Author Archives: hartzesm

Game of the Week Reflection 2- Hanabi

In the second week of EDL290, we played two games: Mental Blocks and Hanabi. This reflection will focus on Hanabi, which is a collaborative card game about creating a firework show. Mechanically, this manifests itself in a way similar to Solitaire- The players must arrange the firework cards both by color suit and in ascending order (in this case 1-5). The more cards you can lay down before running through the deck, the more points you get, and the better your fictional firework show is. The twist is that you must hold your hand facing outward so that everyone but you can see it. You then must rely on the other players to give you hints about which cards you should play. This requires some memorization on your part- You want to remember the hints other players have given you, because the whole table has a shared, finite pool of hints and lives (the former of which can be replenished, and the latter cannot). Primarily though, the outcome of the game relies much more on communication and collaboration between teammates than any one player’s memory skills. It is important to anticipate the other players’ moves and give them hints that will be immediately useful, rather than wasting hint tokens to try and give them a picture of every card in their hand. People who like the puzzle aspect of Solitaire but always found it too, well- solitary- will like this game. I like it, and I think many of my close friends would as well.

The hardest part of Hanabi and its themes of leadership are one and the same. The game hinges on your ability to guide individual teammates as well as communicate effectively with the group as a whole. As our table got the hang of the game, we found ourselves having conversations about what the next several people should do on their turns. For example, ‘This person needs to be given a hint, but we need to replenish tokens first so someone before them should discard a card…’. This became easier to do once we worked out a system for giving and understanding each other’s hints. This required a good amount of nonverbal communication (since hints can only be specific kinds of phrases) as well as trust between our players. Understandably, this took the first several turns of the game to build, especially because we didn’t know each other that well yet. Despite this, we ultimately completed the game with a decent (but far from perfect) score. Everyone at the table was ready to jump right back in and play again- We were sure we could do even better the second time after having figured out how to work together. Unfortunately, we did not have time. But this is a game I would absolutely consider picking up with almost any group, especially if we did have time to play two or three games of it so that we can perfect our team’s own, unique leadership and communication strategies.

-Sam Hartzell

Game of the Week Reflection 1- Ultimate Werewolf

In week one of EDL 290, we played Ultimate Werewolf. I’ve played Ultimate Werewolf before, as well as many games like it. It’s a Mafia-style Hidden Role Game, where players try to remove all hidden bad guys (in this case werewolves) from their ranks. Each night, the werewolves pick off village team players, with the ultimate goal of outnumbering them. This format puts a pretty high amount of pressure on the players. If the good team does nothing, they will lose, and if they do the wrong thing, they will lose faster. This makes the village team desperate for any information it can get about what the right players to vote away are. So naturally, one of the common strategies of werewolves is to use this desperation against them so that they vote themselves away instead of finding anyone from the other team. People that like bluffing, acting, and high stakes situations tend to like this game- My brother falls into this category. People who don’t mind these things and like strategy and deduction may also like it- This is sometimes me, when playing with people I know well.

The most challenging part of the game for me personally is the pressure, and the reliance on social skills and bluffing. While I love the strategy (I know many of the strategies that can be used by different roles or permutations of them across different versions of the game), I find myself in trouble when I don’t have the time or information to execute one effectively. This becomes more difficult as my role becomes less useful. In fact, I find normal Villager the most difficult role in the game. You have no information of your own to collect, and no role claim to save you if you get called out. You also don’t have the safety of a few other teammates who know who you are and will try to vouch for you. Mechanics-wise, you are truly alone and in the dark. You could sit with the knowledge that your hands are tied and do nothing. But… It’s boring to do nothing, and you came here to play a game. Plus, in a group that doesn’t know you well, you’ll generally be called on this anyways (I hate the people who call on ‘the quiet person’ as someone to be suspicious of! Mostly because I am always that person, even when I’m a village aligned role!). So, you want to try and offer the group something, even if it’s just guesses based on what you think could be tells or strategies in action. It’s a delicate balance, and one that’s easy to mess up. It’s hard not to go overboard and call for votes you don’t know will pan out, especially when you feel there is no other information on the board and the game is being lost. When I called for votes that ended up removing normal villagers from the game, I had no defense for why I had done that other than ‘I thought they seemed suspicious’. Ironically, that made me seem suspicious, just as their random votes had made them appear to be in my eyes. I had fallen into the exact same trap as they had and all I could do was watch the rest of the group vote me out the next day.

As well as being extremely involved and strategic, Ultimate Werewolf is a game that has excellent lessons about leadership within it. First, the voting process highlights the difference between leader and individual. One person’s skill or knowledge means nothing if they cannot convince anyone else to vote with them. But the crowd is often fickle, especially in a group of strangers desperately looking for each other’s tells. Added on to this is the nature of game itself, which discourages them from sharing what they know openly and honestly, lest they be targeted by evil roles or even good roles who have chosen not to trust them for whatever reason. Speaking to offer knowledge, leadership, or even a hunch immediately singles you out from the crowd, and that takes bravery. But bravery can only get you so far, if your goal is to win the game. It also takes a certain amount of intelligence to know just when to reveal your thoughts to the other players. Sometimes the Seer is better off speaking as soon as they have a hint, and sometimes they are better off trying to find more than one wolf before they reveal their role. And sometimes a villager is best of not trying to take charge of a vote when they know they have little to contribute other than blind guesses. Overall, I think if you can learn when and how to step up in a game like Werewolf, you can learn when and how to step up in a myriad of other situations. There’s likely to be a lot less pressure to speak up, after all, knowing that there probably aren’t werewolves or paranoid villagers hanging on your every word.

-Sam Hartzell