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Information in Dice Masters...

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...and the Dice in Bag Controversy.

Or, How I (Inadvertently) Threw a Grenade in to Facebook and Watched the Carnage!

OK, I am exaggerating a little there, but, a few weeks ago I posted a series of questions on the TRP forums, and on Facebook, and, whilst the response on the TRP forums was fairly restrained, I was shocked, surprised, and somewhat dismayed, at the nature of some of the responses that my questions received in one of the Facebook groups.

So, asking how many dice are in your opponents bag...
  • Do you do it?
  • Do you answer honestly when asked?
  • Do you think it should be explicitly
    allowed in the tournament rules?
  • Do you think answering honestly
    should be explicitly required by the
    tournament rules?
  • Do you think 'dice counting' is an
    important part of the game?
  • Do you think not answering, or not
    answering honestly, is pointless as all
    the information in the game is open and,
    well, I can waste five minutes of every
    turn counting how many of each die you
    have, if you really want me to, or you
    could just tell me?
  • Does whether you are playing online,
    over Google Hangout or Skype, or not
    affect your answers to the above
    questions?
The questions I posted can be seen to the right...

Later in the article I will talk about the response my questions got, on Facebook, and I will say now that I am going to be somewhat critical of some of the opinions put forth.

And I will also give, and expand on, my own answers to those questions.

But, first I want to talk a little about some of the thinking behind my opinions.



Knowability, Availability, and Accessibility.

I divide information in games in to three broad categories - Knowability, Availability, and Accessibility - and I would like to examine each of this categories in turn, looking at what they mean, how they relate to each other, and examples of them within Dice Masters.

One thing to note, and understand, in considering these categories is that they are point-of-view agnostic. That is to say, they do not consider information from any single player's perspective, but rather consider it from an abstracted, semi-omniscient, point of view.

Knowability.

Knowablity is the degree to which game information can be known by one or more of the players in the game.

It divides game information in to two sets:
Knowable
Knowable information is anything that can be known by any participant in the game.
Almost all information in Dice Masters is knowable.


Unknowable
Unknowable information is that which cannot possibly be known by any participant in the game.
The only information in Dice Masters that falls in to this set is what dice will be pulled from a bag when it contains 5 or more dice, and what faces will come up on dice when they are rolled. Although we can calculate probabilities of different outcomes, they are just probabilities and the actual outcomes can not be known until they happen.


Availability.

Knowable information can be further divided by it's Availability.

This category measures the degree to which any individual player has access to a given piece of information in relation to the other participants in the game.

It also divides that information into two sets:
Open
Open information is anything that is or can be known to all players equally.
In Dice Masters it includes almost everything that is Knowable.


Closed
Closed information is anything that is only known by one, or some subset, of the players.
The only information in Dice Masters that is closed is that which is in each player's head - their strategy, and what they plan to do next to help them achieve that strategy.


Accessibility.

Knowable Open information can then be further subdivided by it's Accessibility.

This measures the degree to which that information can be deduced from the physical components of the game and their positions and states.

Once again it divides the information in to two sets:
Free
This is anything that can be deduced solely from the game pieces, their physical positions and states.
In Dice Masters this includes, but is not limited to:
  • what characters and actions are in play, their costs, and abilities,
  • the levels of any fielded or unfielded characters, and their stats,
  • the number of dice in the various zones, and what type of dice they are.


Derived
Derived information is anything that is not Free.
Examples of derived information include, but are not limited to:
  • the amount of damage, if any, done to dice in the field,
  • the turn on which a particular die was purchased,
  • errata or rulings regarding a particular card.

So, where does "how many dice are in my opponent's bag" fall in to these categories?

We can answer this by asking ourselves a series of simple questions:

  1. Is the information Knowable?
    Plainly the answer to this question is "Yes". One or both players can know this information. At the very least the player with the dice in their bag can simply look, and count for himself.
  2. Is the information Open?
    This is less obvious, but again the answer here is "Yes". Though the information can not be directly seen by either player, it can be obtained by both.
  3. Is the information Free?
    This is less clear cut, but I would again answer this with a "Yes". Both players know, at the start of the game, how many dice are on each card. From this they can deduce how many of each has been purchased. Add this number to the 8 Sidekicks a player always starts with and subtract the total visible in play, and you arrive at precisely how many dice are in your opponent's bag.


Conclusion.

So, what does this mean? And what would my answers be?

Well, before I answer those questions, I first want to address some of the responses I got to my questions on Facebook.

I got a lot of positive responses, which were all in the form of something like "Yes, I ask my opponent, and answer when asked. The information can be easily worked out, and it speeds the game along to ask, and to answer."

But I got, what I thought were a surprising amount of negative responses. These fell in to two broad camps:

  1. "I enjoy counting the dice, and consider it a tactical part of play".
    These responses I have no problem with, and I respect their right to wish to play that way.
  2. "You have no right to ask", "Your an idiot if you can't count", "Asking is cheating", "Counting is stalling".
    These responses I do have a problem with. It is this kind of attitude amongst players of any game that turns many people off. It is unsporting, offensive, and in some cases condescending. We as a community should, in my opinion, do everything we can to discourage this kind of attitude within the game.


EDIT: There were also many negative responses from those on the pro-asking side of the argument - "Not answering is stalling", "I would not play with people who did not answer", "I would slow play if they did not answer", and so on - this attitude is just as problematic, and should be equally discouraged, as the strongly negative anti-asking stance.

So, what about my answers?
  • Do you do it?
    Yes. If knowing how many dice are in my opponents bag is important to a game decision I am about to make, then, for the sake of brevity, I will directly ask my opponent.
  • Do you answer honestly when asked?
    Yes. Again, for the sake brevity, I will always answer, and will always answer honestly, when asked.
  • Do you think it should be explicitly allowed in the tournament rules?
    Before I posed these questions my answer to this would have been "No. I believe this is a matter of good gaming etiquette and believe that these issues should not be explicitly covered by the tournament rules, beyond very general rules about good sportsmanship". However, given the very divided nature of the responses given, I now think that this probably should be covered in the tournament rules.
  • Do you think answering honestly should be explicitly required by the tournament rules?
    If this issue is to be addressed in the tournament rules then, yes, it should be explicitly ruled that players must answer the question honestly. Not doing so should be seen as cheating.
  • Do you think 'dice counting' is an important part of the game?
    I think knowing how many dice are in your opponents bag is an important part of the game. I do not think that being expected to track that information should be.
  • Do you think not answering, or not answering honestly, is pointless as all the information in the game is open and, well, I can waste five minutes of every turn counting how many of each die you have, if you really want me to, or you could just tell me?
    Absolutely yes. Regardless of whether this is in the tournament rules, to not answer, or to answer dishonestly, is petty at the very least.
  • Does whether you are playing online, over Google Hangout or Skype, or not affect your answers to the above questions?
    For me no. However, I think the importance of asking, answering, and answering honestly, is increased when playing via Hangout or Skype, because it is harder to track all the information required to deduce the information for yourself. Particularly when not all dice on cards are visible in frame.


Final words.

I would encourage all players to both ask when it matters, and to honestly answer when asked.

EDIT: But, equally, we should respect the wishes of those that think otherwise.

Let's strive to keep the friendly, helpful, attitude amongst the players of this wonderful game, and keep the games flowing, and fun, whilst competitive.

Keep rolling those dice, and may the dice gods bless you.

Updated 08-03-2015 at 09:01 PM by Scorpion0x17

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