynching anyone for information is beneficial for town in all reveal. There's no concept of "keeping good town" around since a good town is just as good as a dead town on role reveal. One more thing as well, reveal on lynch makes it absolutely impossible for mafia to claim any power role. Power roles are really crazy when used properly, they are the fastest way to mathematically solve a mafia game. Detective is obvious, and for the doctor, every successful save is actually perfect information of a player's status as town, combine both of these and it becomes frighteningly easy to hit the 50%+ mark for guaranteed town win. Even in no reveal claiming a power role as mafia is ridiculously hard, but in all reveal it's a completely worthless move since you just lynch power role claimers (or who they accuse) after they make claims to verify their status.

Anyway I don't know if this will convince anyone, it didn't convince Moku, I had to wait till he had a headache, vote in the measure into the first game, then vote it again into the second game when he joined, before he saw how it changed how our players behaved and our sessions ran. Many agreed that the mafia games this year were much better than previous years.  Who knows, maybe once everyone's town game gets really good, we can start introducing more of the balance changes designed to nerf townie power.

tl;dr reveal on death promotes on average suicidal sloppy play, every terrible lynch still provides perfect information that overwhelmingly benefits town, little value in keeping strong town reads alive, strong players either gladly kill themselves thinking the rest of the town can do math (spoilers they can't a lot of the time), or lurk for as long as they can trying to solve the game looking at interactions before they inevitably get noticed by mafia doing the same thing, player disinterest is high because oftentimes the player's death is more useful than anything the player actually argues or says aka "just kill me and see"

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