Tag Archives: argh who am i?!

Argh, Who am I?! – Playtests & Hiatus

I’ve had chance to playtest Argh, Who am I?! a couple more times and have decided to put it on hold for now, however it may come back in another form. Here are some of my reflections on the last two playtests.

Playtest with my MA students

The first of the two most recent playtests I learnt that players were quickly identifying who was telling the truth/lying and then narrowed down on who it was. I noticed that players were more likely to ask someone who was telling the truth, in order to avoid the mental anguish of dealing with untwisting lies.

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I decided to up the complexity and allow players both a chance to lie and tell the truth. To do this the players turn their cards upside down each time they’ve asked a question. This difference had an additional benefit of allowing for a mechanism for telling who had and had not being asked a question, meaning no player was left out from asking or answering a question.

Thanks to Hadeel, Tom, Sun, & Jai for playtesting.

Playtest with the Board Game Studies Colloquium

In the second of the two most recent playtests the upped complexity didn’t really add anything other than further confusion, which in this case isn’t really an interesting solution.

Players had fun, but I think the amusement came from coping with the mechanics rather than playing the game. This can be good in certain situations, like the weird mental block that occurs when matching pairs in Dobble, or racing against time trying to roll dice in Escape: Curse of the Temple. However, the connection did not feel right in this instance.

Thanks to Ralf, Jacob, Tom & Tiago for playtesting.

 

Final Thoughts

Overall the game had two parts that didn’t connect very well. First was working out who was telling the truth or lying and the second narrowing down to the card you’re holding. Players would start the game, in brain twisted confusion, then clarity, then finish with systematic logic. I think there perhaps needed to be a less linear relation between these two parts.

For some reason lying as an answer was difficult to do. First the question had to be assessed, then check for a yes/no answer and then potentially reversed. This process just seemed more tasking than it aught to be. There was a few times where players got confused and gave the wrong answer (including myself).

In the end the game play had very little interesting choice, much possibility for strategy or fun inherent in the game play. The players were told whether to lie or tell the truth. On reflection I think lying is more likely to be amusing when you can be caught out, and there’s a risk/reward tied to this.

An Observation

The most interesting thing that arose from the games was the possibility for ambiguous answers and questions, and the possibility of players disagreeing with each other about the answers.

For example:

  • Someone asked if they were alive or dead, when they were holding a robot card.
  • Someone asked if they were magical, when they were holding a zombie card.

Both these questions gained different responses within the groups. Perhaps there is something in this, an idea for another game. For now at least the game where you don’t know your own identify is on hold.

 

Argh, who am I?! – Revision and Playtest 2

I made some revisions to both the cards and rules for Argh, who am I?!

Previous Posts: Argh, who am I?! v1 rulesMaking of, Playtest 1.

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Changing the Card List

The card list has been expanded and changed from all Hollywood monsters:

  • Frankenstein’s Monster
  • Mummy
  • Skeleton
  • Vampire
  • Werewolf
  • Fish Person
  • Zombie
  • Ghost

To a range of people/things:

  • Alien
  • Robot
  • Pirate
  • Ninja
  • Cowboy
  • Demon
  • Angel
  • Zombie
  • Vampire
  • Werewolf
  • Santa Clause
  • Tooth Fairy
  • Easter Bunny

This should now allow the players to narrow down their potential character card in a larger range of ways, similar to 20 Questions.

Changing the Rules

The first set of rules I wanted to change from version 1 of the game, was the question and statement section. The answering back and forth was messy.

The main issue I was trying to avoid with the original rules was that as soon as the players realise that one player is telling the truth (or lies) they become the most reliable source and there is no reason to ever ask anyone else a question. By giving the player who is asked a question some power, it reduces the chance of this happening. In changing this aspect I did not want to lose the freedom of the players to ask whoever they wanted a question.

There were a number of possible work arounds which I considered:

  1. Every player must be asked at least one question before, players can be asked another question. This at first seems a fair method however it has a downside in terms of elegance. The players will require an additional token or card to remember who has and has not been asked a question. Additionally, the first player will get to ask their choice of all other players whilst the last player will not get a choice, every round. This could be solved by skipping the first player of the previous round to change the first player for the current round. Balancing out in the end. All this adds a lot of additional components and rules for a relatively small game.
  2. Players who are asked a question get to ask the next question, and must ask someone else. Players in this case have to balance asking someone who they know is telling truth/lies with giving them the power to ask another question about their own card. In this manner the game should self balance. One issue might be that players may realise the point at which someone has worked out their own card and therefore not ask them a question again, so they cannot declare. To get round this a player could declare at any point.

Of these I selected the second option.

Changing the Setup

Another issue that needed resolving was the length of the game, which for its type was possibly too long. Also there was difficulty in knowing what the cards were in the deck, so you could work out who are or are not. A problem exacerbated by the newly increased character list.

This was solved with a simple setup rule change.

  • The entire deck of cards is shuffled.
  • Cards are laid face up, one at a time, in a grid.
  • Any time a card matching an existing grid card is found it is added to the play-deck. Therefore, mixing the matching truth and lies cards between grid and play-deck randomly.
  • Once the grid and play-deck both contain one of each character type, the play-deck is shuffled again.
  • Each player takes one card from the play-deck.
  • Players help each other orientate their cards correctly.
  • The game begins.

So, although the list of characters is longer, the actual play-deck is smaller than the original version. Additionally there is no need for reference cards for the player as setting up the game creates a grid reference for all the players. There is also now no repeating of the same characters.

Playtest 2

I took the new cards and rules to my monthly board game meet-up and played a couple of games.

The first game went ok, but there was a weakness found in the system. Once someone had identified who they were once, and therefore had the most cards, they could keep randomly guessing to diminish the deck and win with their single card.

The second game we removed this issue, if you’re wrong when you declare you are removed from the game. However if you’re the first person to declare correctly you win. This added a nice layer of tension, do you risk guessing early without all the information but with good odds, or do you risk waiting and someone else guessing first. It also reduced the playtime to a nice length for the style of game.

I did however get confused with the truth and lies, and double negatives at one point, giving a player some incorrect information.I handled it in that moment with a friendly apology, however, this is something that needs consideration in the future.

We played with a relatively large group of people and at times I noticed that some were being left out more than others, so further testing is required for different group sizes.

Once the game was reduced to two/three players the game play changed. For two players it is impossible to have the don’t question back rule.

Thanks to the Playtesters: Ricky, Robin, Patrick, Jonathon, Jazz, David & Peter.

What’s next?

  • I am going to have another look at balancing the character list, so it doesn’t swing too heavy in any sub-genre’s favour.
  • I need to test it a lot more times with different group sizes, and different deck sizes.
  • I’m interested to see if I can expand the deck, but add an additional stage to the set-up which removes a number of cards depending on how many players and how difficult the players want the game to be. This might need a little bit of math to get to a nice starting point but will be ultimately balanced in playtesting.
  • Consider testing the other rules variation with the additional tokens, to see how it feels.

Can I get the new cards?

I’m going to hold off uploading the new cards for a little while until the game has settled and I have time to do some more placeholder art rather than just text titles.

Argh! Who am I? – Playtest

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Finally got round to playtesting Argh! Who am I?! this week, you can read about the making of it here. Although the general feel and mechanics of the game was good there were some issues which need improving on.

1. The playtime was a little long for the type of game it is.

This could be relatively easy to solve on it’s own, the answer would be to simply reduce the number cards in the play session. So instead of removing only 1 card at the beginning of the game, you could remove three. However, I feel there is more to this issue.

2. The fish-man was the least interesting character to talk about.

This is likely because there is less popular culture about the fish-man monster when compared to vampires, werewolves, ghosts, etc. The answer is remove it, or find a replacement. Doing this would actually help neatly with issue 1.

3. It is difficult to keep coming up with interestingly differences between the characters.

One issue might be the range of characters, in the first version of the game they are all classic monster tropes. This means all of them are already grouped by one sort of characterisation, removing the opportunity to explore. This could be resolved by increasing the number of groups in the set, i.e. sci-fi characters, fantasy characters, monsters, etc and reducing the number from each set.

4. Giving a true information, is very precise. Giving a false information is vague.

Once someone was found to be giving the true statements, players who had lying cards could abuse the imbalance of power between the two. There’s 8 characters, so the player eliminating the options through negative comments are at a distinct disadvantage. In short, the difference between having a truth card and a liar card are too great. By reconsidering the objects/characters on the card this could be improved. For example if instead of characters there were objects which were a set of binary choices:

  • Black / White
  • Round / Square
  • Edible / Non-edible

e.g.

  • 8 ball – black, round, non-edible
  • slice of bread – white, square, edible

If I ask am I round, and I know if you are lying or telling the truth, then I can deduce the truth relatively easily. However, this really reduces the number of questions which are usable, and the game is significantly reduced in terms of creativity and free thinking. This idea is part way to a potential solution but not the full answer. Each character card needs similarity with some of the other cards but not with all the other cards.

Other ideas for variations

Whilst thinking about these issues I came up with a few ideas for the game that I need to consider for a little bit before making the next version. Some of them should be easy to test, just by varying the rules.

  • When you ask a question everyone else answers. Removes the need for a statement.
  • Players with liar cards, can both lie and tell the truth. Add some chance for deviance, will depend on what the items are on the cards whether or not this is suitable.
  • After a player is asked a question, they cannot be asked another question until everyone else has been asked. Removes the need to give a statement. Requires a neat way of keeping track of this.
  • Have players create their own cards, i.e. the backs follow truth and lies but the characters / items are decided by the group who play. This adds another element of creativity to the game.

The big question – what or who do I put on the cards?

The main issue I need to consider is what it is that goes on the cards in the first place. Monsters was a quick idea I had and it worked well enough for the playtest, but I feel that this is the thing that needs changing, it’s also the most time consuming thing to do, both in thinking and time spent creating cards that are nice enough to play with.

Thinking about the theme of the game might help, mechanically it’s about truth, lies and deduction, which sounds a little like a murder mystery. Perhaps you’re removing suspects, finding locations and looking for specific objects. Not sure how all this ties in with not being able to see what you’re holding, but their could be an answer somewhere.

Making: Argh, who am I?! – A game of truth, lies and deduction

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Argh Who Am?! Print and Play.pdf

I’ve had an idea floating round my head for a while, being a fan of Werewolf and other hidden role games, and having at that point recently played Hanabi by Antoine Bauza (@Toinito) I wanted to make a hidden role game but where the players are aware of everyone else’s role but not their own.

The only other game I’ve seen look at this is Pair of Ducks by Tuesday Knight Games (@TuesKnightGames), the creators behind the fantastic Two Rooms and Boom. In Pair of Ducks each role that the players can see changes how they play, whether they answer ‘yes or no’ questions silently, audibly, truthfully or with lies.

I wanted to avoid covering the same ground so I put the game on the back burner for a while. This was probably about a year or two a go.

Over the last couple of weeks, the idea bubbled up to the top of my mind again and I started mulling it over once more.

For a game like this it seemed to me that the players would need to deduce who they were. The major question in designing the game, is what mechanisms are in place for them to do this. I had a number of thoughts/concepts I was puzzling over.

  • Have pairs of roles, and they need to work out who their partner is.
  • You win if you are the only person who is alone, i.e. no one else has the same role card as you.
  • Certain roles can perform certain actions, other players can stop you from attempting actions that you cannot perform.
  • Having to ask players to perform actions that only they can do.

Taking some influence from Coup by Rikki Tahta I started to think about the passing of tokens, and certain roles being able to do certain things. Players would balance moving tokens around as they needed with giving other players information about their character. So, what could the players do with tokens:

  • Take a token from someone.
  • Give a token to someone.
  • Take a token from a shared pool.
  • Give a token to a shared pool.
  • Swap two piles of tokens.

The thought being at this point, that not only would you need to work out what role you are/if you’re alone/in a pair, you would also need to meet certain conditions, like have the more than/less than/equal number of tokens than another player.

The problem with all of this was the amount of complication and all the information the players would have to deal with, they would need to know which characters could do which actions, without actually knowing the character they currently are. It just all seemed too much. I needed to simplify things.

I still liked the idea of having two of each role, and felt this needed more exploring. Then I was hit with a thought, what if one of each of the pairs had to tell the truth and the other had to lie. Things then started coming together.

Players would ask questions about their character of another player and they would respond truthfully or not depending on the card they had, information that could be shown by text on the back of the playing cards like this:

The issue with this rule alone is that, as soon as you have determined that a player is telling the truth all players would ask that player question rather than anyone else. There needed to be some sort of price for asking a question, something that would stop this happening.

The solution was to have those players give the player they ask some information about their card. In this situation, if everyone keeps asking the same person questions they will get more and more information about their card, giving them a big advantage, which you would want to avoid.

After a little more work and thought, here it is:

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Argh Who Am?! Print and Play.pdf

How to Look at Your Card

In this game of truth, lies and deduction you do not see the Monster on your own card, but you can see the Monster on everyone else’s.

  • There is both a truth and a lies card for each of the eight Monsters. By orientating your Monster portrait correctly, the text on the back of your card will show you which of the two you have.
  • If your card is a truth card then you must tell the truth during the Exchange phase, if it is a lies card you must lie during the Exchange phase.

Setup

  • Shuffle all the Monster Cards together.
  • Deal one card to each player and one card face down into a discard pile.
  • Place the remaining cards face down where everyone can reach them, this is the stack.
  • Hold your card so everyone but you can see the Monster you are.
  • Help everyone orientate their Monster portrait correctly.

Play

Starting with the player explaining the rules, then continuing clockwise, players take turns to either Exchange or Declare.

Exchange has two stages, statement and query, both which must be done with players telling truth or lies depending on their current card.

  • Statement: Tell another player something about their Monster.
  • Query: Then ask the same player a question related to your Monster that they will answer with either a “yes” or a “no”. You cannot directly ask if you are a specific Monster.

– or –

Declare, state the Monster you believe yourself to be, then place the card face up in front of yourself:

  • If correct keep the card in a pile in front of you.
  • If wrong place the card in the discard pile.

Then take another card from the stack.

End of the Game

Continue taking turns until a player attempts to take a card from the stack but cannot because the stack is empty.

Count how many cards you have correctly identified, the player with the most cards wins.

At the moment the cards have classic monsters on them (and very basic art), but that may change with playtesting, in theory they could be any thing which gives a lot of options for making custom decks for different player preferences. Here are snapshots of the font and backs of some of the cards.

If the game goes well, I’ll look into producing some better art work for it. If you manage to play it or have any thoughts or suggestions please let me know.

I think the game will work with between 3-10 players, but this needs further testing to see if this is true.

Argh Who Am?! Print and Play.pdf